What Do People With Anorexia Eat?

Over a year ago I wrote a post about how people with eating disorders were misrepresented in the media via their use of skeletal pictures when interviewing or discussing someone with the disorders, yet lately I have noticed there is another stereotypical image being promoted that drives me equally round the bend, that being the idea that people with anorexia do not eat anything at all, and it is this myth I really want to tackle in this post as it is simply not true and is unhelpful to everyone.

You see when you come across articles in the paper interviewing someone with an eating disorder, they always make it sound as if the person has gone years without ever letting a morsel of food pass their lips. 

I am often reading pieces stating that someone lived on half a cornflake for three years or something ridiculous, a statement that is physically impossible and that must be taken with a pinch of salt as everyone knows journalists will often exaggerate or make things sound worse by picking and choosing details from an interview to make a good story. If an article makes it sounds like someone interviewed supposedly hasn’t eaten more than half a cornflake for three years, it is most definitely false and cannot be taken as a fact in general or by which other sufferers can be measured. 

Admittedly, people with anorexia frequently do not eat enough, it is after all one of the symptoms, the classic restricting of calories to lose or prevent weight gain. Indeed people with anorexia often eat very little, nowhere near as much as they need to keep themselves alive, but that still doesn’t mean they don’t eat anything at all and spend years living on air. In addition to those in relapse  who still eat at least something (regardless as to whether it be enough or not), when people are in recovery and on a weight gain meal plan they may actually eat more than some “normal” people. I know I have certainly followed meal plans that exceed the “government guidelines” irrelevant calorie limit, which have been prescribed to me both in and out of hospital. People in relapse and recovery are still considered as having “anorexia” if their mental state dictates that diagnosis, no matter how much they eat, and they should all be counted and taken seriously as a voice for people with eating disorders without being discriminated against for (brace yourselves)…having breakfast. What about the people who have severe anorexia but eat to keep their families off their back or to maintain a job? The ones who eat purely to stay out of hospital or the ones who are trying their best to eat to get better yet are still in as much mental pain as anyone else and hating every second? The ones who want to scream and shout every time they eat but force themselves on anyway because they don’t want their kids to see them worrying about food in fear that they may also pick up on the anxiety? That image, of people with anorexia eating, is never represented in the media, as equally valid or not it isn’t a dramatic image that would sell a story in a magazine. After all, headlines of “anorexic eats an appropriate number of calories, not because they are better but because they don’t want to scare the children” are never going to sell or create as much drama as “anorexic eats nothing and only licks a blade of grass once a month for 10 years”.

I am pretty sure that every member of my family is aware that I have anorexia and in a way I find this helpful. With them knowing, it means I don’t have to lie all the time, if I disappear for a few months to go into hospital it isn’t a big secret and I don’t have to pretend I have been off travelling, climbing Kilimanjaro or building schools for orphaned penguins in the Arctic, but in a way it actually makes things harder because I feel there is an expectation of the way I should behave at family gatherings. I am currently unable to eat outside of my house or with family anyway, but even if I were able to I would find attempting it incredibly intimidating as I imagine if I were to eat anything, people would be confused. If a person without an eating disorder goes out for a meal and eats, nobody raises an eyebrow, but if someone who is known to have an eating disorder goes out for a meal, when they eat people start to question whether there is anything actually wrong with that person in the first place. If you hear someone has to go into hospital for a new leg and then you see them prior to admission dancing the tango pretty happily using their old one, you might wonder why on earth the new leg is needed as clearly there is no problem. The issue is of course that though someone may appear to be eating happily on the surface, they could still be going through mental torture inside and may be just trying not to make a fuss and embarrass themselves or draw attention.

The dangers of this misconception that “anorexics don’t eat” are very similar to the ones created by the idea that people with anorexia are underweight. Again, family members or professionals may not be concerned about someone they suspected may have an eating disorder because the person often sits down for a family meal. Sufferers also might find themselves in situations where they don’t eat, not because of their disorder in particular, but because they feel they can’t incase people suspect that they are faking the whole thing. Much like images of skeletal bodies, people hearing the myth that people with anorexia don’t eat can cause people to think that they are not “that bad”, “not ill enough to warrant help” or even worse it can trigger them to restrict their intake further because they think there is some “anorexic standard” they have to live up to. You cannot compare the severity of a person’s illness with that of someone else’s just by looking at what they look like or how much they eat without having any idea of what is going on inside their heads. 

Overall I guess the message of this post is that when it comes to the portrayal of people with eating disorders in the media, take all the pictures and interviews as pieces of journalism to sell a paper with the nuggets of truth inside partially skewed or not representative of eating disorder patients as a whole. Making judgements based on accounts that are for the purpose of selling papers rather than truly giving a voice to people with no ulterior motive is never going to provide an unbiased piece that one can make conclusions from. Basically what I want to say is do not trust the media at all, instead you should trust strangers on the internet like me…actually don’t trust strangers on the internet…that isn’t the message I want to promote at all…. just don’t think that people with anorexia don’t eat. 

Take care everyone x

Sandwich

What Do You Do With Someone With Mental Health Problems?

Usually, when I title a blog with a question you would expect for me to find some kind of answer to said question in the blog below, but, spoiler alert, this week that ain’t gonna happen because today I genuinely am asking all you guys out there what on earth you do with a person with mental health problems.

I suppose to be more exact I should specify that there is a particular person with mental health problems in mind when I ask this question, perhaps obviously, me.

