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

What Does an Eating Disorder Look Like?

Whilst at the Feel Happy Eating Fix, the big subject of the media came up. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about the role of the media on eating disorders. It is a large topic, one that can bring up a lot of opinion. Honestly, I do think that the media plays a big role on the development of eating disorders. When you watch TV, all you see is girls all the same size – all thin, all with the perfect flat stomach and sun-kissed tan…all incredibly beautiful. I have sat and watched TV for over an hour and have not seen one overweight or even normal weight person on the TV adverts. It makes me so incredibly sad. If children are growing up seeing incredibly thin and beautiful models all over TV, shops and the internet then of course they are going to want to be like them.

When it comes to eating disorders, there is no size guideline. I don’t care what anyone says. An Eating Disorder is a serious psychiatric illness and is not characterised by how much a person weighs. If a person is thinner, it does not mean they are anymore ill than someone of normal size. Everyone with an eating disorder is ill and needs help and care. It is wrong to view eating disorders as a weight illness. In a person with an eating disorder, the brain is disorded to think that food is bad for you. An eating disorder comes along with many mental illnesses including depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia. An eating disorder, no matter how heavy the person is, is life threatening and should be taken seriously.

It really annoys me that there is a BMI guideline for diagnosis of Anorexia. I development Anorexia Nervosa at slightly overweight. No one noticed my disordered thinking. Nobody noticed I pretended to fill my empty cereal bowl with a little drop of milk in the sink to make it look like I’d eaten. Nobody noticed me wrapping my food in napkins at dinner time. Nobody noticed the excessive use of tablets to make me lose weight. Nobody noticed the excessive exercise that caused me to faint. No one noticed the change in the mood, the lack of sleep and always being severely tired, or the unexplained bruises, the constant illnesses and the inability to function everyday. All people noticed was an overweight girl losing weight to fit society’s view of perfection. Everyone was ‘proud’ of me. I suffered for over a year before anyone noticed that I was “losing too much weight”.  Even then when my BMI hit underweight, the doctor deemed me as ‘fine’ because I was not yet thin enough….

Eating Disorders do not fit one box. Two people who both have anorexia are NOT the same. Anorexia Nerovsa shares similar characteristics but is NOT the same. The media does not portray a realistic view of eating disorders…

So when someone walks past you in the street and you whisper, “that girl looks anorexic,” please tell me…What does an eating disorder look like anyway?

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

A Girl Called Ana [POEM]

I found this poem a few days back on my old blog and it gives me goosebumps every time I read it. I wanted to share, because it explains the grips of an eating disorder well.

I’ve seen a girl called Ana,

She’s pretty, thin and tall,

She has the smallest frame I’ve seen,

And not one single flaw.

I’ve met a girl called Ana,

she introduced herself one day,

She seemed so very nice at first,

and said she wants to stay.

I’ve known this girl named Ana,

She’s so perfect and it’s true,

I’m fat compared to her,

But she’ll make me skinny too.

I’ve become friends with this girl named Ana,

I’ve started eating less,

Hating the person in the mirror,

My life’s become a mess.

My best friend is a girl named Ana,

I just want her to stay,

All my other friends have left,

But she will never stray.

I always listen to Ana,

She’s smart and full of advice,

I’m starting to get smaller,

my health is the only sacrifice.

I’m scared of this girl called Ana,

I can’t get her from my head,

It always occurred to me,

that Ana wants me dead.

I despise this girl called Ana,

She makes my life a hell,

Someone hear my silent screams,

cause she won’t let me tell!

My worst enemy is this girl called Ana,

She’s a demon in my head,

She seemed so nice at first,

But now I am mislead.

I’m a prisoner to this girl called Ana,

I’m captive to her will,

I can’t help but do what she says,

How can I be so fat still?

My murderer is this girl called Ana,

She starves me to my grave,

My heart will stop beating,

When I can’t continue to be brave.

This is about Ana,

She’ll take your life away.

If you give her any chance,

in your head she’ll stay.

autism · grief · journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

“You asked me before if I was coping…”

So many emotions…so much pain.

Sigh.

I know how life can turn on you sometimes. How it can make you feel…lonely. Scared. Life can be so cruel sometimes….I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. You asked me before it I was coping. I’m not coping. Not at all.
I distanced myself from my friends. I distanced myself from everyone. It doesn’t go away. It happened weeks ago. It might as well be minutes ago. Because it doesn’t go away. I don’t break down in tears anymore. Not much…

You put me through hell..but I survived.

