How To Stay Emotionally Healthy During A Divorce: by Lizzie Weakley

(image: Karolina Grabowska: Pexels)

When you are in the midst of getting divorced, you may be surprised at just how much it will drain you emotionally. Whether you have been married only a short period of time or perhaps for decades, knowing you will soon be divorced can be a scary thought that may leave you very depressed, which can result in you making poor decisions as your divorce moves forward. If you want to emerge from your divorce with some emotional health, here are some steps you should take along the way.

Don’t Stay Isolated

As your divorce process moves forward, don’t make the mistake of staying isolated. Instead, stay in touch with your family and friends. If your social network is now cut in half due to your divorce, make new friends by perhaps attending church/synagogue or learning a new hobby- whatever feels right for you.

Don’t Blame Yourself

When couples divorce, it is not unusual for one spouse to blame themselves for the marriage breaking up. Even though there is usually fault to be found on both sides in most divorces, this does not mean you should continually beat yourself up emotionally day after day about your marriage ending. Instead, you need to accept that it happened, plan your future, and try to move forward as best you can. You should reach for support if you need it.

Write Down Your Thoughts

During your divorce, you will be having plenty of meetings with your divorce lawyers and others as well. Needless to say, you may feel a bit drained at the end of the day. If you have plenty of thoughts running through your mind, take some time to write them down in a journal. By having the chance to express your innermost thoughts in this manner, it can be a great way to relieve stress and keep your emotions in balance. Another option would be to talk about your feelings with a therapist when you are ready.

Take Care of Yourself

Last but not least, taking care of yourself physically will play a big role in keeping you feeling ok emotionally. Therefore, you should eat healthily, exercise regularly, and treat yourself to something special now and then, such as dinner at your favourite restaurant, a relaxing vacation, or getting pampered at a day spa. By doing so, you will find many things that were eating away at you will suddenly not seem nearly as important. Self care is vital in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown.

Though you may wonder what the future will hold for you after your divorce is final, looking after yourself and your mental health will pave the way for a new chapter in your life.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer, based in the USA.

Promoting Wellbeing, Positive Mental Health and Reducing Stress in the Elderly.

(image: Unsplash/Istock)

The UK has an ageing population, with statistics indicating that there are 5.4 million people aged 75 years. A further breakdown also shows that persons aged 85 years and above make up 1.6 million of the population. Indeed, the ageing years are characterised by failing physical and mental health. However, science and society continue to devise ways to make the period less stressful.

Here are some guidelines on how:

  1. The essence of mobility

As people age, one of the first things that deteriorate is mobility. The depletion of muscle tone, coupled with bone issues, may inhibit movement. Usually, it sets in gradually, and when nothing is done, mobility can decrease by as much as 70% to 80%. At that point, an ageing person may need walking aids to support their body weight. However, mobility issues can be thwarted if counter-measures are taken in time.

Geriatricians (primary care doctors for the aged) advise ageing persons to dedicate some minutes of their days to walk. According to these experts, 150 minutes in a week is adequate. When the elder individual has enough energy, an average of 20 minutes daily is perfect. However, another person with mobility issues can engage in a guided basic workout for at least 15 minutes a day. Among the elderly, the risk of falling is incredibly high. This may therefore require a specialised alarm for elderly persons. This is worn like a wristwatch and can be used to monitor the number of daily steps, call for help when needed, etc. So, as you encourage an older person to take mobility issues seriously, it helps to ensure that it’s done safely.

  1. Reinforced social networks

It is essential to belong to a strong and supportive social network during the later years. Retiring from active duty and work can trigger depression. Although statistics indicate that depression in older adults is less prevalent than in the younger generation, it is still a cause for concern. Research in UK care homes revealed that 40% of the ageing generation endure chronic depression. This is likely due to the separation from their immediate family and friends.

