It really is okay to eat

When you’ve had an eating disorder for so long, you become numb to the feeling of not eating. The fear that food will harm you is entrenched into your mind, so you just don’t allow yourself to enjoy food. The act of eating almost turns into a mundane chore. I never thought I’d be able to stop feeling guilty about eating. But slowly but surely, I am getting there.

Being in recovery and actually working hard in it has taught me a lot of things. Before, I couldn’t allow myself to feel the guilt in all its glory. I could never sit with the fact that I had food in my stomach. Something had to be done to get rid of the guilt, to get rid of the food. I know all compensatory behaviours too well.  

My anorexia was never really about food. It never started because I wanted to lose weight. It was about controlling and coping with a very chaotic mind, stemmed from emotional childhood trauma that I had faced but had never acknowledged. I wanted to feel something else, something other than loneliness and worthlessness. I wanted something that I could feel powerful by and excelled at. Losing weight was my thing. Anorexia made me feel in control when my life was out of control. I only wanted to lose weight not because I wanted to be thin, but because I saw it as a way to disappear completely. I wanted to match how I felt outside to how I felt inside. Empty.

In the midst of all that, I forgot how to enjoy food and enjoy it socially with others. I never really gave myself a chance to stop and be thankful for the food in front of me. I have been allowing myself to open up to others about feeling “shameful” about eating and learning how to enjoy food again. It is okay to admit that eating makes me feel greedy and fat. But to challenge this, it meant constantly reassuring myself that this meal will not make me fat and lose control. I can now see the rationale of it all. I can now see how distorted anorexia made me. 

Each day, I work on my recovery and challenge the disordered thoughts. I have noticed I am now fighting for myself more frequently than I am fighting against myself. I say yes to invites that involve food. Saying yes hurts. It still does because it makes my disorder angry. How can I say yes to food, greedy pig, I hear the voice say. But what hurts more is missing out on socialising opportunities with friends and family and capturing fun and memorable moments together. So yes, it really is okay to eat.

Anorexia: A Letter From My Body

I have been told to write a letter from my body to myself as part of my treatment from anorexia, so I thought sharing it publicly may help.

TRIGGER WARNING

untitled

Dear Habiba,

I wish this was a positive letter but I’m afraid it isn’t. I’m going to have to be blunt with you. You made most of my 23 years of life a misery. You denied me food, the most important source of energy. You made me sit through hunger pangs for hours, even days. I was begging for you to feed me. Even a sip of water would be enough at times but you denied me of that too, leading me to suffer severe dehydration which destroyed my kidneys.

You made my hair fall out and made my nails become brittle. You made me work through the pain, even though I couldn’t concentrate properly. You made me fake a smile, pretending everything is alright, when I know all you wanted me to do was hide away. When my stomach made a hunger noise, you’d punch me, telling me to be quiet and that I don’t deserve food.

On the rare occasion you did feed me, it wasn’t enough or too much too quickly, so much food crammed into me until my stomach hurt. Then you would make me put my head down the toilet, with fingers down my throat, forcing me to throw up everything you just fed me. It happened so often that sometimes nothing but blood used to come up. Then you’d be lying on the bathroom floor crying, telling yourself that this would be the last time but we both know that was a lie. You never allowed me to keep food down no matter how much I needed it.

You never allowed me to enjoy food. You never allowed me to nourish myself. You constantly called me fat and other horrible names. The lack of nutrition made my skin look awful, which you attempted to cover up with a face full of make up.

You made me dizzy and weak but never allowed me to take a rest. You took me to the gym, made me workout for four hours on an empty stomach. You put exercise before anything. You never let me see friends, you isolated me. You never allowed me to sleep or take a rest day. You made me stay awake every night, waiting for 4am on the dot, so you can force me to do exercise in your room whilst everyone was asleep. God, I was so tried and just wanted to sleep but you never allowed me that luxury. Even with an injured foot, you still dragged me to the gym and forced me to burn the calories of the one digestive biscuit you fed me last night. Everyday was a waking nightmare. I was exhausted but you kept on wanting to punish me. Your body. What have I ever done to you?

You destroyed me. You put me on death’s door. You wanted to kill me so many times. Overdosing on 25 pills. Attempting to jump in front of a train and nights spent planning suicide. Thank God you failed. You’re lucky to have me, to still be here.

I know this wasn’t all you, Habiba. I know anorexia was the one who made you do those things. But you are better than that. You are not Habiba the anorexic. You are Habiba the journalist. You are Habiba, who is kind, gentle and funny. I know you can recover. You have been doing well recently and I am proud of you for that. You’ve been socialsing more and going on holiday. Why and how? Because you’re starting to feed me. You’re starting to give me the energy I need to live a fulfilling life. Just think of the more amazing things you can do if you keep feeding me and nourishing me? You only have one body. Please don’t hurt me anymore. Please please take care of me. Haven’t I been tortured enough?

 

Lots of love,

Your body

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.

Labour Party Conference 2013: Miliband “We’re Britain…we’re better than this.”

One Nation Labour was created by Ed Miliband exactly a year ago. Today, he brought it back.

At his speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton today, his main slogan was “Britain can do better than this….we are better this.” The way he tried to show that Labour can do better than this if they win the next general election is by pledging quite unique policies, such as freezing gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. He said energy firms had been overcharging for too long and it was time to reset the market. “Your bills will be frozen, benefiting millions of families and millions of businesses. That’s what I mean by a government that fights for you. That’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.”

This speech seemed to be something that Miliband wanted to stick to people’s minds. He wanted people to remember why he is the leader of the Labour Party and why Labour should be back in government. The way he did that was again, starting a slogan, a catchphrase, that he kept on repeating throughout the speech in hopes that people will listen. Once again, he had no script. Memorising his whole speech like last year, he spoke with enthusiasm and passion.

“Race to the top” was a phrase that he repeated many times after saying how the Tories are always failing and going down instead of up. He said “We’ve never believed in the race to the bottom. We believe in the race to the top.”

He stuck to what he believes about not going to war, referring to the chemical weapons debate in Syria.

After admitting that he was never someone who is “macho” on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he did take quite a U-turn and almost tried to be macho at this speech. He said “Here’s the thing about David Cameron: He may be strong when it comes to the weak. But he’s always weak when it comes to the strong.” Claiming that Labour can do a better job than the Tories. he had a message for them.  He said “If they want to have a debate about leadership and character, be my guest.”

He quite rightly pointed out all the things that Cameron has done wrong in this Coalition. He told the conference that Cameron sided with the Murdoch’s, tobacco lobbyists and millionaires. He said Cameron introduced the bedroom tax but Labour will repeal.

He also talked about mental health stigma and why we should be able to talk about it openly. “It’s an afterthought in our health system,” he told the conference audience.  This is not a policy as such but he is absolutely right. Mental health issues is never talked about as often as it should be. It is something that matters. After receiving a letter from a 17 year old who suffers from anxiety and depression, he said we should be able to talk about this stuff as it does happen.

On the subject of health, he then went onto talk about the NHS.  “It is the same old story: We rescue the NHS. The Tories wreck it. We have to rescue it all over again. And we will.”

This speech was full of policies after polices. Like last year, he pledged to do many things, but the question is always this – Will he be able to deliver? Is this all talk to win voters or is Ed Miliband the future prime minister we all dream of?

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

Image

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. 

Image