Managing an Eating Disorder at Uni – Experiences And Tips from an Undergraduate

Mental Health

I became a Uni Student whilst under the grips of an Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa.

I am still in recovery from this, every day is a challenge. But I’m determined to make positive changes towards reaching my goals towards health and happiness. 

I enlisted my Anorexia on my University application, alongside my Autism. I remained aware that I could face issues throughout my studies, and I feel comforted being able to share my story with my Tutors, and my friends – Who are surely, and gladly, becoming a second family to me.

Admittedly, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and obstacles throughout my time at Uni. Managing an Eating Disorder and simultaneously trying to maintain recovery is hard work, possibly the toughest task I’ve had to endure.

I’ve fallen into new and destructive habits whilst trying to eliminate older ones. I often become engrossed heavily in my studies and fail to prioritise eating as much as receiving grade A’s. Anorexia is an incredibly sneaky, and conniving illness that will rear its head at any given opportunity. It’s important to be aware of this, and to prepare yourself for future setbacks/lapses.

Recovery is essentially a full time job, a choice that is constant, a process of rebuilding a healthy relationship with our bodies and our minds. It can be exhausting to balance this alongside our studies, and easy to fall under academic pressures. It can be difficult to maintain concentration whilst dealing with the constant, deliberating thoughts and anxieties surrounding food, numbers and body image.

But I’m currently awaiting enrolling for my third year, I’ve made it this far and I’m feeling motivated for September onwards. And I’m keen to share tips that have guided me through my time at uni so far.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Ever.

Speaking up is incredibly difficult, yet rewarding. It takes a considerate amount of courage to express your struggles. Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself and make your mental health a priority.

Don’t feel embarrassed about reaching out for support. Whether that’s to a friend, a tutor, or a medical professional. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just a normal one. I confide in my Tutors always and I’ve been left incredibly humbled and inspired by the understanding and support I continue to receive. Shame isn’t an issue; the biggest focus needs to be on your mental and physical wellbeing. Confide in somebody you love and trust. Nobody deserves to suffer alone or in silence, and I’ve learned that a problem shared is typically a problem halved.

Access professional support. Attending appointments can sometimes mean missing lectures. And that’s fine, because work can be caught up on, our health shouldn’t be put on the line and lecturers are always incredibly understanding regarding mental health. Don’t be worried about confiding in your GP about your struggles. Often, we require therapy to allow us to tackle the root of the problem, and that’s perfectly okay. We can’t have it figured out all of the time. Uni’s also have Mental Health Services available to students with people trained to deal with a variety of problems who can be contacted should you feel the need to do so. Again, there is no shame in this. Just bravery.

Try to avoid falling into comparative habits. It’s often glamorised at uni for students to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as frequently under/overeating, skipping meals and not getting enough sleep. It’s not cool or an essential component of student life. It’s vital that you focus on yourself and your own recovery journey. Remember that recovery from an Eating Disorder requires eating more, to assist physical and mental repairs. 

Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, and recovery is never going to be a linear, overnight process. Try not to spend time getting caught up in your bad days, but remember that they can only make us stronger and more able to face tougher days in the future. Nobody is defined by their struggles, or difficult days. Don’t feel bad for saying “no” or for giving yourself time to collect your thoughts and feelings. We all need space, we all need rest and we all need time.

Get yourself a set of close friends to confide in, and to keep you grounded when times are tough. Share as much or as little information as you’re comfortable with. It’s easy to isolate ourselves and to get caught up in the chaos of our own minds, but our friends can keep us distracted by giving us a happier focus by spending time together, or by simply being there to temporarily act as a barrier between ourselves and our struggles. I’m privileged to be surrounded with the most incredible support network both at uni and at home. This makes reaching out for help and advice increasingly easier. Whilst our tutors are not medical professionals, they can issue lifestyle advice and can sympathise with our feelings. And sometimes, that’s more than enough.

Speak to those around you about your triggers. This is an essential, necessary component of taking care of yourself. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions where we’re surrounded with information and situations that we find triggering. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re finding something triggering or hard to deal with. Ie: conversations about diet talk/weight loss, calories or any other areas. From experience, people will be glad that you’ve been able to confide in them about it and will try harder to avoid given topics and scenarios. 

