My Road to Recovery

Having an eating disorder leads you into a different world, dark, self-absorbed and narrow. I found that I lost focus of the real world and didn’t (or couldn’t) see what was around me whether it be people, places, or family. My eating disorder became apparent while I was at university. It was there before but I didn’t realise it, it happens gradually to begin with and then when you realise what is happening it is to late.

At my worst and before I knew it I was living on less than 100 calories a day, visiting the gym twice a day. Every single calorie that passed my lips had to be accounted for. I say I was living but I wasn’t I was existing. 

I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t seem to get out of. I’d lose weight to the point where I couldn’t take anymore, i’d get some help and reintroduce food until my weight was approaching healthy and then I would panic and lose weight again, the cycle would then begin again. My problem was that I was trying to recover on my own in my own surroundings but I wasn’t strong enough. I was so absorbed in the illness and the deceit that it brought that I would pretend I was eating and not exercising, telling the professionals what I thought they wanted to hear. As I lost weight my mood became affected, I slipped further and further into depression that I could see no way out. I wanted it to end, I wanted the constant battle in my head to stop. And I almost got my wish. Anorexia nearly killed me.

Reaching rock bottom made me see that I did need help and more importantly that I wanted help but the only way I could get the right help was by being in hospital. Two days after this realisation I arrived at an inpatient unit in Warwick with my suitcase and terrified by what I was doing. 

It was a completely different world, routine, structure and a place where all possible control was taken away at the door. Knowing I had to eat and couldn’t exercise made my panic because it was what I was most scared of, or so I thought. Waking up and not having to go to the gym for hours was actually a relief. I was physically and mentally exhausted. 

I won’t lie, I hated every second of inpatient treatment but looking back it was the best decision I have ever made.
I may not be fully recovered because I don’t think that actually exists but I am so far down the road to recovery that I am finding peace with myself, I’m doing things I never thought possible and I’m finally living my life. I think that someone will always have the eating disorder within them and I’ll be tested at challenging times in my life but I’m recovered and recovering and I will continue to work hard every day because I never want to be in that place. I have freedom, I have a family and I’m in a happy relationship. I have everything to live for.

Inpatient treatment and therapy took me back to basics, learning to eat again, learn to like my body and develop a healthy relationship with food. I soon learnt that eating disorders are not about food or weight they develop as a way to show that you are struggling. I was struggling with something that stems right back to childhood. En eating disorder comes from a need to control something when all other areas in your life are out of control.

Since leaving hospital and getting to such a great place I have been writing a recovery blog ThisIsMeRecovery. I wanted to do this to help people who are struggling with eating disorders, sharing my experience and journey and how I got to where I am. 

If you are really struggling and you are given the option of an inpatient treatment please go for it. I know I wouldn’t be here today to tell my recovery story if I hadn’t have got intervention when I did. Recovery is possible, you just have to decide that enough is enough, you need to be ready and want recovery. You need to work hard and trust the process because it works.
Mx

My Road to Recovery

A Letter To My Younger self

If you had to write a letter to ‘your younger self’ what would you say? I was asked this question and it really got me thinking. This is such a valuable thing to do.

My letter to my younger self:

Hey there little one,

You probably don’t recognise me now. You won’t recognise me for the happy, healthy person that you see before you. I write you this letter looking back at the quiet shy little girl who was hiding in her own shadow. I just want to take you in my arms and reassure you that you will get through this. You will get through this and come out of the other side a better person.

Things were difficult for you, I can see that now. I can see how you were struggling with so many things, so many thoughts going around in that little mind of yours. You were carrying the world on your shoulders and no one could see your struggle. No one could see the pain in your eyes, the regret in your heart and the damage that was done. No one could see that you were about to hit the self-destruct button. 

Looking back I can see the torture you were going through. I understand why you did what you did, I understand where your eating disorder came from and I know you always asked yourself ‘why me’ ‘why is this happening to me’ but I’m afraid that bad things happen to good people. You were a good person, and I’m telling you this now because I know you never believe that. Somehow you thought you deserved this, for not speaking out and getting the help that you so needed and deserved.

I’m sorry for what you went through, I’m sorry for how I treated you. You should never have gone through this alone.

