Surviving New Year

As eating disorders (and several other mental illnesses, including OCD, depression and anxiety) can be caused or contributed to by external pressures, I think it’s important to cover NYE here on the blog, because around 90% of people I speak to in the run up to New Year are feeling negative, fearful and under pressure. Encouraged (and even persuaded) to ‘go all out’ and plaster photos of themselves having an ‘amazing time’ all over Facebook, with the addition of the impressive, unrealistic plans and ‘resolutions’ required to see in the new year with, many people end up forced into a new year that doesn’t represent anything near what they hoped or felt it should.

But despite this societal pressure and what your friends, family or the media might have you believe, new year doesn’t have to be ‘incredible’ and ‘spectacular’ to be a special and important time of reflection and positive change. If you do it in the right way and shun the norm, you may find yourself having the first new year you actually enjoy – and what’s more, it may even be a productive time and contribute to your wider recovery.

So why am I writing about this?

I was always one of those people who secretly disliked New Year. I felt like it was a ‘big deal’ and however much I’d done or however I decided to celebrate it was somehow never enough. I always started the following year feeling depressed, inadequate and anxious. But this year for the first time I am approaching New Year festivities feeling fine. It’s no big deal – and I feel okay.

The reason for this is that I have spent the last year working on my outlook and I’ve dramatically changed my perception of the world around me, which has in turn altered my behaviour. Instead of planning ahead obsessively and trying to control every single part of my future I’ve spent a lot of time training myself to let it go. ‘Taking each day as it comes’ is a time-honoured piece of advice – but it wasn’t until this year that I actually understood the true meaning (and importance) of it. I also realised that I was looking at the past in an exclusively negative light, rather than focusing on the many positive things that had happened during the last twelve months.

New Year always represented failure for me. I always felt that I should have been better, more like someone else, should’ve done more, seen more, been more. I looked back on the last twelve months and counted the things I hadn’t done, forgetting about the things I had achieved and the places I’d been, the memories I’d made with the people I loved.  Whilst everyone else celebrated and posted photos of themselves at lavish parties, I’d get so drunk I couldn’t remember the last half of the party or of the 1st January – or I’d lie in bed and shake with sadness, anger and frustration, going through everything I hadn’t done in my head and comparing my life to other people’s.

That is no way to spend any time of the year – let alone the beginning of a new one. No-one should have to spend new year alone (and by that, I mean you don’t have to be physically alone, just psychologically isolated. As Robin Williams once said, ‘the worst thing in life is not being alone, but ending up with people who make you feel alone’). Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder or just feel down at this time of year, please take a look through my post and read about the things that helped me to feel fine about the coming New Year rather than poorly. They’re important things I’ve learnt both through years of self-loathing and finally taking charge to enjoy every part of my life for what it is – not what I’m told it should be or feel it should be. You can do the same – no matter what your situation may be or how bad you’re feeling right now.

It’s all out of your control – so you have to go with the flow

You should be present, in the present. Forget about the future and stop focusing on the past. At the end of the day we can’t control the future – not for ourselves and not for anyone else. We can’t control the outcomes of our actions, even if we change our behaviour, we can’t control the consequences. We can’t plan for outside interference with our carefully laid plans. So we need to stop trying – and ignoring the people who tell us we can and should try to control every last detail in the life of our future self. This new year, create an environment which enables you to make plans for the future without feeling pressure. Know that there is no ‘big start’ to your future – you can start now.

Take care of yourself and make manageable plans for the months ahead

Write down three manageable goals for yourself for next year. Then break them down into the smaller goals you’ll need to accomplish to achieve them. Maybe you want to get a new job next year. That’s the main goal – so underneath that, you could include ‘writing a CV’ and ‘contacting recruitment agencies’. If you achieve just one of those important goals, you have done what you set out to do.

Look back on this year’s achievements and positives

There WILL be at least one. Maybe that was that you had a home to live in, or family around you who tried to support you this year. It’s very easy in a society where everybody strives to have more and we are actively encouraged to have more to forget that if we had less, we’d be unhappier than we are now.

