Reflecting 

“Recovery can mean spending all night planning your relapse but waking up and having breakfast anyway.”

*Potential Trigger Warning*

Sometimes it is good to take a step back and have a minute to reflect. About 8 months ago I was miserable. I had stopped eating entirely, was exercising compulsively and was told if I continued I could die. My bmi was not *critical* but the damage I was doing by completely starving my body meant I was in danger of my organs shutting down. This is the reality of Anorexia. I was introverted and isolated – convincing myself that this was MY choice not my disorder’s. Anorexia stole those months from me. Months where I could have been enjoying myself with friends and family, but instead I spent in a hospital bed crying over food and wishing this torment would end.

My other relapses have been similar. I spent the best part of second year in my room, at university or at work. I reached my lowest ever weight. My life revolved solely around food and exercise. Yet that year I attended every single university lecture and tutorial – immersing myself in the work and hiding away from the fact I was relapsing again.

The year before that I was told I would not make it to university if I continued what I was doing. However, I made it to university despite being advised against it and actually managed surprisingly well.

After each relapse, however, I regained the weight but continued using other behaviors to compensate.

Honestly it is hard to not look back at these times through rose tinted glasses. I often still miss my underweight body. And my mind regularly convinces me that I looked better and that I was happier back then. I often miss the control and security I felt while underweight but I am no longer blind to the sad existence it brings. I still struggle on a daily basis – particularly with accepting my new healthy body, but I have learnt to manage my thoughts and maybe at this moment in time that is the best I can hope for.

Since making the decision to recover properly – and believe me it is not an easy journey to choose to embark on – I have slowly but surely gained my life back. I have been on holiday, had nights out with friends, gone to restaurants and challenged my fear of food. I am brighter, happier and healthier. I have gone from the girl who would cry over an apple, hide her food and pour out nutrition drinks to the girl who just spent 2 ½ weeks on holiday eating out every other night. I have gained more than just weight that is for sure.

You see recovering from Anorexia is not solely about gaining weight. It is about learning to love and respect your body. It is about finding different coping mechanisms. But ultimately it is about making peace with yourself. People think it should be easy to choose recovery. But you do not choose recovery just once, you choose it every single day.

xx

 

Anorexia Recovery: Lets Play Poker.

Imagine you are playing poker. There are two players. Anorexia and your body. The chips symbolize who has control. Sometimes Anorexia has all the chips. Sometimes your body has all the chips. Sometimes it is half and half.  You have to decide who you want to side with. But the game is not easy. Anorexia has a well practiced poker face. You want to believe what it is telling you. You desperately want to believe you can side with it and win. But your body is crying out for you to help it. It desperately needs the chips. It needs you to give it control. It needs you to listen to it and nourish it. But Anorexia is good at bluffing. It is telling you it has all the cards to win once and for all. It is a promise of happiness. Deep down you know it is a lie. Somewhere along the way you discover that siding with Anorexia just brings misery and a whole lot of useless cards. But you feel like gambling. You feel like sticking with it just in case. Yet at some point you have to make the decision to switch sides. You have to realise that you cannot keep gambling. Because in reality this is not a game of cards. You are gambling with your life.

Your body may not have the highest cards. It may not even have the cards to win every round. But you have to choose to stick with it. You have to believe deep down that you and your body can eventually win the game. There may be times you waver, there may be times when you long to side with Anorexia because you are so desperate for the high and adrenaline starving gives you. But you have to be strong. You have to hold your ground. You have to side with your body because its promises of health and happiness are true. Your body does not bluff. Your body is not manipulative. Your body wants to survive but it needs your help. It needs you to help it win. And you need to make sure that Anorexia is left with nothing.

xx

The Parent Perspective

A few weeks ago I interviewed my dad in order to gain some insight into what it is like to be the parent of someone suffering from Mental Illness. My dad has been a rock for me and he has always been there through the good times and the bad. In the past I was really bad at opening up to him but recently I have found it easier to let him in and allow him to support me in the best way he can.

