How To Tackle Suicidal Thoughts And The Fear That Things Will Never Get Better

So, I will be honest, I am currently in a very dark place (my parents haven’t paid the electricity bill and I ate our entire supply of candles because they smelled like Jaffa cakes…Alas they did not taste like Jaffa cakes and I am still picking wax out of my teeth. Life lesson: do not eat scented candles).
Seriously though, mentally, things with me are pretty terrible and I am on the brink of giving up entirely. I am losing hope in the idea that one day things will be better, and recently I have noticed a lot of friends or people online with mental health problems feeling the same.

I think that there have been times in my life where I have just assumed that I am going to get better, just as you grow up assuming you will naturally fall into the stereotypical life of getting married and having a few kids. When I was younger I was always watching Disney films, and when it comes to Cinderella or Snow White, there is never any doubt as to how things are going to end. When you watch Cinderella you don’t sit around worrying that she will be stuck sweeping floorboards for the rest of her life, you know straight away that the girl is going to go to the ball in a big ole pumpkin and that her poor choice of ill fitting footwear is going to result in her marrying the man of her dreams. Naturally then, I assumed that one day I would lose a shoe and automatically fall in love with and marry some Prince Charming, without realising that my mother would never allow me to buy footwear I hadn’t tried on to ensure a perfect fit, or that I was a queer little thing who wasn’t interested in princes no matter how “charming” they may be.
Similarly with mental health problems, I guess I have always assumed that somehow, no matter what happens, one day there will be a fairy godmother with a magic wand and things will get better. I do not know how or when, but I simply couldn’t get my head round the idea that this could be it, that recovery isn’t as automatic and as assumed as I imagined princes to be, that sometimes, people spend their lives as tortured mentally ill souls with no happy ending.

Thinking like this, if I am going be in this state forever, it is easy to ask myself why not just end it now? Why draw it out? Why not rip the plaster off quickly as it were. It sounds incredibly bleak, but mental health problems are incredibly bleak and I am not going to sugar coat them to insinuate otherwise. Recently I have been having suicidal thoughts every minute of everyday, and when you don’t think you are ever going to get better, it is hard to come up with a good argument to fight them.

Like I said, I am not alone in feeling this, and I have had many conversations with fellow mental health warriors who have lost hope, who don’t think there is any chance of them getting better so why carry on? Maybe you yourself reading this have resigned yourself to the fact that you are a terminal case, perhaps because a professional has given you the label of “chronic” or simply because the weight of your struggles is so heavy that trying to imagine life without them is akin to trying to imagine a penguin without the adorablessness which, as we all know, is impossible (if anyone wants to debate this issue feel free to contact my solicitor and I will happily see you in court).
There is however one thing that I do find comforting, even when I fully believe that I will be like this forever, one argument against the suicidal screaming in my head telling me to jump into oblivion and end the debates/suffering once and for all, an argument that funnily enough, comes in the form of basic mathematics (don’t panic, I hate maths too but this is cool maths I promise and you don’t even need a protractor or a calculator to join in).

If you hark back to your maths lessons at school, you may remember the point where you started learning about things like probability. The lessons get more complex as each year passes, but in the early days of primary school education, the grand complexities of probability and chance are usually explained via some kind of analogy involving a bag filled with balls, for as we all know, in later life it is an incredibly common experience to be confronted with a bag of balls and the need to calculate your chances of picking out a specific kind of ball.
In the lesson, it is likely that the teacher produced a bag to explain things, and would say something like “there are ten balls in the bag, five green, five purple” before waffling on a bit about how if you put your hand in the bag there is an equal chance that the ball you pull out will be purple as there is for it to be green. Then the teacher usually complicated matters (don’t they always), and added say ten more purple balls to the bag. This would then make the chances of picking out a green ball less than they had been previously, and you will spend the next twenty minutes of that lesson calculating chance and ratios surrounding various combinations of coloured balls in a bag.

Now for the purpose of this discussion lets scrap the balls and replace it with a bag of Smarties because let’s be honest, we are not in some official school right now, we can do what we want in this maths lesson and if we want Smarties instead of balls we will damn well have them (I told you this maths would be fun…THERE ARE SMARTIES INVOLVED).