Fortunately, this can be resolved when these seniors are encouraged to participate in social engagements. It can be in the form of a support group, a reading club, or other recreational groups purposely for older adults. As simple as these social networks may seem, they play a vital role in their life. It generates a sense of belonging, which subsequently promotes healthy mental well-being.

  1. Attention to regular quality sleep

According to the British Geriatrics Society, insomnia is prevalent amongst elderly people. Whether housed in a care home or not, the difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep is a hurdle many older adults cannot cross without help. Insomnia is both a physical and mental well-being issue. This explains why experts say it should always be tackled from both angles.

In other words, as doctors prescribe pills to aid sleep, it is advisable to focus on the root cause of insomnia. It is possible to boost sleep quality by speaking to medical professionals and also assessing if there is a mental health cause to the insomnia too.

Elderly adults need both physical and mental health care as they transition into this new phase of life. These are just some ideas to help.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

Starting The Conversation: 5 Tips On How To Talk To Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

According to new data from Mental Health Statistics, during 2020, 58% of workers experienced some kind of work-related stress, while 63% were experiencing moderate levels of anxiety. 

Health experts have warned, that if these mental health issues are left untreated, it can impact our day-to-day lives, including the ability to do our jobs. 

That’s why the team of experts at Delamere, have shared five ways to open up the conversation about mental health with your employer: 

  1. Find the Right Time and Place to Talk  

When approaching the conversation of mental health with your employer, one thing that will help is finding the right time to talk. Talking to your boss on a day when they seem overwhelmed might result in you not getting the best response, so make sure to schedule a call or an in-person conversation with them ahead of time.

As well as the right time, it’s also important to find an appropriate place to have the conversation. Find a place that will allow you to talk in a professional and calm way, and is a quiet space in your workplace. If somewhere suitable isn’t available you could also suggest meeting outside the office or even going for a walk. 

  1. Plan what you are going to say ahead of your meeting

Before speaking to your manager one of the best ways you can prepare is by planning what you want to discuss ahead of time. This will not only calm any nerves you might be having ahead of the conversation but will also ensure that you are only sharing what is needed to frame how your mental health is impacting your work.

Points you can prepare in advance could include, identifying tasks within your current role and workload that is making you stressed, reminding your boss of your achievements so that they remember you are more than capable, explaining what factors might need to change in order to help you.

  1. Decide Who To Speak To 

If you decide to open up to your employer about your mental health, consider who you will feel most comfortable having the conversation with. 

If you have a good relationship with one of your managers, it might be helpful talking to them about what you are going through. However, if you find that they aren’t very approachable, consider speaking to someone within your HR department that will be able to help you.

  1. Consider That Your Boss May be More Receptive Than You Think

Though talking about your mental health with your employer may feel like an uncomfortable situation, they may actually be more understanding than you anticipate them to be. 

Mental illness is very common illness and a lot of people, unfortunately, suffer from this in the workplace. So when you start the conversation, the chances are your boss or employer will have already had direct experience with dealing with it or even experienced it themselves. 

  1. Focus on Your Productivity and Ability to Work

To get the most out of your conversation with your employer, think beforehand about how your mental health is impacting your productivity and ability to work.

If you go into the meeting with this already prepared, the chances are you will have greater success coming up with solutions on how your employer can support you and what you need to get better. Whether it’s more flexible working hours or a lighter workload.

This article was written by Delamere residential addiction care.

Physical and Mental Health: How Improving One Can Help The Other.

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Mental health is often viewed as something that exists entirely separate from physical health, but the truth is that they are closely intertwined. In fact, research has shown that improving your physical health can also help improve your mental health. Let’s take a look at some of the ways this happens.

1) Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. This is one of the reasons why exercise can be so beneficial for people with depression or anxiety disorders. Exercise can help to lift your mood and make you feel happier. In addition, regular physical activity is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. It can help to improve symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and low energy levels. And it’s a good option for people who don’t want or cannot take medication for their depression.

