Monday, February 24, 2014

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014

So I’ve been dreading this week.
This week is Eating Disorder awareness week, and I feel like I should do something for it. I should write something inspiring and uplifting, yet I have felt slightly disconnected from the whole event.  
I’m also very wary about what I write. This awareness week has seen me bitter and jealous, for ridiculous reasons. I’m jealous of those able to preach from a low BMI. 
Hear me out. 
It’s an easy thing to do, preach about recovery do’s and don’ts when you are not following your own advice. I’m not sure where this jealousy had sprung from, maybe it just comes from where my headspace is at the moment, but through thinking this I realised, EDAW shouldn’t be triggering that sense in someone, and it got me thinking. EDAW has too much emphasis on past reflections rather then hope for the future. Too many horror/warning stories and not enough RECOVERY and positive stories.
THIS post is not going to be one of those reflective ones, I am not going to write about how bad I was or wasn’t, how much treatment I did or didn’t need, how low my BMI did or didn’t get. There will be no numbers, no ‘courageous’ before and after pictures, we all know what anorexia looks like, we all know how the story goes, I am more interested in telling people that IT CAN GET BETTER. That there is HOPE, there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is LIFE.
This is my main irritation of EDAW, people reflect and sometimes it seems like an excuse to let their competitive side out, to show the world just how low they sank. Personally I don’t care. I think its just as hard for anyone with an ED, regardless of how low they got, to pull themselves out. Yes I know this illness is very competitive, even writing this way is making me brain scream YOU NEED TO PROVE YOU WERE ILL, but no I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. I suffered, am suffering, and that’s all you need to know. All you need to know is ANYONE can suffer, at ANY weight, age, gender ect.
So I urge you, this week, if you are oblivious to the world of ED’s (I am first off very jealous of you) but read up on it, if you suspect it in a friend, family member, work colleague, reach out to them, let them know that they don't have to be alone.
If you are a sufferer, let this week help you make some baby steps, because this week we are all challenging ourselves together, you won’t be alone. Wear an item of clothing that you’ve been avoiding, try a fear food, up your intake for a day, resist a behaviour, talk to someone, and if you can’t talk to someone then hint, get the ball rolling to reach out and let someone in, let someone help.
If you need a sign to reach out and get help, well THIS IS IT, you deserve to get better, you deserve to not be alone in this struggle, and I promise you, it will be worth it.
And for those trying to raise awareness…..lets do it by inspiring people to get better. Lets show them what life beyond an eating disorder can look like. Lets give people the most valuable thing that someone can give another sufferer……Hope. 
Proof to

And just for good measure here is the film I took part in for EDAW 2013


Thursday, February 20, 2014

When does this end?

I am a positive person, I try to see the silver linings and I will just get on with what needs to be done. When a crisis happens I act and remain strong. I am not being modest its just fact. I will pick myself up, go to work, and carry on. I have been told many times this is my way of coping, by avoiding and shutting out emotions, and maybe they are right, maybe I do, but right now I can’t. 
Recovery doesn’t feel like recovery any more, it feels like its taken a turn, it feels like a masked eating disorder. It feels like the beginning again, when everything was secretive and hidden. 
When does life just become life? Living just living? I don’t mean to sound all lame but personally I am fed up of fighting day in day out just to be slightly normal. Why can’t I just simply be normal. It’s started to feel like this is never going to go away again. There was a time where I believed I was getting there, yes it was hard, yes I hated the changes bodily, I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin, in fact on a daily basis I wanted to crawl out of my skin and tear it into tiny pieces. But I was doing it, I believed that maybe, just maybe, there was a way out of this illness. Now I’m not so sure. 
Ask me for anyone else and I 100% believe there is, in fact I KNOW there is, I’ve seen it happen. But for me? I don’t know anymore and it breaks my heart. It feels like this is all my life will ever be. I know everyone bears an untold story and all that jazz but I watch the people I am surrounded by and I wonder what life is like for them without an Eating Disorder, and it reminds me of how far from that I am. Don’t get me wrong, I am closer to ‘normality’ then I have ever been, but yet so far. And I hear people express that they think they are the same because of X Y and Z, that they understand what its like, and they don’t. An Eating Disorder is not a personality trait, it’s not just a niggling flaw, a diet, or slight self-conscious moment, it consumes you and destroys not only your life but the life’s of the ones you love.  Its belittling, not only of the endless torment when your in it but also of the epically exhausting fight to pull through to the other side. 
Relapse creeps up on you, it’s a sly bastard, one day you are doing ok, the next your convincing yourself your still ok and denying some of the small behaviours creeping in, and the next thing you know your back to major behaviours and it hits you like a brick in the face. Your Eating Disorder is back. Shit, how did that happen? 
I Know that this post will hurt many people that I love, and for that I am sorry. I hate that I am also letting the people that were so proud of me down, the girls on the ward that have watched my Exeter experience and wanting to LIVE again and have fun again because of it. I am sorry. 
I am not considering this to be a major relapse, it's really not. Physically I am fine, it's just 'int my head that I'm not. I guess what I’m saying is that I am struggling, and if I take away the secretiveness of that then maybe it will stop me falling even further. Maybe if I say it with words I do not have to resort to portraying it on my body.  Maybe for once if I speak up rather then avoid it wont end with a hospital admission. Maybe if someone else is struggling they could do the same thing?  Take away the secrets, be honest, work through it, speak up. 
When will this end?

