Why Living With A Mental Illness Is Like Having A Full Time Job

When I told my mum and my various therapists that I had got a job for Christmas, the general reaction was “Why on earth have you gone and done that”, and admittedly, upon accepting the job, I felt very much the same. Realistically, I knew that my mental illnesses are currently putting too much of a strain on me to manage a job on top of them, but nevertheless I felt I had to get a job and that there was no choice in the matter. Why? Because of a question I always get asked by people in day to day life: “What do you do?”.

Whenever you meet someone new or see a family member that you haven’t seen for a few years, people tend to ask questions along those lines to find out what you are doing with your life, this often meaning in terms of job or career. It is this question and the moment in which it is asked that I always dread.
You see, pretty much all of my friends have proper jobs and it is generally accepted in society that everyone has a job to show that they are a valuable member of the population, contributing to society and earning money to put into a bank account somewhere to save for a mortgage on a house (what the hell is a mortgage!? How do you make a bank account?! Where do banks keep all the money? Who is in charge of all of this? When did they teach this in school? Why are piggy banks no longer acceptable as a money holding receptacle? Have I been mis-sold PPI?!).

Unlike most of my friends and indeed most people my age however, I do not have a proper job nor have I taken my first step onto the career ladder (I haven’t even found the damn ladder).
The reason for this is because my mental health currently dictates my day to day life and arguably makes a regular job impossible (hence why I have not applied for a regular job in years). This means that every time someone asks me what I am doing with my life I feel incredibly embarrassed and inferior having to say that I am “just trying to work on my mental health”. In essence this is ridiculous as I am well aware that there is no shame in not having a job because you are too unwell and I would never judge anyone else for being in a similar situation. Being ill myself, I know how drastically it can impact one’s routine, but as much as I know that I worry that people who haven’t experienced such things will think I am someone who is lazy or sponging off their parents, someone who should be written about or filmed for a Channel 4 documentary so that the general public can watch and rave on twitter about what a terrible person I am. Luckily I have never had any bad comments myself, but I know for a fact that when people ask my mother what I do and she responds with “Katie can’t work because of mental illness right now”, she has received comments akin to “so what on earth does she DO all day?.
It is as if they think I just tick the box for having a mental disability on all the forms I get for the sake of not having to hold down a job and then lie at home complaining about how bored I am. This could not be further from the truth. I tick that I have a mental disability on all of these forms and then when I go home I am not being bored, I am wrestling with a mass of nastiness in my brain that is trying to kill me, and that in itself is pretty hard work. I always felt like it was equivalent to a job myself, but lately the number of “what do you do” questions has been putting such a pressure on me that I started to wonder whether or not I really was making excuses and was as lazy as I assume everyone thinks I am.

After a week of work though, I have fully learnt the lesson that I feel more people need to learn in society, that being mentally ill is very much like a full time job all in itself (a really rubbish job with no time for a tea break, no pay and no Christmas party. Yeah. You heard me. NO CHRISTMAS PARTY.)
Things that should take minutes just take hours when it comes to me and the time simply goes by without me realising it. Showering can take forever and meal times are at least three hours so some days I may only be able to say “I have eaten three meals and had a shower” in response to “what have you done today?”, which doesn’t sound like much.
In the mind of a sane person that probably conjures up an image of two hours activity at the most with time in between to spare, without realising that really to achieve that is over ten hours work a day, and that doesn’t even include other things I may have to do like go to an appointment, go to the loo or get dressed (all of which are more things that go on for longer in duration than the film Gone with the Wind. God have you seen that movie? IT GOES ON FOR HOURS. I swear it never ends. It has been running in my living room since January 1989 and they are still waffling on. Also for a film with the word “wind” in the title I would like to complain that it is simply not blustery enough. I don’t even think we have had a light breeze yet let alone the gale force tornadoes I was expecting. FALSE ADVERTISING. MOVIE PEOPLE ARE EVIL.)
When viewed like this then, it is easy to see how mental illnesses demolish the time and effort people would usually put into a job, and it is the reason that I am struggling so much with my career as a Christmas temp for six weeks.

