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.

How to find a way forward and heal when you have an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Lizzie Weakley

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Overcoming and managing an eating disorder is often a challenging process. It requires a lot of self-motivation and determination, as well as a healthy and robust support network. However, it will be worth it in the end because you will be able to heal yourself and move forward. Many people may not know where to start when it comes to moving on, but there are many general tips that will apply to most situations. For example, it can be helpful to create new and healthy habits, maintain a positive mindset, and plan for a better future.

Creating New Habits

Many people find it helpful to create new habits after recovering. You should recognise what your triggers are and try to avoid them or learn new coping mechanisms. You might also want to learn more about proper nutrition and how to properly care for your body.

Often, eating disorders can cause negative health effects, and it can be beneficial to adopt a better lifestyle in order to safeguard your future health. You might want to look into working with a nutritionist who will be able to guide you in the right direction. Also, if you feel yourself losing control at any point, you should speak with your doctor right away and potentially consider inpatient eating disorder treatment before things get out of hand.

Maintaining a Positive Mindset

Many people with eating disorders may think negatively about themselves. It is important to avoid this so that you don’t relapse. Instead of dwelling on things you don’t like, if you are able, you might want to focus on your positive attributes. For example, if you enjoy helping others, you might want to consider doing volunteer work. Working with the elderly, under-privileged, and animals can be an excellent way to show you that you have self-worth and purpose, and you will be making a huge difference in the world.

If you are struggling with your mindset and are too unwell to do this, thats OK. Look after yourself and see your medical team.

 

Planning a Better Future

It can be easy to sometimes get caught up in the past and eating disorder thought patterns. However, you might find it helpful to focus more on the present and the future than the past. You could think about all the things you would like to experience and achieve and make a list of attainable goals. Investing in yourself and your future will give you something to look forward to and will motivate you to push forward.

Also, creating a better life for yourself can help to protect you from relapsing because you won’t want to throw away everything you have worked so hard for.

Overall, moving past an eating disorder can take some time. It is important to be kind to yourself and optimistic. Taking the aforementioned tips into consideration and working with professionals, such as a psychiatrist, therapist and nutritionist can help you along the way. They can provide you with beneficial insight that you need to succeed and can help to ensure you are making positive decisions.

 

This guest post was written by freelance writer Lizzie Weakley,

 

Talking for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 by Eleanor

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As some of you will be aware, back in 2017-2018, I helped as a volunteer with fellow volunteers (Lisa Coffman and others) to found the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) in our communities across the country here in the UK. The initiative, led by the mental health charity Jami and conceived by Rabbi Daniel Epstein, now runs in 150 Jewish communities.

This year, my dad Mike and I were delighted to be asked to share our father and daughter journey with bipolar disorder to Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue.

I have social anxiety- which includes at times a fear of public speaking. In December, I had a breakthrough, where I spoke for a short time at a conference called Limmud alongside my Dad and read from my book Bring me to Light. So, when we were asked to do this talk at Chigwell, I felt it could be possible.

I armed myself with the fact that I knew kind people in the community including the Rabbi and his wife and friends of my husband Rob (its the community he grew up in). I also wanted to share my story to help other people.

So, we stayed with a lovely lady in the community and had friday night dinner with the Rabbi and his family. On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a little nervous but took my trusted anxiety medication for when I need it- Propranolol, and walked to the synagogue with Dad.

I managed not to have a panic attack and the thought of speaking to help others got me through (as did distraction, deep breathing and drinking a glass of water).

So, at the end of the service, we were called up to speak. Dad went first and talked about his journey with bipolar disorder from when it started for him in 1991 to finding recovery. Then, it was my turn.

I stood up there in the pulpit speaking to a packed audience with a prepared speech. I felt scared but also empowered and began to relax into the talk. I knew that by sharing what happened to me, being sectioned and so ill and talking openly, that I could break stigma and touch others. I was also so proud of my Dad for speaking so openly.

It was only after, when talking to people after the service, that we realised that about 150 people came to listen to our talk! We had some important conversations with people after our talk including someone very newly diagnosed and someone else whose niece had bipolar and is currently very ill.

