It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness week (NEDA) and it is encouraging to see a reduction in the number of ‘before and after’ posts being made in a bid to ‘raise awareness’. It seems that in the past, this week had unintentionally contributed to the stigmatisation of eating disorders and the association with emaciated bodies, which is problematic as NEDA is intended to be about reducing the stigma around eating disorders and encouraging people to seek help. This is why it’s so amazing to see more posts about recognising signs and symptoms, support for sufferers and loved ones, and post recovery stories. The true aim of NEDA is really shining through this week, and this post will hopefully add to the money pile as I intend to talk about how I rebuilt a healthy relationship with food, and what recovery means to me.
When I decided it was time to fight my anorexia and depression, I can’t say it was ever an easy decision. I knew in my heart that I wanted to live life to the full and spend it with loved ones, but the constant defying of my internal dialogue was a battle and a half. In the early days of my newfound motivation to live, I decided that if I had to restore weight and eat again, I was going to eat whatever I wanted and enjoy it. This meant daily frijj milkshakes in varying flavours, cinnamon swirls, Belgian buns, happy meals, super noodles, pastries, and quite literally anything I desired at that moment in time. You might wonder about the nutritional content of my diet, however this mind-set reversed so much mental and physical damage that I had done to myself for so long that I hardly think the nutritional content bares any importance. When you’re recovering from an eating disorder such as anorexia, I think it’s important to know that nothing is off limits; it’s about learning to fight the temptation of starvation and re-developing/ listening to your hunger cues. To enforce a strict calorie plan with specific nutrient requirements can be beneficial for some, but to me it just looked like another way to control my diet and life, and I didn’t want to be a slave to food or my mind anymore. I longed for a life where I could enjoy every mouthful of food without guilt, and I came very close in the early days, but I had a long way to go.
During the next three years, I thought I had finally developed a normal relationship with food. I was still eating whatever I wanted; however my body image was crashing. During the initial 6 months of recovery I had really disconnected with self-esteem issues and body image, mostly because I had started to take anti-depressants. Yet when I came off of these, I realised my mind was still sick even if my body wasn’t. Or rather, I now look back and realise this, as at the time I thought it was normal to live with 50% good days and 50% bad days. Society is so focussed on body image and food and self worth being tethered to these, that I had just assumed I would forever be in a constant state of love-hate towards my body, as most people I knew felt this way too. So for a few years, I yo-yoed between excess cardio at the gym and continuing to eat what I wanted, unsure what I was really doing and definitely not getting anywhere with my mental state.
It wasn’t until last summer after having an eye opening experience on my first holiday alone did I realise I still had it all wrong. Whilst visiting some friends in California, I had decided once again that I needed to make the most of my travels and eat everything and anything I wanted. But this time, I had realised the error of my ways. Every time I made the decision to eat something, I felt guilt because of the societal tether of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Every day I had my ‘little treats’ and I always felt guilty for having them because they were ‘low nutritional value’ or ‘high sugar’ and fell into the vicious cycle eating/ guilt/ cardio/ eating/ guilt/ cardio. I finally realised that although I physically didn’t meet the diagnosis of anorexia anymore, I was still trapped by my own thoughts and societal constraints. I decided that when I returned home, I was going to embark on a journey that would repair my relationship with my body and food all in one swift move. And I’ll tell you what; I’d never look back.
For the past six months, I have completely ignored the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and stuck to the ‘if it fits your macros’ mantra. Along side this decision I have been weight lifting to build strength and work on my self-love, as the cardio addiction was unhealthy and unneeded. Together these two new aspects of my life have opened my eyes to all the damage I have just enlisted here in this blog. Without getting up and doing this for myself, I never would have broken away from the societal expectations of dieting, depriving myself of ‘bad’ food, calorie restrictions, only liking certain parts of myself, etc. Now, I live for myself. I eat foods that I enjoy regardless of how much sugars they contain or how many calories. Guilt and food should never go hand in hand, and this is something I have finally managed to attain. I can recognise when my body is hungry and when it needs certain foods, and I eat according to what I need as well as what I want. I have found a healthy balance of food and self-acceptance, and I can proudly say that I have never loved myself more than I do today.
Rekindling my love for food and flavour has been the best decision of my entire life, and I would highly recommend reading ‘Eat Up’ by Ruby Tandoh, as she puts things so much more eloquently than I do (and describes the magic ritual of eating a crème egg rather beautifully). I think developing a healthy and balanced relationship with food is so important for self-love and self-care, and has significantly reduced any chances I ever felt at a relapse, to the extent that I feel I can’t relate to my past sick self at all. So this is my piece for NEDA week; that recovery is a much longer journey than you think it will be, potentially life long. But it will absolutely be the best decision of your life, and you will grow stronger and healthier day by day with every cheese string and crème egg you consume. Don’t let diet culture supress your recovery; cut all ties with that epidemic and let your recovery flourish into something beautiful and wholesome.