2) Physical activity can help to improve self-esteem and body image.

When you’re physically active, you start to see results in terms of your body composition and physical abilities. This can boost your self-esteem and make you feel better about yourself. Plus, exercise is a great way to manage stress and anxiety. When you’re stressed out, it’s often hard to find the energy or motivation to do anything. But when you have an outlet for your stress, such as exercise, it can help to ease that tension and make you feel better overall. Read this article for more information on exercising for beginners. 

3) Healthy eating can help to regulate your mood.

 An unhealthy diet can have a negative impact on your mental health. For example, poor nutrition can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, affecting your mood. In addition, people who eat many processed foods tend to be more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. Conversely, people who consume a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables are less likely to experience these problems.

4) Physical activity can help you to get a good night’s sleep.

 Insomnia and other sleep problems are common among people with mental health disorders. In fact, research has shown that lack of sleep is one of the strongest predictors of depression. However, when you’re physically active, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep. In addition, exercise helps promote relaxation and calmness, which can be helpful for people who have trouble sleeping.

5) Physical activity can help to reduce stress levels.

One of the leading causes of mental health problems is prolonged exposure to stress. When you’re constantly stressed out, it can take a toll on your mental health. Exercise is a great way to combat stress because it helps to release tension and promote relaxation. In addition, physical activity can help you to manage your time more effectively and reduce feelings of overload or overwhelm.

When it comes to mental health, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But improving your physical health can be an essential part of the overall treatment plan. So if you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, talk to your doctor about ways that you can improve your physical health as well.

6) It can encourage you to take a different approach to your overall health

When you start taking better care of your health, it can prompt you to keep going and look at other areas of your lifestyle that need improving. Exercise and healthy eating can make you feel more energised and positive, completely changing your mindset.

It can also highlight other issues you might be facing that you may not have addressed. Maybe it’s time to go to the doctor or explore a diagnosis with ADHD Centre and get clarity on a problem you’ve been facing for some time. A complete health makeover can help you move forward and make the most of your new energy and lifestyle.

This blog was written by a freelance writer.

Best Ways to Redecorate your Bedroom to improve Mental Health: Guest blog by Rosette.

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(image: Pinterest)

In recent years, mental health has been in the spotlight because society has been starting to learn about how important it is. This is welcomed progress, as more people are now educating themselves and looking for ways to help themselves achieve good mental health. Amidst your search, you will find that small things can help, such as redecorating your room.

Creating your own space is a good opportunity to check on your well-being. Your environment has an effect on your mood and emotions. Arranging and fixing what surrounds the place where you spend most of your time at home is a simple way of focusing on yourself especially in times when you need to do so.

In times where you need to take a break and rest your mind, your room is the nearest place you can go to. If you’ve been feeling down, mentally exhausted, or feeling some unrest, how about you tweak your own space a little?

Here are the best ways to redecorate your room to improve mental health:

 

Declutter

If your room is messy, it’s highly likely that you haven’t done some organising in a while. I know some people like the way their room is arranged, but let’s face it, it’s a good feeling when clutter is taken away from your own space. A simple step to take to reorganise your thoughts is to reorganise your room. At times when you feel confused, try decluttering. Get rid of the stuff that you don’t need and save your brain from the distraction that a mess creates.

 

Let the light in

The amount of light inside your room also affects your mood. Research suggests that sunlight is thought to reduce stress and to relax the body. Keeping your space in tune with the natural rhythms of the day aids the body in maintaining the circadian clock, our internal 24-hour clock that keeps our sleep and wake cycles running regularly and smoothly. 

So move your curtains aside and open your windows to allow some natural light in your room. In addition, make sure that your curtain set lets you see the sun and if not, you can search for a DIY hardware store around your area where you can purchase the parts that you need.