I only do five hour shifts five days a week which may not be as much as other people, but in carrying out that job the issue is that I haven’t simply been able to resign from my mental illness one to accept it. Having a real paid job doesn’t mean that I can just stop showering or eating for hours on end, so essentially I am now working two jobs. Considering I never really get free time you may be wondering how on earth I am able to do these two jobs as where can i fit these extra five hours in? As an answer to that I will simply say that rather than resigning from my mental illness job, I have had to resign from the position of “person who sleeps” instead.
Nowadays I work for five hours, then come home and work my usual eating and sleeping routine (I can’t bring myself to eat breakfast before work so I literally am having a working day then coming home and starting with the routine from the beginning with meals like breakfast as if I have just woken up).
If I am lucky and my “day” of trying to eat/stop washing/stop obsessively repeating things like brushing my hair finishes, it is then that I will go to bed. However, by this point it is practically time to start the next day in terms of official work, so after two to three hours I am up and have to get started all over again. I have also had to cancel every therapy appointment I had this week and I really am so exhausted that I have no idea what is going on. I am sort of in that drunken state that you find yourself in when you haven’t had enough sleep and end up staggering about, bumping into things and laughing at the pavement which in your deluded state suddenly seems to be a hilarious invention worthy of much mirth and merriment. It has got to the point where yesterday I genuinely felt a small hole when washing my stomach in the shower and panicked because I thought I had been mortally wounded somehow/was about to see my liver fly/spill onto the floor, before I realised that that “hole” is the belly button that has been chilling in the same place upon my abdomen for the past 24 years. As signs that you are pushing yourself too hard, I think “being scared of your own belly button” is a fairly big one.

I know that in writing this I am going to get comments telling me to quit this job before it gets too out of hand, and to be honest if it was anyone else in this situation I would be saying exactly the same thing. Carrying on with this job until the end of December goes directly against all the advice that I gave in my “tips for managing a job interview blog” (e.g. the whole “don’t push yourself past what is possible and take care of yourself first” idea), yet I am frustratingly one of those silly people who can give very good advice but very seldom follow it. That said, I still stand by all of that advice and can reassure you that there is no way I would be carrying on with this if it were a permanent position. I am not stupid, I KNOW that I could not keep up this level of hectic-ness forever. The way I am managing is by thinking I just have to keep my head down, get on with things for another 6 weeks or so and then I can get back to working only my mental health job. After that I think I will accept that I have thoroughly learnt my lesson and there is no way I will be applying for any more jobs until I am a lot less bonkers.

Nevertheless, as difficult as it is, I still really wanted to write this post as this experience is something that I am learning from, and hopefully they are lessons that, in writing them here will help us all out in the long run. If you can’t work because of your mental illness it doesn’t make you lazy, as you technically have a job getting through every day, it just isn’t one you handed in a CV for yet this doesn’t mean it is any less real. Also I really hope that this helps spread the message to people without experience of mental health problems as to what it means when someone is out of work because they are mentally unwell. It isn’t about laziness, it is simply about having the internal job of fighting your demons that nobody else can see, and if more people realise that then maybe the pressure to perform when you are not up to it will one day subside so other people don’t find themselves in my current pickle.

Now if you don’t mind, I will love you and leave you all with the illustration below, an image that depicts what the movie Gone With The Wind would have looked like had I been the writer/director.  As for me I think it is time to go to sleep. My next shift at work starts in a few hours. Oh good lord…

gonewiththewind

 

5 Tips For Managing A Job Interview When You Have Mental Health Problems

A couple of weeks ago, I had a job interview. Much like most people before an interview, I was terrified, but not exactly for any of the usual reasons for pre-interview nerves. Of course the normal worries like “Am I going to look like an idiot?” “What if I can’t remember my own name?” “What if I can’t answer any of the questions?” were there, yet the leading racers in the anxiety Olympics were all mental health related. My main concerns were things like “Are they going to want to shake hands?” “What if I have a panic attack?” “What if they offer me a biscuit?” and “Is it socially acceptable to go into this interview with a hot water bottle shoved down my trousers?” (admittedly that last one isn’t exactly mental health related but I think we can all agree it isn’t on the list of the most common interview worries…I was just very cold…still, my mother confiscated the hot water bottle because it would make me “look weird”…yeah…I am sure they saw the icicles forming on my chin as totally normal…I’m not bitter at all…)
Prior to the interview then, I had a lot on my mind, and in turn a lot of preparations to make to ensure that I was going to be able to actually get through the interview. This meant that over the course of the experience I learnt a few things, so I thought I would pass them onto you now in case anyone else out there is struggling with the “please hire me by the way I am insane” issue. I can’t say these tips are going to make your job interview a jolly occasion, but in the end, I got the job which the interview was for, so I guess these tips have their uses…