Life is not measured by achievements. Now social media has pitted everyone in ‘competition’ with each other, lots of people feel pressure to live a ‘better life’. But actually there is joy in the ordinary. We ignore so many small blessings every single day, like having clothes to wear, living without fear, finding clean running water in our taps. That’s not to say you’re ungrateful or a bad person – you’ve just been conditioned to forget what you have got and focus on what you haven’t instead. Spend time consciously thinking about one thing in your life you love every day. At New Year, think about ten things – or more. Your life is wonderful just with you in it, being alive – and you don’t need to have climbed Everest, invented a cure for cancer or been voted America’s Next Top Model to be important and special.

Don’t be so busy worrying about next year’s achievements and the things you haven’t done that you forget about how far you have come.

New Year isn’t the big ‘new beginning’ it’s supposed to be – you can start again at ANY time

Just because you don’t address your thoughts, feelings and health now, doesn’t mean you can’t tomorrow, or the day after that, or sometime in March next year. In fact, ‘addressing’ things can involve something very small – like making the decision to read a book or not to drink to excess. You can start now and build – there is no ‘epiphany’ moment just like the movies where you wake up and your life is great.

This philosophy is actually central to my friend and colleague Geraldine Hills’ teachings – and her book, Second Chance Day, is all about the importance of giving yourself a second chance, anytime, anywhere, however small or large. When we met we realised that we had lots in common – and one of those things was the fact that inadvertently, however bad we felt about ourselves and however low we’d been, we’d always given ourselves a second chance. We’d always persisted, come out fighting, been determined to succeed – and to do that, we have to give ourselves second chances, like getting out of bed and brushing our teeth, stopping smoking and being kinder to ourselves.

You don’t have to celebrate

Everyone (me included) seems to feel as though this time of traditional celebration should be spent at a party, event or family gathering to be worth recognition. But for me, being comfortable and feeling happy and content is the only way to spend New Year – and being around a load of strangers getting wasted isn’t my idea of fun (anymore!) I’d much rather stay in – and despite the   , I don’t feel bad about that – and nor should you. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad because you’re not attending a lavish ball or watching fireworks from the London Eye. These things are often overrated and greatly exaggerated thanks to clever photography and social media. As long as you are safe and happy and are surrounded by the right people (or alone, if you want to be), it’s fine.

If you’re still struggling please check out my accompanying post about New Year here, and if you need extra support or someone to talk to over the coming days Samaritans are available for impartial advice and support.

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This time last year…

This post isn’t specifically Anorexia-related. In fact, it’s a post for anyone who feels as though ‘looking forward’ to the next year is pointless – the people the words ‘New Years Eve’ fill with dread.

For about twelve years, I dreaded two annual events – my birthday, and New Year. Both had the same outcome and difficult thoughts attached to them. Every NYE I’d spend a considerable amount of time thinking about all the things I hadn’t done. I’d contemplate all the things other people had done that I wished I’d done. I’d beat myself up for not doing things differently so that I could have had a ‘better year’. I’d go over all the ‘bad things’ that had happened in my head until I was numb, then I’d start making negative assumptions about the year ahead.

This of course was VERY unhelpful and did nothing for my confidence or self-esteem, let alone my mental well-being as a whole. Most years I’d get blind drunk and wouldn’t even see the first half of the New Year. Some years I’d self-harm. Others I’d spend in bed asleep because I couldn’t cope with facing the merriment and endless boasting of parties and ‘new beginnings’ on TV and social media.

If any of this sounds like you, then I have a simple solution which turned things around for me. In many ways I changed my whole life with the shift in perspective I experienced late last year – but one of the biggest things I found useful was being more positive. I don’t mean this in a sparkly, patronising, self-help book kind of way. I mean positivity in its realest, rawest form – knowing that you can genuinely apply it to yourself and your life when you never thought you could before.

Positivity for me is not about reading flowery quotes and being ‘holistic’ and ‘spiritual’. It’s about being really honest with yourself and recognising that your brain sometimes tricks you. It tricks you into believing that everything’s bad and that you have no-one and nothing – when in fact, the opposite is true.

