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

Ignite Cardiff #28

Last night I spoke at Ignite Cardiff, an event held in Cardiff Bay that allows speakers 5 minutes to share something on stage that is educational or inspiring.

I was lucky enough to be shortlisted for the event and went up on stage in front over 450 people to talk about Anorexia. With a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder, going on the stage in front of all those people and talking about something so personal was terrifying. I was scared, felt vulnerable and anxiety was in every corner. I was watching the speakers one by one knowing my time was soon to come. My throat was incredibly sore, my chest was tight, I was thirsty, cold then hot and started to shake. When I went on stage I was shaking so bad I had to hold onto my que cards to make sure I didn’t drop them. I was sweating. Exhausted. But I got into it and despite the anxiety I did the full 5 minutes and got off the stage. People clapped and I finally felt relieved. And extremely proud. I relaxed and all the tension I’d been holding turned into a raging migraine and I was so tied I felt I could sleep for days.

If someone had told me a few months ago that I would be speaking in front of over 450 people about Anorexia I would’ve looked at them in utter disbelief. This is such a big step for me. I’m the type of person who can’t get on a bus in fear of having to buy a ticket, the person who counts money at a till 20 times even when I know I have enough, the person who wont leave my room in days in order to people…

Ignite has changed my life. I am so incredible thankful…

See my speech here:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCU0oM2ZMtVveUgpkCBxOstwUCU0oM2ZMtVveUgpkCBxOstw

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

Dear Society

I found this poem on tumblr and couldn’t help but share it to you all. Society has a big impact on people’s views, opinions and thoughts. It helps shape stereotypes and judgement which really doesn’t help those who suffer from mental health problems. The poem explores how society impacted one girl’s decision to submit to social recommendations and how eventually it made her lose control and take her own life.

You told her if she wore that dress,

she’d be the prettiest of all,

you told her she should wear high heels,

because she needed to be tall.

You told her how to cut her hair,

and how much skin to show,

you told her exactly what to wear,

“trust me because I know!”

You told her if she wanted boys,

she had to change her ways,

you told her to wear make-up,

because plain skin’s not okay.

You told her who she could love,

that anything different was wrong,

but you made her feel secluded,

like she would never belong.

She hated wearing dresses,

and she couldn’t walk in heels,

she couldn’t live to your standards,

and all of your ideals.

So you told her what she felt,

was the furthest from the truth,

she couldn’t be depressed,

because she was in her youth.

You told her she was a freak,

that she never would fit in,

but then you told her nothing,

as she pressed a blade up to her skin.

And once she had decided,

that you would tell her nothing more,

you wish you’d told the truth,

as she collapsed onto the floor.

She didn’t need the make-up,

that just being her was fine,

she could wear what made her happy,

that she could not be defined.

Then when you came to realise,

that she never knew you cared,

you wish that you’d have told her,

the world was better with her there…

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

The knock-On Effect of an Eating Disorder

How Eating Disorders Affect the Mind

The psychological consequences of an eating disorder are complex and difficult to overcome. An eating disorder is often a symptom of a larger problem in a person’s life. The disorder is an unhealthy way for that person to cope with the painful emotions tied to the problem. For this reason, the emotional problems that triggered the eating disorder in the first place can worsen as the disorder takes hold.

An eating disorder can also cause more problems to surface in a person’s life. Eating disorders make it difficult for people to perceive things normally because certain chemical changes take place when the body is deprived of nutrients. As a result, the body relies on adrenaline (a hormone that is normally released during times of stress and fear) instead of food for energy. Adrenaline naturally makes someone excited, which makes it more difficult to deal with painful emotions.

Research has shown that many people suffering from an eating disorder also suffer from other psychological problems. Sometimes the eating disorder causes other problems, and sometimes the problems coexist with the eating disorder. Some of the psychological disorders that can accompany an eating disorder include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety and panic disorders.

In addition to having other psychological disorders, a person with an eating disorder may also engage in destructive behaviours as a result of low self-esteem. Just as an eating disorder is a negative way to cope with emotional problems, other destructive behaviours, such as self-mutilation, drug addiction, and alcoholism, are similar negative coping mechanisms.

Not everyone who has an eating disorder suffers from additional psychological disorders; however, it is very common.