So, picture life as a bag filled with millions upon millions of Smarties (it is a really really big bag and these are really small Smarties).
All the Smarties in this bag are pink. Except for one. One of the Smarties hidden somewhere in that bag is blue. That blue Smartie is the chance of you getting better in a world of pink Smarties telling you that that isn’t going to happen. If you put your hand in the bag you may very well be right, you may get a pink Smartie and be mentally ill and miserable forever. In your mind the chances of you getting better are as rare as that blue Smartie, but the key thing is, as long as you are alive, that blue Smartie is still there, and the only way to guarantee 100% your belief or the professionals’ belief that you will never recover and are going to be miserable forever, is for you to end it all now.

When I have days that are plagued by suicidal thoughts so loud I can barely breathe because I don’t think things will ever be better, I always remind myself that the only way to make sure they don’t get better, is to listen to those thoughts. Killing yourself is basically like pouring all of your Smarties into the ocean so that the colour washes off and they all become white Smarties with that blue Smartie existing only in the realms of myths and legend. If you hang in there, aka you keep plunging your hand into that massive bag, there are no guarantees of you getting better, but by keeping yourself alive, at least you are keeping that chance alive too, however small and insignificant that chance may be.

Now like I said, I am going to be honest in this blog, because if you are someone who reads this blog, then I consider you as a friend and friends tell the truth so I refuse to sugar coat any of this (the only sugar coated contents of this blog are the Smarties).
If you are in a dark place like me right now, and have spent the day contemplating your demise, I am not here to tell you that if you keep fighting through this rubbish it will all work out in the end. I am not a fortune teller, I do not have a crystal ball, and the only conclusion I have ever gleaned from reading tea leaves is that I seem to have run out of tea. If you keep yourself alive and keep fighting maybe you are right, maybe things will stay rubbish and maybe you will keep plunging your hand into that bag and pulling out the pink Smarties. However, no matter how hopeless you feel, if you keep yourself alive, the chance that the blue Smartie will crop up is there. I cannot tell you the probability/ratio of how likely you are to get better, but you must always remember that if you are trying, there is at least a chance. Don’t allow the fear of being mentally ill forever, convince you to do the one thing that ironically does nothing but solidify that conclusion.
Fight back, keep trying, keep safe, and even in the darkest days, no matter what, you have to believe in that blue Smartie.

Take care everyone x

SuicideSmartie

52 Non-Food Related Ways To Celebrate Christmas When You Struggle With An Eating Disorder

If there is one group of creatures on earth who find Christmas dinner more stressful than all the turkeys out there do, it is people with eating disorders. Actually scrap that, when it comes to having an eating disorder it isn’t simply Christmas dinner that is stressful, it is the entire build up over the festive season when suddenly it feels as if EVERYTHING is about food.
There are Christmas meals out with friends to attend, boxes of chocolates being thrust under your nose at every turn, Christmas puddings, mince pies, Christmas cake, chocolate log and mile upon mile of buffet tables. You can’t even look at a calendar to see what the date is in December without it trying to throw a chocolate at you!
Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the Christmas food traditions we celebrate with in order to make the season extra special and I do not want the food aspect of Christmas to be banished forever. Indeed I love the idea of building gingerbread houses, opening the door on your advent calendar to see what shape chocolate you will find that day and the tradition of turning all the lights off, setting fire to the Christmas pudding and sitting for several moments “oohing” and “ahhing” at the blue flames waltzing across their dried fruit dome of a dance floor. Nevertheless, as fun as all the food aspects of Christmas can be, with an eating disorder they can be incredibly stressful and thus make December a particularly difficult time of year, especially if you find yourself unable to join in with the traditions your loved ones are carrying out and thus feeling more isolated than usual.

