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.

10462794_10203520303822507_4737852801930042927_n - Edited

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.

 

2016-03-08-1457449663-3695041-11059318_10207912676069068_7021545412486130249_n.jpg

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.

 

2016-03-08-1457450063-2515427-IMG_20150602_1.png

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.

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

What ‘I’m Tired’ Means to Someone with Mental Illness

Many people use the expression “I’m tired” when they’ve had a lack of sleep or when they feel like they need a nap. When you’ve got mental health problems, sometimes “I’m tired” can also simply mean you’re lacking sleep, but often it means so much more.

When I say I’m tired, I’m usually not just physically tired. I’m emotionally tired. I’m holistically tired. I’m tired even when I’ve spent the entire night sleeping in bed. I’m tired even when I don’t move all day. It’s not just tired eyes and achy muscles. It’s not just a yawn and just one more hour in bed. It’s getting up and getting dressed in a blur. Brushing your teeth and brushing your hair, and then leaving the house. All whilst tired. Emotionally tired. Numb. Drained. Completely out of it. Lost. But you move on with the day anyway, because there seems to be little acceptance of what mental illness can do to your body.

Not many people ask me if I’m OK, but when they do my answer is always the same. “I’m fine, just tired” — and people seem to accept that reply. Tiredness is an accepted feeling — everyone gets it. A long day at work or sitting through a boring lecture. That’s tiredness for many can relate to. But that tiredness isn’t lying in bed all day and still feeling like you could sleep for a thousand years. For me, though, that’s what tiredness is. Tiredness accompanies my depression and my anxiety. It means lying in bed completely exhausted from life without even falling asleep. It means being spaced out and lost in thought most of the day, because it’s tiring trying to keep up with people. It means achy eyes and yawns even after 12 hours of sleep. It means not just feeling physically tired, but feeling oh-so much more.

When someone tells you they’re tired, sometimes you need to look beyond their answer. Are they tired? Are they physically tired and need some sleep? Or do they in fact need you. Do they need somebody to look them in the eyes and tell them they’re not fine but that you’re there for them? Do they need someone to realise they’re not OK and to offer them a hug? Because I know when I say I’m tired, that’s what I need.

I don’t need sleep or a nap. I need people. I need love. I need understanding.

screenshot-2015-06-29-at-09-59-40

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).

11041826_1575721319381610_554479872935973582_n

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.

10552501_10203520300942435_5363702319441806874_n - Edited

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

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

Dealing with MDD

A year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder or Endogenous Depression) so I feel like I’ve had a long time now to learn to deal with it. I thought I would give you guys some tips on how I’ve learned to deal with the disorder so that you are able to use them or explore your own.

Major Depressive Disorder is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is often accompanied by low self-esteem and a loss of interest in normal activities. Major Depressive Disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects the person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits as well as general health. 80% of suicide deaths are of sufferers with MDD.

A person who has a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood which invades all aspects of life. Major depressive disorder usually causes preoccupation with thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness and self-hatred. In severe cases, there may be symptoms of psychosis. Other symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, and thoughts of death and suicide, along with insomnia.

Things that can help with MDD include:

  • Talking to friends, family and strangers. Talking offers a distraction from our own thoughts and feelings and allows us to feel the emotion of others.
  • Drawing. Drawing or colouring offer a state of relaxation and creativity. A lot of people with mental health problems are highly creative and so this type of activity will not only bring distraction but also comfort.
  • Social Activities. When you’re suffering with MDD, joining in with the world and going to social activities or events is the last thing on your mind. However, social activities can help. Being around others can help to feel better.
  • Moving. Moving seems like an odd one but improving your activity levels and taking part in exercise not only gives you energy but improves mental well-being. A 10 minute walk can help boost mood for around 2 hours.
  • Relax. We’re usually told to not relax and to keep busy but relaxing does help. Sleep is usually affected when you have MDD as MDD can cause insomnia. A lack of sleep increases low mood so getting at least 8 hours a day will help. Other ways to relax include: sitting outside in the sunshine, taking care of a pet, or relaxation.

CORE_MD01