I couldn’t and still can’t believe I was able to do that. However, since I have been very tired so trying to de-stress and rest as much as I can!

We just want to thank everyone who came to hear our talk and supported us, to every person who thanked us for coming and shared their stories with us. We are so grateful for such a positive reception and thank Rabbi Davis and the Chigwell community for having us.

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat has had events in communities all across the country. It runs yearly and you can find out more here 

4 Ways to help a friend with Bipolar disorder: Guest post by Dr Justine Corry

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(Image: Etsy)

Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a condition involving chronic changes in mood. It oscillates between a manic high, a depressive low, and a normal functioning state. People with this condition often find themselves at the mercy of extreme changes in mood.

However, it is worth noting that this condition is far from untreatable. In fact, with the help of a good clinical psychologist, medication, and a healthy lifestyle, a person with bipolar disorder can lead a happy, productive life.

If you know someone living with bipolar disorder, it helps to be mindful of offering them your care, understanding and support. Here are four things you can do.

Knowing the Facts

Learning about bipolar disorder is the first step in helping a friend with the condition. This is the best way to understand what they are going through.

Like other mental health concerns, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding bipolar disorder. Differentiating the truth from the false assumptions can add to your knowledge and understanding and, ultimately, help you in providing the right kind of support that your friend needs.

Here are some of the common myths about bipolar disorder that have been debunked by experts:

 

Myth #1: Bipolar disorder is a grave mental illness

In the past couple of decades, experts have established that there are mild forms of bipolar disorder which are, in fact, much more common than severe conditions.

The two main types of this disorder are bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I is characterized by severe episodes of depression and mania while bipolar II entails severe depression but milder manic attacks. 

Beyond these two, a bigger group of people experience other forms of mania that occur in shorter periods.

 

Myth #2: Mood swings automatically mean a person is bipolar

Experiencing extreme mood swings is believed to be one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder.

This is completely false. Mood swings can be caused by several different circumstances, such as a woman’s menstrual cycle, use of drugs and other substances, and even the weather. In some cases, hormonal imbalances, neurological issues, and autoimmune diseases also wreak havoc on a person’s mood.

What sets bipolar disorder apart from these reasons for moodiness is the significant change in a person’s attitude, behaviour, and personality over several days at a time.

 

Myth #3: Bipolar disorder is difficult to cure

It may seem so, but not really. In fact, there are many different kinds of treatments that are effective for individuals with bipolar disorder, including antidepressants, mood-stabilizing drugs, and psychotherapy.

 

Showing Compassion, Not Pity

Compassion is crucial for your friend’s recovery. However, many people find it hard to differentiate compassion from pity.

Avoid showing your friend that you feel sorry for then. Instead, recognise the challenge of living and let them know that you are always there for them no matter what.

 

Not Telling Your Friend What to Feel or How to React

Saying “cheer up” to a person with depression, or “calm down” when manic highs occur, are not the correct approaches to communicating with loved ones with bipolar disorder. In fact, telling them what to do may only cause them to feel antagonized.

Instead, ask them what you can do to help, or offer to do things that can help them feel calmer or happier. When they are no longer feeling distressed, talk about potential strategies that you can try together to help them get better next time.

 

Lending Your Ears

Listening to a friend in need can do wonders for people living with bipolar disorder. Lending your ears means you should listen sympathetically.

Let your friend know that they do not have to put on a brave face in front of you and that you are ready to listen whenever they need you. You should also take their words seriously, especially if they speak about self-harm or suicide.

 

Being There for a Friend in Need

Admitting that you need another person’s help or support is not always easy for everyone. It may be especially difficult for people who are being treated  for psychological conditions. If someone close to you is living with or has a history of bipolar disorder, make sure to let them know that you are always ready to be there for them.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Justine Corry is a clinical psychologist and enjoys helping people get to the heart of what is not working in their lives. Along with Dr. Gemma Gladstone, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 10 years of experience within private practice.