Plan meals and snacks in advance. If you’re anything like me, you can easily “forget” to eat (due to a lack of hunger cues, planning or an inability to go against anorexia) and other things can begin to take priority. It’s important to remember that eating is as important as your studies and the grades you receive. Eating is always important and necessary. Look through your timetable during the weekend and plan meal and snack times. This will help to reduce the anxiety surrounding the situation and will ensure that you have a comfortable plan in place. If you’re in the stage of recovery where intuitive eating is encouraged, go for it! But only if you can trust yourself to eat a sufficient amount of food throughout the day.

Set reminders/alarms on your phone to encourage you to eat. Again, this may help to reduce the anxiety surrounding the situation and will ensure that you issue yourself with essential eating time, which is easy to miss out on with busy uni schedules, appointments, meet ups with friends and a social life. I find that time passes quickly when I’m in the library revising, so I plan rest/comfort breaks to get myself together.

Ensure that you have plenty of distractions in place. I imagine that you’ll be busy with meeting assignment deadlines and partaking in extra reading, but remember to give yourself down time too. It’s a staple we all require in our day to day lives, and it should involve engaging in an activity that distracts you and helps you happy and calm. This can be anything from reading, doing something creative (drawing, baking etc) writing or spending time with friends.

And lastly…

Embrace the journey. Trust in yourself and the process and believe that you’ll get to a place where you wish to be. You’ve got this!

Social media is NOT real life

Mental Health

Whilst scrolling through Instagram, and other means of social media, it’s important to remember that social media isn’t real life.

As a society, we’ve become programmed into believing that the images we see upon our screens are a realistic perception of reality. When in hindsight, this isn’t merely the case.

I’m an advocate for mental health, positivity and I’m working on self-love. I aim to make my social media as honest as possible, an outlet where I document my journey (including the positives and negatives) But this comes with the understanding that the content we stumble across can often be misleading.

We often post content that suggests that we’re constantly living our best, happiest and healthiest lives. When the reality is – We have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors for others, and a person who may exhibit “perfection” (a mythological concept) could quite possibly be going through hell, secretly. The people who appear to be the happiest and most supported could well be battling Depression whilst incoherently feeling isolated, friendless and withdrawn. Those who seem all “put together” may slowly be falling apart. The reality being, nobody has it all figured out. Social media modifies our assumptions on others, whilst it simultaneously leads us to questioning the stages we’re at personally. We’re constantly competing to be our best selves, whilst shielding away our true selves and our feelings. And I believe we should be increasing our support networks, both virtually and in reality, and focusing our energies towards loving and appreciating ourselves for who we are.

But… Why?

Simple.

We’re afraid of the judgement gained through sharing the realities of our lives and our situations. Sharing a personal post could lead to being branded as a weirdo, which is obviously up there with the WORST things in the world next to receiving no likes, being unfriended and unfollowed. I encourage everybody to be honest on social media. Share your situation, share your story, reach out for support. From experience, people will be inspired by your journey, will be supportive and be encouraged to share theirs too! 

Photo editing

Images are posed, planned and often edited to counteract an unrealistic standard of typical every day life. App stores are compiled with a variety of editing apps and within a split second, we can achieve our dream bodies, remove evidence of acne and filter out our imperfections and insecurities. Instagram captures the “perfect” and most memorable moments in people’s lives, without the recognition that people behind their screens are often struggling. Struggling with self acceptance, low self esteem, and a collection of other issues. This only leads to vulnerable people falling into comparative habits.

”Why can’t I look like _____” 

“____ is dieting, so OBVIOUSLY this means that I should be, too”. 

We see images of people on holidays, sitting in 50°c heat in stunning locations with an ice-cream in one hand and a margarita in the other and quickly assume that this person is happy and privileged. The image instantly receives over 300 likes, and with this lies the judgement that this person is doing well. Again, we can’t assume this based on images and minimal background knowledge. Which is another reason why I advocate kindness, ALWAYS. Kindness is free, spread it everywhere you go!