Display a centerpiece that will lighten up your mood

There is something about seeing something as a centerpiece of a room that affects how you feel. A focal point inside your own space gives off the vibe that you would want to feel once you enter it. According to author Stephanie Roberts, creating a focal point that makes you happy will help you feel relaxed from the get-go. Display something that does that in your bedroom where you tend to always tend to look so you can always see it.

 

Get plants

Houseplants have been linked to many psychological benefits including reduced anxiety and lower blood pressure. In addition to that, plants also remind you of self-care and can give you an appreciation of the little things. Watering plants is like a reminder to take good care of yourself, while watching it grow makes you feel a sense of accomplishment and that the simple stuff that you do matters.

 

Make a useful layout

You should not feel lost in your room. It should be easy to navigate and see where everything is. Moreover, designate space for the stuff that you do. Declutter to find space for a desk where you can use your electronic devices at. Using your phone or laptop on your bed can interrupt your sleep cycle. Design everything to optimise your hours of rest separated from the other activities that you do inside your room and place items where it needs to be.

Wrapping up

Redecorating your room benefits your mental health and helps you feel calmer, while you are decorating and with the finished result. It’s a great way to build positive thought patterns and reduce stress. It also proves that we should not overlook the simple and normal tasks for they can serve as a form of  small therapy for when we need it the most.

 

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Author’s Bio:

Rosette has a knack for anything DIY. She spent her younger years learning about the different hardware tools and equipment in the hopes of establishing a hardware business in the future. Her career options may have changed, but today, she continues to write so passionately about her first love.

Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Balance, Why it Matters: Guest blog for Mental Health Awareness Week by Loveitcoverit

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(image: Unsplash)

 

When establishing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, the overarching goal is clear; an individual should not feel as though their professional life is intruding on their personal time or vice versa. However, it’s always easier to explain than it is to physically manage – which is why it’s important to fully understand the implications of a poor work-life balance and the proactive steps we can all take to minimise any negative impact – such as poor mental wellbeing.

Although this challenge is known to many, you may not be fully aware of how prevalent it is across the entire nation. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation has commented that work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year!

Now, as you would expect, the emergence of modern technology – such as smartphones – has drastically transformed our professional lives and, as such, it can be difficult to create concrete boundaries. Many of our devices can now take on the features and responsibilities of a larger computer system and so our working lives are available at just the touch of a button. So, how do we assess whether this detracts from our free-time and if this impacts our mental health?

Well, in recent months, this very topic has been investigated by mobile phone insurers, loveitcoverit.   

Their research found that an astounding 80% of workers identify their smartphones as a tool for their professional responsibilities, clearly demonstrating that they have surpassed the singular, social use that spurred their beginnings. So, whether it’s to communicate with colleagues, access working documents remotely or utilise organisational platforms, our mobiles have become an integrated part of professionalism on a wide scale. As such, it can be difficult to imagine the two in separation – but is this a good thing?

Overusing our mobile devices can be detrimental to our work-life balance as they create an access channel that is available to us at every hour. So, whilst leading mental health organisations emphasise the need for distancing measures – such as short breaks, time off and established social environment outside of work – our smartphones may act as a reminder of our professional responsibilities. In turn, this can lead to individuals feeling pressure to work outside of their agreed working times and intrude on their personal lives. 

Due to the sheer number of smartphone users across the country, this could mean that millions are facing the challenge. In fact, less than half of workers claim to have a ‘healthy’ work-life balance! 

Of course, this isn’t to say you should never complete a professional task in your free time, it simply means that you must actively monitor and manage how often this happens. This might seem a menial task, but it’s vital.

If you often find yourself feeling stressed due to your working life, then you could be at risk of developing illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

However, luckily, there are further actions we can take to ensure our balance does not tip!

 

Setting tangible guidelines

 We’re not saying that you must ignore your phone if a professional emergency arises, but it is important to make sure your working correspondence doesn’t intrude on your personal life. So, start with something simple – like enforcing a rule of no work related phone use after six on any weekday and perhaps not at all on the weekends.