For this reason then, I thought I would use today’s blog post to offer a list of suggestions of ways to celebrate Christmas that aren’t food related. Obviously if you find you are able to join in with the usual food activities then by gum join in and have a jolly old time (does anyone say “by gum” anymore…I quite like it…screw it I am bringing it back), but if you can’t, allow me to offer up some new potential traditions that will hopefully get you into the festive spirit without all the festive anxiety…

The Official Born Without Marbles List Of Alternative Non-Food Related Ways To Celebrate Christmas

  1. Buy a live Christmas turkey and take care of it
  2. Go carol singing (if you sing like I do your neighbours may not be thrilled about you knocking on the door whilst belting out “Good King Wenceslas” but if you do it with enough enthusiasm I am sure they will enjoy it in the end. Maybe include hand gestures to go along with the lyrics or a intricately choreographed dance routine.)
  3. Make Christmas wreaths
  4. Buy an entire supermarket’s supply of crackers and have an evening of cracker pulling madness
  5. Perform a fashion show wearing all the paper hats you earned in your cracker pulling evening
  6. Perform a stand up routine of all the jokes you earned in your cracker pulling evening
  7. Stop performing and take a break by watching a Christmas film (I am a sucker for “Love Actually”…until the part where Emma Thompson cries to Joanie Mitchell because Snape bought a necklace for a home wrecker…OH GOD HERE COME THE TEARS)
  8. Dry the tears you have cried watching Love Actually and read a Christmas book instead (my personal favourite is the classic Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.)
  9. Dress up as an elf and dance around the streets
  10. Play Monopoly and get into an argument with a family member about who gets to be the silver dog (nothing says Christmas like a board game argument involving statements like “No, I am the dog. You can be the iron!’)
  11. Plant a Christmas tree
  12. Decorate a Christmas tree (hint, it is has been scientifically proven that the beauty of a Christmas tree increases dramatically when decorations are penguin themed)..
  13. Find the machine they used in the film “Honey I shrunk the kids”, miniaturise yourself, whack on some wings and a wand and then sit on the top of your Christmas tree to be the family fairy on top (maybe take a cushion to avoid spikes. Fir trees can be prickly)
  14. Make a Christmas present filled shoe box and donate it to a charity who send out gifts to those who need a present
  15. Grow a beard
  16. Dye beard white
  17. Stroke beard and shout “Ho Ho Ho” at passers by
  18. Hang out with a reindeer
  19. Put fairy lights all over the front of your house and enjoy the groups of strangers that gather at your doorstep to appreciate your display
  20. Volunteer with a charity to help take care of those who are alone at Christmas
  21. If you are a Christian/fancy something a bit traditional, go to church
  22. Invite burglars into your household and then take them down with paint cans and tarantulas in a re-enactment of the classic Christmas film Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin
  23. Come up with a good explanation as to why the house is a state and why there are two unconscious burglars in the basement for when your parents/house mates return home
  24. Find snow
  25. Go sledding
  26. Go skiing
  27. Build a snowman
  28. Direct your own one man nativity play (I will leave it up to you to decide how to simultaneously play a sheep, the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus…you are the director after all)
  29. Tie a carrot to your nose and stand in people’s gardens pretending to be a snow man
  30. Make Christmas cards
  31. Knit your own Christmas stocking
  32. Find Santa’s workshop and offer to help making all the presents this year
  33. Make your own advent calendar and hide treats that are not food related behind all the doors
  34. Go and watch a pantomime (if you find it hard to find the theatre on the night of the performance just turn around. Chances are it’s behind you)
  35. Stand under the mistletoe and wait…
  36. Keep waiting…
  37. Keep waiting…
  38. Just a little longer…
  39. Give up standing under the mistletoe and run to a mirror. Stare at your reflection and then compliment yourself out loud with the utmost sincerity because you are beautiful and if people don’t kiss you under the mistletoe then it is their loss/a sign of their bad taste/not a reflection on your personal levels of fabulousness.
  40. Tinsel. I am not sure what exactly you can do with tinsel but it is christmassy and not food related so do something with it.
  41. Find a pregnant lady called Mary and ask if she would mind coming with you to give birth in a barn where the cattle are lowing
  42. Lie any babies born in a manger
  43. Offer the baby Frankincense
  44. When the baby turns its nose up at frankincense (literally…that stuff STINKS), offer it a rattle instead
  45. Play pin the tail on the reindeer (WITH A PAPER REINDEER PLEASE)
  46. Go ice skating
  47. Sit under a fir tree with a bow on your head and pretend to be a present
  48. Laugh at all the fools who actually mistake you for a present
  49. Jingle some bells (jingle them ALL the way)
  50. Find loved ones
  51. Hug loved ones
  52. Scout the supermarkets from the 22nd of December onwards to see which one starts selling easter eggs first. The first place winner gets nothing at all as a reward and should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating consumerism/the capitalist agenda.

