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

“You asked me before if I was coping…”

So many emotions…so much pain.

Sigh.

I know how life can turn on you sometimes. How it can make you feel…lonely. Scared. Life can be so cruel sometimes….I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. You asked me before it I was coping. I’m not coping. Not at all.
I distanced myself from my friends. I distanced myself from everyone. It doesn’t go away. It happened weeks ago. It might as well be minutes ago. Because it doesn’t go away. I don’t break down in tears anymore. Not much…

You put me through hell..but I survived.

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

Psychological Consequences of ED’s

The psychological consequences of an eating disorder are complex and difficult to overcome. An eating disorder is often a symptom of a larger problem in a person’s life. The disorder is an unhealthy way for that person to cope with the painful emotions tied to the problem. For this reason, the emotional problems that triggered the eating disorder in the first place can worsen as the disorder takes hold.

An eating disorder can also cause more problems to surface in a person’s life. Eating disorders make it difficult for people to perceive things normally because certain chemical changes take place when the body is deprived of nutrients. As a result, the body relies on adrenaline (a hormone that is normally released during times of stress and fear) instead of food for energy. Adrenaline naturally makes makes someone excited, which makes it more difficult to deal with painful emotions.

Many people suffering from an eating disorder also suffer from other psychological problems. Sometimes the eating disorder causes other problems, and sometimes the problems coexist with the eating disorder. Some of the psychological disorders that can accompany an eating disorder include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety and panic disorders.

In addition to having other psychological disorders, a person with an eating disorder may also engage in destructive behaviours as a result of low self-esteem. Just as an eating disorder is a negative way to cope with emotional problems, other destructive behaviours such as self-mutilation, drug addiction, and alcoholism, are similar negative coping mechanisms.

Not everyone who has an eating disorder suffers from additional psychological disorders; however, it is very common.

DEPRESSION. Depression is one of the most common psychological problems related to an eating disorder. It is characterised by intense and prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness. In its most serious form, depression may lead to suicide. Considering that an eating disorder is often kept a secret, a person who is suffering feels alienated and alone. A person may feel that it is impossible to openly express her feelings. As a result, feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

Feelings of depression will worsen the effects of an eating disorder, making it difficult to break the cycle of disordered eating.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR. Obsessions are constant thoughts that produce anxiety and stress. Compulsions are irrational behaviours that are repeated to reduce anxiety and stress. People with eating disorders are constantly thinking about food, calories, eating, and weight. As a result, they show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. If people with eating disorders also show signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour with things not related to food, they may be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Some obsessive-compulsive behaviours practised by eating disorder sufferers include storing large amounts of food, collecting recipes, weighing themselves several times a day, and thinking constantly about the food they feel they should not eat. These obsessive thoughts and rituals worsen when the body is regularly deprived of food. Being in a state of starvation causes people to become so preoccupied with everything they have denied themselves that they think of little else.

FEELINGS OF ANXIETY, GUILT, AND SHAME. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety (fear and worry), guilt, and shame at some time; however, these feelings become more intense with the onset of an eating disorder. Eating disorder sufferers fear that others will discover their illness. There is also a tremendous fear of gaining weight.

As the eating disorder progresses, body image becomes more distorted and the eating disorder becomes all-consuming. Some sufferers are often terrified of letting go of the illness, which causes many to protect their secret eating disorder even more.

Eating disorder sufferers have a strong need to control their environment and will avoid social situations where they may have to be around food in front of other people or where they may have to change their behaviour. The anxiety that results causes people with eating disorders to be inflexible and rigid with their emotions.