1. Anticipate parts of the interview that are going to cause particular problems: Prior to an interview, there are several things that everyone will think about in preparation. Maybe they will research the company in which they are seeking employment, think about potential questions, or have a google search of the latest updates in the business world so they are prepared for any topic up for discussion. In the same way then, it is important to think about and prepare for any potential events that could be difficult. For example, I was worried about hand shaking, so in preparation I spent the days before the interview anticipating the touching of palms and speaking to people about it to get through some of the anxiety. In practical terms I also found an anti bacterial foam that supposedly lasts for six hours, so I was sure to pack that in order for me to be able to use it before the interview as a sort of protection glove. I then made sure I knew where the nearest bathrooms were for post interview washing. I even prepared how to turn down a biscuit incase one was offered, so anticipate potential mental health hiccups and solve them before they arise. (Thankfully water was the only refreshment offered so I never had to turn down a biscuit…I accepted the water and really wanted to drink it, yet never got a chance because I was too scared of making a slurpy noise. Had it been a job interview for a position as professional slurper I would have drunk the water as fast as I could and been sure to demonstrate all the slurping noises possible but alas, my interviews was not located in an institution that advocated slurping…or hot water bottles stuffed down one’s trousers apparently…)

2. Be realistic: In job interviews, it is sort of an unwritten rule that you say “yes” to everything and worry about consequences later. Can you speak french? Of course you can! You have a french dictionary at home and 24 hours to learn it…what could go wrong? Can you fly? Of course you can! How hard can it be to sprout wings /morph into a sparrow overnight (from experience I can assure you that is VERY hard indeed). As great as it is to say whatever you can to get the job though, it is important to be realistic and not agree to things that your mental health is going to make impossible and that you are consequently going to go home fretting about. If you have social anxiety and can’t speak publicly to a crowd of thousands, do not agree to do so and then regret it later. If there are things you are not going to be able to do, let the people know right away to avoid getting into a difficult situation further down the line. Yes it will be awkward and maybe you won’t get the job if there is a key part of it that your mental health makes impossible, but then again if that is the case, maybe that job isn’t the one for you. In terms of being realistic about actions you can perform, it is also important to be realistic concerning what you can manage when it comes to hours. Accepting a job 24 hours a day 7 days a week when you know it will overwhelm you, interfere with medical appointments and leave you no time to take care of yourself, is never a good idea. Getting the job is important, but taking care of your needs is vital as without looking after yourself you wont be able to perform at work and getting the job will not be a success you can celebrate for long. I for example know that there are multiple aspects to this job that are going to be extremely challenging and on the surface, if I am honest with myself, the hours are more than I think I can realistically handle. However, I made sure only to apply for a Christmas job for 6 weeks so that if I get overwhelmed/it is detrimental, there is at least an end goal in sight.

3. Get there early: Everyone knows you should get to a job interview early purely because being late is not the best way to promote the “great time keeping skills” you bragged about in your CV. Nevertheless, with mental health problems I would always advise not just getting there early enough to ensure you are on time and make a good impression, but getting there super early to allow for potential disaster/to allow you to remove the hot water bottle shoved down your trousers. Obviously you can’t plan what your brain is going to do in advance and it would be unrealistic to decide that you are going to schedule a panic attack for 11:15 so you have time to calm down in time for the interview, but if there is a risk of that kind of thing happening, get there with the time such an event would take spare. If you often have panic attacks, get to the interview with enough time to have one. Even if you don’t have panic attacks but suffer with anxiety, still get there early just to allow yourself to gather your thoughts and carry out any coping mechanisms like listening to a certain song or practicing mindfulness if needed.

