eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Struggling with Eating Disorder Relapse

Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult. It takes a lot of time, dedication, energy, support and willpower. Choosing recovery is difficult and sometimes our eating disorder mind beats the rational mind.

Lately, my eating disorder mind has been constantly reappearing to try and beat my rational mind. Some days I ignore it and just eat whatever I want. On the days it takes overs, I’ll lie in bed and refuse to give in to the hunger.

I believe that recovery is managing an eating disorder and not fully living without it. I don’t think an eating disorder ever goes away. Either way, its important to notice the warning signs of a relapse and put support systems into place.

Some signs that might indicate relapse:

  • Your thoughts keep turning to food, dieting and weight.
  • You have been dishonest with your eating disorder treatment professionals or if you feel compelled to hide information or behaviours.
  • You worry that you are losing control and may overcompensate with perfectionism.
  • You feel as if you have no outlet for your stress.
  • You feel hopeless and wonder what you’re going to do with your life.
  • With diet and exercise, your primary goal is to look good rather than to be healthy.
  • You believe that you’ll never be happy unless you’re thin.
  • You see yourself as overweight or obese.
  • Friends or family indicate to you that your self-image is inaccurate.
  • You look in the mirror frequently and weigh yourself often.
  • You skip meals or find ways to purify yourself after eating.
  • You get irritable around the issue of food.
  • You feel an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame after eating.
  • You avoid events that involve food.
  • You isolate yourself or engage in increasingly secretive behaviours.
  • You hold contempt for people who are overweight or don’t eat well according to your standards.

Relapse is a natural part of the recovery process. In the event that you feel that you may be in a situation where you have fallen back to eating disorder behaviour, there are some things to remember:

  1. Seek professional help immediately.
  2. Relapse does not mean failure.
  3. You have been through this before and you can get through it again.
  4. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to recover.
  5. Refer often to your values and strive to live by them.
  6. Work on self-approval, which is not dependent on weight.
  7. Accept your personal limitations.
  8. Create an environment of respect, optimism, trust and honesty with yourself and others.
  9. Know that “failure” neither dooms nor defines you. You are just a person who is willing to take on challenges.
  10. Practice, practice, practice!

Steps to Help Prevent Relapse:

  1. Seek help from a professional.
  2. Develop self acceptance through practising compassion toward self.
  3. Develop a positive and self nurturing internal dialogue.
  4. Get treatment for co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  5. Practice mindfulness and living in the moment.
  6. Listen to and honour your feelings.
  7. Eat well and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signs.
  8. Accept your genetic makeup and appreciate your body.
  9. Have a relapse prevention or correction plan.

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When One Eating Disorder Turns Into Another

3 years ago I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa after a 14 month battle with EDNOS because my weight had finally fallen into the underweight category. I was forced to recover because my heart was so weak I was close to death. For months I cried at every single meal time and hated my changing body. I was held down and fed; had no choice in meals or when I was going to eat. I wasn’t able to exercise. Eventually, I gained weight back and started to enjoy eating. After all, I’d spent months willing myself not to eat even though it was all I wanted. I worshipped food.

See, the thing with Anorexia recovery is that it’s not explained realistically. A person becomes underweight, gets diagnosed with Anorexia and begins a journey to a healthy weight and healthy eating patterns. What they don’t tell you is that 20% people remain chronically ill after developing Anorexia, with a few of these going on to develop another eating disorder such as Bulimia or binge eating disorder.

I was unfortunately one of these people. Going from restricting every single day to suddenly eating everything I could find. It’s a huge blow to your mental well-being. I gained weight rapidly – much more rapidly than I should have done in recovery. I gained all I had lost during my Anorexia and more. The reason for this? the lack of treatment and support available for those with eating disorder.

Currently, only 1 in 10 adults with Anorexia will receive treatment.

Without a nutritional meal plan and support from someone who knew what was best, I was left to my own devices an swapped out my restrictive eating for another devastating disorder; binge eating.

3 years on, my relationship with food is still abnormal. It’s either restrict and starve or eat as much as possible. There is no healthy, no black or white, just grey.

Recovery from an eating disorder is tough but trading in your eating disorder for another is a complete emotional roller-coaster.

I wish there were a way to give every single person with an eating disorder the help they need, but currently as it stands there isn’t.

If you or someone you know is affected by an eating disorder, or are not getting the right support in recovery, please, please, please do not give up hope. Keep going until you find someone who listens.

