Portfolio of Hope

I’m really excited to announce that I’ve started a new mini series on this blog, where I interview the people who inspire me the most. Thank you so much to Millie, the first person who I have had the privilege of interviewing. I hope you enjoy!

Could you introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m Millie, a 17-year-old influencer and mental health blogger from Doncaster. The term “influencer” is used incredibly loosely. I have suffered from anorexia, depression and anxiety for three years now, whilst running my Instagram account for two of those years. If there’s anything I’m known for, it’s being undoubtedly honest, unafraid to call out the rubbish of diet culture and social media as well as owning my own business. 

Can you tell us a bit about your business, ‘A Band Of Hope’?

A Band Of Hope is my own business, which I founded in February 2018. We began with creating jewellery (bracelets, necklaces) and badges; when I say “we”, I mean me and my family, who have been my biggest support network business-wise and with my mental health. People began to be interested in our items on our Etsy store, so I began to reach out to my Instagram followers, who also responded very positively. From that point, we created our own online store away from Etsy, which has expanded rapidly over the last year. We’re talking shirts, hoodies, bags, even pencil cases. Within a year, a little hobby became a fully-fledged shop with hundreds of customers from around the world- as far as Malaysia! I’m so proud of the store and everything we’ve achieved as a family unit too.

I’ve followed your Instagram account for a while now and I find it so inspiring. What made you start documenting your recovery? Do you believe it has helped you?

If there’s anything I remember from my first admission into hospital, it’s sitting on the bed after a tough meal and scrolling through the EDWARRIOR tag on Instagram. I saw all of these people- girls my age, younger, older, dudes, other people: every single one of them embracing new-found freedom whilst also expressing their struggles to the world too. They had the strength that I wanted to have at that time. I began a blog on Tumblr whilst inpatient, before expanding onto Instagram a month into my stay. Instagram can potentially be a toxic place whilst in recover; we all know about the new, heightened restrictions the platform is introducing for vivid images of self-harm/pro-ana, but I believe that- if you’re in the right place mentally (or beginning to get there)- it could be a very supportive and understanding environment to be in.

If you could give one piece of advise to someone reading this who might be struggling right now, what would it be?

It sounds cheesy as hell, and it’s a lyric from a Twenty One Pilots song: “The Sun Will Rise And We Will Try Again”. There’s always another day to get better and feel happiness, as long as you stay alive for it.

How do you distract yourself when you feel your mental health starting to slip?

I’m a big fan of anything that is going to occupy my brain. Puzzles are a big one, which Alex (my boyfriend) got me into. Solitaire, crosswords, Sudoku. Anything that will challenge my mind whilst also being pretty fun and lighthearted. Another thing that I do (which is actually pretty lame and boring) is annotate poetry. There are so many different interpretations to anything you can read, I enjoy trying to find them all or even invent my own. If my self-harm urges are high, I like to do things that occupy my hands, like playing my guitar (I’ve been playing for seven years now!) or drawing.

Do you think full recovery from anorexia is possible?

It’s something that I’m not incredibly sure of. Yes, I’d love it to happen, and it probably does. For me, I feel like my anorexia comes and goes. When I’m good, it’s not there. When I’m bad, it tries to crawl back in. However, it’s your option whether you listen or act on those thoughts, whether they’re permanent or not.

What do you think the biggest myth surrounding eating disorders is?

The biggest myth, in my opinion, is probably the image that all eating disorder sufferers are the emaciated, white, teenage girls that we see in any news surrounding an anorexia sufferer (or ex-sufferer). The author Dave Chawner said this: “Eating disorders, unlike Donald Trump, don’t discriminate.” Eating disorders can affect people who are underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, black, white, male, female, gay, straight etc. Those who go against the stereotypical sufferer risk discrimination and the inevitable feeling of being invalid, and it is less likely that they’ll be taken just as seriously as those who are within the stereotype.

If someone is concerned about themselves or a friend/relative, how would you recommend they seek help?

The best approach, in my opinion, is to take it slow. People with eating disorders often are in denial regarding their illness, therefore going in “all-guns-blazing” probably isn’t the wisest. Have a sit down with them- ask them about how they’ve been feeling recently and that you’ve been noticing a few differences in their behaviour. Recommend a GP visit or a trip to a local mental health clinic/therapist who you know will understand and have the potential to help more. It’s wise to be careful- focus on feelings more than physical aspects such as weight or visible weight loss.

There’s been a big surge in people using the hashtag “strong not skinny” and promoting the BOPO movement. Do you think this is a good thing?

I do have a few issues with the “Strong Not Skinny” hashtag, but not too many regarding the BOPO movement. I guess we can perceive the “Strong Not Skinny” to be either mentally strong or physically strong. Physically, could it mean just being at a healthy weight? Or, could it mean fitting onto this “fitspo” trend, and therefore catching onto yet another unbelievable body ideal for so many? As a person who does actually go to the gym and practice strength training (as allowed by my ED nurse), I know that you definitely need to be in a safe place both physically and mentally to do exercise. There’s always this threat that people who have previously had anorexia can be sucked into a new food obsession- a world of clean eating, high-protein-only foods, no/low carbs to have six-pack abs, toned legs etc. It’s a big risk. However, the BOPO movement to me is a complete opposite. I believe it celebrates all bodies, from female to male, even the bodies of those who suffer from a disability or chronic illness, with NO mention of a certain diet to follow (in fact, it is predominantly anti-diet, which I love). The “Strong Not Skinny” tag does imply that the “right” way to get over the “skinny” is by gaining a ton of muscle. I can tell you now that this idea is a load of bull. You have to gain the weight healthily before you begin even thinking about any vigorous exercise, such as weightlifting. But again, I’m no doctor, this is just my opinion.

Thank you so much to Millie for everything she does.

To see more of Millie’s advocacy work surrounding eating disorder recovery, you can follow her Instagram here.



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