You see, as far as questions go, this is quite a big one that is perplexing and confusing the many therapists and family members in my life, and considering that none of them can find the answer, today I figured I would ask you lovely lot, aka the wonderful readers of my blog, for your opinion, because if you can’t go to the internet to solve all your problems and big questions in life then quite frankly where can you go? (don’t say a therapist, trust me they are stumped on this one too). 

You see me and my family are sort of stuck playing a game of Where’s Wally right now, although slightly different as we are well aware of where Wally is and just need a place to put him. Wally in this situation is me (I even have the glasses for it…just missing the stripy sweater and hat…actually thinking about it the glasses I am wearing are the only things that make this remotely like a game of Where’s Wally…Wally was never stuck as to where to go because of mental health problems and if he was then that gives those activity books a whole new spin to them), and lately there has been a big question as to what to do with me. 

You may remember that after coming out of hospital, the plan was for me to stay home and follow some ground rules set by my parents, but shortly after my departure from the loony bin it was clear that I was unable to follow those ground rules and consequently we came up with the plan of me moving into my own flat…However now…yeah…it doesn’t look like that will be possible as although the purchase of the flat is still going swimmingly (I think…I have never been one to understand the purchase of properties), it doesn’t look like I will be able to cope living there by myself as planned. On one hand I am fully convinced that I could do it, but considering the week I just had when my parents were away in Cyprus, perhaps that is naive of me to assume blindly that I could cope all by myself as when trying to live by myself for just one week in my own home, things did not go to plan. Indeed, a mere hour in my own company and I was on the brink of suicide, hence why my dear best friend had to step in and save the day and come to stay with me, so maybe independent living isn’t the thing for me at the moment, and that is why I am posing you this question today as to what to do. I cannot stay at home living with my parents as I am still unable to follow the ground rules required and am in short, driving them around the bend with my mental health problems (it is a lot to ask of people to live with a complete lunatic and one of these days I am going to give one or both of my parents a mental breakdown themselves at this rate), but it seems I cannot live alone elsewhere either, hence the question of where to put me. 

At the moment, the option my parents are pushing for is for me to go into this sort of long term hospital like place which is less like a hospital setting and more like a communal living area for people with mental health problems. I however am not keen on this idea and really I want to stay as far away from communal living spaces as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one who is completely set against mental health hospitals, after-all I have been in many myself on previous occasions, but they are not places that I particularly like being and in my eyes, as bad as things are at the moment, I really want to do all I can to be treated and to get better somehow in the community as an outpatient. To be fair this hospital place isn’t like most other hospitals, there is no long corridor and like I said it is more of a communal house with a big family living space and a huge garden (a garden so big in fact that it is basically one giant vegetable patch…they even grow cabbages there and are looking into getting cows and chickens which has caused me to name the place “The Literal Funny Farm” to my mum’s annoyance…she really likes the place…can you tell I am not keen…). Still, despite the fact it isn’t like a  regular hospital I am still not convinced. Part of this I will admit is an OCD issue as the idea of communal living gives me all kinds of heebie jeebies what with sharing bathrooms and other areas, but also the problem is that I do not want to live surrounded by people with mental health problems. Obviously I do not mean this in an offensive way nor do I have any judgement against people with mental health problems, how could I, I am one, but there is something about living with other people with mental health struggles that I have always found difficult and potentially triggering. When you are insane yourself but live with sane people I always find it sort of gives you an idea of normality for you to try and follow however hard that may be, but when you are insane and living with other like minded people, as nice as it is to have people to relate to, crazy is in a sense a version of what is normal, and I have always found long periods of time in situations like that problematic which is what this would be. This hospital is not a place where people go for a few weeks to recuperate but a place people go for six months to a year to do serious long term pieces of work and I just do not feel ready for that, especially having just come out of a five month admission to a hospital only recently. To be honest I still feel like and want to feel like I am settling in at home but it doesn’t seem that that will be possible much longer for the sake of my parents physical and mental health…

Which is why I am asking you all this question today. What do you do or what would you do with a  person with mental health problems aka me, a person who is currently very much entrenched in their own lunacy but very much lost as to where to go? Seriously, I am asking you lot because of all the people in my life you are perhaps the people who, alongside my therapists and family members, know me best. After all you read my ramblings on a weekly basis (at least if you are a regular reader you do and if you are please know that I think of you as very special), therefore who would be better to answer this question? So, people of the internet, dear blog readers and lovely people who have just stumbled upon this blog today, tell me honestly, what do you think and where do you think I should go?

In my dreams I would ideally like to stay at home as I may have mentioned a million times but if that is not possible which do you think is the best alternative? Living all by myself in my own flat even when a mere hour of doing so in my own home went terribly wrong or living in a communal farm like area for people with mental health problems with a passion for growing cabbages? Or maybe you have a third option, who knows, all I do know is that I don’t have the answers and if any of you out there could help a mental out with a few words of wisdom, I really would appreciate it. I realise it is asking quite a lot for you to make a decision as to what happens at this next stage in my life but I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t seriously in need of some good old fashioned friend (for I consider you all to be my friends of the highest quality) to blogger advice. 

Either way, whatever you lovely bunch decide or think, I am curious to hear your thoughts as right now being landed with this question all by my lonesome is quite the burden and is one I cannot carry much longer. So what do you do with and where do you put a person with mental health problems? I really don’t know, but I sincerely hope that someone out there has the answers as lord knows I need some. 

Take care everyone x 

Cabbage