I asked him the following questions and these are his responses, in his own words:

1. What is it like having a daughter with a Mental Illness?

It’s really difficult. It’s not like a physical illness where the treatments are more obvious and there is an expectation that the person will recover in a certain time frame. With Mental Illness everything takes much, much longer. It can be quite stressful over a long period of time. It’s also more difficult if your child is living somewhere else and you are not able to see her every day.

2. Would you say it is frustrating?

Yes, the whole process is frustrating. Mental Illness is not easy to diagnose as it is complex and there may be several different things happening at the same time.  It seems to take a long time to find the right treatment and therapy.  It is even more frustrating as you cannot see when it is going to end.

3. Do you ever get used to it?

I think you gain a sort if acceptance. I wouldn’t say you get used to it, but I think you gain an acceptance that this is how it is and how it is going to be for some time. You adapt your life to live with it, but it is very hard because things could change at any moment. You may need to be there to help, if they want it, and that could happen at any time because Mental Illness is unpredictable like that.

4. What is it like having a daughter with an Eating Disorder?

It’s hard because eating is such a big part of socialising. It’s particularly difficult when you don’t live in the same place as your daughter because when you meet, you want to be able to invite her for lunch or dinner. If she comes home after a few months away, you want to make a meal to welcome her. Food is such a big part of life and if she has a problem with eating then it can get in the way of things. You’re also going to see your daughter lose weight, get very thin and look much less healthy. It’s distressing because it’s not something that can be sorted out quickly, overnight, there’s not a simple solution, there isn’t a pill you can take that makes it all go away. It takes quite a long time for that person to recover and that’s what makes it so hard.

5. How did you feel when I was first diagnosed with Depression?

It was a big surprise to begin with because we’ve never had a problem with depression in the family, I had never come across it and to hear that a young person had depression was really a surprise. I also think I found it hard to accept because I didn’t think you appeared to have depression as you didn’t behave in the way that I imagined depressed people to behave. More importantly, as a parent, you begin to wonder if you are responsible in some way. Or if there is something you should have done or shouldn’t have done which might have caused it.

6. What about EUPD? Was it quite scary hearing that diagnosis?

When they told me they had diagnosed you with EUPD it was the first time I had heard of it. It wasn’t until afterwards that I started researching and reading about it and trying to find out what it was. So how did it feel? Well, in some ways it was reassuring to put a label on the illness because something was clearly wrong. It was good to have that clarity so that we could say this is the condition and this is what can be done about it. We could then start to ask about the treatments available. So it was good actually getting to a point where it was described as something. I have read that with the right therapy and a willing patient there is a very good chance that the illness can be cured.

7. When did you become aware of my Eating Disorder? 

For a long time you covered it up so well and I wasn’t really conscious that this was going on. It was probably when you were away at University and we saw you less.  We’d take you out for meals and you would be eating fine but looking thinner.  So it took me quite a while to notice the disorder because you hid it.

8. What advice would you give a parent of a child with any Mental Illness?

It’s difficult to be specific as each case is different. The first thing is not to have any sort of hang-ups or be embarrassed about seeking psychiatric or psychological help.  Also try and read about the disorder as much as possible to understand what is going on. I found the health service very, very slow. I don’t know what advice to give on that but maybe you need to be quite persistent if things don’t seem to be moving. You really just have to keep on going. And provide all the support you can and just be there as much as you are able.

9. What advice would you give to parents whose children are shutting them out? 

You have to be patient and leave it up to them. There are probably things you will never know. I think the longer you can spend with them or around them, the greater chance there is that the young person will open up or a time will come when they are willing to speak. And very often you will ask them how they are and they’ll bite your head off because they don’t feel like speaking. You’ve really got to wait until they are ready to share something with you. And you have to think about creating opportunities to spend some time with them.  A simple example is going out for a walk in the country, and we’ve done that a lot. That’s been a great opportunity because it’s away from distractions and we’re in a private place. Nobody can overhear and it just opens up that space where you can have freedom to talk as much or as little as you want. Hopefully the young person will take advantage of that but you cannot force it.