So there you have it! A list of fifty-two alternative ways to celebrate Christmas when you have an eating disorder. Of course part of me hates writing this post and in an ideal world I would simply tell you all to just join in with everyone else and the “normal” food related activities rather than having to follow any of my suggestions (fabulous though they may be).
As any sufferers out there will know, eating disorders are soul destroying, potentially fatal illnesses that should not be allowed to dictate and ruin your Christmas. They shouldn’t dictate your behaviours, interfere with your ability to be “Merry and bright” and make social interactions around a crowded dinner table utterly terrifying, but unfortunately, a lot of the time, no matter how hard you try, eating disorders do all of those things without caring as to whether they should or shouldn’t.

That is why I have made this list. It is not because I agree with any of your eating disorders telling you that you can’t join in or that there is anything wrong with the food celebrations at Christmas time, but because this is not an ideal world (remember, this was the year Mary Berry left The Great British Bake off), and as much as I wish I could wave a magic wand and banish your eating disorders to enable you to have the ED free christmases you deserve, I know that such a dream is vastly overestimating my abilities as a magician.
Hopefully one day there wont be any eating disorders so this post and these alternative Christmas celebration activities won’t be necessary anymore, but until then I just want to try and help you come up with ways that you CAN join in at Christmas regardless of your eating disorders so that you don’t have to hide all December and become lonelier than the last toffee penny in a tin of quality street.
I have every faith that we will all eventually get to the day where the highlight of Christmas is a roast dinner and flaming pudding with all the family. Until then though, let’s just find fun where we can, knit our stockings and look forward to a time when all of this mental pain is a thing of the past.

Take care everyone x

snowmaned

Why Halloween Can Be Difficult For People With Mental Health Problems

When I was five years old, I used to get so frightened at the prospect of people turning up to my house in costumes on Halloween, that my mum would have to take me out of the house and drive me around our neighbourhood with a jumper wrapped round my head so that I couldn’t see the hoards of trick or treaters passing by. I am now twenty four years old and a lot of things about me have changed (for example I can now tie my shoes and tell the time unlike my five year old past self), but my terror towards and unusual way of spending the pumpkin laden holiday of Halloween is still very much the same.

It probably sounds ridiculous to admit that when I am of course aware that a lot of the ghosts you see dragging their chains at Halloween are actually kids with bedsheets thrown over their heads as apposed to genuine supernatural beings. It is after all fairly easy to distinguish the two simply by checking to see if the creature in question is carrying a bucket of sweets (kids wearing old bed sheets tend to be more interested in seeking candy than seeking revenge, unlike the true ghostly counterparts on which they base their fashion choices). However my issues with Halloween are not because I am convinced that the trick or treaters appearing at my door are real monsters, but are due to a hell of a lot of mental health fears and stress that I am sure a lot of other people struggle with as well. So, if you have ever wondered how Halloween feels when you have mental health problems, sit back and rest assured, for I am here to tell you all about it…

Let us begin with trick or treaters. When you have problems with anxiety it is likely you will be anxious about a lot of things (ground breaking information right there I know), and with social anxiety these things are likely to involve pieces of general daily interaction like answering the phone or the front door. I know that for me, hearing the sound of the doorbell or the ringing of a telephone sends shivers down my spine/causes me to leap under the nearest blanket and clamp my hands around my ears until the noise stops and the person goes away…and that is when I am expecting a call from a friend. Indeed, I have been known to ask visiting chums to text me when they enter my road and then a second time to say when they have reached the door step.The vibration of my phone to signal the receiving of a text scares me too, but it is far better than the alternative hellish chimes of the doorbell. As you can imagine then, when the people turning up at the door are unexpected strangers, the anxiety is even more intense.

