The illness – A poem

***Trigger Warning, discussion of suicide***

Please note that I’m not currently suicidal, so please don’t be worried about me, the author.  This was written to try and express what I see going on around me and there are links to some personal experiences.


“You have an illness” says the doctor, head tilted as she works,

Masking thoughts I can’t quite see, a unknown fear lurks.

“Take these tablets daily, look after yourself” she says,

“Come and see me in a few weeks”, and then we parted ways.

I knew that I was damaged, I’ve been struggling for a while.

But the tiredness, the pain and occasional taste of bile,

Was always down to something else, a simple need for bed,

Not some psychological tumour lurking deep inside my head.

Trapped, naked in a small glass box, trying to cover up the shame.

The people passing by me knowing I’m the one to blame.

But the oxygen is dwindling now, so I give it one last fight,

They look at the exhibitionist and turn down my dimming light.

Do they not know I’m frightened, that I’m terrified within?

Why do they think I choose this existence of chemical sin?

So on my conveyor belt I keep up the pretence, normality.

Whilst the living go on not knowing how their life holds such fragility.

If I should die tonight, if my illness does turn terminal,

Know that it’s not contagious, but something rather personal.

You will suspect and whisper, my death cert will be scrutinised,

But you won’t find the Mental Illness, rather ‘Death By Suicide’.

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Candice Bergen reveals a sad reality about eating disorders

A reminder that it’s not just about young girls. Many older people and men get eating disorders.

Fusion

Candice Bergen boldly goes where few Hollywood actresses have gone in her forthcoming memoir, openly discussing her weight gain and the body image issues older women face.

“Let me just come right out and say it: I am fat,” the 68-year-old icon writes in A Fine Romance. “I live to eat. None of this ‘eat to live’ stuff for me. I am a champion eater. No carb is safe—no fat, either.”

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The Murphy Brown star elaborates to say that women over fifty have a choice: they can preserve their face or their butt, but not both. She proudly says she chose the former, and has gained 30 pounds in the last 15 years—and couldn’t be happier.

Her friends who chose the latter? They maintain their weight by routinely vomiting after major meals consisting of a slice of steak or a filet of fish.”

The comment was seemingly made in jest…

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Nutrition and Hydration Week 2015

Food is fuel.

w reness D ys UK

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Healthy diet isn’t about loosing weight, it’s about fuelling your body.  Having the nutrients your body needs and being well hydrated can help your mental and physical health, help you feel awake and keep you looking at your best.

Our mission is to create a global movement that will reinforce and focus, energy, activity and engagement on nutrition and hydration as an important part of quality care, experience and safety improvement in health and social care settings. – Nutrition and Hydration Week

#NHweek  16 – 22nd March 2015

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Why are people up in arms about binge eating disorder?

Very well written piece I thought…

Fusion

Where do you draw the line between “binging” on Oreos every once in a while and harboring a real disorder? Many people are likely asking themselves that question right now, thanks to a controversial new advertising blitz.

“Binge eating disorder” is the most common eating disorder in America—affecting more people than anorexia or bulimia—but you’d probably never heard of it until recently. Psychiatrists didn’t even officially recognize it as a disorder until 2013. Suddenly, though, it’s everywhere.

Last month, the drug company Shire launched a clever campaign to raise awareness about the disease—and in the process, advertise the hell out of a new drug its selling to treat it. The company even enlisted tennis legend and binge-eating-disorder survivor Monica Seles (who knew?) as its spokesperson.

More awareness is a good thing, but the drug, Vyvanse, is sparking serious backlash since it’s an amphetamine, which is notoriously addiction forming. Here’s what to know about the misunderstood disorder…

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The cut throat business of raising awareness

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Followers of my blog will have seen me pour my heart out as I battle with my recovery from Binge Eating Disorder.  They will also have seen me grow very quiet over the last few months.

Part of this may be me reaching a plateau in my recovery.  Part of it maybe me running out of things to say.  I have still be working away, doing little bits here and there to raise the awareness of the disorder, of Eating Disorders in general and also wider mental health.  And I still enjoy it, but I feel when I come down to write that it’s the same old story.  I have countless drafts that have just not been posted!