10. Any other comments or advice?

I think a parent needs to find a way of staying positive. You’ve got to find a way of helping yourself and supporting the rest of the family as well as the young person with the illness. You’ve got to keep your outlook optimistic through good self-management. That could be just giving some time to yourself.  Don’t give up on the things that you enjoy because you’ve got to keep your own spirits up and you need to do that for the benefit of your son or daughter. So I think it is important to look after yourself and try to keep yourself in a positive place, which then means you’re in a good position to provide the support when it is needed. And don’t neglect other members of the family, particularly siblings, because they have needs as well.  So you’ve got try and get that balance right.

So thats my Dad’s take on Mental Illness, hopefully some parents will find this helpful. And as always, thanks for reading.

xx

Coping With Bad Body Image Days

The vast majority of us all have days when we struggle with our body image. However, to those suffering with an Eating Disorder these days can seem unbearable and incredibly difficult to cope with. They can massively impact our behavior and social interactions. I cannot count the number of times I have refused to go out because I knew simply getting dressed would be a totally traumatizing experience. So how to cope with these horrendous days? Well, I have eight things to remember for when I am struggling with my body image.

  1. You are so much more than that number on the scale. It does NOT determine your worth as a human being. It is just a number, nothing more, nothing less. The scale cannot tell you how loved, valued or special you are.
  2. Fat is not a feeling. One cannot feel fat, just as one cannot feel orange. It is simply not possible. It is much more likely that you are feeling something deeper, such as insecurity or depression and it is these feelings that need to be examined and dealt with.
  3. Treat yourself as you would treat others. I was once told by a nurse that if I spoke to my friends in the same way I speak to myself, I would have no friends left. And she is right. You wouldn’t judge a friend on their size, weight or shape, so why would you judge yourself? Treat yourself with the same compassion you show others and it will make a world of difference to how you feel about yourself.
  4. Don’t focus on what you cannot change. Focus on what you can. Think about the reasons behind your negative thoughts and the impact they have on your feelings towards your body. Your body is wonderful. And when it is healthy it allows you to do so much. It fights hard to keep you going and it deserves to be treated with respect.
  5. Fight the negative voice in your head. The negative thoughts are just that, thoughts. You can fight them. You can challenge them. And you can recognise them for what they are and choose to dismiss them.
  6. You are not alone. No matter how much it feels like it. You are not the only person who struggles with accepting their body. And in a world of diet culture and where thin is in; body dissatisfaction amongst woman AND men is at an all time high. It may surprise you how even the people who seem the most confident, will still have days when they struggle with their body image.
  7. Look after yourself. However hard it feels, self-care is so important. I never used to shower on days when my body image was particularly bad. I couldn’t even get dressed. But I soon learnt that taking care of myself on my bad days actually made me feel better as I was taking control and not letting my negative thoughts win.
  8. You are unique. You are worthy. You are beautiful. And life is far too short to be caught up with worrying about the size and shape of your body. There is a lot more to you than that.

xx

Hope

Today I felt hope. A little burst of light burning inside of me. If only for a moment I belived I could do this, that I could pick myself back up and become stronger for it. I felt that maybe, just maybe, I could move on from my past and the people who hurt me. I felt hope and that terrifies me. I’m so afraid to admit it as I felt it was something I had lost forever.

It may have dwindled slightly now. The light may have started to fizzle out but I will try my best to keep it burning and not allow the darkness to extinguish it completely. Keeping it burning is my weapon against the darkness. This is MY war and MY victory and MY recovery. And I will keep it burning, I will keep fighting. Because that small light is all I have left to hold on to.

Xx

Taking Control Again

“It is the courage to continue that counts”

So I’ve been rather quiet these last few weeks and the truth is I’m not doing well. On the 18th of February I had to come back into hospital, and in all honestly I feel ashamed to admit that. I feel I should be doing better and able to cope on my own in the community. I wasn’t going to blog about this admission but I’m tired of being embarrassed. When I started this blog I decided I was going to be open and honest. And this is the reality of Mental Illness. Recovery is not a straight line by any means. It is full of hurdles and twists and turns. Sometimes it can feel like you are running in circles. Other times you can feel like there is a 10 foot wall blocking your way.  But I have to remember relapses happen and it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means I have to find the determination in me to get back up and try again.