That is bad enough when it is general unexpected strangers, say a postman dropping off a parcel or a window cleaner asking to be paid, but on Halloween it is even worse because the strangers I am already in fear of are wearing goblin masks designed to make them look all the more terrifying!Some may even be dressed to look like the Grim Reaper or be carrying fake blood soaked foam axes to create the impression that they are a murderer on the loose, which, when you live in fear of terrible things happening on a day to day basis is a sight that will do little to calm any stresses already spiralling in your neurotic anxiety riddled brain.

It isn’t even as if you can just decide not to answer the door to avoid the unexpected goblin visitors, because if you ignore them they will threaten to throw eggs at your door! Who the hell came up with that idea as a means of celebrating a holiday that originated as a way to honour the dead? Which dead people have ever said that they wish for that to be the way in which they are remembered?
I know that it is all supposed to be “just for fun”, but I certainly don’t enjoy an evening of people turning up in horrifying attire, demanding I choose between the options of providing them with sweets or having my abode bombarded by the unfertilised albumen/vitellus of low flying poultry. That isn’t a choice! I don’t like either of those options! Whatever happened to the joy found in socialising with friends and celebrating any occasion over a cup of tea or a game of snakes and ladders?
Then again, even if you decide to brave opening the door despite the potential terror lurking on the other side and give your tormentors the sugary treats they require, you have the added stress of actually having to buy the candy, yet another nightmare for multiple anxiety related illnesses, most of all eating disorders.
Everyone knows that people with eating disorders often fear eating food themselves but for some, even walking into a supermarket to buy it in the first place is a difficulty. Personally, I know anorexia makes it hard for me to buy tins of chocolate or biscuits for presents at Christmas even though I am aware that I don’t have to eat them, and I have several friends who find that things you would potentially buy for trick or treaters are “triggers” which they would usually avoid having in the house. For some, there may be certain foods that they know they are likely to binge and/or purge on, so obviously it is easier to keep them on the supermarket shelves out of harm’s way and not in the next room, much like someone giving up alcohol rids the house of bottles in an attempt to remove temptation. If therefore, you have an eating disorder and this is the case, Halloween is a night where you either have to buy products that you know will potentially send you on an out of control rampage back home, or avoid the products and spend the evening scraping egg yolks out of your letter box.

Reading back all that I have just written, it is pretty easy to see how Halloween can be an utter nightmare for people with various anxiety laden mental health problems, and here I have only touched on the dread that comes with trick or treaters, which really is a small part of Halloween on the whole. I haven’t even mentioned the serious potentially frightening situations like Halloween parties, other social gatherings with people disguised as intimidating warlocks and of course the most petrifying festive activity…apple bobbing (cue dramatic lightening, crash of cymbals and the high pitched cackle of a hyperactive banshee).

If then like me, you have a mental health problem that sends you into a state on Halloween, my advice for managing this evening would be to try to hang out with friends or family who are not dressed to look like the Grim reaper, to distract you and help with any goblin like visitors. Either that or of course there is the option of hiding under a blanket with your hands over your ears waiting for the day to be over/getting a friend to drive you around the neighbourhood away from any doorbells with a jumper tied around your head. Remember, it is just one night of the year and if things really are terrible I hope this post has let you know that you are not alone in feeling scared of a holiday everyone else seems to look forward to. I am not sure how knowing that I am also terrified will help much when the doorbell rings and you are faced with the “say hello to a masked creature or clean eggs from windows tomorrow” dilemma, but I guess it is always nice to know that you are not alone and to have the knowledge that someone out there understands. Also if you don’t have mental health problems and none of these things are relatable, I hope I have at least answered any questions you may have wondered on in life about what it is like to have mental health problems on October 31st.
I hope you all have a fabulous/as anxiety free evening as possible. Happy Halloween!

halloweenpost

 

Why I Wish Mental Health Problems Came In Boxes

Whenever a doctor or health care professional looks at my notes for a brief overview of my mental health, they will see three separate words:

