YouTube Videos: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week you may want to check out the following videos:

Firstly there is a talk about anorexia nervosa. It was performed at Ignite Cardiff and is titled ‘pro ana?! Pro life!’ It is about the realities of living with an eating disorder compared to the idealised views of the pro-anorexia community. It is also about overcoming eating disorders and sends the message out that ‘life can change in a minute.’ You can watch the talk here

Next we have a video about being sectioned for an eating disorder. It was created with Fixers, a U.K. charity and was brought about after seeing a comment on social media saying, “I want to be sectioned so that I can have a hug whenever I’m sad.” You can watch the video here

Finally we have a TV programme called ‘The Feel Happy Fix’ which was recorded live from the ITV studios by Fixers UK. It’s a programme that focuses on young people’s mental health in general but many of the young panelists have personal experience of an eating disorder. You can watch it here

 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: The Vital Role of The GP

The GP plays such a vital role when it comes to eating disorders. They are the key holders to all other services and provide referrals to eating disorder services and community mental health teams as well as referrals for the physical effects of eating disorders such as bone density scans.

The GP is the foundation upon which the rest of treatment is built. They often monitor the patient’s weight and do regular blood tests. They are often the first port of call for the sufferer. This is why it is so important that GPS have training and understanding in eating disorders.

I had been ill for years but when I went to the GP to ask for help I was terrified. It shocked me to see the words ‘anorexia nervosa’ on my notes and I so desperately needed help. Despite the low weight and terrible mental state I was told to come back in a month. A month is a long time for someone so desperate and poorly. I couldn’t see how I could get through another month and out of sheer fear and desperation I took an overdose which hospitalised me and resulted in a CAMHS referral and a referral to the eating disorder service.

Usually GPs continue to support the patient whilst they are under the care of mental health services monitoring both weight and bloods and it is important that GPs know how to support and talk to the patient in a way that is supportive and full of understanding.

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Early Intervention

When it comes to eating disorders, early intervention is so important. I often wonder what my life would be like if I would’ve had treatment much earlier on in my eating disorder. Looking back I just wish someone would’ve taken me seriously. My parents were called into school because I had been throwing my packed lunch away and concerned friends told teachers but other than that no action was taken. The school nurse’s response was to tell me that I didn’t want to end up like a girl in the year above me who had anorexia. On one occasion I did visit the GP but no further action was taken, there were no referrals to CAMHS or follow up appointments. I wasn’t referred to eating disorder services until I was 17, at which point I was years into my illness.

Early intervention is important because these illnesses are so easy to get stuck in. They take over the whole of who you are. Anorexia took over my body, my personality, my social life and eventually my identity. Food and weight were all I thought about and if I wasn’t obsessing over these I was exercising. It became my life and the longer it is your life, the harder it is to get out of. With early intervention comes quicker recovery and I believe there is more chance of making a full recovery too.

Early intervention isn’t just important in the beginnings of eating disorders but also when it comes to relapse. When I first relapsed with anorexia nervosa it took 13 months from referral to treatment by which point I was very poorly both physically and mentally. At the beginning of my relapse I had friends, a boyfriend, a part time job and I was studying A levels at college. At the start of treatment I hadn’t seen friends in months, I had broken up from my boyfriend, was unemployed and had lost my place at college due to my health. Now imagine if things had been different and I would’ve gotten treatment earlier on, I might’ve been able to make things work with my boyfriend and my job and college. I might not have lost my life to the illness and since losing it, I have yet to rebuild it.

Maybe with early intervention I wouldn’t be typing this from a hospital bed with an NG tube up my nose and maybe it would’ve saved a lot of heartache and pain not only for me but for my family too.

Eating disorders are potentially fatal illnesses and unfortunately some sufferers do die whether this be because of health complications or suicide. Early intervention would save lives.

So my message is this: Early intervention when it comes to eating disorders is key and life saving in more ways than one.