DEPRESSION. Depression is one of the most common psychological problems related to an eating disorder. It is characterized by intense and prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness. In its most serious form, depression may lead to suicide. Considering that an eating disorder is often kept a secret, a person who is suffering feels alienated and alone. A person may feel that it is impossible to openly express her feelings. As a result, feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

Feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR. Obsessions are constant thoughts that produce anxiety and stress. Compulsions are irrational behaviours that are repeated to reduce anxiety and stress. People with eating disorders are constantly thinking about food, calories, eating, and weight. As a result, they show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. If people with eating disorders also show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour with things not related to food, they may be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Some obsessive-compulsive behaviours practised by eating disorder sufferers include storing large amounts of food, collecting recipes, weighing themselves several times a day, and thinking constantly about the food they feel they should not eat. These obsessive thoughts and rituals worsen when the body is regularly deprived of food. Being in a state of starvation causes people to become so preoccupied with everything they have denied themselves that they think of little else.

FEELINGS OF ANXIETY, GUILT, AND SHAME. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety (fear and worry), guilt, and shame at some time; however, these feelings become more intense with the onset of an eating disorder. Eating disorder sufferers fear that others will discover their illness. There is also a tremendous fear of gaining weight.

As the eating disorder progresses, body image becomes more distorted and the eating disorder becomes all-consuming. Some sufferers are often terrified of letting go of the illness, which causes many to protect their secret eating disorder even more.

Eating disorder sufferers have a strong need to control their environment and will avoid social situations where they may have to be around food in front of other people or where they may have to change their behaviour. The anxiety that results causes people with eating disorders to be inflexible and rigid with their emotions.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Inability to experience pleasure in anything
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Constant fatigue (exhaustion)
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness) or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or compulsive eating
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Poor memory
  • Unexplained headaches, backaches, or stomachaches

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

A Letter to Myself When I Was Diagnosed With Anorexia

Dear Savannah,

I can see that life is hard. I know you are confused, lonely, isolated, and have a severe hatred for your body. I know that you struggle to get dressed everyday because you think you look so bad in everything. I know you haven’t long turned 16 and you still feel like you’re 8 years old and haven’t figured out the world yet. I’m so sorry life hasn’t been easy, and I’m sad to tell you that it will get so much more worse before it starts to get better. I don’t know how long it will take you to truly become happy, and even then you won’t completely understand the world, but life does get better sometimes. You cried so much the night before your 16th birthday because you were so afraid of getting older and becoming an adult. I’m sorry you had to feel this way. I’m sorry that you cry yourself to sleep and damage yourself so much in order to feel something other than darkness.

In a couple of weeks, you’ll have to fight so hard. Harder than you’ve ever fought before. Harder than you can imagine right now. I know you don’t see that you have a problem, and that Anorexia is making your life so perfect, but how wrong you are. In a couple of weeks, the college tutors who you’ve grown to disagree with will sit you down and explain that they’ve noticed a problem. They’ll tell you how others have voiced their concerns about your eating habits and how much weight you’ve lost. You’ll plead and cry and have a panic attack when they start to call your family. When they tell you they think you have an eating disorder, you won’t be shocked. You secretly knew this all along didn’t you? But all you could do was push it back because restriction and addiction were the only things keeping you happy. I’m so sorry that sitting in that room with so many people against you will bring you immense pain. I wish you didn’t have to go through that, but you will.

When the doctor tells you that you have an eating disorder but that you could ‘still lose a few pounds’ to meet diagnosis, all thoughts of recovery will disappear. You’ll feel defeated, drained, not good enough. You’ll become immensely motivated to stop eating altogether, even drinking and will go straight home to exercise. Please don’t be unmotivated when one person throws you off. There will be people in your recovery way better than that doctor. Please remember that the extreme restriction and excessive exercise will kill you if you continue. You’ll come so close to death before things even turn around. Also, remember that water doesn’t have calories and won’t make you fat. You’ll believe that a couple of times during recovery but its not true I promise.

Don’t be discouraged. Recovery won’t happen overnight. You’ll relapse a couple of times and refuse to lose Ana’s mindset. You’ll become depressed and severely suicidal. You’ll go on medication and then come off. You’ll meet friends and lose friends. People will be judgemental. Life won’t be kind to you. You’ll struggle more than succeed, but you’ll make each day simply by breathing.

When you start to recover, you’ll realise God put you through this struggle so that you can reach out to others. Your Anorexia will bring you to meet new people who understand you. You’ll become an advocate for mental health and those you love. Heck, you’ll even write a book or two! You’ll try so hard to get your voice heard and will impact so many people by doing so. Use your struggles to always plough ahead and reach out to others.