SYMPTOMS OF AN EATING DISORDER

  • 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
  • making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • becoming irritable or angry when food is mentioned to them
  • missing meals, eating very little, or avoiding eating any fatty foods
  • obsessively counting calories in food
  • leaving the table immediately after eating so they can vomit
  • taking appetite suppressants, laxatives, or diuretics (a type of medication that helps remove fluid from the body)
  • physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, dehydration, low potassium levels and/or dry skin
  • 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

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

To the Person Who May Have an Eating Disorder

Hello. You might know me, or you might not. Either way, I want to talk to you about eating disorders. You may have one, you may not have one, you may know somebody who does…

I want to let you know about a time in my life where my eating disorder was at it’s worse. It was May 2014. I had just turned 17 years old. I was fainting all the time, had many bruises and injuries, and was irritable with almost everyone. My fingernails and nose were blue from lack of oxygen. My potassium, sugar levels and electrolytes were extremely low. My hair was brittle and fell out. My skin was pale and weak. My stomach was distended from lack of food and I was dehydrated. My mental health was lower than low. I sat alone at college because I was too caught up in my own little world to socialise with anyone. I spent all day nearly fainting or sleeping because I simply had no energy. I refused to eat anything for weeks at a time because the fear of food was too intense. I lost 7lb that week in  may 2014, and weighed 4 stone lighter than I do now…

It was then that I started to notice that my relationship with food was not normal. I realised that I wasn’t just hungry for food. I was starving before I ever refused a meal. I was starving for perfection. I was starving for a perfect body, for a flat stomach, for a thigh gap, to look beautiful, and to feel happier. I was starving for something that didn’t really exist. I didn’t really believe that I could ever get Anorexia Nervosa, but I did…

It took me a long time to truly understand recovery. Recovery started with many nights of tears, frustration and the pure refusal to eat a thing in the fear of gaining weight. Recovery started with many hours of re-feeding and the horrible symptoms that came with it. Recovery started with fear and anger at all those who forced me to get better. As the months went on and my body shape began to change, the self-hatred grew and the self-confidence decreased. With recovery came hatred. With recovery came depression. With recovery came anxiety. Recovery gave me freedom to eat food that I wanted. Recovery gave me the ability to eat without truly thinking about it. Recovery silenced Ana’s voices – for a while. But recovery brought weight gain…and it brought confusion.

Recovery is often beautiful, however, so don’t let this put you off. Relapse is torture, but one thing I know for certain is that battling with both is hell. Darkness, like light, often leaks in through cracks. Recovery has never been one easy happy path. Recovery has had many more bad days than good. Recovery often leads to relapse, and thats perfectly okay. Relapse is inevitable.

I know that an eating disorder is not easy. It’s not easy when everyone tells you that you are what you eat or what you weigh or that you’re only as good as your calorie count or the number on your social media. It’s not easy when people talk about how they’re having a ‘bad’ food day or that they need to run off the chocolate cake they had. It’s not easy when people go on diets, or cut out food groups like carbs or suddenly develop dietary requirements. It’s not easy when people comment on the weight they’ve lost or tell you they’re on a diet. It’s not easy when the calorie information to food is right there in front of you, or the temptation of throwing everything back up is nagging at your head.  The world revolves around numbers. The truths below are listen in numbers, but they are numbers to be followed. Please listen.

  1. You have a voice – I know your eating disorder seems to be in control and it takes up every single minute of the day. The truth is however is that your eating disorder does not control you at all. You are a person and you have a wonderful voice hiding in that body of yours.
  2. You’re not defined by your eating disorder – I know that eating disorders can become some sort of protection, but your identity and who you are is totally detached from your eating disorder. Your eating disorder is an illness you have, not what has you.
  3. You’re really not crazy, I promise – I know all the voices – especially Ana’s voice – in your head make you feel like you’re crazy and you wish sometimes that they would just stop, but you’re not crazy. I know you’re not. You’re hungry…your body is looking for food, but your mind is hungry for life and purpose.

You may know me, or you might not. Either way, please listen and know you’re never alone.

I love you and I wish you the best.

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

Why do we relapse?

From what I’ve learned, Eating Disorder recovery seems to be life-long. Eating Disorders never truly go away and recovery never happens only once. The word relapse is a word many people have probably come across. In regards to eating disorder recovery, relapse can be common. Relapse is when a person who is in recovery from an eating disorder goes back to their disordered eating behaviours or negative thoughts about food, weight and body size.

Why do we relapse? There are a range of risk factors that influence a person with an eating disorder to relapse. For example, eating disorder patients who are still concerned about their body shape and weight, or who exercise at high levels after completing treatment, are more likely to relapse. People who have not been successful in recovery in the past are also more likely to relapse. This is because they might not believe that they can keep up the positive changes they have made during treatment. Other risk factors for relapse include past suicide attempts, a dysfunctional or negative family environment, and trouble hanging out with or meeting people.

