It’s been a while since my last blog post. So, hello again! I hope life’s been good to you. Life has thrown lots of good things my way over the last nine months. But, as always, there have been plenty of challenges too…
Last summer, I went back out to Kolakta in India to work in the schools for street children which my charity Khushi Feet supports. As is usual for Westerners visiting Asian countries, I got Delhi Belly (aka ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’!). Not. Nice. But for me, it was more that just not nice; it was potentially life threatening. Thankfully, I managed to make it home before I got too weak, but eventually Delhi Belly completely wiped me out. I couldn’t keep any food down, and as my body had so few reserves, that was pretty dangerous. I’m not going to lie: it was a terrifying wake up call. Before this point, I wasn’t in anorexia’s ‘danger zone’ anymore. But having Delhi Belly made me realised I couldn’t afford to get sick.
That was another turning point for me. It gave me another surge of motivation to recover from my eating disorder. I started doing more little things on odd occasions to try and normalise my relationship with food. But they were just that: little things, on odd occasions. Looking back, I was naively fooling myself into thinking I was doing more to recover than I actually was. This was certainly what I was telling other people. “How are you doing?” concerned friends would ask. “Oh, so much better!” I’d reply. That wasn’t a lie – I wasn’t completely starving myself anymore. But deep down I knew I wasn’t fully recovered. And perhaps, deep down, I didn’t want to be.
You see, I’d learnt to manage my eating disorder. It was still present in my life, but it was bubbling away in the background, not interfering with my day-to-day living too much. Out of sight out of mind, right? Unfortunately not. Mental illnesses don’t work that way. They are very much out of sight, in mind. In mind every single second, of every single minute, of every single hour, of every single day.
Anyway, last weekend over Easter (when I was fed up of feeling unnaturally anxious about chocolate!), I realised my eating disorder is an unwanted weed (I do like a good analogy!). I may be managing to prune it back, but, as any gardener will tell you, weeds just keep regrowing. My eating disorder will always ruin my life, making me feel tired and anxious all the time, unless I pull it out at the root.
Last week, after an over-emotional day of feeling very tearful and fearful, I finally picked up the phone, swallowed my pride, and told my doctor that I wanted to see an eating disorder specialist. I could sense my parents’ huge sighs of relief as I did this – this is something they’ve wanted me to do for over five years. And if I’m completely honest, I felt a sense of relief too. Of course, I’m scared. The thing that I’ve hung onto, and which has have given me a strange sense of comfort for so long, is going to be given the boot. The eating disorder doesn’t like that one bit! But within myself, there is a feeling of surrender. Instead of wrestling with my problem (which is flippin’ exhausting!), I’m going to fix it. But I admit, I can’t do this on my own…
I’m not sure why I’ve resisted getting professional help for so long. It’s probably a mixture of feeling ashamed, weak, stubborn, scared… Whatever the reason, I’ve unsuccessfully tried to recover on my own for too long. Help is a good thing. And professional help… even better!
So, I’m blogging about this for two reasons…
Firstly, I want to hold myself accountable. If I put it out there in the public domain that I’m going to do this then I’ll do it. I’m not a girl who goes back on her word. I’m pushing myself past the point of no return. That makes me sound like a strong person. But in all honestly, I feel quite vulnerable at the moment. I see myself as the Very Hungry Caterpillar (you know, the one from the children’s book by Eric Carle?). Like the Hungry Caterpillar, I feel the need to cocoon myself away to rest, recuperate and recover. But more remarkably than that (*spoiler alert*), at the end of the story the Caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly. I hope this can be my ending too!
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over she became a butterfly.”
Secondly, I want to directly speak to anyone who is reading this and is struggling with a mental health issue. Any mental health issue. I want to tell you not to be afraid or ashamed. You are not alone in the way you are feeling. In our crazy world, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. There are friends out there who want to support you. And, most importantly, there are specialists out there who can help you. If what you’re battling inside your head is making you feel scared and isolated, go and talk about it with someone you trust.
I believe the stigma surrounding mental health is lessening. It’s great to see high profile people like Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate spearheading the Heads Together campaign to get people talking about these issues. The least I can do is write a blog opening up about my struggles – and reassure others that it’s okay to do the same!
Needing help for a mental illness is not a sign of weakness. Below is a list of useful starting points for finding the help you (or someone you know) may need, and deserve…
Anxiety UK: www.anxietyuk.org.uk
Bipolar UK: www.bipolaruk.org.uk
Depression Alliance: www.depressionalliance.org
Men’s Health Forum: www.menshealthforum.org.uk
No Panic: www.nopanic.org.uk
OCD Action: www.ocdaction.org.uk