Ramadan: Still in the grips of anorexia

ramadan-still-in-41Nv

Every year when Ramadan comes around, I open up about my experience with an eating disorder. It can be such a tricky time for those of us struggling with an eating disorder. For the past seven years, I’ve been strictly told not to fast by medical professionals who were treating me for my eating disorder in hospital. In the past, I had to be monitored extra closely in case my weight dramatically dropped due to fasting secretly.

This year is different. This is the first year that I am not in treatment for my anorexia in seven years, so I feel anxious because now I have a choice. I hate having a choice because I’m more likely to choose the unhealthy one. I’m not being watched anymore and I’m not being threatened with inpatient if I lose weight, so this is the perfect opportunity. I am in no way recovered. In fact, I’d say the thoughts have been creeping back in, especially recently.

A year into my recovery without treatment has been tough. Every day is still hard, and there have been both massive relapses AND recovery wins in the past 12 months and I truly believe this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I don’t think I will ever be fully recovered.

Ramadan brings out a lot of negative emotions and triggers for me. But this year, having a choice to fast or not to fast and still seeing Ramadan as a chance to lose weight and to become sicker is not helping and confirms, yet again, that I am not in a good state of mind to fast safely. I don’t see it as a religious thing. So if I fast, I will be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Rationally, of course I know that I must not fast if I am still in that eating disordered mindset. I know that health and my recovery comes first. But anorexia is so powerful that even if I say I will not take part, I will most definitely act on behaviours because everywhere I go, there will be someone fasting, someone talking about how much they’re “starving” and restricting will be inevitable. Plus, there will be triggering food everywhere and everyone will be talking about food.

I have made the choice, however, to not take part. People close to me have been expressing their concerns about me fasting. I’d be lying if I said I don’t engage in behaviours anymore so fasting in the month of Ramadan can absolutely land me back in hospital.

I’m in a good place career-wise. I’ve got a new job that I love, but I’m worried if I’ll be able to hold it down if I go down that path again. Anorexia makes me not believe in myself. Every day now, it tells me that I don’t deserve this job, that I don’t deserve to be successful. It makes me question if I’m capable of holding down a full time job without getting sicker. It makes me anxious about disappointing my colleagues and managers. It’s been keeping me awake at night worrying about how anorexia, especially in Ramadan, might impact my mental health this year.

In the past, it was anorexia that made me become this successful. It was anorexia’s perfectionism that made me work hard (without food) graduate and get my dream job. People tell me it wasn’t anorexia, but they don’t know how strong anorexia can be. It was this illness that demanded I prove to people that I can do things. The less food I ate, the more weight I lost, the more successful I became…and it worked.

I cannot keep letting anorexia take credit for everything I’ve achieved. I cannot let it take over me anymore. People tell me that I can do things, that I am capable without this illness. Maybe they’re right?

Ramadan is a spiritual month. It’s about health and helping others and about being kind to oneself. I cannot fast because I am sick, but what I CAN do is help others and take care of myself. I can be thankful to God that I am here in this world. I am alive and I am living.

Ramadan shouldn’t be just about controlling yourself from eating food. It should be about taking care of yourself whatever way possible and if fasting isn’t right for your mental and physical health at the moment, it’s okay not to take part.

For others like myself who cannot fast in the month of Ramadan due to an eating disorder or mental illness, why not turn it around and work on your recovery? This year, I’ve come to realise that putting your own health is more important than religion, career or opportunities. Look after yourself first. Make yourself a priority. That is what I will try to do.

This was originally posted on Beat‘s website.

Reflecting Back on 2017

I’ve been pondering about whether I should do this blog post. I just feel quite sad because 2017 has ended and I feel like I haven’t really achieved what I wanted the most, which is happiness. I wanted to be content with my life. I wanted more friends and actually feel like I belong in this crazy world.

But then I realised that happiness isn’t a destination. You don’t “reach” happiness. You choose to be happy. I’ve always had this idea of what happiness is. To me, it meant having everything together, having that special someone in your life and just basically being “sorted.”

That is a dangerous idea which negatively impacts my health, especially my borderline personality disorder. I immediately think if I haven’t got it all together then I must be a “failure.” Now, I often use that word when I make a mistake, get rejected or if I haven’t achieved something I wanted to achieve. I have realised that failure actually means that I am trying and learning along the way, despite the hurdles. It isn’t and shouldn’t be a bad thing. It just means you must try again because you stronger than you realise. I am stronger than I realise. That, is something to be happy about.

2017 has been a year of learning for me. It has also been a year of risks. I actually started travelling to different countries, which is a big achievement for me. It is something I should be proud of.

But, I just feel in my career and relationships, I just kept it safe. I stayed in that comfort zone, which never really got me anywhere. So, in 2018, I know I need to be that little be “extra” when it comes to my career and personal relationships. I need to go and grab things as soon as they arise and never miss a good opportunity.