4. Do not take rejection personally: One thing I really struggle with when it comes to job interviews/anything in life, is the fact that I take rejection extremely personally. My main worries about not getting the job weren’t about not getting the job in itself, rather they were worries about the effect it would have on my self esteem. For example I know that getting rejected from roles in school plays/not performing as well as I wanted in a test, has always led to difficulties with self harm, self hatred and general feelings of “everyone hates me and this is a sign that they don’t want me to be alive anymore because I am so terrible”. Before you go for the job interview then, try not to build it up to be this majorly important thing on which your value as a person and entire future happiness depends. Don’t see it as something on which your life rests, as ultimately no job is worth that. Maybe even write out some bullet points in case rejection does come to remind you of the rational facts in the situation. When the rejection comes it is likely your thoughts will spiral into the irrational emotional side of the brain so get your pre-rejection rational thoughts in order first. If you don’t get a job it doesn’t mean you are a terrible person/rubbish at everything/doomed to fail in life. It likely means that there were a hell of a lot of applicants and even if you were more than skilled enough, perhaps you just weren’t right for the role or someone else was better suited. If you are a doughnut maker and don’t get a job as a doughnut advocacy speaker it doesn’t mean you don’t make good doughnuts. It might just mean that you were up against a talking doughnut, and lets be real, who is better to speak for doughnut advocacy than a talking doughnut? Nobody, thats who.

5. Be honest: This is the final tip I have to offer but it is also THE most important. When I used to be preparing for interviews I would debate whether or not to tell the potential employer about my mental health problems/how much to say. I always wanted to hide it incase my mental health would stand in my way, yet ultimately that just meant that by hiding my difficulties I made life more difficult for everyone involved. Eventually the truth would always come out, and it would have been a hell of a lot better simply to be honest in the first place. If your mental health affects your life in terms of abilities or availability, let the employer know. Otherwise you will find yourself lying about reasons you need a day off to go to an appointment and having to invent mythical physical diseases to request time off work when really you are having a mental health crisis. For the past few years I have even put my mental health problems somewhere on my CV or within any applications so that everyone is on the same page before I even get an interview. This then makes it easier to talk about in the interview and by being honest both I and the employer can see if the job will be possible/work out ways to make it possible. When I worked in a coffee shop I was open about my fear of touching the hoover and thus allowed to use it whilst wearing rubber gloves saving me a lot of anxiety and excuses to get out of having to use a hoover. Again, like the tip about being realistic, there is always a chance that being honest will affect your chances of getting the job, but if it affects your life so much that it will inevitably cause problems at work, again, maybe that is a job you shouldn’t be applying for.

So there you have it! My top tips for managing job interviews with mental health problems. Now of course I have the mission of managing the actual job itself… To be honest I haven’t figured out how to manage that bit yet, but I guess that is something I will learn along the way. If my experience over these next few weeks does teach me anything about mental health in the workplace though, I will be sure to pass on any helpful lessons to you later.

Take care everyone and good luck with any potential job opportunities. YOU CAN DO IT!

jobinterview

 

Mind Media Awards 2016

Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to go to the Mind Media Awards? Yes? Well today is your lucky day!…Actually it isn’t…I wanted it to be…and I tried to film my experience there to share with you all…but I didn’t do a very good job…so…this isn’t a great advert is it…damn it just watch the video…

6 Tips For Managing Public Transport When You Have Mental Health Problems

As you read these words I will hopefully be hot footing my way to London. I say hopefully because, as the idea is so terrifying, I cannot be sure I will go through with the journey (I am writing this a week in advance. Call me Mr Organised. Actually don’t, make that Señor Organised…has a bit more of a flourish don’t you think?).
Going to London/leaving the house at all is scary for a multitude of reasons such as managing food, being in unfamiliar environments with uncontrolled levels of bacteria, generally being around people, but one of the top scary things on the list of ultimate London scariness (it is a very long list), is the fact I will have to use public transport, and I am pretty sure that will be on many peoples’ lists of scary things about leaving the house.
Therefore, today I thought I would write this blog post to help anyone out there who is overwhelmed with terror at the mere thought of bumbling along on a bus or trundling track via a train. I can’t say these are the best ways to manage public transport anxiety issues, but they are at least the tips I will be using to get me through…if I manage to leave the house to get to the public transport stage that is…All aboard the mental health travel tip train! Here we go!

