Anorexia recovery – Eating, comparison and being brave

Mental Health

For the past few years, I’ve fallen very much, unwillingly, into comparative habits. This can be detrimental in Anorexia Recovery.

If my friends aren’t eating, why should I?

I MUST be greedy.

Why am I eating if the people around me aren’t? So…much…guilt.

It’s a constant turmoil.

I very recently stumbled across a highly informative blog post by Tabitha Farrar, which highlights mutual recovery worries and concerns. Even an incredible podcast, which can be reached here

I’ve found that Eating Disorders have a tendency to possess a competitive nature in an assortment of ways. The constant fixation on what others are doing and saying can be exhausting.

My friends are dieting, does this mean I should?

My Mum hasn’t eaten Lunch, I guess I shouldn’t either.

I understand that I can become preoccupied with what others around me are eating, and I remain positive that I’m not alone in this, but I’m learning to reverse that focus onto myself to assist me in my journey.

My Therapist issued me with advice, in which I’d like to share. Individuals in recovery from Eating Disorders have significantly different needs in comparison to those around us. We need more food to assist the repairing of the bodies we’ve destroyed for prolonged periods. We have distinctively different needs in comparison to others. We’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies struggle to function with minimal nutrition. Our periods end, our organs begin shutting down and we encounter abnormal blood test results. (Note, symptoms vary within individuals!)

Rewind back 4 years ago, my Therapist challenged me to eating in College. To this day, I still struggle immensely with eating away from home, it typically feels disorganised and unnecessary. But I’m working on it. I was tasked with eating a cereal bar. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. My friend informed me that she hadn’t eaten and I simply couldn’t comprehend eating if she hadn’t, because it obviously “wasn’t” important. I had to constantly remind myself that she’d go home and eat, she wouldn’t restrict calories like I would or engage in unhealthy coping techniques.

The food stands as the building blocks essential for regaining our concentration, protecting our organs and obtaining energy. We must focus our energies on recovery and allowing our bodies (And minds) to habituate to increased food quantities.

It’s important to remember that food is our medicine, the key to our mental and physical healing. No two people eat the same. Skipping meals and snacks simply to match up to our peers only encourages the disordered voices whilst ensuring that we remain compacted within our unhealthy coping mechanisms and ways of thinking. Eating doesn’t equate to greed, increasing calories doesn’t highlight excessiveness.

Other people’s eating habits are NOT an invitation for us to alter our own, it’s vital that we work hard and cooperate with our negative and competitive feelings in order to more forward. We all have different eating habits, we eat at different times and enjoy different foods. This isn’t a matter to be ashamed about, diversity is one of life’s many wonderful factors, it keeps us different and unique.

There’s bravery in reaching for a snack or preparing a meal when those around you state how far from hungry they feel or how little they’ve eaten throughout the day. That takes strength and a considerate amount of determination.

I personally struggle to eat if those around me aren’t. I feel extremely reluctant to eat and then become more anxious if it’s gone past a “safe time”. But our bodies aren’t clocks, they appreciate food all-round. It heightens the guilt I feel surrounding eating and the anorexic voice in my head persuades me to give in. I easily feel greedy and insignificant, especially given my lack of hunger cues. But an essential component of my healing journey consists of prioritising my needs and my thoughts, aswell as acknowledging why I may struggle while working to alter that.

People without Eating Disorders don’t typically have set eating/meal times, and even if a meal or snack is skipped, no disordered thoughts will lure their nastiness. And if they skip a meal (usually due to time constraints/preoccupation or other commitments, not on purpose), this generally DOESNT have implications on the other meals of the day, compensative behaviours will not be used and a recommended amount of calories (ENERGY!!) will still be reached.

Ideally, others will make up for the food they’ve missed throughout the day and may prefer larger meals as opposed to “little and often”. But I imagine no two days of eating are the same for anybody, people may eat more on some days than on others. And vice versa. It all balances out. I would find this unmanageable and daunting, and eating irregularly quickly leads to lightheadedness and fainting episodes. One day I’ll be free from a structured meal plan, but today is not that day.

We must remember to focus on ourselves and our needs, whilst acknowledging that this isn’t selfish, but a necessary component in becoming a step closer to health and happiness. Food is fuel, and although eating may feel like a constant job, it is our medicine.

Anorexia Recovery – Ditching the scales, freedom away from numbers

Mental Health

The morning approached, it was 6:30am.

Already, I encountered deliberating thoughts about eating. I pondered whether I should, or whether I shouldn’t. And I’m beginning to believe that this may be a constant, lifelong battle for me.

With every day, I cannot determine how my thoughts will challenge me throughout the day. Some days will be easier than others, and some will be spent fighting with the grit of my teeth and my upmost strength and determination.

I cried, I rationalised and sat anxiously with my thoughts. I felt defeated, and frankly, nourishment felt more like a punishment. I often wonder why I am 22-years-old becoming tearful over food and fixated on numbers. I curiously think about life of the latter, freedom with food and perhaps, body acceptance?