Something which is big to me that may not seem big to others is being discharged from hospital and all psychiatric care that I was under for 7 years. That was a huge chapter in my life because I have been so used to being under constant mental health care for that many years that I didn’t really know who I was without it. I wasn’t discharged because I was better, I was discharged because they felt I needed to learn to stand on my own two feet.

It has been hard without having to lean on a nurse, psychiatrist, therapist, dietician etc…but I have learnt a lot about my emotions. It has also given me a chance to actually use the skills I learnt in therapy whenever I’m in a mental health crisis. I don’t know if I can keep this up though, but we’ll see.

I am thankful to have made it through 2017. This might sound weird and corny but every waking moment is a challenge for me. Having made it to 2018, I can only thank God. I have always felt like I don’t deserve to be in this world, but I am starting to believe that maybe I do.

Okay, so writing all this wasn’t so bad after all. I did achieve a few things and I was happy in some areas of my life.

I won’t make a New Year’s resolution because it takes my perfectionism to the extreme and so is bad for my health, but what I will do is hope for the best in 2018 and be a better version of myself. That is all I can do.

Happy New Year!

World Mental Health Day 2016: BPD and ME

14159048_10209239834969417_360418956_n

As it is World Mental Health Day, I want to speak out about one of my recent diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

People often have a negative view about BPD and that is why I am reluctant to speak about it publicly. Why? Because it shows how I’m not as perfect as I want to be or as much I want people to think I am. My eating disorder doesn’t make me perfect, but at least I can control my weight and make it perfect for me. Whereas BPD makes people think I’m evil and a horrible person because it’s out of my control and brings out the worst in me.

I wish people would understand me but they don’t. There is always an explanation for the way I behave. It’s not because I’m a bad person even though it may seem like it. I promise the things I do does not come from bad intentions. It comes from a need to feel like I belong.

I’ve always found it hard to make and keep friends. BPD makes close friendships difficult. No one seems to stay for long in my life and I often become a burden for people because I am vulnerable, fragile, difficult and too dependent. I expect too much from people. I want to feel needed, I want to feel wanted and I want to feel like I matter. I want someone to be spontaneous and take me places, because I never had that as a child. I want to feel safe and cared for, because I never felt that as a child. I want to be treated as a first choice, because I’ve never been someone’s first choice.

I never felt like I fitted in as a child. I always felt left out. People hurt me. I was always on my own. I was my own best friend and own worst enemy. That is why whenever I get close to someone now; I fear abandonment and rejection which leads to me losing people because they get scared and back away as I try so hard to keep them. I would do anything for someone I love not to leave me. In the past – it has ended up with threats, multiple suicide attempts, threats of suicide and self-harm, in an attempt to blackmail people not to leave me. It’s not a selfish part of me, but a desperate cry for help. I have so much love and care to give – that’s all I want. I want to feel worthy for once.

If I make plans with friends and for some reason they cancel, it triggers me into thinking they hate me and they have probably found someone else they would rather hang out with. I get upset and mad. I don’t think about their reason, I automatically think it’s about me. The reason is always me. That is why I need constant reassurance from people that they still like me and care about me.

And only recently, I realised this part of my personality not only affects my personal relationships, but also affects my professional relationships and how I relate to people in the workplace. If I don’t somehow feel like I belong in a team, I feel unimportant which makes me feel worthless. If I don’t get praised at work and get criticism, I feel like it’s the end of the world and everyone hates me and get paranoid that I will lose my job. It comes hand in hand with perfectionism. I must do all I can to feel accepted because I never felt accepted as a child.

So, the cause of BPD is often deep rooted . Trying to keep up with constant feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness is exhausting, but with an intense form of Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT), it has made me understand why I do the things I do. I found out that my BPD is connected to my anorexia. With my DIT therapist, I found links to why I behave the way I do and it really makes sense.

Living with BPD is so hard – you will not understand how hard it is unless you have it yourself. The behaviours are only a reaction of what we fear the most – that have already happened to us before. For me, not feeling like I got enough love as a child, being used, being bullied, feeling left out – are all combination of things why it is hard for me to form healthy and stable relationships in adulthood.

However, as I recover, I am realising I have behaved inappropriately towards people which ruined a lot of friendships. I did those things because I was in a bad place and let my illness control me. I am not denying responsibility at all. I am at fault. I know I hurt people with my words and impulsive actions and I hate myself for that. I wish I could turn back time and start again. But, whats done is done and I can only work on it and improve myself for the better.

I am not a bad person, I promise. All I want is to feel is loved for once in my life. People think I only care about myself but that is not true. It may seem like I think the whole world revolves around me but it is far from that – it is a little girl, who hasn’t properly grown up, so desperate to give love as well as receive love. I am fun, funny, silly and caring – I just had a difficult childhood that has left me in this mental state, but I am still a human being.

