Things I wish people knew about Eating Disorders

I come across this post about things I wish people about Eating disorders in my drafts section all hidden away, I never realised that I didn’t publish it. I tried to think of the reasons why, I guess back in December 2014, I was quite ill mentally and also psychically from my eating disorder (only I couple of months later, I started daycare). So now nearly two/three years, I thought I might share it. So here goes…

I could write so much about things I wish people knew about eating disorders from they’re not choices or that we’re doing it for attention to how every waking (and sleeping) moment is filled with thoughts about food even down to that we are hungry but can’t face that will to eat something for fear of gaining or being judged by others and ourselves.

So I’m going to talk about five things that I wish people knew about eating disorders.

  1. Eating Disorders are not a choice

One of most upsetting things someone have said to me when I was very unwell was that I was choosing to be that way. It can be so hard to express to somebody that you are not able to control your own thoughts and that voice in your head is constantly telling you all sort of things and causing you to deny yourself one of the most basic human rights… the right to eat. Although at times it was possible to make that choice to eat,  it was not possible at that time to choose to avoid the feelings of intense guilt and self-hatred that follows after eating. These sort of feelings where you just want to hide somewhere and cry, like that little space in the bedroom or that space at the bottom of the garden.

2. It’s okay to talk to me about my eating disorder and to ask questions

Although when I say this, I don’t mean by asking how much I weigh or how much I’ve eaten today or what I’ve eaten. Things like this will make me defensive, embarrassed or even ashamed of myself. It is okay to ask me how I am or if I’m finding anything challenging or if there’s anything that you can do to help but sometimes if I’m not comfortable answering I will say so but chances are it will make me feel like you care and want to support me although I may not show it. People with eating disorders can often feel very ashamed, and it is by talking and encouraging openness and honesty that we will break down the stigma surrounding them and promote recovery. However, don’t comment on my appearance. You might see me making progress, and that’s great. Whilst I might speak positively about recovery, I may still be battling my distorted body image constantly. If you have noticed I seem happier, please say so. If you think I have been more relaxed, please say so. But please don’t tell me I ‘look well’, or that I am looking ‘much healthier’. My rational brain understands that you mean well and are trying to be complimentary and supportive. My eating disordered brain will translate those comments into ‘you look fat’ or ‘you have gained weight’. This can cause both parties to feel guilty and upset. Eating disorders are about so much more than appearance, and it is by talking about the thoughts and feelings that go alongside them that we will really begin to understand them.

3. Please try to be patient.

Chances are, I will lie to you. I will be deceptive. I will tell you things are fine when they aren’t. I will start doing well, and then I won’t again. But none of these things mean I’m not trying and that I don’t care about you. Often I am hiding things because I don’t want to hurt you, and because I feel guilty for putting you through this. Please don’t give up on those who are suffering. Continue to encourage them to talk to you, and remind them that you are there no matter what stage of recovery they are at.

4. Eating Disorders are a mental illness.

There is nothing vain about having an eating disorder whether its anorexia, Bulimia or ED NOS and wanting to lose or control weight is a side effect of deep-rooted and complicated emotional difficulties. It is not about wanting to look like a celebrity or to gain attention, and I’ve found personally that I had a great deep sense of shame and did not want to draw attention to my illness which can be influenced by the fear that this stigma of vanity and narcissism will reflect badly. I have been so scared at times that people would think I was behaving in these ways to ‘gain attention’, when I had actually spent so long trying to cover them up and hide them from others. Eating disorders are incredibly dangerous, and more physically painful than is imaginable. Even after recovery, the physical side effects can last for months, years, and even be permanent. It is time that we broke through the discrimination that eating disorder sufferers experience and understand what they are really about.

5. Men get eating disorders too.

Eating disorders are so commonly thought of as a female illness. This can cause men to feel ashamed about accessing treatment, so the true figures of how many men are actually suffering from eating disorders is generally unknown. However people must learn that eating disorders do not discriminate. They can, do and always will affect people of any age, gender and race.

