I’ve spent the last week decorating at home with my mum. It’s been a tad overdue but it’s finally getting sorted.
Personally, I’ve never decorated before or painted a wall. Sure I can paint a canvas, so how hard could it be? We’ve been living at this house for a good 16 years so I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure of making a room our own. But last August the opportunity arose to make ‘The Barn’ our own.
‘The Barn’ is the lean-to at the side of the house. It’s this funny combination of a shed and a conservatory that links the house to the garage. It sounds fancy, but it’s called ‘The Barn’ for a reason. It leaks, it’s moldy as the garage and it’s cold, but it’s secure. It also looked like a barn when it was occupied by mums old partner.
As I write this post, I’m on holiday. I wasn’t too sure if I should be blogging on my time off especially because I’m ill, but there were some things on my chest and by the time I make it home, the topic that I’m going to be talking about would have already started.
So, hello from Scotland!
I’ve been going to the same resort year in year out for the majority of my life. At the age of 18 this will be the last time I’m at this resort and most likely this town as well, what’s a little saddening but I’m grateful for all the time I’ve had here.
So remember a while back that I wrote a post called coffee shops and counselling? I really liked doing a little reflection from my sessions, I found that it really helped me get my thoughts together afterwards. So Today I’m back in my favorite coffee shop, Liar Liar, doing another one.
So I may have hit a little bit of a stumbling block a few days back and have been a having a little bit of a hard time getting myself back on track. A challenge that I’ve been walking through as part of my sessions is how many days in a row I can eat ‘normally’ for. I manged 4 days then last week had that little stumble and only managed 3. Despite the stumble, these numbers are such big achievement for me, they really are and I’m really pleased with them.
Today after discussing what went wrong last week and working on some new techniques on how to cope if what caused me to stumble happens again, S (my name for my counselor on my blog) set a big step for me.
Instead of being horrified by this, I’M REALLY EXCITED.
I really can’t believe that I’m excited that I’m going to be trying to eat properly for such a long time. What is wrong with me?
For those of you who have never experienced the black lash of an ED, this might seem like such a simple, easy thing that you an do without even thinking. But for me, this is going to be so hard, I know this. S had told me that this will be a challenge and I have come to terms with this already.
I don’t know about you, but everyone I’ve spoke to in either the counseling or medical profession have always used the image of cars when it comes to fighting an eating disorder.
One of the first things my Doctor said to me when I was fist referred with a suspected eating disorder was this,
Will your car work if you don’t put petrol in it? No, it’ll stop working. Your body is the same thing, you might hate eating but at the end of the day your body is like that car. If you don’t put fuel in it you will stop working.
I’ve battled with this for a while. Those closest to me will know that even despite have a qualification in science, I still will always question WHY? when i’m told to eat. Why do I need to eat? Why can’t I live off 1200 calories (No, I don’t eat that little everyday, my daily average has gone up so it’s now closer to 2000).
S told me this today, and it’s a really good little tip to remember when I’m struggling.
Your body is going to be the best vehicle you’re ever going to have and it’s going to have to last you a long time.
Your body is a Ferrari. Some people have lorries, but your’s is a Ferrari, so you look after that vehicle and it’ll take you far
It sounds so silly right?
But it makes so much sense. When you push back all the layers you get to one simple thing, your body is such a gift, its the best vehicle you’ll ever have and you’re going to have it for the rest of your life. You’ve been handcrafted by God, who does NOT make mistakes.
So when things get bad, strip things down to the raw basics. Your body is like a car, if you don’t put fuel in it, it will not run. Don’t think of it as food, think of it as fuel.
It’s early days, I only just heard this little pearl of wisdom today and I have no idea how it will work out. But right now, I feel a little bit more optimistic about the next 5 days and if I can reach my goal. I won’ kid myself for a second that this will be easy to do, because it won’t be.
I’m going to start this off with a bit of a disclaimer.
I am not a professional, I am not a doctor, I am not a therapist or anyone who is qualified in eating disorders. However, I am someone who suffers from one. What I’m going to be talking about today are the things I have come across with my own recover and my own frustrations with the people who have been kind enough to help. I am, however, going to put some links bellow to some trusted websites where you can get professional advice of how to support someone with an eating disorder at the end of this post.
October marks a year since I was officially told I had anorexia.
The past year has been full of half-hearted attempt of recovery, relapse, laughter and tears.
Usually when I talk about my recovery I aim my posts to those who might also be suffering themselves with an eating disorder. Today though is a little different.
I want to talk to those who are helping someone with an ED.
I’ve had some amazing people walk along side me during this year. Throughout it all they’ve been there. However, there are somethings people have done that are counter productive.
There are a lot of resources that tell you things TO DO when helping someone with an ED but very little on the small niggly things that can be the straw that breaks the camels back.
So bellow are my peeves and fustrations that I’ve come across in my year of recovery. It’s not an inclusive list but I hope it can shed some light on how to help someone a little better.
I hope it helps.
It’s not about you.
I love helping people, if you ever need someone to talk to please message me.
