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. 

A ‘Severe’ Eating Disorder

I found a letter from last year regarding my eating disorder, and it stirred a few thoughts.

There’s no such thing as a severe eating disorder, ALL eating disorders are living hell and the fact that a proffesional claims me to have had a ‘severe‘ eating disorder makes me mad- so what, you think others aren’t severe? No matter what your weight, what your physical conditions, eating disorders are sheer hell. You can’t go out to enjoy yourself with friends, oh no, you must instead do laps around your local neighbourhood when your parents think you are asleep, you must restrict every waking hour to minimal food, you must constantly be agonising over your body.
Now, who are you to label as ‘severe’ or ‘mild’? Have you been through it yourself? No. Then you couldn’t possibly understand.

I’m sick of the macros, I’m sick of the BMIs, I’m sick of being sick of it all.

Why is it that there’s always a competition? If we were all sicker than each other we’d all be dead, simple as.

Strength is not determined by how low your weight got or how long you went without eating, strength is determined by the courage and determination it takes to recover.

Thanks for reading.

Orthorexia article: The Guardian

Today The Guardian published an article about orthorexia, entitled ‘Ortherxia:when healthy eating turns against you‘. This is a really interesting article that is well worth the read; including an individual’s story, a fitness blogger and a psychiatrist’s opinion and the debate about whether it is its own individual criteria or whether it is part of anorexia.

I believe that it is time othorexia was taken seriously and made a medical criteria along with anorexia and bulimia. It’s time people understood that all food is healthy in moderation, and eating only ‘healthy’ foods is in fact not healthy at all.

You can visit the article here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/26/orthorexia-eating-disorder-clean-eating-dsm-miracle-foods

Thanks for reading.

A break-up

Today I broke up with my boyfriend.

I know that sounds like such a trivial thing but it was so, so hard. I’ve been going out with him for over a year now. I enjoy his company but I’m not ‘sexually attracted’ to him or whatever it is you’re supposed to feel about someone you’re going out with. I go out with him because I feel I have to, that I don’t want to hurt his feelings but not because I actually actively want to. I got on with him like I get on with my friends, but he liked me in a different way and it just wasn’t fair on him to keep him in a relationship that wasn’t even. 
Despite this, he really didn’t want to break up. He desperately tried to ignore what I was saying when I rang him and was downheartened and upset by the end. I feel so cruel for breaking up with him, I was trying to do what was best for both of us but now I just feel selfish.

Why I broke up with him, a comprehensive list:

1) We just want different things in the relationship. I want to keep things at hugging/kissing but he wants more even though he said he’s willing to wait. He wants the relationship to progress but it just isn’t going to happen.

2) I don’t have time, and when I do see him he complains that I haven’t seen him for long enough

3) He can be really difficult and make me feel guilty about everything, for instance he makes out that I’m the only thing good in his life and he can’t imagine life without me so I feel trapped in the relationship

4) He doesn’t understand me. He tries, but he says all the wrong things yet always pushes me to open up to him when I don’t want to. 

    Two things about this, firstly I am a huge believer in talking to people, but personally I don’t care who that is- if my friend was upset about something, obviously I’d want her to trust me enough to tell me, but as long as she was talking to someone that would be good enough for me. I hate it when people try to pressure you to talk to them, like it’s personally offensive not to.
      Secondly, when I told him I’d been discharged from the ED services and that it was scary etc, he 1) bought me chocolates (?!) (weird choice of gift considering the circumstances) and 2) said ‘well you don’t have to worry about it anymore, it’s all behind you now’ or something, not understanding that in actual fact I still battle it every day- I’m simply better at coping these days.

    5) He wants me to be someone I’m not. He wants me to not be tired all the time, to stay up later, to text more, to do this and that. I cannot do all of these things, I can try but at the end of the day these are not my skills. My friends will agree that I am rubbish with texting, but they know I try hard and they understand that (I think). It’s tiring always being told that I don’t text enough, I don’t do this enough etc etc, and at the end of the day it just leaves me feeling inadequate.

    6) He’s really sensitive and struggles with self esteem. How am I going to make him feel if he knows I am not attracted to him? It will make him feel worse, and to stay in that relationship is a constant reminder. He doesn’t deserve that.

    7) he deserves better. Not only does he deserve better than my personality/being, but he also needs someone who is less busy and can spend more time with him. Because 

    8) He is very clingy. If it were up to him I’d never do anything else but see him.

    9) He’d always bring up conversations his friends had had about us, teasing him about us not having sex or whatever, like he was trying to guilt me into doing it? He’d bring it up like ‘oh max just texted me’ and so I of course am supposed to say ‘oh what about’ then he’ll say something along the lines of ‘ah just the usual’ or something but every time he tells me something about his friend’s conversations it’s about me or our relationship and I HATE it because I don’t know them and I get really anxious/ paranoid about what people think about me.

