How To Manage ‘Fat Feelings’

I think it is important to have strategies to manage anxiety around weight and food and ‘fat feelings’. These are the strategies that I find helpful:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Read
  3. Try to think about what else is going on for you. What else could these ‘fat feelings’ be?
  4. Write
  5. Social networking/blogging
  6. Have a hot, bubbly bath
  7. Paint nails
  8. Do a puzzle
  9. Watch TV
  10. Tell someone how you’re feeling
  11. Look at truths e.g. weight/BMI
  12. Remember that anorexia twists everything
  13. Make an amazon wishlist
  14. Do something arty
  15. Think “What would my therapist/dietician say?”
  16. Tidy/clean/organise
  17. Listen to relaxation music
  18. Try to believe what others tell you
  19. Think of positive things about yourself-weight, shape and body image don’t define everything.
  20. Play a game (video game or board game)

Fat Feelings: They Don’t Exist

I struggle with ‘fat feelings’ on a daily basis. I rarely say that I feel sad or anxious and so on but I often say, “I feel fat”. Factually I cannot be fat, my BMI does not say that I am fat, the number on the scales does not say that I am fat, my mental health team want me to gain weight, so I cannot actually be fat. This is why I find it helpful to think of what else fat feelings could be and this is my list:

  1. Guilt from eating
  2. Tiredness
  3. Bloating from drinking lots of fluids
  4. Low mood
  5. Stress
  6. Worries
  7. Self-hatred
  8. Not feeling good enough
  9. Feeling undeserving
  10. Feeling like a failure
  11. Low self-esteem
  12. Being warm or hot
  13. Being full
  14. Constipation
  15. Stomach pain
  16. Overly body checking

If you struggle with ‘fat feelings’ too, I hope that this list helps you, or maybe you could make your own list to look at when you are struggling. Remember that fat is not a feeling.

What’s It Like To Lose Someone To Suicide? A Personal Account

A few years ago I lost a friend to suicide and whilst it is not something I often talk about, it is something that I think about everyday. Sometimes when suicide is mentioned it can be brushed over and simplified. The person died full stop, but there is no full stop, the person’s death is devastating and the pain continues for the rest of their friend’s and families lives. It makes me angry when suicide is romanicised. There is nothing romantic about your best friend crying until they are sick. There was nothing romantic about me laying flowers whilst the media watched on, I couldn’t even have privacy to say goodbye! I have seen some posts on social media saying, “They will love me when I’m gone” and so on. No, they love you now whilst you are alive to have a hug or a conversation with them, when you die you won’t know that people love you, that people talk about you. You won’t know the whirl of confusion, sadness, anger and pain that you leave behind. There is nothing romantic about dying, romance only exists in the living.

I blame myself, of course I do. I spoke to my friend the day before they died and I had absolutely no idea how they were feeling, it was the biggest shock when I got the text less than 48 hours after we spoke telling me that my friend had gone. That conversation will haunt me forever, I have played it in my head thousands of times and picked up on the potential hint, the hint that I did nothing about and the unanswered questions I have that will never get answered. Could I have done something different? Could I have saved their life? I’m not alone in these feelings of blame, I imagine everyone who knew my friend feels the same. Could we have done more?

My friend’s face didn’t disappear from the photographs, it just made each of those happy memories painful. It makes remembering the fun times sad. Some days I don’t want to remember, I don’t want to remember that I wasn’t there in the weeks or months running up to their death because I was in hospital. I can’t handle that hanging over me. I don’t like to think about the pain I may have caused them. ‘If it was my fault then maybe I should die’ is a thought that has happened a lot.

I have felt so many different things about my friend’s death. There’s the ‘it should have been me’ feelings. The guilt that I am alive and my friend isn’t. There’s the anger at my friend because my friend has the potential to become anything they so wished to be, they were clever enough to be a doctor, kind enough to be a charity worker. The world was their oyster and they threw it away and maybe if they would’ve hung on a year or two their life would’ve really taken off and they would be glad that they didn’t die. I’ve felt sad that I can never have a conversation with them again, I will never walk through town and bump into them. The months following their suicide I saw their face in everyone and then I’d remember and be locked in a public toilet sobbing. Sometimes I feel glad that my friend is at peace but mostly I feel confused. I will never know why, I will never know what our friendship would’ve become, whether what they told me was a hint or a coincidence.

