Hey guys. I decided to create this blog to document my recovery from mental illness in hope that it helps me express my feelings in a more positive and helpful way. With stress and exams taking over my life at the moment, I have found myself bottling everything up and using unhelpful coping mechanisms. I also want to help try and erase the stigma around mental health disorders and show people that this isn’t a taboo subject.
I thought that my first post should be about the impact mental health disorders have had on my life and basically the whole reason why I’m doing this blog, so here’s my story:
I had a very happy upbringing. I grew up surrounded by a loving family and caring friends. I was shy as a young girl but came out of my shell as I got older to be known as a loud and bubbly person. I moved from primary school to the follow on all girls secondary school where most of my friends followed.
Things began to go downhill when I was aged 13. At this age, all girls are beginning to find themselves and try new things. One of these things being the dreaded word… dieting. Up until then I had never even thought about dieting, but it just felt like it was the done thing to do. So I asked myself, “What harm could it do? Every girl does it at some part in their life. No one even sticks to them anyway.” However, being a perfectionist and the stubborn person I am, I could not have been more wrong and when I started, I became hooked.
This stage of my life is a bit of a blur to me. I don’t really remember the exact chronological order of it all, I just have vague memories of the two years after it all began. I began by cutting out all sweets, chocolates, desserts and snacks, but this soon turned into cutting out every meal of the day. I had posters and reminders everywhere telling me that I wasn’t allowed to eat, and if I did, I was a failure. At the start, I tried to hide my ways from my family but this didn’t last very long. My mum caught on very quickly and took me to the GP who said, “This is just a phase. She’ll grow out of it.” People at school were also starting to notice yet this just caused a lot of rumours and anonymous messages calling me attention-seeking. After all this, I decided to eat again. Not because I wanted to, but to stop all the gossiping and to get my parents off my back.
However, the seeds were already planted and to deal with the loss of not being about to control what I ate, I began to self harm. I didn’t tell anyone and no one had any idea for nearly a year. I would cry myself to sleep most nights telling myself I wasn’t good enough and that I was just being pathetic. That it was a phase. That it wasn’t important. And if I told anyone it would be attention seeking. Things got all out of hand one night and long story short, my parents had some unexpected late night visitors and they found out what had been going on. They were in complete shock and taken aback by how long I had been for and sought professional help immediately.
I soon had my very first (out of many more to come) psychiatric assessment where I was diagnosed with Severe Depression, Anxiety and Anorexia Nervosa. The words hit me like a bus. After being told that this was all just a phase and that I was just being attention seeking, to then be told I actually have a genuine problem; I didn’t know what to think at first. I was in denial, I was scared and I point-blank refused admission into a psychiatric ward. After this initial assessment I saw many more psychologists and psychiatrists, one after the other, yet it was clear that I wasn’t willing to work with them or change my ways. Over the next few months my mood and weight deteriorated. I stopped talking to my friends, I left school and I completely shut myself out from the world.
August 2nd 2012 I was admitted into a specialist eating disorder unit in Sutton Coldfield after losing even more weight and being given just two months to live. I would need a whole day to tell you about my experience in hospital but to keep things brief, I gained back all the weight and was discharged 5 months later. The thing with anorexia though, is that it’s not just about the weight. It’s about your mind. You can be a perfectly healthy weight, or even overweight, and still have anorexia. It’s a psychological disease with weight loss being a result. You cannot judge anyone on their body shape/weight – it’s a MENTAL health problem.
I left hospital just before Christmas and tried to return back to normal life and school as soon as possible, however this was a lot easier said than done. I had taught myself half of all my GCSE’s whilst ill as I missed about a year of school, and felt like I was falling behind on all the work. Settling back into my old life was extremely difficult and I didn’t realise that this was when the real challenge would come. After not being back at school for long, I had developed some not so helpful friendships that I couldn’t cope with, and this unfortunately lead me into a bad self-harm incident and being suspended from school.
Due to this and my past experience of my time at that school, I decided I needed a fresh start. I’d stay to do my exams, and then leave and find a new sixth form to go to. But unfortunately, during the start of the year of my GCSE exams, I relapsed. I had put on more weight since leaving hospital and because I wasn’t quite mentally there yet, I left hospital being extremely triggered by just words such as “diet” or “exercise” and with the same bad thoughts in my mind. I lost weight extremely quickly and it got to the point of another hospital admission. It was the summer of 2014 when I was told that if I didn’t start recovering now, I would end up in hospital again.
The thought of another hospital admission made my head spin. I could not miss anymore of school I told myself. This is my opportunity for a fresh start and I don’t want to mess it all up before it’s even started. Since leaving hospital, the road to recovery has been harder than I ever imagined it to be. Since everyone was watching me like a hawk when it came to food, I became dependent on self harm again and also suicidal tendencies.
I was so determined to not be admitted back into hospital though, so I made the decision to try and recover at home. Despite the struggles of trying to force myself to eat, deal with the voices inside my head and on top of all that moving to a new school and starting A-levels, I learnt a lot more than I ever thought I would. Because this time I wasn’t being force-fed and watched every second. I wasn’t being followed to the toilet and made to sit down for an hour after every meal. This time I was doing this for myself. I knew I had to get better. I couldn’t live my life this way. I didn’t want to have another hospital admission and spend my life going in and out of wards. I hated the thought of being years behind in school and missing out on life because I spent my time refusing to eat in hospital.
I gained back the weight slowly and steadily over the next year with the help from friends and family, and my therapist at the time. During my recovery outside of hospital, I had little epiphanies along the way. Healthy didn’t mean just eating salads and nothing else. Exercise didn’t mean losing weight. I learnt to not be triggered by such words and realised that hospital never taught me how to really recover. It was something I had to teach myself. I have been recovering ever since and despite some minor setbacks I am trying to live my life to the fullest.
Even though the length of this post may suggest otherwise, I have only really just skimmed the surface of my story! This is a vague outline of the past 5 years I have been battling. There are lots of little details and aspects that I haven’t included but hope to go into more depth about in more posts.
For me, I believe that anorexia will be a part of me forever. Its had such an impact on my life and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of relapsing. I still really struggle with self harm, anorexic voices and body dysmorphia, and every day I am still fighting. Yet this is a war I am not willing lose.
To anyone else who is going through a rough patch or trying to recover, please please please never give up. There is always hope.