It is scary how quickly things can change for me. How I can be doing OK one minute and the next feel as though I am being propelled back into the suffocating darkness. These last few weeks have been some of the worst I’ve ever known, I have been all over the place and experienced every possible emotion. I’ve felt lost. I’ve felt stuck. I’ve felt trapped in a body I hate with a mind that has declared war on itself.  These past few days I’ve just deteriorated. I’ve given up and seem to have hit my own self destruct button. And actually the harsh reality is that there is only so much people can do. People can support me as much as they can, they can try and help, but ultimately I have to be the one to change. I have to be the one to decide to fight again. I have to be the one to pull myself out of this hole. And that terrifies me.

But today something changed in me. I got a wake up call from my psychiatrist who just looked me straight in the eyes and said “where is this going Jenny”…and I just broke down. Because I don’t know where it is going, I just know its not forwards and I cannot continue like this. So I’ve decided it’s time to take control again.  I feel like I’m at a cross roads. I can continue down this self destructive path which is so horrible yet so familiar. Or I can take a leap of faith and start fighting my way back up. That road is much harder to take because first I have to believe in myself. I have to believe I am worthy of help. I have to believe that I can recover. But most of all I have to believe that I have the inner strength to keep going.

You see in recovery you don’t have another option. Sometimes being strong is all you can do. It is all you have. It is all you can hold on to. We fight because we have an instinct of survival. We live for other people when we cannot live for ourselves. We keep holding onto that tiny slither of hope that tomorrow can be better, can be brighter. And today, for the first time in weeks I felt that hope inside of me. Hope that maybe, just maybe, I can do this. And I can come out the other side, fighting.

xx

 

Fighter

I hope to find a place someday

Free from sadness and disarray

Where feelings come and feelings go

But I still feel like I’m in control

 

I hope to fight head on my fears

And live a full life without tears

I want to know what it’s like to laugh

And not be living behind a mask

 

I hope to find the strength inside

To ride the waves and know I’ve tried.

I want to get myself to a better place

Where I can feel the sun shine on my face

 

I hope I can find the light in darkness

And recognise what is true happiness

I want to end this deadly war with me

And learn what it’s like to simply be

 

I hope to remember that I’ve survived

Things over which I’ve cried and cried

That have struck me down and left me broken

Yet I am stronger for I have spoken

 

I hope I can fight my darkest thoughts

And untwist myself from all the knots

That have kept me tied up for so long

That have made me tired and not feel strong

 

I know the struggle that lies ahead

Is long and hard and I’ll wish I were dead

But I have belief things can be brighter

Because, I know that I am a fighter

xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom at Last

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

After 4 months of being in hospital and not allowed anywhere on my own for any reasonable amount of time, I cannot tell you what freedom from feels like. For the first few days I felt on a high. I felt like I was dancing in the clouds. But like every good feeling it came to end and I was propelled back down with the harsh realisation that I now have to actually live my life. In hospital, your life is on hold. You don’t have to deal with bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, working…anything really. And that’s good and bad. Good because you have the space to focus on yourself and getting better which is so important, but at the same time it can be incredibly overwhelming when you find yourself having to do all these ‘normal’ things again. It’s been a hard adjustment. These last couple of weeks have been a blur as I’ve struggled to get myself together and in a routine. At first I threw myself back into the gym, but I soon came to acknowledge that, what can be the perfect outlet for some, was just another way for my Eating Disorder to try and jump in. I love the gym though. I love the endorphins pumping through my veins and the satisfaction I get when I reach my distance goals. But I don’t love how there is always a part of my brain, however big or small, fixated on the calories burnt. So it’s a no to the gym for now, at least until I can find a happy balance.

I therefore currently find myself with an abundance of free time and nothing to fill it with. I guess I was under the illusion that when I left hospital things would be magically perfect and I would be 100% cured. Unfortunately, Mental Illness doesn’t work that way. I’m coping better than I could have hoped though, and every day gets easier to manage. I have amazing support workers, a great therapist and a fantastic social worker all doing their up most to keep me going. I’ve seen friends, been out for drinks and spent time helping out at my local church. These are things I love doing and things I’ve missed while being in hospital. Yet I still feel like there is something missing. I feel like my life has no direction. And I’m beginning to think it’s because I have yet to decide what to do about going back to university. I need to figure out what I want because being in this limbo does not sit comfortably with me. But all in good time. At the moment I have good days and bad days, productive days and lazy days which is all healthy and all ‘normal’ – which is ultimately my aim of course. So for now I’ll keep muddling along, trying to keep my head above the waves until something clicks and things start to fall into place again.

xx

Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder – The Illness No-one Talks About

“A crucial element of the real self is its unconditional acceptance of itself.”