    10) He’d talk about us in the future like we were going to go out forever, which freaked me out as I’m only 17! If I didn’t break up with him soon I was literally going to end up marrying him for the sake of it. That’s how it felt.

    The point of this post?
    Well I’m not sure. I feel like I almost need to justify why I broke up with him? Like it’s only ok if I have good reasoning and it was the right thing to do?

    I realise I must sound like such a cow. I honestly don’t mean to, I just had to get it off my chest and I don’t know where else I can so that.

    I absolutely hate upsetting people but I know I hurt him. I relapsed into self harm for the first time in months. I didn’t even want to, which is more unusual as sometimes I get urges and I want to but I manage to distract myself, but today I just made myself. I had to. I hurt him so I must hurt myself. It was as simple as that. I’d caused him pain so I had to inflict pain upon myself, I deserve it. 

    Not looking forward to the endless task of hiding it and covering it up. It isn’t bad but it’s just a nuisance. I feel like I’ve let everyone down by doing it, but yet I felt I had to. I couldn’t win.

    I’m determined that this shall be my last time. I want to be able to say “XX was the last time I self harmed”. I want to put self harm in the past. I was so close to doing so but I screwed it up.

    BUT, as my friend reminded me, recovery is a bumpy road. It’s full of ups and downs and you’re going to slip up on time to time. That does NOT mean I have failed. It just means that I am strong enough to pick myself back up and carry on fighting. 

    Sorry for the ramble, I bet it was an awfully long boring account of what’s going on in my mind. But I did write this post in the middle of the night while I have a stinking cold so what do you expect? Oh well. I live another day to feel the guilt of being the one to end the relationship. Feeling truly selfish but I hope that gradually it will dull with time.

    Thanks for reading.

    Book review #2: Panther by David Owen

    I have mixed feelings about this book. While on the one hand it provides and interesting comparison between the Panther and depression, I felt let down by the ending and found the book felt almost unfinished? Although I guess you could look at it like depression- there is no definite end.

    As someone suffering with depression the ending of the book made me feel hopeless and worse than when I’d started, leaving me almost wishing I hadn’t read it. I had hoped it would provide relief and show that it can be got through, instead it almost showed the opposite. I know it’s not this book’s job to help me in any way, it’s a work of literature not a therapy book. But anyway, I had hoped that this would be a good thing to read to help me get through it but I’m not so sure it’s that helpful.

    One thing I would have really liked is more focus and explanation on Derrick, because Derrick himself had depression! He was depressed and binge ate and I was really hoping for some sort of revelation at the end of the book whereby he’d realise he was depressed and ‘understood’ what depression was (understood is the wrong word, I have it and I still don’t understand! Empathise with it I guess?). I also thought that talking about Derrick’s depression might have helped make it clear that not all depression is crying and screaming etc, although the author did this well using the dad.

    I also wanted more explanation on why Derrick did some of the things he did, like the slightly creepy sex obsession and obsession with Hadley? But maybe that’s pushing my luck.

    However, the book was very well written and I liked how even though it was on a difficult subject it was almost made lighter by the Panther hunt which acted as a good break between the heavier aspects. I thought the symbolism of the panther was really special and Derrick’s hunt enduring.

    Overall, although there are some aspects I’m still unsure about, such as the ending, I thought it was a very thought-provoking book. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to people struggling with depression or family/close friends of those affected as I think it can be quite a difficult read with those circumstances, but I would quite possibly recommend it to other people who are interested in the topic.

    Thanks for reading.

    Louis Theroux: By Reason Of Insanity REVIEW

    Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity is a two-part documentary published in March 2015 by the BBC.
    The documentary is about those who are cleared of criminal charges due to reasons of insanity by court. The episodes are an hour long each, during which you meet several patients and follow their stories.

    Part one of the documentary on the BBC.
    Part two of the documentary on the BBC.

    Louis Theroux explores the world behind Ohio’s mental health hospital where people go when they are not deemed sane enough for trial.

    The documentary was very interesting while also a bit chilling at times. The stories of individuals were explored and from a psychology point of view it was very interesting to see how different each patient and their symptoms were, even under the same diagnosis.

    Being a sufferer of mental health issues myself, I was nervous about watching this documentary. I am relieved to say it hasn’t made me feel any worse about my mental health- I enjoy exploring mental health in a wider context than just my diagnosis, so seeing these people who have committed extreme cases of violence due to a mental illness was particularly interesting but also heartbreaking. I feel I can relate to some of them especially with their depression, although I personally do not have delusions. I think programmes like this raising awareness of mental health conditions to the general population are so important, so I really valued the chance to watch it.