6. Recovery is possible, and it is worth it.

I had an eating disorder in one form or another for 12 years. I have been treated under CAMHS and adult services, and as both an inpatient and in the community. October 2015 marked the end of what I hope to be my last episode of treatment. Now this February in 2017 has marked the longest time I have been ‘in recovery’ without relapse, and I am currently the furthest into recovery that I have ever been. It is hard to fully appreciate how all-consuming, debilitating and painful eating disorders can be, and it can seem like it is impossible to get better. But it is possible, and it is worth it. There were countless times when I felt like giving up, but my life is so much fuller and richer now than it has ever been. I am immeasurably happier, and it is by far the hardest but most worthwhile thing I have ever done in my life.

I would encourage everybody to talk about eating disorders, whether you know someone who is suffering, have done so yourself, or want to spread awareness to others. I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning to talk.

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Thoughts on BBC Two’s ‘Transgender Kids: Who knows best?’

So BBC two aired a documentary called ‘Transgender Kids: Who knows best’ last night in the UK which has quite rightly so got a lot of negative feedback from not just the trans community but many other people as well for so many reasons and not just for including disgraced Canadian doctor Kenneth Zucker, who’s name filled many trans canadians with dread.

If your not aware of Kenneth Zucker has basically since the  1970s, treated about 500 preadolescence gender-variant children with reparative treatments till an age where he believed that they could determine their own gender identity.  

So for children assigned as male at birth, Zucker would ask parents to take away toys associated with females and instruct the child not to play with females and vice vis with female to male children. Psychologist Darryl Hill wrote that Zucker believed that this reparative treatment could reduce the possibility of gender dysphoria. All you would have to do here is to replace ‘Transgender’ with ‘Gay’ and their would be out cry.

But on with the program, it seemed to focus on the extreme part of the binary which was very much that ‘Girls play with barbies and that boys played with toy trucks’, along with a so called expert comparing transgender children to dogs… ‘a four year old might say its a dog, do you go out and buy him dog food’. The so called experts also tried to claim that being transgender was a result of other mental health issues and being autistic where being transgender was just a fixation on something.

As well as a focus on that being of a young age and having life chancing surgery which is completely wrong. There’s guidelines in place which means this doesn’t happen. Here in the UK, it’s 18, children can take puberty blockers which is reversible and spares the child the torment of going through a puberty which is wrong for them. Trust me, ask any transgender teenager or adult about that and it be the same answer. It was hell.

The best thing to take from this is that transgender children do know best, they know whats going in their heads, they can make decisions, forcing your own view onto them won’t make a difference apart from maybe either adding their name onto the ever growing list of transgender people who have sadly taken their life or by adding to the life in terms of happiness of feeling loved and supported.

So what other advice to take from this? If you have a trans child or a child questioning their gender then love and support them, understand them, help them, don’t for gods sake shoot them down or bury it. Trans people have one of the highest suicide rates going (The hidden extent of suicide attempts in young transgender people)

If you have been affected by any of the content here or the program please do use the following helplines and be kind to yourself:

Samaritans: 116 123
Childline (under 18): 0800111111
Gender Trust: 01527894838
Mermaids: 08443340550

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Thoughts on the recent Mental Health reforms

There has been a lot of talk over the past few days over Theresa May’s speech about Mental Health reforms where she pledged about new initiatives to help those with mental health problems.

Having a look through her speech it seems like most of her initiatives seem to focus on younger people, once again leaving those over the age of twenty odd left to fend for themselves with services that have been slashed over and over again thanks to budget cuts by the Tory government. Theresa May also promised to take action to tackle the ‘stigma’ around mental health, I’m sorry? Stigma? I’ll rather take the funding.

Any hows

There are positives from her speech however. She pledged new support in schools such as Mental Health First Aid Training and closer links with schools and CAMHS. I do welcome these seeing that according to studies half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. She also said that by 2021, no child will be sent away from their local area to receive treatment for mental health issues. This will be an interesting one to watch seeing that it’s quite common knowledge that children being admitted to hospital can sometimes be sent up to 300 miles away from their home. Again what funding is in place to make this happen? The £220 million promised by David Cameron still hasn’t filtered down to  front line services as many services are using it to fund other services.

