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

Overcoming Perfection

I’ve been a perfectionist my entire life; I know that. I’ve always set extremely high goals and aimed to achieve them. I’ve always been extremely critical about anything and everything. I do set unrealistic standards of myself, and I do focus on the results. I have a huge fear of failure, procrastinate, defend and have a low self-esteem. I know this. But days like today make me realise how much being a perfectionist truly affects your life. Your emotions. Your thoughts. Your behaviours towards others.

I set myself a goal – a grade – a task…and if this goal isn’t met in the way I’ve planned, I meltdown. I cry and scream and punch and hit. It’s not the silent tears that roll down a cheek; its a full blown messy, screaming cry; the sort that makes you extremely tired and distraught. Today was that day…

That day to cry, to scream, to hit the wall; and in its consequence, feel like an utter failure.

But, being a perfectionist is not always a bad thing. Setting unrealistic goals allows you to work hard to try and reach that goal. You have motivation, determination and persistence to get things done. You become amazing at correcting errors and faults. You repeat something over and over again until you get it right.

You never accept failure from yourself, and that is utterly okay.

I am a perfectionist, and on days like today its really hard to get past that, but after calming down, I realised its okay to be a perfectionist..

it’s how I make things work. It’s how I focus and push myself to do work. It’s how I organise and succeed in aspects of life.

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

Absent

I know I’ve been a little absent lately, and it’s not that I don’t want to blog because I absolutely do. The truth is; the things I want to blog about I currently can’t blog about. It’s confusing, I know, but soon I promise you it will make utter sense and I’ll explain everything to you.

I’ve been completely preoccupied with thoughts in my mind lately. My head feels like its swirling all of the time. I can’t think straight, I can’t focus, I just can’t. And I’m coming to accept that that’s perfectly okay. I’m just trying to make sense of myself and my life whilst getting on with university work and trying (failing) to be social. I’m having a couple of relapses, but this too shall pass.

I’ve got some exciting projects soon to be released in terms of my advocacy work so stay tuned for that. I hope you’re all doing good.

I haven’t really been up to much besides from that. I’ve made some sensory bottles (heck, I love glitter), watched a million films and slept loads. I think my body needs it.

Have a blessed week and I promise I’ll catch up with you all soon!

Sincerely,

Savannah

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