I want to demonstrate the power of positivity with my own story – and offer a handy tip for anyone dreading New Year festivities.

Things can change SO much in 12 months

This time last year, I was in a real mess. No job, no money, no career or future prospects (as I saw it then). I had lost a lot of weight as I couldn’t eat and my anxiety was worse than it ever had been before – I struggled to sleep as obsessive thoughts invaded my head at night and I’d lie awake having panic attacks until the small hours without knowing the real reason why. I didn’t see a future for myself because I couldn’t understand how things could possibly get better – how could they improve from the way they were now? I threw my dreams down the toilet and listed in my head the reasons why I wouldn’t get a job, wouldn’t have money anymore, counted the odds stacked against me. I didn’t have to think very hard – things were difficult and my situation wasn’t straightforward. I was in the middle of a rather nasty legal battle with my former company because they had treated me so badly which made me incredibly anxious, I was noticeably unwell, and I had no reference to support the hard work I’d done for them during my time in their employment. I had no money at all because they refused to pay me my last wage. Job interviews seemed to go well but nobody called me back. The weather was dark and depressing and my health was deteriorating. I was fearful of going back to work, but I knew I had to try and get a job again quickly.

Now, things are better than I ever could have imagined. I’d never have believed anyone who told me a year ago that I would be running my own business now and that I’d have written and published books. I look back on that time now and I know that I genuinely believed I couldn’t turn things around. But I did, and so can you.

Being ‘positive’ involves checking yourself and turning things on their head

Things were at an all-time low for me when I decided I needed to change who I was and how I felt in order to see a positive outcome in my life. I regained my fire (a determination which is always within me – and it’s likely you have it, too) and decided that no, this was not the way I wanted to live my life. I wanted (and deserved) to be financially stable, even successful. But to do this, I had to change my outlook.

I started with the small stuff – recognising my luck when I got a job interview, feeling grateful for kind words or the support of my parents and friends. When I really looked at my life, I realised that it wasn’t bad at all – and actually, I had plenty of opportunity to turn things around. I started to distract myself from anxiety by planning for the future with tangible goals which made me excited and passionate. Instead of manically shaking and going over the events of the past year I sat down and started to finish my book. I decided to offer writing services to tide me over whilst I was out of work and set up a Facebook page – and within a month, I had two clients. Now I have a successful copywriting business and I’ve worked with companies I could never have imagined I would back then.

Most importantly than all of that, I recognise that if I lost everything again, I am still lucky. I have my family and lovely friends who stay with me and support me even when I am going (literally) crazy. I have a house and I have food to eat, I have running water, I have possessions. I also have opportunity and freedom – the opportunity to change things if I want to and the freedom to do so. The best of it is, you have these things too.

Think about what you HAVE achieved, how far you’ve come in the past year

New Year encourages us to look forward, but also to look back and have a big think about all the things we haven’t done. This is useless and incredibly unhelpful, not to mention harmful for your mental health. Instead of listing the things you wish you had done, list the things you did do. Remember to include the small ones – like spending time with your kids or seeing friends. Although social media would have you believe that lavish holidays and fancy cars make life remarkable, it’s actually these things, the smallest things, which make your life amazing. Often we realise that far too late – so celebrate it today.

 

If you’ve read this and are thinking ‘that can’t be me’ – it CAN. Believe it can if you want things to change. I was at rock bottom – but within 12 months I have never been better or healthier mentally and physically. I’m excited by the year ahead, not fearful of it – and you can be too with time. You don’t have to wait till New Year to make a change and shift your perspective in a positive way. You can do it at ANY time of year – so don’t feel as though you’ve ‘missed the boat’ if you’re not able to tackle things right now.

If you’re still struggling please check out my accompanying post about New Year here, and if you need extra support or someone to talk to over the coming days Samaritans are available for impartial advice and support.