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Autism and Seizures

A 1/3 of people with autism also experience seizures, sometimes related to epilepsy. I experience a type of seizure known as a focal (partial) seizure. This type of seizure causes my eyes to flicker and roll as well as causing spasms and rapid breathing.

It can be difficult to spot a seizure – especially when a person has autism as the symptoms can be passed off as a sensory overload or an autism trait.

The link between autism and seizures is still being explored. Like autism, seizures exists on a spectrum. Severity varies widely among people. There are several types of seizures, each with somewhat different symptoms:

  • Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common. Also known as gran mal seizures, they produce muscle stiffening followed by jerking. Gran mal seizures also produce loss of consciousness.
  • Absence seizures can be difficult to recognise. Also known as petit mal seizures, they are marked by periods of unresponsiveness. The person may stare into space. He or she may or may not exhibit jerking or twitching.
  • Tonic seizures involve muscle stiffening alone.
  • Clonic seizures involve repeated jerking movements on both sides of the body.
  • Myoclonic seizures involve jerking or twitching of the upper body, arms or legs.
  • Atonic seizures involve sudden limpness, or loss of muscle tone. The person may fall or drop his or her head involuntarily.

What should I do if someone is having a focal seizure?

Simple partial seizures rarely require first aid. Since consciousness is preserved, the person is almost always aware of the seizure and the surroundings. When care or help is needed, what to do would depend on the specific seizure symptoms.

Examples of what to do:

  • Stop any activity in which you could get hurt when symptoms that affect vision, thinking, emotions, or affects your sensation or movement. This would include hallucinations too – what you may be hearing, seeing, or thinking may not be clear during this type of seizure.
  • If you are walking, sit down to avoid falling.
  • Remove harmful objects if an arm or leg movement could bump into them.
  • Stay away from open flames, bodies of water, or other unsafe areas.
  • Sometimes relaxing activities such as deep breathing or imagery can help slow down or abort symptoms in some people. Others may find that focusing on a specific activity can help.
  • If the person has a vagus nerve stimular, use the magnet to help stop the event.
  • Get the person levels, look them in the eyes and try to reassure them that you’re there and present.

Usually further help isn’t needed after simple partial seizures. Yet if the seizure occurs in clusters or goes into a complex partial or generalise seizure, more help may be needed.

call 111 in the U.K. for advice if you are unsure and in emergencies or where the person is not recovering call 999.

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World Mental Health Day 2017

This post is a day late, frankly because yesterday I spent the day travelling to London. A few weeks ago I got invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for those who work in the mental health sector. The reception was held in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales.

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i have been advocating for change in the mental health sector for 5 years now. The overall objective of world mental health day is raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health, so this blog post will do just that.

What is a mental health problem?

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. They affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a mental health problem can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Where to go for help

The best way to start is normally by talking to a health care professional, such as your doctor (also known as your General Practitioner or GP).

Your GP can:

  • make a diagnosis
  • offer you support and treatments
  • refer you to a specialist service

What should I say to my GP?

It can be hard to know how to talk to your doctor about your mental health – especially when you’re not feeling well. But it’s important to remember that there is no wrong way to tell someone how you’re feeling.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Be honest and open.
  • Focus on how you feel, rather than what diagnosis you might meet.
  • Try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed.
  • Use words and descriptions that feel natural to you – you don’t have to say specific things to get help.
  • Try not to worry that your problem is too small or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your doctor is there to support you.

click here to learn about other support services

Some pictures from last night

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William and Kate entering
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Me standing near Kate
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young people campaigners
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Welcoming William and Kate 
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meeting Professor Green
autism · autism sensory bag · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Myths about Autism

Although over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic (more than 1 in 100 people), false and often negative perceptions about the condition are common.

This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse and bullying.

Autism affects more than 1 in 100 people – fact. Over 700,000 people in UK are autistic, which means that 2.8m people have a relative on the autism spectrum.

People tend to ‘grow out’ of autism in adulthood – myth. It’s a lifelong condition – autistic children become autistic adults.

Autism affects both boys and girls – fact. There is a popular misconception that autism is simply a male condition. This is false.

Some autistic people don’t speak – fact. Some autistic people are non-verbal and communicate through other means. However, autism is a spectrum condition, so everyone’s autism is different.

Autism is a mental health problem – myth. Autism is a developmental disability. It’s a difference in how your brain works. Autistic people can have good mental health, or experience mental health problems, just like anyone else.

All autistic people are geniuses – myth. Just under half of all people with an autism diagnosis also have a learning disability. Others have an IQ in the average to above average range. ‘Savant’ abilities like extraordinary memory are rare.