    I did find on a few occasions I wasn’t sure of what Theroux had said and whether it was appropriate/ thought it might be unnecessarily upsetting, such as saying to one patient that he wanted him to feel more guilty/express more emotion when clearly the patient struggled with emotional difficulties and therefore it wasn’t his fault and was also a sensitive topic. I found one of the parents shocking, calling her son a ‘nut’ for having schizophrenia, but I guess this is how people behave in real life- sad, but true.

    Anyway, overall it was a great documentary and I would recommend it to both those suffering with mental health issues and others.

    Other reviews:
    The Guardian
    IMDb
    The Telegraph

    Thanks for reading.

    My First Inpatient Meal

    This post talks about the thought processes I had during my first meal at the inpatient unit. It could potentially be triggering to those struggling with eating disorders so please be careful,
    I’m posting this to raise awareness of what it’s like to battle your demons through each meal. I hope you like the style it’s written in, feel free to leave feedback in the comments and I’ll reply as soon as possible (I get back home from holiday in a few days time so will reply then).

    My First Inpatient Meal

    I remember my first meal.

    Half a tuna sandwich.

    The mayonnaise and sweetcorn spewing from the sides.
    My hands shook as I moved the half across from the plastic container to my plate. The others began. Silence all except for the radio wittering softly in the background. I picked up my sandwich again. I looked at it, studied it’s brown seeds and soft brown crust. I pulled it closer to my mouth, lingered there for a moment. Unwillingly, my mouth opened. I nibbled the corner. The dry bread slipped down my throat.
    Time was slipping by.

    I looked around me, seeing how far others had got. Most had eaten almost a quarter. The girl sitting opposite me, also on half portions, had barely touched hers. I must finish last. No one will take me seriously unless I finish last.

    The minutes ticked by.

    Soon ten minutes were up, then fifteen. We were half way through the meal. I was less than halfway through my half-sandwich.

    I took another bite, forcing the salty tuna down my throat. I felt the eyes of other patients bore into me, sizing me up. Sizing. Ha, it’s almost funny isn’t it? That in actual fact they probably were looking at my size. My enormous, disproportionate body. The body that the professionals insisted was ‘underweight’. The body that I had toyed with for all those months. The body I tried to make disappear.

    As I sit there, my head spins. It’s too late now, there’s no going back. I will gain weight, I will never again be this thin. I can’t bear it. If I look like this now, what will I look like in ten kilograms? What will I look like with both halves of the tuna sandwich?

    I take another bite.

    Nonchalantly I chew. Again, I look up around me, up at the clock this time. 10 minutes left. I let my gaze drift down to the window. There’s a garden outside, one for the adolescent unit. I see a girl sitting there on a bench. I wish I could be sitting there, in place of that girl. Free to run around the garden, to exercise without the judging eyes and stern words from staff.

    I look down at my hands. Just a few mouthfuls left.

    The staff disturbs my thinking, “five minutes left, five minutes”. I shove another mouthful in.

    Chew.

    Chew.

    Chew.

    Swallow.

    I try not to think of the grease coating my mouth. I look around, everyone has finished. Even the girl opposite. I stick the last bite into my mouth, just as the staff calls for us that our half an hour is up. I think I’ve done it, but the staff shakes her head at my plate, indicating that I must scrape it clean. Humiliated, I use my finger to scrape the excess crumbs and mayonnaise from the plate. A stray piece of sweetcorn also finds itself in my mouth. No need to chew, I swallow fast. No supplement drink for me. I was through our first meal.

    ***

    Thanks for reading.

    My Story, In Prose – by Sarah

    Today I am sharing a story. One of sadness, true, but also determination and triumph. This story is not my own, but Sarah’s. Sarah is an inspirational young person and a fighter against anorexia. I hope that you find Sarah’s story as gripping and wonderfully written as I did, as well as it allowing you insight into what it’s like to live with an eating disorder.

    My Story, In Prose
    By: Sarah
    Instagram: @oatsosarah
    Written 8/24/2015

    August, 2012

    Sarah is thirteen and Sarah is fat.

    Those are two things that Sarah knows with absolute certainty.

    At the doctor’s office, that fateful day in late August, Dr. G says, “Sarah, you are off of your growth charts. Sarah, you must lose weight. Sarah, you must eat less. Start exercising. Something must change”.
    And Sarah changed, oh yes they did!

    Autumn, 2012

    Sarah’s best friends are slim. Athletic. And so are their classmates! In fact, Sarah can count the number of fat people in their school on the fingers of one hand. Sarah only ever wanted to fit in.

    “Daily Caloric Intake Calculator
    Age? 13.
    Height? 5’4”
    Weight? xxx lbs.
    Goal Weight? xxx lbs.”

