Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: Opening Up

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This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb 23rd – Sun 1st Mar) and a very important week to raise more awareness. I want to write about something that I have been recently doing and which has been helping me a lot. Opening up to people about my illness.

It is a sensitive thing to talk about with people. People are ashamed of it. However, the power of talking about it is quite amazing and it is something I have not realised until recently.

Telling someone that you struggle with food can be embarrassing but, if they are a decent person, they will listen and won’t judge. For me, telling someone is a relief. It means, I don’t have to feel all alone in this. It also means the person you tell can support you through this.

A lot of people with eating disorders feel like they need ‘permission’ to eat, which is exactly how I feel. When some reassures me that it is okay and nothing bad is going to happen if I eat that particular meal, then I feel encouraged and try. Recovery is a long process but with the encouragement and support of others, I have realised it can be such a weight off your shoulder.

So if you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia or even binge eating disorder, try and open up to just one person about this and see how you feel. Honestly, it can change your mindset quite dramatically, regarding food and guilt.

You are all stronger than your eating disorder. Keep fighting.

For more help and advice, go to Beat. 

World Mental Health Day 2013 – You Are Not Your Disorder

Today is World Mental Health Day and I would just like to say that you are not your mental illness because I can admit that at times, the voice becomes too strong that I seem to think that all that I am is a list full of disorders and I know many people do too.

When you introduce yourself to someone, you would not say “Hello, I am depression/anorexic/anxiety/self harm/BPD” would you? I would not like to think so.

When you are so consumed by your illness, you do tend to define yourself by it because the voice of your illness is all that you hear – that you are fat, worthless, a failure. That is not you at all. There is so much more to you than your disorder. You could be a writer, a teacher, a musician etc… and that is what you should define yourself as. Yes, you have an illness but there is so much more to you than that. It does not define you.

Dissociating yourself from the voice of your disorder and your real voice can be very hard but you just need to notice what the voice of the disorder is saying and what YOU are really thinking and talk back to the voice.

Kati Morton has very helpful videos on this. Below is a video by her which I absolutely love and will help you talk back to your illness but this video in particular focuses on eating disorders but can apply to other disorders too.

Waiting Times In Eating Disorder Treatment

I wrote a post about this a few months ago but as a media volunteer for Beat, I took part in their waiting times survey about my experiences and today it has been revealed that a large amount of people have waited for treatment for more than six months. The charity are now calling  on the government to do more to help people with eating disorders.

Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat says “Eating disorders are fatal in up to 20% of cases. That’s the highest death rate of any mental illness. We know that when people have to wait a long time for treatment, their illness can get worse. In the most serious cases, people’s lives can be lost. We were shocked to find that 26% of the people we spoke to had waited more than six months. We want clear waiting times to be set, so people can know when their treatment is going to start.”

Waiting lists for any treatment does really get to me because it is as if they want the sufferer to get more ill. I understand why there are waiting lists but for eating disorder treatment, it can be even more difficult for the sufferer and their family and for some, the waiting list is around 8 months to a year and by then, the sufferer may get severely ill.

After being discharged from one unit, I had to wait a year to get assessed for another one and I was not getting any better whilst waiting. In fact, I got severely worse to the point where I just wanted to die and could not even function anymore. Even drinking water seemed like a scary concept. When you do eventually get help after waiting for a long time, you just feel like you are past help, which explains why it is so hard to get better. The longer you leave a patient waiting, the harder it is to get better. All the sufferer wants is help whether they admit it or not.

Care minister Norman Lamb says this has to be a “very urgent priority”. He says “In mental health, we don’t even know how long people are waiting, That’s why this survey is of great value, because it demonstrates the seriousness of the problem. I want to get to a point where, by 2015, we introduce access standards, so that people know how long they should be expected to wait as a maximum” but he admits that he does not know whether he will achieve that yet but will try.

Another thing I would like to point out is that eating disorders are mental illnesses but some specialist units focus merely on monitoring the weight, behaviours and the intake and of course that is the main issue that does need to be dealt with first but some units, not all, do not provide proper psychological help straight away. They just give you a few antidepressants and that is it. I feel like if I get my head sorted out first, then perhaps I would do better in terms of recovery. But, of course they put you on a waiting list and more waiting lists and more waiting lists. I do not understand how I can get better if proper therapy is not put in place. Eating means nothing if you are not mentally better.

I think treatment should be offered at the first sign of an eating disorder. As soon as a patient shows signs of an eating disorder, they should put in place a therapist, a dietitian, a psychiatrist, a nurse – everything they will need in order for the patient to get better. When you have eating disorder, all you need is the right support and sometimes I feel like I am not getting that which does hinder my chances of recovery.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

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It is World Suicide Prevention Day today and to anyone who wanted to take their own life but did not and are still here, I am so proud of you. I understand what it is like. After years of battling awful demons, wanting to not be here anymore, I have realised how I took life for granted. Recovery is so hard but there is always hope. Everyday is a blessing to be alive. Just remember, life is worth living. Stay strong. 

