Review of ‘How to feel the fear and eat it anyway’ by Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison

I will start this review off with a disclaimer. I am no professional, this review is based purely on my own individual view. I am quite critical of whatever I read but overall I really enjoyed this book. Not only was it great to read and kept me hooked, it was very informative and helpful in my own recovery. However, I had some concerns over some parts of the book, for example consuming animal products is said to be better for the animals and some brief contradictory messages about food. If you are struggling with your eating I strongly recommend this book.

Even though the majority of the book I loved and cherished, I disliked some of it. Firstly I felt like the chapter on dairy was good, especially in debunking some myths around dairy that float around the internet. I liked the point about calcium which was mentioned as this can be a struggle in vegan ways of eating leading to osteoporosis. It is important to follow correct and evidence based advice as a vegan, if you are to chose that way of life. Virginia Messina RD [1] alongside Jack Norris [2] are especially good at this. Practically, fortified soy milk is just as good as dairy milk as long as you get your iodine from another source such as supplementation. However the bit on ethics/ environmental issues was unnecessary and not really that accurate in my opinion. I don’t think that by breeding and exploiting animals we give them a “life worth living”, just because they live slightly longer now doesn’t mean these lives are enjoyable or fair. Maybe for us but not for animals. Environmentally dairy is worse for the environment than alternatives as dairy requires more land, energy, water and creates methane and higher CO2 emissions [3]. I could spend a whole post just debunking some of the reasons to drink dairy but this post isn’t about that. It is true that for some people suffering from eating disorders being vegan can be detrimental to their recovery and certain situations make being vegan difficult (mental illness, physical illness etc). I feel like this chapter should have stuck to the theme of health and stayed away from the ethics of our food choices. Some people don’t have the luxury of basing what they eat from ethics. That’s a message I can get behind. Maybe I read this book incorrectly but I saw it as less an attack on veganism but more a attack on diet culture and ‘plant based’ diets. Even though the words plant based and vegan were used interchangeably in this book, they don’t mean the same. Plant based eating often refers to a diet made up of plants for health reasons and not an ethical lifestyle, unlike veganism which includes clothing, toiletries etc. It is possible for someone to improve the lives of animals by buying vegan makeup, for example, which aren’t tested on animals. There are many ways to help animals and the environment which don’t involve what’s on your plate. If the authors of this book wanted to focus on ethics I would have written a small bit about this. For more about veganism and being anti-diet check out Taylor Wolfram RD [4].

A small amount of the book contradicted itself. For a book against diets and about eating what you want I was surprised to find foods high in sugar, fat and salt called “non-foods”. To be fair to Eve and Laura this was Susie Orbach who said this but still, did it really need to be included? I don’t know how much the science backs that these foods distort our appetite and I am certainly don’t feel like we need anymore messages demonising them. It could be argued that food companies should add less sugar and salt to our foods but isn’t there a whole chapter on sugar and fat in this book saying that we shouldn’t worry as much. Kind of goes against the whole theme of this whole book. Then there is the bit about stomach fat and a link to chronic disease. This stressed me out. I get that they were saying that having a larger waistline is more dangerous than being obese but again doesn’t this seem like an unhelpful piece of information to be in a book aimed at sufferers of eating disorders and disordered eating. Contradicting this later in the book is a chapter on fat which again reiterated the message that what you eat isn’t all what matters and neither is what you look like. Health is much more complicated than that and isn’t always a personal choice.

Now onto the aspects I did like. First and foremost I loved the overall message. The book itself is called ‘How to feel the fear and eat it anyway’ this captures the book’s message the most- it’s about eating what you want and worrying less. The book tackles common fear foods with evidence based answers from professionals including respected dietitians. Many books back up their ‘health claims’ with unqualified wellness gurus from Instagram. This book is vastly different and as good journalists Eve and Laura know when something isn’t in their expertise and refer to experts for that. Tackling fear foods is a key aspect of eating disorder recovery and because of that this book compliments extremely well with what I was told in my recovery. No food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and everything in moderation truly is the best health message out there. While I mentioned brief contradictions in the book, most of it keeps the same message – that food is more than just nutrition but also affects our social life and reflects our culture amongst other areas. This is partially telling as eating disorders have a tremendous negative impact on our social life and keep us isolated eating salad or buckets of food home alone miserably.

