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.

Freya raising awareness

One of the only positive things that has come out of having this illness is meeting some of my best friends. My time as an inpatient in an adolescent eating disorders unit was hard, but the friends I made are friends for life.

One of them, Freya Chandler, is a Beat Media Volunteer and has recently done an interview for the BBC. In it she makes some really important points, and she speaks honestly and truthfully about her experience with anorexia- something I think is really brave and important to do. How can we hope to break stigma if we don’t first try to educate people and help them understand?

Her article and video are on BBC Newsbeat website, the Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, and Huffington Post.

She also appeared in the Daily Mail, though they twisted her words and the article was stigmatising and wrong. They just want to make a good story. Well guess what? Eating disorders are hell and should be treated seriously, not just to have a good sounding title. It honestly makes my blood boil.

It’s printed now and what’s done is done. I am angry at the Daily Mail, but so so proud of Freya for being a voice for so many people suffering from this awful illness. The BBC article was incredible and they did a wonderful job at portraying the truth about eating disorders, which I couldn’t be more grateful for.

Some of my favourite quotes from Freya:
“There are triggers everywhere and you just have to learn to build yourself up against them”
“Use the old person not as a motivation to go backwards but an inspiration to move forwards.”

I hope you enjoyed the article,

Thanks for reading.

Anorexia in one picture

Sometimes it is hard to capture in words exactly how I feel.
You know the saying ‘a picture says a thousand words’? Well I couldn’t agree more.

After a particularly upsetting day yesterday, I decided to let my feelings out not through self destructive behaviours, not through words, but through taking photos.

I’m going to put a trigger warning here because you can see my ‘spine’, although only because of the position I am in.

This, to me, symbolises anorexia.

The bare back turned away, vulnerable. Caught in a corner with nowhere to turn. No-one and nothing but anorexia. The hunched position, the fear and desperation. That is anorexia.

Anorexia is not this glamorised thing you see on ‘pro-ana’ sites or Tumblr. It is a life threatening and devastating illness. I’ve been in recovery for two years now, and still in some respects I am deep within its grasp. It is hard to let go, hard to do normal things and go about everyday life.

I wish more people understood and accepted that recovery from mental illnesses are not easy. I always feel pressure on me to recover and stop needing therapy. One of my biggest fears is not being able to connect with people, so when people don’t understand me it sends me into panic. Yet so few people do understand me. How can I expect others to understand me when I don’t understand myself?

I am trying, and I will not stop trying until I am through this illness.
For a few blissful months I was weight restored, doing well and hardly thinking about food. I was exercising sensibly, and for enjoyment. Now that frame of mind seems unreachable. But if I have done it once I can and will do it again. That is what I keep telling myself.

Stop saying tomorrow and start saying now. That is what I need to do. I need to get my life back.

Thanks for reading.

Health is not defined by calories

Something that really bothers me is the way people associate health with calories.

I’m not talking about people suffering with eating disorders, of course it isn’t their fault and I bet you anything they wish that they didn’t feel the need to count calories, but I mean the general population/ the way they are presented in media.

There is far too much focus and emphasis on calories these days.

“New recipe, lower calories”

“Workout more, burn calories” etc

The fact of the matter is; health is not and never will be defined by calories.
Calories can be a factor to your health I agree, but so can so many other things and calories only really come into play if you’re eating an unbalanced diet or are eating too much/ too little.

The Oxford dictionary definition of health is:
“The state of being free from illness or injury.”
Does this mention calories? No.

People say “a calorie is a calorie”, meaning that it doesn’t matter what they eat as long as the calories are the same, whereas I truly do not believe this is the case.
Again, I am not trying to pick on people or be rude, it’s just people’s lack of knowledge around health when it comes to eating. It really is shocking and I find it quite upsetting, especially when people refer to calories all the time when I’m trying to stop looking at them.

“A calorie is a calorie”, well, yes and no. If you have a calorie goal in recovery of course it is important you reach it! And it is equally important that you challenge yourself and treat yourself to niceties like chocolate. But, calories do not define health.