EUPD is a Mental Disorder which I can only describe as an umbrella term which encompasses many different traits and characteristics. Really, this is my primary diagnosis, yet it is the one that I have been most reluctant to talk about. This is because it is so misunderstood due to its nature, name and the stigma surrounding it. I could make a general post about EUPD, but I worry I may not be able to fully show what it’s like for others – owing to the fact that the illness manifests itself in different ways for each individual sufferer. So prepare yourselves for a personal post. I’ll try and explain how EUPD is for me, in my own words.

I was 18 when I was diagnosed with EUPD and I wasn’t particularly shocked. Good old google had basically diagnosed me already after each one of my evenings was spent searching for what was wrong with me. However, before that, It took an inpatient admission to the Young Persons Unit in Edinburgh for the professionals to tell me what they thought I had. At that point, I was 17, so I was told I had ’emerging EUPD’ as they do not diagnosis the disorder in adolescents. I would not wish EUPD on anyone. Not even my worst enemy. It is utter hell and it is only recently that it has even been seen as treatable. Previously, it was considered chronic, and professionals would avoid having to deal with patients with the disorder owing to its complexity and a huge lack of knowledge in how to treat it. I’m happy to say that it is now considered a treatable illness, although recovery is not easy. There is no specific pill to treat EUPD. Anti-depressants do little to ease the symptoms, although some anti-psychotics have been found to work at lower doses. There is, however, two types of therapy that are believed to have the most positive outcomes. These are called DBT and MBT and are both types of psychotherapy, but I’ll get on to them later.

I bet I’ve confused you now. You’re probably sat wondering, yes, but what is it? What is this disorder with a scary name which has perplexed psychiatrists for years. Well, I’m going to do my best to tell you.

EUPD stands for Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. It used to be called Borderline Personality Disorder and was named as such due to the belief that it it was on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. However, the name has since been changed and while I don’t particularly like it, it does do better to explain what EUPD is all about.

There are 4 areas in which symptoms can be grouped and I shall go through each four and explain a bit about them and how they are for me, personally.

1. Emotional Instability

For me this means that I experience an intense range of, usually negative, emotions. It is very distressing and very difficult to manage as I tend to feel everything 100x more than everyone else. Marsha Linehan said “People with EUPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” This sums it up perfectly. I am fiercely sensitive and I can experience a whole range of emotions in one day. I find it very difficult to control my emotions and the hardest part is never knowing if how I am feeling is justified for the given situation or whether it would be considered an over-reaction.

2. Disturbed thinking patterns

I experience a lot of upsetting and intrusive thoughts. By this I mean I get a lot of thoughts which make me believe I am a terrible person, friend, sister etc. It is like having an abusive partner in your head constantly telling you every day that you are not good enough and that you are undeserving. I am bombarded with thoughts telling me I am useless, stupid, fat, ugly and a waste of space. It’s incredibly difficult to fight these thoughts and challenge them. I have learnt to recognise them for what they are and accept that they are not true – for the most part. In reality, they are nothing more than the result and fall out of past incidents which have happened but fighting these thoughts is an ongoing battle. People with EUPD often have low self-confidence and little self-worth. We also have an unstable sense of self, meaning we often feel like we don’t know who we are. For me this makes it harder to challenge the negative thoughts and it is even tougher to try and change thought patterns which have been ingrained for many years.

3. Impulsive behaviour

Impulse behaviour is a big part of EUPD. This is mostly to do with self harm and suicide attempts but also impulsiveness in other areas which for me include spending and binge eating/drinking. I’ve struggled with self harm since the age of 14, and it has been a long battle but ultimately it is an addiction which has only gotten worse over the years. I tend to go through periods of time when I’m not self harming but normally these are at times that my Eating Disorder is taking priority. I don’t want to talk too much about suicide attempts as it is upsetting and distressing for my family to read but it is an intrinsic part of the diagnosis and something which has caused my family a lot of pain and anguish. As I said, I would not wish this illness on anyone. With regards to excessive spending,  I tend to spend when I get what is described as ‘chronic feelings of emptiness’. It feels like a void that can only be filled by spending, eating or drinking in excess. Like self harm, I guess, it works for a while but ultimately just causes more problems than it originally solves.