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

5 Self-Harm Truths

  1. Self harm is a very common problem, much more common than a lot of people think. Although it is common, a lot of people struggle to deal with it. Recent research shows that at least 1 in 15 young people in Britain have harmed themselves. This amounts to at least 2 young people in every school classroom self harming at the same time. The most common age for self harm is between the ages of 11 and 25. Most people start self harming at around 12 years old but it is increasing among those younger.
  2. Self harming is usually not for attention. Self harm is a way to release emotions, deal with stress and pressures and to replace mental pain with physical pain. Most people harm themselves because they don’t feel like they have any other options. Self harm provides a temporary relief and a sense of control. Most people self harm due to being bullied at school, stress and worry about work, feeling isolated, divorce, bereavement or pregnancy, experience of abuse, problems with their sexuality, low self-esteem, underlying mental health issues.
  3. Self harm is not closely linked to suicide. The majority of people who self harm are not trying to kill themselves, but rather trying to cope with difficult situations and feelings. Although many people who do go on to commit suicide have self-harmed in the past, self harming itself does not indicate that a person is attempting to take their own life.
  4. Self harm can become addicting. Chemicals are released in the body when it is injured. These chemicals make you less sensitive to pain. Self harm mostly becomes addicting as it grows to be a habit that the person begins to rely on in order to function.
  5. Self harm is not just a phase. In young people, self harm is often blamed as a ‘teenage phase’ that the person will grow out of. However, self harm does not just affect young people. It affects people from all ages and all walks of life. If someone is self harming, then someone is severely bothering them and if left untreated, it can become more aggressive and frequent over time.

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

Psychological Consequences of ED’s

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 makes someone excited, which makes it more difficult to deal with painful emotions.

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 characterised 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 AN EATING DISORDER

  • missing meals
  • complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
  • repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
  • making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • becoming irritable or angry when food is mentioned to them
  • missing meals, eating very little, or avoiding eating any fatty foods
  • obsessively counting calories in food
  • leaving the table immediately after eating so they can vomit
  • taking appetite suppressants, laxatives, or diuretics (a type of medication that helps remove fluid from the body)
  • physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, dehydration, low potassium levels and/or dry skin
  • cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
  • only eating certain low-calorie foods in your presence, such as lettuce or celery
  • feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as at a restaurant
  • the use of “pro-anorexia” websites

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

To the Person Who May Have an Eating Disorder

Hello. You might know me, or you might not. Either way, I want to talk to you about eating disorders. You may have one, you may not have one, you may know somebody who does…

I want to let you know about a time in my life where my eating disorder was at it’s worse. It was May 2014. I had just turned 17 years old. I was fainting all the time, had many bruises and injuries, and was irritable with almost everyone. My fingernails and nose were blue from lack of oxygen. My potassium, sugar levels and electrolytes were extremely low. My hair was brittle and fell out. My skin was pale and weak. My stomach was distended from lack of food and I was dehydrated. My mental health was lower than low. I sat alone at college because I was too caught up in my own little world to socialise with anyone. I spent all day nearly fainting or sleeping because I simply had no energy. I refused to eat anything for weeks at a time because the fear of food was too intense. I lost 7lb that week in  may 2014, and weighed 4 stone lighter than I do now…

It was then that I started to notice that my relationship with food was not normal. I realised that I wasn’t just hungry for food. I was starving before I ever refused a meal. I was starving for perfection. I was starving for a perfect body, for a flat stomach, for a thigh gap, to look beautiful, and to feel happier. I was starving for something that didn’t really exist. I didn’t really believe that I could ever get Anorexia Nervosa, but I did…

It took me a long time to truly understand recovery. Recovery started with many nights of tears, frustration and the pure refusal to eat a thing in the fear of gaining weight. Recovery started with many hours of re-feeding and the horrible symptoms that came with it. Recovery started with fear and anger at all those who forced me to get better. As the months went on and my body shape began to change, the self-hatred grew and the self-confidence decreased. With recovery came hatred. With recovery came depression. With recovery came anxiety. Recovery gave me freedom to eat food that I wanted. Recovery gave me the ability to eat without truly thinking about it. Recovery silenced Ana’s voices – for a while. But recovery brought weight gain…and it brought confusion.