Rewind a few hours later, I felt empowered and encouraged. I desperately wanted to alter my mindset and to challenge my toughest thoughts. Admittedly, my breakfast simply consisted of giving in to my disordered thoughts. I decided enough was enough, I had the rest of the day to build myself up and to tackle more habits. I simply couldn’t carry on waiting to be saved whilst putting in minimal effort to save myself.

Anorexia Recovery compromises of more than just regaining a “normal” relationship with food, but also about challenging other behaviours and rituals that extend beyond food. I stood up, heart racing and thoughts pondering, and reached up for my scales. The scales have dominated my life and my way of thinking for 6+ years and I first weighed myself at the mere age of 4. And until today, I kept this hidden. I’d been weighing myself multiple times a day, every day for years, and it began feeling exhausting and it held the equivalence of a heavy load on my shoulders. Anorexia is conniving and encourages sneaky behaviours and rituals. I no longer wanted to be sneaky, I wanted to be brave. Yesterday I owned up, and the support I received was not only remarkable, but incredibly reassuring.

I nervously threw my scales away, with much hesitation and questioning on my part, although ready to say good bye to a dark chapter in my life, determined to bring in a happier one. Anorexia screamed at me no, and insulted me greatly, but I wholeheartedly knew it was the best decision in the long term. A step forward in recovery and regaining my health, happiness and sparkle.

I’ve anxiously sat through feelings and urges during the day and have become ridden with guilt and uncertainty. I cannot move forward with the constant fixation and obsession on numbers, and I believe only my medical professionals need to know. I’ve been underweight for years, and I believe focusing on numbers only heightened the anxieties I have surrounding weight gain and reaching a healthy weight/BMI.

The number on the scale dictates my relationship with gravity, it can never determine my worth, intelligence or sparkle.

I’m learning to define myself by the number of animals I help, the milestones I’ve achieved and the strength I’ve gained. It’s going to be a long journey, but one I’m dedicated to.

I’m more than just a number. I’m a person with goals and aspirations, strength and determination. And I’m ready to move forward.

A weighted life perspective

Mental Health

We live in a World where weight gain has been, and continues to be, demonised. An increase in the scale number quickly equates to feelings of low self worth, inadequacy and failure. We attempt to remain small, whilst measuring our worth in kilograms and not so much smiles, achievements and memories. I understand the satisfaction gained from the decreasing scale number, believe me. But I can assure you that it brings minimal comfort, I was never fully “happy” until I faced death. A reduction in weight was never enough to counteract the thoughts and feelings I battled internally.

I despise weight related comments. Before opening up about my Anorexia battle, I regularly received praiseful words on my malnourished body, told that I had a “perfect figure”, I was asked for diet advice and the methods I used to lose a large proportion of weight in not so little time. And in doing so, this made it significantly harder for me to acknowledge that the actions and behaviours I constantly engaged in were wrong. Please be mindful of chosen words.

It’s impossible to pass a day without talk of dieting and weight loss. Celebrities promoting silly appetite suppressants and highlighting unrealistic diets to vulnerable followers for a sum of money. Of course, healthy weight loss is crucial for those who are medically overweight. And I believe this should be supported to avoid the usage of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Ie: Starvation, bingeing and purging. However, we’re indefinitely becoming a brainwashed society and I’m yet to meet an individual who is confident in their body. I’d like to see a drastic change in this, for new and current generations. More emphasis on body acceptance, less on methods to change your body and more ways to gain a healthier mindset.

There is very little talk in mainstream media regarding positive, and essential weight gain, which can be extremely discouraging. I often receive compliments on my current body, and this isn’t okay, being small isn’t a compliment or a goal, but being healthy IS. This frame has been gained through years of starvation and neglect, not nourishment, love and acceptance. The media is filled with praise, complementing people for weight loss and body transformations and I’m yet to see encouraging comments congratulating individuals on weight gain.

Benefits of weight gain:

  1. Energy
  2. The ability to rationalise thoughts and decision making
  3. Increased concentration maintenance
  4. Reduction in tiredness/lethargy
  5. A step closer to health and happiness!

Weight gain isn’t always a negative. For some, it’s essential. For those recovering from Eating Disorders, for those who battle Cancer and often become reliant on supplement drinks following unintentional weight loss and for those with speedy metabolisms (To list a few). People require it to return back to a healthy state, both physically and mentally, and may require more food and it’s a factor that simply isn’t highlighted enough. It can encourage thought rationalisation and provide energy whilst helping to maintain lengthy concentration periods.

An increase in weight can be the beginning of a new chapter for some, one that is exciting and memorable. The lease of life, the regaining of energy, life and freedom. Our world is forever evolving, with new and exhilarating developments in different areas. It’s time to step aside from the misleading idea that weight gain equates to fat. And even so, that “fat” is a bad thing. Quite frankly, fat is essential, it stores energy, supports brain function and protects our organs. It doesn’t make us ugly or uncharismatic, it makes us Human.