Then there are the brilliant personal anecdotes. Eve and Laura’s stories of their eating disorders; anorexia and bulimia, made me feel less alone and I am sure others will feel the same. Eve’s account of her experience on an eating disorder unit was partially touching. I have never been in a eating disorder unit but I have spent many horrible times on a psychiatric ward. I can also relate to the physical effects of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating having struggling with all three over the last few years. On a brighter note, this book is packed with good food times like pick and mix treats and eating a traditional jewish picnic at a cinema. This shows food in a different light. Food is fun, unites family/ friends and entertains our taste buds. Food is comforting and that’s 100% okay, even when social media tells you otherwise. There are many other reasons for eating than just fuel and macro/micro nutrients. Many of us eat 3 meals a day and if you’re like me then you eat snacks as well. That’s a lot of time eating, might as well enjoy it.

Next, this book is full to the brim of helpful tips and pointers that, I can imagine, will greatly help in people’s recovery. I was so inspired by one of Eve’s ideas that I created a whole post on it [5]. The ideas in this book were possibly one of my favourite aspects. In recovery a lot of focus is put onto eating and not on how to cope with the stress or how to motivate us when times get harder. Yes eating is vital but it is only one aspect of recovery from eating disorders. Eating disorders are mental illnesses which often stem from deeper issues like body image issues, feeling isolated and empty or wishing we had more control over our lives. Exercise is a tricky subject for people in recovery, so I was happy and relieved to read the ideas given by Laura on how to move our bodies without it becoming an obsessive chore. Some of this ideas included joining a ‘beyonce dance class’ as well as walking in somewhere that is pretty. It can be as simple as taking the stairs more often, as long as you aren’t exhausted or injured. Note: sometimes not exercising is just as healthy as exercising in eating disorder recovery especially if you need to gain weight or have an exercise ‘addiction’.

I feel like Eve and Laura have a balance between good nutrition while still promoting real wellness- looking beyond our plates to our mental health. With mostly sound advice based on their life experiences and professional recommendations, it’s a definite must have for your reading list if you have a history or currently struggle with disordered eating/ eating disorders. Yes this book isn’t perfect but books rarely are, not from my point of view anyway. Overall I could write an even longer review critiquing but also boasting about this books amazingness. But then you might get bored, if you haven’t already.

Sources

[1] Virginia Messina RD: https://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-101/

[2] Jack Norris RD: https://veganhealth.org/daily-needs/

[3] Environmental effect of meat and dairy: –https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html.

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/9-reasons-why-veganism-can-save-the-world/ (ignore the bit on health)

[4] Taylor Wolfram RD: http://www.wholegreenwellness.com/veganism-not-diet/

[5] ‘If I only had one year to live’ – written based on an activity in the book: https://writingforsanity.poetry.blog/2019/01/31/if-i-only-had-a-year-to-live/

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If I only had a year to live

This post is inspired by Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison’s new book “How to feel the fear and eat it anyway”. This idea is given in their chapter on sugar. During recovery we can lose motivation so one way to enhance our motivation is to think of reasons to recover. Recovery is beyond tough so we need to see the possibility of a life worth surviving for. By writing a letter about what we would do if we only had one year to live, we think about what matters most to us in the long term. I found this idea particularly inspiring so I decided to do my own letter and share it here. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Each day, I would start with one of my favourite breakfast options- sweet french toast, a large syrupy stack of pancakes, warm chocolaty pastries or nutty granola. I would get up early and seize the day. Other days I would sleep in, wrapped in layers of super soft blankets. Each day I would make time to read non-fiction, learning everything from new recipes to sciency stuff to feminist issues.  