Depression
OCD
Anorexia

The words may not be on separate lines as I have illustrated above, but there is always some kind of gap between them, even if that gap is only in the form of a comma or perhaps a space bar. As a brief summary of my mental health, I suppose those three words can give you a reasonable idea of my struggles. Nevertheless, the idea gathered from those three words is only a reasonable idea, as my illnesses are far more intertwined than many people realise. If I were to write the three diagnoses in a more accurate form, they would look like this:

boxes1
Now granted, that wouldn’t be as easy to decipher as the former example (although doctors are used to examining messy handwriting…), but it would be a lot closer to the truth and what mental illnesses feel like.
I think that some professionals, even those working in mental health, have a a problematic view of the illnesses that they treat by thinking that they can be separated into neat tidy boxes as easily as I can separate these words just by hitting the space bar. Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE it if they were right and that mental illnesses really did come in boxes, much as the title of this blog post suggests. For one thing, if mental illnesses came wrapped and caged within physical cubed objects it might be possible to operate on a person and physically remove the cause of any problems with the ease with which they remove a tonsil (or tonsils…I think people have more than one tonsil…I really need to get round to counting mine one of these days. It has been on my to-do list for years). More importantly though, were mental illnesses to be so easily distinguished from each other, it would make treatment far more straight forward.

In terms of treatment I get for my mental health, I have several very separate teams of people in several very separate buildings. There is the hospital for my eating disorder which always smells of cauliflower cheese, there is the general mental health centre for my depression (which doesn’t smell much of cauliflower or cheese), and if I get accepted to the new service I was assessed for two weeks ago, I will have another building to attend appointments in regarding OCD (I haven’t been in that building yet so I am afraid I cannot document how much this place smells of either cauliflower or cheese but I will be sure to inform you the moment I know).
When I walk into each building every week, I am expected to talk about and deal with the illness that has been designated to that service. It’s as if they think I can leave my other mental illnesses by the door still packaged in their neat little boxes, without realising that the three are inextricably linked in a complex mesh even I cannot understand, so if one comes into the room with me, the other two cannot help but tag along.

For example, because of my mental health problems I have a lot of behaviours. One of these is that I tie my hair up repeatedly before a meal in a routine that can take as short as five minutes or as long as several hours. Now, if asked, I would say that this behaviour is an eating disorder behaviour as I only carry it out prior to a meal. If I wasn’t about to eat something, I could tie my hair up in seconds so I would say that as the anxiety is more about preparing for the impending meal, the hair tying is a part of anorexia. That said, there are many professionals who have argued with me that it is in fact an OCD behaviour, an obsessive ritual of repetitive compulsions that make no sense in rational terms. Who is to say which one of us is right in our conclusion? Both have fair points and it is easy to argue either way. What about the fact that I cut the majority of foods into four separate pieces? It is related to food so it could be my eating disorder, yet the numbers and rigidity with which I handle a knife is far more akin to the OCD. So what is the answer? Who is the culprit in causing each of these rituals? Who can solve this mystery? Someone find Poirot immediately! (Finding Miss Marple or Sherlock would also be helpful but they are second choices because they don’t have fancy moustaches.)

It isn’t that I particularly care which of my diagnoses is causing the problem, I just want them to go away, yet without knowing the specific name of the villain in this situation it is hard to find a professional able to help me. When I talk to the eating disorder services they tell me to talk about the ritualistic eating behaviours with the OCD team yet the OCD team tell me that is a job for the eating disorder hospital and as a result, treatment for these behaviours tends to slip through the cracks without ever getting a chance to materialise because they don’t fit into the neat boxes everybody wants them to. In this example it isn’t really that big of an issue as in spite of not fitting into the neat boxes all the time, I still receive treatment for both OCD and anorexia even if is is unable to solve the issues where behaviours are a combination of the two. The biggest issue however, is when this lack of mental health diagnoses tidiness doesn’t just get in the way of someone’s treatment, but gets in the way of them being accepted for treatment at all.

