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

All About Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a serious eating disorder where people feel that they have lost control over their eating and evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called ‘bingeing’), and then vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics (called purging), in order to prevent gaining weight. This behaviour can dominate daily life and lead to difficulties in relationships and social situations. Usually people hide this behaviour pattern from others and their weight is often in a healthy range. People with bulimia tend not to seek help or support very readily and can experience swings in their mood as well as feeling anxious and tense.

They may also have very low self-esteem and self harm. They may experience symptoms such as tiredness, feeling bloated, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular periods, or occasional swelling of the hands and feet. Excessive vomiting can cause problems with the teeth, while laxative misuse can seriously affect the heart. Bulimia in children and young people is rare, although young people may have some of the symptoms of the condition. Bulimia usually develops at a slightly older age than anorexia. In some instances, although not all, bulimia develops from anorexia.

Behavioural signs

  • Bingeing – eating large amounts of food
  • Purging after bingeing – vomiting, over exercising, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting
  • Preoccupied with thoughts of food and life may be organised around shopping, eating and purging behaviour
  • Usually secretive about bulimic episodes
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious and tense
  • Distorted perception of body shape or weight
  • Feeling of loss of control over eating
  • Feelings of guilt and shame after bingeing and purging Isolation
  • Can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, misuse of alcohol and self-harm

Physical signs of bulimia

Some of the more common signs of bulimia nervosa are:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive exercising
  • Misuse of laxatives and diuretics
  • Disappearing soon after eating
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Periods stop or are irregular (amenorrhea)
  • Enlarged salivary glands
  • Calluses on the backs of the hand from forcing down throat to vomit
  • Electrolyte abnormalities/ imbalance
  • Gastric problems
  • Regular changes in weight

Worried you have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are complex; there’s no single cause and not all symptoms will apply to all people. You may feel that you have a mixture of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder or even alternate between them. Some people also find they are affected by other mental health issues, an urge to harm themselves or abuse alcohol or drugs.

Even if you don’t have these symptoms if you are worried and upset by something, anything, it is important you find someone to talk to. Don’t bottle it up.

Sometimes people worry about talking to someone because they feel their eating disorder isn’t serious enough, they don’t want to worry people or waste their time, or because they feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. Whether your eating difficulties began recently, you’ve been struggling for a while or you’re finding yourself relapsing, you deserve support and with this support you can overcome your eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses and you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully, to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.

Discover more about the different types of eating disorders or how to access help and treatment as well as information and inspiration about recovery.

bulimia-treatment

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

Dear Younger Me…

Dear younger me, where do I start? If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
then you could be one step ahead of all the painful memories that are still running through my head. I wonder how much different things would be now if you knew. I wouldn’t want to give you a speech about how to get the most out of this life. I’d want to talk to you about the choices you’ll make; the choices that made me – well me. Most of the time, this life is awesome, but I wish it were easier. Would a different choice have helped this situation? Dear younger me, if I knew then what I know now; everything would be different. The unknown would have no power over you. You’d be able to sleep without worry. The pain would eventually cease. If I knew then what I know now, it would’ve not been hard to figure out what I would’ve changed if I had known.

Dear younger me; remember it’s not your fault. You were never meant to carry this. Please stop living in the past – your past actions and other peoples past actions are not your fault. Stop thinking about them. Please stop looking into the future. What will be will be. You’ll be alive, you’ll be breathing, you’ll be stronger. You always have been. Live in the present. Appreciate the feel of wind on your face, or the blanket keeping you cosy and warm at night. Appreciate your senses – the smell of a hot chocolate. The sights of the outdoors. Be patient. Be loving. Be kind. Love others. Care for others.

When life throws pain at you, you’ll be angry. You’ll be scared. You’ll be lonely. But eventually you’ll see that every moment brings you closer to who you were meant to be. Please don’t look too close into appearances and weight. Please don’t use the internet as a source of information and trust…or let society change your views on yourself and the world. Please don’t exercise so much – relax and sleep all you need. Please eat – your body loves you for it. When depression and anxiety strikes, don’t curl up in a ball in a dark room. Reach out. Surround yourself with people; you’ll thank me for it later.

But most of all, younger me; believe in yourself. You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are living. You are you and you’ll do a great job making me me…

[inspired by Mercy Me.]