Ultimately, it’s your decision to make, so find out what works within your routines and go with it!

 

Communicate with your employer

No one wants to be seen as a ‘complainer’, but if your work responsibilities are damaging your mental health it is important to speak up. Set up a meeting or informal chat with your manager to discuss how you’re feeling and why you feel that way. From there, you can work in tandem to better the situation and make wider improvements that benefit others too!

 

 Better understand your own situation

There is normally a tangible reason for any feelings of stress or anxiety but it might not be clear at first glance. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and try to dissect your situation.

If you can understand what is causing your stress, you’re in a wholly better position to try and improve it, whether this is in reorganising your routine and methods or in talking to someone else at work!

 

Creating a healthy and sustainable work-life balance is imperative for our mental wellbeing, so we all must take the time to figure out how to best achieve it. Remember, the working world existed before smartphones did, so it’s a durable environment, and taking the time to figure out positive and progressive ways of moving forward will never be a waste.

 

This guest blog was written by loveitcoverit, mobile phone insurers in the UK at www.loveitcoverit.com 

5 Ways you can reduce Anxiety in Every Day Life: Guest blog by Samantha Higgins

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(image: Picuki.com)

Reducing anxiety at the moment in our every day lives is so important.

Having anxiety is something that many people have challenges with. It is estimated that about 1 in 5 adults have an anxiety disorder and that more than that will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.

The symptoms of anxiety include feeling restless or on edge, being easily irritated, difficulty controlling feelings of worry and having difficulty sleeping, amongst others. 

If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, there are many things you can do to help reduce and manage those feelings. 

 

1. Look at Lifestyle Choices

A number of different lifestyle behaviours could contribute to your anxiety. Drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating junk food will all play a big role in how you feel. For example, excessive drinking or the use of drugs can cause a multitude of health problems including liver and kidney damage. It also causes mental illness such as drug and alcohol addictions. You may need further support from a psychiatrist or rehab unit if you are struggling with addiction or mental illness.

On the opposite side, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods are proven to boost your mood, increase the chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and improve your overall physical health. 

If you want to manage anxiety, consider looking at your current lifestyle choices and if there is anything you have the power to change. Be honest in your assessment but know you have options for assistance.  Making a big lifestyle change is hard but if there is something you know is causing your mental health and anxiety to worsen, it is a good idea to remove that from your life if possible. 

 

2. Talk to Your Family and Friends

Even if you think your family and friends would not understand, you might end up getting some of your most valuable support from them. You should not ever feel you have to hide any of your mental health concerns from them, unless you know that they would react badly.

Try to avoid shutting people out, being secretive about your mental illness or becoming defensive when people ask. 

True friends will listen and care. There is still a stigma to mental illness but it is important to find someone you trust.

 

 3. Set Boundaries

If necessary you can set boundaries for yourself. This could mean letting people know there are certain activities you don’t participate in. It could also mean a limit on how much time you spend with friends and family, in order to practise self care and recuperate. 

Many people who struggle with anxiety disorders find that setting up a schedule for themselves that they are consistent in keeping can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety. It helps them to feel more in control and gives them a structure that feels secure.

Setting boundaries is a way for you to have control over your situation and environment, although these should not be too rigid. There are certain things that can’t be controlled that can increase anxiety. 

 

4. Let Go of Things You Can’t Control

If something is out of your control that is causing your anxiety there are ways that you can cope with these feelings.  One suggestion is to write down how you are feeling to help let those emotions go. The BACP tells us that, “It can help to express this anxiety in a way that you can control. That could be writing down what you feel, or keeping a journal.”

You can also try making a list of things you are grateful for, or use breathing and relaxation techniques. 

If you are still struggling to cope with things out of your control seek help from a professional. 

 

5. Get Professional Help

You could turn to all types of mental health professionals to get help, including GPs (physicians), psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists. You may be referred for talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness or EMDR therapy for trauma.  They may also recommend medication for you too.

