Posts Tagged ‘#TopicsToDiscuss’

Don’t Lose Your Grip Zimbabwe

Don’t Lose Your Grip has been around for the last 2 years. For Chrisselle and myself, it was a way of honouring our friends memory and coping with her suicide. Along the way we made some amazing friends and helped a few people open up about their mental health. This has been great but in 2013 we decided that we needed to take it to the next level.

On the UK front Chrisselle has been raising money for local charities with her Cupcake & Tea events in Livingston. This has also been a great place for people to find support in their local community while being able to open up about the mental health issues that are so often swept under the rug. Along with the fundraising teas, she is working on setting up local therapy & support groups and planning a charity benefit later this year. All in all, things are moving forward quite swimmingly.

We still have our weekly #TopicsToDiscuss about mental health on Monday’s and eating disorders on Tuesdays to raise awareness and remind people that it is ok not to be ok… Opening up about these serious issues are key in the fight against judgment and stigmas. And of course we still have our #InspirationalSongOfTheDay competitions because the way we see it, whatever you’re going through, someone else has also been there… and they probably wrote a song about it. Music can get through to us when ordinary words seem futile. Reminding each and every person suffering in silence out there that they are not alone is just one of the benefits of our twitter account.

On the Zimbabwe front things are just getting started… We have set up a Zim twitter account so that we can targert Zim specific stigmas and challenges regarding mental health. Every Thursday at 8pm we’ll be having a stigma-busting discussion on twitter called  #TTDzim (Topics To Discuss Zimbabwe) and hopefully every conversation will bring us one step closer to understanding and a judgement free country. We’re also urging our followers to kick off their tweeting day with a #ReasonToSmile and posting something positive about their day or something they are looking forward to on their page on a daily bases. We are currently in talks with a few professionals to help us set up a support line – someone you can call when you are feeling depressed or worried about a friend or need help getting in touch with a medical professional. Help is available, sometimes t is just hard to find… We want to do everything in our power to make support more accessible. And once we have our network of professionals set up, we want to set up a support group in every town.

No one should be judged for the way they feel and everyone should have the oppertunity to get help. Our world isn’t perfect and there is still a long way to go before we reach our Utophia but that doesn’t mean we should give up or stop trying to get there. The power is in our hands and we’re tired of waiting for someone else to be the change that we can be but we can’t do it alone, so join us on twitter or like us on facebook and let’s save some lives one conversation at a time…

Paralyzed by fear

Finding fear in every thought… being worried about every catastrophe and concerned about every outcome… worrying about things that others hardly notice… It’s a little something known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

For the last 2 days I have been stressed out over asking my friend for a phone number of one of the guys who work for him. I just had to ask him one simple question that logically he would have no reason to say ‘no’ to so that I can call the number and ask his worker a question…. Sounds simple enough, right? But I couldn’t bring myself to do it! It it wasn’t for the fact that the guy happened to drive into our yard this morning, I’d probably still be experiencing shortness of breath and would have been able to look forward to another sleepless night…

So what is GAD? Well these guys can put it a lot better (or at least in a lot more words) than I can NIMH and my favorite Help Guide and just for good measure Wikipedia… You can also checkout what our followers thought about it on twitter via #TopicsToDiscuss

I’d rather remind you that as much as anxiety sucks and as much as the fear torments us, we are not alone… You are not the only one! And as long as we have the courage to talk about it, someone will be willing to listen. As long as we remember to fight through the fear and find the calm, there will be support and understanding.

You can set up your own ‘calm plan’ Something that lists all of the things you like to do and all of the things that remove the fear from your thoughts. Make sure this plan is accessible to you at all times because sometimes the fear and anxiety is so great that we do not even realize we are in a state of panic until it paralyzes us. Every step you take and every tip you try is one more weapon you have against your Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

So feel free to share your tips and even the things that did not work for you with us in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can also follow us on twitter and send us a direct message Who knows, maybe we can help each other…

 

Anxious on a whole new level

 What is Anxiety? Well, it’s when your heart pounds before a difficult exam or competitive match. That moment before a date when you have butterflies in your stomach. When you get nervous about stepping into your bosses office or you are concerned about family issues. These are all natural reactions… But when they reach a whole new level and worries, fears, or anxiety attacks seem overwhelming and are preventing you from living your life the way you’d like to, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Luckily there are ways you can ease the anxiety and control the attacks. You have the power to take back control of your life!

Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. Like with most other Mental Illnesses. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving, or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Yet another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.

Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened…

So tonight we asked our followers a little bit about Anxiety and the 6 types of Anxiety Disorders currently defined. First we started by asking them what Anxiety feels like to them? Which anxious moments have they faced?

  • A burglary
  • Facing the parents
  • Exams
  • Job Interview
  • High School graduation
  • Everything

We’ve all experienced most of these feelings… fortunately for most of us, these feelings pass relatively quickly. For someone suffering from anxiety, it generally lasts much longer – sometimes even after the person has left the situation that sparked the panic. So we asked our followers what they do in these situations to calm their nerves and breathe a little easier.

  • Excercise
  • Call a friend
  • Suck on a sweet
  • Coloring books
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Write
  • Listen to music
  • Breathe

These are all great self-help tips that can become life changing habits. In order to take back control of your life and actually enjoy it rather than live in fear of it, sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and face the source. Yes, I know… it’s not easy! But it is worth it! Imagine being able to do all of the things you once loved to do and spend time with those you love without constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop… this is possible. Most anxiety disorders are extremely susceptible to treatment.

In the next couple of #TopicsToDiscuss we will be taking a deeper look into the different Anxiety Disorders, namely:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder (Anxiety Attacks)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

And you are all invited to join us on twitter and share your views on all of these subjects.

Please also remember that  many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions. If you want to talk, we’re here for you and you can also check out this site to get a bit more info and support Anxiety Help Guide

Music Saves Lives

If you follow our twitter feed on a daily bases you will be aware of our #InspirationalSongOfTheDay competitions. A simple concept where our followers and even we at times get to share the songs that have helped us through tough times and made that day just a little more bearable… Sometimes this involves lengthy discussions about artists and their writing styles or just the lyrics we love or the music video that showcases it all… And it’s not really about the winner; it’s about the power of music.

 

So tonight’s #TopicsToDiscuss is about the power of music. I’m sure all of you have heard at least one person close to you say “If it wasn’t for music I would not be here” or the more poignant “Music has saved my life”. And you probably rolled your eyes and thought ‘drama queen’…. but from personal experience I can completely relate to those music lovers. When life gets you down and it feels like no one around you understands and you are completely alone, that is when music steps in and every song seems to be about you… every lyric just makes sense and every note gives your body permission to breathe… music can save lives as long as we give it permission to.

 

Have you ever experienced a moment where words from friends and family were not enough but music made sense? That’s exactly what we asked our followers and they recalled a lot of these moments… Moments when they couldn’t see the light but music helped them through it. For a list of amazing songs that inspire our followers, checkout the #InspirationalSongOfTheDay link or #20DaysOfRae

 

If you have been part of our #DLYGfamily from the beginning you’ll know that Lacey had an amazing voice… and that we loved her. Music is what brought me and Chrisselle to twitter in the first place and that is also how we met Lacey… So music has always had a very big role to play within Don’t Lose Your Grip. When Lacey took her own life it was hard on those of us left behind but music helped us cope… talking about it has helped us cope… being able to help others share has helped us cope… For us music is more than just a few notes: it is a life saving tool that can speak louder than words and get through to us when no one else can.

 

Basically, music has a brilliant way of changing our moods and allowing us to reclaim the version of ourselves that the world tries so hard to destroy. If you want to share your favorite music with us or your stories or recovery or just want to talk, we would love to hear from you! PS this discussion was inspired by one of our amazing followers @whoisalicia_ and her post Everything’s Fine

Depression VS Bipolar

Mental health is confusing. Even those of us living it have trouble understanding it, so how can we expect others to understand it? Well, be listening to us when we talk about it…

Tonight we tackled one of the confusing things about Bipolar… how does it differ from depression?

We started by asking our followers how they would define depression?              