As somebody recovering from Anorexia Nervosa, weight gain is an essential component. With this being said, Eating Disorders are NOT primarily weight focused, you can suffer at ANY weight. Without this, there would be a significant restriction on my life, and I wouldn’t be fully committing to recovery. I would face a lifetime of remaining critically underweight and unwell, in a child-like body that simply cannot function properly, or issue me with an appropriate amount of energy. Without the weight gain, I would still be collapsing unexpectedly, growing fine hairs on my body to stay warm and losing large clumps of my hair. This shouldn’t be glamorised or used as an achievable goal, but support should be issued to help people to manage their situation.

Thus, in a world where the majority are losing weight and promoting fad diets, it’s important to be kind. To prioritise our own needs, our own health and our own happiness.

June – A new month, a happier mindset and new recovery challenges

Mental Health

It’s officially the beginning of June! And I wish you all a wonderful month filled with health and happiness. I’m determined to head back to Uni in September eager to inform my friends and Tutors of the fun-filled Summer I’ve endured. Not a Summer known for obeying Anorexia’s demands.

It’s terrifying. I’ve realised that I’m not okay and that I simply cannot continue along this pathway. Counteractively, recognising it is one thing, but actively changing it is another. And while I can’t possibly gain back lost time, I can make up for the time I’ve lost. I’ve been fearful of change for lengthy periods of time. But perhaps, change is exactly what I need. And maybe, change is good. I need to be kinder to myself. 

I simply cannot comprehend just how quickly the year is flying by. I’d like to signify the beginning of the month as the beginning of a new chapter. A step closer to health and happiness. A month filled with learning, growth and recovery-focused challenges. I’m aiming to find body acceptance, to follow a meal plan and to be brave. I’m simultaneously excited and extremely anxious for my next steps.

Last night, I had a realisation. I battled suicidal thoughts and overcame gruelling urges once again. I’m young, I haven’t lived properly yet, and it hurts that I often seek a way out when I should be finding my feet, exploring the world and developing new interests. My Tutor helped me to understand that the things that matter now may not matter in the years to come. I need to survive the bad to find the better, regardless of how painful it often seems. I’m about to delve into yet another challenging and unpredictable chapter, so it’s crucial that I care for myself increasingly, whilst allowing myself time to heal. I’m determined to prioritise my health and happiness, to appreciate the light in every day and to relearn healthier coping mechanisms.

I’m soon scheduled to be beginning treatment with a new Dietician. This initially filled me with dread, I contemplated whether I wanted recovery or whether I would ever be okay. I’m fearful of letting go, and of losing control. But the only person who can save me, is me. I’m now incredibly motivated to work with her, and not against her, to fight my demons, to challenge my fear foods and to overcome one of my largest fears – weight gain. I’m educating myself about the art of weight restoration, it’s simply weight that should never have been lost, the building blocks to energy, life and freedom. Pre-anorexia I was slightly underweight and disordered thoughts have always remained present, but it’s time to change. One day, I’ll accept a healthy body. And one day, I’ll rekindle a healthier relationship with food.

Recovery: “A return to a normal state of mind, health or strength. The action of process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost”.

Recently, I’ve started to picture my life in future years. And I quickly become tearful and distressed whenever I imagine my future self still battling with the torment of my mind. I refuse to be 30 years old requiring reminders to eat, crying over food and still remaining reliant on feelings of accomplishment from the decreasing scale number. And that’s enough to acknowledge that I do want to get better, I’m just scared and slightly lost, but these feelings can and will pass. I’m fighting for memorable years and for future adventures. A life outside of Anorexia.

I’m putting my future prospects to the forefront of my mind. In a years time, I want to be preparing for graduation after working hard in my third year. I’m ready to radiate light and happy vibes. I want to be physically and mentally stronger, to be helping more animals and to be preparing to travel the world. I don’t want to be terrified of myself or life anymore, or to reminisce and think “what if”. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and I’m beginning to understand just how precious life is. I want to work hard in the present moment to build a brighter future.

I aim to be healthy enough to give blood, as my current weight prevents me from doing so. To volunteer abroad, minus the fear of unmeasured food and different meal timings. I’m striving for more, more that I simply cannot accomplish with the torment of an Eating Disorder. I long for the days where I eat ice-cream on sunny days, where I no longer use harmful techniques to compensate and to find new vegan cafes with my friends. And I can do this.

Truthfully, I’ve begun acknowledging that my body will not cope for much longer and it’s a daunting realisation. I haven’t been a friend to my body, more of an enemy. It won’t continue to function on minimal calories and through the obeying of Anorexia’s hurtful rules. For a long time, I believed that my body would defeat the odds. I believed I could survive on calories less than the recommendation for that of a toddler. And currently, my body isn’t coping and this isn’t okay. My Anorexia convinced me that I’ll be fine, that this is sustainable, but I physically feel drained and cannot last through the days without lightheadedness, shaking and chest pain. I’ve tried for so long to ignore the physical symptoms, but they currently grow stronger by the day. I’ve displayed abnormal blood results and ECG’s, my clothes currently hang off me and I understand that I’m not truly happy, and this isn’t really recovery. Recovery signifies fighting, not merely surviving.

