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

Surviving University with Mental Health Problems

Mental health difficulties are quite common among students at university. Family and friends usually play an important role in supporting you at university. I’ve been at uni for nearly 7 months now, 2 hours away from home, so I thought it would be helpful to provide you guys with some information on surviving uni when you’re battling a mental illness.

University is a new and exciting experience that opens up so many possibilities. However, it can be pretty challenging. When you’ve got mental illness, you face challenges every day. Remember that although you’re going to university, and you might be away from home, you are NEVER ever alone. Remember that.

Having a mental illness does not mean that you have a lack of ability, but your illness may mean that you require some adjustments at university, including with your academic work. Keep in mind the course workload and stress of deadlines. Are you able to manage them, or do you need some adjustments? Remember there are people on campus available to talk to about any issues you may have.

A good thing about university is that they are usually always ready to help you. There are usually special offices or members of staff assigned to students who have disabilities. Tell people around you what strategies work best for you – be your own advocate, and if not, find someone who will be an advocate for you. If onsite facilities are not meeting your mental health needs, do not be afraid to seek other help. There will be local doctors available to make appointments with. Do not give up looking until you find someone who is able and willing to help you.

Remember that having a mental illness is not shameful. If it makes it easier, tell others around you about your mental illnesses. Having someone to open up to about your struggles can help improve your mental well-being. Also remember your medication, therapy and mental health needs. Do you need to take medication at a certain time? If so, create a little reminder on a whiteboard or pin-board in your room to help remind you. In stressful situations or hardships, find something that meets your needs and eases your anxiety. A special educational need toy called a Tangle is what I use in daily life, especially in lectures, to help ease anxieties or low mood.

One of the most important things about surviving university is remembering that you are worthy. Meet lots of new people, smile, hang out, relax, pay attention in lectures, go for a walk and get some fresh air if it gets too much, talk to people who will help you with your mental illnesses, and never be afraid to admit you’re struggling. University is an amazing opportunity to start a new life and provides many new possibilities.

Good luck to everyone leaving for university in the coming September, or some time in the future, and for those of you already at uni – I’m proud of you.

Do not let your mental illnesses define your outcome. EVER.

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

Suicide is NOT a sin

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of opinions on suicide. As a person whose been suffering with suicidal thoughts since the age of 11, I’ve had a good first hand experience of suicide. It often bothers me when people refer to suicide as a sin. I’m a religious person, but I believe God loves you no matter what you do. We are human; we feel, we make mistakes, we suffer. God doesn’t love us any less because of that.

Suicide is NOT a sin. It isn’t. It makes me so sad that so many people regard suicide as a sin so bad that it cannot be forgiven. A person who thinks, attempts or dies by suicide are hurting so badly that suicide seems the only option. How it is right to regard suicide as a sin when it is the result of a person suffering so much that suicide seems the only way? I’ve been there. At 11 years old, there was no other possible option. Suicide plagued my every thought. I was crying all the time. I despised myself completely. The world didn’t seem like a safe place to be. Attempting to take my life that day does not make me any less of a person than someone who has not thought about or attempted suicide.

In Exodus, suicide is referred to “a grave sin equivalent to murder”. I disagree. Murder is in no way the same as suicide. How can they even be compared to each other? Murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of a human being by another. Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life. The difference with these two acts is the person behind it. Murderers are criminals, who often sadistically plan out the murder of another human being for days, weeks or months before the act. People who die by suicide are not criminals, nor are they sadistic. I would not compare myself to a murderer, nor would people who know me. Of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. These people are struggling. These people often have mental illnesses, or suffer extreme abuse and bullying or hardships in their life. These people struggle every single day to just live here on this earth. In no way is Suicide a sin. I’m not saying that I haven’t sinned before, because I have, but suicide is not my sin. For 7 years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts and attempts but that does not make me any less in the eyes of God.

I wanted to write this blog post because of my recent experience with religion calling suicide a sin or a mistake. I want to let you know that your mental illnesses do not make you any less than those who do not have mental illness. You will not go to hell for suffering with suicide, or mental illness. You are human, you are loved, you struggle, but you also feel joy. I believe in God and church is a huge part of my life. Many people in my church are accepting of mental illness and do not see me any less in the eyes of God, but some churches do teach that suicide is a sin.

Please, do not refer to suicide as a sin. So many people in this world are affected by suicide in some shape or form. Please educate yourself on mental illness and suicide before making a judgement.

“Mental illness is like a war. You either win or die trying.”

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

Forever thankful

Being thankful, grateful, appreciative and open-minded can be difficult when there are so many things going wrong. Lately, university has presented difficulty, there’s been stress trying to prepare for America and the ultimate occurrence of mental health difficulties. Life presents so many difficulties….there have been so many struggles lately, so many tears, so many emotions, so much happening out of my control.

As a perfectionist, mistakes are hard for me to cope with. I understand that people make mistakes and that in order to learn we must first make mistakes, but this simply doesn’t make it easier. I made a mistake this week – one that lays out outcomes for my future. Now that the mistake is done, everything is out of my control. This is difficult for me to comprehend. I feel a range of emotions – frustration, guilt, anger, upset, hurt…having mental health problems make me a little bit more vulnerable to the feelings of being out of control. It’s easy to lose control mentally when everything in real life begins to go down hill.