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Reasons To Recover From Your Eating Disorder

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When you have an eating disorder, it is very easy to forget about the good things that being well can give you. I always seem to forget about it because I get so consumed by the voice of the disorder, so I think it is time to remind myself and others why to get better. These are some of my reasons why you should recover from your eating disorder.

  • To have more energy
  • To smile and actually mean it
  • To be able to eat whatever you truly want, enjoy it and most of all keep it in and not feel guilty
  • Your hair will not fall out (and we all know how awful that is when it happens)
  • To  not feel cold all the time
  • To be able to enjoy being with family and friends
  • To become more social
  • To wake up in the morning and not feel disappointed  about it – to actually feel excited for the day ahead
  • You do not have to spend most of your day stuck in a hospital
  • To be able to concentrate in school, college or university more and thus get better grades
  • To be able to get a job and have the energy to work and earn your own money
  • To  be able to take driving lessons and finally drive (which is a big reason for me)
  • Calories, fat and the scale will not rule your life anymore
  • To feel more free as opposed to feeling like you are in prison with your eating disorder
  • To allow yourself to be happy, get married and start a family
  • To be able to open up to people and distract yourself in a healthy way rather than destructive ways when you are stressed or upset
  • To  be able to go clothes shopping without worrying about sizes
  • To be able to trust people

Ramadan and Eating Disorders

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us once again and for those of us with eating disorders, it can be somewhat of a triggering and a stressful time. If you are in recovery or in treatment and are still physically unable to fast due to health concerns, then you should not be fasting, which is the case for me this year. You need to be able to fast with a healthy body and a healthy mind. There is no point if you do not have those two important things.

In Islam, you are excused from fasting during this month because you are sick and instead, you give Fidya (charity) which is paying for someone else such as the poor to be fed. However, the eating disorder could be so strong that you could be faced with a dilemma leaving you to choose between God and your eating disorder.

It does not help that Ramadan is still all about food. Food seems to be everywhere. Iftar preparations fills the whole day and everyone talks about what they are going to eat for Iftar. It can really mess with a disordered persons mind.

An eating disorder is a mental illness that the individual cannot control without the right help and it can certainly be worsened by fasting. The point of Ramadan is to bring someone closer to God, however if you have an eating disorder, it could get stronger during Ramadan and it turns into a battle in your head.

During this time, you need to be focused on what is good for you. Distraction techniques is a useful tool to prevent any destructive behaviours during this time. I find that writing down all my feelings helps. Praying should also be a massive thing during this month. Your recovery is the most important thing. Have an intention in your head to be healthy for next year’s Ramadan so you can fast for the real purpose.

You could be unsure about recovery and still in the grips of your eating disorder and if that is you then be sure to reach out for help as soon as possible. Alternatively, talk to a religious leader. Without health, nothing is possible.

This article was published on the UK’s eating disorder charity Beat website. – http://www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/online-community/beat-blog/ramadan-and-eating-disorders/

Should Mental Health Lessons Be Taught In Schools?

There are calls for young people to be taught about mental health in schools as part of the national curriculum after a study revealed today that one in three children in Britain have contemplated suicide by the age of 16.

The reason for this is a lack of education surrounding mental health as many young people go without help and therefore struggle to cope. There are issues in schools that young people face everyday such as bullying and schools often do not take into consideration the result of bullying and how severely it can effect a person, espcially when they at an age where they are trying to find their own identify. They could resort to self harm, eating disorders and have low self-esteem.

There could be a shy and quiet pupil in a classroom and perhaps they are naturally shy but it could be more to it than that. That person could be depressed and suicidal because he or she is being bullied and does not know where or who to turn to. If that person was taught about mental health in school, then they could at least know that they could have a problem and know where to go for help.

There is still a stigma attached to having a mental health problem and people are still quite weary of even talking about it.

Having been through my school years but not once was I ever taught about depression or anxiety disorders or even eating disorders. I do believe if I was taught about those issues, maybe I could have handled them well and perhaps know what to do and feel less alone.

Early intervention is key to any illness and a mental disorder is something like cancer. If it is not treated early, then it will grow and grow and keep on growing until it eventually gets worse.

I strongly believe lessons on mental health will benefit young people in a positive way. However, mental illness is not a choice so having lessons on mental health will not prevent them developing a problem but they will get to understand it and break the stigma attached to it. They will talk about it and know who to go to for help if they unfortunately develop one. Schools need to start preparing students for real life and real problems because frankly that is where the problem lies – there is lack of education out there.