1. Make alternative routes: If there is one thing you can rely on when it comes to public transport, it is the fact that it will be unreliable. Buses break down, flights have to stay grounded because it is cloudy and I am yet to have a train journey which hasn’t started with a good half hour wander up and down the platform listening to the woman on the tannoy tell me that my train is delayed in a frustratingly calm voice (she always says she is sorry to announce the delay but if you ask me she doesn’t sound sorry at all. HOW DOES SHE SLEEP AT NIGHT?). I once even had a train cancelled with the explanation that there were “slippery leaves”…That’s right, slippery leaves. Not even going to try and make a sarcastic joke about that. I think the phrase “slippery leaves” makes the point. Anyway, due to multiple reasons much like the aforementioned soggy foliage, it is likely that any route you plan to take will be interrupted. This is enough to make anyone frustrated, but when you are already anxious and stressed it can feel like the end of the world and make you run back to your home wondering why you ever bothered leaving the front door. For this reason it is always vital to have an alternative route to fall back on incase any slippery leaves rear their ugly heads to get in your way.

2. Customise your route: When trying to look up directions, pretty much all of us will turn to the internet (dear young readers, did you know that maps actually used to be things you could find on paper rather than apps on your phone with floating blue dots. They called these maps “The A-Z”. They were marvellous things, I really wish you could have seen them), and when you look up directions on the internet it will often tell you what it thinks is the easiest route. However, this “easiest” route is the route judged as easiest by a computer, it is a purely rational decision and unlikely to fit with what is “easiest” for the irrational fears in your head. Of course we must all push ourselves and challenge our mental illnesses lest they control every aspect of our lives and sometimes there is only one way to get from A to B. Nevertheless if there are options on a journey that may not be the quickest route on paper but that will help you manage anxiety better, go with them. Walking a few streets along may take longer than hopping on the London underground, but if the tube is likely to cause a paralysing panic attack in the end, walking may actually save time and a hell of a lot of stress.

3. Do not rely on the internet: Another thing in life that can be as unreliable as the number 44 bus is internet signal. It is all well and good to entrust your travel plans into the route calculating hands of an online computer but if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no internet, Siri is going to be of little use in helping you out of that predicament. Even if you do have signal, phones and other pieces of technology are always at risk of running out of battery (especially if you have spent too much time playing Pokemon go…ahem), so regardless as to whether you found your route online, make sure you take a paper copy. Paper doesn’t require signal and paper does not run out of battery leaving you in an anxious heap. In short paper is awesome, so don’t forget to use it.

4. Listen to audiobooks: When on a train or a bus I often find my anxious thoughts speeding around my mind faster than the mode of transport I am riding, so fast that they are little more than a blur that I cannot decipher. Every bump in the road is a potential earthquake to my terrified brain, every new passenger a potential murderer, and for this reason when anxious on public transport it is vital to have distractions. A lot of people listen to music in order to help soothe them and if you are one of those people then make sure any journey out of the house involves earphones to listen to your favourite tunes. Personally though I struggle with listening to music on public transport, as when you put music on shuffle it can be unhelpfully unpredictable. It is all well and good to be on the bus nodding your head to a relaxing ballad from Adele but seconds later you can find yourself being bashed about the ears with the drums of heavy rock which is not relaxing at all. For this reason then, I often listen to audiobooks which I find are a lot easier to get lost and calmed by, so I thoroughly recommend them as a distraction technique (especially Harry Potter books on trains. That way you get the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry and you can pretend you are on the Hogwarts express as you listen).

5. Buy tickets in advance and get money ready: To buy tickets you need to queue. Queuing is stressful. People with anxiety and mental health problems do not need added stress. The solution? AVOID QUEUING (by booking tickets in advance at quiet “non rush hour” times or online, not by whacking everyone else in the queue out of the way with your hand bag.) Personally when it comes to buying tickets I also find touching money to be a challenge, so if you also struggle with this may I suggest getting your fare ready prior to the moment some ticket officer asks for it so that you do not have to suffer the money touching stress with the “oh my goodness I cannot find the right change why is my purse full of pennies people are staring at me” stress. When I prepare a bus fare in advance I always like to antibacterialise it and then keep it in a separate pocket to lower anxiety further. It isn’t ideal in terms of trying to fight things like OCD, but if needs must, in my eyes it is better to do whatever you need to to get out of the house.

6. Give yourself time and plan every step that is difficult: The final thing that I would say makes travel difficult is the general panic and hysteria I find myself getting into when I am in a rush/under a strict time limit. For this reason to reduce anxiety I always leave a lot longer for my journey than might otherwise be necessary AND I plan in travel breaks whenever I need them. It makes more sense to hop from train to bus to train and on again until you reach your destination, but incase the anxiety gets too much it is important to plan pit stops to release some tension and take a break from all the mania. Personally, with planning breaks I also like to plan toilet breaks because the idea of an unplanned unexpected public toilet experience freaks me out, so if it scares you too, maybe find loos along your journey that would be easiest and fit them round your ticket times.