Depending on the person’s point in recovery, relapse can trigger a range of emotions. Some will feel guilty, ashamed, frustrated and weak that they have relapsed with an eating disorder where as others, who are still in a disordered mindset will believe to feel in control, strong and happy.

Signs of an eating disorder relapse include:

  • Thoughts continue to turn back to weight and food
  • Increasing need to be in control over many things
  • Perfectionistic thinking returns or becomes stronger
  • Feelings of needing to escape from stress and problems
  • Feeling hopelessness and/or increasing sadness
  • Increasing belief that you can only be happy if you are thin
  • Increasing belief that you are out of control if you are not on a “diet”
  • Dishonesty with treatment coordinators and/or friends and family
  • Looking in mirrors often
  • Weighing yourself more and determining whether today will be good or bad depending on what shows up on the scale
  • Skipping meals, or purging them
  • Avoiding food and/or get-togethers that involve food
  • Increasing need to exercise continually
  • Watching what food you put into your body and writing it all down
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling guilt after eating
  • Feeling the need to isolate yourself from those around you
  • Feeling “fat” even though people say otherwise

Relapses are a very normal part of re­cov­ery and they are to be ex­pec­ted. For some peo­ple they last for a day, for some a week, a month or longer, but a re­lapse does not mean that you have failed.

Every day has a brand new beginning ❤

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

Thin is NOT the Definition of Anorexia (speech)

I know what you’re thinking – she doesn’t look like she has an eating disorder. But wait, please tell me, what does an eating disorder look like? 4 out of 10 people have either personally experienced an eating disorder or know someone who has. This means that if there is 400 people in this audience, around 160 people have either had an eating disorder themselves or knows someone who has. I was one of those children who grew up thinking I would never get an eating disorder. Sure, I had low self-esteem but I loved food and I was overweight. I had a vision that those with eating disorders were underweight and starving. Just go onto google and type in words along the lines of ‘anorexia’ ‘eating disorder’ or ‘person suffering with an eating disorder’. I can guarantee the search engine will give you a woman severely underweight. You can see why I never thought I would get an eating disorder.

Then in August 2013, when I was just 15 years old, I was in for the shock of my life.  I developed disordered eating unknown to me at the time. I thought I was just on a diet. I thought cutting calories was normal – that exercising for over 2 hours every day until I felt like I could faint was what healthy people did. This diet of mine consisted of restriction and starvation, excessive exercise and nearly a 5 stone weight loss that left me severely sick. People complimented me on my weight loss. I felt strong. The number on the scales determined my happiness for that day. If I wasn’t satisfied, I refused to eat. Food stopped being something I enjoyed. Foods like pizza, ice cream and take away instilled fear into me. I was so oblivious to what I was doing to myself. I couldn’t be ill because I wasn’t underweight. The fear of the food, the refusal to eat, the fainting, the chills running through my body and blue nails seemed normal. Normal because I was a normal weight. I lost 31% of my body weight within a 10 month period. To meet a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa a person must lose at least 15% of their body weight within a certain time period.

I was eventually diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa but by then the damage had been done. Doctors didn’t take me seriously because I was a normal weight for so long, but yet an eating disorder is defined as a ‘PSYCHOLOGICAL’ disorder that involves an abnormal ATTITUDE towards food and it is not based on weight. The weight loss of an eating disorder is merely a symptom and not the actual disorder itself. My view on food was set – I didn’t want it. Food was the scariest thing to me. I didn’t want to touch it – I definitely didn’t want to eat it. Eating in public or going out to restaurants was a no go. My health was already failing – I was exhausted and my mental health was declining rapidly. Food made me feel guilty, ashamed, fat. Every single part of the day revolved around food and I hated it. I couldn’t last a full day in college because I was so weak and exhausted to cope with it. I couldn’t concentrate or focus and thinking was difficult. My memory was awful. People kept telling me I was losing too much weight but to me I still felt and looked the same as I always did – severely overweight. I didn’t want to get dressed because I felt that I looked too fat in everything.