Everyone is a bit autistic – myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person ‘a bit autistic’.

[Credit: NAS]

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Why Getting Healthy Sleep is Important to Recovering from Eating Disorders

Good sleep is necessary for overall health, and especially when you’re recovering from an eating disorder. When you don’t get enough sleep, everything deteriorates, including your physical and mental health.

Sleep loss takes a toll on all daytime functioning, including a poor mood and decline in cognitive function. People with inadequate sleep even feel pain more acutely and perceive their general health as poorer than well rested people.

Poor sleep is associated with depression and a negative self image. In paediatric research, poor sleepers have been found to be more depressed and have a negative self image. Poor sleepers often have inferior coping behaviours and behavioural problems.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep for Recovery?

Adults and seniors need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need about nine hours of sleep. The actual amount of sleep you need will depend on your age, health, and mental activity, along with other factors.

If you’re drowsy during the day, struggling emotionally and cognitively, and fall asleep almost instantly when you go to bed, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep at night.

Signs of too little sleep include:

  • Night wakings

  • Sleeping past your normal wakeup time

  • Experiencing post-sleep inertia

  • Moodiness and irritability

  • Daytime drowsiness

  • Forgetfulness or poor cognitive function

It’s also possible to sleep too much, which can also negatively affect your physical and mental health. If you’re sleeping too much, you could have signs including:

  • Taking more than an hour to fall asleep

  • Regularly waking before your alarm

  • Low daytime energy

  • Depression

  • Hypersomnia

How You Can Get the Sleep You Need to Support Eating Disorder Recovery

Get a good night’s sleep, and you’ll feel rejuvenated and more ready to face the day. With these tips, you can get the sleep you need to feel better as you work through eating disorder recovery:

  • Create or maintain a consistent sleep schedule. With a regular sleep schedule, you will go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s a good idea to follow this schedule even when you’re on vacation. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get to sleep, rest, and wake up.

  • Align your sleep schedule with sunlight. As much as possible, wake up with natural sunlight. Natural sunlight can regulate your circadian rhythm and help you feel more alert in the daytime. If you can’t get natural sunlight in the morning, try bright bedroom lights instead.

  • Avoid late naps. Although naps can be beneficial if you’re not able to get enough sleep at night, they can be a problem if you’re napping too close to bedtime. Try napping mid-afternoon for 25 minutes or less and avoid napping within three hours of bedtime.

  • Develop a sleep routine. Each night before bed, do the same things, so you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth and turning out the lights before you crawl into a comfortable bed.

  • Be aware of medication side effects. Some medications can cause insomnia, increased alertness, and/or daytime sleepiness. Understand the side effects of any medication you may be taking, and talk to your doctor if you think they are causing sleep problems.

Eating disorder recovery can be made more difficult with a lack of sleep. But with good sleep habits and adequate sleep at night, you will be better supported in good health and recovery.

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Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.

eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

When Memories Come Back…

In 2014, I was completely submersed in the depths of Anorexia Nervosa. I bought, prepared, cooked and presented all my food. No one but me could do this for me. I had to do it. I sat each night and planned my meals for the entire next day. I see now it was a control thing – and that’s one of the key factors in an eating disorder. A lot of people – probably the majority of people – with eating disorders have perfectionist or obsessive personalities. I have both.

An hour ago, my grandma offered to make me a burger with fried onions. To this day, I still cook my own food. On a rare occasion, I hand the control over to somebody else. I was mulling over this idea of my grandma making me tea; feeling slightly out of control and anxious. Memories of 2014 came rushing back to me.

I remember coming home from college one day and having a complete breakdown on the kitchen floor because my mum had thrown away the salad I had leftover from the night before. She said the salad was going off, and it probably was. But in my state of mind, every leaf and crumb of that salad had been calculated and counted and written into my food journal. It had been planned into my head as my dinner for that Tuesday night, and then all of a sudden that control was ripped right from underneath me. It’s just a salad – I know that now – but back then it was so much to my mind and to my life.

Another time, my stepdad had added milk to mashed potatoes alongside the small blob of butter I’d already counted. I was screaming and crying for a good half hour; refusing to eat it.

It’s a strange thing: control. My whole life was based purely on control. Controlling my food allowed me to feel like I was controlling at least something when the whole world around me was falling apart…

I’m still obsessive. I’m a perfectionist. I like to be in control. Though, its a much different type of control to what it was back then.

This control allows me to let others take over sometimes and tonight I’ll eat that burger and onions knowing that I’m further than I was before.

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