  • ·         like a permanent grey cloud over your head, regardless of the actual weather (weather = your situation)
  • ·         always sad, feeling really low and lacking self confidence, and getting more tired than normal
  • ·         when you want to be alone, but be alone with someone
  • ·         like a slow wave of dark, aching nausea
  • ·         when everyday noise is too much, but silence is unbearable
  • ·         black cloud that follows you everywhere – all the time
  • ·         a medical condition in which one experiences low moods for a prolonged period of time or in other words, hell on earth
  • ·         my life

All very vivid explanations of this frustrating disorder… and this is how the medical professionals define it. Official Definition:

Clinical (or major) depression is a serious illness that affects every aspect of an individual’s life, including their personal and family relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. The symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Decreased activity and energy
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Increased feelings of worry and anxiety
  • Less interest or participation in, and less enjoyment of activities normally enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Change in appetite (either eating more or eating less)
  • Change in sleep patterns (either sleeping more or sleeping less)

 

A lot less expressive and slightly vague… but then we asked them how they would define Bipolar.

  • ·         half the time sad and down and tired and then the other half happy and impulsive and never sleeping
  • ·         a whirlwind of highs brought down by crippling lows. highs can also be fuelled by irritability & anxiety
  • ·         lack of sleep, lack of inhibition, lack of reason and too much emotion.

Official definition:

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in moods that alternate between “highs” (or mania) and “lows” (or depression). These manic and depressive periods vary from person to person and can last from just a few hours or days to several weeks or even months. Sometimes these periods of intense emotions are so brief and so far between that many people may not be aware that they have bipolar disorder. Sometimes these cycles are so strong and close together that it is very difficult to maintain a normal life and have normal relationships.

Bipolar depression shares many of the same symptoms of regular depression. Manic episodes are often harder to identify because many people don’t understand what the symptoms of mania are. If you experience episodes of depression followed by the following symptoms of mania, you may have bipolar disorder.

  • An extremely elated, happy mood or an extremely irritable, angry, unpleasant mood
  • Increased physical and mental activity and energy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased talking, more rapid speech than normal
  • Ambitious, often grandiose plans
  • Risk taking
  • Impulsive activity such as spending sprees, sexual indiscretion, and alcohol abuse
  • Decreased sleep without experiencing fatigue

 

So what’s the difference between Depression and Bipolar? This is what our followers came up with:

  • ·         I guess in bipolar disease u feel down and happy both at diff times (changes in emotions) but in depression mostly low
  • ·         I only have experience with depression, but I’m guessing the fact that you don’t get the “highs” with depression
  • ·         bipolar people are depressed for a shorter time and then go straight to manic and depressed people just stay depressed
  • ·         Manic Depression can mean either overly happy, overly sad or ‘normal’ where depression is just very sad most of the time

Official answer:

Bipolar disorder and depression are very similar illnesses with one major difference: People with bipolar disorder switch between episodes of depression and episodes of mania. Because these two illnesses are so similar, some people who are diagnosed as having depression may actually have bipolar disorder. One reason for this misdiagnosis is that people with bipolar disorder often only seek treatment during a depressive episode. They may also be unaware that when they’re not feeling depressed, they may actually be experiencing an episode of mania.

These two are so close and yet for the people living with these disorders, they are worlds apart. The wrong diagnosis can mean that it will take you longer to find a treatment plan that works for you but ultimately you will still get there. The most important things to remember with a diagnosis are that it is just the starting point and your input will determine how accurate your treatment is. Your doctor can not treat you for something if he does not have all of the facts and if you do not let him in on all of the facts, he will never know.

We also asked them how their diagnosis changed their lives.

  • I felt like it wasn’t all just in my head, I wasn’t making it up
  • it helped my younger siblings understand my mood swings and the meds have really helped
  • Diagnosis helps you to understand that what is happening to you is real

For most people being diagnosed was a positive… occasionally there are people who try to use your diagnosis against you and that is one of the reasons we need to stand together and talk openly about these issues. When we stand together and fight for equality while standing up for each other, only good things can come from it.

We also asked what they wish people could understand about these disorders. Take Note World

  • it’s an everyday struggle and that we have no control over it
  • forever hoping someone actually notices and cares to get me help.
  • it doesn’t make me a freak; it just means my mood swings are a little strange.

And what would you say to someone who is wondering if they have bipolar or depression?

  • Find a doctor with expertise
  • see your doctor. As terrifying as it is, it’s the only way you’ll know for sure

We finished tonight’s #TopicsToDiscuss by asking our followers if there was something they wish they had known back when they were first diagnosed. It mainly came down to not fighting it. Not trying to deny it or run from it but rather facing the diagnoses and accepting the help being offered to you. Whatever your diagnoses, you need to remember that it is only a small part of who you are and not all that you are. We also discussed that not every therapeutic tool or recovery technique or medical remedy will work for everyone. Every person is different and their treatment should be too, it’s up to you and your doctor to figure out what works best for you. Like Edison said: I have not failed, I have just found a 1000 ways for it not to work.