And now I shuffle about in my seat as I’m about to post something controversial.

A few months ago I saw a video about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Many of you will have seen this as it hit the world news with many celebrities taking part.  The original video was inspiring.  I’d never heard about ALS before and I felt this was a fantastic way of increasing awareness of the illness, especially since it went virul.  I got all excited about the thought of being nominated.

But the person who nominated me did it in the name of Cancer Awareness.  Now, don’t get me wrong, cancer is horrible and it needs more funding to help find a cure, I get that.  But awareness?  If people are not aware of cancer by now I very much doubt throwing a bucket of icy water over your head is going to get the message across.  I felt angry.  A little known but devastating illness was having it’s limelight ripped away from it.

This January I also took part in ‘Dry January’ and I gave up alcohol for a month.  It was in aid of Alcohol Concern, an organisation close to my heart since I lost a friend to alcoholism.  They have run this event every year for many years.  And yet this year, a cancer charity was running the same event at the same time.  Most people I knew had not even heard of Alcohol Concern.  And let’s face it – since Alcoholism is considered a self-inflicted illness, it’s not going to get the same sympathy vote as a cancer charity.  And who was going to have the guts to say to a cancer charity “hey, that’s not fair”.

So when I knew Eating Disorder Awareness Week was coming up, I felt I didn’t want the same thing to happen.  Eating Disorders and Mental Health NEED awareness.  Even if they don’t get much money, the awareness and discussion about them is SO important.

So I made a Facebook page called Awareness Days UK.  And then I made a blog to back it up.  This has been the focus of my attention in the last month.   They say a change is as good as a rest and maybe in time I’ll come back and give you more updates.  In the meantime, maybe some of my regular followers would like to see my new page?

Peace and love to you all x

The times they are a changin’

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This time last year was a major lifetime landmark as I ‘came out’ to close friends and family, that I had a mental health problem.  And I compare it to an LGBT outing for many reasons:

1.       People ask if you are sure, because ‘you seem so normal’.

2.       People start to treat you differently because you have ‘that label’

3.       People think you need to start acting differently to properly be ‘that label’

4.       Most people just don’t understand it, although they think they do.

5.       It’s more stressful to explain to people who love you than to complete strangers.

The catalyst for the Outing was the Time to Talk campaign.  Organised by Time to Change, the campaign’s main objective was to encourage people to talk about mental health.  The aim was to reduce the mental health stigma that isolates so many people and prevents them from seeking help.  I wasn’t too sure what to expect but took the plunge anyway.  I did it by announcing to close family and friends on Facebook that I had an eating disorder.

On the whole, coming out mentally was probably one of the most liberating things I have ever done.  And over the last year I have had many conversations with some of those close friends and family and their own mental health.  People who, like me, felt isolated and alone with their problems.  Little did we all know there were people close at hand who loved us and continued to love us despite our labels.

On the anniversary of this event I decided to be a little braver and do something for all my Facebook friends, acquaintances and followers.  This would have included colleagues, those friends that you only meet in certain social situations, members of clubs or groups etc.  Because of the way I use Facebook, this tripled the number of people I would talk to compared to last year.  And I did it in a way that enabled all of them to get involved and raise their hand anonymously.  I recognised that sometimes just being bold and admitting it to anybody meant truly admitting it to yourself and that for many this could be a lifeline.

I created an anonymous survey that asked very simple questions:

1.       Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems?

And the problems were listed.  As many as I could find.  I also had ‘other’ where people could list the ones I would inevitably miss and a final ‘I’ve never had a mental health problem’ for those that wanted to take part.  If anything, they could see the list of issues and challenge their own attitudes over what mental illness actually is.

2.      Did you seek help from a Health Care Professionals?

The responses were yes, no and ‘never had a mental health problem’.  I wanted to share the totals afterwards.  I knew there would be people who had not sought help.  And if I suggested the reason was fear and stigma, maybe it would help others that have never had a mental health problem stop and think.