In the UK, you would go via your NHS GP who can refer you on to see a psychiatrist or to IAPT for counselling.  Also check out the Counselling Directory website.

When searching for a good therapist in the USA, Karen Whitehead, who does counseling in Alpharetta, GA tells us that, “Psychologists (PsyD), Licensed Social Workers (LMSW/LCSW), Licensed Professional Counsellors (LPC), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) can all evaluate and treat mental illness, provide talk therapy, support and feedback, and teach coping strategies such as mindfulness.”

Your counsellor will be able to help you better assess your situation and get to the core of your anxieties. Even if you already know why you get anxious, you can benefit from learning coping skills.

Your counsellor can indeed equip you with tools adapted for your specific needs. You will have feedback on what is and what is not working. You can learn to live with, manage and in many cases, recover from anxiety.

 

You Are Not Alone

Do not ever think you are alone when it comes to your anxiety. Try not to beat yourself up if setbacks occur or you have a bad day.

Talk with your therapist about ways that you can help to further reduce your anxiety. They will be able to help you.

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Samantha Higgins.

Why People are using Weighted Blankets to cope with Anxiety: by Calming Blanket

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(image: Calming Blanket)

Weighted blankets have been found to have a number of key benefits to those that use them. One of the biggest advantages of using weighted blankets has been its ability to reduce stress and anxiety in users. But how do weighted blankets work, and how does it impact on people’s levels of anxiety? We decided to take a closer look.

How do weighted blankets work against anxiety?

It works in a few different ways, but the main factor it all comes down to is these blankets’ ability to stimulate the body’s proprioceptive input. This input in our body is important, as it helps the body recognise and establish environment awareness.

The awareness trigger is key, as this can help the brain get access to the body’s environment at a much quicker rate than without this type of blanket. This can help the brain to feel more relaxed, having a domino relaxation effect on the rest of the body.

In short, this entire process stimulated by the proprioceptive input, helps to reduce feelings of anxiety, because of the light pressure that is applied to the body.

In addition, for many people suffering from anxiety, lack of sleep unfortunately also goes hand in hand, and weighted blankets also tackle this too. This is because this light blanket pressure helps to release the hormones serotonin and melatonin. The former is known for having a huge impact on mood, while the latter helps with falling to sleep.

Interestingly, it is also believed that the feeling of a weighted blanket has similar emotional benefits to that of a hug or a baby that is swaddled tightly. The main reason for this is the release of the hormone oxytocin, known for helping to make people feel calmer and more relaxed.

Where can I find a weighted blanket?

The best weighted blankets on the market are by the Australian company Calming Blanket – and are recently available to buy in the UK.

Available for adults and children, they provide a range of super comfy weighted blanket options (2.2kg, 4.5kg, 6.8 kg and 9kg) that only use super soft fabric, as well as providing inner ties which do an important job of making sure weight is distributed evenly across the blanket.

 

This blog was written by Calming Blanket, a weighted blanket company that helps people with anxiety.

Living with an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Sofie

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(image: Pinterest)

This is a first person, brave and honest account by Sofie of her feelings about her eating disorder, which are her personal views. Trigger warning: please be careful as this discusses eating disorders and real emotions around them. We promote healing and recovery, where possible. So here’s Sofie….

    

I miss it every day! My first thought as I wake up in the morning and my last before I drift off for the night. It is a visceral longing. That’s the burden of an eating disorder. It’s an imposter that invites itself into your life and fulfills a need. It seemingly bestows upon you new abilities and strips you of weaknesses. However, with every freedom that it grants, there is a toll to pay.

My story doesn’t begin with a girl unhappy with her body, not many eating disorder stories do. My story starts with a girl lost within her own life. A girl who longed to feel she had a purpose and a direction — a child who yearned to feel an ounce of control. Anorexia gave me that control.