I’ve been in recovery for over a year and gaining back the weight was such an horrendous feeling. I had spent so much time chasing weightlessness that I didn’t know how to forge an identity for myself in a world where I was no longer thin. My metabolism was so ruined that even eating one thing would make me gain a few pounds. My body began holding onto every single thing I put into my mouth, whether it was healthy or not. The weight gain came fast and people always assume once you reach normal weight you’re fine. But I’m not fine, and I never was fine. A normal weight does not signify a normal mind. People look at me and assume that because I am a normal weight, I must be doing good. No one seemed to care anymore; now I looked as healthy as everyone else. You’re recovered. No, I’m not. I don’t look sick and physical exams would confirm that my body is healthy. But my mind isn’t. The truth is – Anorexia Nervosa is a disease that will truly never go away. Some days, even weeks, the thought of food is too much to bear and I don’t want to eat it. I’ll exercise excessively and feel so exhausted I can’t move, but I have good days – where food is amazing and it’s okay to miss a day of exercise. The point of this speech is that I want you to be mindful. I want you to be educated on eating disorders. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder that is defined by an abnormal attitude towards food. A person can develop Anorexia whether they are 18 stone or 8. One day I was overweight and the next I was struggling to stay alive after losing 31% of my body weight. Eating Disorders have no clear victim – they affect people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all weights, of all cultures, of all social class.

THIN is NOT the definition of an eating disorder but MENTAL ILLNESS, FEAR and DEATH ARE.

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

Turning Love into Life

It’s very easy to lose touch with reality sometimes, or be totally unaware of everything that goes on around you. The exhaustion I’ve felt over the past couple of weeks is indescribable. I’ve been physically and emotionally drained, not even wanting to leave my bed. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but things have been difficult.

To get out of bed, to get dressed and to even leave my room has been such a big task, and a lot of people who have gone through mental illness will understand what I mean by this. But today, I feel slightly proud of myself. I got out of bed, got dressed and actually made it church. Despite all the anxiety, all the emotion and extreme exhaustion, I sat in that theatre and absorbed every single word our pastor said. It was all about being the greatest person you could be. That instead of feeling bitter inside when someone else’s life is going great, you feel happy for them and work on being the best you can possibly be.

I’m not the strongest person in the world, or the most considerate, or the most open minded. I’m not good at social situations, or people in general, and this stops me from doing so many things. I’m not the greatest person in the world, but I’m the greatest me I can be right now.

Life with mental illness is incredibly hard. It seems as though everyone around you is going on with their lives and you’re there in your own little bubble – totally ignored, isolated and confused. Confused on how you ended up this way or how you just can’t seem to grasp life like everybody else does. How are they so happy? That’s what you think.

My church are happy. As a community, they are happy. They are giving. They are strong. They have hope in every single person, and for that I am so grateful.

I hope I am able to someday put love into life and create something for myself that will not only benefit me but will benefit so many other people around me.

One day at a time.

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

What they didn’t tell you about recovery

Recovery. A word everyone associates with ‘doing well’. A positive word. When you tell people you’re in recovery, they assume you’re doing well. That isn’t always the case. Recovery is having the hope that one day you will get better. Recovery is taking tiny steps to feeling better even if you do relapse back to your mental illness. Recovery isn’t always easy, but I bet nobody told you that.

My experience of recovery will be a lot different to someone else’s. I don’t think of recovery as a set path. One day you move 1 step forward and then the next day you’re moving 3 steps backs. Some days I feel positive that the future will get better. Some days I don’t even want to live. Some days I am back to where I was when I was 10 years old. Some days I have the knowledge and hope to deal with my mental illness. Some days I can overcome the urge to kill myself because I know life is worth living. Some days all I can think about is dying. Recovery is a difficult one to explain. Recovery for me now is a lot more complicated than how ‘recovery’ was for Anorexia Nervosa. I am not in recovery for just an eating disorder. I am in recovery for a range of mental health conditions and problems which fight to ruin my life every single day of the year. I am in recovery to try and survive. I am in recovery to one day be free of suicidal thoughts. I am in recovery to be able to function everyday without worry. I am in recovery to be in control of my mental illnesses.