With modern day technology, it’s easy to manipulate images to boost our egos and to increase the engagement we receive on Instagram, and the likes we rally up on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. It’s all about angles. People pose to attitudinise thigh gaps (which, by the way, are genetically based features and definitely not the route to happiness and fulfilment) and toned abs, only catch glimpses of forced smiles, moments spent in the gym and spend minutes allowing their breakfast to run cold in order to catch a picturesque glimpse of it whilst it’s laid out beautifully, rather than focusing on the nourishment and satisfaction gained from eating.

Social media isn’t real life. Its a virtual, fictional reality which can often, unfortunately, bring more damage than necessary. The only people we should be aiming to outdo is ourselves. We cannot distinguish a “norm” between the reality we know and edited versions of our own, and edited people’s lives.

The lives we see on our screens aren’t fully being lived, the mirrored images displayed right in front of our eyes simply don’t exist. And I believe it’s important to consider this when flicking through social media news feeds. A realisation being: The people you see on Instagram don’t look like the people on Instagram.

Self- love, starts with self

We all have our quirks, our insecurities, our struggles and our downfalls. All of which we shouldn’t be ashamed of. Nor should we feel obliged to hide away. Nobody has a perfect life, we’re a generation constantly in a state of self improvement and growth, and part of the process is sitting back and acknowledging that we’re Human.

You’re loved, valid and important. Even with your downfalls, your insecurities and when you make mistakes. And mostly importantly, beautiful.

And your worth can never be defined by social media.

Helplines

Helplines

Here you can find a series of Mental Health helplines. The helplines provide support for those in need, and can be reached via phone (text/call) or email.

BEAT:

0808 801 0677

0808 801 0711 (Youthline)

0808 801 0811 (Studentline)

Website: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

MIND:

0300 123 3393

86463 (Texting details)

Website: https://www.mind.org.uk

THE SAMARITANS:

116 123

jo@samaritans.org

Website: https://www.samaritans.org

PAPYRUS:

0800 068 4141

0778 620 9697 (Texting details)

pat@papyrus-uk.org

Website: https://papyrus-uk.org

Good bye scales, hello freedom?

Mental Health

Very recently, I braved the decision to ditch my scales. A step forward in recovery.

I have successfully managed TWO WHOLE WEEKS without weighing myself. Crazy, right? I’d been weighing myself obsessively (up to 5 times a day) for numerous years and I bravely opted for the choice to follow my heart and not my head.

The praiseful messages I receive encourage me greatly to continue on my path. Although my decision often feels wrong, those around me assist me in thinking otherwise.

Good bye scales, hello freedom…?

Or at least, I hope.

It’s still very early stages. My mind has been filled with increased anxiety levels, worries and unkind thoughts. I’ve unfortunately slipped into alternate behaviours, and have spent mornings shaking and crying because of the rocketing urges and discomfort levels I feel with relation to the number.

Distractions are the key.

I’ve created a list of distractions to turn to when my Anorexia rears it’s nasty head. Distractions differ between individuals. I personally benefit from writing and spending time with animals. Oh, and repeatedly watching Mamma Mia!

But realistically, my current intake will not increase my weight. And even so, this would be okay. Weight gain should never be demonised. It is important and I understand that I cannot narrowly avoid it forever. (I aim to blog about the importance of being a healthy weight once I’ve reached the milestone myself and have educated myself further on the matter).

I believe that scales should only be used for medical purposes, which is why I’m putting all my faith and trust in my team to allow them to continue to monitor my weight. It’s hard to let go. And it’s very easy to become obsessive, and to slip into disordered or competitive rituals, but I know that my current feelings will pass, similar to a storm.

I highly encourage EVERYBODY (not just Eating Disorder sufferers) to ditch the scales. Freedom awaits. Life is incredibly short and way too precious to spend time fixated on numbers – The numbers in our clothing labels, on the scales and on food packaging labels. In the long run, they are massively irrelevant and only curb our happiness, alongside successfully destroying our mentality.

The number on the scales simply highlights our relationship with gravity. It cannot measure our worth or our intelligence. 

