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.

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

Spotting the First Signs of an Eating Disorder

This week the UK’s eating disorder charity BEAT has released a poster that educates the first signs of an eating disorder. There are a range of eating disorders and these do display different symptoms, however there are some general signs that could signal a problem.

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The TOP 3 Early Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • Food obsessions

    – Has their attitude towards food changed? Have they started measuring foods, counting calories, or cutting out foods they used to enjoy? Do they love cooking for others but don’t eat the meals themselves? They may also begin showing secretive behaviour when it comes to food or meal times. Be aware that it may look like they’re eating but they could be being secretive (such as throwing food away when you’re not looking or taking it to their room and then not eating it).

  • Distorted body image 

    – Has the person lost weight but still say they’re too fat and that they look terrible? In the first stages of an ED the person will make these commons frequently. Later, when suspicions are raised, they will start to become more quiet and withdrawn. Realise that ED thoughts occur for some time before the person loses a significant amount of weight – step in before this physical symptom.

  • The emotional roller coaster 
  • -Are they experiencing changes in their mood? Are they becoming more irritable, over sensitive, a perfectionist, compulsive, depressed, more anxious or wanting to be alone?

Other warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Constant adherence to increasingly strict diets, regardless of weight
  • Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Secretly bingeing on large amounts of food
  • Hoarding large amounts of food
  • Increase in consumption of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills
  • Exercising compulsively, often several hours per day
  • Using prescription stimulant medications and/or illicit stimulant drugs to suppress appetite
  • Withdrawal from friends and family, particularly following questions about her disease or visible physical/medical side effects
  • Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present
  • Preoccupation with weight, body size and shape, or specific aspects of one’s appearance
  • Obsessing over calorie intake and calories burned via exercise, even as one may be losing significant amounts of weight

Physical symptoms of anorexia may include:

  • Underweight, even emaciated appearance with protruding bones or a sunken appearance to the face
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Baby fine hair covering face and other areas of the body (lanugo)

Emotional and behavioural signs of anorexia nervosa may include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive exercise
  • Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing

Symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Abnormal bowel functioning
  • Damaged teeth and gums
  • Sores in the throat and mouth
  • Scarring on the back of the hand/fingers used to induce purging
  • Swollen salivary glands (creating “chipmunk cheeks”)
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Irritation and inflammation of the esophagus (heartburn)

Behavioural symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Constant dieting
  • Hiding food or food wrappers
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative use
  • Excessive exercise
  • Frequent bathroom trips after eating
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · Uncategorized

Depression Sanctuary

Depression Sanctuary is an organisation located in the USA. It offers free services to everyone suffering with mental health problems. It is your safe place, where you can find resources, help and comfort. It’s a place where you can find people in the same situation, and people that understand what you’re going through. All their services are free.
The organisation offers free services for everyone. The services includes
moderated and safe chat rooms, questions & answers, authorised depression test, lots of resources and much more.
Depression Sanctuary has been trough several incarnations over the past two decades. It originally began in 1998 as a depression chat room on About.com.  When About.com opted to no longer host chat rooms Nancy Schimelpfening, About.com’s Depression Expert, decided to create a non-profit organization called Depression Sanctuary, in order to continue the great and important work.
Depression Sanctuary’s values are based on support, love and respect. They have trained staff that supports users, as well as other users. The trained staff has experienced mental health issues, and have a valuable insight. Many members of the staff have over 20 years experience as a trained host.
 The chat room is moderated, and have a great and including community. You can ask question in their Q&A and get answers from members and staff. Some in their staff is health professionals, have relevant experience or can help you find the resources you want.
Depression Sanctuary offers support for all kind of mental health issues, and not just depression. They also offer help and support for relatives and next of kin. There are also a support group for LGBTQ-members from all around the world.
If this sounds good for you, go check them out at http://www.depressionsanctuary.org
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journey to recovery · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What Life Is Really Like With Anorexia [EDAW 2017]

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Please tell me, how glamorous is it now?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Raise awareness during this week and all weeks.