Your life and happiness is not centred on how thin you are, I hope you remember that as you grow and life changes.

I hope you learn to honestly express your emotions some day but for now, please breathe.

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

Inside Anorexia Nervosa

A lot of people wish that they looked different or could change something about themselves, but when a preoccupation with becoming thin takes over thoughts, life and eating habits, its a sign of an eating disorder

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, life threatening eating disorder that affects women and men of all ages. Anorexia Nervosa has three main features; the refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, an intense fear of weight gain and a distorted body image. Eating and mealtimes can be severely stressful for someone with Anorexia but yet food occupies almost every thought. Thoughts about dieting, food, exercise, calories and your body often take up the entire day which means there is a little or no time for friends, families and other activities once enjoyed. Life becomes a relentless pursuit of thinness and perfection. In the purge sub-type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics.

Anorexia Nervosa is actually not about food or weight! At least not at the core. Eating Disorders are complicated and food and weight issues are usually symptoms of something deeper including but not excluding depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect and feeling out of control.

A lot of people with Anorexia feel powerless in many aspects of life but in control when it comes to food. Saying no to hunger, controlling numbers on scales and calories can make a person feel strong and successful for a short period of time. People with Anorexia often strive off hunger pains or noises.

Living with anorexia means constantly hiding habits. This makes it hard at first for friends and family to spot the warning signs. When confronted, a person with Anorexia might try to explain away disordered eating and wave away concerns. But as Anorexia progresses, people close to the person wont be able to deny their instincts that something is wrong. As anorexia develops, a person become increasingly preoccupied with the number on the scale, how they look in the mirror, and what they can and can’t eat.

Anorexic food behaviour signs and symptoms

  • Dieting despite being thin – Following a severely restricted diet. Eating only certain low-calorie foods. Banning “bad” foods such as carbohydrates and fats.
    Obsession with calories, fat grams, and nutrition – Reading food labels, measuring and weighing portions, keeping a food diary, reading diet books.
    Pretending to eat or lying about eating – Hiding, playing with, or throwing away food to avoid eating. Making excuses to get out of meals (“I had a huge lunch” or “My stomach isn’t feeling good”).
    Preoccupation with food – Constantly thinking about food. Cooking for others, collecting recipes, reading food magazines, or making meal plans while eating very little.
    Strange or secretive food rituals – Refusing to eat around others or in public places. Eating in rigid, ritualistic ways (e.g. cutting food “just so,” chewing food and spitting it out, using a specific plate).

Anorexic appearance and body image signs and symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss – Rapid, drastic weight loss with no medical cause.
    Feeling fat, despite being underweight – may feel overweight in general or just “too fat” in certain places, such as the stomach, hips, or thighs.
    Fixation on body image – Obsessed with weight, body shape, or clothing size. Frequent weigh-ins and concern over tiny fluctuations in weight.
    Harshly critical of appearance – Spending a lot of time in front of the mirror checking for flaws. There’s always something to criticize. Never thin enough.

Purging signs and symptoms

Some people with Anorexia Nervosa often use purging as a way to get rid of calories. The difference to those with Bulimia is that when a person with Anorexia purges, they have not binged but consumed little calories.

  • Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics – Abusing water pills, herbal appetite suppressants, prescription stimulants, ipecac syrup, and other drugs for weight loss.
    Throwing up after eating – Frequently disappearing after meals or going to the bathroom. May run the water to disguise sounds of vomiting or reappear smelling like mouthwash or mints.
    Compulsive exercising – Following a punishing exercise regimen aimed at burning calories. Exercising through injuries, illness, and bad weather. Working out extra hard after binging or eating something “bad.”

People with anorexia are often perfectionists and overachievers. They’re the “good” daughters and sons who do what they’re told, excel in everything they do, and focus on pleasing others. But while they may appear to have it all together, inside they feel helpless, inadequate, and worthless. Through their harshly critical lens, if they’re not perfect, they’re a total failure. In addition to the cultural pressure to be thin, there are other family and social pressures that can contribute to anorexia. This includes participation in an activity that demands slenderness, such as ballet, gymnastics, or modelling. It also includes having parents who are overly controlling, put a lot of emphasis on looks, diet themselves, or criticize their children’s bodies and appearance. Stressful life events—such as the onset of puberty, a breakup, or going away to school/university, rape, abuse, family dysfunction—can also trigger anorexia. Research suggests that a genetic predisposition to anorexia may run in families. If a girl has a sibling with anorexia, she is 10 to 20 times more likely than the general population to develop anorexia herself. Brain chemistry also plays a significant role. People with anorexia tend to have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone most related to stress, and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with feelings of well-being.