You have been on quite a journey- a journey that however hard has taught you so much. A journey that will continue to teach you and show you who you truly are.

When you get to uni try and enjoy it- it’s meant to be the best years of your life. I want you to find the work life balance. You can never have too many friends. These people that you will be spending all of your time with will be friends for life, you are going to need to keep them close, you will need them one day. Go out with them, socialise, get drunk and spend your Saturday’s hungover and eating pizza on the sofa. Whatever you do do not isolate yourself, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and work 24/7. You can only do your best, and your best is more than good enough. Uni should be the best years of your life, make memories that you can look back on and smile.

When your struggling remember it is ok to ask for help. You are going to need help along the way and that’s ok. You need to be open and honest with those who care about you and any professionals that want to help you. Don’t resist help. When treatment is offered to you I want you to promise me that you will take it- jump at the opportunity and don’t let go. You are going to need treatment to get better and the sooner you get it the easier your life will be. The sooner you start down your road to recovery the more of your life you will have to live. You will soon realise just how precious your life is, don’t waste it punishing yourself. Don’t waste it punishing yourself for something that isn’t your fault. Take the help and start to work through recovery. Your uni course can wait- there is no pressure to finish your degree, your health comes first.

Forgiveness, this is something that you find difficult but you need to forgive yourself, no one blames you for this. You just experienced something no-one should ever have to and as a child you were given too much responsibility. You had to grow up long before your time but that isn’t your fault and wasn’t your choice. I know you blame yourself for keeping it all in, suppressing your feelings and trying to protect everyone around you but that wasn’t your job then and it isn’t now. You were the child, you are the teenager and you are not responsible for other people. They can and will look after themselves. I know you have done all you can to protect them but you are destroying yourself in the process. Forgive yourself for not getting the help when you needed it and stop blaming yourself. Stop feeling guilty.

You struggle to express your emotions but I want you to remember that it’s healthy and normal to be angry. Feeling anger does not make you a bad person, people wont judge you. It’s important to express anger when you feel it, you have been bottling up your emotions and deep down in the mix you do feel a lot of anger, you just don’t allow yourself to really feel it because it’s uncomfortable. Your allowed to. Considering the circumstances you have every right to feel anger, the sooner you let yourself feel this without the guilt that comes with it the healthier you will be. 

You are going to experience a sense of deep loss, it will feel like grief and it will hurt as you let go of all that you have known. But grief is a process, at first you will be in denial but this is where you must listen to me. This is really happening, there is no denying it. You are seriously ill and the sooner you accept that the sooner you will be ready to get help. Loss is a horrible feeling but it is just that, a feeling that you will overcome. Grief gets better with time. Give yourself time.

Most importantly of all I want you to remember just how loved you are. You are about to embark on the biggest journey of your life and there will be dark times ahead of you, times where you feel like giving up and wanting to end it all, but if you listen to my letter to you you will get through it. 

You will discover the real you and that is going to be such an exciting time. The eating disorder has taken over your life, sucking the life out of you and leaving you the shell of the person that you were. The person you see before you has been pushed and pulled and shaped by the eating disorder, it’s not real. You are about to discover the real you, you will find new hobbies and interests and make so many new friends. Enjoy this process. You will look back in years to come and see just what you have overcome, there is hope. Be strong. Life is waiting for you.
Mx 

What would you say to your younger self? Have a go 🙂 

A Letter To My Younger self

How can we stop ‘pro-ana’?

I’m a complete believer that everyone has a right to their own opinion however I saw something today which bothered me. I’m mentioning no names and I never will but I came across this.   
Now I am in a great place and a position where this won’t affect me. I can turn a blind eye and shrug it off, however this kind of image can be extremely triggering to so many people who are suffering in the grips of an eating disorder. It also got me thinking, my niece is at the age where she can use a computer and she can read. I would be absolutely horrified if she came across this.

