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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#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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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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My experience with Anorexia: Trigger Warning

I am forever engaged in a silent battle in my head over whether or not to lift the fork to my mouth, and when I talk myself into doing so, I taste only shame. I have an eating disorder.

11 years now I’ve been in a off and on again battle with Anorexia, periods of recovery and then relapse. Something I never really talked about till now so here’s a long post about my battle…

All started when I was 13, started as a control thing, my parents controlled everything I did and controlling what I ate was my part of gaining some control but as things like this go it quickly spirals into a deadly cycle of restricting, binging, lying and hiding from the truth.

I quickly lost weight (I’m quite a skinny person anyhows), I gained prise from friends, cousins asked me how I did it, people I knew commented about how I looked; parents and teachers didn’t batter a eyelid, encouraged by all this I kept going. Ana took hold. The cycle I mentioned took hold.

Skipping breakfast, rushing out, cycling the 5 miles to and from the school, pacing the corridors to burn off kcals I did guiltily eat at lunch and then cycling back home and then trying to skip dinner or have very little only to binge at night, I emptied the cupboards, fruit bowls anything I could get my hands on to stop that voice. Only to be filled with disgust once I stopped. So the cycle continued

Fast forward six months I was at one of my lowest weights, somehow I started challenging ana, slowly fighting back seeking recovery, I never told anyone but I think some knew.

A year and a bit later at the age of 15, I was healthy, happy, at a safe weight only at times going into old habits.

At 17, I sunk back into the world of ana, but this time was different. I was manic, high as a kite, loving life, hardly sleeping, who needs to eat? Eating wastes time , time I need to use so I can complete my mission, I kept thinking to myself so the cycle began again. This time people started saying that I was anorexic.

The days became nights, nights became days, I was racing sinking deeper and deeper into anorexia and mania again, that voice of ana becoming stronger and stronger taking over my life and a little bit later I crashed, into a crippling depression. Not moving, guilty about eating, being repulsed by the fat on my body. After a few weeks I tried to take my own life, I failed thankfully, admitted to a mental health hospital. Told I was anorexic (formal this time, not just people saying it), bipolar (along with BPD just to make things more interesting) In there I once again recovered to a point with my anorexia. Discharged I continued my life, working, seeing people, studying and sadly the odd restriction and binge (mainly to remind my self that I have control)

Now it’s 2014, 8 years later from then; I’m 24 and relapsed back into that horrible cycle of restricting, binging, the guilt of eating, the fear of gaining, the obsession of counting everything I’ve ate. This time it was picked up on a review, I was referred to a eating disorder clinic. For the first time in my life I’m getting specialised support and treatment for my disorder. So far so good, I still have the cycle but it’s becoming more and more controlled, I’ve stopped certain behaivers and now using coping methods to control thoughts (mindfullness and ice diving are great)

Now with the right support I can beat this demon once and for all, but a small part of me knows that it will always be with me, lurking in the background, waiting for that moment.

A quote I like to use at times is ‘recovery is a choice, and everyday, every moment I have to make that choice’ will I choose recovery? Fuck yes I will

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Living with the lies

Today I was going though some old email accounts and come across some emails from a very old blog I used to write. This was full of posts when I was at my worse in terms of my mental health and also with anorexia and listed things such as poor care, sections I was on, the move between camhs to adult services and also poems (used to be quite a poet till I gave up).

So while having a good read down memory line I saw this under a post called ‘living with the lies’

I don’t know why I do it, but I do. I have this unhealthy obsession with pretending to people that my life is trundling along with absolutely no problems and everything is fantastic when in actual fact it’s falling apart very rapidly and is being held in place by the tiniest of tiniest of threads which can come undone at any time because of the smallest thing, and today I think its happened

It got me thinking, during that time I was very ill and not at that point of asking for help so I pretended everything was okey, I still do have that obsession at times where I do say I have no problems, everything is fantastic when everything is really going wrong but over time I have improved on that, instead of all the time, I do now ask for help if I need it.

BUT

All it takes is that one trigger, that one thread to come undone and everything comes apart.

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