Recovery is such a big process. It is so difficult. A lot of people imagine recovery to be happy and positive but the truth is it isn’t. A lot of the time recovery involves frustration, confusion, guilt and pain. You want to recover and have a good life but at the same time you have been ill for so long you don’t want to let go of everything you’ve known. Mental illness is a huge blanket covering your mind; feeding you lies that destruct your life. Mental illness is nothing but awful but yet when it comes to recovery, you can’t lose your mental illness. You feel like your mental illness is you and if you lose your mental illness, then you will lose yourself in the process.  When you enter recovery you expect to experience a life without your mental illness but that never works.

Relapse happens a lot in recovery. At first, relapse seems to happen so often that you don’t even feel like you’re in recovery. When you are relapsing back to a mental illness, you start to become forgetful and have irrational thoughts and beliefs. You start to fear being left alone. You feel tense, anxious, depressed, restless, irritable, confused, suicidal and isolated. I know that when I relapse I withdraw from everything around me. I lose interest and motivation in everything. I have trouble sleeping and eating and I don’t pay attention to how I look. My grades suffer terribly because I don’t have the energy or even the care to finish my assignments. Relapse is usually caused by a non-compliance with medication, the use of drugs and alcohol, lack of sleep or an irregular pattern of sleep, stress, lack of social relationships, support for the mental illness, stigma attached to mental health, poor physical health and unplanned life events. Relapse has such negative consequences when you have a disorder such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, or an Anxiety Disorder. When you relapse, it’s so difficult to regain control over your symptoms. It’s so much easier to fall victim to your mental illness than try to fight the demons in your head, but once you beat the relapse, recovery begins again.

Recovery takes a lot of strength and commitment. It also takes a lot of courage. Recovery is like fighting with yourself, with your own mind, because you care enough about yourself to want to get better and fight your thoughts and your illness. Recovery is physically and mentally draining. Some days, it makes me ill. Recovery can make your mental illness worse sometimes. My anxiety levels usually suffer a lot in recovery because in order to change and become a healthy, recovered individual with mental illness, I need to put myself into situations that make me severely anxious. I come home sometimes with the happiness of accomplishing something new but also drained because my emotions have been through hell. The process between recovery and relapse leaves you feeling confused, empty, numb and lost. I couldn’t define who I am. I could not tell you a thing about me, because the truth is, I don’t know me. Relapse makes you see life through a false image; it gives you a negative and untruthful perception of the world. Recovery helps you appreciate the small things in life and offers you a little bit of hope in yourself. I am a different person in relapse than when I am in recovery. In relapse, I am silent, isolated, broken, confused, frustrated, comforted by mental illness, detached from the world, spaced out, extremely tired, hopeless and suicidal. Recovery for me only lasts a couple of days but from what I’ve seen of recovery so far is that I am hopeful for the future, I am able to make plans and decisions related to my life, suicide is no longer an option, I remind myself that I am beautiful and that God loves me the way I am, I am kind to myself, I allow myself to relax and appreciate the small things. I am different.

Relapse is torture. Recovery is beautiful. Battling with both is hell.

The most beautiful thing I have discovered about myself in recovery is that I have the compassion and empathy to help others going through similar circumstances. I absolutely hate knowing that there are people out there, even reading this right now, who feel so alone, helpless and lost. I just wish I could sit with every single one of you and make you feel appreciated.

In recovery, I am a mental health advocate. In recovery, I strive to help as many people as possible. In recovery, I educate people about mental health. In recovery, I raise awareness. In recovery, I offer a voice to others suffering with ill mental health. In recovery, I have the courage to make mental health awareness films. In recovery, I have the courage to talk to ITV news to share my experiences. In recovery, I have the courage to speak at conferences on mental illness. In recovery, I am the true me, that is so often consumed by the shadow of mental illness. In recovery…I have the ability to smile, because I know that one day things will get better. In recovery…I have the ability to smile, because I know that one day things will get better for you and that one day, you will smile too. Continue smiling through recovery, and you will get better.

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Above is the tattoo I had a day before my 18th birthday to highlight my battle with mental illness. The recovery symbol allows me to remember that I am in recovery, even if I relapse. The birds signify freedom – freedom that I will one day be free of the dark hold my mind has on me. Hope signifies the belief that I will get better someday, even if I do not hope now.