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. 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: updated post

This is something I wrote a while back, in hope of raising awareness post on both my old blog and also my personal Instagram and Facebook for Eating Disorders Awareness week back in March.

“Today is the last day of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014, and I have finally plucked up the courage to post something about it. I feel physically sick posting this, but I am determined to raise awareness and break stigma about eating disorders, so I’m doing it anyway.” – 04/03/14

But why should I be ashamed; why should I hide it?
If I had broken my leg I wouldn’t be afraid to tell someone, so why should eating disorders be any different? They shouldn’t.

***

I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa on the 9th May 2013, and I’ve been at the Priory for 4 months [now discharged, but was there as a combination of inpatient and day patient for 10 months] recovering from it. It is only with their help and huge amounts of support and encouragement from my family and few close friends that I’ve nearly beat it.
Last year was hell. At my worst I was so cold all the time, I couldn’t focus on conversations at all, I fell behind at school and felt weak and tired. I’m just thankful my parents spotted it before it got any worse or went on for any longer.

You don’t “choose” to have an eating disorder.

It starts off as an innocent idea to eat healthily and stop eating so much chocolate etc, but before you know it it can spiral out of control and become a full-blown eating disorder.

Anorexia isn’t just “being skinny”. It’s in your head; you can’t concentrate on anything except food, exercise, calories and body image. You lose everything: your friends, your happiness, your health. And no matter how thin you get, you will never be happy with your appearance. You don’t see yourself how you really are, your perception becomes warped and wrong. People with eating disorders aren’t “attention seeking”, they don’t want the illness any more than any other person. It’s hard to recover from when you’re in the grips of the illness, no matter how hard you try. But it is possible.

Also, just because you see yourself as bigger than you actually are, does not mean that you think everyone else who are normal sizes are fat; it doesn’t work like that.

You don’t have to be thin to have an eating disorder either; it’s a mental health condition, and being underweight or overweight are just physical consequences/ symptoms of it.

Eating disorders can come about for all sorts of reasons, but often they are caused by stress and feeling out of control of your life. People turn to food as a way of coping, and it is so easy to fall into the grips of an eating disorder. But they only create more problems- and need lots of help and support to overcome.

If you think you know someone suffering from an eating disorder, tell someone about it. You might just save their life.

* * *

This is quite brief and simple, but I hope it helped get some important messages across.

No one choses to get cancer, no one chooses mental health conditions, so don’t treat them differently.

Thanks for reading.

Small things can have a big impact

I don’t know about anyone else, but I, personally, am an emotional wreck.

When something really small happens, it can have such a huge impact on me it’s ridiculous. Especially when it’s something that links to my key areas of insecurity..

A few days ago one of my teachers got really angry at me and another girl for a joke (evidently not a funny one) hiding under a desk, and as a result I was crying for hours. The bad thing is I’m not even exaggerating; it triggered suicidal thoughts, never eating again, self harm.. You get the picture. And for what? One teacher getting annoyed at me? Ridiculous right?

Well the truth is that one of my main issues is that all I want to do is make others happy, even if it is at the expense of myself. I’ve had a really hard time with friendships from the age of around 6, where I had a friend who wouldn’t let me join any clubs or talk to anyone else, and used to dig her nails into the back of my neck and arms. I couldn’t stand up to her so felt useless even from the age of 6. I was so young, I should have been enjoying myself but instead I was worrying about being a bad person.

Anyway, I digress. Essentially, if I upset someone it seems like the end of the world, because if that is the one thing that really matters to me and I can’t even get that right, then surely I can’t do anything right? And if I’m only making others miserable then I’m just being selfish being here. That’s what I think.

I don’t know who I am so I don’t know who to act. All I know is that I am deeply insecure and hate myself and all the mistakes I’ve made.. And I guess that’s why pleasing people is so important; because I know that’s something I care about, it is me, even when I’m not sure who ‘me’ is.

I apologise for the randomness of this post, I guess it was more me clearing my head more than anything else really.. But I decided to post it because I think it’s really important that people understand how others think.

If we understood each other better maybe we’d all be more open and confident in ourselves?

I don’t know, it’s a nice thought though.

Thanks for reading.

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Mental Health Awareness Day 2014

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day 2014. It is so, so important to raise awareness, because with awareness comes understanding. With more understanding maybe we’d all be better equity to combat these issues, and beat mental health illnesses once and for all.

Today I thought I’d do a post outlining some key areas people misunderstand about mental health illnesses, to help raise awareness of key misinterpretations and try to inform people what it’s really like.

I hope you find this post informative and helpful; please do like or comment below to let me know what you thought.

There is no such thing as ‘attention seeking’ when it comes to mental health. Surely if you’re ‘making a fuss’ and being ‘attention seeking’ there’s something wrong anyway? Most people in a stable mental state would not feel the need to do that, so instead of it being annoying and ridiculous, isn’t that a form of suffering in itself?

People don’t chose to suffer from mental illnesses, and it is no one’s ‘fault’ if they’re suffering from one. When I first got diagnosed (originally with anorexia nervosa, but later depression, anxiety and OCD), I couldn’t stop blaming myself for what had happened. “I have a wonderful family, and I’m not that unhappy at school. So why am I like this? I’m pathetic” sort of thing. As you can imagine, this only makes you feel worse and more depressed, which isn’t helping anyone.
The truth is, mental health illnesses can come about for a whole range of reasons, and it’s nobody’s fault; not the person suffering or anyone else’s.
No one would ever wish a mental illness upon themselves, so please never think that it is someone’s choice.

Mental health illnesses don’t discriminate against class, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else.
Mental state is individual to you, and even people with the same diagnosis could suffer from almost completely different issues.
E.g. Anorexia for some people is about the intense fear of food, which results in losing weight; whereas other’s is not about the food itself, but about your body and weight.
Therefore please be open minded, and don’t think “well she hasn’t done X or Y so it isn’t a problem or a mental health illness”. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that; mental health illnesses can be hard to categorise, but that does not mean that they aren’t an issue.

People who suffer with things such as anxiety are not ‘pathetic’. Imagine your worst fear, then imagine having to face it every single day, with everyone else going about their normal day to day business. It would be hard wouldn’t it? You’d want to give up. Well for many, that is how anxiety feels. Don’t be quick to judge others on their fears, they are all equally as real and valid as yours.

Lastly, mental health illnesses are really hard to combat and beat. I myself have been in recovery since May 2013, and over a year later I am still very much struggling and trying to overcome my demons. Yes, in some aspects I am better, but it many I am not. I have a long way to go and it’s going to take a while. Recovery isn’t a straight line, some days will be better than others, and some people take longer to recover than others. And that’s ok. The most important thing to bear in mind is that as long as the sufferer is trying their hardest, that is the most you could ever ask for. Please be patient with those struggling, and please, please don’t give up on them. When I was at my worst I have up on myself, and if it weren’t for others faith in me I might not be here today.

I hope this article was thought provoking and raises awareness.

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.

***

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!

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.