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Thursday, 10 December 2015
I am......(for Mental Health Awareness Week)
No, this is not where I should start. A bit of background. This is mental health awareness week, and this blog post is going to be completely different from all my other ones.
Okay, maybe now?
No, still not yet. Despite the fact that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems in a year, it is not commonly spoken about. Look around you. How many people are in the room. 4? Imagine one of them with a mental health issue. Would you think of them differently? This question is what stops me from writing posts like this. But its time to stand up to the stigma:
I am...recovering from depression.
I am that 1 in 4. I have mental health issues. But they are a part of me. They made me my worst possible self, and now they have made me stronger. To everyone who knew me at my worst, I am sorry. When I was at my worst days, lonely and hating myself, I hated the world as well. I could see no way out, like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark, gloomy well with no ladder in sight. The blackness was caving in and I needed help, I needed to get out.
I am...recovering from anorexia.
What came first, I may never know. I don't know if hating the way I looked made me depressed, or if the depression fueled the hatred of myself that made me want to starve myself. Can you imagine how much you have to despise yourself to force yourself, day after day, to deprive yourself of food, or stick your fingers down your throat in the desperate attempts to make yourself thinner? You think you will be happier when you reach that 'goal weight', and then when you reach it, you think of a new goal weight, and so where does it end? I didn't like the way I looked when I was that thin. Nor did anyone else. My boyfriend most certainly didn't. Although I don't know if he would ever be happy. He didn't like girls fat, he didn't like girls too thin. Why is everyone so desperate to get to that perfect middle point. Is there some magical weight where everyone will be happy? No.
'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'
A mantra I would repeat to myself. Well, I can tell you now, skinny beyond natural is not good. And by natural I mean however your body is now. That's what's natural to you. By eating the foods that you want to eat, by doing the things you want to do, your body is where it is. Unless advised by a doctor to lose weight, please please please, don't get hung up on it. For me, what started as a plan to loose a couple of pounds after my boyfriend described me as 'cuddly' and advised I should 'go out for runs more', quickly spiraled out of control. Note that at this time, my BMI was in the lower end of the healthy range, far from fat... yet 'cuddly'. How I hate that word now.
Two pounds was the plan...two stone down later and I still wasn't happy. Another half a stone and I was admitted to hospital. And where was he? Gone. He didn't have the time for it, told me it was 'self-inflicted' and so he had no sympathy for me. I was left heartbroken, weak and like a skeleton. I had to leave uni. I had to go to a psychiatric hospital. I had to recover.
The process was tough, there's no denying it. The amount of times my dad screamed at me 'PLEASE JUST EAT' is uncountable. For me, losing the weight was easy compared to putting it back on. The Eating Disorder is like another person in my brain, a little demon, telling me I'm a terrible person, telling me I don't deserve to eat, telling me... SHUT UP! That's me. Fighting back. I named my eating disorder Evanna. Like ana for anorexia and ev for evil (even in dark times, I love a good pun). Giving her a name meant I could hate her, not me. It gave me fuel, it gave me fire. In the hospital, we all named our eating disorders so that when we ate a bag of crisps we could say it was a middle finger to Evanna. I remember the first pack of crisps I had (Salt and Vinegar Walkers) that I actually enjoyed. I laughed, I was hysterical and I loved every second of it. Sometimes, there is a creeping guilt about an hour after, as Evanna tries to squeeze back in, but the further through recovery I got, the easier it was to block her out. Because you see, however much an eating disorder may seem 'self-inflicted', it's not really us that's inflicting the pain. It's some other part of our brains that thinks we're not good enough, not thin enough and not strong enough. But that other part of my brain is dwindling now, and I am coming back.
I am Lorna, I had anorexia, and I am recovering.
I survived an eating disorder. I don't yet think I have beaten it. Challenging times have been around me recently, and it can be harder to fight back when I am stressed, but I am better than I was. No, I am a hell of lot better than I was. Last year, I had my birthday in hospital, this year I baked and ate my own cake. I rarely give myself credit for the work I put in and the hell I've been through but today, in this post I admit it. I am proud of myself. I did it. And I sure as hell hope other people do too. I learnt that weight isn't everything. I learnt that mental illnesses can come in all shapes and sizes. I learnt that I am stronger than I believe and that I am worth more than someone else's opinion of me.
I am Lorna, I have an eating disorder and I am proud of what I've achieved.
Since writing this post, I have been campaigning for there to be a specialist eating disorders unit in Glasgow. Read about this here.