I understand though, I’ve been there thinking that I couldn’t stand another minute of this life. I’ve tried to end my life but there will always come a time after my survival when I feel glad that I am alive. They are temporary feelings, unbearable I know, but temporary and I just wish I could have told my friend that.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, it’s already been years and it plays on my mind as much as it always has. In a way it is worse now, I’m worried I’ve forgotten what their voice sounds like. I dread to think what it is like for my friend’s immediate family. Losing someone to suicide is horrific, painful and full of unanswered questions. It’ll stay with me for the rest of my life and the worst thing is I will never know why.

If you have lost someone to suicide, you may find these links helpful:

http://uk-sobs.org.uk/

http://www.survivorsofsuicide.com/beyond_surviving.shtml

http://www.suicide.org/suicide-survivors.html

If you are feeling suicidal, please seek help:

http://www.befrienders.org

http://www.samaritans.org

http://www.papyrus-uk.org

States of Mind: Emotional, Reasonable and Wise Mind

In DBT we looked at states of mind and I found it quite an interesting and helpful concept. The states of mind are emotional mind, reasonable mind and wise mind (Linehan 1993).

Emotional Mind

Often we are in emotional mind when we are perhaps very excited or very angry. Maybe it’s a special event or celebration or you’ve had an argument with someone. When we are in emotional mind our thoughts and behaviour are controlled by our emotions, our thoughts can be unhelpful and often distressing. It can be quite difficult to think logically and rationally. Emotions drive opinions and strong emotions can drive strong behaviours such as drinking, self harming, binging or exercising which may help in the short term but in the long term these behaviours may actually become the problem. Sometimes the facts can become distorted in order to fit in with the current distress. Emotional mind often leads us to do what we want to do.

Reasonable Mind

When we are in reasonable mind our thinking is often logical and rational. Reasonable mind is based on factual thinking with evidence. When in reasonable mind we are able to plan how to respond to a problem, however it is possible when in reasonable mind that we may come across ‘cool’ or ‘cold’ when approaching problems. We may be in reasonable mind when we are at work. Reasonable mind often leads us to do what we should do.

Wise Mind

Wise mind integrates both emotional and reasonable mind and is often the best way to approach a problem because it both recognises the emotional distress but also knows the facts. It often means viewing the bigger picture rather than just seeing little parts. Wise mind ensures that both emotional and reasonable minds are met, reasonable mind is right but emotional mind needs to be soothed. An example of when a lot of people use wise mind is when they are helping a friend, or dealing with someone else’s problems but it is important we address our own problems with wise mind too. Wise mind looks at what is appropriate and effective for the situation.

Tips for Christmas

I know how hard it can be to get through the Christmas period whilst suffering with mental illness, particularly with an eating disorder. I realise that even for those of you without an eating disorder, Christmas can be hard because of the pressure to be happy, to smile, for everything to be perfect. There is a huge pressure to stay well and I imagine that like me, many others push their illness to the bottom of the pile and hide their struggles which often makes things worse in the long term. So here are my Christmas tips:

  1. Make a support plan before Christmas. This could include friends or family that are aware of your illness and you feel you are able to talk to, coping strategies such as distraction techniques and self soothing but also if you are under a mental health team ask them for support. Often people go on the leave and there tends to be a bit of a ‘shut down’ but services still run, you might be lucky and have a member of staff who isn’t taking a lot of leave but if not there are home treatment/crisis teams and the wards are always open too. It may be an option that you can phone the ward if struggling. Make sure you have a solid plan before Christmas arrives.
  2. If you struggle with food try to make a plan. I usually make a meal plan and that can help. Don’t make it too restrictive, or too challenging. Try to find a happy medium so that you are comfortable and feel ‘safe’ with it but don’t miss off having a dessert on Christmas day or a chocolate on Christmas eve if you want to. Try to include Christmas food on it otherwise a meal plan may be more detrimental than no meal plan as you might feel you are missing out or you may feel guilty if you eat something not on the plan which brings me to my next point.
  3. Try not to overly plan things. Things will go wrong, arguments will probably happen or someone will come down with a cold. Plan enough so that you feel safe but do not try to plan everything as this can often lead to negative feelings when things do not happen the way you hope them too.
  4. If you struggle with feeling unworthy or guilty, do not feel guilty for receiving presents. Remember that the person wanted to give you that present because they care about you, try to see it as a positive rather than getting upset that people spent money on you.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques before the big day so that you know what works for you.
  6. Be kind to yourself because no matter what your mind is saying, you deserve to treat yourself with love and kindness.
  7. Go for a Christmas day walk with whoever you are celebrating with. Sitting around all day isn’t great when your mood is low, a walk can get your endorphins going and the fresh air often helps me too.
  8. Be honest about whatever is worrying you. It is refreshing, I promise you. I couldn’t afford Christmas this year, I bought my immediate family and best friend a gift but have explained to the rest that I have money troubles and that this doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. I just don’t have money. Being honest was a weight off my shoulders and I feel much better for doing so. It was better than lying and feeling guilty about that or getting into debt.
  9. Avoid alcohol if you know it causes problems with your behaviour or mood. It may be tempting but drink tasty non-alcoholic drinks and have even more fun.
  10. If you struggle with loneliness find out if there are any events in the area. Youth centres, charities and homeless projects usually run Christmas dinners for anyone who is alone at Christmas regardless of age or circumstance. Or maybe find an online way of interacting with people such as twitter or support forums to help you through.

