journey to recovery · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What Life Is Really Like With Anorexia [EDAW 2017]

Eating disorders are so commonly glorified these days. Eating very little, exercising in the blazing hot sun; your hair falling in your face. A perfect body for summer – cropped tops, denim shorts and flowers in your hair. No wonder I didn’t notice I was suffering with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not glamorous. Pale skin, exhaustion, fainting spells, feeling so guilty for eating you can’t even look at yourself, hair loss, constantly feeling cold. How glorious is that?

When I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa at the age of sixteen, I thought it was a joke. I wasn’t the ‘image’ of a girl with an eating disorder. I wasn’t happy, I was tired and sick. I could barely stand; refusing food and water. I didn’t feel pretty, or thin, or worthy. I didn’t want to sit on the beach in a crop top and denim shorts. There were no flowers in my hair. The reality of having Anorexia came fast. Spending hours in GP surgeries and hospitals, being taken out of college, having endless amounts of tests, having to face every single meal time, not being able to exercise, the lack of freedom, the tension in my family. That wasn’t glamorous.

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Looking back in hindsight, Anorexia at its worse was draining me. It was slowly taking my life. The days flew in a blur, each looked the same. Take a Tuesday: It was 7:15am, I’d barely slept. I was running on 3 hours sleep. I was absolutely exhausted. As soon as I got out of bed, I headed to the bathroom. I weighed myself once, then stepped off and weighed myself again. The numbers on the scale not only determined my mood for the day but also determined whether or not I’d be allowed to eat. That Tuesday, just like every other day, the number on the scale wasn’t good enough. Despite a rumbling in my tummy, I proceeded to get changed. My nails were turning blue, my skin white and I felt so cold. Throughout the day, I was sluggish. I exercised for as long as I could. I walked laps around the room until I could no longer stand. When it was time for college, I couldn’t concentrate. The lecture wasn’t my first priority. My tummy rumbled underneath the desk and I hoped no one would hear it. I couldn’t even hear the tutor’s words as I was too busy trying to work out calories for the day and exercises I could do in order to burn them off. My mind raced on how alone I was, on how utterly worthless I was, how all my friends must have hated me being so down and weak. I was tired; emotional. Even sitting brought bouts of dizziness. After lecture, I could no longer stand it. I needed a nap. I hadn’t eaten since the day before, maybe even the day before that. I came home shaky, cold and exhausted; crawling into bed in an attempt to calm my breathing and heart. My skin was pale and a headache raged between my eyes. My hands were as cold as the ice outside my window. The rumbling in my tummy was enough to make me feel nauseous. After a quick power nap, exercise began again. When I fainted and no longer had energy, I allowed myself to sleep, but insomnia came creeping through the door. I was depressed, tired, tearful and irritable. Hot tears rolled down my face. Eventually, I fell asleep, but that wouldn’t last for long.

 

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How glamorous was that Tuesday? How glamorous was it really? A tummy rumbling for food, a fainting episode, a flood of tears, extreme exhaustion. None of these are glamorous, but I’ll tell you what they are. They are symptoms of a deadly eating disorder. They are signals that something is very, very wrong. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest death rate among all psychiatric disorders.

 

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Please tell me, how glamorous is it now?

 

Life with an eating disorder is not glamorous. It is not easy. It brings so many difficult emotions – guilt, shame, worthlessness, sadness. It steals your personality, your friends, your passion for life. It makes you bruise so easy that even sitting down hurts. Life with Anorexia is life-threatening.

 

I hope if you’re reading this you find the ability to take a stand for eating disorders. I hope you come to understand the raw reality of suffering with an eating disorder. I hope that if you’re suffering yourself, you find the courage to reach out for help – to end the glamour that may be taking over your mind. I simply hope.

 

Eating Disorders are no type of glamour. They are a serious psychiatric disorder.

 

Raise awareness during this week and all weeks.

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

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017

Today marks the first day of eating disorder awareness week 2017. This is such an important week for me as most people know and I will be sharing lots of information about eating disorders to try and raise as much awareness as possible.

Awareness is key to diagnosis and recovery. Because of a lack of awareness, my eating disorder went undetected for 14+ months until my life was at risk. People deserve to get the care and treatment they need in terms of their eating disorders from the moment they develop one.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time

Some people, particularly those who are young, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

I was diagnosed with Anorexia in 2014. Anorexia Nervosa is currently the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Although Anorexia is by far the deadliest eating disorder, death rates are also higher than normal in people with bulimia and “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS, a common diagnosis for people with a mixture of atypical anorexia and atypical bulimia). Suicide is also a particular risk as 1 in 5 Anorexia death are due to suicide. People diagnosed with Anorexia between the ages of 20 to 29 had a higher death rate (18-fold) with the age group 15-19 following close behind with a ten fold.

Spotting the signs of an eating disorder can be difficult. Remember – a person with an eating disorder does NOT have to appear thin or underweight.

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • 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
  • Losing interest in social events, not attending classes or school, becoming withdrawn
  • making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • 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
  • Use of dietary aids such as weight loss products, diuretics and laxatives
  • eating in secret or having days of ‘normal’ eating
  • Using the bathroom frequently after eating

Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications, such as:

  • Significant medical problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Social and relationship problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Work and school issues
  • Death

So, whose affected by eating disorders?

A 2015 report commissioned by Beat estimates more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, but they can affect people of any age.

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it’s difficult to precisely define binge eating, it’s not clear how widespread it is, but it’s estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Be disorder aware this week and reach out to those you feel may be suffering with an Eating Disorder

[credit: NHS UK]

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

THIN is not the definition of Anorexia

A lot of people always message me saying that they feel they don’t have an eating disorder because of their weight.

I want to clarify this as it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

You do not need to be severely underweight in order to suffer from a life-threatening eating disorder.

An eating disorder is often described as a PSYCHOLOGICAL disorder that presents abnormal eating habits that affects a person’s physical and mental well-being. Such disorders include binge eating disorder which involves eating large amounts in short periods of time, anorexia nervosa which involves eating very little and results in weight loss, bulimia which people eat and lot and then try to get rid of the food, and many other, less common disorders.

When a person develops Anorexia, they are usually of a normal weight. Sometimes, the person is slightly overweight. It is a cause for concern when a person dramatically loses weight in a short amount of time and this alone can be a sign of an eating disorder. Though many people with Anorexia Nervosa are seen as severely underweight, there are many people with the condition of normal weight and who fail to receive treatment. These people do not fit the definition of anorexia because they are not underweight. This is known as eating disorder not otherwise specified, or EDNOS. It wasn’t until 10 months after my weight loss started that I finally qualified for a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa, but even then I was told by doctors that I could ‘lose a few more lbs’. I was not offered any inpatient treatment at that initial diagnosis which in thus leaded to a more serious decline in my health and has recently caused 3 relapses, in which one of these was severe.

When you have an eating disorder but still have a normal body weight, help is not offered. Although you are barely surviving on a glass of water a day and exercise excessively until you pass out, no one believes you are at risk. Therefore, you do not receive the help you need which pushes you into a distressed and unstable mental state, worsening both your physical and mental health and your eating disorder continues to progress.

I want to spread the message – You do not need to be thin to be anorexic! – so that all those suffering with early stages of eating disorders can receive the help they need before they get critical. For 3 years, I have suffered severely with thoughts of food, weight and appearance. I have suffered with putting even 10 calories into my mouth and spent endless amounts of time in the gym without anything inside my stomach. I do not want people suffering this way all because of a horrendous BMI guideline that determines whether you get help or not.

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Summer 2014