1. You do not need to be skinny to be attractive. Whether you are attractive is completely subjective meaning there is no set guidelines on who is attractive, it’s people who judge this for themselves. Kelly brook is not skinny but she is considered one of the most attractive females ever. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

2. Being thin is not more important than being healthy! Being thin nearly killed me. What good would that have done me? It’s better to be healthy and alive than so thin that your organs begin to fail. Being so thin your skin looks gaunt and grey is not attractive- I’ve been there and seen the pictures! It’s NOT pretty.

3. I still struggle with clothes however I wouldn’t buy something intentionally to look thinner, but buy clothes that make you comfortable. If you take laxatives to lose weight, it won’t work. You will become dependant on them and damage your insides. Running to the toilet every 30 minutes isn’t attractive is it? 

4. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating. Everyone is allowed to look after their bodies and give it the fuel it needs. Eating a healthy diet will make your skin and hair in perfect condition. If you start to restrict then you will lose weight but only for so long. There will come a point where your body will say enough is enough and you will end up binging. This is not only unattractive but also emotionally heartbreaking.

5. You do not need to punish yourself for eating fattening foods. Foods do not belong to a certain category and by eating everything in moderation you will not put on weight or be unhealthy. Punishing your body will fuel the self-hate and keep you stuck in a cycle. 

6. Do not count calories with the intention of restricting. Eating 3 meals a day and a couple of snacks will keep you within the recommended daily intake. As soon as you start counting calories it quickly becomes a habit. A habit that is all consuming. A habit that is dangerous. 

7. What the scales say is the least important thing. So unimportant that you don’t need to weigh yourself. There are so many factors that affect your weight, what time of day it is, what time of the month it is, what you ate for dinner the night before and how much you have exercised. The scales also don’t tell you how much is fat and what is muscle. Muscle is denser and therefore heavier than fat. Did you know some athletes who are pure muscle are ranked obese if they weight themselves and use BMI

8. Do not attribute weight loss and gain as good and bad

9. You can be too thin. When your organs are no longer protected, your periods stop because your body is shutting down and you have so little energy you can’t function- then you are too thin.

10. Being thin and not eating are not true signs of power and success. These two things show you are controlled by an eating disorder- breaking this and beginning to recover shows true power. Feeding yourself and looking after yourself enough to go out and achieve your dreams and goals is true success.

11. Ana is not a lifestyle it is a disease. A deadly disease. Ana is not a lifestyle when it is shortening your life. 

From someone who has suffered with anorexia I do understand where these ‘rules’ come from however I learnt how wrong they are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions however I disagree that posts like this should be so freely accessible online, people stumbling across this could fall into the dark and dangerous hole of an eating disorder.

Mx

How can we stop ‘pro-ana’?

Taking A Chance

A couple of years ago I was offered inpatient treatment. It was strongly advised that I admit myself into an eating disorder unit and when I refused I was almost sectioned. I don’t quite know how I avoided it. The papers were as good as signed but I talked the talk and escaped that route. That’s not important, what was was my reason for not wanting the treatment. I think a lot of people will be thinking and feeling the same. 

I had a good job that I enjoyed. It wasn’t where I wanted to be long-term but it was a full time, stable job. Knowing I would need hospitalisation scared me anyway but I wasn’t willing to leave work. Ironic as it was I was still signed off for 2 months. But the job was still waiting for me. I got a little better, or my weight increased anyway but I never dealt with anything, I was eating as a means to an end. 

I should have known a relapse was inevitable. 

As career progression I decided to leave my job and pursue my first HR role. This was where I wanted my career to go and it felt like a fresh start. It wasn’t a fresh start at all, I was running away. 6 months in and anorexia showed her face with a vengeance. I had never recovered, I wasn’t better and it wasn’t going to just go away. In my mind a change in surroundings was the answer and would allow me to have that fresh start. In my head and heart I knew I needed treatment but I was terrified of leaving work. I was worried what my family would think, how my boyfriend would react, how the bills would get paid and throughout my treatment I was scared to death about having a career gap on my Cv, especially a 12 month gap. 
I was faced with so many questions

– How would I explain it to anyone

– Who would employ someone with a break in their cv that lasted a whole year and because of medical reasons?

– How could I answer questions in an interview around illness affecting my work performance, because it did.

– What would happen when a reference was requested and my old employee said I had time off due to illness

– How would I ever get back to a normal life working full time?