Find a treatment that works for you and stick with it. You are not alone and we are all here to support you through your recovery.

Sleep Is Overrated

“Sleep is overrated” “Efficiency is a word insomniacs use to defend their caffeine addiction” “Sleeping more than 4 hours a night is pointless” All of these phrases have been used about by me… but secretly I would love to be able to sleep for 8 hours straight. I would love to wake up feeling refreshed rather than with a headache. I would like to actively go to bed every night and just sleep rather than pass out from exhaustion. I would love for my eyes to not burn from pure fatigue. I would love to not fall under the insomniac umbrella. But that’s just not meant to be…

Tonight in our #TopicsToDiscuss we asked our followers how they would identify insomnia and where they think it comes from. They pretty much said what the NHS said too

Insomnia is a side effect of many things. Stress. Depression. Bad eating habits. But what side effects result from your insomnia?

  • I struggle to remember simple things sometimes
  • a huge one is the paranoia
  • finding it hard to focus
  • I get really irritable and withdrawn
  • also feel thirsty more and snack on biscuits and other junk food.
  • some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together

There are many levels of insomnia and this is also what makes it so tricky to diagnose. Insomnia is both a symptom and a side effect and that confuses things a bit, especially when you are trying to figure out how to treat it. We asked our followers the following two questions:

What do you do to trick your body into sleeping when you simply can’t stand to be awake any longer? And what has helped you retrain your brain and allow yourself to get some sleep?

  • have a bath in lavender – calming affects of certain smells can help release the tension that is keeping you awake
  • hot milk – it may seem old fashioned but the lacto has a soothing effect on your body that allows it be calm and sleep more peacefully. Plus it is associated with bed time so psychologically there is that advantage too
  • healthy eating is very affective – sometimes just eating less ‘heavy’ meals at night will make a difference. If your body does not have to digest food, it means that it can shut down and relax and not mess with your subconscious throughout the night either
  • caffeine a no-no – if you have a problem with sleeping obviously drinking coffee right before bedtime is not a good idea. A cup of tea or horlics is a better option or simply just a glass of warm milk. But just be careful not to force your body into a detox if you are slightly addicted to caffeine as this could be counterproductive. And sometimes depriving yourself of sleep during the day can help you regain control of your body clock, so coffee is not 100% bad… it’s just something you need to be aware of. There is also a chicken and egg conversation about which one came first: my caffeine addiction or my insomnia?
  • Senses – what you smell and hear makes a difference. The atmosphere that you require to get a good night’s sleep is very important. Try to eliminate all of the things that distract you in your room. Even having too many pillows on the bed or light shining in through the window can affect your sleep. Changing to darker curtains may help.
  • Noise and sounds can also interrupt your sleeping pattern – some people prefer to drown out the sounds with music while others prefer earplugs to remove all sounds completely. You need to try it out in order to determine which one will work for you.
  • Exercise – can be a good way to get rid of all of the extra energy you have and allow you to relax and get a good night’s sleep
  • Pen to paper – writing down all of the thoughts in your head when you want to go to sleep is also a useful tool. If you allow yourself to write these thoughts or concerns down then it gives your mind permission to let go of the thoughts and not fear losing them overnight by allowing you to sleep.
  • baby concept – same routine every night, brush your teeth, comb your hair, listen to the same music or watch the same movie. Like a baby, your body will get use to the routine and realize that you want it to go to sleep. Sometimes it’s like your brain is afraid of missing something so it wants to be awake all the time and if you teach it what to expect and what will happen next, it will realize that there is nothing to be missed by allowing you to sleep

In the medical profession they also use these 2 techniques

  • paradoxical intention – you try to stay awake and avoid any intention of falling asleep; it’s only used if you have trouble getting to sleep, but not maintaining sleep
  • biofeedback – sensors connected to a machine are placed on your body to measure your body’s responses, such as muscle tension and heart rate; the machine produces pictures or sounds to help you control your breathing and body responses

All of these techniques worked for someone… and it most likely failed for someone else, so try them out and let us know how they work for you. There are always more options and new things to try, as long as you are willing to keep looking for that solution, we will be here to help you too.You should consider visiting your GP if you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep or to stay asleep and it’s affecting your daily life. Do not wait until you cannot stand it anymore. You have the power to reclaim your bed as a place of comfort.