If a friend or a loved one struggles with BPD, I just need you to know that they are not a bad person. They are just scared. Please please don’t leave them if you really love and care about them. It hurts. It hurts so badly when someone you love abandons you. Help that person. Be there for them. And if it gets too much and you decide to leave them, please don’t be harsh to them – try not to end things in a bad way. Reassure them that things will get better and that they are not alone. It will make every bit of difference.

 

3 Positive Songs For 3 Negative Feelings

I believe that music can save lives. It certainly saved my life many times in the past. Whilst I was growing up, these were three songs that significantly helped me through some of the hardest times in my life (with a story behind them). 

DESPAIR

Miley Cyrus – The Climb

This song has had quite a big significance in my life. I was at school (Year 11) when it came out. It was a time where I just had enough of school and I just couldn’t wait to leave. I always had a dream my entire schooling life that I would one day escape this misery and become this successful person, to prove the bullies wrong. However, I never believed in myself back then. I thought I’ll never reach that end goal and always put myself down at every chance I got. Getting told I will never be successful didn’t help either. This song gave me some sort of hope. The lyrics really resonated with me and I actually listened to it. When I listen back to this song now, I remember all the times I felt like I won’t get very far, and then realise where I am now. It is such a great feeling.

Whenever you feel like you can’t do something or won’t ever get very far in life, do not stop trying. Don’t give up. There is no rush. You will get there one day. Keep doing everything you can to get there and one day, you’ll be living in that dream.

“I can almost see it. That dream I’m dreaming but there’s a voice inside my head saying you’ll never reach it…My faith is shaking but I got to keep trying. Got to keep my head held high…”

FEAR

Hilary Duff – Fly

Again, a trip down memory lane, school days. I was a big Hilary Duff fan , who wasn’t? She was a prominent figure in the charts back then. Fly came out in 2004. So, I was 12 years old! It is no secret that I had suffered with crippling anxiety ever since primary school and all throughout secondary school. I always loved singing and dancing but always struggled with the confidence to go and perform in public. I always wanted to join a band or join my school choir but we had to audition to get in at my school. I kept putting it off because I felt scared and nervous.

This song gave me huge amount of encouragement to just do it. Nothing was stopping me but myself. So, I did it. I auditioned for some sort school gospel thing but I didn’t get into that. However, I eventually joined my school rock band. Music was my passion back then and I had no reason not to pursue what I enjoyed the most. Even now, whenever I feel like my anxiety is stopping me from doing something, I listen to this song for a bit of encouragement and it really works. Even if you bite the bullet and fail, at least you know you tried and that’s the most important thing.

“Fly, open up the part of you that wants to hide away. You can shine.
Forget about the reasons why you can in life and start to try…

…and when you’re down and feel alone, just want to run away. Trust yourself and don’t give up, you know you better than anyone else”

FEELING DIFFERENT

Sugababes – Ugly

One of the reasons why I was bullied at school was because I was different and also short for my age. It was easy for people to pick on me because I was small and I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself. Just a disclaimer, my anorexia wasn’t caused by bad body image. It wasn’t a superficial reason but being different played a part.

In school, I was basically an emo/goth/punk, whatever you want to call it. In a girls school, 97% Muslim/Asian, that was like I was from a whole different planet. I didn’t fit in or had any similar interests to anyone. I was an outsider – the odd-one-out. Back then, I was ashamed of being different. I hated the fact that I was short and I hated that no one around me liked the same things as me.

This song really helped me realise that everyone is the same but different. Individuality and being different is what makes us interesting, and we should never be ashamed of ourselves. It also helped me realise that looks can only get you so far, and people should only judge you for your personality. You can be good looking but an awful, horrible person. For me, looks is an important part of my life, but everyday, I work on myself and on my personality, trying to improve and be the best version of myself.

“There was a time when I felt like I cared. That I was shorter than everyone there. People made me feel like life was unfair….

Everybody talks bad about somebody and never realises how it affects somebody. And you bet it won’t be forgotten. Envy is the only thing it could be.”

Do you have a certain song that helped you through tough times or a certain emotion? Let me know in the comments!

Social Anxiety No Longer Controls Me

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 22.24.29

As I am writing this now, I couldn’t be more confident. I never thought I’d arrive at this stage because all my life, I suffered with crippling social anxiety. To overcome it, was something I’d always wished for but never thought I’d be able to. I am surprised that recently, people tell me that I seem bubbly and perky. That was never me in the past.

When someone finds out I suffer with depression and anxiety, they find it hard to believe because I apparently always seem cheerful and have a smile on my face despite my daily struggles. Smiling makes you appear more confident and I am glad people perceive me that way.