Also, I’d start a new blog with recipes for people on a limited budget and vegan versions of british baking classics. Not only would I write more, but I would also cook and bake more- adjusting older recipes and making some of my own. With these bakes in hand I would raise money for charities like my local mind, beat and homelessness charities, amongst others. I would write more content for my two blogs and reach out to more people on social media, make more friends. I would meet up with people across the UK, visiting London and Edinburgh again.

For a while now I have wanted to write a book on living your ethics. This would be an accessible, free guide to living more in line with your ethics whatever that means to you. Whether that is being more environmentally conscious, caring more about animals or focusing on self care. Whatever it is, if it is all of the above or somewhere on the way, this guide wouldn’t be about being perfect but working towards living intentionally.

I would go around europe with my sister, trying the vegan eats in France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland and other countries in our continent. There I’d get involved with every activity and probably, knowing my sister, get dragged to every art exhibit. Not my thing but if it makes her happy it’s worth it. We’d go to a theme park and try the most thrilling of rides, collecting rubbish ride photos along the way.

Hopefully my favourite bands would be touring so I could see them live. And if My Chemical Romance get back together that would be even better- but we are thinking of possible ideas here. After travelling around europe, I would enroll back in education and study because that’s what I miss. I am a nerd and proud. I enjoy writing essays and learning more. That is something that is important to me.

I’d eat out with friends at every possible cool independent restaurant near me. I’d treat my mum to afternoon tea at a fancy hotel, we both love that sort of thing. Food, especially sweet food, goes down a charm with us. I would spend time with my dad watching back to back comic book based tv shows and movies. We would chat for hours on theories and future plot lines. Later we would play card games like poker, I’d win obviously haha. I haven’t played chess well since I was a kid, so I would work on that.

Every month I would subscribe to a vegan pick and mix company so I’d never be without sweet and sour gummy goodness.

I’d visit and donate to an animal sanctuary. I would take lots of photos for my blog and to keep as memories. I’d cuddle a cow and hold a baby pig… because well I hate to have favourites but pigs are smart and adorable. With what money I had left, I would give to charity.

Don’t know where I am getting all the money for some of these activities but these are certainly ideas of things I want to work on or do. The most important aspect of this is I want to spend quality time with my family and friends. I cannot do this if I am dead. Eating disorders can kill or permanently damage our bodies and as scary as it is, it’s true. Not only are they fatal but they also negatively affect our quality of life. They damage our relationships, deteriorate our self esteem and leave us feeling hopeless. Sure, eating disorders serve a purpose, whether that is to help manage how we feel or feel more in control, however they tend to make things worse in the long run. Or at least from my experience. If you are struggling with an eating disorder please reach out for help. Help can be hard to come by (especially if you aren’t underweight) so get in contact with your doctor and be persistent. If they don’t take you seriously see someone else, explain to them honestly how it affects you. Beat are an amazing charity based in the UK working to help people with eating disorders. They offer a helpline as well as online support groups.

Information on eating disorders:

Beat: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/eating-problems/#.XE3rf8_7QWo

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/eating-disorders/

How to go vegan without relapsing and other questions

Disclaimer:  I am not an medical professional or an expert on eating disorders. These recommendations are based on my personal experience and what I’ve read. Please consult your treatment team or gp if you have any concerns.

This January many people will go vegan because of ‘Veganuary’. I will start by saying veganism might not be right for you right now. Be honest and kind to yourself. Is this the right time? I became an ethical vegan during my bulimia and while it wasn’t a smooth journey it was for the right reasons and did help my recovery. Not everyone has this experience though. I understand that. This post is long but contains different questions relating to veganism and eating disorder recovery. I hope you find it helpful.

So why would someone go vegan?

Pretty much every animal can feel. Animal agriculture denies certain animals most rights and freedoms, inflicts pain and uses animals for food, fashion and other human demands. Veganism is an ethical lifestyle based on the principle that animals deserve their own life and aren’t here for us to exploit and use. By being vegan you, are treating all animals (including humans) with compassion. At its core veganism is an animal liberation movement. As animal agriculture plays a big part in climate change you are also helping the environment.