My story

So I have been thinking about this a lot recently, I have words in my head and my heart that I need to share. Nothing of any value but things that I hope will help others, or at least create a greater understanding. This is not my first blog. In fact I wrote a lot in the past and found it extremely therapeutic, releasing, freeing even, That blog is private(ish), I'm not sure I am ready to 'out' details of my downfall to that extreme, but if anyone wants to read it feel free to ask.

The first time I spoke out about my illness was when things had become so extreme it was pointless hiding it. The first time I uttered the words of what I suffered from was for a video that I took part in for Eating Disorder Awareness week, which was crazily only a year a go. Since then it has been no secret on my behalf, I'm still questioning the pro's and con's of this, but I voice my opinions pretty openly and talk to anyone that is willing to listen. I talk because if I can rid some of the stigma around this kind of thing then hopefully it will encourage more people to get help before it is too late. I spent years in denial, fighting against anyone that would reach out, fighting against myself, and fighting against Drs who didn't have a clue. If I had been more open from the start maybe I wouldn't of wasted so many years, maybe I wouldn't of gotten so far, maybe my story would be different. I want to prevent other people from having the same story.

I am in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa.
For those of you who know me now this may come as a shock. I do not look like the typical anorexic. That's were the first lot of stigma breaking can come in. I am a weight restored anorexic. Does being weight restored mean that I no longer suffer? No. Anorexia is not just a physical condition, it is a mental health condition. It is just as much to do with the mind as it is the body. The glamorized version of anorexia is far from the truth, it is not a case of restrict, get thin, be happy. It is hell. I cannot stress that enough. It is pure hell.

When my Eating Disorder started I will never know, to any psychiatrist or therapist that has asked me that question I have always been stumped for an answer. It has always been there, when I was younger it was merely a hint of a shadow, just lingering and waiting to consume me. Then at college it took over and I went through the classic denial and anger stage, I rejected everyone that even attempted to help. I was angry at the world and anyone that showed an inch of kindness towards me. I did not deserve it therefore I rejected it. I won't bore you with the details, mainly because some I don't even know, it's all a bit of a blur, but it was very up and down. I found love and things got better, life events happened and it got worse, things got better, and then worse again. It is very much my way of responding to events out of my control. The notion of ying and yang was embedded in my head, if I kept myself unsafe it would mean nothing bad would happen to anyone I cared about. Yes read that again.....it sounds ridiculous but the belief is real, it still is. When life becomes unpredictable and scary I turn inwards and destroy myself, for many reasons, ying and yang, blame, guilt, a distraction from real emotions, avoidance from the world, a way out of dealing with other issues, self hatred, the list is endless. It is a complex illness and I wish I could express it more eloquently.

Through the help of an amazing woman, someone who I will be eternally grateful to, I entered treatment after getting married, started off as an outpatient and when things quickly got out of hand I was admitted into hospital where I stayed for just over 3 months. I wasn't ready to change though, I went in to save my marriage and to save myself from being kicked off of the course that I was a student on, a course that I still believe to this day saved my life. My keyworkers and CPN knew I would be back, and that almost gave me the permission to relapse, and relapse I did.  After a couple of months my family got involved and I was sent to live with my parents so that they could keep an eye on me, it was heart breaking. Seeing their pain, frustration and watching the tears run down their faces is something that will never leave me. I still to this day have the heart wrenching letter my dad wrote to me expressing that I was 'in grave danger of losing my life, it really is that bad Sami, please think about it'. A father should not have to write to his daughter telling her what would happen to the family if she died. A father should not have to persuade his daughter to continue living.
After leaving the Inpatient ward in Feb I was readmitted April having lost all the weight I had restored and a lot more. It was quick and dangerous and I avoided having to go to a different hospital by the skin of my teeth.

Through this relapse my husband left me, which is why I had to go home, he told me he didn't love me anymore, didn't love the person I had become. Even then, in the depth of my illness, with my heart about ready to give up on me I knew he was wrong. I knew that I could get back to the person I used to be, but he only got to have the happy bubbly Sami if he helped support me getting back there, after all, marriage vows include 'in sickness and in health' for a good reason. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be and whilst in hospital, the day after my birthday, we parted ways. Many feared it would cause a further relapse, but with the support of my family and friends I made it through. Although it hurt it gave me the freedom I needed to start my real recovery journey.

I made the decision to move to Exeter with my best friend, after having been in the Eating Disorder Unit for 4 months I discharged myself early and moved in with Ella. This girl showed me that life could be good again. She gave me the strength to believe in myself, she showed me unconditional love and helped me through the struggles of recovery. I owe her everything. We fought together and boy did we fight hard. We weren't going to let Anorexia win again, we were determined and we had each other.

This is where we are now. This is my story. It has not ended, I still have to fight on a daily basis. Recovery is not just one choice, its several choices every hour of every day. Its about falling and getting back up. Its screaming louder then the voice in your head and going against every fiber of your being. Its listening to what your ED wants you to do and then doing the exact opposite. Its a fight for survival, because only one of you will win. It is an exhausting fight that you can't walk away from because ultimately you are only fighting yourself, your own mind. Its endless and exhausting, but I do believe it's worth it. So if you're fighting too you are not alone, we can fight this together.

LIFE will be worth it.

 'It’s tempting to get sick so that you can be taken care of. Remember that I am here and I am listening. You don’t have to write your pain on your body. You can say it out loud. I will hear you.'