#TalkingAboutIt: Getting Real

It’s been a long year, for various reasons, and I’ve let this blogging thing go so far to the back of my mind. I haven’t for the most part felt capable of sharing things publicly, especially as I’m beginning a new life journey and trying to remove myself from much of the past.

What I’m going to share is tough. This year hasn’t really been so great (although it has had wonderful moments and blessings). I’ve been unwell for a long time, and I’ve fallen back into a habit of masking my struggles from everyone around me. One day I will learn that gets me nowhere.

Today, the lovely GP at my university’s medical centre put through my referral to the specialist eating disorder service here in Salford. While many of my fellow Freshers will be out enjoying free food and copious amounts of alcohol, I will be finding the time to fit outpatient treatment around lectures and deadlines.

I’m lucky. I have a support system I can rely on, I have friends and family and church, I have passions that keep me going. But I am also so broken, and it’s simply going to take time and work to undo that.

A long time ago I set out to be transparent, to showcase a life, raw and unfiltered so people might gain insight into living with mental illness. I wanted to use my struggles as an inspiration to others, and I still do.

I haven’t been posting as I didn’t want to inadvertently become a “pro-anorexic” blog, I definitely don’t want to showcase unhealthy behaviours. So if I go quiet for a while, it’s because I’m working through my problems in private and I will make my thoughts public when it’s healthy and appropriate to do so. I want my message to be positive, so while I’ll never deny the difficulties in my life, sometimes it isn’t the appropriate message I want to publish.

I hope to return to this blog soon with some fresh ideas, adventures, and a new realness to share.

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Posted in Diary of a Nervous Girl

Stop Telling People to “Go Eat Something”

I fought with myself hard over writing this, because some might point out that as someone who is openly in relapse of eating disorder I probably aren’t the best to talk. But I want to get a point across, and hopefully some people will hear it.

We need to stop telling skinny people to “go eat something” and calling them “anorexic”.

Anorexia does not equal skinny. 

Skinny does not equal anorexic.

Full stop.

Telling skinny people to quote “eat something” isn’t a show of genuine concern, it is a show of ignorance and prejudice. An assumption that skinny is unhealthy, unnatural, unreal. It helps no one.

For certain it doesn’t help those actually struggling with eating disorder to differentiate their worth from their weight or their deserving of putting fuel into their bodies. 

So why do people keep feeling justified to say it to people?

As a relapsed anorexic, I’m not skinny. Skinny has nothing to do with my illness, control and self-esteem have everything to do with my illness. 

Skinny people exist, in the same way plus sized people exist. Skinny people can be perfectly healthy, just like overweight people can be perfectly healthy.

All too often the body positive movement allows the insinuation that skinny people are the figment of photoshopped magazine covers and starving models. Far too often.

No body type is any more or less real; more or less valid; more or less healthy. 

If you are genuinely concerned about someone having an eating disorder then visit B-Eat (UK) or NEDA (US). Educate yourself, recognise the real signs (wearing baggy clothes, increased sensitivity to cold, changes in breathe smell, fuzzy tongue, etc. – all of which go far beyond weight and size). Be supportive, don’t tell someone to “eat a hamburger”, tell them they’re beautiful no matter what. People with eating disorders know that eating something is a healthy and normal thing to do, we don’t need the reminder. What we don’t see in our illness is that we are beautiful and loved no matter what. That’s what we need reminding of.

Posted in Diary of a Nervous Girl

What Having (Clinical) Depression and Anxiety (Disorder) is REALLY Like

I haven’t posted since Easter (like 2 months ago), and I’ve felt I needed to but I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to say or what I felt safe to say.

Going into this blog I never experienced it to be easy. I was mute for 15 years (all of my childhood). Putting my words, even just written words, out in the public forum was never going to be the safest thing. Yet I knew I wanted to be an open book in the off chance my own story helped a single person who is struggling with mental illness. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised, I’ve had amazing feedback from my posts and have been able to share my story in national media. But there are still many times when it feels too unsafe to post what I want to say on here. More because of my anxiety disorder (and the irrational thinking it creates), but also because I’ve talked to people about such things in real life and not had a supportive and safe experience of it (one of many reasons I was mute most of my life).