How ever research conducted by the Education Policy Institute Independent Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health in November found that a quarter of young people seeking mental health care are turned away by specialist services because of a lack of resources and that waiting times for treatment in many areas are also incredibly long. Which again is a funding issue.

Also in the speech, Therese May announced that just an extra £15m is to be pledged for creating more places of safety. This works out to be about £23,000 per parliamentary constituency. Which in the scheme of things isn’t a lot at all.

She also talked about Digitally assisted therapy. So treatment provided over the internet such as Scotland’s ‘Mind the Blues’ in what seems like an attempt to make overstretched services go even further. Maybe Therese May would like to introduce my Crisis Team Chat Bot?

 

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#Take5ToBlog

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Seeing that it’s Time to Talk day, I decided to take part in the #Take5ToBlog. It’s where there’s 5 questions from your name, your illness to your hopes for the future.

I found this though a Facebook post and also a email I was sent and I just had to take part so I could do my part to raise awareness of mental health and the issues around it.

Now I’m fairly open about my mental health (as you would see from my twitter and also this blog) but this is slightly different.

So here’s my #Take5ToBlog

My name is: Fox (like I’ll give my real name on here) and I have experienced a variety of mental health problems to name a few: Bipolar, anorexia, anxiety, OCD and also PTSD.

My mental illnesses have affected every part of my life: being awake, sleeping, work ect. The crushing lows and highs of bipolar have impacted so much of my life from self care, friends, personal relationships and also work. Anorexia also affects every waking moment, living with the fear of food and the fear of gaining weight, having a voice where it makes you believe that you are fat, the guilt after eating something, the impulse to exercise all the time to lose weight. The anxiety is another one; the fear of being in a crowded place, speaking to people who I don’t know or being in a different place, this affects me to the point where I’ll have panic attacks, bolt away or worse case… I just shut down.

My greatest source of support has come from my closest friends who have been so understanding over the years and stuck by me even when I’ve been at my lowest and was sectioned. Also my girlfriend has been fantastic at supporting me, understanding how I may act or react to something and being very resuring when something happens.

My hope for the future is two things. The first one is to get back to the point where I was a few years ago where I was stable and not in the depths of my eating disorder. The 2nd is that mental health can be discussed openly and not hidden away as a shameful seciart.

I’m taking 5 on time to talk day because it’s important to talk about mental health and to raise awareness of the issues surrounding it.

Now I’ve done mine, are you going to do yours? Or take 5 minutes to talk to someone? It can be just a simple hello and how are you doing.

Some conversations are scary. Some aren’t. Don’t be afraid to talk about mental health

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15 steps to losing friends during a episode

While sat with family on boxing day, myself and a family friend (who is also bipolar) decided that we’ll make a list of steps of how to lose friends… Okey it’s not the best thing to do but we’ve all been there doing episodes where we are outgoing, confident and get on with people (or maybe not if irritatablety plays it’s part) or when being depressed, pushing people away, shutting down ect.

So here’s our easy 15 step guide to making and losing friends.

Step 1: Be in a manic state (treat everybody as your best friend, being confident and just be awesome)

Step 2: Go outside to interact with people in different places, pubs and night clubs are the best for this as you can dance away with that engery you now have.

Step 3: Meet new friends who now want to be your friend because they love your energy, confidence and your habit to spend out on all those things you know you just need and think you are awesome because of this.

Step 4: Agree to ‘hey, we should totally meet up some time!!!’

Step 5: Get Facebook/number/address of new friend.

Step 6: Now that you are out of the social context, fall into a depressive episode.

Step 7: From now on, whenever your new friend tries to contact you, don’t bother to answer, since you feel so miserable that writing a text seems impossible and assuming that everybody secretly hates you.

Step 8: Feel bad because your new friend takes it personally and wonder what’s wrong with you.

Step 9: Don’t explain to them your condition because you don’t know them that well and it would awkward as they wouldn’t understand or just think you are crazy.