What about health veganism?

While plant based diets are associated with good health outcomes, a vegan diet isn’t the only healthy one. Food, health and body shaming should have no place in veganism. This behaviour is not only hurtful, but also unnecessary as veganism has nothing to do with health. By policing other vegans and being judgmental we are going against the compassion this movement is based on and are making our vegan community feel unsafe for people in larger bodies, people with health conditions and people recovering from eating disorders. Many online vegan groups recently have spoken out against this behaviour and created new rules against shaming and commenting on other peoples food, size or health. I think this is an amazing step forward. Not every online space is the same though. Those recovering should be careful for which group they join and who they follow on social media.

What’s the best way to eat vegan?

Like with anything, there are many ways to eat. While there are particular ‘diets’ in veganism like ‘whole food plant based’, ‘raw’ or ‘vegan paleo’, these have nothing to do with the key aspects of veganism and are more ways diet culture has found its way inside an animal rights movement. From what I’ve read by dieticians, it is important to eat enough and a wide variety of vegan food, including legumes (peanuts/ beans/ lentils/ tofu), foods higher in fat (nuts/seeds/oils), starchy foods (e.g pasta, bread, rice, potatoes),  foods rich in calcium (fortified ‘milks’, tofu etc), fruits and vegetables. It is also important to have a regular source of omega 3’s, vitamin D, B12, and iodine, whether that is through food (fortified or food rich in that nutrient like walnuts for omega 3’s) or supplements. A healthy diet is one which includes balance and is sustainable. There is plenty of space for more ‘processed’ foods like vegan ice cream, cheese and cakes. In my opinion, this is even more essential in eating disorder recovery as it helps create a healthy relationship with food, one based on happiness and enjoyment instead of fear. ‘Processed’ foods play a big part in everyday life. Nutritionally, some ‘processed’ food is fortified with vitamins and minerals, for example Alpro chocolate milk or weetabix. These foods also make being a vegan easier and more practical. They can be eaten on the go and in social settings. We connect over food and, hopefully, enjoy what we eat. Eat your vegan donuts in peace and realize that variety and balance makes a healthy diet, not one based on unnecessary restrictions.

For more information of vegan nutrition:

What are the pitfalls of going vegan and how can I avoid them

I have mentioned this before but be careful who you follow and what media you consume. Avoid watching food and ‘health’ documentaries like ‘what the health’ as these encourage restrictive eating, bad science and food myths. Avoid food blogs which label ‘processed’ food as bad or tell you that you need to eat ‘clean’- whatever that means. At the end of this post I will share some resources including people you might want to follow and blogs with food that is not only tasty but also balanced. There are many people online who see support veganism who aren’t food shaming and appreciate vegans of all backgrounds and bodies. Vegans which use a pro-intersectional approach and talk about other social justice issues as well. Following these people helped in my recovery as food became less about numbers and more of an act of rebellion against animal agriculture and human oppression. I am still not fully recovered but I feel more passionate about eating good tasting food that nurtures my body and mind while helping animals and the environment.

Another pitfall of going vegan is you might be tempted to keep cutting food groups out. You start with not eating animal products then oil then fruit then sugar then…. Well that doesn’t end well. I’ve been there. At first I became an ethical vegan. Then after watching forks over knives  I became a ‘whole food plant based’ vegan, then I cut out oil, then sugar, then salt, then cooked food?? It got quite extreme and my bulimia became anorexia. It was scary and it taught me that you need to be honest with yourself. What are your reasons for not eating something? Do you disagree with the brutality of killing animals and the environmental destruction? Or are you just looking for a way to eat less? For me it became a mix of the two. The way I recovered was through making sure I ate ALL the vegan foods not just the foods my eating disorder said were okay. That means regularly challenging vegan versions of your fear foods like deep fried chips, veggie burgers and white bread. This means not only eating food you’ve made yourself but also eating out and buying pre made food from shops. It is so difficult but also so worth it.