It gave me the power to defy human nature. It gave me a harsh look that proved I was oozing with discipline. Each bone like a spear warding off feelings and disappointments. I was never clueless as to why I starved myself. I never thought I was on a diet gone wrong. I wept many tears over the fact that my death-defying mission for control had made me so susceptible to vanity and left me a slave to the numbers on a scale, but how else was I to measure my discipline?

I miss it every day! I forget the aches, the pains, the fights, the hopelessness. I long for the feeling of achievement and forget the complete and utter sense of THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. STILL, I AM NOT ENOUGH. I long to go back almost every moment. To flee the life I have, to rewind and go back. For me, disappointment is much harder to face without the false comfort of the hunger, without the excuse of the failing body and protective blanket of a hazy mind.

So am I in recovery? I don’t know. I feel a sense of helplessness in my recovery like I have been dragged here by circumstance, and for now, my situation doesn’t sit comfortably with me. However, I know what I have to tell myself when it stings that my body no longer hurts: I can’t be a nice person while starving. I replay in my mind countless occasions where I behaved more like an animal than a human. I so desired to be successful, but I never wished to be a monster.

So, for now, this realisation is the guard I wear against the intrusive longing. It isn’t a bulletproof armour. The thoughts still wound, but for now, I am still standing, and I don’t need to judge the situation further than that.

And so, the greatest gift any therapy has given me is the clarity to place my love of others above my hatred of myself.

I can live a healthier life as a gift to those I love, who don’t deserve to be tortured by my demons. I must try and look after myself for my family and friends.

 

This blog was written by guest blogger Sofie, to discuss the truth around living with an eating disorder. If you are worried someone you love has an eating disorder, you can contact charities including Beat and speak to a GP or psychiatrist.

‘The Meaning of Normal’: Living with a sibling with mental illness : Guest post by Shira

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(image: Thought Clothing)

It hasn’t been normal for so long that sometimes I forget what normal should feel like. When I try to think about it, it feels like a glimpse into someone else’s life, and I am an invasive stranger, trying to reach something that doesn’t belong to me.

What is normal?

Sometimes I think I remember it.

Sometimes I think that normal is that time when I was six and you were three and we didn’t fight. When we played hand in hand like every other child, and our entire world was pink and purple, and the most important thing to us was that our dolls had shiny blonde hair.

And we would play every game under the sun, from barbies to dollhouse to the convoluted imaginary ones that only we knew the rules to, and even then did we ever really know the rules?

I was a witch and you were the princess. We were both witches. We were both princesses. I stole your magic time machine but you found another one, and our living room became the entire universe as we ran through it, believing wholly in the pictures we created, the way that only children can.

But did we ever really exist like that? Were we ever those idyllic children, the children that every parent wishes to have?

Maybe our normal is all the times when I was ten and you were seven and we would push and shove and slap. You were my younger sister who could do no wrong and I was the older one, always blamed for both our shares of misdemeanours.

“You should know better!” They would shout

“But she started it!” I would pout.

“It’s not true!” your bottom lip would stick out.

I think we all know that I probably did start it.

We would fight and yell and cry and shout, never giving in, never admitting that we were wrong. Because we weren’t wrong. We were both right, all the time, every time, and the other was always painfully mistaken. And we roared and yelled and scratched each other, but knew only to cry when a parent was looking. And if nobody was looking, well then nobody would see if we punched back just one more time.

But were we ever really like this? Two demonic screaming children who were never silent and never content with just each other? Were we really the children that every parent dreads to have?

Maybe our normal is the way we grew apart as we grew older. When I was 15 and you were 12 and I would pretend not to know you as I walked past you in school. And maybe our normal is the way we would come home from the same school at the same time separately, both of us walking different routes from the bus because being seen with one another would be unacceptable. Maybe that’s what all teenagers do. Maybe that really was our normal.

Maybe our normal was what came next.