3.  Are you male or female?

Suicide is also the biggest killer of young men in the US and the UK. My personal belief is that this is because Mental Health is much more of a taboo with men.  Men need to know that Mental Illness does not discriminate and if they are struggling there is help available for them.  They should not feel ashamed to ask for it.

4.  Feel free to add your thoughts on Mental Health

This question was optional but I did get 2 responses to it:

can be the biggest ghost of all areas within health, mental wellbeing is something that is not invested in to help prevent mental health, to me mental health is the hidden killer of society

My mum has suffered with depression, paranoia and anxiety for years and i have had to talk to her often about it

For me this cut through the data and personalised the experiences.

5.  If you suffered a mental health problem, where did you seek help?

This was similar to question 2 but I also wanted to highlight to people the many sources of help that people could turn to.  I listed several possibilities including mental health charities.  Charities like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness can be a wealth of online information and also individual support to many people who need a little encouragement to make that first step.  Or at least they were to me.

I got 14 responses to the survey.  I don’t know how many other people looked at the questions, but I shared the results.  For some of people, it may have been the first time they had admitted their mental heath problems.  I don’t know who answered the questions on my survey, I just know that they were my my friends.  And I hope they recognise now that they are not alone.

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One year on..

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I had a notification that my blog was a year old today.  Which is a shame because I’ve not been around for a while.  It also made me realise why I started blogging in the first place.

Today is Time to Talk day.  It’s a day when people come together and have discussions about Mental Health.  So this time last year I used the power of Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to speak up.  It was hugely liberating and was the catalyst for a journey of recovery.

But then other things in my life like a new job, my boy starting school and ‘stuff’ took over and the blogging stopped.  Today I decided to launch 2 questionnaires to ask my Facebook Friends about their views on Mental Health and also one for my Binge Eating Disorder page on Facebook.  The aim was to basically get people to fess up and admit that they have experienced Mental Health problems in a safe anonymous way.  Because I know first hand how powerful it is to put that admission into words, even if you’re not identifiable.

I have had 2 responses on my Facebook page.  So 2 of my friends have anonymously put their hands up.   I’m pleased with that.  I’m not pleased that they are suffering obviously but since 1 in 4 people experience a Mental Health problem, the odds are I will know quite a few people who are in the same boat.  For that reason I’m hoping that a few more will be brave enough to come forward.

I am extending the invitation to you to complete my survey.  You will not be identifiable in any way.  The results / comments you make may be shared with others though (please state in the comments if you don’t want them to be shared).

Join in the conversation.

Super Sticky Glue

glueMy boy, Chris, has just started school. I queue up with all the other parents in the afternoon, eager to see their little faces emerge, all excited from the days events (although when asked, they say they did nothing). The parents are also eager to talk to one another. My boy has made best friends with a little boy called Albie. I talk with his mother, who is new to the area and doesn’t really know anybody. She seems like a lovely lady which shows through her little boy. I asked if I could take her boy out to the Zoo one day with my Chris for his birthday. She was happy to accept.

This lady is trusting her precious boy with a stranger. I know that I would take very good care of Albie and I’m sure that he and Chris will have a fantastic day out. Although part of me is slightly flattered that this lady is so quick to trust me, another part of me finds it slightly unsettling and I couldn’t figure out why until this week.

While in work yesterday I started to experience chest pains. I was sick, I was cold and sweaty, my heart rate was irregular and pounding. I was taken off in an Ambulance to hospital where I spent the rest of the day. I was told it was not heart related and that I probably had too much coffee. I had half a cup that morning and nothing since and I was still in pain this morning. So I went to see my GP. “It could be gastric” she said. I agreed, I had a problem with reflux a few years ago. I said that over the past couple of months I had been a little off my food and feeling sick.

“Yes, I see that you’ve had a problem with eating before.”

For a few seconds I didn’t know what she meant. And then it dawned on me. She was talking about my binge eating. I suddenly felt ashamed. Somehow everything that happened in the last 24 hours was my fault, I was wasting people’s time, I had wasted an emergency ambulance that somebody else more deserving could have used, I shouldn’t even be sitting here in this surgery.