Leave your comments about tonight’s #TopicsToDiscuss or tweet us @dontloseurgrip you can even suggest a topic for our discussion next week.

People Don’t Tend To Be Burned Alive

In tonight’s #TopicsToDiscuss we started the conversation with a question: What would you like to change about the way people view Mental Illness? In short, the answer is A LOT! And here are just a few of the ones they mentioned

  • It isn’t contagious
  • It doesn’t come with an off switch
  •  It doesn’t necessarily lead to violence
  • The idea that we can all “think ourselves better” should be forgotten
  • For people to view MI as an ACTUAL illness,
  • It’s not something that you choose to have/not to have
  • Think from the patient’s point of view
  • Accept that we are not pretending for attention
  • That there isn’t “something wrong” with me

These are but a few of the many stigmas we face on a daily bases. One of our followers commented “I hope as medicine progresses and you can see more physical evidence of mental illness people will be more accepting.” There has been a lot of progress over the years but it is clear that there is still a really long way to go before we can live in a judgement free world…

So we asked our followers if they have been noticing the positive changes surrounding mental illness and this is where the conversation went:

  • That openness and acceptance that you find in true friends who are willing to understand is more frequent
  • People aren’t simply locked up
  • Electro Shock therapy is not as cruel any more
  • When you go into a mental institution, they don’t through away the key
  • More people are talking about it
  • Social Media is giving us a platform to connect

And like one of our followers pointed out: “In the modern world mentally ill people don’t tend to be burned alive, so I’d say that’s progress” Yeah, I know it’s not much… but it is a start! It is a point where we can at least say “It is better” instead of always just holding on to the phrase “It gets better”. Yes, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is still a lot of work to be done before we can celebrate… but at least for a moment, we need to stop and remember that it is already better.

We cannot allow ourselves to get so caught up in the things that frustrate us that we block ourselves off from the things that bring us hope.  We asked our followers what they would keep about the view that the world currently has of mental illness. There weren’t a lot…

  • I want to keep people who listen, who don’t judge
  • I want to keep the way social media is opening up communication
  • I want to keep the moments when someone understands that I don’t even understand it

Compared to the things we want to get rid of, the ones we want to keep seem miniscule but if you weigh them up, one moment of understanding can remove 10 moments of pain and judgement. Of course we can’t sit back and pretend that it’s all good right now or that it will get better by itself, it is up to us. So often we get caught up in what we cannot do or how many people still sit back in ignorance and judge us that we forget how powerful we are. We forget that we are not alone and that we have the power to make a difference. And not just any difference, THE DIFFERENCE. We get to be the difference we want to see in the world; we get to educate those around us and teach them to be more tolerable through open conversations.

As always, thank you to everyone who took the time to join our discussion and open up about these issues. We appreciate you more than you will ever know.

Reality of Recovery

There are so many people still suffering in silence. That’s more astonishing when you consider how many people use the internet every single day and have access to knowledge and support and help, yet it does not always seem like enough.

One of our aims with Don’t Lose Your Grip is to give others who are going through or have been through the struggles that we are facing a platform to speak openly and honestly and most importantly in a judgment free environment. Our weekly #TopicsToDiscuss does just this.

Tonight we back to our routes a bit and reminded our followers that we do these discussions because we have been there… It really is that simple, we have been in similar situations and we want know how much opening up about these issues that are considered taboo has meant for our recovery.

From a personal perspective: I haven’t really been eating in a healthy manner and I can feel it throughout my body. I can feel my energy levels dwindling and my control slowly dissolving. I know that this is not acceptable and that I can’t go back to the beginning of my eating disorder struggle. I can’t go through all of this pain and loneliness again. I can’t start all over again. I can’t give up all of my triumphs in one foul sweep. I simply can’t! For the last week I have been eating only my 3 favourite foods. And only eating half portions… This scares me. I know how hard I have worked to get to this point of not allowing my eating habits to control me; I know how many times I cried and begged for help without anyone being able to read the signs and I don’t want to go through it again; I don’t want to go back to that lonely place where I hate myself.