Now, despite all this, im continuing to remain blessed. In my mental illness journey I have encouraged myself to think more positively, to be grateful, to breathe, to appreciate surroundings. In this journey, I teach myself to grow and be the best person I can be. I am so thankful for the people I have around me. There are days where I feel absolute alone with no one to turn to, but I’m trying to accept that people have their own lives too. I am thankful for the people who support me, who believe in me, who see me as someone positive in their life.

This leads me to why I feel so thankful today. Even though things with university are making me so stressed and upset today, one thing brought so much comfort – an email saying that I’ve been nominated for the National Diversity Awards as a positive role model. I do not know who put me forward for this award but I am so thankful. So utterly thankful and blessed for the opportunities that are given to me in the midst of the darkness.

I love and appreciate each and every one of you and hope that in the future I can continue changing lives. My ultimate goal is to not stop until I diminish the stigma attached to mental health and improve services intended to treat mental health issues.

click here to vote for me in the National Diversity Awards

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

Thin is NOT the Definition of Anorexia (speech)

I know what you’re thinking – she doesn’t look like she has an eating disorder. But wait, please tell me, what does an eating disorder look like? 4 out of 10 people have either personally experienced an eating disorder or know someone who has. This means that if there is 400 people in this audience, around 160 people have either had an eating disorder themselves or knows someone who has. I was one of those children who grew up thinking I would never get an eating disorder. Sure, I had low self-esteem but I loved food and I was overweight. I had a vision that those with eating disorders were underweight and starving. Just go onto google and type in words along the lines of ‘anorexia’ ‘eating disorder’ or ‘person suffering with an eating disorder’. I can guarantee the search engine will give you a woman severely underweight. You can see why I never thought I would get an eating disorder.

Then in August 2013, when I was just 15 years old, I was in for the shock of my life.  I developed disordered eating unknown to me at the time. I thought I was just on a diet. I thought cutting calories was normal – that exercising for over 2 hours every day until I felt like I could faint was what healthy people did. This diet of mine consisted of restriction and starvation, excessive exercise and nearly a 5 stone weight loss that left me severely sick. People complimented me on my weight loss. I felt strong. The number on the scales determined my happiness for that day. If I wasn’t satisfied, I refused to eat. Food stopped being something I enjoyed. Foods like pizza, ice cream and take away instilled fear into me. I was so oblivious to what I was doing to myself. I couldn’t be ill because I wasn’t underweight. The fear of the food, the refusal to eat, the fainting, the chills running through my body and blue nails seemed normal. Normal because I was a normal weight. I lost 31% of my body weight within a 10 month period. To meet a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa a person must lose at least 15% of their body weight within a certain time period.

I was eventually diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa but by then the damage had been done. Doctors didn’t take me seriously because I was a normal weight for so long, but yet an eating disorder is defined as a ‘PSYCHOLOGICAL’ disorder that involves an abnormal ATTITUDE towards food and it is not based on weight. The weight loss of an eating disorder is merely a symptom and not the actual disorder itself. My view on food was set – I didn’t want it. Food was the scariest thing to me. I didn’t want to touch it – I definitely didn’t want to eat it. Eating in public or going out to restaurants was a no go. My health was already failing – I was exhausted and my mental health was declining rapidly. Food made me feel guilty, ashamed, fat. Every single part of the day revolved around food and I hated it. I couldn’t last a full day in college because I was so weak and exhausted to cope with it. I couldn’t concentrate or focus and thinking was difficult. My memory was awful. People kept telling me I was losing too much weight but to me I still felt and looked the same as I always did – severely overweight. I didn’t want to get dressed because I felt that I looked too fat in everything.

I’ve been in recovery for over a year and gaining back the weight was such an horrendous feeling. I had spent so much time chasing weightlessness that I didn’t know how to forge an identity for myself in a world where I was no longer thin. My metabolism was so ruined that even eating one thing would make me gain a few pounds. My body began holding onto every single thing I put into my mouth, whether it was healthy or not. The weight gain came fast and people always assume once you reach normal weight you’re fine. But I’m not fine, and I never was fine. A normal weight does not signify a normal mind. People look at me and assume that because I am a normal weight, I must be doing good. No one seemed to care anymore; now I looked as healthy as everyone else. You’re recovered. No, I’m not. I don’t look sick and physical exams would confirm that my body is healthy. But my mind isn’t. The truth is – Anorexia Nervosa is a disease that will truly never go away. Some days, even weeks, the thought of food is too much to bear and I don’t want to eat it. I’ll exercise excessively and feel so exhausted I can’t move, but I have good days – where food is amazing and it’s okay to miss a day of exercise. The point of this speech is that I want you to be mindful. I want you to be educated on eating disorders. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder that is defined by an abnormal attitude towards food. A person can develop Anorexia whether they are 18 stone or 8. One day I was overweight and the next I was struggling to stay alive after losing 31% of my body weight. Eating Disorders have no clear victim – they affect people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all weights, of all cultures, of all social class.

THIN is NOT the definition of an eating disorder but MENTAL ILLNESS, FEAR and DEATH ARE.