I know I did the strong thing. I took the situation into my own hands, I wanted to recover so that I could pursue a successful career. I couldn’t carry on starting to recover and then relapsing worse than before. I couldn’t put my already fragile body and mind through that.

There will be challenges and your CV will be challenged, you have nothing to hide. I recently had an interview with a company I instantly felt passionate towards, a job that will be rewarding and challenging but a really great job that I can continue to build my career in. The application process involved a medical disclosure. I could have lied and ticked all the ‘no’ boxes. But did I want that? The eating disorder made me into a different person, a secretive person who would lie and manipulate. Did I really want to potentially start a new job with this huge lie hanging over me? Obviously the answer is no. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to hide the illness but not anymore. I’m no longer ashamed and embarrassed that I was ill. I know it wasn’t my fault and can happen to anyone. Needless to say by being honest and writing what I had been through on my application, I was so surprised when I received a call offering me an interview.

During my interview I brought up the subject of my health because I wanted to be open and honest from the start. I felt so much better for being truthful and I know that it was appreciated. Recovering from an eating disorder requires huge strength, will power, dedication and hard work.

 It is a full time job.

Whether I was successful in the interview is irrelevant. What is important is that you are brave enough to put yourself out there, admit you were unwell but owning that part of your life. 

Whether you are successful or not, just tell yourself what I did. If I am being turned down because I suffered from an eating disorder then I wouldn’t want to work for a company like that anyway.

My tips to interviews and career gaps: 

1. Be honest

2. Be proud of how far your have come

3. Don’t hold back from a job because you don’t think you are good enough

4. Don’t try and justify your illness – you don’t have to explain yourself, you haven’t done anything wrong

5. Don’t try and second guess what the employer is thinking

6. Be yourself – let your personality show

7. Practice answering a difficult question such as ‘why were you out of work’ so you don’t get flustered

8. Remember the interviewer is human to

9. Believe in yourself 

10. Be positive!

For the record I was successful and I was offered the job. I can’t wait to start with my new company. This is a chance for me, a chance to move on. This truly is a fresh start. I’m not running away from anything this time or trying to change my surroundings to make me better. I faced my demons head on and I’m so excited to see where this journey leads me.

Be brave, you will surprise yourself.

  

M x

Taking A Chance

Gratitude Week5&6

  

Something someone gave me
Here it would be quite easy to pick an actual gift, something material that I love. However last year I was given something else that I am truly grateful for.

When I was admitted into hospital my sister dropped me off and as I gave her a huge hug to say goodbye (with the silent plead not to leave me here) she handed me a letter. I’m not going to share the letter but it showed me just how loved I am and also how proud her and my family are. This letter made me cry and was painful to read as it confirmed that I was going to be in hospital a long time, and also it was going to be the hardest thing I ever did. But I kept this letter, and every time I was struggling or wanting to give up I would get it out and read it. My sister was my rock and this letter meant the world to me. I still have it tucked away in a safe place, I haven’t had to read it for a while but if I do I know exactly where to find it.

It’s not the expensive, material ‘things’ that matter, it’s the sentimental ones that really stay with you.

Without that letter my recovery would have been even harder.

The city you live in

I actually always used to be jealous of people living in London or Manchester. I thought that a big city would be cool to grow up in and live in. But that was before I discovered running, cycling and walking. I have come to love where I live, not quite a city but ‘Warwickshire’ and its surrounding areas are where I know I want to be. I have discovered some amazing places, parks I never knew existed. The biggest eye-opener for me was Draycote Water. It’s just up the road and it’s beautiful. When I am there I feel like I’m on holiday! 
  
I’m grateful for where I live because it is quiet with lots of peaceful places.

We are all to quick to wish we lived somewhere else but once you start exploring you will see there are whole new areas that you didn’t know existed! 
Mx

Gratitude Week5&6

Stamp Out The Stigma

This month is National Eating Disorder Awareness month. More specifically 21st-27th of February. It’s time to stamp out the stigma of mental health and give it the attention, education and understanding that it needs. There are many recognised mental health illnesses that seem to be accepted as an illness but personally I don’t think Eating Disorders are received so well.
The goal of NEDA week is to put the spotlight on just how serious Eating Disorders are. 