I’m ready to fight for a future Laur wants, not a future Anorexia craves. I want to save animals and to help others, and to live. And, most importantly, to make those around me proud. I’m ready for June, I’m ready to accept growth and I’m keen to see where I stand in a months time.

.

Being discharged from The CMHT, my experience and my next steps!

Mental Health

For three years I’ve engaged with The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team). I’ve worked routinely with four different professionals within the service, ranging from care coordinators to psychiatric nurses. All of who have played a crucial role in the pathway to my recovery journey, and I am incredibly thankful for that.

I HAVE NOW BEEN DISCHARGED!

Healing is an art. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes love.

Fortunately, its been agreed that I can reengage with the team at any given point should I feel the need to access further support, or should my mindset (or harmful behaviours) decline. It’s always reassuring to have a safety net, but I aim to work tirelessly to guide myself to health and happiness.

I was transferred to the local service in 2016, after prolonged periods of battling suicidal thoughts and depressive episodes. In October 2015, my Teacher suspected I may be suffering from Depression, she detected symptoms in me that she once battled herself. And although I remained in denial, I began antidepressant medication shortly afterwards following a discussion with her and mum. This lead to me consulting in my ED psychiatrist and later on being prescribed and regularly checked for deterioration. I knew my mindset was decreasing when I voluntarily took myself to the GP for an emergency appointment after becoming increasingly terrified about my safety and well-being (I’ve always been fearful of Doctors) only to be handed a leaflet and the phone number of the Crisis team. This was after a day spent in College hysterically breaking down as I worried my Teachers and scared myself in the process. I was also engaging in self harming behaviours and I felt truly unhappy and unlike my typical bubbly self. Everything began feeling dark and gloomy and any form of happiness flooded me with guilt. I was seen on a weekly basis to maintain my safety, aswell as having an “outlet” for my struggles.

I began feeling paralysed and every day was a constant dread, where my highlight of the day was going to bed to escape my thoughts. (Until I met the Goats!) I felt guilty for being sad and guilty and undeserving of any form of happiness. I truly felt trapped and I saw no light, nor did I have any motivation to head towards it.

Prior to beginning my engagement with the service, I couldn’t leave the house and I implemented self harming episodes towards my body. I struggled increasingly with suicidal thoughts and plans of hurting myself and wishing I wasn’t here constantly flooded my mind, I often encountered voices issuing me with loud, patronising demands to which I felt obliged to follow. I wasn’t allowed to be left alone because I often felt worryingly impulsive and I struggled to control my physical and mental actions. (I currently write this as I sit alone in my Uni room, which is super special because I’m trusted and I’m doing better now, yay!)

Without forgetting to mention that I am the longest self-harm free I have been in 5 whole years!!! *insert happy dance*

For further information on self harming, please visit my other blog post here

My care consisted of talking therapies, psychological methods and lots (and lots!) of tears, aswell as the odd argument when I felt misunderstood. Oops! Some methods worked wonders for me which seemed laughable at the time, others issued no joy. Admittedly, it’s been a super tough ride and the most challenging battle, but I can’t help but be proud of the place I’m at now, and of myself for persevering. And I truly hope my place in services is offered to somebody in need of it to get them on the road to recovery, and happiness.

Understandably, everybody has unique and personal experiences with services and therefore different perceptions on the help they are able to provide. As somebody who has been involved with different services for 5 years, I can certainly say that more help and interventions need to be delivered to prevent people from reaching a crisis point. More help and advice should be offered to keep people safe and more efforts should be put into mental aspects, and not just physical ones. I desperately want to see an improvement in services across the board, peoples lives are on the line and enough is currently not being done to help those in need.

MY NEXT STEPS

Now that I’ve come to terms with my Autism diagnosis, and have ploughed my way to a better place Depression-wise, I will now be working with a Senior Dietician to help me to amend my eating habits, both physically and mentally. I’ve always held a disordered relationship with food and my body, but as my Anorexia progressed, the relationship I held with it worsened. I will continue to be seen routinely by my GP and Nurse, who work to monitor my physical aspects (weight, height and bloods).

Admittedly, I am terrified of changing my eating habits around since Anorexia has become such a comfort blanket for me throughout the years. I’m fearful of weight gain and I have never been a healthy weight, although it is necessary and vital for countless reasons! And I have many scary foods and rules to conquer, aswell as reestablishing a better view of food and challenging my current thoughts. My Teacher and I recently discussed the importance of challenging scary things in life, as they often bring us happiness and fulfilment, and I believe there is never a “right time” to change. I’m keeping my motivations at the forefront of my mind, surrounding myself with happiness and reminding myself, with the constant help of family members and friends, of why I must keep going.

If you’re struggling with your Mental Health or know of anybody who is, PLEASE seek help and encourage others to do so, too. You’re loved and important, and you’re deserving of health and happiness!

Health & wellness – A discovery journey

Mental Health

For the past 5 years, I’ve been starting my day between 6 and 6:30am.

Crazy? No. Happiness inducing? Yes!

