Dealing with past trauma

I was looking through my computer yesterday and found this ‘post’ if you like (it’s before I had a blog you see) about dealing with past trauma that I wrote on 5/8/2014.
My ‘trauma’ if you lik was a relationship I was in that made me feel uncomfortable, but I shan’t go into that.
I hope this post is helpful for those dealing with difficult situations in the past, just like I had to, and helps people keep going in their recovery.

Dealing with past trauma
As a person recovering from an eating disorder, I can say hand on heart that I understand what it’s like to have so many feelings and emotions about particular incidents that you feel trapped, vulnerable and alone. The important thing to realise is that whatever it is that happened in your past was most likely NOT your fault, and whatever it was you can work to get through it and carry on your day to day life without the pain you once felt.

For me, the first thing I had to was to sit with the bombardment of feelings and emotions I felt, and try to calm myself down enough to work out what it was that was scaring me so much and causing all these emotions and thoughts.

Some ways of calming yourself:

  • Counting slowly to ten, breathing deeply
  • Focusing on an object and looking in detail at everything, then go back to yourself when you’re feeling calmer
  • Sit with both legs firmly on the ground and with your back straight upright, and feel the chair supporting you from beneath and remind yourself that you are in the present and you are safe

Allow yourself as much time as you need. For me I just lay in bed (it was night) and panicked about it all for a while, until I calmed myself down enough to think clearly.

Still, once I had realised what the situation was that was bothering me, it didn’t change anything. I still had all the same overwhelming thoughts and feelings, and I still felt completely out of control. So the next thing to do is to talk to someone.

I know how hard talking to people is. It has taken me almost a year to trust therapists enough to (almost)fully open up to them and actually start doing therapy work that was going to benefit me.

I see a therapist at CAHMS, but I didn’t want to talk to her about this certain thing for various reasons, so after some panicking and a bit of thinking, I decided to contact Childline, where I could talk anonymously.

However, talking to people you know is probably best depending on the situation; there are some things I understand you just can’t bring yourself to talk to someone you know about. But if you do decide to talk to someone you know, talk to someone you trust. Be it your parents, therapist (if you have one), or friends. Just a word of caution though, talking to your friends is great and you are not burdening them at all if they want to listen and help you, but try not to put them in a difficult situation. For example, if you tell a friend something that puts you or others at risk and beg them not to tell anyone, that is stressful for them and will also probably make you feel worse for putting them in that situation. Or, if you do this, understand the reason why if they tell someone, and be forgiving because they only want what is best for you.

Anyway, after all this, the end result is that it’s no longer trapped and bottled up inside you. Now that it’s out in the open, even if just one person knows, then you can start to gradually let go and move on. It doesn’t instantly feel better, sometimes it’s still scary and horrible after you talk to someone for a bit, but over time the feelings will hopefully get less intense and you can move on with your life and recovery.

I hope this helped anyone who is finding it hard to move onto the past, and please feel free to comment any questions/thoughts or email me at myjourneywithrecovery@gmail.co.uk

Thanks for reading. 

Pets and mental health

Pets are a wonderful way of helping us keep in good mental health, or for those of us who aren’t so lucky with keeping well, a great way to aid our recovery into a healthy mindset.

Pets are great for all sorts of reasons, as is shown by the fact billions of people across the world have them!

They are a wonderful distraction. Having a bad day? Why not snuggle up with your dog/cat/rabbit/guinea pig/hamster or whatever other pet you may have.

You learn their likes and dislikes, their personality, and how to get on best with your pet. You feed them, pet them, give them water and shelter. They rely on you. For those of us feeling useless in day to day life, they give you a purpose and something we know depends purely on us.

They add structure to your day. You know when you must feed them, water them, let them out, clean them out, walk them if it’s a pet that requires it. All of these things giving you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

They can be rewarding; having a cuddle with your pet after a long hard day can be all you need to melt today’s stresses away.

Essentially, the amount you give to your pet in terms of not only food and supplies, but also love and affection, is given back to you by your pet in forms of hugs and routine.

Of course human interaction is very important and it is so so important to talk to people and share so that you do not feel alone, but unfortunately people cannot always be there; pets can. If you’re having a rough night and are fighting self harm urges or some horrid thoughts etc., you can always turn to your pet.

Even stroking them and holding them can ground us. They are a physical thing, they remind you that you are here and you are not in the past or future, but in the now. This can be especially helpful with disassociation or similar experiences, as it helps you feel part of your body rather than separate from it.

Reasons such as these are why animal therapy exists and is so successful in helping patients. It is particularly helpful for children with ADHD, and patients struggling from PTSD and/or depression.
I found an interesting article about animal therapies in The SCAS Journal from the Autumn of 2010, I definitely recommend the read.

I have a rabbit (lionhead, male, 9 months, and the fluffiest thing you’ll ever meet) and he means the absolute world to me. Some people might think it’s weird how much pets mean to them, but to m it makes sense. Pets have emotions and we learn to read them, just as we do with humans.

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Last but not least, you can draw parallels between your pet and life. You learn your pets needs, do more of what he/she likes, less of what they don’t, you look after them and give them space if they need it; all things you would do for a human.

My therapist once said “treat yourself like you treat your rabbit”. I laughed at first, but since I’ve realised she’s right.