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The mirror doesn’t lie – but your brain does

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body image

We all know the well-known phrase ‘the camera doesn’t lie.’ But as I discuss in this post, the camera doesn’t always give us a true representation of how we look – especially not in the eyes of others. Mirrors however are an altogether different matter.

What we see in the mirror is real, right? Not necessarily. Far from simply being a ‘reverse’ version of us, mirrors can distort our perception of ourselves beyond belief. Mirrors become a pretty big issue for anyone with body image problems or body dysmorphia. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years ignoring mirrors, or spending time in them scrutinising my faults, or simply staring in disgust feeling bad about what I see staring back at me. It’s safe to say that my relationship with mirrors isn’t the best.

Since I’ve been living with myself in a better way a mirror has become more of a tool (for putting on make-up) and decorative item than an aggressor for my mental health problems. But even then, I often wonder why I still look ‘different’ in mirrors from one day to the next. One minute I feel positive about how I look, the next I feel shit. Does the mirror lie, then? No. This is down to what’s going on in my brain.

The tricky thing about our eyes is that the information they send back to us is interpreted by our brains. That’s how magic and ‘trick of the mind’ shows work – they distract us or exploit loopholes in our brains which make us see reality in a different way. However this also has consequences for the way we see ourselves. The information our eyes take from the mirror goes through our mental filter first. Naturally those of us with body image issues have some pretty negative shit lurking in our mental filter – shit that’s built up over time after we were bullied, or criticised by others, not to mention years spent loathing ourselves on top of that.

It’s important to bear this in mind the next time you’re looking in a mirror. It might appear as though this reflective piece of glass couldn’t lie – how could it? Unless you’re in a circus you’re looking at a factual representation of your own reflection. But most of us forget that what we see is influenced by our inner beliefs, it’s instantly warped negatively by that thing we hate, or that worry we have,  the comparison we’re making with that model on television, or the nasty thing somebody said.

No, we can’t tackle this overnight. But just recognising how your brain distorts your self-image is a first step. And it can go a long way towards helping you to feel better about yourself, as you start to appreciate that you might not be ‘that bad’ after all.

Like this post? You’ll love these.

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Christmas Survival Guide

 

Christmas is undoubtedly a difficult time for anyone with an eating disorder – because in essence it involves everything that sufferers find stressful. In fact, Christmas can set those who are recovering back – not just because of the annual obsession with food that everyone around us temporarily develops, but because of the pressure and constant barrage of comments, looks and poor treatment which is often directed at people with eating disorders at this time of year. I know myself that I developed other worse ‘habits’ (mental illnesses in themselves) around particularly stressful events like Christmas, using harmful coping mechanisms like self-harm to get myself through the season.

Please don’t turn to self-harm or any other destructive methods of coping – they will only make things worse for you and more deeply ingrain the negative beliefs you’re wrestling with. Even if you don’t feel you are worth it, it’s especially important that you look after yourself now, as the dark nights, cold weather and claustrophobic ‘trapped’ feeling of spending time indoors with relatives has psychological consequences for those who aren’t already struggling, let alone anyone with an eating disorder. Here are my tips for staying as safe and as well as possible during Christmas time – and remember, you can always get in touch or take a look at these charities for further help and support.

 

Try not to take comments to heart

It’s highly likely that (sometimes ‘well meaning’) people will make comments about your appearance and your behaviour. At this time of year families spend a lot more time together, which often causes fuses to shorten and results in judgmental, hurtful comments being made. Nobody in your family will be able to appreciate how hard it is for you to be surrounded by triggers – food, people, social gatherings, niceties, alcohol. They won’t understand the ‘torn’ feeling of being presented with gifts and plates of food which you feel you can’t eat, the voice in your head telling you you’ll be fat and hating them for eating whilst pangs of guilt hit your stomach for rejecting another meal or chocolate reindeer. Yet still they think it is appropriate to voice their misguided opinion – often because they believe they might be the one to make you ‘snap out of it’ (good one!). The only thing to do when this happens is to ignore what has been said and remove yourself from the situation. Don’t allow one comment to form an avalanche of others, or start an internal dialogue of self-hatred. Just walk away without explanation and keep yourself safe.