270399_2123564842978_1021788_n

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

Recovery Is…

  • Recovery is about enjoying all types of food and not giving them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labels.
  • Recovery is about not sticking to your meal plan and being able to enjoy extra treats and snacks with friends.
  • Recovery is about not tracking every calorie, every gram of fat, and every step you take each day.
  • Recovery is about not planning meals in advance and being able to eat whatever you want.
  • Recovery is about being able to enjoy a meal out with friends without having a panic attack over the calories or food.
  • Recovery is about being able to enjoy your birthday, Christmas and that late night McDonalds or pizza with friends.
  • Recovery is about drinking alcohol without skipping meals to allow the excess calories.
  • Recovery is finding exercising and walking relaxing and not just a means to count calories and lose weight.
  • Recovery is sleeping in sometimes or not moving from your bed because you don’t have to be on the go all day.
  • Recovery is being able to have more energy to hang out with friends and family because you are not always cold or ill.
  • Recovery is allowing things to be imperfect.
  • Recovery is learning to eat in front of others without feeling that you are being judged.
  • Recovery is feeling comfortable outside of treatment so that you can lead a fulfilling life.
  • Recovery is accepting a relapse as a challenge to recover stronger.
  • Recovery is understanding that an eating disorder does not make you feel safe, nor does the dependency on others.
  • Recovery is feeling all sorts of emotions but learning to cope with them.

recovery-spelled-out

Recovery in an eating disorder is many things…but overall it is the journey to finding yourself. Recovery is a long process – sometimes there are 2 steps forward and 10 steps back (okay, most of the time), but even through the downpour and the days where you simply can’t get out of bed, you’re one step closer than you were when you were submerged to your illness. Recovery teaches you that nothing is perfect. Emotions are not straight-forward. People are confusing. Plans change. Relapses happen.

Recovery is painful, tiring and emotional. Refeeding causes horrible side effects that leave you ready to give up. Getting every illness under the sun is normal…BUT

Recovery is a process and takes heaps of time. Just because its dark today, doesn’t mean the light won’t rise tomorrow.

You’re beautiful. You’re strong. You’ve survived every bad day to date and that is rather extraordinary!

[inspired by Alice]

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

2 Years of Recovery!

On the 1st of September 2014, I sat in the doctor’s office after fainting in college and listened as he finally diagnosed me – Anorexia Nervosa. For weeks before this diagnosis I had been pulled from college because I was too exhausted and too ill to attend. I had spent most of college lunch times sitting in the classroom with a tutor or the head of care’s office because I couldn’t be trusted to eat by myself. They watched me for over half an hour to ensure I had consumed every bite of that banana, sandwich or pear. I had panic attacks that lasted for hours and spent most of the days in the college bathroom because the anxiety was too much to bear. I had to have every single meal prepared for me but still managed to consume so little and exercise behind every body’s backs. My first visits to the doctors proved unsuccessful – my BMI was not low enough to reach a diagnosis of Anorexia…despite losing 31% of my body weight (a diagnosis usually occurs after the person loses 15% of body weight). But finally on the 1st of September 2014, after being told to ‘lose a few more pounds’ my BMI slipped into the underweight category and I went in for the fight of my life…

936685_1485745031712573_5640696653311517206_n

Although September 2014 was 2 years ago, it feels like yesterday. I remember every single emotion, every illness, every fear, every tear, every screaming fit, every panic attack. I remember the heart-wrenching pain, the weakness in my body, the exhaustion as panic attacks swept through me. I remember crying in fits of tears because I had to force food down me. I remember getting so angry because I thought even water had calories. Not having every food measured and calorie counted caused me to spiral out of control. Not being allowed to exercise drove me to crying and screaming on the floor. Every morning I woke up I was ready to lay down and die. A life without Anorexia, without control, without everything I’d worked for for over a year seemed absolutely terrifying to me. I was disappearing to everyone around me but I still felt as though I was fat…

10690237_1490586951228381_747518123697260211_n

Anorexia Nervosa is currently the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Suicide is also a particular risk as 1 in 5 Anorexia deaths 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.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction. The associated malnutrition from Anorexia can cause complications in every single organ system of the body. Hypokalaemia (a drop in potassium levels in the blood) is common in Anorexia and causes abnormal heart rhythms, constipation, fatigue, muscle damage and paralysis. The symptoms of Anorexia include: refusal to maintain a healthy weight, Amenorrhea (period stops, hair becomes brittle, skin turns yellow), fear of weight gain and avoidance of weight gain, a rapid and obvious weight loss of at least 15% of body weight, obsession with calories and fat contents of food, preoccupation with food, food restriction, food rituals such as cutting food into small pieces, using laxatives, water pills and diet pills to lose or maintain a weight loss, excessive exercise and micro-exercising (moving the fingers or legs persistently), distorted body perception, intolerance to cold and a lower body temperature, hypo tension, tachycardia, depression, isolating behaviour; becoming withdrawn and secretive, abdominal distention, bad breath caused by starvation-induced ketosis, chronic fatigue and rapid mood swings.