I’ve been a proud early riser from a young age, with my Mum claiming that I was “awake before the birds” as I rushed downstairs excitedly to view my favourite animated series – Arthur, whilst wrapped comfortably in my dressing gown. However, I began waking up earlier (involuntarily) following my battle with Anorexia Nervosa, because I struggled to maintain a substantial sleeping pattern and I found it near impossible to stay sleeping due to hunger pains and the physical symptoms I faced at the time.

Although this remains a struggle, I enjoy waking up earlier now and the process no longer feels forced or unnatural. I’m going to practice positive coping mechanisms until they take the place of the negative ones I currently abide by.

Additionally, I also wanted to make up for “lost” time. I wasted a significant amount of time in bed following my worst bouts of Depression since I had minimal motivation, or energy, to leave the comfort of my bed. I left my job as I battled panic attacks and self harming episodes and after I completed my Animal Management qualification and I had very little to focus on. I felt worthless and alone, I had no interactions with people my age and I spent most of my time socialising with my therapist(s).

Recently, I’ve gained collective benefits from starting my days early, I’ve added more productivity to my day-to-day schedule and the feeling of achievement and keeping busy boosts my mood significantly. It also reduces my feelings of low self esteem and issues me with a happy distraction. I find that it’s harder to dwell on my bad thoughts if I’m busy, so it’s beneficial all round!

I start my day off lightly, I scroll through social media briskly and then listen to my favourite podcasts to assist the maintenance of positivity throughout my day. It’s important to me that I regularly listen to positive, motivational speakers and read uplifting and relatable quotes, I believe it assists me in releasing negative energy and encourages me to let go of the past, to move forward and focus my energies towards healing. Social media can be an excellent resource if it’s used in the correct way, I recommend eliminating all forms of toxicity from your accounts and unfollowing anybody who makes you unhappy.

I also wish to add more self care to my day, as it’s something I’m prone to neglecting lots, especially when things are tough or when I’m busy. And this often leads to an overload. Prioritising self care is essential, I will rest up, take myself on walks in nature and to coffee shops. I will learn to heal.

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve attempted to work with a range of different processionals and services and I struggled to reap any benefits from the implemented methods, which has made me feel like a lost cause, unfortunately. I’ve recently been focusing incredibly on mindfulness and I aim to create a spirituality journey in order to help the healing of my body and my mind. After years of self destruction and self doubt, I desperately wish to view myself in a positive light.

Up until recently, I haven’t been motivated to change my mindset, but now I’m working hard because I want to find happiness and a balance in life. I’ve been thinking increasingly about my future, and I tear up picturing myself being an adult crying over food and still struggling with self harm. It’s not a future I want, however scary the recovery process shall be. I’m constantly being told that I should care for myself in the same way I care for others, while listening to my own advice, and I’m beginning to realise why that is so important.

I used to believe that recovering from Anorexia solely required reestablishing a “healthy” relationship with food and my body, but that’s only part of it, since Eating Disorders are incredibly more complex than just food and weight restoration. Though, my battle has widened my eyes into the other life aspects I struggle with and I now realise I have a long road ahead of me.

I’m now more determined than ever to begin a positive journey towards healing not just my body, but also my mind. For processes to change, you have to want to change, nobody can force recovery on you. Believe me, I’ve waited. The mental and physical aspects of my health both stand as equal as each other, and it’s time I began to acknowledge that by putting my words into practice and listening to my body.

Olivia’s story: Animals + mental health

Mental Health

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs”.

I had the privilege of meeting my wonderful, courageous friend, Olivia, through the use of social media. She very kindly opted to share her story about how rats have aided her (ongoing) recovery from multiple mental illnesses. I’m incredibly inspired by her continuous strength and bravery!

Olivia’s story:

Rats have a very unfair reputation in society.

Most people judge rats before they get to know them, they’re known as bad, something to be afraid of, something to avoid. A bit like mental health. People are too quick to judge those suffering with mental health problems, many people are demonized for their mental health, depression is a subject that’s avoided, anorexia an illness that’s so harmful yet people refuse to take seriously. Psychosis, personality disorders, the kind of mental health illness that people fear purely through ignorance.

Olivia’s companion helped her to overcome one of her fear foods implemented by her Anorexia battle, as he kept her company and provided a happy distraction.

When I say ‘people’ it’s not relating to anyone in particular and I also want to make it clear that there are SO many wonderful, supportive, understanding, patient people in this world that help others each and everyday. It’s just a shame that even with all the good a few negative comments, a few people that refuse to be educated can be more visible than all the good.

Anyway back to animals (as you can probably tell I find it hard to stay on topic ah!). Rats especially have had such an important part in my recovery and in my everyday life.

Animals are your silent support system, and are true proof that actions speak louder than words.

I’ve had lots of rats over the years and all have helped me massively.

Olivia doesn’t just love rats, she’s an all-round animal lover. Using her compassionate side to befriend friendly geese, alongside other animals.

My first three rats helped me through some really traumatic events in my life, my anxiety was at an all time high, I couldn’t sleep and suffered with flashbacks. My three rats helped to bring me back to reality when a flashback would happen, kept me company when I couldn’t sleep and helped to keep me calm.