Have a ‘safe space’ to escape to

It’s important that you have somewhere to go and something to do which is safe which you can escape to if things all get a bit too much. Perhaps that’s your room, or maybe you can go outside for some air. Cabin fever sets in all too often at Christmas time – especially if you’re confined to a relatively small space with people who are constantly judging you. Have an activity (whether that’s a film, writing, sketching or playing a game) planned so that you can go up there and get straight to it. Distraction has been key to my recovery from anxiety and it was also an important part of my recovery from Anorexia. The best activity of all would be reading and contemplating your future and making a mood board – then putting plans in place so you can dream about something exciting and tangible to look forward to.

Know when everything is too much

Anxiety and stress can slowly creep up on you – until it all gets too much and results in a meltdown. It seems to come as a surprise to your family (or even to you) but actually the tension has been building with every meal, every comment, every time you’re forced to step out of your ‘safe’ zone. Keep a check on yourself and keep taking the time to make sure you’re okay (or as ‘okay’ as you possibly can be). This way you should be able to identify when you’re headed for meltdown and can put measures in place to ensure that you are not too badly hurt when it does come around.

Don’t allow yourself (or anyone else) to pile on the pressure

Christmas really is just a traditional holiday and the things which are made out to be the ‘be all and end all’ are actually unimportant. Christmas should be a celebration – or at least a time when family and friends gather round to support you, not to make you feel bad and cause you to be isolated. Even the loveliest of families will find it difficult to fully appreciate your situation, or to know what to do around this time when they are likely to be spinning lots of plates and trying to keep others happy. Just remember that the main goal is for you to be free from your ED – and in lots of ways Christmas could set you back a few notches because of the stress and pressure involved. Focus on your goal and ask for help and support. Don’t give in to pressure (one of the main factors behind EDs) piled on by family members or friends to eat a whole roast dinner or to drink alcohol. Don’t feel bad because you are ‘ruining Christmas’ or ‘aren’t happy’ – remember, this isn’t your fault, you are poorly. Make sure you feel safe and secure and take little steps you are comfortable with. Perhaps you will have a small roast dinner with your family. That’s a HUGE step. Don’t let anyone push you further or tell you otherwise.

Charities are open for support throughout the Christmas period, as is Tough Cookie. You can find details here: 

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Why I banned myself from social media

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I dedicate a whole chapter in my book Tough Love to social media. That’s because I believe that social media really has a lot to answer for when we see statistics indicating that young people are feeling bad about themselves and the way they look.

Personally I am just old enough to remember a world without social media (or smartphones, or even the internet)! I remember Facebook launching when I was in my last years at school (back then it was for University students only), and Twitter coming along a few years later. I also remember struggling with how I looked and hating myself, and finding misguided solace in social media.

In this post I share the reasons why I decided to ban myself from social media – and why I’d recommend it for anyone else struggling with body image issues too!

 

Social media has exacerbated existing issues I had

Before I banned myself from social media I had issues on my issues. Then when social media came along I developed even further body image issues – without even realising it. I’d spend hours scrolling through social media comparing myself to perfectly photo-shopped images, the same way I had done with the magazine clippings I used to hoard. I constantly searched for ways to improve myself. I took dozens of selfies hoping the next one would represent the image of ‘perfection’ I was striving for so that I could look like those other girls. I didn’t realise that I was actually striving for an unattainable ideal which I’d formed in my head from unrealistic, photo-shopped, filtered images.

None of this is healthy. On another level social media causes lots of people to obsess – not just about their appearance, but over the quality of their lives, too. Remember that what we see on social media is not reality. The ones really living an amazing life aren’t busy plastering it all over the internet – and your worth doesn’t depend on likes.