By now I’ve realized that I am not alone in my struggle and whatever I’m going through, there is probably someone else out there who feels to same. So we asked our followers to share their recovery fears with us. These were some of their fears 

–          Not knowing when you will relapse

–          Fearing the relapse

–          Not knowing if it will ever happen again

–           The fear of losing my strength

–          That doubt in my mind that I never did fully recover and it will happen again

–          The fear that I’ll never actually beat it, that it’ll just be sitting there waiting for me to mess up again

It comes down to realizing that there is still so much about eating disorders that people have not been able to articulate or understand. These are all things that you won’t find on a recovery pamphlet. People don’t talk about the reality of recovery openly enough. This sets us up for a dangerous fall because we have no idea what to expect and that builds so much anxiety and fear. We need to talk about these issues more openly! We really need to get to a stage where people do not judge you for the label of your disorder.

And then, as soon as you open up about your disorder, everyone wants to ‘fix’ you. And as they through their ignorant comments about, they don’t realize that they are actually hurting you a lot more. This is why we asked our followers what the worst advice was that they have received regarding their eating disorders. This is what they shared

–          “You’re doing it for attention; you’re being so selfish”

–          “Just get over it”

–          “Just eat one”

–          “you need to get some chips inside you”

–          “You’ve got to have SOMETHING!”

–          “When you’re at work, leave your issues outside”

–          “Go on a diet”

–          “your being pathetic now, grow up”

–          “you are too fat to have had an ED”

There were a few extra implying that you can just switch your disorder on or off whenever you feel like it. Plus a few where they were told that it was their choice to suffer from an eating disorder. These ignorant comments saddens me… if you do not understand what someone is going through, don’t patronise them by spewing out the first phrase that comes to mind. If you really want to help, give them a hug and tell them the truth: tell them that you don’t understand and that you just don’t get it. At least that way we have the opportunity to give you more information and let you in on the other side of ED; the side that no one really talks about.

One of our followers commented that some think we do it for attention. So when people die from EDs, is that for attention seeking too? It really hit home how much these simple little phrases can affect our choices and lives. Simply by allowing an ignorant and negative comment in, we’re placing ourselves at risk. Going on a diet to reduce the amount of food intake or your weight can result in an over correction and lead to anorexia or bulimia and all the way back to over eating again. Finding a balance is hard under any circumstances but when you have this shadow of an ED constantly following you around; it makes the subject a lot more sensitive. When someone mentions food, your mind automatically races to figure out what they are implying about you; how this mention of food will affect you and what everyone else expects you to do about it or how they expect you to react to it… That is a lot of thought that goes into just one bite. There is a lot more to an eating disorder than just eating.

The emotions that are involved are far more powerful than the physical aspects. The scars that we hind behind our ED are the ones that last the longest and you can be on the healthiest eating plan in the world but if you do not take care of the emotions behind it, you cannot succeed. We asked our followers which things have resulted in their relapses. These were just a few

–          SCALES!!!! They always renew the obsession with getting on multiple times a day

–          Magazines like Vanity Fair which forces the idea that being super, dangerously skinny is beauty

–          Too many bills to pay and pressure of everyday life

–          Normalisation of junk food always tells me I’ll be able to eat it this time… because other people can

Realising that the things that most people do not give a second thought to affects you this much is tough… Trying to remove them from your life or finding ways around the pressure is just as tough and when you have to do all of this while being judged, it a hundred times worst. That lead us to ask what has helped our followers find the strength to keep fighting and we got two very clear answers

–          Support from friends or family

–          Music

Having someone who can remind you of all of your strength and beauty when you cannot see it, is extremely powerful. Having someone to go to when nothing makes sense is very useful and knowing that you can build up a relationship of trust where they see you for more than just your diagnosis, is truly amazing. Support is a big part of recovery.

We have been big advocates of the power of music from the get go. We have always believed that music is just one more way to express how you feel and remind you that someone else has also been there and experienced the same trials and emotions and they made it… If they can do it, so can you. Music gives hope when words fail. Also the reason we’re dedicating our #InspirationalSongOfTheDay competition to #20DaysOfRae by Rae Earl.

So what did this 2hour conversation between friends in a safe environment mean? Well, maybe nothing to you… But for me, it was great to talk about the things that society tells me to keep secret and it is nice to be reminded that you are not alone every once in a while. It validates the feelings I have by showing me that I am not the odd one out. It reminds me that I have a lot of support.