4. Unstable relationships  

I experience very black and white thinking. I have a small number of close friends that I trust but with new people its almost as if I either love them or hate them. There are very few people whom I am able to put in between. This can lead me to have very intense friendships and attachments which cause problems if they turn sour. I find my black and white thinking extends to all areas of my life and I find it very difficult to see grey areas in situations but particularly regarding people. If a friend where to cancel on me, for example, I would automatically jump to thinking they must hate me rather than rationalising the different reasons why they may have cancelled. I also have an intense fear of abandonment which coupled with low self-esteem, causes a lot of issues surrounding relationships as I’m scared people will leave me because my thoughts tell me I am not a good person and undeserving of love and attention.

As you can see EUPD is extremely convoluted and there are a lot of other symptoms which I don’t experience and therefore feel uneasy talking about. The treatment for EUPD is now thought to be either Dialectic Behavioural therapy or Mentalisation Based therapy. I have only ever had MBT in the past so I know next to nothing about DBT – only that it is considered a treatment option. MBT looks at how individuals interpret their social world by examining how other people and/ certain situations influence their behaviour and feelings. It has been incredibly successful in the treatment of EUPD and has certainly helped me in the past. I found it particularly helpful that the focus is on the here and now. I feel like it has given me a lot of insight into how my illness affects me on a day to day basis which is important when trying to control impulsive behaviour and regulate emotions.

Ok, so that’s all for now. Apologies for the long post and congratulations if you managed to get this far! I just felt it was important to explain a bit about an illness that is hardly every talked about and therefore completely unfamiliar to many people. I hope you found this informative and if you have any questions feel free to comment below 🙂

thanks for reading

xx

 

Recovery is not a Straight Road

“I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m telling you it is going to be worth it.”

I began this blog with the intention of being honest and of documenting my experience of living with severe Mental Illness in a frank, truthful and transparent way. Recovery from any illness is not a straight road. Far from it in fact. And what would be the usefulness of this blog if I continually painted a rose tinted picture of recovery? Though I have no intention of writing negative and triggering posts, it is inevitable that not every one of my posts will be brimming with positivity. So I apologise in that respect. What I will try and do, and what I am teaching myself to do each day, is to find light when there is darkness in the hope to inspire others to do the same.

So here goes.  I feel stuck. I do not feel positive today. In fact, the crippling nature of Depression is simply making me want to hide under my bed sheets and sleep for 100 years. I do not have the fight in me today. I do not have the mental energy to fight this war in my head. I simply feel like giving up. Because it is not just some days I battle. It is every day. Every day I have to make the choice to get up and fight for my life back. Unfortunately, Depression does not make that easy. It can be very determined.

Depression often feels like you have no control. The fog descends before you have even opened your eyes and bang, you are hit by the most debilitating yet familiar feeling in the world. Having battled Major Depressive Disorder for 8 years, I am used to it. That is why it is familiar. It is almost like my default emotion. If you have never suffered with Depression, (I would beg you to count your lucky stars), I often say it is as if my good days are other peoples bad days. You are stripped of the ability to feel anything remotely good or positive. You are bombarded with negative thoughts in your head which are constant and relentless, and all of which can range from ‘you are useless’ to ‘you deserve to die’. This is the reality of Depression and there is no sugar coating it. Your ability to feel happiness, joy or fun is crushed and you are left with nothing but this dark cloud that you cannot for the life of you shake off.

So yes, I am struggling. Food has not been easy this past week to put it lightly. Anorexia and Depression appear to have become the best of friends and when both are strong I struggle to keep focused on recovery. It seems almost easier to let them take over and allow them to fill my mind with destructive thoughts to which I feel powerless. Anorexia tells me I do not deserve nourishment, Depression tells me this is because I am worthless. Coupled together, it feels like two against one. Which lets be honest here, has never been fair.