Recovery is often beautiful, however, so don’t let this put you off. Relapse is torture, but one thing I know for certain is that battling with both is hell. Darkness, like light, often leaks in through cracks. Recovery has never been one easy happy path. Recovery has had many more bad days than good. Recovery often leads to relapse, and thats perfectly okay. Relapse is inevitable.

I know that an eating disorder is not easy. It’s not easy when everyone tells you that you are what you eat or what you weigh or that you’re only as good as your calorie count or the number on your social media. It’s not easy when people talk about how they’re having a ‘bad’ food day or that they need to run off the chocolate cake they had. It’s not easy when people go on diets, or cut out food groups like carbs or suddenly develop dietary requirements. It’s not easy when people comment on the weight they’ve lost or tell you they’re on a diet. It’s not easy when the calorie information to food is right there in front of you, or the temptation of throwing everything back up is nagging at your head.  The world revolves around numbers. The truths below are listen in numbers, but they are numbers to be followed. Please listen.

  1. You have a voice – I know your eating disorder seems to be in control and it takes up every single minute of the day. The truth is however is that your eating disorder does not control you at all. You are a person and you have a wonderful voice hiding in that body of yours.
  2. You’re not defined by your eating disorder – I know that eating disorders can become some sort of protection, but your identity and who you are is totally detached from your eating disorder. Your eating disorder is an illness you have, not what has you.
  3. You’re really not crazy, I promise – I know all the voices – especially Ana’s voice – in your head make you feel like you’re crazy and you wish sometimes that they would just stop, but you’re not crazy. I know you’re not. You’re hungry…your body is looking for food, but your mind is hungry for life and purpose.

You may know me, or you might not. Either way, please listen and know you’re never alone.

I love you and I wish you the best.

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

Sometimes you fail…

I was supposed to go to work today. It wasn’t even a hard shift – just 4 hours. But I didn’t. I didn’t go. Not because I’m lazy or tired, and not because I just didn’t want to. I couldn’t. I don’t have the strength to turn up to such a positive, bubbly, colourful place or to plaster a smile on my face. I don’t have the strength to engage in social interactions with adults and the children. I don’t have the strength to smile or to laugh.

I don’t have the strength to be okay. Not today.

And I feel absolutely awful about it. I wish I’d gone to work. I wish I’d had the power to get over my weaknesses and be strong. I wish I’d had the strength to shake off the anxiety, the depression, the inability to be ‘normal’. I wish I’d tried…but I didn’t and theres nothing I can do about that but to start afresh.

I did wake up early. I did go to the gym. I did do my essay. I will be going swimming…My day is not unproductive but I couldn’t help but feel a small amount of failure for backing out of a reality that most adults do every single day.

This is just one downfall in a journey and it’ll be fine tomorrow…today will become another day in the forgotten past and things will work out okay in the end…

Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you succeed. That’s life really isn’t it.

On a plus note, heres a funny picture that sums up the aftermath of a meltdown 🙂

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

What Anorexia Taught Me

When I was 12 years old, I remember thinking to myself, “you’ll never get an eating disorder; you’re too overweight”, after hearing about eating disorders on the news. I remember telling myself that was one less mental illness to worry about because I certainly wouldn’t get that. I already had Anxiety and Depression; I’d never get an eating disorder too.

Funny enough, 3 years later…you can kind of guess what happened. I – the person who told myself I’d never get one – developed Anorexia Nervosa. I didn’t actually realise I had an eating disorder until a long while in. I thought I was on a diet – simply cutting out ‘bad’ foods in order to lose weight. I thought exercising was making me stronger, fitter, thinner. The exercise boosted my self-esteem. Saying ‘no’ to a piece of food made me proud. A few months in, I finally realised I may have had a problem. I’d cut out all types of food. Any food that led to possible weight gain. Pizza, chips, ice cream, bread, carbohydrates, takeaway, crisps, pasta, rice. The list mounted and soon the only food I felt truly comfortable eating was fruit, vegetables and water. I realised I was developing something abnormal, but I refused to admit it or tell anybody. I began purging. Throwing up the small amounts of food I’d consumed because those calories just weren’t worth it. Using pills to lose weight.

Oh I knew by now that this was Anorexia Nervosa. I knew what she was doing to my body; abnormal blood counts, fatigue, lack of oxygen in the skin, intolerance to cold, abnormal heart rhythms, dizziness and fainting, low blood pressure, dehydration, osteoporosis, irritability, depression and increased anxiety, hatred and fear of food, thoughts and attempts of suicide, social withdrawal, self harm, constipation, constant hunger, brittle nails and thin hair, low potassium and chloride… the list is endless, but I was lacking one important symptom; an extremely low body weight (which I eventually gained after a doctor told me I was ‘too fat’ after losing 31% of my body weight).