  • 13887036_10209100327439610_4454746347794391350_n

There has been many relapses in my recovery and every day is a constant battle with food…My eating disorder journey has shaped me into the person I am today. It has made me more empathetic, more compassionate, more open and aware. It has made me an advocate for others suffering with mental illness. It has made me strong. I have met so many amazing people through my journey…and lost many on the way…

Anorexia Nervosa, as well as any other eating disorder, is absolutely horrendous and is life-threatening. Anorexia nearly killed me, but each day I wake up I am thankful I experienced it…

Not because it made me thin. Not because it made me feel in control.

But because it opened my eyes to the world and made me an advocate for change. Because it allowed me to grow as a person and lead me to a road of self-discovery.

Because it shaped me into the person I am today.

13912576_10209168951595171_4807959329239405157_n

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

10 Weeks Away – UPDATE

I feel like I haven’t wrote to you guys here in forever! Life has changed so much since I last posted in May.

In June, I flew across the other side of the world to work at a summer camp for children with special needs in the United States. I have been working with children since I was 15 and special needs children since I was 16 and have enjoyed every minute. These children make me feel complete – they give me purpose; they bring hope and positivity every single day.

Now, travelling across the world has its own challenges. Homesickness. Unfamiliarity. Loneliness…but the positives made everything so bearable. New friendships. Self-discovery. Passion. Feeling like you’re doing something good… Summer camp made me feel like I belonged. I discovered so much about myself and put all my love into those around me. I felt whole – like I was home. I have found my place.

Summer camp has been the best experience of my life. I have grown in so many ways, met so many different types of people as well as cultures…and discovered that even the people you expect to have it all together find it difficult too…

14055111_10209263012706640_6508373230280393043_n

In the terms of updating you guys on my journey – its been nearly 8 months since I came off medication for mental health. To me, that number is incredible! After being on medication for 18 months…not relying on any is a big deal (even though its a struggle).

My anxiety has its ups and down. I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I will be completely anxiety free (well at least not in the near future) and I am completely okay with that. Anxiety has become a part of me. Anxiety has been with every single memory I have – I know no different. Although anxiety can be a negative thing in so many aspects…I pondered on it for a while recently and realised that my anxiety shapes my personality and brings some positives.

My anxiety makes me overthink – which allows me to be prepared for everything that could happen (but usually never does)

My anxiety sends me into panic and stops me feeling safe – which allows me to avoid danger (a lot of the time) due to being over-safe and checking everything (such as making sure doors are locked and being ultra-aware of my surroundings)

My anxiety makes me hypersensitive to everything around me – which allows me to be sensitive towards others and notice when things just aren’t quite right.

13516257_622074681288430_2114582832094832427_n

I have missed each and every single one of you. You think I don’t notice you but I do – every like, every favourite, every comment, every blog share, every follow.

I love you guys so much and pray everyday that you choose recovery.

You deserve it.

I’ll post soon – I promise.

  • – Sav x
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Why I Became ‘Open’…

I haven’t blogged much this month and there’s a reason for that, but I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to encourage and inspire others who are struggling and to take up so many opportunities to change society. That is why I want to talk about the reason I first became ‘open’ about my mental health problems.

In 2015, I began working with the charity Fixers. Previous to this, I was completely closed up and private about my mental health problems. Around 2005 I started experiences more anxiety that affected my daily life. I became more withdrawn from friends, took comfort in being by myself and avoided anything that made me anxious. For years I kept my feelings and my thoughts hidden in fear that there was something wrong with me or that people would think I was ‘crazy’. It wasn’t until 2009 that my family found out there was something wrong when my self harm became apparent. However, that was only the icing on the cake and the majority of my thoughts and feelings continued to  be kept guarded. A few weeks of therapy and everything was done and dusted.

So why did I decide to open up about my mental health?