“Yes, I have. But I’ve doing really well this year, I’ve had counselling, I’ve only binged a handful of times”. I spluttered, trying to justify myself.

“That’s great” she beamed. “Glad to hear it, although I don’t think that’s related to what’s happened yesterday”.

I was almost disappointed and I can’t put my finger on why my Binge Eating was not related. Maybe I wanted more penance. But more disturbing was that she was asking me all sorts of questions about what happened yesterday, like a stranger and then all of a sudden she reveals part of me that I share with so few people. She could probably see all sorts of things about me on that computer screen: my previous anxiety disorder, my depression, my reports of other pain. I suddenly felt so naked and exposed. I realised that even long after I recover from my eating disorder (which will happen) my mental health label will always be stuck to me with super sticky glue.

I think back to the playground and the parents all eagerly waiting for their children. Maybe all the other parents feel the same as me – inadequate, not as good as all the other parents. Maybe that is the reason why Albie’s mother was so happy for me to trust her with her child. How would she feel if she knew I had a history of anxiety or eating disorders? Or that sometimes I forget to pull the washing out of my machine and have to run it a second time so they don’t smell? Or that my kitchen floor could really do with a good mop. Or that I failed my first year in uni because I was too busy getting drunk and had to resit it.

Our life events help to mould our character, but they do not define it. Don’t worry about the super sticky labels in your file, they only serve as a reminder for what we have achieved, not what we are now.  And if you’re not perfect now?  So what?  Who is?

What happened to NomNom, where did she go?!

I got to a point where I was writing and thinking about my mental health all day every day. It was empowering to start with, but then I started to ruminate on my past and focus on all the time on my ‘illness’. Blogging, for a moment, was starting to pull me back.

While I have a sense of pride in encouraging other people, I really have to put my own health first. I think I’ve had enough of a break. I miss my little blog and I miss my family of fellow bloggers.

To fill you in, I have taken on a fitness program which focuses on getting fit and the ‘diet’ involves eating plenty to fuel the workouts. This is so far working out well for me. I’m also still going through counselling which has revealed a lot of hidden feelings I didn’t know I had.

We will see how that works out for me. Exercise has proven to be the biggest aide. I have lots of energy, I deal with stress better, I’m noticing my body getting stronger, I’m sleeping better and I’m also enjoying the positive encouragement and support with my fitness program that just feels a lot more healthy than dieting.

I have completed my big cycle challenge and in a few weeks I have my running challenge. In September I am doing a Triathlon!

I’m far from being over my eating disorder, but for now things are really looking up. My blog was about my journey to recovery, so it would be wrong to stop talking when the going gets good!

Another step forwards

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I know I’ve been quiet Lately.  Well, non existent really!

I went on an outdoor challenge called Go Ape.  It’s basically an assault course in the trees.  There was a lot of climbing involved and heights of up to 12m.  I’m not good at either.  But the biggest scare factor was knowing I had a massive 212 zip wire at the end.  It seemed like half a mile.  The course was divided into 5 sections and I was honestly ready to quit after the 3rd section, not just because of fear but also from tiredness.

A very good friend called me up.  In truth I don’t think he was going to let me get out of it, but he was very persuasive.  I felt like I was almost humouring him as I started to climb the ladder.  I got half way up and stopped.  And then I thought of all the other people, just like me, who are currently battling things that others cannot see.  Sometimes things seem impossible and it feels like we are fighting alone.  Other times we try and share and people still don’t see it.  So I continued up the ladder.  I wasn’t fighting this battle for anybody else, I was fighting it for myself.

And that’s the same way it should be with my mental health.  Sometimes it feels easier fighting for other people when I can reach out and say ‘it’s ok, I get it, you’re not alone’.  But when trying to explain to people who don’t understand or can’t see the pain I’m in, I bottle up and feel isolated.  I don’t have to fight for other people all the time though or have to fight to make people understand.  It’s ok that I just have the strength in me to fight for myself.

I finished all 5 sections.  And I came away with a very dirty bum.

And now I’m thinking of my next challenge.   Bring it on!!