Is it possible to gain weight as a vegan?

I have mentioned about vegan nutrition but I haven’t mentioned gaining weight as a vegan. There is a stereotype that all vegans have smaller bodies but that is definitely not true. Vegans exist in all shapes and sizes. It is possible to gain weight while staying vegan and to become weight restored. Many people with eating disorders aren’t underweight, but some are, and need to gain weight to improve their mental and physical health. While this is only one part of recovery, it is essential. At the start of my recovery from anorexia I had to gain weight.  I did this by incorporating energy and nutrient dense foods into my meal plan. I also ate more calcium-rich foods to protect against refeeding syndrome and limited fibre and bulk to make all this food easier to digest. For example roasting vegetables in oil or drinking smoothies with nut butter added. Added more ‘processed foods’ can help in this stage as they might be lower in fibre while still being rich in energy (e.g. vegan ice cream).

Food options rich in energy/ important nutrients

  • Grains and starchy veg Pasta tossed in oil. White pasta has less fibre and is fortified with nutrients.
    • Bread, preferably white.
    • Roast starchy veg in oil, sugar/syrup or other high energy add ons
    • Granola and higher calorie fortified cereals
    • Pancakes and waffles for breakfast. These can be baked in bulk then frozen for quick, hassle free breakfasts, add syrup for extra energy.
    • Cookies, cakes and other baked goods made from flour, sugar and oil
  • Pulses, peanuts, soy and meat alternativesTofu is rich in protein, fats and calcium. Extra firm tofu can be fried, baked or scrambled for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Silken tofu can be used to make cheesecake and be blended into smoothies
    • Edamame or other pulses roasted in oil for snacks rich in protein, fat and carbohydrates as well as other vital nutrients.
    • Veggie burgers, vegan sausages and other meat alternatives are often higher in energy and take up less bulk than eating pulses.
    • Peanut butter is rich in energy, protein and in my opinion, tastes amazing. Add this to smoothies, porridge, toast etc
  • Nuts and seedsSprinkle nuts and seeds onto meals and snacks
    • Add nuts and seed butters to smoothies, sauces, on toast or porridge.
    • Create energy dense snack bars with nuts/ seeds as a base
  • Fruit and vegetablesAdd to meals
    • Eat enough without filling up on them. For example, Ginny Messina RD recommends 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables and 3 servings of fruit
    • Blend into smoothies for less bulk
    • Add fruits to yogurts and desserts like vegan ice cream
    • Roast fruit or vegetables in oil, sugar/syrup or other high energy dressings
    • Add dried fruit to meals as they take up less bulk than fresh produce
    • Add vegan wine/ alcohol to vegetable sauces to improve the flavour and increase the energy. For example red wine to tomato sauce. The alcohol burns off while you cook it.
  • Calcium rich foodsAdd plant based yogurts/ milks to smoothies and sauces
    • Select plant milks higher in energy for example whole bean soya milk over almond milk.
    • Have plant milks and yogurts with energy dense cereals like granola
    • Add tahini or almond butter to sauces or smoothies
    • Top granola, toast etc with dried figs
    • Roast broccoli, kale and other calcium rich vegetables in oil

How can I go/be vegan without relapsing?

Recovery isn’t linear and you are likely going to have lapses on the way. But how do you stop these relapse from becoming a full blown relapse and how do you stay on track? How can you be vegan and not relapse into an eating disorder? My answer is, it can be difficult, but it is possible. I have covered some pitfalls of being vegan and how to stay clear of them earlier. Now I hope to cover some general and more specific ways you can keep on the path of recovery while embracing your ethics.

  • Firstly, eat regular meals. Eating regular meals is not just important to maintain a weight which is healthy for you, but is also important to reduce the chance you’ll binge. Not eating fuels the ‘restrict-binge’ cycle that many eating disorder sufferers, including me, get stuck in. Not eating regular meals can also escalate into further restriction like fearing eating lunch, breakfast or at certain times of the day.