But if you’re helping someone with an ED, please don’t be offended when I say It’s not about you.
One thing that really makes things worse is when you’re opening up to someone and they make it all about them.
I’ve had people say to me “I was thinner than you when I was your age“ or “When I was younger I had writs smaller than you do“ or even “Well I used to weigh Xkg“.
Please do NOT do this!
Even something that you belive might help them, for example saying “You’re not fat, I weigh X amount more that you.” doesn’t help, I’m sorry.
I can understand it you’re just trying to relate to them, to make them feel less alone but please stop. If you have perviously had a ED and are recovered cool, let them know what helped, but don’ make it about you. Don’t make them feel bad and for crying out loud don’t tell them what you weight. Eating disorders are the most competitive mental illness going, we will turn it into a competition unintentionally.
If someone feels confident enough to open up to you about their struggles, be honoured. It takes a lot of trust in you for them to do that. Please don’t break their trust by using it as a opetunity to make it all about you.
Ugh, junk food.
I used to love the stuff and chances are you do too.
But notice how I said I used to love it?
You’re going to want to offer the person you’re supporting all the junk food possible. If they’ve been struggling for a long time chances are they’ve lost weight and all you want to do is give them fatty sweet food to try and get them to put weight on fast and I don’t blame you.
But if you give someone with anorexia a doughnut they’re probably not going to eat it.
You think you’re being kind giving them sugary food but you’re not. I’m sorry.
Try offering them healthy food instead.
One of my friends used to offer me a chocolate bar everyday and I’d always refuse it. There was no way I was putting something with that many calories into my body. However, I had a friend who used to bring in almonds to college almost everyday and she’d offer me them. Want to know something awesome? when I felt able to, I’d eat them. I saw no harm in eating an almond, so I’d have one. A few weeks later I felt able to eat two or three. When I was eating more this friend would every now and then offer me half of their GoAhead bar and I would eat it. In the next few weeks I began to feel able to eat a full bar to myself, but I’d still decline the chocolate bar.
It was a slow process but in the end I was beginning to have snacks at college, as long as they were healthy.
Try healthy food first, healthy snacks. I’m not saying that they’re going to start eating suddenly just because you’ve offered them a strawberry. But they’re more likely to eat something healthy than a doughnut or a chocolate bar.
Give them time before you buy them a doughnut.
My opinion on tough love?
It’s the wrong approach.
There might be a time when you have to put your foot down and be firm with them. I fully appreciate and understand this. But don’t use it all the time.
Don’t shout at them for not eating, don’t take away their privileges, don’t be horrible.
Last winter when it was bitterly cold and we had no heating I slept without a blanket because I felt like I didn’t deserve one.
When it’s raining I didn’t wear a coat and got cold and wet because I felt that I didn’t deserve to wear a coat.
I’ve denied myself from going to see my Doctor before because I felt that I didn’t deserve it.
I didn’t deserve food.
I didn’t deserve love.
I didn’t deserve kindness.
I didn’t deserve God.
Notice the pattern?
How is you shouting at them going to make them belive they deserve love? How is you threatening them going to make them feel that they deserve kindness? How is being horrible going to make them feel like they deserve recovery?
They hate themselves enough as it is, don’t add to it.
An eating disorder is not a diet, it is not a fad, it is not a sign of vanity and it is not a form of seeking attention.
It is a lethal mental illness.
In the past I’ve ‘gave in’ and ordered food with my friends. I’ve ordered the healthiest thing on the menu and sat down. I’d only been sat down for a few seconds when one of them starts talking about the diet that they’re on. They’d tell me about how many calories that they’ve eaten today, how fattening the food is. It wasn’t too long till two other pipped up and started talking about their past diets.
I didn’t eat anymore of my food, I don’ think I ate anything else that day.
I’m not saying that you can’t talk about food round someone with an ED, what I’m saying is that diet talk is very triggering and that you need to be considerate.
It’s like smoking. Say you’re wanting to quit smoking, you’ve done great so far and haven’t touched a cigarette in a week. You decide you’re going to go out with your friends and catch up with them all. You’re all waiting at a bus stop and one pulls out a cigaret from their pocket and lights it up. You’ll immediately want a cigarett won’t you? It doesn’t matter that you’re trying to stop, you know it’s bad for you, but you can’t help but crave one.
The same goes with diet talk. It’s as triggering as a cigarette to someone who is trying to quit smoking.
Another thing is DO NOT ASK THEM FOR DIET ADVICE! It’s really insulting.
How are you?
“How are you?”
Fellow Britts you will know my frustrations with this question. I think it’s some unspoken law that in the UK when someone asks you “How are you?” you have to answer with “I’m fine thanks.”
Maybe it’s just the UK that does this, maybe it’s global, I don’t know.
The point is that it’s rare this question is answered honestly. Sure, there are people in my life who I know will ask me this question and mean it, my mum and boyfriend being pretty good examples. But let’s be real. People don’t answer this question honestly.