We should all be encouraging each other to practice self love and to appreciate our bodies regardless of them not always meeting societies ideal expectations. I can list multiple factors that are extensively worse than cellulite, pimples and tummy rolls. Photoshop has forcibly wormed its way into our minds and disallowed us to focus on the things that really matter.

Our weight naturally fluctuates throughout the day, as a result of various activities and alterations in hormone levels. Weighing ourselves daily contradicts the definition of health, and leans more towards obsession. Eating and drinking adds to our weight, but this is only temporary. Bloating occurs, this doesn’t equate to weight gain, this demonstrates the movement of the digestive muscles after eating, or symbolises that our periods are due.

It can be hard to understand healthy habits with mixed messages frequently submerged in the media, and often in our own minds and disordered thoughts. With instagram and magazines often filled with posed and filtered images, laxative disguised “hunger curbing” lollipops and fad diets. It can be difficult to avoid comparative habits and ways of thinking.

You may be wondering, how I suddenly opted to ditch the scales.

I’m fighting for the days I no longer think about the number on the scale. The days the number can be altered to the number of animals I save.

The decision wasn’t lighthearted. The number became my focus for years, and I figured it was time for a happier one. I felt a sudden burst of positivity one morning after listening to one of my favourite podcasts. This took at least 6 years to occur. I remembered that habits cannot change unless we are willing to face our fears, and so that’s what I did.

I realised that the number never satisfied me. Even after significant decreases in my weight, I only ever felt the urge to lose more weight. But this incidentally brought the loss of happiness, freedom and health.

The choice to ditch my scales equated to “short term pain for long term gain”. Ie: I currently have to endure high discomfort levels, but this will only lead to a positive outcome.

It’s been 2 weeks since I last focused my energies on a number. And I remain encouraged that time will pass, my strength will increase and I will continue to flourish.

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.

.

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

Self harm: Help, hope and common misconceptions!

Mental Health

Hi everybody!

Today, I wanted to talk about self harming. A personal struggle, and an issue for lots of brave people I care about.

Thankfully, I am currently standing at almost 3 weeks self harm free! Following a 5 year battle with many relapses, feelings of doubt and the resistance of extremely high urges – I am on a better path.

I would self harm every day multiple times to release mental torment and to cope with a hateful relationship with my body. Screaming constantly that things would never improve for me, feeling desperate and crying my days away. But now I’m making progress and relearning healthier coping mechanisms – I hope I can encourage anybody suffering that things do get better (as generic as that sounds!)

Unfortunately, a high stigma is attached to self harm where it’s often viewed as silly or attention seeking and not so much the role of a coping mechanism it plays in so many of our lives. People self harm for a range of different, personal reasons in a bid to manage complex thoughts, feelings and emotions that we cannot see from an outsiders perspective. Not because we wish to be stared at in the streets when we find the confidence to finally stop hiding away or because we wish to be plagued with long lasting scars.

We understand that our scars may look “unappealing”, but that’s the reality of mental illnesses, I’m afraid. Plus, it really sits far from the underlying issue and quite frequently those thoughts are only made worse if somebody else vocalises it. Please don’t comment on self harm scars unless it’s to express concern or to issue love and understanding. It isn’t fair to plague somebody struggling with even more guilt or feelings of failure/inadequacy.

Once self harming becomes a coping mechanism in an individual’s life, it becomes extremely difficult to stop. Healing is never linear or a simple, overnight process. It can take years. Not because we don’t want to change, but because we feel as though we don’t deserve to do anything other than inflict pain upon ourselves. The urges can become stronger and more manipulative which makes transitioning to healthier coping mechanisms seem impossible at the time. Letting go of a coping mechanism (regardless of how destructive it may be) is never the easiest of tasks, believe me. And different things work for different people, in terms of keeping distracted and safe.

Agreeably, from an outsiders perspective I can resonate with the confusion regarding why anybody would deliberately cause themselves pain. It can be tough to understand without a personal experience. It can act as a mechanism of releasing upset and anger, frustration or low mood stemming from powerful voices in an individuals mind telling them to hurt themselves, or that they deserve to.

It isn’t a shameful or an embarrassing act. And, as I’ve learned, it takes a considerable amount of strength to stand up and admit your struggles, or to wear short sleeves with the understanding that scars are a reminder of the battles we have won, not signs of defeat.

