autism · diabetes · diabetes blog · diabetic · eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

My First Week as a Type 1 Diabetic

 I’ve been staring at this empty blog post for a while now. It’s hard to put into words what this week entailed. In a lot of aspects, it was no different to any other week. I got up, got dressed, enjoyed time with friends, did university work. I played games, went on road trips, learned some piano and appreciated the nice weather. A pretty normal week…except for the fact that on Tuesday the 24th of April, I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

image1See, I’ve had my fair share of difficulties during my life, but Type 1 Diabetes was the one that seemed far off the agenda. Type 1 Diabetes was not something that ever crossed my mind. Sure, I learned plenty about Type 2 Diabetes when studying my health and social care course, but no one ever talks about Type 1 unless they or someone they know has it.

However, it didn’t really come as a shock to me when the doctor tested my blood sugar and sent me straight to the hospital. I’d been feeling poorly for over a week before this appointment – the constant need to pee, the constant thirst despite drinking loads, the shaking, the chills, the nausea and vomiting whenever I ate, the headaches, the constant fatigue. I knew all the signs pointed towards Diabetes, so it wasn’t really that much of a surprise…right?

I realise now, one week in, that the diagnosis wasn’t a surprise but the reality was. The reality of having to test blood sugar every few hours and the preparation needed even just to eat. The hours spent trying to learn about Diabetes and all the medical knowledge needed to manage it. The use of injections and infusion sets. The tiredness and lack of sleep of dealing with hypos and then hypers. The confusion in the supermarket trying to find foods with protein for hypers and foods with sugar for hypos. Life is hard. Life with Type 1 Diabetes is harder.

Nonetheless, it is now my life, and no matter how hard it gets, it will always be life.

I may have Diabetes, but Diabetes does not have me.

 

 

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

Dealing with the Ignorance of Autism

I am not ashamed of my autism. Autism is a part of me and I don’t want it cured. Yes, most days it makes life much more difficult than it should be. It intensifies sounds and sights, it makes me socially awkward, it sometimes makes me feel like an outcast. It makes things confusing; I misread things or process things poorly.  It causes extreme meltdowns where I become non-verbal, child-like and engage in self-injurious behaviours. However, it also gives me a unique perception of the world. It gives me motivation to pursue interests. It develops my love of music and learning the piano. It makes me empathetic, aware of others and surroundings and an outlook on life that no neurotypical person would have.

Unfortunately, Autism awareness in this world is poor. When I first got diagnosed with Autism in October 2017, mostly people were accepting. There were a few who said ‘well, you don’t look autistic’ but they were simply uneducated. Most people treated me no different but began to see why I had seemed so different my whole life. I thought Autism acceptance and awareness was good…until things began to go wrong.

When you need support for Autism there is very little knowledge. My friends know more about Autism and autistic meltdowns and behaviours more than professionals do…and that is truly frightening. When a paramedic misreads stimming behaviour as trying ‘to be violent to others’ and as a ‘mental health case’…or a ER nurse puts your ‘mannerisms’ down to ‘unusual behaviour’ and spends the next 15 minutes trying to understand from your friend what autism and stimming is, it is honestly disheartening. These are people that will come across many autistic people in their day to day lives. Paramedics, nurses, doctors, first aid staff and university staff….all who should know at least what Autism is but absolutely have no idea…from my experiences.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.

The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behaviour and is sometimes also called “stereotypic” behaviour. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviours that include hand- flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases.  People with autism stim to help themselves to manage anxiety, fear, anger, excitement, anticipation, and other strong emotions. They also stim to help themselves handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc.). There are also times when people stim out of habit, just as neurotypical people bite their nails, twirl their hair, or tap their feet out of habit. At times, stimming can be a useful accommodation, making it possible for the autistic person to manage challenging situations. When it becomes a distraction, creates social problems, or causes physical harm to self or others, though, it can get in the way of daily life.

PLEASE be Autism aware and educate yourself on ‘normal’ autism behaviours. People in authority should not have to put autistic people in danger because they lack understanding or knowledge…it only takes a small amount of time to listen and learn. 

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

Mental Health Education: Should It Be Compulsory?

Mental health education is still not part of the UK curriculum despite consistently high rates of child and adolescent mental health issues. 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class. There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.