Anyway, after mulling over whether to say anything at all as well as what overall message I want this blog to have, I came to the conclusion that regardless of what people reading this think I need to feel capable of being real and communicating what’s going on inside my head. If I don’t have that capability then it’s majorly unhealthy and harmful for me.

This post isn’t what I was planning to write, it was a reaction to something currently affecting me. The title draws on the many articles from magazines and social media that claim to give insight into the reality of “depression” and “anxiety”, but rarely depict the true illnesses and instead suggest that everybody who experiences some periods of sadness or worry can be lumped under those two medical labels. Those articles really bother me. Not because I think my experience of mental illness is the only true one, I don’t. But I do find they take away the severity, seriousness, and life limiting affect that the medically recognised diagnoses of depression and anxiety. 

Get this straight. All people have periods of sadness, but not all people are depressed. Depression is a medically recognised set diagnostic criteria, where a person experiences unreasonable amount negative emotion or numbness that is not necessarily linked with a negative life event – i.e. Clinical depression is not a response to a bad grade or relationship problem for example, although it heightens negative reactions to such events. 

All people will experience brief periods of worry or nervousness, but that doesn’t mean all people have anxiety. Anxiety is worry that is beyond that which is reasonable in a situation, or which continues to persist after the trigger has gone – i.e. Anxiety is not the same thing as worrying about exams or money or being nervous around people because worry is a reasonable response in those situations, but anxiety in those examples would be having panic attacks during or even at the expectation of such situations. Having an anxiety disorder may mean having panic attacks even without an obvious trigger, and feeling on edge every second of every day, to the point it prevents you from functioning in everyday tasks.

In real research figures; 4 in 10 people meet the recognised criteria for depression, while 1 in 4 have experienced panic attacks. In the age group with the highest rates of mental illness, 18-34 year olds, only 20% had negative mental health whilst 73% of people had average mental health (7% had above average or positive mental health).

I have had severe and persistent anxiety disorder since I was 5 years old. I grew up so anxious that I was physically unable to speak or communicate properly until I was 16. I will get panic attacks over simple things or even plain imagined things. I’m unable to work full time, or live independently without support. I will likely be on medication my entire life. 

Depression and anxiety aren’t labels we should be using as fashion statements. They aren’t cool, or glamorous. Truly they are ugly and life destroying, and given the choice I would not wish them on my worst enemy.

Recovery in Relapse: Mutually Exclusive?

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re taught to view recovery and relapse as opposing ends, and we’re either in one or we’re in the other. But I’m wondering, are the two actually that mutually exclusive? Or can you be recovering even in relapse?

Like I’m just not at the point in my relapse where “normal” eating is going to happen, or where I’d be content at my current weight or even losing the weight slowly. But in terms of recovery I’m still working on the not hating myself, not living in the guilt and shame of my illness, even if I’m not at the point where physical recovery is going to happen yet. I’m still recovering even in the midst of relapse.

I’m not there yet, but one day I will be, and being able to allow recovery and relapse to coexist in the meantime will one day help me cross that line from one (relapse) to the other (full recovery). If I learn to love myself emotionally now I’ll be better placed to love myself physically later. 

Just a thought.
N.B. The featured pic is of my new tattoo (my second 😊), which is the Lovatics heart that fans made for Demi Lovato whilst she was in treatment 7 years ago. It symbolises recovery and above all the love I cannot give myself but I can still receive from those who love me.

Surviving Easter in Relapse

So Easter is the time of chocolate eggs and bunnies right?… nope.

Thankfully my family is pretty much ignorant of Easter festivities, so I’m saved from the bombardment of chocolate that is typical of the holiday. In fact the only chocolate I have is a small Lindt bunny and a bag of Dairy Milk mini eggs from church, small things I can split out over many days rather than one binge. 