Ok, so it’s not exactly a world changing event but it’s a start… It’s a place for people to express what’s on their mind without being afraid of the judgement and everyone is welcome.

Not the end, just a helping hand

I was gearing up for another mental health #TopicsToDiscuss and thought it was fitting to discuss the UK bill that so many are excited about. It reached the 3rd reading in the House Of Lords.

This “order of commitment discharged” brings us one step closer to a world where you don’t have to be afraid to ask for help. Today, a Bill that will remove legislation that has been discriminating against those suffering from mental illness is a little closer to being set in stone.

But are we even able to see the changes around us? Have we become so immune to the positive and comfortable in our misery that we have forgotten to look up and see that little glimmer of hope at the end of our collective dark tunnels? Maybe we have… maybe it’s just me… maybe it’s not too late to change…

Looking back on the last few years I notice the change within myself. Not just growth or that understanding that can only come with time but also my judgement towards myself. I was so afraid at first. That very first passing diagnosis that I brushed under the carpet followed by the secrets I tried to keep from myself and the person I created to manipulate those around me into thinking that I am fine. All of the times I couldn’t open up or even own up to the demons I were fighting internally. The times I hated myself for being so weak that I couldn’t accomplish the simplest of tasks. I remember the anger and the disappointment that I directed at myself and looking back at it now, I realize that I must have projected all of this onto everyone else out there suffering from a mental illness too.

But through my diagnosis and a million discussions with patient individuals, I have learned. I have come to understand that beneath it all I am still here. The fear of what others might think of me means nothing now that I know how proud I am of myself, of how far I’ve come. I now know that a diagnosis is not the end, but rather a helping hand. I wish I didn’t keep it hidden for so long and I wish that I could have been just that little bit braver and opened up a little sooner but I still got there in the end, so it’s all good. I believe that I needed to keep my friends at bay under the pretence that they will ‘not understand’ or judge me simply because I couldn’t deal with the fact that I was judging myself so harshly. They were always there for me, no matter how much I pushed them away… And by never giving up on me, they continuously reminded me that I am worth fighting for. On the days when getting out of bed was so much harder than anything else I have ever done, during those moments every kind word someone has ever uttered in my direction and every hug I couldn’t wait to get out of, gave me courage and the strength to not give up. I am glad that I have lived through all of the things life has thrown my way because I am a more understanding person for it…

I can feel the power that comes from your first wake-up-breath and I can see the beauty in a strangers smile. I can appreciate the little things that so many people take for granted because to me, they are huge feats. I can open up about all of the chaos hidden in the corners of my mind because I know for a fact that it gets better! No matter how frustrating or draining or numb this day has been, the promise of a reason to smile for tomorrow over rules the damage that was done to me today.

Sometimes all we have to do is look up and take a little step back so that we can see the amazing rainbow popping out from that dark cloud hanging over our heads…

Love Never Fails

I’ve been suffering from depression since the age of 7. But I didn’t realize this because well, I was 7 and back then people didn’t talk about it.

I barely understood emotions, let alone the fact that they affect each of us differently. I had a good home: both of my parents loved me; I had a dog; I got A’s in school and I had friends and played sport… but I couldn’t understand why I was so sad all of the time.

I tried to distract myself… by playing with my dog; always doing my homework and dragging my friends outside to play sports. It worked, sort of… I had enough reasons to pretend to be happy. I had enough excuses to hide my pain and fear behind smiles. But then I got a little older and at 14 I realized that all of my friends were in that constant giggling phase and how much it annoyed me. At first I thought it was just because it’s sort of annoying but then I realized it’s because I couldn’t. I couldn’t giggle or laugh out loud. I actually became one of those people who would substitute a laugh by saying “Ha, that’s funny”. I couldn’t remember what my laugh sounded like and to make it worse, all of the things that I was able to use as distractions were no longer working. Instead of giving me a momentary relief, they were just reminding me of the fact that I needed a relief from being me!  And so, I had to find new things to help me find or rather fake ‘happy’.

I changed sports; took up drama and debating and I was even a cheerleader for 3 days before I came to my senses – I have no rhythm and I am not flexible! I changed subjects and my career path and I secretly hoped that it would get better. It didn’t really. I mean, I had a lot of fun and made really amazing friends and experienced things that I will remember forever but when I was alone, I was still me and I was still sad and it still hurt.