So there you have it! The six tips that I use to help me get through the fear of public transport and the six tips I will hopefully be carrying out right now on the way to London (like I said it is a week in advance but already I have planned every safe toilet along the journey. PREPARATION IS KEY.).
Of course they won’t take the fear of public transport away, but hopefully they will make it a little easier or at least doable.
I wish you all safety and relaxation during any upcoming travels and promise to keep my fingers crossed that you are never faced with the horror film inspiring added obstacle of “slippery leaves”.

Take care everyone x

transportanxiety

A Message To All The People Out There Who Are “Pro-Ana”

Before I get on with the main bulk of this post I just want to preface it by clearly stating the fact that eating disorders are not a choice and are horrible illnesses that barge into and take people’s lives without those people having a chance to stop the aforementioned barging. However, as involuntary as eating disorders are, there are some people out there who for some reason see them as a glamorous and desirable life choice/thing to aspire to. It is to THESE people and not all involuntary sufferers out there, to whom I address this post. All clear? Cool, let’s get on with it…

In life, there are many types of people that I do not understand. For example, I do not understand people who eat a piece of Christmas cake and leave the icing/marzipan behind (THAT IS THE BEST PART WITHOUT THAT IT IS JUST RAISINS), neither do I understand the people planning to vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming election. Possibly the most confusing people to me however, are those who frequent “pro anorexia” websites online (yeah. That’s right. They confuse me even more than Donald Trump supporters. At least Donald Trump has floppy hair you can laugh at when he is spouting bile. Anorexia has no floppy hair and therefore no room for visual comedy). If you didn’t know already, pro-anorexia websites are basically as horrendously sick and disturbing as they sound. Having avoided them like the plague myself, I cannot provide an in depth image as to what they show, but from what I gather it is pretty much a lot of pictures of skeletal bodies that people stare at in order to inspire them to achieve the beauty of collarbones that make you look like you have swallowed a coat hanger. There also may be forums where people can discuss diet tips, encourage each other not to eat and who generally see anorexia as something that is desirable, that they want to have (hence the ‘pro’ in the name).

Now I am not one to tell people what to do. When I do not understand someone’s life choices I am not going to stand in their way and insist they change their deepest desires. Though I do not understand people who leave the icing and marzipan from the top of Christmas cakes (or indeed people who choose to eat Christmas cake when the other option is chocolate log…there is no decision there…obviously it is chocolate log every time), I have never spied an icing abandoner, approached them in outrage and chased them down the street waving the forgotten almond paste and fondant. This is because although I do not understand this behaviour, I trust that they have tried icing before and following the full experience and all the knowledge available, they know that cake without icing is really what they want.
When it comes to people who want eating disorders however, I simply cannot allow myself to sit back and let them make these life “choices”, as in my eyes the only person who would ever make such a decision as to get an eating disorder would be a poor uninformed soul who doesn’t really know what they are getting into. For this reason then, today I thought I would just write a little post to all those people who want eating disorders, in order for them to realise what life with an eating disorder really is like. Basically I am enlarging the font of the little set of “terms and conditions” that accompany the joy of being thin and not eating, so that people can be sure it is what they want. So to all people who want to have an eating disorder, that is cool, but before you go ahead and seek one out, here are a few things that I want you all to know:

1. Eating Disorders are not great for your physical health: Not eating is great and all but it is important to be aware that not eating is potentially fatal and is the reason that eating disorders are the number one killers in terms of mental health problems. Even if you don’t die they will definitely wreck your body, so before investing in an eating disorder you may want to say goodbye to your health first, as lord knows you wont be seeing it for a while. For one thing your hair is going to fall out in clumps, your skin is going to become dry and pale and you will probably have bags under your eyes so big that you can fit a week’s food shop in them (no more paying 5p for a carrier from Tesco for you! Bargain!). You are also going to be freezing cold all the time no matter what the weather, so in preparation you may want to purchase forty to fifty hot water bottles, blankets and thick thermal fleecy undergarments (sexy). This does have the benefit of making you a good pastry chef (as all bake off fans will know, cold hands are essential to a good apple pie), but on the down side you won’t be able to eat that pastry without agonising guilt afterwards… Also you may want to buy a wheel chair or walking stick as eating disorders love to screw with your bones (picture anorexia as a dog having a good old gnaw on your elbow until most of the bone has chipped away, leaving an osteoporosis filled powder). Oh yeah, and if you want kids anorexia will probably render you infertile too, but hey, who cares! You will save a tonne on child care and you get to be thin right? Wrong…