All over the world people including myself who are seriously struggling with mental health problems are referred to services that turn them down not because treatment is not needed, but because the case doesn’t exactly fit into a specific list of criteria. So why not broaden the criteria? Obviously I realise that the issue causing all of these problems is a lack of funding for mental health services and thus the need to have specific criteria to narrow the case load down (don’t worry, when I become prime minister I am going to be chucking so much funding at mental health services that this problem will be solved. I am also going to chuck in a lot of funding to investigating the invention of a mug that keeps a cup of tea at exactly the right temperature for hours on end, but that is a story for another time).
Still, issues with funding or not, it makes absolutely no sense to me seeing the complex soup that is mental health being separated into neat little blocks. I myself have been turned away from services for being “too complex”, which is basically like saying “yes you are crazy and in need of help but you do not fit into our definition of crazy so we are going to have to send you elsewhere only to be told the same thing and referred somewhere new all over again”.

Labelling a mental health problem with a diagnosis like “OCD” or “anorexia” is of course incredibly useful in terms of narrowing down a problem, but even then every person with OCD will experience the illness differently and that needs to be taken into account with the way they are treated as each experience is equally valid. If you go to the supermarket there will be a whole aisle of baked beans, tin upon tin all labelled “baked beans” and sure, they are all “baked beans”, but each one is slightly different just as each person with a diagnosis is slightly different. Nobody should be refused treatment for being the “wrong kind” of crazy, the fact that there is any kind of crazy should be enough.

That is why I wish mental health problems came in boxes, but alas I fear that is one wish that won’t ever come true (much like the wish I made on my 4th birthday to become a penguin. It has been 20 years and I am still waiting. Haven’t even got a sign of a flipper yet.) However, if it is a wish that won’t come true then we need to change the way we see mental disorders and indeed treat them rather than acting as if things are far simpler than they are in reality. It is time we realised that mental illnesses don’t come in boxes and the people who suffer from them don’t either. Rather than refusing to help those of us with a bit of a confusing mess going on, we need to roll our sleeves up and dive in anyway. Everyone is different, yet all are equally worthy of support.

Take care peeps.

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Good Girls Drink Kale – Society’s Dangerous Acceptance Of The Anorexic Mindset

One of the many reasons I struggle to eat is because of the guilt I feel about it. When I am eating I feel like I am committing a crime, my mind is telling me that I am doing something “wrong”, something “bad”, and the only way to feel that I am being “good” again is to stop eating. Considering I have anorexia, none of this is particularly surprising and it is common to a lot of people with eating disorders. Recently though, I have noticed that this feeling is actually one that is generally accepted in society. I am always told that my thoughts are “disordered” and that the way I think is not normal, but it makes it incredibly hard to believe professionals trying to help me when my very thoughts are voiced in day to day life.
When I say I “can’t eat” because “eating is bad”, people call me crazy, yet then when somebody goes to a coffee shop and asks for their drink to be made with skinny milk because they are “being good” nobody bats an eye lid. BUT THEY SHOULD BE BATTING THOSE EYE LIDS. Seriously people should be batting their eyelids until their eyelashes fall off every time somebody associates human goodness with what a person is eating, because the two are not connected and the whole thing is a dangerous, disordered thought that is slipping into normal life.

I used to work in a cafe as a barista, and one of my favourite bits of the job was on the days we had a new cake in and I could wander around offering people a free sample (swear to God if you have low self esteem it is a wonderful experience to be among the masses with free cake, they will love you and you will feel like a Bakewell wielding Beyonce.) My least favourite part of the experience however, was bumping into all the people on diets, and about a million times every day I would hear the words “Oooh I would love to try but I am being good” or “Oh don’t tempt me I have already been so bad today”. On one occasion someone even said “oh no I cant, I am far too big, it is alright for you, you are skinny so you are allowed cake”. EXCUSE ME? Is there some law I am not aware of that states that people who are a healthy weight or overweight are not allowed to consume sweet baked goods and that they will be arrested and jailed for life if they so much as nibble on the edge of a cookie? Is there a clause in this law that people who are underweight are free to eat all the cakes without fear of being reprimanded for some reason? If so, who is making these laws and where can I go to demand they sort their priorities out immediately? (I myself suspect it could be a greengrocer with a deep hatred of and passion to destroy Mr Kipling and his family, but so far my research has not confirmed this).