13262191_10208537592131579_606944906_o

I was forced. Now the word ‘forced’ doesn’t necessary need to be seen as bad. Yes, I was forced to open up about my problems because I had no other choice but opening up did bring some good things. As most people know, in 2013 I developed Anorexia Nervosa that was discovered in late August/early September of 2014 when I was unable to function or even exercise, and refused to eat or drink. As each year went on, my mental health problems got worse and more and more problems developed. It became increasingly difficult to keep everything hidden. Self harm intensified, my body image worsened, my Depression began to turn suicidal, and my Anxiety increased so much I was having panic attacks everyday that were hours in length. It was impossible to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay. In 2014, I began treatment for Anxiety and Depression and was referred to CAMHS after a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. Like a lot of young people in Wales, I was failed by the NHS’s mental health service.

13234521_10208537498809246_1087985408_o

In 2015, I found fixers and met with my YPC Jenny who was amazing from day 1. I had a mission to prevent other young people going through what I had gone through. I wanted society to change. I wanted educational settings like colleges (who failed to help me or spot the signs) to become more aware of mental health and mental illness and I wanted the government to listen. I wanted the stigma to end. I began a journey of self-discovery and eventually made my film ‘Anxiety & Me’ which has been shown in schools and educational settings as well as being featured in the South Wales Argus and on ITV Wales. From there, I began talking about mental health disorders in order to help others struggling and to spread awareness and understanding to those who were oblivious.

11215074_767789960004448_4270447126004593252_n.jpg

Opening up about your mental illness is said to be the first step in acceptable and recovery. Talking about mental health problems not only makes you feel a lot less stressed and relaxed but also encourages others to talk about mental health which in turn reduces the stigma.

Life is not easy, and God forbid it never will be, but being open in relation to my mental health problems did bring a lot of good, despite the bad.

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

A Letter to Myself When I Was Diagnosed With Anorexia

Dear Savannah,

I can see that life is hard. I know you are confused, lonely, isolated, and have a severe hatred for your body. I know that you struggle to get dressed everyday because you think you look so bad in everything. I know you haven’t long turned 16 and you still feel like you’re 8 years old and haven’t figured out the world yet. I’m so sorry life hasn’t been easy, and I’m sad to tell you that it will get so much more worse before it starts to get better. I don’t know how long it will take you to truly become happy, and even then you won’t completely understand the world, but life does get better sometimes. You cried so much the night before your 16th birthday because you were so afraid of getting older and becoming an adult. I’m sorry you had to feel this way. I’m sorry that you cry yourself to sleep and damage yourself so much in order to feel something other than darkness.

In a couple of weeks, you’ll have to fight so hard. Harder than you’ve ever fought before. Harder than you can imagine right now. I know you don’t see that you have a problem, and that Anorexia is making your life so perfect, but how wrong you are. In a couple of weeks, the college tutors who you’ve grown to disagree with will sit you down and explain that they’ve noticed a problem. They’ll tell you how others have voiced their concerns about your eating habits and how much weight you’ve lost. You’ll plead and cry and have a panic attack when they start to call your family. When they tell you they think you have an eating disorder, you won’t be shocked. You secretly knew this all along didn’t you? But all you could do was push it back because restriction and addiction were the only things keeping you happy. I’m so sorry that sitting in that room with so many people against you will bring you immense pain. I wish you didn’t have to go through that, but you will.

When the doctor tells you that you have an eating disorder but that you could ‘still lose a few pounds’ to meet diagnosis, all thoughts of recovery will disappear. You’ll feel defeated, drained, not good enough. You’ll become immensely motivated to stop eating altogether, even drinking and will go straight home to exercise. Please don’t be unmotivated when one person throws you off. There will be people in your recovery way better than that doctor. Please remember that the extreme restriction and excessive exercise will kill you if you continue. You’ll come so close to death before things even turn around. Also, remember that water doesn’t have calories and won’t make you fat. You’ll believe that a couple of times during recovery but its not true I promise.

Don’t be discouraged. Recovery won’t happen overnight. You’ll relapse a couple of times and refuse to lose Ana’s mindset. You’ll become depressed and severely suicidal. You’ll go on medication and then come off. You’ll meet friends and lose friends. People will be judgemental. Life won’t be kind to you. You’ll struggle more than succeed, but you’ll make each day simply by breathing.

When you start to recover, you’ll realise God put you through this struggle so that you can reach out to others. Your Anorexia will bring you to meet new people who understand you. You’ll become an advocate for mental health and those you love. Heck, you’ll even write a book or two! You’ll try so hard to get your voice heard and will impact so many people by doing so. Use your struggles to always plough ahead and reach out to others.

Your life and happiness is not centred on how thin you are, I hope you remember that as you grow and life changes.

I hope you learn to honestly express your emotions some day but for now, please breathe.

10690237_1490586951228381_747518123697260211_n