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

The knock-On Effect of an Eating Disorder

How Eating Disorders Affect the Mind

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 someone excited, which makes it more difficult to deal with painful emotions.

Research has shown that 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 characterized 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 DEPRESSION

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Inability to experience pleasure in anything
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Constant fatigue (exhaustion)
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness) or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or compulsive eating
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Poor memory
  • Unexplained headaches, backaches, or stomachaches

depression

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

What Mental Illness Stole

  • My friends. Friends are SO important in life, but there’s only so much that they can put up with. The mental illness isn’t you and you’re not the mental illness but friends can find this so difficult to accept. They worry which in turn makes your relationship suffer due to tension. You struggle all the time and most of the time they don’t know how to help. You get points where you don’t want help,  you don’t want people, you don’t want life. You ruin things for people because of your mental illness – even if you don’t intend to. You eventually become happy, carefree but this in itself carries risks and they don’t want it. They get angry, perhaps even upset and you feel a burden, you feel guilty, you don’t want to live anymore.
  • My freedom. Mental illness prevents you from thinking clearly. It doesn’t allow you to do whatever you want. “That will make you anxious,” “Going out will make you suicidal.” It stops you feeling social so that you end up sitting in your room by yourself. You need to think things through more to see whether or not your mental illness is going to take over. Can I walk down a street? Can I drink alcohol without dangering my life?
  • Relationships. “Can I be with someone who has a mental illness?” “How do I explain to this guy that I have an invisible illness?” Relationships are so hard but can be so necessary in mental illness. They provide peace, contentment and happiness, but when you first meet someone bringing up mental illness can be difficult. Most people don’t want to have deal with it – its too complicated.

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

Panic Attacks

Today, I’ve had 3 panic attacks.

It’s just one of those days.

I haven’t had panic attacks for a long while, but today they just decided to rear their ugly head. I woke up fine, tired, but fine. Not ready to listen to a 2 hour lecture on language, but fine. Then all of sudden I couldn’t breathe, my vision went blurry, I couldn’t focus, I started stimming (knee bouncing, rocking and finger touching) and developed cyanosis on my fingernails (a big indicator for me that a panic attack is coming due to lack of oxygen). At first, I couldn’t handle the situation but I simply got up from the lecture and left. It took 25 minutes but I eventually calmed myself down by finding an empty classroom, pacing and watching a clock.

Since that 10am panic attack I have had a further 2. I’m hoping there will be no more.

Panic attacks can be such scary things – you can’t breathe, you feel like you’re dying, you’re so cold and shaky. But it’s okay – they subside eventually and you learn to breathe again. You take a nap and feel a lot better.

I’ve decided to insert a link below from the NHS that should help you learn to deal with your panic attacks if you do suffer with them.

How to deal with panic attacks

Have a lovely day and I’m here if need be.

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