The effects of Anorexia Nervosa

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Tips for helping a person with anorexia

Think of yourself as an “outsider.” In other words, someone not suffering from anorexia. In this position, there isn’t a lot you can do to “solve” your loved one’s anorexia. It is ultimately the individual’s choice to decide when they are ready.
Be a role model for healthy eating, exercising, and body image. Don’t make negative comments about your own body or anyone else’s.
Take care of yourself. Seek advice from a health professional, even if your friend or family member won’t. And you can bring others—from peers to parents—into the circle of support.
Don’t act like the food police. A person with anorexia needs compassion and support, not an authority figure standing over the table with a calorie counter.
Avoid threats, scare tactics, angry outbursts, and put-downs. Bear in mind that anorexia is often a symptom of extreme emotional distress and develops out of an attempt to manage emotional pain, stress, and/or self-hate. Negative communication, threats to tell, tactics meant to scare such as “you’re going to die”, or isolating the person often makes things worse.

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

Turning Love into Life

It’s very easy to lose touch with reality sometimes, or be totally unaware of everything that goes on around you. The exhaustion I’ve felt over the past couple of weeks is indescribable. I’ve been physically and emotionally drained, not even wanting to leave my bed. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but things have been difficult.

To get out of bed, to get dressed and to even leave my room has been such a big task, and a lot of people who have gone through mental illness will understand what I mean by this. But today, I feel slightly proud of myself. I got out of bed, got dressed and actually made it church. Despite all the anxiety, all the emotion and extreme exhaustion, I sat in that theatre and absorbed every single word our pastor said. It was all about being the greatest person you could be. That instead of feeling bitter inside when someone else’s life is going great, you feel happy for them and work on being the best you can possibly be.

I’m not the strongest person in the world, or the most considerate, or the most open minded. I’m not good at social situations, or people in general, and this stops me from doing so many things. I’m not the greatest person in the world, but I’m the greatest me I can be right now.

Life with mental illness is incredibly hard. It seems as though everyone around you is going on with their lives and you’re there in your own little bubble – totally ignored, isolated and confused. Confused on how you ended up this way or how you just can’t seem to grasp life like everybody else does. How are they so happy? That’s what you think.

My church are happy. As a community, they are happy. They are giving. They are strong. They have hope in every single person, and for that I am so grateful.

I hope I am able to someday put love into life and create something for myself that will not only benefit me but will benefit so many other people around me.

One day at a time.

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

Update: 2 months without meds!

It’s been 2 months since I came off ALL medication for mental health problems. The decision to come off medication was decided pretty quickly and I know its something that should be considered for weeks and months. In order to pursue an opportunity of a lifetime, I needed to come off medication and therefore made the difficult decision to stop them. The first few days were great – I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms and wasn’t as tired.

Month 1 was very up and down. The first few days of coming off medication was absolutely amazing. I felt like I had more energy and didn’t need to nap. However, I did feel emotionally torn at first to part with them when they’ve been a rock for so long. I didn’t think they had been working anyway though and quickly got over the emotional attachment. Towards the end of the 1st month, symptoms of mental illness started coming back. On medication, I still experienced these symptoms but quickly came to realise that the medication at least helped ‘mild’ them out. These symptoms – without medication – hit with all the power they had. On medication, depressive symptoms weren’t constant, but arose now and again. Without medication, depressive symptoms were constant.

Month 2 wasn’t up or down – it was very much down. Suicidal thoughts, depressive episodes, panic attacks and self harm came 100 miles an hour. I’ve come to realise that although the medication did not get rid of mental illnesses nor did it stop symptoms, it prevented my mental illnesses getting extremely bad. Without medication, mental illness has full rein against your mind – or my mind at least.

I know that being on medication is different for everyone. A lot of people refuse to take any type of mental health medication, where as others seize the opportunity because therapy refuses to work. I’m still unsure on whether coming off medication was in my best interest, but I accept that each month will be new and different. Each month without medication will either get worse or better – and that will be the deciding factor on whether medication is needed in my life.

If you’ve recently come off meds I’d love to hear how you’re getting on. If you’re considering coming off meds, please look into every option before hand and weigh the pros and cons. Coming off medication is a HUGE decision and can positively or negatively impact your life.

Take care lovlies.

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