Social media causes us to base our worth on the opinions of others

We are not defined by how many likes and shares we get, or the number of followers we have. But sadly lots of people forget that – or worse, they’re not aware that this is the real truth behind social media. I was that person. 21 and new to social media, I believed I had to plaster photos of myself everywhere for approval. I fed off the positive comments made by others, but I was also wounded when I was ignored or insulted. Lots of people have problems with acceptance and ‘popularity’ in ‘real life’ – so to have that added pressure extended online can be really damaging.

Social media encourages us to compare

I talk a lot about comparison because it’s one of the most unhelpful, harmful things you can do to yourself. We rarely come out smelling of roses when we compare – because really the sole purpose of comparison is to feel better, or to feel worse. Nine times out of ten, we feel worse. The whole point of social media is sharing – self-promotion and comparison, so by nature we’re putting ourselves against one another aesthetically, financially, intellectually or professionally. Worse than that the images and lifestyles we are exposed to are unrealistic – so when we compare we feel bad, and when we try to emulate we often can’t.

Social media is false

I just touched on this above – but it’s an important point on its own. When you’re looking at images of ‘perfection’ and feeling inadequate – remember that this is self-defeating, because those images don’t represent anything real!!  They’re completely false and so damaging because so many people believe that what they are seeing is real – so of course they don’t measure up when they compare themselves. I didn’t realise that many of the beautiful hairstyles I stared longingly at on Pinterest . No wonder I sat feeling dejected when my own hair looked shit in the mirror, even after painstakingly following the steps provided. I only had my natural hair, whilst the girls on Pinterest had at least 300 grams of Russian weft to help them out and a decent filter.

Social media makes us want to improve ourselves

The product of comparison (and coming off worse) is often self-improvement. Social media encourages us to want more, to be more, so then when we find we are ‘inadequate’ compared to other people we feel the need to resolve that. We need to fill the void, to compete.

Actually, we’re all good as we are. And we’re striving for an unattainable ideal, because rarely is what we see on social media a factual representation of true life.

Social media promotes ‘perfect’

The danger with social media (even more than with magazines) is that we’re inadvertently conditioned to believe that ‘perfect’ is ‘normal’ – without realising it. We don’t see that the lives we view and the images we consume have been set up – that they’re not real life. So we look at what’s on social media and find we don’t measure up – so we’re then unhappy with our lives. We’re all so incredibly lucky but we don’t see it, because we’re so focused on the ‘perfect life’ we’ve been told we can (and should) lead. Remember that perfect doesn’t exist – and that striving for social media’s definition of normality will only make you unhappy.

Social media over-emphasises the importance of how we look

Being ‘beautiful’ isn’t everything – but not according to social media. Somehow if you’re not beautiful on social media, you can forget it. And as I’ve said before, when ‘beauty’ is measured by likes and follows you’re placing your fragile mental wellbeing in the hands of lots of people who don’t give a shit about you. Thousands of profiles featuring ‘hot girls’ and ‘fit guys’, ‘thinspo’ and ‘beauty tips’ help us all to feel like ugly pieces of shit – when actually it doesn’t matter that we don’t look like those people. Your appearance makes up a very small and unimportant part of who you are – and of your life as a whole.

Social media is materialistic. Aside from the aesthetic pressure it promotes, it also encourages us to want more than we have (or need). When it’s not telling you how to look, it’s telling you what to buy. Because the most popular people have designer handbags, flash cars and expensive homes.

Remember that what you have and how you look are not important. You were not put on this earth to drive a sports car, look like a model and boast about your amazing life. Think about the things you’d be truly devastated to lose right this second. I’m guessing they’re not things you could buy.

 

Is social media harming your self-esteem? If you liked this article you’ll love Why Selfies Are Toxic. 

Read related articles and start living today!

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5 things Anorexia won’t tell you

water_01Anorexia (and Bulimia) will tell you all sorts of things. Cunningly they force you to believe them without you noticing, until your life is unrecognisably altered and you find it difficult to regain what you once had. I could run through a list of these things, but I’m pretty sure you already know them by now! Instead I think it’s much more important to share the things your eating disorder won’t tell you – because these are the true things, the things which will help you to recover.