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You see, I never thought I would get a disease known as Anorexia Nervosa. I never expected to have a life-long condition that can be managed but won’t truly go away. But the thing is, as an 8 year old I wrote a poem about a girl named ‘Ana’ who told me I was fat and not to eat. It happens that 7 years after that poem, it came true. Maybe I was predisposed to Anorexia  from a early age and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.

Anorexia Nervosa is completely destructive and the most lethal psychiatric disorder to date, but its taught me things I never thought it would.

Because of Anorexia; I learned to look deeper into the way people act, behave and think. I have learned to be compassionate, to not judge but to be accepting. I have learned who my real friends are (to those of you who stuck around; I love ya) and who is there for me in the darkest of times. I have learned about a range of illnesses I knew nothing about before. I have learned to advocate for change and grow a passion for changing the world and the people in it. I have learned to stand up for those who have mental illness and befriend those who struggle. I have learned so, so much…

but most of all,  I have learned about me.

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

Sensory Overload

Sometimes, things get a bit too much. Noises are everywhere. A pencil moving. A person breathing. A stereo. Then there’s lights; flashing lights, coloured lights, a quick flash, a constant light. There’s textures, tastes, smells, sights and sounds consistently – all of the time. All of these merge together and create a jumbled blurred mess of colours and sounds. This is sensory overload…

A sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. I am over sensitive to sounds, sights and tastes. I can’t hear you very well when you’re talking next to me, but if you’re on the other side of the room its not a problem. I can hear a door close on the other side of the house. I can hear someone sigh a mile away or turn a page in their book. Lights and objects jump around; and little details stand out more than the whole object or situation.  In terms of touch, I am under sensitive. I have a high tolerance to pain, and I need deep pressure from others when I feel completely overwhelmed.

Imagine a sensory overload. A complete rush of sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes. A complete blur of people, noises, the environment, cars, the street, even your own mind.

A noise in your head that rumbles and screeches. People, lots of people. Heat. Too much touch. No time to think. Too many flashing lights and sign posts. Too much visible information. Too much sound. People talking. People typing on laptops. A page of a book. A pencil hitting the floor. People laughing. Music. Not enough touch. Trapped. Cold. Heavy breathing. Sweating. Tired….a sensory overload.

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How do you spot a sensory overload?

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Helping somebody with sensory overload

The quickest way to calm somebody down during a sensory overload is to remove that person from the environment in which the overload occurred.

If other symptoms alongside a sensory overload occur, work on these also. Panic attacks include heavy breathing, disorientation, low body temperature and severe panic. Once a person recovers from this, their senses may calm down also. Anger should be dealt with alongside an overload if it occurs.

Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to the person’s body allows them to know you’re there whilst keeping them with reality.

Reducing sensory input such as eliminating distressing sounds and lowering the lights can help. Calming, focusing music works for some.

Talking or repeating the person’s name may help them establish their surroundings, the people they are with and what they are currently going through. This may encourage the person to calm themselves down, or reaching out to somebody to help.

Stimming or self-soothing behaviours should not be stopped unless they pose risk to the person suffering the sensory overload. These behaviours often allow the person to calm down and come out of an overload.

If a quick break or intervention does not relieve the problem, an extended rest is advised. It is important in situations of sensory overload to calm oneself and return to a normal level.

Sensory Overload Virtual Reality Video

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

The end of daylight saving time affects your mental health…

When British summer time came to a close the other week, we changed our clocks back. During this period, research has found that more people are diagnosed with Depression than any other time during the year. The month of November is associated with higher levels of low mood and more people suffering from poor mental health. This is possibly due to the end of daylight saving hour. This may be because the hour change disrupts circadian rhythms – something which has been tied to depressive episodes in the past.

In fact, throughout the end of October and into November, my mood dropped. Low mood, irritability, anger, frustration and sleeplessness all made their appearance. When the clocks go back; it gets darker sooner and the day seems to go so fast.

When its dark, I feel more depressed. Almost as though the darkness creates the shadows; erases all the happiness. Is this what causes such low mood during daylight saving hour?

We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between 7 and 8, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark.

So if you’ve started to feel low recently, consider it may be down to the clocks!

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