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

Self-Injury Awareness Day 2017

Raising awareness about self-injury is incredibly important. Awareness leads to understanding and empathy, banishing judgement and fear, and reducing the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence.

Raising awareness is about educating people who do not self-injure, and reaching out to people who do.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harming is when a person chooses to inflict pain on themselves in some way. If you are self-harming, you may be cutting or burning yourself, biting your nails excessively, developing an eating disorder or taking an overdose of tablets. It can also include taking drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol. It is usually a sign that something is wrong. Self-Harm is not always obvious and sometimes isn’t intentional (self harm can be done absently). A person may self-harm if they are feeling anxious, depressed or stressed or if they are being bullied and feel that they do not have a support network or way to deal with their problems. The issues then ‘build up’ to the point where they feel like they are going to explode. Young people who self-harm often talk about the ‘release’ that they feel after they have self-harmed, as they use it as a mechanism to cope with their problems. A person may self-harm to relieve tension, to try and gain control of the issues that may be concerning them or to punish themselves. Sometimes it is an attempt to commit suicide if the problems are very severe.

Prevalence of Self-Harm in Young People

It has been estimated that 1 in 12 young people in the UK have self-harmed at some point in their lives. And the latest figures show that in the last two years alone ChildLine has seen an increase in counselling sessions of 167% on the issue.

There is also evidence that self-harming is affecting children at a younger age than ever before.  In 2011/12, ChildLine reported that self-harm was in the top five concerns for fourteen year olds for the first time. However, in the first six months of 2012/13, this age dropped further appearing for the first time in the top five concerns for thirteen year olds.

Misconceptions and Facts

There are many misconceptions surrounding why young people self-harm. The reality is that:

  • Self-harm is not a mental illness, nor is it an attempt to commit suicide.
  • It doesn’t just affect girls. Boys self-harm too, but they are much less likely to tell anyone about it.
  • We know that young people from all walks of life self-harm, regardless of their social or ethnic background.
  • Self-harm is not a fashion fad, nor is it merely ‘attention seeking behaviour’.
  • Most importantly, it is not easy for a young person to stop self-harming behaviour.
  1. Self harm is a very common problem, much common than a lot of people think. Although it is common, a lot of people struggle to deal with it. Recent research shows that at least 1 in 15 young people in Britain have harmed themselves. This amounts to at least 2 young people in every school classroom self harming at the same time. The most common age for self harm is between the ages of 11 and 25. Most people start self harming at around 12 years old but it is increasing among those younger.
  2. Self harming is usually not for attention. Self harm is a way to release emotions, deal with stress and pressures and to replace mental pain with physical pain. Most people harm themselves because they don’t feel like they have any other options. Self harm provides a temporary relief and a sense of control. Most people self harm due to being bullied at school, stress and worry about work, feeling isolated, divorce, bereavement or pregnancy, experience of abuse, problems with their sexuality, low self-esteem, underlying mental health issues.
  3. Self harm is not closely linked to suicide. The majority of people who self harm are not trying to kill themselves, but rather trying to cope with difficult situations and feelings. Although many people who do go on to commit suicide have self-harmed in the past, self harming itself does not indicate that a person is attempting to take their own life.
  4. Self harm can become addicting. Chemicals are released in the body when it is injured. These chemicals make you less sensitive to pain. Self harm mostly becomes addicting as it grows to be a habit that the person begins to rely on in order to function.
  5. Self harm is not just a phase. In young people, self harm is often blamed as a ‘teenage phase’ that the person will grow out of. However, self harm does not just affect young people. It affects people from all ages and all walks of life. If someone is self harming, then someone is severely bothering them and if left untreated, it can become more aggressive and frequent over time.

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

Savannah’s Sensory Bag

After a few close together meltdowns these past few weeks, I’ve realised that perhaps the majority of people around me do not know how to handle this situation. If you’ve read this and still feel confused, I’ll explain a meltdown.