 

  • Drink plenty of water (or other liquid). Keeping fluids up is important for your mental and physical wellbeing. It helps with digestion something many of us in recovery struggle with due to binging, purging or restricting our food.

 

  • Have a good sleep routine. Again this improves our mental and physical wellbeing which makes it easier to recover. It also regulates hunger cues in our body.

 

  • Spend quality time with others. We humans are social animals. Whether you need less or more time with others you still need to be somewhat social. If you can, pick the people you socialise with wisely, you don’t need people who body/ health/ food shame around you, especially not while you are recovering. Many people don’t realise they are doing this as it has become so commonplace in our society. Try to have a conversation with them about it explaining how it affects you.

 

  • Treat yourself and have some time for yourself. While being social is good, so is being alone. Again, how much time you need is personal but it may be beneficial to regularly set aside time for yourself to relax and renew your energy levels.

 

  • Regular movement in a way that you enjoy and isn’t obsessive. Now this ones tricky and from experience it depends on where you are in recovery. Eating disorders put a huge strain on your body, from your heart to your bones. Allowing yourself rest is difficult but vital. Exercising a lot in recovery may also result in exercise obsession and addiction. However, if you are further along in your recovery and you get the go ahead from your doctor, some movement is beneficial. This may be walking with friends or joining a yoga group. Exercise has been shown to help with mental health and is important for physical health as well in the long term.

 

  • Meet your nutritional needs (enough macro/micro nutrients and energy). I have mentioned this earlier. If you don’t meet your needs and don’t eat enough, not only will you have side effects such as hair, bone and muscle loss but you are also setting yourself up to binge.

 

  • Be aware of what triggers you. We all have personal triggers. Be aware (maybe write a list of what triggers you) and let your close family/ friends know. Especially early on in recovery you need to make recovering as easy as possible. Not all triggers are avoidable but some can be lessened due to who you follow and what media you consume. See next point…

 

  • Surround yourself with media which makes you feel good about yourself and your body. Media has a big effect on our mental health. Above I have mentioned the fatphobia and elitism that sometimes occurs in the vegan community. Do not follow anyone who feeds into those eating disorder thoughts. Follow people who make you feel good.

 

  • Eat food you enjoy. Food is not just nutrition, it is also a way to be social, to have fun and to enjoy ourselves. Find vegan alternatives to your old favourites and explore new recipes which taste good. Not only will it keep you motivated to stay vegan but it will also help in your relationship with food.

 

  • Include processed foods into your diet. Again I mention this. It is that important. It is normal and 100% okay to eat ‘processed’ food. The term ‘processed’ is so vague and unhelpful. Tofu is processed and so is orange juice but both are very nutritious. Eat all the vegan foods you can eat, try them in many ways with different flavours. Learn to be flexible and adventurous with your food.

 

  • Eat a variety of different foods. This is very similar to the last point but by eating a variety you are not only challenging your eating disorder but you are also more likely to get the nutrients you need on a vegan way of life.

 

  • Avoid ‘diet talk’ when possible. Avoid talking about numbers and ways you are going to engage in your eating disorder. This is not helpful. Replace these conversations with talks about what food you love, your favourite music pr what you feel at the moment.

 

  • Have fun with food, it doesn’t have to be serious (cook/bake). My eating disorder made me so controlling and uptight. Learning to be around food without measuring everything so precisely is beneficial in many ways.

 

  • Take part in some non-food related activities (cinema, reading etc). Food plays a big part in our lives but it isn’t everything. Eating disorders can make you obsessed with food and can become your identity. You are more than what you eat. Get involved with clubs and groups in your area, go ice skating, read a fiction book.

