Wearing my funky socks in support of Beat’s #SockIttoEatingDisorders campaign
“Eating disorder sufferers face an average wait of three and a half years for specialist treatment. During that time, by far the longest gap came between symptoms first emerging and people recognising these as an eating disorder. Almost as much time went by between this realisation and people taking the step to ask for help from their GP. By raising awareness of the early signs, and showing that sufferers need and deserve help, you can make a real difference.
We know that the sooner someone gets help, the faster they can recover, lessening the impact on their life, family and future.”
Extract from Beat – The UK’s Eating Disorder Charity
#Why wait? The sooner the treatment the sooner someone is more likely to make a full recovery.
By raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder it can help those suffering by encouraging them to seek the help they need but this cannot be done if the signs and symptoms are not recognised, and a sufferer themselves may not recognise they have an eating disorder or may be in denial. Please click here to read BEAT’s tips for spotting the first signs of an eating disorder.
It is not all about physical signs and symptoms – but of psychological signs and symptoms.
If you are struggling yourself please do not suffer in silence, reach out and seek help or if you think/know someone who is suffering please encourage them to seek help. I was encouraged by my partner Gary to seek the help I needed, which I was very resistant in doing so, but glad that I did. Though still struggling, I now have the tools to help me recover and I am in a much more better place with my awareness than I ever was, which has helped me to try to find the road to recovery.
Below I talk about some of my own experiences suffering with the illness and what you may find helpful when dealing with someone with an eating disorder.
It has been about a year an a half since my own eating disorder developed, and in that time I have gained so much knowledge just through my own experiences, knowledge which I never had, also knowledge from hearing others’ experiences. My hope is to spread awareness to help others be more aware and mindful and give an insight to the extreme irrational mindset a sufferer can go through.
An eating disorder is a mental health illness which comes in various different forms. Before we consider changing one’s perception and how they look at food, it may be appropriate to look at one’s mindset, changing the way a sufferer feels about themselves and what drives them to the actions they take, exploring the mind and taking a journey into discovering the variants that have played a part in the eating disorder developing and clouding their way of thinking.
Commenting on ones food, what they eat, how they eat is not helpful in most cases. I believe it is important to look at one’s state of mind, how they feel about themselves, how they perceive themselves. Looking to change that self doubt, learning to love ourselves, believing that we are ‘okay’ as we are – we are who we are and shouldn’t need to change for anyone. We have the right to be happy and be happy in ourselves. Not comparing ourselves to anyone or aspire to look like someone especially if it puts our health at risk… both mentally and physically. What matters the most is what we think and not what others think or what we think others would think. It’s about being comfortable in our own skin. Each and every one of us are individual, unique and possess something special.
It is hard for family, friends, colleagues to know what to do most of the time, what is said and actions taken may not always be appropriate or necessary but it is because they don’t know what is. I have had experiences from those closest to me, not by any means a fault on their end, it is just a lack of awareness. I have had comments like “you don’t look ill”, “you’re not as skinny as people say you are”, “I am the same size as you, maybe I am ill too”. Please be aware that it is not about what your shape or size is, it is what your mindset is. I have had people judge me when I try to explain how comments can effect me. Their facial expressions say it all. I have had all kinds of comments, looks and judgement made. It doesn’t help the situation, it can actually set you back.
Comments can have such a huge impact, a simple pleasant comment like “you look well” and “you’re looking better”. To most these sort of comments would not effect you, but to a sufferer – this can destroy you. In one’s mind you can then think irrationally and to the extreme from that comment which in turn can pull you back deeper into the ED. I have found the term “you look well” can make you think all kinds of thoughts, the feeling of panic and anxiety comes to mind, I have thought “I must have put weight on, I must restrict even more, I must exercise more”. Now you must be thinking…what??? Yes, this is such a distorted way of thinking! It DOES NOT matter what shape or size you are! I know this, however my eating disorder distorts my mind and makes me think and feel differently – I know it, but why can I not do anything about it? It is like that little voice inside your head telling you what to do, controlling you. It is so bizarre as I feel like I am in conflict with myself! There is the rational side of me but yet there is the irrational side of me too… I want it to go away – but it doesn’t.
However bizarre and strange I may sound when I explain my mindset and my actions and how I think, others should be there to listen and not make you feel weird or like your an outsider, making you feel worse than you already do when they are meant to support you. Nobody should judge or pass negative comment. Encouragement is good, but most importantly helping them to explore their mind by engaging in conversation.
Reasons for an ED developing is not clear most of the time, it can be different for everyone, sometimes you cannot find an explanation for it. However, I believe that I have come to the realisation only very recently that my ED has stemmed from years of not feeling adequate in myself, feeling I am not good enough and to feel accepted. That longing to ‘belong’ and feel wanted. I have always had low confidence and low acceptance of myself, this was due to various reasons and how I was made to feel sometimes, I believe a big part of this has led me to the illness, where I feel I have to be something I am not. It is so hard to get out of this mindset, but I am fighting my way back, will most certainly have set backs, but slowly learning to love myself, have more confidence, be less bothered about what others think about me and just focus on being the unique individual that I am and bringing that ‘me’ back who is hidden away. You know what helped me figure this out? Therapy. Seeking help is scary but may just be the best thing someone ever does.