 In the UK school system, we teach our children how to count, how to write, how to follow rules, how to work in communities. We repeatedly tell them to eat healthily, to exercise more and to look after their teeth. We tell them how to take care of their body physically. We educate them on what’s bad and what’s good about lifestyle and food. What we don’t teach them is how to look after their mental health. We don’t teach them what to do when they’re feeling anxious, or when they’re feeling sad. We don’t educate them on mental health problems or suicide, despite children as young as 5 years old seeking to end their life. We don’t talk about feeling suicidal or the warning signs that our mental health is decreasing. Why?

More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time. Surely this means that mental health education should be considered compulsory both in primary and secondary schools.

There’s a reason why we have charities like Young Minds, an organisation set up to support children and young people experiencing mental health problems, and that reason is that there is a prevalence among children and young people. Keeping quiet about something isn’t going to protect people from experiencing mental illness – in fact, it’s likely to make things much worse.

By educating young people about mental health in schools, we can increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people. In fact,  having some early conversations might enable the next generation to naturally place mental and physical illness on a par.

Please sign the following petition to help get mental health education on the UK curriculum:

https://www.change.org/p/petition-to-get-mental-health-education-on-the-curriculum

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

Subtle Signs Someone You Love May Have An Eating Disorder

Some eating disorder signs are obvious: dramatic weight loss, a refusal to eat, retreating to the bathroom for long periods after meals. But anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder also reveal themselves in more subtle ways.

We’d like them to be easy to diagnose, but eating disorders are often much more complicated than that. Any given person may suffer from more than one at a time, and one list of symptoms doesn’t necessarily equal the same verdict for everyone. It’s important to keep in mind that many of the signals are less obvious than we might think. Not everyone suffering is skin and bones, haggard, and clearly starving. Because there are so many stereotypes around mental illnesses that deal with food, people who wrestle with them will do everything they can to keep it under wraps.

Changes in mood and behaviour, increased isolation and avoidance of social events and gatherings

Changes in mood and behaviour become noticeable quite early on. In an attempt to keep the eating disorder secret, the person may become more isolated and easily irritated; especially when questioned. Anxiety and Depression are very common among those with eating disorders. The person may avoid interaction with friends, especially if gatherings involve food. Hunger can make a person irritable and tired, which drastically impacts the person’s overall mood.

Increase in exercise or exercising excessively

Over-the-top workout habits—sometimes referred to as “exercise anorexia”—can go hand in hand with disordered eating and appear to be on the rise. The person may not participate in social events but will be seen running, walking or exercising. A person with an eating disorder who did not exercise before may now start to increase physical activity. A person who did partake in exercise beforehand may spend hours exercising or talking about it. Does the person panic if they miss a day of exercise? And does he or she work out even when injured or sick? These are indicators that things are going too far.

Obsession with food, diet talk, food or weight documentaries or forums about weight

This sign in adults can be tricky to spot, because internet usage is usually private. However, the person may talk about food and diet, or be the opposite and want to avoid all talk about it. Weight loss documentaries or documentaries about food can become an obsession as the person with an eating disorder becomes fixated.  The person’s internet use will often involve forums or videos related to weight and food, so keep a watchful eye out.

Not consuming food around other people

Many people with eating disorders do not like eating around other people. The anticipation of eating with a bunch of friends can be extremely anxiety-provoking for someone dealing with anorexia, BED, or any other related illness. They may not want others to watch what they’re eating or think that they are being judged on what they are eating. Does the person go out for food with you and consume very little, or order food and take it back home with them?

Always cold

People with eating disorders, especially those who restrict intake, will often experience a lowered body temperature. Frequently complaining about being cold or wearing sweaters and other heavy clothing even in mild weather are common tip-offs in people with eating disorders. This is usually a result of malnutrition and the breakdown of fat in the body. Is the person cold whilst everyone is warm? Common signs in those with eating disorders are cold hands and blue nails, a blue discoloration to the nose (cyanosis) and pale skin.

Strange eating rituals

Compulsive behaviours similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can also appear with eating disorders. These so-called rituals can take the form of cutting food into tiny morsels, or arranging food in certain patterns. They are mainly associated with anorexia (which often occurs alongside OCD), but they are sometimes an early sign of binge eating disorder as well. The person may revert back to ‘child like’ cutlery and plates to organise food, and food may be sectioned off so that it is not touching. When eating disorders are starting, people will try to make it look like they are eating by cutting things up and shifting food around on the plate so as not to draw attention to how little they are eating.

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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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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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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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