Easter happens to fall on a day I normally spend at the gym, which was unfortunately closed due to the holiday. So my weekly routine was slightly upset, but the added bank holiday off work means I can make up for it today. 

Otherwise I’ve managed okay this weekend. Thanks to an early period and chronic sleep deprivation, I was more inclined to nap right through. As is, I allowed myself to celebrate Easter and enjoy a bit of chocolate without going over the edge. Likewise I didn’t push too much the other way in not allowing myself any extra calories at all. I’m averaging out at 800-1000 per day for this week (yes that’s way lower than recommended, hence me not recommending it – I happen to have IBS which means I struggle to digest a lot of food so my calories are permanently lower than average even without an eating disorder to contend with).

That’s how I survived the holiday, now I just need to catch up on a pile of work before I go back on Wednesday.

Photo of my Easter haul
Posted in Diary of a Nervous Girl

#TalkingAboutIt

I’ve been offline for a couple of months. Partly because I came down with a bad virus and wasn’t up to writing anything (although I did draw some stuff that I’ll share later). But if I’m being open, which was the entire point of making this blog, it’s mostly been because I didn’t want to be truthful and I felt that if I faked it then I’d ruin the meaning of this blog and why I post my life online.

So here’s the reality *deep breath*…

I relapsed into eating disorder, worse than my first journey into anorexia 5 years ago. Most people don’t know how bad I was last time because I didn’t actually admit I’d had it until 2 1/2 years ago. Those who have me on Facebook, Insta, or know me in the real world will be vaguely aware of the 2 year struggle towards recovery. The journey of learning to love myself despite the flaws I see, and learning to enjoy food without feeling guilty for eating it. It was a journey that was going great until recently.

On the heels of Christmas and New Year (a horrendous time for anyone with eating disorder, even in recovery), my anxiety disorder kicked off in full force. My coping mechanism has always been to find a channel to put all that anxious energy into. This time that energy found it’s ground in my eating disorder. 

For a while I tried so hard to fight it, but that just made the anxiety worse and very unstable. I was worn out from being on edge all the time fighting against something no one around me could recognise, and in my tiredness I gave up. I allowed my eating disorder to re-establish itself little by little eventually welcoming with open arms as my anxiety stabilised and I began to feel in control. 

That’s where I’m at now. Fully in the grips of an illness I fought I had defeated, and not wanting to let it go. Because when you’ve lived everyday of your life with severe generalised anxiety any peace you find, you hold on to for dear life. In a twisted way this ability to control my eating is giving me peace that countless medications and therapies haven’t. I know it’s wrong but it’s also my truth. I’ve hidden away for too long, afraid to break the image of recovery I had built this blog out of. Afraid to be controversial (because it’s controversial to speak about eating disorders without advocating recovery). Afraid of judgement, of comments, of letting people down.

I need to let people down (don’t you think I know I’m also letting myself down). I need to be controversial because I need to be truthful. The reason this illness is able to hold people in its grip is because we are so afraid of what happens when we talk about it. I need to be honest, as I always set out to be in this blog, so that hopefully the next person struggling will know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be open even if it makes others uncomfortable. Even if you face judgement, or criticism. Because being truthful, being able to trust your troubles with another person is the only way to get help. And getting help is only way to truly recover.

I’m not there yet. I’ll go to bed feeling guilty for what I’ve eaten, I’ll wake up tomorrow determined to eat less to make up for it, and go to bed again hungry. Live, breathe, repeat.

I’m not at the place where recovery is going to become my reality in the foreseeable. But that’s okay. I don’t need to be holding it together to feel safe talking about the world I live with each and every day. I’m not advocating eating disorder. I’m not saying this is an example of how to live. I wouldn’t wish this illness on my worst enemy. 

I’m just learning to feel like I’m allowed to be me. Flaws and all.