A really simple way of putting it is this;
say a glass of smoothie is 200kcal,
a bottle of Coke Zero is 0kcal.
But which is better for your health?
The smoothie.
But it’s higher calories, how can this be?!

Just because it is higher in calories does not mean it isn’t good for you. Smoothies are full of vitamins, minerals and natural healthy substances. Coke Zero has many artificial additives and not many natural substances at all.
So why is it that in today’s modern day and age, where we know so much about health and nutrition, that people are so fixated on calories?

Obviously I cannot answer this question. I can simply say this; a healthy diet is one of balanced nutritional values, not one based on calorie goals. Having treats is ok, good for you in fact, but so is it important to have things such as your 5-a-day.

I eat chocolate almost every day I would say. Not necessarily in it’s pure form, but I eat puddings that have it in and chocolate yoghurt etc. All food groups are important. I have a high metabolism and I love chocolate, so I shouldn’t be ashamed to say I eat it often. It isn’t bad for you, fats are healthy and are just another food group like any other. I have a balanced diet of all the food groups; fats and sugars, starchy foods (carbs), protein, dairy, and fruit and veg.

The key to a healthy diet is balance. And the understanding that calories aren’t everything is so so important.

I want to promote health and am sick of societies views on calories. I believe it is wrong and it’s encouraging disordered eating behaviours and thoughts around food.

[note: I am not saying Coke Zero is bad for you in any way, simply that you do not want to be drinking it every day of possible, and it was just an example to show that calories aren’t all that counts when it comes to health]

One day we will all be able to nourish our bodies well and understand health better. We just have to spread the word.

Thanks for reading.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: My first video

Sorry for my lack of posting lately, school is very stressful and I have been struggling a bit with my mental state. I am trying hard to stay on track, but food thoughts and self harm urges have been bad so it really is a battle at the moment.

I would never wish an eating disorder upon someone, no one deserves to go through that. I know from personal experience how horrible it is and how hard it is to recover from. But it is possible.

I wrote a song a while ago and decided to edit a video of it to raise awareness for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015.

I am not a strong singer so I do apologise for my terrible vocals. It was really hard and anxiety-provoking posting this, but if I want to make a different to how people view mental health I have to be open about it.

So here goes!

My previous post on this poem/ song lyrics: Shadows [original poem]

Thanks for reading

The Weight of Eating Disorders

As a victim of an eating disorder, I know that there is one ultimate secret that is hard to hide… Weight.

The numbers consume you. No matter how small they go, they crush you in their seeming enormity. Others may ask, but never will you let them know how ‘huge’ you really are.

Since I’ve been in recovery I’ve learnt that often victims of eating disorders don’t see their body how they truly are, often associated with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). However, this new piece of knowledge does not provide much comfort for the agonising pulling and pinching of your body.

No matter how many or how often people tell you you’re not fat, your view of yourself doesn’t change.
So your weight drops and the numbers plummet, you forever hoping that maybe one day you will look in the mirror and like what you see.

“Maybe if lose a few more pounds I’ll be happier in my own skin”

If only it were as simple as that.

You see, eating disorders aren’t kind and forgiving like you and I; they’re out to cause pain and will not stop at attempting to do so. A few pounds lost, the voice tells you “not good enough” and “just a few pounds more, then you can stop“.
The pounds come off, but the ‘stop’ is never reached.

Even now that I am in recovery and dedicated to it, telling people what I weigh (e.g. my parents) never ceases to be a challenge.

I got weighed today and the ultimate question was asked; “give this [weight record] to your dad on the way out won’t you?”. And did I? No. Instead I folded the sheet as small as it would go, shoved it in my pocket and hoped dad wouldn’t ask. He didn’t.

You might be reading this thinking, “Ok, so I get that eating disorders are hard… But what’s the point in telling us about it?”. The simple answer is, for awareness.