2. Eating Disorders do not make you thin: This disclaimer is a tricky one but allow me to explain. Basically there seems to be this idea that when you have an eating disorder attacking your mind, this will be physically evident in a lot of weight loss. For one thing, not all eating disorders involve weight loss, and for another thing even if they do, you will not be able to appreciate it. Sure you will be able to get on the scales and see the numbers go down but when you look at the reflection in the mirror it is likely you will not see that weight loss at all. Interestingly, when you don’t eat enough and become underweight, self perception becomes more and more distorted, so you may even see yourself as having gained when really the opposite is true. Its just a fun little game eating disorders like to play (the jokers!), so if wanting an eating disorder to “look thin” then maybe look elsewhere in terms of life goals and ambitions as looking thin is not a package deal with an eating disorder. The physical complications mentioned above are a package deal no matter what though, so no worries there.

3. Eating Disorders do not make you happy: Much like the myth that eating disorders make you thin, there is the idea that they will make you happy (probably because there is the association that being thin makes you happy but the happiness idea remains nonetheless). Yeah, if you want an eating disorder because you think it will make you happier, once again I would advise you to reconsider, as being undernourished is actually a way to encourage our good friend depression to join the party rather than the desired eternal bliss. Often anxiety will pop round too, so again be aware that those two delights are part of the package deal. You will often note that in these pictures on ‘thinspiration’ websites there will often be “models” without a face (primarily the images show thigh gaps and rib cages), and the reason for this is because were consumers to see the full image, the whole thing wouldn’t look so appealing. After all it is a lot more difficult to sell the idea of how beautiful a hipbone is when the owner of said bone is crying and waiting for the pain inside to end.

4. Eating disorders will mess up your social life: Aside from the effects eating disorders will have on your body and mood, it is also important to note that they affect your social life, and by “affect” I mean utterly destroy it until you are left all alone. You can have the best friends in the world but ultimately with all the “catch ups over drinks” and “dinner reservations” you will constantly find yourself avoiding them as you cannot join in with any activity whatsoever. You may be thinking “Ok I will ruin pizza night but I can still go out to play mini golf with friends”. That is a really nice thought, yet alas this will get ruined as well. Even if an activity is not revolving around food, you will still not want to go either because you have exercises to do or because you are too miserable, anxious/hate yourself and are too self conscious to socialise.

5. Eating disorders will/are likely to cause some issues in the workplace: Much like socialising with friends, working or holding down a job will also become impossible with an eating disorder, even if your job is not food related. Again we have the classics of depression and anxiety making it hard to leave the house, as well as the required sick days for your battered physique (you may pick up virus’ and illnesses a lot easier than most people due to damaged immune system, so stock up on the cough syrup). Bigger than that however will be the issue of concentration. Yeah…with an eating disorder your ability to function mentally will spiral away faster than water down a plug hole (especially water down the plug hole in your bath remember as all your hair will have fallen out and blocked the pipes with soggy wodges of entangled strands). Ahh, nothing says “living the life” like a Saturday night spent in the house pulling hair bundles the size of kittens from your drain (top tip: if you put goggly eyes on those bundles they look even more like kittens. They are adorable. Great Christmas presents too and December is coming! Get malting!). With mental functioning at an all time low then, it is likely you will lose any job you do have and money problems will likely follow as well as our old pals who love to join money problems for a party, depression and anxiety!

So that is only five of the terms and conditions important to be aware of when wanting an eating disorder (there are millions, trust me), but I think that for now I have made my point/ helped potential eating disorder investors to be a little more aware of what they are desiring/encouraging when scrolling through those pro anorexia websites. Like I said, I am not one to tell anyone what to do so if these points don’t diminish the glamour of the thigh gap photos, then go ahead and have fun. I just want you to know what you are getting yourself into so you can make an informed decision. There are people out there who want eating disorders, but I doubt they would find the unwelcome surprises that come with them as appealing.

Take care everyone x

pro-anorexia