Maybe the years we didn’t talk to each other was what we were always heading towards. Because one day we would put down the dolls, and one day we would run out of things to fight about and we would just…exist.

One next to the other.

Sitting in silence.

Neither speaking.

Neither bothering to reach out first.

Because now I’m 18 and you’re 15 and I don’t remember the last time I spoke to you. The house is thick with anger, so thick that it poisons every interaction, and I couldn’t even tell you what I’m angry about. Because the sister I played with, the sister I happily fought with but would jump on anyone else who dared fight with her is in pain. So much palpable pain, and for the first time I couldn’t just make it go away.

Was I angry with you?

Yes.

Was I angry with myself?

Yes.

And so I let this become our normal. A normal where two siblings exist side by side, but don’t even know how to speak without offending. Where everything I say hurts you and everything you say angers me.

So we made this our new normal.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I don’t.

I care.

And now I’m 20 and you’re 17 and I’m 3000 miles away. But this is our normal now. We don’t speak. We can’t speak. But it doesn’t even matter because there’s nothing to speak about anymore. How can I ask how you are when I already know the answer, and I know it’s not an answer I want to hear. How can you ask how I am when you’re too focused on making it through your own day without worrying about mine?

And anyway, it’s been a long time since we told each other how our day was. Not since I was 14 and you were 11 and we would awkwardly walk home from the bus stop together, backpacks moving up and down and up and down as we compared notes about school, neither of us loving it, neither of us willing to admit that out loud.

But we are not those children anymore, and we don’t have any shared experiences to talk about anymore.

I wonder if you miss me like I miss you. I wonder if you count down the days to my birthday too, hoping that we will both make it past 17 and 20, willing time to hurry up even though maybe all I really want to do is turn back the clock.

And then you are 18, and it’s been 18 years since I sat by your tiny cradle in the hospital and cried when we left, maybe because I wanted another chocolate bar from the hospital vending machine, or maybe because secretly I don’t want to leave my baby sister in a cold hospital far far away.

But now you are 18 and I’ve still left you in a hospital far away and it’s still just as hard to leave you there as it was all those years ago. But a 21 year old can’t lie down on the floor and have a tantrum so I keep going and keep going and this is our normal now.

A normal where you’re there and I’m here. A normal where we won’t speak for months on end but then I text you and tell you I miss you and now you answer me too, and I think you miss me too. A normal where we joke and laugh at stupid posts we see on Instagram,  tentatively, both of us till remembering when you were 14 and I was 17 and we ripped each other apart with words until neither of us said anything at all. Is this our normal now?

What is normal?

I looked it up for you.

 

NORMAL:

  • Conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected

 

But who gets to decide what that standard is? How do we know when something that once wasn’t normal now is, and if what was once normal is now anything but? Do we decide that? Or do others who stand by and watch get to decide that for us?

I’m sure someone could tell you the scientific answer. I’m sure there is a video out there with a detailed and meticulous answer laid out for us to study.

I’m sure somebody could tell us the answer. Maybe we haven’t even been normal, maybe we always were.

Maybe the imaginary games of our childhood were always meant to turn into imagined grievances causing real rifts. Maybe we were meant to grow apart and then come back together again, a little rougher but a little kinder. Maybe none of it was normal, or maybe all of it was.

Sometimes I wish I could change all of it. If I hadn’t said what I said that one day, or if I hadn’t slammed my door that one time, or if you hadn’t called me that name under your breath, things would all be different now.

But sometimes I know I can change none of it. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe if we hadn’t played all those games as children, if we had never walked down the road together from school, if I had never sent the texts you eventually answered, things would all be different now.

Normal isn’t for us to decide, it isn’t for me to determine. All I know is our normal is all we have, and I wouldn’t change us for the world.

About:

Shira is a writer living in Israel, drawing on every day life experiences. Her sibling lives with a diagnosed mental illness and she has bravely shared their story here.