Helpful links for support over the festive period:

http://www.samaritans.org

http://www.befrienders.org

http://www.papyrus-uk.org

http://www.b-eat.co.uk

The Cost of Mental Illness

Today I was walking home from seeing my psychiatrist and I felt sad and tired. I realised how much my mental health problems have cost me both personally and financially. I know that I am not alone in this but I also feel that the people around me who aren’t unwell do not recognise this.

My illness cost me my childhood and teenage years, I missed out on having pizza party sleepovers and having chips from the school canteen for a treat on Fridays. I missed out on the boyfriend dramas and the residential school trips to Belgium and Germany. I managed to go on residential to France but I didn’t eat for the entire trip and ended up missing most of it in bed because I was so weak and fragile-I was 12! I missed out on sneaking into nightclubs and going to house parties. I think it has had a huge impact on me that I didn’t get all the ‘normal’ parts of growing up because how can you grow up and learn when you haven’t done anything other than be ill.

My illness cost me my education. I was always a bright child, I could’ve got A’s and B’s in my GCSEs but I finished year 11 with C’s and D’s. I missed out on getting my national diploma in dance and then I missed out on finishing the course at professional performing arts school. I didn’t give up, I went back to get my A levels and in AS year I managed to get A, B, C despite missing most of my classes for therapy sessions however I became too unwell to finish my second year of A levels and therefore did not get A levels. I was passionate, hard working and determined to succeed. My mental health problems stole my qualifications away from me.

The number of friends my illness has cost me is almost definitely in double figures now. The people who couldn’t understand, the people who couldn’t cope with it and the people who got bored. They were all people I cared about and loved deeply. Each time I have lost friends it has torn me to pieces, so much so that I generally avoid making friends these days because I can’t handle people walking away when I become too unwell.

Then there’s the financial cost. The cost of all the laxatives, diet pills, paracetamol, razor blades, scales and food to binge on during my struggle with bulimia. Only a couple of months ago did I have bailiffs threatening to come to my house (which is my parent’s house) and blacklist the address because during a very low and suicidal time I ended up very deep in debt. There’s the overdraft charges, the travel expenses to appointments, the list goes on and on. I dread to think how much this illness has cost me over the years. Even when I had a job my money was spent on my eating disorder. It should’ve been spent on going out with friends or coffee with my mum.

Finally there’s the opportunities that my illness has cost me. The missed events and times for enjoyment. The residential trips with Princes Trust or the activities like gorge walking. The family dinners that I have missed out on, eating chips on the beach, auditions, volunteering, going on holiday. All those things that add to life experience and enjoyment were taking from me.

This list is not exhaustive. I have lost so much to my illnesses. Memories, money, qualifications, happiness. The cost of having a mental illness is unbelievable and often not thought about but it is most definitely real.

Anxiety Attack: Through My Eyes

I’m standing in a shopping centre on my own. My heart is racing, my chest is tightening. I can feel the anxiety pumping through my veins. I am biting my lip. I begin to check my phone constantly, I am not expecting to see anything but I need to distract myself. I need to try and forget where I am, what’s going on. I’m running out of breath, but I’m stood still. Are people looking at me? Can they tell?

I try to get out but I can’t find the exit, I thought it was the doorway out but when I get there I realise I was wrong. Everyone blurs as the tears glaze my eyes. I can’t see, I can’t breathe. I’m lost. I’m terrified. I follow the signs to the toilets and it feels like the whole world has slowed down as I’ve sped up. I’m not sure if I’m running or if it just feels like I am. I need air. I can’t breathe.

I go into the cubicle. Lock the door. My back slides down the door and I hold my head in my hands trying to breathe. I don’t notice that I’m crying to begin with. I just need air. I’m shaking. My body feels weak. I try desperately to regain control, to be the ‘normal’ person the world expects to see. I take some deep breaths, wipe my eyes, stand up and leave with a forced smile on my face.

If you are struggling with anxiety please seek help:

http://www.mind.org.uk

http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/anxiety.asp

https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help