    It spit back a number and heaven help us, that number was Sarah’s life!

    Winter/Spring, 2013

    The shower’s water is hot on Sarah’s back but Sarah feels cold inside in an odd, icky, not-so-good way. Brown smoke clouds Sarah’s vision and they nearly fall. Panic. Panic everywhere, and Sarah can’t see!

    “I can’t see!” Sarah shouts, hands clutching grey walls. “Help, I can’t see!”

    Their mother comes, wraps them in a towel. Spots, static, in front of Sarah’s eyes and a burning pressure right behind them.

    “I’ll get you some orange juice? Maybe you’re hungry,” The words cut like knives. Heartless attempt at kindness, that is. Offering her child ORANGE JUICE, while that child is on a DIET?

    It’s a waste of calories, Sarah.

    “No thanks, I’m fine.”

    “Sarah, you are eating /something/.”

    Sarah picks up the smallest clementine they can find from the bowl in the kitchen.

    “I’m fine.”

    Spring, 2013

    It’s all your fault, Sarah. Just because it was your mother’s birthday dinner did not mean that you had to eat that. Or THAT. What were you thinking, you fucking fatty? Of course you’ve gained weight since this morning. Of course. Because you fucking pigged out tonight, that’s why! Go. Go do laps and TRY to burn off all the weight you’ve gained. FUCKING FATSO.

    Pacing, pacing into the dark, and then jogging, breaking into a run, again and again laps around the house, around the yard, uphill and downhill and uphill again. Sarah tastes bile, sweat drenches their face.

    The scale reads lower and Sarah nearly collapses with relief.

    Nearly, because only lazy pigs sit down for no reason.

    Summer, 2013

    Sarah is an overachiever and thus, has decided to take an advanced summer course at school. For the students in the summer session, the dining hall staff were kind enough to cater lunches for the summer session students.

    Hot fudge sundae bar! Two of Sarah’s friends, who also opted to take the class, are excited. They rush to the bar— aren’t you going with them, Sarah? They have dark chocolate chips, after all!

    Sarah drags themselves up, tears waiting anxiously behind their eyes, ready to run in an instant.

    You’re stronger than this, Sarah. Look at you, worthless monster. You’re giving in. Stop. Stop. Stopstopstop.

    Sarah gets a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. Passes the dark chocolate chips without a second glance.

    Upon arriving home, they begin to exercise, and continue into perpetuity.

    August, 2013

    “Sarah, look at you! You’ve lost xx lbs! Look at how healthy you are!”

    Sarah is healthy. Sarah is healthy.

    First day of school, 2013

    Sarah, you look so good!
    Any tips? C’mon, spill!
    Look how SKINNY you’ve gotten!
    Wow, way to get in shape!
    I’m so inspired by your self control!
    Man, you’ve lost a ton of weight!

    Autumn, 2013

    Sarah’s not studying enough, Sarah has to get up at 4:30 am to study. They can study till 6:30 and then leave for school at 7:30 and still make it on time.

    On the weekends, why isn’t Sarah studying for 8 hours a day? Wait, they do? Okay, what about 10? Do you have anything /better/ to do, Sarah? NO. Studying is all you’re good for, after all.

    100%.

    A+.

    You want to get into an Ivy, don’t you! You need to actually work, not sit on your lazy ass all day.

    Sarah’s mother is concerned.
    “Sarah, why does it take you an hour to eat your oatmeal every night?”
    “Sarah, aren’t you healthy already? Why are you only eating x calories a day?”
    “Sarah, when will your diet be over?”

    November, 2013 Continue reading

    Fundraising for Beat

    This Sunday I am going to be running a 5km obstacle course to raise money for Beat.
    As is obvious from this blog, this charity is very close to my heart and means a lot to me as it is raising awareness and also offering help to both sufferers and families all over the UK who struggle with eating disorders.

    It’s easy to raise money, there are so many possible fundraising activities you can do- raising money but also having a whole lot of fun in the process. You can do cake sales, sponsored runs, walks or cycles, discos, sell handmade cards- you name it!

    I have had so much help for my eating disorder over the last two years, which I am eternally grateful for. It feels absolutely wondertful to be able to give something back.

    So far I have raised over £200, which is over my original goal of £150!

    If you would like to sponsor me please visit my JustGiving page.

    I have posted fundraising updates on both my personal Instagram and Facebook which was quite a challenge as I explained that I had suffered from an eating disorder, but people have been so supportive I couldn’t be more thankful. Asking people to sponsor me is also a great oppeetunity to explain what it’s really like to have an eating disorder. Being open about mental health is hard, but I will always try my best to be open because that way we can break stigma and make it easier for the future generations to talk about mental health.

    Together we can beat eating disorders.

    Thanks for reading.