There has been times where I’ve been asked how I am and the first thing that comes to mind is
“I’m feeling crap, I want to rip my skin off, I am a fat whale of a b*tch and I am done with life”
Of course I didn’t say this out loud, my reply was
“I’m fine thanks, how are you?”
You can’t make someone tell you how they are. But you can give them the opportunity to speak, and no, simply asking how they are doesn’t count. Sit down with a cupa, walk the dog together, do something that gives you the time to invest into a full honest conversation. There’s no certinty they’ll want to talk about their ED but spending quality time with someone is never wasted time.
Talking about it and knowing that someone is bothered about you go a long way in reducing the isolation that an ED can bring.
You can not make them recover
I’m sorry, it’s painful but true.
You can’t make them recover, you can only love them.
You can’t make thedecision for them, but you an decide to walk with them.
You can decide to care for them
You can decide to be patient with them.
You can decide to hold them.
Recovery is a decision , it’s a hard one. I’m only just starting the road of true recovery, of real recovery. But it’s not your decision to make.
Look after yourself.
So lets talk about you.
People with big hearts tend to suffer the most damage. The closer you get to someone who is hurting, the more likely you are to get hurt by them.
I think that sums it up pretty well.
You want to help them right?
You’re going to be no use to them is you are tired, worn down and cranky. If anything, if you’re that worn down chances are you could snap at them unintentionally and undo any good work or progress you’ve made together.
Take care of yourself.
Give yourself time out.
Talk to someone if needed.
Keep you safe and ok.
And finally, Thank You!
Thank you for helping someone, thank you for walking along side them, for being a shoulder to cry on.
You’re playing a big part in their recovery and potentially saving their life. Remember, it is a potentially lethal illness.
So I just want to say thank you.
Who ever you’re helping might not be in the position to thank you right now. They might not even recognise what you’re doing for them. But carry on in the hope that one day they will look back with thanks as they realise how you’ve walked with them every step of the way.
They might not be able to say thank you, but I can.
You’re an amazing, inspiring, kind-hearted person. You’re the type of person that gives me a glimpse of hope in the madness of this world. So THANK YOU!
I’m not a professional or qualified in eating disorders, but these guys are. If you need some more information check out these websites.
There’s two things that I didn’t know about what happens to your body when you starve it, until they happened to me.
When you lose too much weight the common misconception is that you becoming skinny will be the only thing that will happen. This is a lie. Sever weight loss can cause you to lose your periods (it’s not as good as it sounds ladies!), pass out, lose your hair, lose friends, lose people’s trust in you, lose relationships, lose your teeth and even lose your life.
Something like an eating disorder can sometimes start off as a promising aid and help for some people. An eating disorder is a promise to pain. What started as a promising thing lead to pain and unforseen consquences. Kinda like temptaions of things we know are wrong.
I don’t often have an amazing attention span on a Sunday mornings, I dont’ sleep well the night before so am a little groggy, but if there’s one thing that I’ve taken away it’s that temptation looks pretty, hence the name. It looks pretty, it looks like a perfect quick solution that requires very little time, effort and most of the times it appears to come with a no strings attached policy.
Stopping eating seemed like the perfect solution to my pain. It was something that I was in control of. I was in total control, or at lest that was the lie I kept telling myself .
The lie- Stop eating and you’ll feel better.
I didn’t start off with anorexic like symptoms, my eating disorder came from a place of simply wanting to control something, to give me relief of a confusing world I was living in. It stemmed as something as innocent as a child like fear with no desire to hurt myself through it.
That’s how the majority of temptations seem to start. They don’t always appear to have consequences, but they do. They might not be visible but they are there.
Soon I started to look in the mirror and things seemed wrong. I don’t know exactly when I developed body dysmorphia or the anorexic symptoms. They didn’t come at once I know that much. It was a slow process that I didn’t see coming. When I did finally come to the realization that the eating disorder now controlled me, the damage had already taken place.
This brings me to what I wanted to talk about today. Early I mentioned that temptations were nice looking not only because they looked appealing with no strings attached, but also because most of the time they seem like instant fixes and solutions to problems.
I’m often left with two choices when a temptation through food arises. Like today, everyone was out and I was home alone. This meant that I had to be responsible for my own food.
Option 1– The temptation
No one is home, I can get away with not eating a meal. Nobody will know
Option 2– The things that I know God would want me to do
I don’t want to eat but it’s the right thing to do because I need to eat to survive.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set up free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1
At one of the sermons I went to at New Wine we were reminded of this passage. The message behind it was simple. Jesus has set us free. So, STAY FREE!
Temptations are going to come your way, but stand firm.
Walking with God isn’t the quick and easy option. It isn’t always going to be pretty either. Sometimes it’s full of pain but God is in control. God isn’t going to come with empty promises and then at the end dump a load of horrible debts or pain on me, no, God isn’t going to do that. Walking with God isn’t always easy but it is so worth it! Today I wanted noting more than to not eat when everyone was out. It was such a tempting offer! But it was an offer that would have left me feeling guilty and ashamed, I would have slipped back down the slope I’ve been trying so hard to climb back up.
So when a temptation comes you way just pause for a second and give it some thought.