Step 10: Avoid them every time you see them because you feel too bad to know that you hurt them.

Step 11: Lose this friend.

Step 12: Isolate yourself.

Step 13: Lose all of your friends.

Step 14: Count the cost of this and the cost of past episodes.

Step 15: And repeat

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Christmas time with anorexia

Christmas normally means a lot of things to a lot of people whether it’s based around celebration, religion, spending time with family or those family traditions but to me it’s a time of fear, stress, being triggered by the slightest of things and the yearly tradition of crying during dinner and the family fallout after it as a result.

In my household we seem to surround ourselves with food at christmas; the advent calendar treats, attempting to sneak chocolates off the tree without anyone noticing (by putting the foil back on) and tucking into those Cadbury selection boxes that a family friend always seems brings round (and adds to the pole of chocolate).

Then it’s christmas day itself: the morning treats, tucking into snacks of sweets from our stocking then it’s the meal itself (the pigs in blankets, the massive helpings of vegetables and other items ect piled high on our plates) and then the rest of the day of drinking wine, munching away on what ever is left from the morning and dinner before sinking into that drunken or overfed slumber in the evening.

But this to me is hell, it torments me and haunts my every waking thought throughout December.

As it gets closer and closer the voice of ana gets stronger and stronger till like I said earlier it starts to haunt my every moment, dreaming of what I used to eat during this time, what I miss, what will happen if I do go and eat these things that I used to enjoy so much and the shame/guilt of loosing that control.

Ana goes into full blown overdrive during this time, it gains even more control that it craves so much. Every trip to the shops is opportunity for with shelf after shelf of treats (chocolate, biscuits and cakes) for her to tell me no, I can’t have this or that for fear of losing that control or that it would course me to gain.

The insightful me doesn’t want this battle with myself all the time. I don’t want to be full of anxiety when that box of celebrations comes round while we’re all watching that bad, overplayed Christmas film on the TV and let people wonder why I don’t take any, I don’t want to try and make excuses to avoid dinner, I don’t want to struggle with trying to eat small mouthfuls of veg only to feel guilty, ashamed and like I’ve gained a million pounds as a result.

Some family members and friends say that it’s only a day, a day where I can try and be free from anorexia and enjoy the things I used to eat (and creave so much), act without fear around meal or snacks but it’s not as easy as just flicking a switch to turn the voice off, the feeling off or the fear off.

It’s the panic about going away from safe foods, my routine and scared of the voice of ana, second guessing everything, leading me to the wrong conclusion and taking well meaning comments the wrong way.

I guess with time and progress with my recovery, I can try and enjoy this time of year and everything that I used to but for this year, that won’t happen.

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Ten things not to say to someone with a eating disorder

I could write a long list of all the things you shouldn’t say to someone who suffers from a eating disorder so instead I’m just going to write down the top ones that people have said to me and seem to be a common thing people say to people who have eating disorders.

“You don’t look so bad to me”

“You look so healthy”

“Do you binge?”

“How much do you weigh?”

“What’s your BMI?, mines *insert number here*!”

“How much did you weigh at your lowest?”

“Are you going to eat all of that?”

“You could do with some fat on you”

“I wish I could be anorexic, I could do with loosing some weight!”

And the one I hate so much and has been said to me by so many people (friends, family and even health care professionals)…

“Why don’t you just eat something?!”

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Remind yourself

This is a letter to remind yourself that you are beautiful. Yes it may be true that you struggle with that voice in your head telling you that your not or that your a failure or many other negative things but however remember that voice is not your true voice. You are the voice of confidence, perseverance, determination and of course strength.

Please promise yourself what ever you do, you won’t give up this fight, you never know what’s around that corner.

Promise that you will do everything in your power to fight the good fight.

Why you may ask?

Because you deserve to be happy, healthy and mainly you deserve to be the best person you can be to yourself. You don’t have to prove anything to others.

Yes, your struggles are real and yes there will be more struggles to come but remember that these things will pass.