But guess what? It’s OK to have bad days. It is normal to struggle and have days where you feel like it is all too much. And I know that. I know that that is what I would tell anyone else in my situation but applying it to myself is hard today. YET I have to remember who is in charge here. I am. Not Depression. Not Anorexia. Not anyone/anything else. Jenny is. I guess the important thing is to try and not wallow in the overwhelming blackness, which is something I am really bad for. I admire those who suffer with depression and manage it really well. The funny thing is I am not self pitying, I just tell myself I can’t a lot. I can’t shower, I can’t get dressed, I can’t eat today. Why? Because it is too hard, It is just too much. But where does that leave me? Answer: in an even worse place than if I had made myself do those things in the first place.

Sometimes you cannot sit in the dark and just hope the light will go on. Chances are it will not. So today I got up and I got dressed and considering how low I have felt today I am considering this an achievement, however small. Despite this I still feel mentally drained, but I am still determined to make it through. I once promised myself I would not give up. No matter how hard it got. So I’ll sleep tonight simply praying that tomorrow will be a little brighter and determined to fight that little bit harder.

xx

p.s 1 in 10 of us will suffer with depression at some point in our lives. As I have explained, It is not a case of just ‘being sad’, it is a serious and recognised illness for which there is medication and therapy. Please if you are suffering. Seek help. Do not be embarrassed. You deserve to get better, do not suffer in silence .<3

But you look normal?

“There is so much more to Eating Disorders than just weight.”

Let us just get one thing straight. Eating Disorders are not solely about weight. Weight loss can be a SYMPTOM albeit a dangerous one. It is a Mental Illness with physical side effects. Body Dysmorphia Disorder often coincides with Eating Disorders and it is for this reason that suffers will continually see themselves as fat when this is often far from the truth. There are MANY Eating Disorders. Most people have only heard of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa but there is also Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia purging subtype, A – typical Anorexia and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) to name but a few. There is also a common misconception that sufferers must look emaciated or underweight to be suffering. This is not the case. You can have an Eating Disorder at ANY weight. And believe me, the struggle does not end when weight restoration is achieved. This misconception often prevents people from seeking help sooner. They may feel they are not ‘sick enough’ or are afraid that they will not be believed.


Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate among all mental illnesses. 20% of sufferers will die prematurely and only 30% will fully recover. This is why they are so serious. I believe it is important to raise awareness, to show people the severity of these diseases and to encourage people to seek help. Eating Disorders are not about vanity or the result of a diet gone wrong. They are serious psychiatric conditions that cause immense pain and anguish and require intensive long term treatment.

Thanks for reading.

xx

Who am I?

“Sometimes we’ll find it. The balance between who we wish to be and who we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.”

I have often asked myself ‘who am I?”. Who am I without this illness that dictates every part of my life – from the calories I eat, to the clothes I wear, to the things I do and the things I choose not to do. My likes and dislikes, even some friendships…EVERYTHING is ruled by my illnesses. I wonder how I will ever be free when this is all I have known for the past 8 years. How do I get better when I do not know what better is? “No Jenny – you cannot eat this, do that, wear those. You do not deserve to look nice. You are too fat and too ugly.” This is essentially your life while consumed by an Eating Disorder.

I worry people think this is a disease driven by vanity or a sick desire for attention. I assure you it is not. I almost wish it were the case that I could ‘blame’ my Eating Disorder on stick thin fashion models, a world obsessed with dieting and a society in which the media portrays thin as being in. It would be easy, in that case, to establish a cause and maybe even then to find a cure. But for me it has never just been about being thin. It has been about control and perfectionism. It has been about fighting hard against adulthood and wanting to make myself so small I didn’t take up space. I hated my body yes, but I hated myself 100x more.

I am still trying to recover after my most recent relapse. I have bad days, good days and some horrifically awful days.  Yes I had to eat. But I also had to understand that I am never going to recover if I cannot accept myself – and within that I have to allow myself to love my body. And not its aesthetic appearance necessarily, but I have to find it in me to love what it does. My body fights to keep me going every single day and even after all the sh*t I have put it through, I am still here – living and breathing. Hating your body is easy. It is loving your body enough to nourish and not punish it that is hard.