It’s basically getting overloaded with too much information and the only way I can cope with this or to regulate my emotions is to completely shut down and stim (repetitive behaviours such as rocking, verbal sounds, hand flapping etc). In these meltdowns I pretty much turn into a toddler – mostly non-verbal, no eye contact, no compliance with direction and self-destructive behaviours.

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

So now you know what my meltdowns are, you’re probably still a little uncertain on what you have to do. This is why I’ve created a sensory bag that contains everything that will keep me calm and help shorten the meltdown. See below for some useful tips.

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  1. Do not stop any stimming behaviours – they help me regulate my emotions. Only intervene when I could possibly cause danger to myself. If I am rocking too close to a wall, move me instead of stopping me rock, for example.
  2. Understand that there may not be a reason for my meltdown. If I cannot give an explanation, be at peace with that.
  3. Sit close to me or even hold me unless I resist this (depends on my mood). Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to these parts of the body allows me to know you’re there whilst keeping me with reality.
  4. Whenever possible – go for my sensory bag! If its not on me, it will be in my room. These items will calm me. There will be communication cards in here that will help me communicate with you when I become non-verbal.
  5. Talk everything Gruffalo. I am utterly obsessed and in a meltdown the Gruffalo becomes an anchor. Find the story on youtube and play it for me –  Find it here. My sensory bag contains the books – let me read them. If you don’t have the books, encourage me to say them (I know them off by heart).
  6. Let me walk, run or spin. Follow me as I tend to wander. This lets me release my energy.
  7. I may have panic attacks during meltdowns. Watch out for fast breathing.
  8. Know the meltdown will pass and I’ll return to normal 🙂
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Gruffalo books, thinking putty, ear defenders, sensory bottle, chewys, tangles, fidget toy, communication cards (unpictured), blanket (unpictured) and gruffalo teddy  (unpictured).
autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Silence to Suicide

Today I’m struggling. I know its partly down to the fact that I’ve only been on an SSRI medication for over a week. I know that the drug causes increased anxiety and a higher risk of suicide during the first few weeks as your body adjusts. I’m just very tired.

Medication isn’t a miracle drug and it definitely doesn’t cure mental illness but I really hoped by now I would be starting to feel even a little bit better and not worse. All I’ve done today is sleep and walk with my headphones blasting because I feel so low that I can’t even function.

I haven’t had suicidal thoughts in such a long time and even though I know I won’t act on them, its sad to think that if you told somebody they’d deem you crazy and unsafe and probably think you were going to take your life. Suicidal thoughts don’t necessary mean the person is going to go out and kill themselves…it just means they’re finding it hard to exist.

There is too much silence towards suicide. If someone brings up suicide, the entire room goes quiet. People turn away, pretend they didn’t hear the word. No wonder 2 out of 3 people with mental health problems struggle alone…

We shouldn’t have silence towards suicide. We should turn towards the word, listen, offer support. Appreciate every single person. Look for subtle signs of problems. Warning signs of low mood and suicidal thoughts are there, they just need to be picked up!

Here are some tips that can help you support someone whose feeling suicidal:

1. Ask questions.

If the person is comfortable, ask questions. Do so because you want to understand and provide empathy, not out of curiosity. This actually may be a nice change for the loved one. Because the topic of mental illness can make people feel uncomfortable, some might respond with silence, change the subject or offer a hurried statement. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s better to fully understand than to make assumptions.

2. Don’t assume the person can tell you what he or she needs.

Don’t assume the person knows what they need. In times of stress, it’s common not to know. If they’re sharing with you, most likely they just need you to listen.

3. Offer practical help.

Offer/do practical things for the person. If they’re stressed, help take off their workload and do some things. Sit with them if they’re spending too much time alone.

4. Encourage self-care.

Remind the person to engage in self-care. Offer to go to the movies, meet for coffee or go on a walk with them. Friends and family of those with mental illness need to manage their own stress as well.

5. Check in.

Check in with the person. One reason that mental illness is so isolating is because people don’t talk about it. While it can be uncomfortable for both the person struggling and you, it’s uncomfortable for them not to talk about it, too. They’ll appreciate knowing that you care enough to check in.

depression