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

10517527_1446602898960120_250051657063530366_n

Advertisements
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

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

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.

CSC_0909

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.

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.

image (5)
Summer 2014