 

  • Be gentle with yourself. Recovery takes time, try not to compare your recovery with someone else’s. Just because I am further into my recovery doesn’t mean you are wrong for just starting yours. I used to be there too and it’s taken me time to get to where I am now. I hope in the future I am even further along. We are often our own worst critic. Veganism is about being kind to all animals. Humans are animals and I think we forget that. Try to be compassionate to yourself. You deserve it just as much as anybody else, no matter what your brain tells you.

 

  • Create a support network. We can do it alone but we don’t need to. There are people out there who can help us, whether that is professionals, family, friends or an online community. Or all of the above. I strongly recommend seeking professional help if you are struggling with your eating, but I also know that the right help is often not available to us and when it is, the waiting times can be long. Charities like Beat are good as they offer online support and information. Mind is also helpful. I will add their links below under resources.

 

  • Get help and look after your mental/ physical health. This may include taking medication as prescribed, going to therapy or regularly getting check ups from your gp. If the helps available for you, use it. Mental illnesses like depression can cause or worsen eating disorders. Eating disorders themselves are mental illnesses that need treatment to support recovery.

Conclusion

Overall veganism is an amazing movement to be involved in. It might help in your recovery, however it may not be possible for you, especially if you need a feeding tube or you don’t have a choice over what you eat due to poverty, hospitalisation or living at home. Whatever your choice, recovery is a process not perfection. It is more difficult than I can articulate but, for me, it is one of the most worthwhile decisions I have made. I myself am not fully recovered. I sometimes struggle to restrict and binge/ purge. Recovery is something I work towards everyday. It takes a lot of effort but it is a thousand times better than living with an eating disorder. If you have any questions please feel free contact me via my other social media. Thank you for reading this. I wish you the best in your recovery.

Resources to check out:

 

 

 

 

Mental illness vs medication

I know I am exceptionally lucky that I can afford medication and have access to a doctor who can prescribe medication for me. I am lucky that my struggles are taken seriously, though for a time they weren’t.

I often don’t want to take my meds. I think I can not just cope but flourish without them. That I could feel on top of the world without the psychosis or racing thoughts. That I will never become depressed again. My illness sometimes feels strange and unreal. Like it was a nightmare. Maybe thats my brain separating those foggy memories so I can live a normal life. How I acted in my episodes was so different to who I am, it’s like it never even happened. I idealise the person I am without the slight fatigue I feel, without my mood stabiliser or antipsychotic.

Recently I have found myself blaming my medication for everything. Tired, must be the meds. I am shaking, must be the meds. Hungry, must be the meds. Not hungry, must be the meds. It doesn’t matter that i’ve had barely any side effects off the medication I am on, when something crops up I automatically blame the medication I take. A lot of the time these problems are caused by my mental illness, like the shaking is caused by my anxiety etc. But to blame my mental illness would be to accept there is something wrong with me. That I am not perfect. You might think because I write about my mental health that I fully accepted it. Not yet. I guess I don’t like taking medication because it makes me feel abnormal and its effort to take it every morning and night. It’s a reminder of the insanity I’ve been through and that I haven’t got my life together… not yet anyway.

I don’t want to romanticise bipolar. I miss the creativity, the energy, the intense feelings of love. But with creativity comes chaos. The thoughts are too fast, the feelings too intense. If you are like me you spiral into psychosis and nothing productive is done. I don’t remember all of it but I do remember the pacing so bad my foot got infected. I remember burning my arm as I was so agitated. I remember ringing up universities to tell them of my amazing plans to cure illness with the chemicals in my brain. It was a blur but not a fun one. I was dangerous, reckless and rude. With my bipolar I also get the lows. The deep dark hole where I prayed for help for something to slightly ease my pain. I don’t want any of this back so I keep taking the pills. Each and every day.

There is a reason you have been prescribed medication. Whether you agree with it or not, work with your doctor (if you have one) to find a treatment plan which works for you. Consider the pros and cons of opting out of treatment. I love that medication and other things have helped me. I am now able to volunteer and have better relationships with friends and family. I can’t predict the future but I plan to keep taking the medication as long as I need to. It’s frustrating but also helpful.