We need to look after ourselves like we look after our pets, we need to love ourselves and nourish our bodies, we need to do more of what we enjoy and we need to be able to take time out when we need it.

Pets are wonderful things. They teach us things about ourselves that we may not have known before.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with pets and mental health in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

Shackled to life

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Drawn on 24/11/2013.

I had to edit over my signature as this is an anonymous blog and I didn’t want to share my full name, so sorry about that. Apart from that, the photo is unedited.

I’m not great at drawing but I would love to know your thoughts on this.
For me, drawing and poetry both really helped and continue to help me express myself. They don’t have to be amazing works of art/literature; mine personally were just for me to see and to feel like the emotions were ok to feel? I don’t know if that makes sense. Basically, there is no need to ignore emotions, because they are important and it’s ok to feel upset or down.

We wouldn’t know happiness if we had never first felt sadness.

In this particular drawing I was feeling hopeless and trapped, with nowhere to go and constantly being judged and imprisoned in my mind (link to the blog name!) , and constantly tied to your illness with no separation of you vs. your illness. I also felt (and still feel) trapped in life, not being able to leave, and feeling stuck in a world where you don’t belong.
And, for me, this is what the drawing represents.

If you’d like to use this drawing please go ahead, but make sure you give this blog credit and link it here.

Thanks for reading.

Writing a food diary: is it right for me?

Updated old post from 25/9/2013 on my old blog

I kept a food diary since the very first day I got diagnosed with anorexia and embarked upon this difficult but worthwhile journey of recovery, until about 6 months ago when I decided it was time to move on.
Sometimes I just wrote down what I had eaten, and sometimes I also jotted down how I was feeling next to it.

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Where do I keep my food diary?
You can keep your food diary in a notebook, you can print off food diary sheets online, you can even get food diary smartphone apps- my personal favourite being RR, where you write down what you eat but also how you feel on scales of 1-5, which is quick but gives you a good idea of how you are doing when you look back at it. It can also draw graphs for you of your mood or how often you are binging etc. which can be very helpful to see how you are coming along.
I personally write it down in a notebook which is my food diary, but I have also used the RR app which I really recommend if you have a smartphone – it just depends if you prefer it being written down on paper or digitally!

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food diaries: useful or not?
Now I’d definitely say it has been useful to refer to at times, but with keeping such a rigorous record of what I eat and when I eat it, I’d definitely say there are some negative points to bear in mind.

If you are recovering from an eating disorder- whether that be anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, EDNOS, orthadoxia etc, deciding whether to keep a food diary or not can be difficult.

To help with this issue I thought that I would do a post about the pros and cons to help you guys out.

I will not reach an overall conclusion as to whether it is a “good” or “bad” idea, I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. It’s important that you feel happy and comfortable with whatever you choose to do.

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Side note – This should NOT be a calorie counter
Also, can I just say right now that this food diary should NOT be a calorie counter! It is important to let go of your eating disorder and start eating for nutrition, calories do not matter in the slightest and should not be counted up in your diary if you can avoid it! – That’s my advice anyway, obviously you can go against it if you wish.

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Pros

• It allows you to keep track of your progress- how much you are eating and if you have a meal plan, whether you are managing to stick to it or not
If you have a dietitian/ therapist/ counsellor/ keyworker, you can show it to them if you want to know if you are eating enough/ the right things/ sticking to your meal plan well enough etc.
• It can be useful to refer back to; for instance if you start losing weight you can look back on a period where you were gaining and see what you were eating then and how you could get back on the right track again
•By writing everything down you can get used to what you are eating and start accepting your new food plan more – but be warned, for some people writing it down may only make what you’re eating seem more of a challenge.
• Many people who have eating disorders (myself included) like the feeling of control when they lose weight or don’t eat etc., so by keeping a food diary you are still perfectly in control but in a new way which will lead to you getting rid of your eating disorder forever
• If you’ve eaten something that you found really hard like chocolate cake or something, when you write it down and write next to it how hard you found it, when you look back you will be able to see how brave you were for eating it and even if you don’t feel it at the time, you will be proud of yourself

Cons

•Keeping a vigorous list of what you are eating can be another way of your eating disorder taking over – though you can always start off by writing it down and eventually stopping
• It is time consuming
• It may make you feel worse about what you are eating if you write it all down and it looks like such a large amount that you cannot cope with it
• It doesn’t allow you to forget what you’ve eaten
• It may make it harder for you to move on from your eating disorder and leave it behind
• You may get anxious about somebody finding it
• It may frustrate you to see how long it takes for things to change and you to be able to eat more

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It’s up to you…
I’ve probably missed some points out by accident, but I think that is the majority of points I wanted to make. If anyone has any more suggestions leave them in the comments and I will add to the lists and give you credit of course (unless you ask to remain anonymous).

It is up to whoever is reading this to draw their own conclusion of whether they think it is right for them, and whether it will help them in their recovery. There is no right or wrong answer, everyone is different and it may help some people but not others.

I personally think that it completely depends on what stage of recovery you are in as to whether you will or will not find writing a food diary helpful. When you progress further in recovery it may be a good time to try to let go of rituals of recording what you eat etc, whereas if you are new to recovery you may find it a useful tool to keep some control initially.

I hope this helped, and please do leave feedback below if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks for reading.