But I was finally old enough to understand psychology and with the help of some older therapists I got to take a closer look into my life and figured out a few things that I could make peace with and let go and a few months after my 15th birthday I had an amazing revelation of forgiveness that helped me breathe a little easier. And for a while I was only sad sometimes. It was around this time that one of the therapists who’ve known me for quite a while mentioned to me that she noticed that was suffering from manic depression and that she wanted to help me. The thing was, I didn’t want to be suffering from manic depression and I was scared of what helping me would entail. So I brushed her off and said that she was overreacting and that I was fine.

That’s when I realized that my hiding techniques needed to be updated. I filled my schedule to the extent where I would pretend to have watched TV shows that my friends are talking about when in fact all I did was spend 15min reading TV guide between all of the other activities… Thinking about it now, it seems really crazy but to me, it was the only way I could ensure that I had no time to think by myself or about myself. The distraction was great, ok not really. It stressed me out a lot! I was so busy all of the time and never slept more than 3hours a night and as productive as that part of my life was, just thinking about it exhausts me. And when High School came to an end, that’s when my little plot went up in smoke…

I was really stressed and lost and couldn’t figure out how to ‘be normal’ or at least calm.  I spent a summer getting back to family and nature and that was pretty cool. I found a couple of reasons to smile and it made the bad times seem not so bad. And then my grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 Cancer, my dad died, my life changed and I moved to London. I started a new life and hoped that I could run away from my depression. That didn’t work… As much fun as my new environment was, depression was creeping back in and this time its hold was a lot stronger than ever before. When I finished studying I started to see my life flash before my eyes and I was that confident that I was where I needed to be anymore. So, there I was: lying on the bathroom floor hoping that something would happen and magically it would all make sense again; that everything that I had been through would not have been for nothing; that I was strong enough to go back and face my life. Sadly that was not even close to what my mind wanted. I would spend days not sleeping and then crash by sleeping for 30hours straight. My eating habits were, well erratic to say the least and getting out of bed was a massive effort let alone getting out of the house. I did have a few friends who never gave up on me and kept dragging me out. I’m really thankful to them, because without it I would not have been able to make it through those years. But just like before, none of those mini distractions were able to ‘fix’ my depression and the thoughts that were stuck playing on a loop in my mind…

So once again, I changed my surroundings and moved to the other side of the world. I thought that maybe simpler would be better and that if I could just go back to the basics, everything else would make sense again. That’s not exactly what happened. Instead I just had way more time to myself and the loop of negative thoughts in my head just became louder. It was also during this time that one of my friends committed suicide. This rattled me a lot! More than most of the people in my life realized. See, to me, she had so much more to live for than I believed I did. And I was so close to the edge myself. Push the thoughts of ending all of it out of my head was getting harder. If Lacey couldn’t cope, what chance would I have of living a happy life? Or even just surviving?

But once again my friends came to the rescue. One simply talked to me about his problems and allowed me to realize that I was not completely alone in my misery, plus it gave me the opportunity to put my painful experiences to good use by giving him a little bit of advice. Then there was Chrisselle, after everything that she has lived through, she managed to turn it into something productive. All of her pain and anger channelled into making a difference. This life saving difference goes by the name of Don’t Lose Your Grip.  It saved my life. Chrisselle saved my life.

Not only did I have a way of coping with the loss of a friend and a reason to give a positive meaning to this pain but I also had something to do when being stuck in my head got too much. And one day as I was talking to all of these people on the DLYG twitter page, people who were also going through the things I was feeling, I realized that this was a great opportunity to talk about our fears and fight stigmas publicly. One thing lead to another and that’s how #TopicsToDiscuss was born. It’s an open platform that allows all of us and the DLYG followers to share their views and opinions on everything from Mental Health issues on Monday to Eating Disorders on Tuesdays and Self Injury on Wednesdays.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about these things openly and honestly but the way I see it, if we don’t, who will? We have the opportunity to educate those who have experienced our thoughts by sharing the thoughts we have kept secret for far too long. Occasionally we ask questions we do not even have the answers to and every once in a while someone new will join the conversation and we’ll be able to change their negative perception of mental health or eating disorders or help them see beyond the scares of selfharm. That, to me, is a victory.

Every conversation we have brings us one step closer to an accepting world. One without judgement.  One where love never fails…

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