If no one knew about cancer how could anyone possibly help support that person, let alone diagnose it! It’s no different for eating disorders and other mental health issues.
When I first went (/was taken) to the GP with eating issues, he told me it was ‘just a phase’. If anorexia counts as a ‘phase’, then yes, yes it is. But somehow I think that it is not.

If more people understood and knew about these disorders, and if the stigma behind eating disorders and mental health issues were broken, maybe more people would be correctly diagnosed and treated, with more support all round and therefore higher success levels?
And isn’t even that possibly, no matter how small, worth investing in? Just a thought to leave you with.

Thanks for reading.

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Life is like a loo roll [my original analogy]

Life is like a loo roll. I bet you’re thinking “how on earth is life possibly like a loo roll?! That’s ridiculous! Well yes and no. It may sound it at first, but if you read my post maybe your perspective will change. I’d be interested to know your thoughts/ opinions, so do comment below what you thought!

So, life is like a loo roll.

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A loo roll is made up of hundreds of sheets, joined together and wrapped around the core in layers.
It’s there for everything, from doing your business to wiping tears from a sad film or emotional time. You can clear up dirt or spilt paint with it, whatever you wish.
You can take individual sheets or several at once, but if you pull them too hard and aren’t careful, the whole thing can unravel and fall to the floor.
Then you have to spend the time and effort rolling it back up, helping its last little bit flop back over onto the roll. Sometimes you do it well and sometimes you do it badly; if it’s done badly then the loo roll can be more prone to unraveling again, or can just not be quite the same neat roll it was before.

I believe life is very much like this.

You as a person are made up of core values, thoughts, feelings, and morals; much like the layers of the loo roll. Each individual sheet is a thought/feeling/value that you have, about yourself or the world around you.

You are there for others. You’re there to comfort others, you’re the one they rely on and you share both good and bad times with. The blowing away the tickle in your nose on a hot sunny day, and the drying of their tears as you hug each other for comfort during challenging times. That’s what friends are for.

People can use you to do their dirty work. They can say mean comments or a snide remark, just like they’ve ripped a sheet of tissue off your roll suddenly, and the roll spins a bit because of the sudden impact. People can treat you like shit (brilliant pun if I do say so myself), and it is hard.

Unfortunately there’s only so much people can take, and when too many things happen (such as bullying, difficult situations, family or friendship issues, low self esteem; you get the idea), we just can’t take it. We aren’t prepared. It’s like someone’s ripped too many pieces off the roll too quickly and too violently, and suddenly it spins out of control and unravels.

Sometimes people don’t even notice.
Have you ever been to the loo, come out etc, only to come back a while later and find the whole loo roll has unravelled? And you don’t remember this happening at all?
I really think people are like that. Often it happens too quickly or people just don’t see what’s really going on, and before they know it that person is no longer ‘*happy’.

That person needs support and help to build themselves back up and step around the obstacle. It’s just like wrapping the sheets back around the roll. It takes a while to wrap the sheets back around, but with help it can be done.

Yes, sometimes when you’ve helped and the loo roll is back in place, it isn’t quite the same, and some people are different after they’ve been through difficult times. But often these changes aren’t a bad thing. Sometimes people can grow as a person, learn things about themselves they didn’t know before, and finally realise that there are many people out there who care about them and are willing to help.

I guess you can explain eating disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, any mental illnesses at all in this way, because at the end of the day with the right support you can recover from them and live a fulfilling life, sometimes you just need a bit of help to start you rolling back up, the. Then you’re off!

***

*I put ‘happy’ in quotation marks because no one can be happy all the time, it’s impossible. But you can be largely happy, more about inner confidence and a healthy approach to life than anything else.

***

I really hope that made sense and I did that analogy justice, because (without wishing to sound big headed as I did make it up) it is one of my favourite analogies because it makes me believe that things can change and I can ravel myself back up, but it’s also realistic in the fact that yes, if you don’t recover ‘properly’ you are more prone to relapse. But none of these things are unbeatable, and although hard times are horrible and can affect us, we can get through it. I guess that’s the message of this post really; life is hard but we can deal with it.