Remember that all those negative feelings that pierce the very fibers of your body and thoughts and make you want to go back to how you were and want to let that voice win will pass as well.

These feelings and thoughts are temporary, they come and go like the tide of the ocean. You just have to stand there and watch them pass but not let them sweep you away into that darkness again.

Remember that you really want the very best and also recovery for yourself and promise yourself that you won’t stop until you get this. It will be hard, it will be a uphill battle, it will take time and there will be times where you want to give up but it will be worth it in the end.

You are human, you are as complex as the universe itself and remember that you are even more beautiful than the stars in the sky.

You are unique. Don’t give this up.

Promise yourself that you will remember this everyday.

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Past few months with the Local mental health services and the fallout

I am surviving,
And that is,
About all there,
Is to it

Over the last two months, I’ve been in and out and passed around from the local mental services, from the local primary care team to the intensive team (crisis team) back again to the primary care team, to the GP, back again to the intensive team and then a brief stay in hospital thanks to a intervention by my eating disorder team.

My local intensive team are quite bad and are well known for it, while under their care, I was accused of lieing, self Dx’ing myself (I was told by one of their doctors that I wasn’t Bipolar but instead Borderline or I could just have recurring depression which lead to a argument and me slamming the door and walking out), being a attention seeker and making things sound worse than they were, along with being told to eat something all the time although the meds I was given killed of my appetite.

Thankfully I got a second opinion from one of the different doctors who agreed that my bipolar Dx shod stay the same but with BPD added in as well (co-mobid).

After a few weeks of support from them and daily visits I was discharged back to my GP and to the care of my eating disorder team. I was quite thankful for this because of the above but after a couple of weeks I started to rapid cycle; I felt high, confident, more energy, on top of the world, not needing sleep and excitable but that was short lived, I would come crashing down, not being able to move, crying, self care at its worst along with other things. So the cycle continued, a family member figured it was my antidepressants that might be causing it like they have done in the past, so I stopped taking them.

This was horrible; I stopped eating, struggled with the simplest of tasks and I started to dissociatate more to the point where it was impacting everything I did. This lead to my eating disorder team during a supported lunch to phone the Intensive team to see about getting me admitted which happened after waiting for 6 hours for a bed. I was kept in for a few days till I discharged myself because I felt it wasn’t helping and was to restrictive.

Back at home this week I’ve started to think more and more about how I’ve been treated by the intensive team and the primary care, they should of seen what was happening, acted on what I was saying (I had some insight) and after my section 136, offered the right level of support and not what they done above. The past couple of days I’ve been exhausted, stressed to the point where I’m getting ill by it all, crying about it, shutting down as a way of coping and over thinking it all, could I have changed things? No I couldn’t, but now what’s happened has distoryed my trust in the services to the point where I don’t want to engage with them again (well apart from my ED team). This fallout will continue for a while till I can learn to cope with it and recover.

They sent a survey to me and my family about the care I received, let’s just say it was very very low and I wrote a letter on the back that I hope they read (Dear Crisis Team)

Till then I am just surviving and that is about all there, is to it.

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OCD

OCD is quite a odd subject for me, I’ve never really acknowledged it or really talked about it to people in case they thought I was odd or just making things up.

It wasn’t till the other week when a few people were tweeting about it that I joined in and spoke about some things I did, and how it effects my everyday life. For me my compulsotions get worse when I’m being more and more ill and my mind relaxes a bit when I become more stable.

My main thing is about numbers, and that’s even numbers. Everything I do is based around that, from the number of drinks I have, buying food, how many times I check the door when locking up, how many steps I take, how steps and even right down to how many tea bags I use to make my tea with.

If I don’t get a even number then there’s that overly nagging thought that something bad is going to happen or has happened and it grows and grows to I deal with it by making it up to that even number, it’s all quite hard to explain even putting it down to writtening.

To family living with me, they think it’s just me being ‘quirky’, nothing I do anymore surprises them (joys of mental illness) but to others it’s ‘that’s quite weird’ but I guess it’s something to live with and to try and come with.

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