It’s tough. Anyone with any experience of mental illness will tell you that. Anyone with two brain cells should be able to see that.
Whether you struggle with depression, psychosis, anxiety, an eating disorder, bipolar, Dissociated Identity Disorder or PTSD, in a way, we’re all in the same boat. The same shitty boat that barely keeps us above water.
My thoughts have been hectic, my mood low and my intake all over the place. It hasn’t been all bad though, there have been moments of light and happiness in between the misery. And that has largely been down to the conscious choices I make when dealing with my illness.
I’ve been struggling with anorexia for over 5 years now. In many ways, I am doing the best I have ever done. My weight has been hovering around the minimum healthy weight for a long while now and my last relapse was over a year ago. I don’t hoard food any more, I don’t weigh myself 50 times a day any more (no, I’m not exaggerating) and I am not so consumed by this illness.
I have not recovered though. That remains very clear to me. Meal and snack times are a constant worry for me, my body dysmorphia till distorts my understanding of my body and there is the struggle with silly ‘anorexic’ behaviours that inconvenience me and perpetuate the longevity of the illness.
I can see there is a way forward and through my recent commencement of GAIN I have been making progress (see Operation: Gain #1) and I am so thankful.
In an ideal world, I would have weekly appointments with a therapist and be under the supervision of a psychiatrist. But I’m not. I haven’t had therapeutic input since August 2013 so perhaps it isn’t any wonder I haven’t ‘recovered’ yet.
I’ve been fighting, of course, because what else can I do? I can only go so far with the support of family and friends though, as amazing as they are.
I hope soon to get help. I hope.
As for now, I have had to go back to the drawing room and see how I can manage without professional assistance.
I talk. I complain. I moan.
Luckily, I have the best housemates. Speaking to them, about how shit everything is recently or simply about plans for the weekend, is priceless. The worst thing I can do is lock myself in my room and let the thoughts take hold. And once they do it’s very hard to get the real Alexandra back- this I know.
If there’s no one in I know I can call my friends, boyfriend, I can call my parents, I can call helplines if I need. I do sometimes feel guilty for relying on others so much- but I did not choose this battle and I do not need to face it alone.
When I get stressed or overwhelmed, well, let’s just say anorexia takes advantage and tries to shoulder barge its way back in. If I make the time to chill out for half an hour or so, I can usually keep things under control and if all goes well I can get back to what I was doing before.
Everyone needs breaks: they’re important.
3. Get Outside
If I don’t get outside once in a while, I go stir crazy.
Sometimes I sit in our garden. Other times I will go to the local shop. Or, I’ll take a short walk. I find it so useful to ‘get out of my head’ and get outdoors, fresh air is an excellent alleviator of stress and it also enables me to see there are bigger, more important things than the thoughts running around my head.
4. Distraction Techniques
An old favourite of mine. I throw myself into books (not literally! Though, if I could, I would!), I paint, I draw, I knit, I watch documentaries. This is about stopping the destructive cycle. If I think less about restricting, it is less likely the thoughts and urges are going to overwhelm me and so I am less likely to act on my urges.
5. Educate Yo’self
Mindfulness, meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Look at these techniques and get to know and understand the principles behind them. Knowledge is power, my friends. And seeing how you can apply these techniques to your own struggles is one of the best ways to manage your illness (in my experience).
It’s difficult. Of course it is. Especially when faced with the possibility of this being a life long illness- which of course is not always the case- but well worn paths are difficult to get off especially when there’s no one there to help…
I live in hope, though.
I really do.