This summer has been a true awakening for me. I finally realised that I don’t have to do it all. I realised that it’s okay for me to take it slow and just stick to one thing. I don’t have to do everything I want to do all at once. There is no rush. Life shouldn’t be a rush. I now understand that just because I’m not doing something I want to do YET, that doesn’t make me a failure.
Years of being a workaholic, a hunger to succeed, driven by my eating disorder made me obsessive and even more depressed than I already was. Why? Because I was trying to do it all…at once!
Working at my previous job had a huge impact on my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored working there, dreams have come true whilst I was there and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. But, many many rejections for job promotions and not feeling like I belonged or appreciated in a team caused my mental health to deteriorate. I had to leave and see what else was out there. It was the hardest decision I made but I don’t regret it one bit.
I now work for ITN (ITV News/Channel 4 News) – so I am still in broadcast journalism, it’s full time, it’s one job and I feel like I am being praised and appreciated. I feel happier and most of all, I enjoy the job. It’s more responsibility too and I learn something new everyday. It has also given me huge amounts of confidence.
But at the beginning, I was still in the mindset that I need another job. This job was full time but I needed something else. I had an interview at Sky News as a Text Producer (driving on screen texts and graphics) and I got offered the job! I accepted the offer (it was freelance). But, as I started training at Sky, I realised that it was too much. I was feeling the pressure. Two demanding, equally exciting jobs in journalism. As much as I always had an ambition to work at Sky News, I turned down the offer because I am not superhuman and I cannot do it all and saying no was okay and did not mean I was a failure. I realised that I need to focus on one thing for now, on one job. I need to be and feel normal for once.
All these years, I listened to the voice of anorexia that told me I need to do it all at once otherwise I’d be a failure, but that is not true. Self care played a part in this realisation. Taking breaks was like a reward to myself after doing something well. I would feel guilty if I ever rested. This is what living with a cruel illness like anorexia can do to your mindset. It’s twisted and full of self destruction.
I admit, I still find it difficult to take breaks but it’s getting better. People/colleagues around me giving me a nudge to take a break helps so much too. I didn’t realise how reassuring that feels. Again, this isn’t good but having someone tell me to take a break is like having permission to do so. It shouldn’t be like that and I am working on it.
Sometimes, saying no to all the things you want to do means saying yes to offering the best you can, to relax and enjoy more of your journey, your path. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. It’s okay to not do it all.
Eating disorders are a very complicated illness and I believe you cannot fully understand how it is like if you’ve never had one yourself. That’s why there is so much left to do professionally when treating eating disorders.
Anorexia lives inside my head every single day of my life. It wakes up with me, throws abuse at me throughout the day, controls my every thought, every move, every decision. On the rare occasion (actually quite a few regular occasions recently) I challenge it and do the opposite of it. Anorexia is my best friend and my worst enemy.
I believe the NHS has failed me when it comes to my eating disorder but I could look at it a different way. I probably have failed the NHS myself by not complying. I admit, every time I was offered treatment; I didn’t give it my all. I didn’t really want to get better. I always feel like treatment doesn’t focus on a ‘reason’ to get better. Many treatment centres focuses on gaining weight but what is given less time on is getting mentally better. My experience with the NHS has made me believe that eating disorders is only a weight disorder and can only be ‘cured’ by gaining weight.
Years of treatment, my weight has been the main focus, constantly monitored and that has really made me even more conscious about my body and how much I weigh. I scrutinise everything. I can’t even wear thick layers when the weather is cold outside because I have a fear of ‘looking’ bigger than I am, so I resort to wearing less clothes in order for me to look small and thin in public. Every single food I eat, I feel the guilt. I then have to make sure I exercise to burn the right amount of calories off. Maybe I’ve eaten something “extra” that wasn’t planned? That’s two more hours in the gym tomorrow.
What I am trying to say is, I’ve had years of eating disorder treatment, in and out of hospital, but I cannot seem to lose that focus off my weight. It’s always at the forefront. I worry. I panic. I cannot lose that control. But, I am somehow surviving. Maybe eating disorder recovery is worth it? Maybe I am worth the fight? Maybe that’s what I should keep telling myself? Maybe I’ll eventually believe it?
I believe others can stop getting to this stage later in their life if the waiting time for treatment is short and making sure the main focus of the treatment is on the emotional side. Once the mind is sorted (or at least in the process of being sorted) then the rest will follow.
The eating disorder charity Beat say: “On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days. We know the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and fast recovery.”
#WhyWait? Seek help now.
Useful websites and helplines:
Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
Today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is mental health in the workplace.
As a sufferer myself, working in a demanding and stressful job can make the job itself ten times harder than most people around me. But, recently I have been getting rather annoyed at how colleagues with physical disabilities are treated with extra care and everyone in the team are made aware of their difficulties. Why can’t it be the same with mental health? Why are we still ashamed of being open about it?
I always envy my colleagues who seem so confident because I wish I was like them. The ones who are so loud and talkative. They’re the ones who get noticed. I am someone who is known to be very quiet, mainly because every single day, I battle with anxiety and intrusive thoughts led by my eating disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Sure, it has gotten better with putting myself out there and my medication definitely helps. But, there are those days where my anxiety gets very bad at work and I end up getting angry at myself. I tend to isolate myself because that’s where I feel most safe. Being alone.
On bad days, I have to pluck up the courage to ask someone for help on something. It can take a while. I might not even do it because I am that scared. Actually physically talking to someone can makes me very nervous some days. So on those days, I avoid it. I just stay in my comfort zone. Afterwards, I regret it.
I used to do that at school. If I needed help, I would stay silent. Years of treatment taught me that by avoiding things you fear, it will only get even more bigger and scarier. So just do it. But that is easier said than done. Sometimes, you need a bit more support and encouragement from those around you.