My experience with bulimia – a poem

When I’m stressed

When I’m depressed

When I’m overwhelmed

When I’m tired

When I’m wired

Used to hide

Now back by my side

Evil surrounds it

The devil from within

Begging me to sin

Now I’ve had a bite must finish the rest

I think this whole thing was a test

I have definitely failed

Why can’t I rewind time

If I made a different decision now i’d be fine

What’s the harm in throwing up a chocolate bar

Forget about the teeth decay and knuckle scars

Now my chest is in constant pain

Filled with shame

I’m playing a dangerous game

I just want a quick fix

Lose weight fast, like you see on instagram pics

Something for a smaller waistline

Tried every diet under the sun

These fat loss plans aren’t any fun

It’s not just about appearances though

I’ve had low self esteem from the word go

Just want to feel some self control

Manage my nervousness

But I do it with foolishness

Don’t judge me for the way I deal with life

This constant stress cuts me with it’s knife

I can’t undo the actions I have done

I hate all the stigma that comes along

Kick that back to where it belongs

But I have got to take a different path

I’m done with the cleaning up and the aftermath

It’s never worth the harm

That short relief doesn’t last

Got to put this behaviour in the past

Anxiety… a poem

Its frazzled me

Anxiety

Why can’t I breathe

Air should relieve

The tightness in my chest

When will I rest

Its dizzying

My heart pounding

Chaos within my brain

Intrusive thoughts driving me insane

Can I not be left alone

My worry has grown

It’s taken over my anatomy

When will I be free

Nothing is working

Trapped between being frozen or deserting

The place in which I stand

Get me out of this dangerous land

I’m covered in aches and pains

Trying to escape the panic chains

I think I am going to die

Might as well try

Relaxation techniques loosley

Why am I sweating profusely

Nothing fixes this but to get away

But I have so much to do today

This reaction is often unnecessary

Does not match the circumstances and is very

Extreme and intense

Nothing I think of makes any sense

Phobias come big and small

I might scream near spiders, crowds, people or nothing at all

The thing they have all in common is dread

If you need me I am hiding in the shed

A letter to someone thinking of suicide

I wasn’t sure what to write for mental health awareness day. I decided to write a letter to someone, struggling with suicidal urges, thoughts or even plans. I hope this reaches you if you need it. I know it won’t cure anyone but I want you to know that you matter and you are never alone even if you feel like it.

Dear Friend,

I know you are struggling. I can see you are not yourself. You are acting strangely. Your smile seems artificial, you seem lost, withdrawn. I know because you have told me and I believe you. I trust that you are not lying or being dramatic when you say you want to die. That you have used all the resources you own. That telling you to ‘just take a bath’ won’t wash away the suffering that you hold within.

I have been there, not exactly the same place, but a similar one. I know how horrible it is and that you shouldn’t have to feel like this, but you do. I know right now you need a friend. Not someone to tell you what to do, unless you ask specifically, but instead someone to sit with you, to lean on when you can’t take the weight of your body anymore. I know that empty pain, that feeling like things won’t improve, that right now everything is unbearable. Even one more moment is too long. You need help now. Some kind of progress. You might have visited A&E or called the crisis team. You may have had a positive experience or have been turned away feeling more helpless than ever.

Maybe you might start hating yourself, believing you aren’t good enough, that you are a burden or you are toxic to the people you care about. None of those thoughts are true, you will probably disagree with me, but they are lies your brain is telling you. You are amazing and worthy, so worthy of great times and fun experiences. Whatever you have gone through is in the past and it has also shaped you. You have got through everyday of your life and can get through this. I believe in you.

Please don’t give up on yourself. Death is so final and your life is precious, not only will you be missed but you will miss out on so much. You are needed in this world. One day, with help, you’ll see how beautiful this earth is, how kind most people can be and how exciting opportunities are. Hopefully you will find happiness… even if it is just small glimpses in a tough day.

Sending you a hug,

Alice