I know what it is like to feel invisible. To feel ashamed and embarrassed in public. To feel like every word that comes out of your mouth will be scrutinised and judged. To have that stomach churning feeling before going outside. Before, I had to mentally and physically prepare myself before going out. I used to feel sick at the thought of people looking at me. I always looked down when walking, hoping no one talks to me or sees my “ugly” face.

The purpose of this piece is make people aware that it won’t be like this forever because right now, I can safely say that I have overcome social anxiety.

The key to becoming more confident is simple. Just do it. The amount of times I pushed myself into scary situations and felt it went terribly – well it did go terribly and I have embarrassed myself numerous of times but did it kill me? No. I have been rejected and I still do get rejected. Yes, it does get me down but I learnt not to dwell on the mistakes. I learnt not to overthink. Instead, I learnt to keep trying, despite the knock backs and failures. The more mistakes I made, the more rejections I received, it only made me stronger. It made me try again and that has resulted in me not being scared anymore and in turn, it made me confident in myself.

Now, I do and say the most silliest and bravest things, which I could never have done previously. I walk with my head held high. I smile. I wear tiaras and flowers on my hair for God’s sake! I obviously stand out and I always get complimented on my style. That boosts my confidence. Looking good definitely plays a part in appearing more confident. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up and feel like hiding away but then, I wear my best outfit and rock it, and I automatically feel on top of the world. I like being silly, I like laughing and having fun and I like not being scared to just talk. I have a voice, why should I be afraid to use it? I ruined so many opportunities in the past because of my lack in confidence, so now I am on mission to face everything head on.

I don’t know if it is the amount of CBT I had or if it is my medication that’s helping, but honestly, I just feel like a new person (not taking into account my anorexia). I must be honest though – sometimes my confidence can be detrimental. I can almost appear too confident and become hypomanic as a result of my personality disorder. However, I am more in control of this now and aware of when it gets to that point.

No matter how anxious you feel, please know that it won’t be this way forever. The answer to overcoming anxiety is to just keep putting yourself into scary situations, face that fear, make mistakes and go back and keep doing it until ‘fear’ no longer means anything to you.

This post is published on The Huffington Post UK.

Surviving Eid with an Eating Disorder

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 21.27.50

Eid, like Christmas and many other religious festivals, is a day of celebration and happiness and for those suffering from eating disorders, it can be a very difficult time for them. As always, days like this are about food and for sufferers, it can have a big impact on their behaviour during that day. From experience, Eid is always very overwhelming. Friends, family, guests, food, food and more food surround you and there is nowhere to hide.

I have been given some strategies to help me get through those difficult times by my treatment team and thought I’d share.

Plan the day in advance and have a back up plan. If you have a meal plan – stick to it. If you don’t have a meal plan, make one. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed with all the food in front of you. What helps me get through stressful times like this is planning my meals in advance. But whatever you do, don’t skip a meal! This can cause you to feel hungrier and you’ll only end up binging.

Tell a family member how you are feeling about your fears around food on the day. If they are aware of your feelings, they can help you and make it easier for you to get through the day. For me, if I tell a family member, they tend to keep an eye out and make sure I feel comfortable.

Don’t let yourself be guilt tripped into eating something you don’t want to if you feel like it is going to trigger you into a relapse or even cause you to binge. If an auntie or grandmother has been cooking a traditional dish for hours, you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to and there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Keep busy and try not to isolate yourself! What I find helps me take my mind off the food is playing with my little cousins. Try and do other activities that does not relate to food.

Finally, it is crucial to remember that Eid is not just about food. It is about family and joy, so try not to let your eating disorder ruin it for you. But also remember, don’t beat yourself up if your day does not go to plan because after all, it is Eid and you deserve to enjoy it. Remember, God is always with you to help you get through any hardship you are facing.

Motivational Monday #1

I thought I would start doing a series on my blog. Motivational Monday came to mind. I am all about self development and improving yourself and I just want some positivity on my blog once a week.

So I thought I would start with a quote I live by which is….

Image

Having been suffering from severe social anxiety for many years, I now wake up every morning and read this quote to myself. I have realised that if you are scared of something, when you keep avoiding it, the problem gets worse, so you might as well do it! What is the worse that could happen? If you mess up, you can learn from it for next time. I was scared of speaking in public before and I still am. That was one of my biggest fears ever since I could remember. Now, everyday, I challenge myself to speak in front people or speak to someone I don’t know…this is helping me build my confidence. I have my own radio show which is a platform for me to break some of my fears. So, if you are scared of something – feel that fear and do it anyway, because trust me, when you do it, you will feel so much better afterwards.

I highly highly recommend the book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway (where I got the quote from) by Susan Jeffers. Fantastic book. It has helped me a lot.