Sock It To Eating Disorders 2017

Eating disorder awareness week is fast approaching and this year the focus is on early intervention. Eating disorder week is from the 27th February to the 5th of March and Sock It To Eating Disorders Day is Friday 3rd of March. You can order your socks from Beat the eating disorder charity here

I will be blogging throughout the week and of course I’ll be wearing my Beat socks, don’t forget to use the hashtag #SockItSelfie

I’m going to try and get the nurses to join in and wear their silly socks. I will find a way to raise awareness even if it is from my hospital bed. In previous years I’ve climbed mountains for Beat but this year I’ll do my best in the situation I am in.

You can donate to Beat here

Body Image: Hating Myself

My only respite at the moment is sleep. For those few precious hours each night I don’t have to be intensely uncomfortable in my own skin. I can be in my dream away from the itching, bubbling sensations I get in my body. I’m really struggling with body image at the moment to the point where I constantly envision myself tearing my skin off my body. Peeling off my thick thighs and flabby belly. I’m at war with myself.

Getting dressed each day is horrible, trying to find clothes that don’t cling to my skin. I pull clothes that have no shape on to hide my body but nothing quite hides me enough to give me any ounce of confidence to face the day. Worse than getting dressed is showering or bathing…having to completely take my clothes off is nauseating, not to mention the mirror opposite the shower. I have my shower scolding hot so that I can get the relief of a steamed up mirror and then on my way out I can do my best to pretend my body doesn’t exist.

When I sit down my thighs distract me, every reflective surface, every mirror, every shop window stops me in my tracks and brings in thoughts of disgust and utter hatred for the vessel my soul resides in. I want to hide under a blanket constantly, that way I can cover up my repulsive self. I fell out of love with me a long time ago.

I want to go back to ballet but I’m afraid there will be an actual elephant in the room and that elephant will be me. I’m not sure I could handle seeing myself in a leotard and pretty pink tights, I feel far too ugly for that. I want to see family and friends. I miss them an awful lot but I don’t want them to see me. I’m terrified they’ll see what I see, I don’t want anyone to see that. What if they comment on my appearance? I’m not sure I could cope with that. I wish I had an invisibility cloak, then I could go out and about without any worries.

I feel trapped… Trapped in my skin, trapped inside buildings, trapped inside myself and trapped in a body I absolutely despise and then comes the urges to attack myself. I declare war on myself. I self-harm and create scars as ugly as I feel, I go to sleep wishing I don’t wake up so that I never have to see my reflection again or feel how my body makes me feel.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016

This week has been eating disorders awareness week and today is Sock It To Eating Disorders Day. I’ve been unable to blog during my 5 month (and continuing) stay on the psychiatric ward but I just wanted to bring your attention to this week with some blasts from the past.

My Fixers film ‘Sectioned’ focused on my experience of being sectioned for my eating disorder. I wanted to tell people about the reality of these illnesses and the difficulties that come along with recovery.

I think it’s important that people are careful when posting about eating disorder awareness on social media as sometimes people post their low weight pictures which leads to competition, triggering others but also reinforcing stereotypes. I wrote an article on this for The Huffington Post. You can read this HERE

You can also check out 101 things that no one tells you about anorexia HERE

Get your silly socks out, have fun raising awareness and if you can, donate to b-eat the eating disorder charity HERE

Section 3

I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?

Health Check Wales: Eating Disorders

I recently wrote a piece about eating disorders for Health Check Wales. Here is the article:

My battle with mental illness began at such a young age that I don’t really know what it’s like not to have one. But I can understand how it must be difficult for someone to understand it if their lives have not yet been touched by it. I’ve seen the stares, heard the comments and read the hate I’ve been sent over the internet. Being unwell is hard enough on its own without the added ignorance and stigma. I became fearful and anxious around food when I was five years old. After seeing a family member become unwell I thought that I would become poorly if I ate food too. As I grew older food became more of an issue. First it was about fear, then it was about perfectionism and control. I was seven years old and banging my head against the school toilet walls for getting a question wrong. By the end of primary school not eating had become my identity. Other children in my class were good at PE or art or maths. I was known for eating “like a bird” and I finally felt like I had a something that I could do. Secondary school complicated life even more. I was bullied, I didn’t feel welcome in any of the friendship groups that I tried to hang around with. I felt geeky, ugly and hated myself. I saw the bigger girls wearing gym knickers in PE and I was scared that I’d get big and be laughed at in my gym knickers too. I began to walk for hours before school, I’d barely eat anything and anything that was eaten would be thrown up. I was self-harming several times a day and overdosing at the back of class – and yet my school didn’t get me help. At this point I didn’t even know that I had a mental illness. Once I left school life became more difficult because with each sad event that happened in my life anorexia and depression seemed to grip their hands tighter and tighter around my neck. I became withdrawn and isolated myself from everyone. It’s scary how mental illness can blend seven whole years into one big blur of hospital admissions, detentions under the Mental Health Act, numbers, scales and suicide attempts. Growing up I wanted to be a nurse or a dancer, battling severe mental illness was not a part of the plan. Often eating disorders are on a spectrum and it is recognised that symptoms change. Someone who meets the criteria for anorexia may months or years down the line meet the criteria for bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. I have certainly experienced many different symptoms with my eating disorder. My primary diagnosis is anorexia. Many months of my life have been spent surviving – or dying – on very little food. I would eat so little food that my body couldn’t keep itself warm. I’d spend my day in the bath or leaning against a radiator. The cold that an eating disorder brings is different from the cold of a winter’s day. It is unbearable, painful and numbing. I’d see the number on the scale drop and the outfit options in the wardrobe became minimal as nothing would stay on my tiny frame, and yet the reflection in the mirror never changed. The girl I saw in front of me didn’t seem to be shrinking, and therefore any weight I lost did not feel like enough. I’m not sure it would ever have been enough. I was slipping towards death, not happiness, perfection or body satisfaction. Then comes the bingeing and purging. The uncontrollable binges that extreme hunger brings. I’d sit on the kitchen floor and eat and eat and eat. I’d work my way around the room, from the fridge to the cupboards, and sometimes, once the food had all gone, I’d eat icing and drink vinegar. I’d try to make myself sick but nothing took away the feelings of guilt and self-disgust, anger and fear that would be left behind for the coming weeks. I hate bingeing and purging and I hate the way I feel I have no control over it. I’ve tried to stop it by attempting to end my life in the past – that’s how desperate and horrific it has made me feel. I also struggled with abusing laxatives and diet pills. I would take far more than the recommended amount but the more I took, the more I felt I needed. I knew exactly the time to take my laxatives so that it would have an effect at night when my family were asleep. Every night spent in agony in the bathroom, sweating and biting onto a towel with pain. It was horrible. One night I took 20 times the recommended dose and I genuinely thought I was going to die. I was in so much pain that it made me sick. My body was weak and I was lying on the bathroom floor, convinced it was the end. I was admitted to hospital the next day and laxatives have not been a part of my life since. I’m still in treatment now and I still really struggle with my mental health. I’m on medication for depression and the other symptoms that affect me and I’m in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for my eating disorder, which has helped me cope with the distress that an eating disorder can bring, as well as recognising when decisions are fuelled by emotions. Eating is still a challenge. Regular eating is not something I’ve ever really done and I struggle to eat regularly every day but I’m better than I was. Depression and mental illness still take over my life and there are days when the suicidal thoughts are a whisper in my head, but there are still days where the suicidal thoughts are loud and repetitive and I struggle to find a reason to carry on with my life. My hospital admissions are getting shorter and the length between them is getting longer and I see that as a positive sign. I recognise I’ve got a long way to come but I am already on the journey and I never thought that I would be where I am now. While I would never wish mental illness on myself or anyone else I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me. I’ve learnt that everything happens for a reason and the best days of my life have happened as a direct result of the worst days of my life. I spent a night in a police cell when there were no hospital beds available. I was law-abiding, not violent and very shy. That night was terrifying and traumatising and made me feel a lot of shame, but without that night I would never have appeared on national radio and news, live TV and newspapers like I have. I would never have started my blog or found my love for writing again. Without anorexia I would never have met my best friend in treatment, my recovery buddy, who I have shared many happy memories with at the beach, or at a restaurant winning against our eating disorders. I would never have been to London to speak at conferences and meetings. The help and treatment I receive from South East Wales Eating Disorder Service has been life-changing, and without their help I wouldn’t have achieved these things either.