How beautiful you are

If I had a pound for every time I told people eating disorders are NOT about how you look, I’d be a very rich woman! It’s not always an aspect of it for some, but for others (like me) the way I looked (and a dissatisfaction with my appearance) was a very important part of my illness and bullying was the catalyst that led me to be ill. But whether you’ve been bullied for your appearance or are self-conscious or not, Anorexia will never tell you that you are a beautiful person as a whole. When I say beautiful here I mean every part of you – of course this includes what’s on the outside, but most importantly it includes what’s on the inside, too. Anorexia assassinated my personality and made me feel as though I was a bad person, a person who was hated and disliked and wrong in every way. Why should I deserve to live? Now I know that this was a lie. Eating disorders are vicious and they will make you feel as though you are not a beautiful person, even though you are. Then by their nature you find people around you are upset with you, concerned about you. The guilt mounts and adds substance to what you’re being told. Don’t be fooled by this. Focus on your future and don’t let your eating disorder allow you to dwell on the past.

That you are clever and intelligent

You are a brilliant, clever person – no matter what you might have been told. I strongly believe that we all have a talent – each and every one of us is intelligent in some way. I have dyscalculia and was on target to fail my maths GCSE – but my teacher sat with me every week and drew pizzas and cakes to get me through algebra and fractions. But I’m not embarrassed to say that I even struggle to count in my head now – because I also run a successful copywriting business and have published 7 books. We can’t be good at everything – there will always be something we’re bad at! If you can’t find your ‘thing’ or can’t think of anything, then consider what you love to do. Often, we are very good at or incredibly knowledgeable about the things we are passionate about and interested in.

That life is worth living

Anorexia often opens the doors to other mental illnesses – or sometimes, these issues are already with us when we develop an eating disorder. I always say that an eating disorder is in my head a type of self-harm, because it is similar yet more long-term in that you hate yourself so much and have a total disregard for your own safety or wellbeing. You are hurting your body in the most serious way. I was severely depressed whilst I had Anorexia and suffered from OCD, but nobody picked up on this. Anorexia was partly my way of punishing myself, and as I did so I started to believe that I wasn’t worthy of life like other people were. Slowly but surely, my parents and a couple of the nurses at the hospital I stayed in convinced me otherwise. They helped me to talk about the future, do the things I liked, distract myself from the fixation I had on each coming mealtime. Eventually, I believed I was worth it – but before that, I believed that life was worth it. Everything wasn’t bad – and wouldn’t always be difficult. And I’m so grateful that I did.  

That you don’t have to be ‘the best’ at everything

Pressure and perfectionism both have large roles to play when a person develops an eating disorder. Lots of people I speak to with Anorexia or Bulimia tell me that they became poorly as a result of internal or external pressure during exam time at school or college, or in their career, or just generally competing in life – something which I think has become more prevalent since the dawn of social media. Whatever it is that you feel you aren’t ‘the best’ at, know that it isn’t as important as you make it out to be. Also know that you are much better at it than you think! Being the ‘best’ or ‘perfect’ is impossible – it’s immeasurable. You can never be subjective when you are looking at your own life. Just focus on small, manageable and achievable goals – when you reach them, you can feel proud and move on to another goal. This means you are achieving a lot rather than working towards one huge, unrealistic goal – because you’ll always feel inadequate never having reached the top – especially when you keep moving the goalposts.

You haven’t failed

Failure is another aspect of eating disorders which is underestimated. After all, when we feel like we have failed, we feel bad about ourselves and inadequate as a result. There are SO many things to fail at now – because we’re more exposed to what everybody else is doing. Be aware that whilst your eating disorder thrives on failure ‘you could have eaten less, you could have exercised more’ – you can’t. The failures your eating disorder taunt you with aren’t real failures – and they won’t have any effect on your life as a whole, even though an eating disorder will convince you otherwise.

When you’re having a bad day please think of these. These are the truth – you are beautiful, intelligent, successful – you are a wonderful person with a life ahead of you and lots of things to do and achieve. For more first-hand advice and support keep following the blog or take a look at my books here. 

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