My next rat honestly saved my life (even my crisis worker at the time agreed!) when I couldn’t go to school due to suffering with psychosis, self harm and suicidal thoughts he was there to help show me that it wasn’t such a bad thing I couldn’t go to school and that achievements don’t always just have to be academic. I knew I had to get up, feed him, take care of him, he gave me a purpose and would often come to crisis and CAMHS appointments with me so that I wouldn’t hallucinate as much or get so upset.

My next two boys helped me so much too, they were not with me very long but we got them as they were unwanted by their previous owners, they taught me and reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘loved’ or ‘wanted’ it’s only a feeling, not a fact. There’s always someone or something (two legged or four legged!) that needs you and loves you and that you’re important to.

My rat who lives with me now has and continues to help me each and everyday. I didn’t leave the house for about 2 months before he came, once he was there he gave me the confidence to leave the house again, he was my safety blanket and continues to be. He helped me when i couldn’t walk because I was so weak from anorexia, he laid next to me for days, sat with me at every meal I was forced to eat, he helped me to not be sectioned and most importantly he continues to help me recover each and everyday.

He was patient when I couldn’t go out because I was too ill, when I was crying, when I couldn’t sleep and when I refused to eat. When family members told me ‘just eat it’s easy’ ‘you look so much better now you’re slimmer’ ‘I wish I could loose that much weight’.

Rats are intelligent and loyal and I learned that even though people speak, sometimes it’s better to just not hear what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to be unhelpful. During this time birds also really helped me. They were a symbol of freedom for me. I watched the baby geese and ducks grow up and get stronger and that’s when I realised that animals don’t care what weight you are. Animals don’t care how you look.

Animals look for inside qualities, it’s more important that they trust you than what the scales say, they showed me that eating is normal, something that you can enjoy and shouldn’t feel guilty about. Animals can be one of the best kinds of therapy (I’m absolutely all for medication and counselling and anything that’s safe that helps too!) and I’ll forever be grateful for all my animal friends.

My rats taught me that it’s important to be kind, patient and they gave me reason to live and continue to each day. They don’t measure my worth by my weight. The geese had to eat, had to grow so they could be free to fly, to not be stuck in the same place.

That’s what I want and why I’m determined to recover.

I want to be free just like the birds.

A journey: How to be open about Mental Health

Mental Health

Today, I wanted to talk about how I’ve grown more comfortable with speaking up about Mental Health.

I’d like to view myself as a Mental Health advocate, the topic has become a passion of mine and something I enjoy speaking about and assisting others with. The conversation is important, always, not just when it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. When I am further along my recovery journey, I’d love to be more actively involved with charities and fundraising to keep the conversation going and to help improve the support services and helplines available.

Aswell as speaking up about my own issues and expressing myself with writing, I love raising awareness and speaking out about issues I see raised online. Such as diet fads, body shaming and common stereotypes. Ie: Needing to look a specific way in order to be unwell.

I’ve recently been receiving wonderful messages applauding me for my ability to speak up. Expressing how I’m an inspiration which was surreal – thank you! And in continuing my journey I can only hope to encourage others to do the same, to be open and less afraid, whilst growing in confidence myself.

Truthfully, I haven’t always been open. It’s taken me many years to speak up, to become comfortable, to find my voice and to raise awareness for myself and others. Funnily enough, when I first began treatment for my mental illnesses I struggled immensely to have an open conversation about mental health, my feelings and my thoughts. I’ve encountered many appointments filled with awkward and uncomfortable silences, staring at the floor and anxiously skin picking as professionals have been at a standstill with myself and my needs as I habituated to saying I was okay when I felt the complete opposite – willingly hiding my feelings in a bid to save others from upset, but costing myself more torment.

But now I believe that we should express the things on our minds. Whether it be verbally or in writing. The worry about burdening others may always stand, but allowing our deepest thoughts to linger won’t get us anywhere. Liberating our bad thoughts can only allow us to make room for brighter ones.

I turned to social media.

As somebody who struggles to express themselves verbally, I began writing on social media as an outlet for both positive and negative thoughts, it seemed easier and far less intimidating and I’ve always been better at expressing myself with words. I grew to understand that my words were helpful to others battling the same, giving them somebody to relate to, which only encouraged me to speak more and in a greater depth.

There’s lots of stigma surrounding sharing mental health online. Its often viewed as attention seeking. But it isn’t. And if it’s a way that works for you, don’t allow the opinions of others to prevent you from doing something you’re happy with. If expressing yourself online helps, do it! Let your health and happiness be your biggest priority in life.

I set up a recovery account. A place to express my thoughts (positive and negative) and to meet other brave, likeminded people enduring the same. I began feeling less alone, less alienated and more understood. Similar to a diary. The more I used it, the less daunting it seemed. And as time passed me by, I felt better able to share more about myself and my personal journey (so far).