Yet, honestly, the hardest thing I have learnt is to try and separate myself from the Eating Disorder. I have to constantly ask myself questions. What does JENNY want to do? What does JENNY want for dinner? JENNY would prefer to take the lift over the stairs because, lets be honest, who has time for stairs. And those extra calories burnt are so not worth it. It takes time and it takes practice. I hope one day I can live freely, and not constantly feel like at every corner my Eating Disorder is waiting to trip me up. I want to answer questions without hesitating as I frantically fight with two sides of my brain. But I guess it is about promising myself that I will get up each and every time I fall and to try and never fall in the same way twice.

I am learning every day how to be kinder to my body. I am learning every day how to fight back against negative thoughts. But most importantly, every day I’m learning who I am and every day I get a little bit of ‘Jenny’ back.

xx

 

 

Change is Good

“The mystery of human existence, lies not just in staying alive but in finding something to live for”

Life is never easy, but I am finding it particularly tough at the moment. I am on a year out from university and am currently looking for a job. Trying to fill my time is proving incredibly hard. So my days are filled with going to the gym or helping out at my local church. But more and more I find myself thinking I am useless and my life has started to feel empty.

Feeling like we have little purpose is a common thought that we all get from time to time, but left to fester it can cause more complicated problems. So what can we do to prevent these thoughts? Or at the very least challenge them? In times of transition or when we are ‘in between’ things, these thoughts can become more prominent and keeping them in check becomes increasingly paramount to our mental well-being.

For me it is important to spend time with people. I find myself at my worst when I am on my own. I begin to feel detached and it becomes easier and easier to isolate myself. When you spend time with people your brain is forced to engage, you are able to feel a wider range of positive emotions and most importantly you feel valued. As humans we yearn for acceptance by our peers and recognising we have this acceptance keeps our minds mentally well. Feeling connected and participating in social interaction feeds our need for strong, safe relationships. All this elevates our mood and allows us to function in our day to day lives.

One thing I have learnt from fighting my way out of depressive episodes is that routine is so important. A lack of routine leads to a chaotic existence which is difficult to make sense of. Make sure you have one thing to do each day. Even if it is going for a walk outside or tidying a room in your house. Plan your day the night before so you know in advance what you are going to do. Go to bed at a decent time, get up at a decent time. Get dressed every day, wash your hair, do your make up, shave etc. Do anything that makes you feel good and boosts your confidence.

Do not skimp on self care. You matter. I promise you that. Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing right now – you are important. When we are feeling low we often neglect looking after ourselves. Remember to eat well and avoid eating fast or processed food as this will not make your body happy. Stodgy carbs can also make us feel lethargic and less motivated. Do things you enjoy, and focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.

Lastly, stay positive. In whatever direction your life might be heading go with it, do not fight against it. Make good of whatever situation you find yourself in and most importantly – take control. In many ways we make our own happiness. Life is too short to be stuck doing things we do not want to do. You alone have the power to change and guess what? Change is good (and yes it has taken me 21 years to finally admit that). Embrace the fact that you are at a crossroads in your life and take the opportunity to make a change. It might not be so easy later on.

Anyway that’s all from me. Thanks for reading.

xx

An Introduction

I have always enjoyed writing. There is a lot to be said for the power of the written word. The decision for me to start blogging was actually very sudden. I went for a shower one day with no intention of increasing my online presence, and came out of it determined to start a blog where I was prepared to share a large proportion of my life with whoever was willing to have a read.

As a child I would often keep diaries and I found comfort in being able to express my emotions through writing. However, the pressure I felt to write every day, ruined the initial benefit I gained through this manner of self expression. Coincidently I stopped keeping diaries. This inherent need to do everything perfectly, is something that has set me back on so many occasions in my life and is something I do wish to blog about in the future.

My blog is called ‘LivingAmidTheMadness’ because I feel this accurately sums up how we often feel in our crazy fast paced society. I want to blog about how we live our lives and what we can do to take a step back and simply be. I have also struggled with Mental Illness for 8 years and I hope to draw on my experiences in order to help other people who may also be struggling.

I hope you enjoy

xx