Anyway, I could go on forever. Personally I think there are just so many way this applies to life and the more I think about it the more I can add to the analogy and the more I feel like I understand life.. Weird huh?

I really hope you enjoyed this post.

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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The fear of intimacy

This post might be one useful to few people or many, I simply do not know. My feelings towards intimacy (kissing, sexual interactions etc.) are ones I feel completely alone with. More alone than with anxiety. More than depression.

You see, people are quick to say “you’ll grow out of it”; or not even as kind as that, more of a “haha you’re so pathetic! How can you call him your boyfriend when you don’t kiss him?!” sort of affair.

But, for me at least, relationships aren’t about the physical aspects. Who cares if someone is the most beautiful person ever if they are, in fact, just a turd? (See post post from a while back; ‘There are turds on this earth)’ I for one certainly don’t.

I often don’t even tell people I have a boyfriend, even if it comes up in conversation, because I just constantly feel judged. I’m sick of being abnormal, sick of never fitting in, sick of finding things most people find natural the hardest things in the world.

In my case it just happens I had a bad experience to do with relationships which probably didn’t help my fear, although it existed before that so I cannot solely put it down to that. I am worried that I won’t grow out of it, that I will just never have sexual attraction. That, God forbid!, I should die a virgin. (Yet another thing how it angers me how people make out that life without sex is not a decent life?!)

Anyway, that is beside the point. I am going to break down what it is that I am scared of, reason with myself, and try and cure my fear through understanding. I have no idea if this will work, so I’ll have to keep you posted on my progress.

I’m scared of kissing. Why?

(1) It’s unhygienic.
Our bodies are largely made up of bacteria. Bacteria keeps our immune systems healthy. Mouths in general are a pretty clean, hygienic area of the body, as acidic saliva breaks down food and bacteria in your mouth.

(2) It feels unnatural/wrong.
I’ve hardly done it before and last time it was wrong, so no wonder the idea feels wrong! It is strange and it might feel weird at first, but that’s ok.

(4) I don’t feel the attraction.
I’ve been ill with an eating disorder, so, as my doctor/therapist has pointed out, it is likely that my hormones are not in balance, so that very well could be causing my lack of sexual drive. But I also need to consider the fact that I am 16, and maybe it is a case of just a couple more years until I start feeling sexually attracted to people. If that doesn’t happen then there are other options for me, such as seeking further help if it’s worrying me, or just accepting and leaving it! Relationships are far more than just sticking your tongue down each other’s throats.

(5) I don’t know how.
I’ve watched some YouTube videos (I know that sounds weird, but I thought that was the most practical way of going about things), so I do know how.
(Also, I’ve only watched one video, How to kiss, but I’m kind of I’m love with lush already.. They’re such an adorable couple)

(6) It reminds me of unpleasant past experiences.
Maybe that’s all the more reason to do it. The longer I avoid it, the more it will build up as a negative thing in my mind and the more scared I’ll be. If I create new, pleasant memories around this area it will allow me to start afresh and see intimacy in a new and positive light.

(7) I’m scared past experiences will repeat or I’ll be pressured further.
My boyfriend is lovely and a certain element of trust is necessary for this one. He is desperate to make me see that all boys aren’t out to get me, so I just gave to give him a chance. I know him well enough to know he means well and won’t hurt me.

* My OCD is going haywire because I only have 7 points and it isn’t an even number, but I’ve got to challenge it so I apologise for having 7 points inserted of 6 or 8!

Even just after writing this post I’m already feeling braver and more willing to give it a go. I know my boyfriend wants to kiss and the least I can do is try. If I’m not ready yet I’m sure he’ll understand.

Last of all, please do share through the comments if you can relate to this or if at the very least I sound sane. I’m so scared of posting this, but in my opinion the more scared you are, the more worthwhile it most likely is.

Thanks for reading.