I wanted to express my bad days, to highlight the realities of mental illness recovery, to demonstrate that relapses arent signs of weakness and the concept of “sunshine and rainbows” unfortunately not being applied here. Recovery isn’t linear. Climbing hurdles and facing obstacles in our journeys is okay, normal and expected. It no longer felt like I was attention seeking, it began feeling like I was making a difference, which I love.

I wanted to help people, whilst helping myself. And I believe the encouraging words I issue others with has enlightened me into the benefits of positivity and self care.

I’ve also found that helping others improves my feelings of low self worth. It’s as though I’ve found a purpose in helping others which makes me insanely happy!

Finding people with similar experiences and stories inspired me massively, and it’s still something that continues to do just that. As I see people recover from their illnesses, taking positive steps and being brave. The online community has not only issued me with knowledge and confidence, but with friends who I feel absolutely filled with gratitude to have on my side.

Advice for speaking up

🌸Cliche, but true… Don’t be afraid. Easier said than done, I know. But I can guarantee you that you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And, respectively, I imagine whoever you tell will appreciate you being open to enable them to support you.

🌸Remember WHY you’re speaking up. Keep in mind the reasons why you want to get better (because you deserve to!) and a list of positives and recovery motivations to keep you going.

🌸If you find communication difficult, write it down. Unfortunately, nobody can support you if they remain unaware of your struggles. I promise it isn’t silly, professionals will have seen so many situations before and they’re trained to know people and their personal battles, strengths and weaknesses.

🌸DONT WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE! You don’t have to wait to “get worse” because your worst is now. And you deserve help regardless of the thoughts in your mind.

Be brave and don’t be afraid to share your story!

Lots of love & hugs

Laur xx

Anorexia recovery – Studying, healing and learning!

Mental Health

Hello everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about battling Anorexia whilst at University. This isn’t to say that other Students don’t battle with other Eating Disorders or that Anorexia is more “severe” – it isn’t. I’m just speaking from my own personal, and current, experiences.

Battling an Eating Disorder prior to beginning my journey as a University Student proved to be difficult and challenging in a series of ways. I became bed ridden, anxious and a shadow of my former self. Though I learned coping mechanisms (such as the ability to reach out for support) to guide me through the days with the assistance of Therapy, support from my Teachers and loved ones. Though every day is a battle, I certainly have gained strength and resilience throughout the years.

The isolation you feel whilst being surrounded with friends and family, abundance’s of support, care and compassion can not distinguish the constant torment of your own mind which leaves you feeling alone, trapped and frightened. It’s unimaginable. It’s terrifying and a daily battle: But one I can accomplish.

Imagine being faced with your biggest fear 6 times a day. Meal times and snack times filled with fears, doubts and tears. The fear of an element known to keep you alive and well. The worry of eating whilst attempting to retain new information, whilst trying to be a better student, whilst trying to thrive.

Studying whilst working my hardest to engage in my recovery journey for real, and not so much quasi recovery is a tough challenge. Though, I constantly remind myself of my abilities and the concept of recovery not being linear, or a simple overnight process.

Admittedly, I encounter my bad days and my better days and times where I have to seek encouragement (and reminders) to eat for the benefit of my studies, energy and ability to concentrate: which are factors always at the forefront of my mind. I constantly seek support from my Tutors and I have every trust in their willingness to listen. And am totally mesmerised and inspired by their kindness and support. I became distressed over my body image before my exam which I totally didn’t need when my head was full to bursting with Biology facts. Preoccupation is easy. But unfortunately, mental illnesses don’t consider that and it was up to me to persevere regardless of how down I was feeling in that moment – to power through and to believe in myself.

People struggling with Eating Disorders are ultimately some of the most intelligent, resilient, brave and compassionate people that I know.

I quickly become preoccupied with high intensified thoughts and worries over food and my body image which makes it progressively harder to concentrate at times. I constantly feel not good enough, or incapable. I can easily become distracted with the enjoyment of completing assignment work and engaging heavily in my studies. The preoccupation is an Autistic trait of mine and I find it hard to maintain a balance between work and other things – Eating included. I can become caught up with spending hours in the library where the task of eating hasn’t crossed my mind as it seems far less important, following my lack of hunger cues and the resilience of the Anorexic voice.

Still, this is something I have acknowledged and am working to overcome.

Funnily enough, being a University Student surrounded with others my age has taught me more about my relationship with food and how much I’m yet to overcome both physically and mentally. How I aim to enjoy pizza dates with friends or picnics on the beach. The acknowledgement that I have a long road ahead of me. I do lack freedom extending beyond the rules and the harsh grips of Anorexia and I find it strange witnessing just how freely other people can eat as I panic if it’s gone over my “safe time” to eat: with students stumbling into takeaways at 3am or eating ice cream to ease exam stress. At times, I realise how large a role eating plays in our lives and in society and it makes me feel completely alienated.

As a Scientist, I should appreciate the purpose food serves our bodies. The energy it allows us to thrive on, calories being energy sources and not indicators of greed and the benefits it holds for our traits and characteristics. I am well aware, after studying animals and dietary requirements. But thinking rationally isn’t always my strongest point. And providing advice is a heck of a lot easier than taking it and applying it to myself and my own circumstances.

