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

Depression is an illness, not an emotion

I don’t get angry very easy, but I do get irritated. As someone whose been struggling with a diagnosis of Depression for over 2 years, it irritates me when people replace the feeling of ‘sadness’ with ‘depression’. Sadness is no where near the same as Depression.

Sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviours in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.

Sadness usually goes away when the thing we’re worried or upset about is resolved or goes away too. Depression can not only last days but weeks and months, even years. Depression colours all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.

To be diagnosed with depression, people need to have at least 5 of the following symptoms, for a continual duration of at least two weeks. This means you experience these symptoms constantly for 14 days. Be advised: The severity of these symptoms must also be considered, so please use these only as a guideline and see a mental health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

All I want to do with this post is to simply remind you that there is a fine difference between sadness and depression. Please be aware that when you say, “oh, im so depressed today.” or “she looks depressed.”, that you are referring to a mental illness that has such a large impact on daily functioning for people who suffer with it.

Mental Illnesses are far more than ’emotions’. They are disorders, illnesses, conditions that affect the mind and steal daily functioning of the individual affected. Be mindful, be open, be aware and simply understand the difference between an emotion and an illness.

Thank you.

[Credit: Guy Wynch]

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