On those days when I’m struggling at work, what I would like is more support from colleagues. But because I have isolated myself so much due to my mental health problems, I have failed to build close friendships with colleagues and so it is incredibly hard to know who to go to and who to trust. It gets me down a lot because I always see colleagues laughing and talking to each other, and I’m just there fading into the background. As a child, I felt invisible and sometimes at work, that invisibility feeling comes back. I feel worthless a and useless.
If there’s someone in the office who is quiet, why not approach them? What’s the worst that could happen? Talk to them. Build them up. Help them. Praise them on their work. It’s those little things that can help them in such a huge way.
We can get so preoccupied with work itself and forget about some of the colleagues around us and how they could be feeling. Work will always be there but your colleagues might not. So, why not start a conversation today?
Being friends with someone who also has mental health issues can be great because they understand how you feel. Having a mental health disorder can make you feel lonely because you think “normal” people don’t understand you so finding someone who is going through the same thing can be a wonderful thing. You can both support each other and encourage each other to get better.
But it also can be incredibly detrimental for both parties. From personal experience, every friend I had who is also struggling with mental health issues, I lost. I have problems keeping friends in general due to my Borderline Personality Disorder but I have noticed it is more difficult to keep the friends I met at hospital and online with mental illnesses. It’s nice to relate to someone but sometimes, forming a close friendship with that person can make both parties worse. It can become unhealthy.
“Triggering” each other is one factor. Even if both have different conditions, there are ways we can unintentionally say or do something that can set each other off, causing each other to act on destructive behaviours. However, this is more common if both have the same illness such as an eating disorder or are struggling with self harm. I may be at a different stage in my eating disorder recovery and the other person may at a completely different stage. I may be in a relapse and the other person may find that hard to be around. I have had friends who openly said they cannot be friends with me because I am triggering them due to my behaviours and weight loss. I completely understand that as I don’t want to be the cause of someone relapsing. Ending that friendship can be the healthiest option for both.
Constantly comparing each other is another factor why a friendship won’t work. Mental illness isn’t and shouldn’t be a competition but it can unfortunately become one. Comparisons such as…
- “They seem to be coping better than me but they have the same illness as me.”
- “How can they manage a career, but I can’t?”
- “She is in eating disorder recovery too, but why is she still skinny and I gained so much weight?”
I have come across people with chronic illnesses who constantly compare themselves with others with the same condition. “It’s not fair. She can do so much but I can barely get up in the morning.” It can send a negative vibe and it isn’t nice to be around.
There have been people who try to put me down because I can hold down a challenging job whilst struggling with mental health issues but they can’t. It can almost seem rather selfish. It’s like both of you are trying to drag each other down, not lifting each other up.
However, sometimes we can compare in a different way. Competing to see who is the most sickest. Trying to prove to each other that one of you is more sicker than the other by saying things like “Look, I have more diagnoses than you. I have attempted suicide more times than you. I have more pains than you. You don’t know the half of it.” That doesn’t mean the other person hasn’t had it hard. You cannot compare such things.
Everyone’s illness and journey is different and it is silly to compare. Everyone copes differently and have different experiences because our illnesses affect us differently and our lives are different because of this. But, unfortunately when it puts a strain in your friendship, when it gets extreme and competitive, maybe it is time to end it for each other’s own sake.
Today’s big news is the one about Asda selling ‘mental patient’ fancy dress costume for Halloween. Tesco and Amazon have been too, which is now taken off sale following public criticism.
This is absolutely disgraceful. This is exactly why people are ashamed to talk about mental health because it does not have a decent connotation attached to it. It is seen as a horrible thing, a shameful thing, which can explain why people are still adamant to talk about it.
When people think about the mentally ill, they think ‘crazy’ ‘messed up’ ‘loony’ ‘psycho’. They are often seen as violent. Why? The mentally ill can be victims of violence. People judge without knowing the reasons. I have met a lot of people in mental health units and not one seemed ‘crazy’ to me. In fact, they were the most understanding and warm people I have ever met. That was probably due to the fact that I could relate to them but that is besides the point.
You could be walking down the street passing someone who suffers from depression but they could look absolutely normal. People who have mental health issues are not crazy and people really need to understand that.
Yes, we often hear the word ‘stigma’ and you are probably sick of it but it is true. There is still a stigma attached to mental health and unfortunately I think that stigma will not go away anytime soon because of the likes of Asda, Tesco and Amazon.
People are slowly starting to understand it a bit more which is great but there needs to be more done about this stigma. It took me a while to be open about my problems and one of the reasons why I am slowly opening up my mental health problems is because I want to help break that stigma and also help and inspire people along the way. I was ashamed before because I thought people would judge me but after speaking to others and mental health specialists about it, they have made me realise that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
People who suffer from mental health problems are often weary about what people will think. I wrote an article for Time To Change about talking about mental health in the Islamic community, which will be published very soon. This is because it is something I am facing currently. In my culture, the mentally ill is often seen as someone who is not worthy of anything. They are seen as an insignificant, crazy and scary person, which is also the case in the wider society.
Hiding my problems has not helped me with getting better. In fact, when you hide your problems, it gets worse. I want to see a change in the way we talk about mental health. The attitude to it completely disgusts me. I will not say I faced any discrimination at work or at a place of study but I know people who have and this needs to change.
Labour leader Ed Miliband raised this issue in his party conference speech earlier this week and MP’s do occasionally come out about their own mental health problems, which is very admiring and allows others to be open about their problems too. I really think if this issue is often raised in Parliament, more people will start to talk about it.
We must accept the fact that mental health is something that is normal and should not to be hidden or kept secret, just because society thinks it should be. Asda may describe the stereotype of mental illness but know that mental illness is far from that.