I get that surrendering to your recovery seems terrifying, but where has surrendering to your Eating Disorder gotten you so far?

But most importantly, it’s taught me that there can be a normality surrounding food. Yes, I have fear foods. But fears are made to be broken and I believe I can do that. A positive step being, I wrote a list of my fear foods with the intention to challenge them all! Whether that’s eating breakfast at 10am, eating cake as a snack without the worry of calories or sitting in cafés for lunch. No two people have the same eating habits. And I guess it’s the diversification that makes life interesting! There shouldn’t be rules surrounding food with labelling them as good or bad and there ought to be more awareness of the benefits of food, and not so much the damaging reasons to avoid it.

The love and support I receive from my fantastic Friends and Tutors has been (and continues to be) amazing and I cannot express the gratitude I have that I am able to speak to people if I need to, or if I just need a shoulder to cry on. People who understand and issue me with advice and reassurance when I fail to embrace them myself. I believe that it’s due to the support I receive that I remain *mostly* positive, which is why I highly encourage others to seek support if and when it’s needed.

Though every day is a battle, I am determined to carry on, to find positivity on my fight to health and happiness and to ensure I no longer suffer alone or in silence.

Helplines:

BEAT:

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Suicidal thoughts: Stigma, encouragement and helplines!!

Mental Health

Hi everyone!

Today, I wanted to talk about an (unfortunately) common topic – Suicidal thoughts.

It’s a personal subject I tend not to delve too much into unless I’m having a conversation with my Nurse or Therapist as it’s quite a sensitive subject that admittedly frightens me the majority of the time. But I believe the more we talk about things (regardless of how difficult) the easier they will become. And the more likely it’ll be that others will do the same.

We shouldn’t stand with the obligation to hide away our struggles and our feelings of low mood. It’s okay not to feel 100% all the time, and it’s Human! We should be encouraging each other to speak up and to reach out for support during our darkest days.

The thing about social media in particular is that we quickly document the achievements and happiest moments in our lives whilst avoiding the conversation of the times things haven’t been so great. But that isn’t real life, and it isn’t healthy to believe everybody is happy and radiating positivity 100% of the time.

I began struggling with suicidal thoughts at the age of 18. I never documented plans to take my life, as in some cases but not all. For me, it’s mostly stemmed from my anorexia, low mood and body dysmorphia. Alongside other underlying factors. I’ve struggled to like myself and to accept myself for who I am, past my insecurities and doubtful feelings. There wasn’t a sole cause and maybe there never is. It’s been a challenge of acknowledging the thoughts, becoming fearful of them but reaching out for help when I’ve been in a crisis. It’s been sleepless nights and days with multiple panic attacks as I’ve fought back every single terrifying urge in an attempt to keep myself safe.

I’ve worked with many teams and medical professionals from across the board, who’ve helped me to develop coping strategies during my bad days. I’m aware it can vary from person to person, though, and certain techniques may not be effective for some. Although I do still struggle with suicidal thoughts, I have noticed that they’re becoming less frequent. Thankfully!

People may be confused as to why this was. Why I began struggling, why I was suicidal. I was young, I had a roof over my head, I was surrounded with my family and friends and I was privileged enough to be in education. Which, I hope, highlights that anybody can be suicidal. There isn’t one cause – mental health never discriminates. And although somebody’s life can look picture perfect from an outsider’s perspective, it may be the complete opposite behind closed doors (in an individuals’ mind)

It’s important not to stigmatise those suffering because they have certain elements or people in their lives. Or because they appear to be a certain way. Mental illnesses aren’t based on what you have, or what others can see, but on what you feel about yourself on the inside. Enforcing unnecessary stigma may prevent people from reaching out for crucial support as they begin to think they shouldn’t struggle, when in fact, anybody can struggle and lots of people do! Please treat them with respect, love, understanding and kindness.

I believe people encounter suicidal thoughts for a series of reasons – it isn’t always a tendency to end your life, but quite commonly in a bid to end the pain and torment rushing through your mind leaving you feeling desperate and exhausted, feeling as though people would be better off without you or as though you don’t deserve to be around. And they can occur from any age, stemming from masses of life events including mental illness, trauma and bullying (to name a few)

Feeling suicidal can be an extremely daunting, isolating and confusing time. It may feel like the only way out. But I do want to clarify that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about! Oh, and to offer big hugs for anybody in need of them. You’re capable, brave and you’ve got this!

Helplines (talking, text or email) are available for those struggling to cope with suicidal thoughts/urges, and those worried about another person who may be in danger.

THE SAMARITANS

116 123: A 24 hour helpline!

https://www.samaritans.org

A&E

999: Available 24 hours if you’re struggling to keep yourself safe, or know of anybody who is. Or you can go to your local hospital.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

MIND

0800 123 3393:

Or TEXT: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings/#.XEuYYqSnyEc

Please take care of yourselves and seek support if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one. There is never a wrong time. You deserve to heal. I cannot express how difficult reaching out is, but how relieving it is once it’s out in the open.

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx