Giving the silent illness a voice

With Eating Disorder Awareness Week taking place next week 27th – 5th March it’s a little reminder just how crucial awareness of this ‘silent’ illness is. Eating disorders are a very secretive illness. Using myself as an example, to begin with I looked fine, my favourite phrase was ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m ok’ and I acted fine and my behaviour was fine. On the outside everything was OK. As the illness progresses it begins to take its toll and it’s clear to people around you that you are not indeed ‘fine’ but by this point it’s too late, the damage is done, the thoughts and feelings are ingrained and have taken deep root. These thoughts and feelings are no longer thoughts and feelings but they are the truth, they are fact and you believe them. Belief is the key here. If you believe something to be true then no matter what your friends or family or the doctors say to you, you won’t believe them. You know the truth. Everyone else is lying to you. That’s when the paranoia begins, everyone and everything is against you, you feel on edge when you walk in to the room and everyone goes quiet… or worse overly chatty. Clearly everyone was talking about you. Against you. This is when you no longer look fine, your behaviour speaks volumes but it’s too late. This is the point where people may try to help you, where you are forced to see a doctor. I did exactly that and only agreed to see a doctor to make my family happy and stop them worrying. I didn’t see the problem and didn’t think I was poorly enough to get help. When it slowly clicked I was terrified but I felt like it was too late. I wished that I’d seen the problem at the very beginning so that I could have received the help I needed before things got too bad but I didn’t. No-one noticed the signs and that’s because I was so good at hiding it, I had all of the excuses, all of the lies and I manipulated. No-one knew what was going on and why should they? Eating disorders were not talked about so freely and so how could anyone have noticed the signs so early on when I was fighting so hard to keep it hidden.

Awareness of eating disorders is so so important and by people talking about mental health and understanding the early warning signs better places family and friends to make the intervention. It’s sad but true that this lies with family and friends because your loved one cannot be trusted to help themselves, that is not the nature of an eating disorder. 

Recovery from an eating disorder is not a quick fix, you don’t get help and then you are better again, it takes years of hard work and in many cases you never fully recover BUT the sooner you get support and the treatment needed the sooner you can stop the downward spiral and begin working towards recovery. 

Whether it’s the beginning of an eating disorder or a third or forth relapse getting help quickly is the most important thing.

I’m no professional but from personal experiences I have identified the early warning signs. If a handful of people are reading this and take something you never know when or if you might need it.

Early warning signs, to name a few:

Preoccupation with food:

  • having ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • having a list of ‘safe’ foods
  • eliminating entire food groups
  • extreme interest in what others are eating
  • feeding other people 

Comments and thoughts around   weight, weighing themselves more frequently and a desire for the number to go down


Looking in the mirror more often than normal and touching or pinching body parts. 

If these phrases become part of your day to day conversations:

“I have already eaten”, ” I’ll eat later”, “I’m not hungry” “I don’t like that anymore” ” I had a big lunch”

Hiding food and throwing it away

Exercising obsessively with the intention of burning calories


Fixation on counting calories and numbers, checking food labels or knowing the calorie content in almost every food

Supermarket shops become painful, time consuming and stressful

Spending more time on the internet looking at diet sites and forums 

Anxiety and depression

Having a few outfits that are worn and washed constantly and only feeling comfortable in these. They tend to be loose fitting

Becoming defensive and snappy and angry with intense mood swings. Becoming angry for what seems like no reason and then being tearful the next.

Rigid eating behaviours:

  • using a certain bowl or spoon
  • cutting food into tiny pieces 
  • chewing a certain number of times
  • not letting foods touch

Avoiding social situations or being socially awkward and withdrawing and becoming isolated

Being cold and tired all the time

The more we talk and read about eating disorders the greater awareness there will be, with more people getting the help that they need. Eating disorders are silent… we need to give them a voice, we need to make them loud.
M x 

Giving the silent illness a voice

The most difficult time of the year

“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year”

It’s that time of year again, where most people are busy planning all of the festive parties they will be attending, drinks nights, work parties and the ultimate family get together over a big Christmas lunch. For most this is what Christmas is all about, this is what we wait for all year. But for someone suffering with an eating disorder this is the most difficult time of the year

I’m lucky, for the first time in 10 years I can fit back in to the majority, I’m looking forward to my work Christmas party and all the family time that is fast approaching but until now it’s been a very different story.

I’m writing this, not to look at how far I have come but to offer support, understanding and advice to everyone I know (and don’t know) who will be dreading this time of year like I was. 
For someone in the grips of an eating disorder or someone who is on the road to recovery or even those who consider themselves recovered Christmas is still a big deal. Although an AMAZING time of the year it is still hard. For me it’s an emotional time on different levels, I get emotional thinking about how lucky I am to be here and appreciating my amazing family. I get emotional thinking about all of the wasted Christmases where I have just dreaded the lead up and been a panicky mess on the day through to the deep regret and guilt of ruining the day for the ones I love. Christmas is a big deal and can and will trigger anxieties around food and drink but what you need to remember is that it is just one day. 
Christmas is an occasion to spend time with family and friends and yes there happens to be lots of food around but treat this as a normal day. You still need to give yourself permission to eat just like recovery teaches you. Looking back over past Christmases I can see that my anxieties around the day and the lead up were bigger than the food itself. The more I thought about what I would and wouldn’t eat the bigger the food became. My downfall was the amount I was catastrophizing every situation.
Sometimes it is easier to keep your feelings to yourself and struggle through the day so that other people don’t worry about you and you are not a burden on others but from experience your family will know that you are struggling and they are there to help you and talk about it. You shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

I’m no expert and I’m not a qualified professional but from personal experience I want to share my tips for surviving the Christmas period with an eating disorder.
1. Reassure yourself that it is ok, you are allowed to enjoy yourself and you are allowed to eat.
2. Spend time with your family and get involved with what’s happening around you. It may be difficult but try not to distance yourself. Feeling like an outsider looking in will increase the negative feelings.
3. Talk talk talk. Talk about your anxieties, tell your family how you are feeling and inform them on how they can help make the day easier for you.
4. Remind yourself it is just a normal day
5. Have a meal plan that you have made before the big day, that way you won’t be faced with decisions that heighten your anxiety. 
6. Play games and take your mind off the negativity
7. Remember that this isn’t really about food, remember to look deeper at what is really going on. Try to journal and explore where the feelings are coming from and what the thoughts of food are actually distracting you from 

If you are reading this because you want to support a loved one with an eating disorder then please remember…
1. It’s not their fault and there is no blame


2. Be supportive and encouraging but do not watch their every move


3. Don’t make unnecessary comments over food or monitor the amount that they are eating
4. Never make someone feel as if they are letting you down or being difficult
5. Help take their mind off things with conversations that are not focused on food
6. Don’t talk about how much you have eaten or that you feel ‘fat’. These kinds of comments make it very hard for a sufferer to eat the foods they consider bad
Remember, this can be just as hard for you as it is for someone suffering with an eating disorder. It can be frustrating and upsetting but the most you can do is be supportive and let your loved one know you are there without coming across as the food police! 
Christmas is a family time, don’t let your eating disorder take away anymore valuable time, it’s taken enough.
M x 

The most difficult time of the year

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’?

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

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! 

You may have noticed that I have been quiet for a little while, but I’m back and ready for some serious blogging in 2016!

Who else reflects on their year on New Years Day? I do, I like to look back and see what has gone well and what I would like to change.

What can I say, it’s been a challenging year to say the least! However although I spent most of it in hospital recovering from anorexia, I’m so glad I did. It was awful, painful, I hated every single day and was desperate to leave but I stuck it out. Somehow I had it in me to see the treatment through. I can now be proud of how far I have come. Not only have I set myself on the road to recovery I have also set myself up to entering 2016 strong and healthy. I’m one for New Years resolutions, well setting them at least! Every year for around 6 years I’ve sent that New Year’s Eve text apologising to my family for what I’ve put them through and promising next year will be different. It never was. I was saying and promising what I thought everyone wanted to hear. On 31st December 2014 I made the same promise. This time I stuck to it, I got help and last night when I made that same promise, that next year will be different I can be confident that it will, because I’ve already taken the steps I need to fulfill that promise. I’m in such a good place compared to what I was that I’m entering 2016 feeling strong and healthy. This year my goal isn’t to survive the year as it was last year but I have so much more I want to achieve. My goal isn’t to learn how to eat properly again, isn’t learning to feed myself or tolerate myself, it’s not purely existing but to run my first half marathon and then my second and third for charity. This time last year I could only of dreamed of being able to do that.
I have big hopes for 2016, I can’t wait to be the best I can be, focusing on my career, my little business venture, starting my new role as a running leader, running my half marathons, being the kind of daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend that my family deserves. Recovery is still very important to me and I will be working on this everyday, making sure that everything I do is having a positive effect on me, building my confidence and making me as happy as I can be.

I’ve got big dreams and I can’t wait to see where this year takes me!!

Happy New Year to you all, remember recovery is possible. I’m always here to give advice and share my experiences with you so please just ask.

Let’s raise a glass (of prosecco, not water this year 😉 ) to a healthy year.

M x

  

Happy New Year