Stamp out the Stigma

As someone who has been through the pain and suffering of an Eating Disorder and also seeing friends suffer I am well aware of the stigma attached. “Just eat” and “it’s just a phase” or “you look better, you’ve put on weight” are common misconceptions of what an Eating Disorder is and highlights exactly what is wrong with society and its attitude. It all boils down to a lack of understanding.

It’s a complicated illness – it’s not about weight and it’s definitely not about food so I can see where the confusion lies. If I were to ask 10 people on the street the question “What is an Eating Disorder?” I would put money on at the very least 9 people telling me it’s when someone doesn’t want to eat and loses lots of weight or wants to be thin. On the outside looking in that is exactly what an Eating Disorder is but it’s not. Not eating and losing weight is not an Eating Disorder- it is the outcome and consequence of the eating disorder.

Educating Society

What is an Eating Disorder? 

It is a psychological illness. It is a way of coping and feeling in control when everything else in life feels out of control. An Eating Disorder or preoccupation with weight loss acts as a mask of what is really going on. A person suffering from an Eating Disorder often struggles to show emotions and feelings, instead of dealing with these emotions because they are to difficult to contemplate they are pushed away and weight may become the new focus. By shifting focus the sufferer doesn’t need to deal with what is really happening inside. Weight and food are often focused on because they are something that can be controlled. You can control exactly what you eat and you can control your weight because of this. Eating Disorders may stem from wanting to feel better about yourself, that’s when people begin to exercise and lose weight. Before long they have found something they can do, something they are good at. This temporarily improves esteem and mood but it’s never good enough- that’s when the Eating Disorder has taken over.

What Eating Disorders LOOK like:
– desire to lose weight

– diets or diets gone wrong

– a phase

– someone being difficult

– attention seeking

What Eating Disorders are ACTUALLY about:

– self-hate

– inability to deal or express emotions

– being a perfectionist but never feeling good enough

– feeling out of control but trying your hardest to gain control

– self-destruction

– mental and physical pain

– poor self-esteem

– feeling unworthy and inadequate

Why is awareness to important?

I mentioned self- destruct because ultimately this is what is happening. When going through an Eating Disorder the sufferer knows they are destroying themselves but they can’t stop, they are too far into the illness to make the changes and this is why medical intervention is so important. If you can recognise the signs early on you can help prevent the downward spiral that happens so quickly. This is where my first list comes in. If you see this then more often than not someone will be internally struggling with an Eating Disorder. NEDA week is all about spotting the signs and showing how important treatment is.

The more people understand Eating Disorders and stop ignoring them hoping they will go away the more chance there is of helping the individual. Mental health issues don’t just go away, people don’t just start eating again, mental health issues ante real and need work and support and time.

If you have learnt one thing from this blog then it has served its purpose.

  Please read and share my blog, help National Eating Disorder Awareness continue to educate people and dispel the myths of any eating disorder. Awareness isn’t a cure but early intervention may save someone’s life.

M x

Stamp Out The Stigma

What are you going to START for Lent? 

What are you going to START for Lent? 
I can’t believe it’s that time of year again. Pancake day is just around the corner and so that means Lent will soon begin! Thousands of people will be giving something up on Wednesday 10th February. Some may be doing it for fun, others to prove a point and many for religion.

I’ve done the giving up chocolate for Lent every year since I don’t know when. I did it for the wrong reasons, as a way to deprive myself and lose weight. So this year as part of recovery rather than depriving myself or restricting myself of something I have put a spin on the typical idea of Lent. This year instead of giving something up I wanted to take something on. 

I am going to start finding one positive thing in every day. Sometimes I feel that life is so busy, with work and jobs that need to be done that we don’t have time to reflect. We are quick to notice and complain about everything that hasn’t gone well in the day that we fail to see everything that was right. This links in to mindfulness and the work I have started doing on this. 

Every day I will be finding the positives in my day. 

I will also do doing some form of writing each day throughout Lent, whether this be a blog post or working on my book

What are you going to START for lent?

M x

  

What are you going to START for Lent?