Associating goodness with not eating isn’t even something you just hear from people on diets, it is used in adverts to promote various foods in the media. There is an advert for a “light” cream cheese that shows angels eating the product with halos above their heads, as if their choice of low fat dairy has elevated them to the heavens, and hell is actually a place filled with people who like a full fat cheddar. As someone who did a theology degree and read The Christian Bible in detail several times, I can assure you that decisions around the location in which people will spend the afterlife are not made in such a manner, nor is there a secret eleventh commandment advising on acceptable kinds of cheese to sprinkle over your pasta bake (although from a personal point of view I would always advise on Mozzarella).
Similarly there is an advert for some milk chocolate balls, and in it a woman is reprimanded in her choice of snack by a “friend” (aka rude judgemental lady who should keep her unhealthy opinions to herself) saying “ooh naughty”, to which she replies that she isn’t actually that naughty at all because the balls she is consuming are under 10 calories each. REALLY? Better let whoever decides whether people go to heaven or hell know! Appearance wise her actions make her look worryingly like those of someone who should be shoved down in the burning pits of those who can’t resist a full fat cheddar, but since they are only ten calories I guess she deserves to sit on a cloud with the cream cheese angels for all eternity.

The whole association between moral character and what someone is eating isn’t even simply annoying, it is dangerous. Not only does it condone thoughts people with eating disorders may have (thoughts they are told are abnormal, which is fine yet hard to believe when your Aunt Judith is receiving a free plastic halo every time she buys low fat cheese spread at the supermarket), but it puts the idea into the heads of people who may not have eating disorders or those that then go on to develop them. I understand the need for healthy eating and the need to promote a healthy lifestyle to people, yet I cannot see how it is healthy in terms of mental or physical stability to raise children in a society where someone in an advert doesn’t eat dessert at a restaurant because she is “being good”, unlike her friend who has decided to give in and “be a bit naughty” by digging into a knickerbocker glory. Would it then be a surprise if the child then grew up refusing to ever touch desserts because to do so is something everyone is told they must feel guilty about? Obviously eating disorders are far more complex than all of that, they aren’t about refusing dessert and are caused by a million things that are nothing to do with food. Ok, nobody gets anorexia because they fear that food will send them to the fiery pits of eternal damnation in hell. Nevertheless, thinking that food choices reflect your value as a person is not a good message to be spreading. People with eating disorders need to develop a healthy relationship with food, that is a given, but it seems that everyone needs a bit of a revamp on thoughts around food too.

Now, I will admit that if your idea of a “going food shopping” is breaking into orphanages, tossing the children into the fire and then stealing their muffins, then maybe your food choices are saying something about your moral character and you might be sent to jail for them. Aside from situations like that though, (and if anyone really is food shopping in that way please stop as there are these places called supermarkets that have a wide selection of nice muffins and orphans really don’t need that kind of treatment), eating or not eating cake says nothing about you as a person. To people with eating disorders, without eating disorders, people developing eating disorders, everyone please know that eating any food is not a crime. Food is not a situation to negotiate, it is fundamental to life, it is necessary, and in addition to keeping you alive physically, being free and able to eat a chocolate ball when you fancy one without fear of being reprimanded for bad behaviour, is fundamental to mental health. It is OK to allow yourself to eat and eating is nothing to feel guilty about no matter who you are or what your weight. You do not need written permission from Jesus to allow yourself a a doughnut.
Death row is not lined with convicts who couldn’t resist a piece of a colleague’s birthday cake or daredevils who had the nerve to have full fat milk in their latte, and saints are not simply people who drank a few litres of kale for breakfast. If you want to do something “good” today and are that obsessed with moral purity, then buy a cup of tea for someone who cannot afford to buy one themselves or help someone carry their shopping to the car. Just whatever you do, don’t judge your goodness or self worth on the weight of butter you put on your toast this morning. People who eat cake are good and people who eat cake are bad, just as people who eat kale can be good or bad, but their food choices really have nothing to do with any of it.

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