If you know of anybody who struggles with self harming, please support them, be a friend and offer understanding instead of judgement.

Nobody deserves to suffer alone or in silence!

Be kind to yourselves, and others, and be patient with the stage you’re at.

For more information on self harm, please visit MIND:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/#.XEOSYKSnyEc

Be aware that whilst the site gives info on self harm, it also mentions types of self harm. So please consider yourself and your triggers before clicking the link!

Or The Samaritans:

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/what-speak-us-about/signs-you-may-be-struggling-cope/helping-you-through-self

Lots of love,

Laur xx

University second year – An update into my student life!

University

Hi everybody!

Apologies for the absence; life as a second-year university student has been quite chaotic to say the least. With assignments, dance and revision fixed in my agenda, it’s been almost impossible to sit down and write.

Today, I anxiously decided to take a break from my studies to focus solely on self care. An act I have been shamefully neglecting recently and I began feeling extremely run down. Listening carefully to my Teachers’ advice and applying it to myself has worked wonders and will only benefit me as I continue to work hard in the upcoming days, weeks and months to obtain my degree.

Disclaimer: Self care is more than applying a face mask or painting your nails. It’s taking the time to engage with something that makes your soul happy and that makes you feel relaxed. Taking time out from the stress of the world around you.

My second university year has been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. I often disregard my issues and my feelings in a bid to make myself, and those around me, feel better (which is something I am working on…) I’ve attended counselling sessions and have had countless meetings with my tutors who give me the kindness and understanding I forget to give to myself, constantly reminding me of how well I’m doing academically which always brightens my mood.

Admittedly, I have faced an anguish of tough days with regards to my mental health and well-being. Battling Anorexia whilst maintaining a good student persona is tricky. But still, every day I am trying. Times I felt I couldn’t go on, but nonetheless, persisted, and have pushed myself to reach out during my darkest days. Times I’ve cried over food, resisted self harm urges or over the concept of sitting in a practical session due to high intensities of anxiety or worrying over the torment issued by my own mind.

Still, I am approaching the Christmas break and the end of my first semester. I’ve made it. It’s fair to say I have met some major challenges along the way, whilst learning more about myself as an individual.

I’ve challenged myself in a collection of ways, stepping outside of my comfort zone and finding the confidence to speak to new people. Going against my anxiety attempting to convince me that “I can’t” with my greatly needed “can do” attitude.

Strength, determination and persistence.

My tutors often remind me of the way I treat animals, upon reflection, I must treat myself in the same way. With compassion. Learning to no longer deprive myself of the things I need, in the same way I would for my animal friends.

And I am extremely privileged to have my supportive network of friends, family members and tutors who support me, whilst furnishing me with love, understanding and the best advice, always.

I partook in my first winter dance show, an honour to dance with such incredible people and to show off our hard-work and commitment during the past couple of months.

Joining Jazz has issued me with abundance’s of happiness and a newly found confidence since joining in September. Winning Dancer of the Semester and feeling incredibly blessed to be part of a club where I feel so at home, a place I can be myself and still be so accepted.

Whilst continuing with Contemporary. The first club I joined in University, again, standing as a place where I feel extremely comfortable and joyous as I make new friends and learn new skills.

I always leave dance feeling refreshed (even after Izzy’s warm up!) and as though my problems have faded away. It seriously does work wonders for my mental health.

I’ve found it hard to maintain a balance between different aspects of my life, becoming agitated if I haven’t managed to complete something, or missing sleep to fulfil the demands of my, never absent, thoughts. Becoming guilt ridden over prioritising things other than work, assignments or revision. And part of my life as a student is coming to the realisation that finding a balance is the way to be productive, not sticking my head in text books 24/7 or exercising to the point of exhaustion.

Each day, Uni continues to provide me with lessons unlisted within my degree specification. Lessons of hope, gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance. And although times have been dark, there has also been lots of light and lots of smiles.

As I approach the end of my first semester, I remain optimistic that the remaining weeks will be wonderful, whilst looking forward to the upcoming semester, new modules and new life lessons made!