Last year I remember results day so vividly. After a challenging year with my mental health I found the exam period really difficult even with support from those around me that just about keeping me going. I dreaded results day. There were such high expectations of me and I wasn’t sure I could ever reach those expectation or even my predicted grades. The weeks leading up to results day were horrendous with no escape from thinking that my future would be decided on that day. I had planned how I would tackle the day so that I wouldn’t have a panic attack in front of anyone or cry. I chose to check UCAS Track (the system that tells you about your place at university) when it opened that morning at 8am and then would go onto school to collect my results.
I didn’t sleep well at all that night worrying about what was to come. I wasn’t the only one. I messaged my friends and they messaged back feeling the same. There was so much pressure on us to get into university. Not only that but we were all high achievers so knew a lot was expected of us. After a few hours sleep my alarm went off in time to get ready to check UCAS. I felt sick with anxiety as I logged onto check. On logging in I saw that I had got into Cardiff University but not into my first choice. I was devastated and burst into tears. It meant I hadn’t got my predicted grades. I’d still got into university but at that point it wasn’t enough. After messaging a few friends, congratulating them on their places, it was time to go into school. I was having panic attack after panic attack to the point of being physically sick. On finding out my results they weren’t what I wanted and I cried again. Speaking to my head of year she reminded me of what she’s repeated over and over again – everything happens for a reason and you’ll love Cardiff. At that point I couldn’t see that. I was upset and disappointed in myself. It took talking to Childline later that day for me to see that and for me to calm down and be happy with what I had achieved despite everything. What I learnt that day was that actually on results day sometimes it is okay not be okay – but that feeling will pass. You will find options and you can find ways to succeed.
That’s just one of my experiences of results day but I wanted to explain it to show that it is okay to admit that you aren’t happy on results day or that you’re worrying. Tell someone you trust – a friend, a parent, a teacher or even a helpline. Even sometimes getting the results you expected can be overwhelming as it can be the start of a huge change. Whatever the outcome is always okay to not be okay.
Here are some of our top tips for what you can do on Results day:
Talk to someone about how you feel in the lead up to your results and when you get them whether good or bad
Give yourself time to process what has happened so that you can then look at other options with a calmer mind if needed
Look at your options if things didn’t go to plan. That could be remarks, retakes or a different course.
Remind yourself of what you did well whether big or small
Do something that makes you happy.
Focus on your achievements throughout the years.
One of our volunteers Jess Bragg said “Try and rationalise with yourself before and when you get your results, give yourself a positive pep talk about how much hard work you put into these exams. You should be proud of yourself no matter what and have faith in your abilities”
Good luck to everyone collecting results this week or next week! Whatever the outcome remember it’s okay not to be okay and there are always other options out there.
Dwi’n cofio Diwrnod Canlyniadau blwyddyn ddiwethaf yn glir. Ar ôl blwyddyn heriol gyda fy iechyd meddwl, roedd amser arholiadau wedi bod yn Andros o anodd hyd yn oed gyda’r gefnogaeth oedd gennai o fy nghwmpas. Roeddwn yn ofnus iawn o ddiwrnod canlyniadau. Roedd disgwyliadau Andros o uchel ohonai ag ni oeddwn yn sicr fy mod yn gallu cyrraedd y disgwyliadau yna nag fy ngraddau disgwyliedig. Roedd y wythnosau yn arwain at y diwrnod yn ofnadwy heb siawns i ddianc o’r ffaith fod fy nyfodol am gael ei phenderfynu ar y diwrnod yna. Roeddwn wedi cynllunio sut i daclo’r diwrnod er mwyn osgoi pyliau o banig a chrio o flaen unrhyw un. Dewisais edrych ar UCAS Track 9y system sy’n dangos eich lle mewn prifysgol) yn y bore pan agorodd am 8yb cyn mynd i’r ysgol i gasglu fy nghanlyniadau.
Doddwn i ddim wedi cysgu’n dda'r noson hynny yn poeni am beth oedd i ddod. Nid oeddwn yr unig un. Anfonais neges i fy ffrindiau a chefais ateb yn ôl yn dweud eu bod nhw yn teimlo'r un fath. Roedd gymaint o bwysau arnom ni i dderbyn lle mewn prifysgol. Nid yn unig hynny ond roedden ni i gyd yn gyflawnwyr uchel felly yn gwybod bod pawb yn disgwyl lot ohonom ni. Ar ôl jyst ychydig o oriau o gwsg aeth fy larwm i ffwrdd. Roedd yn amser i edrych ar UCAS. Roeddwn yn teimlo’n sâl gyda’r pryder wrth i mi logio i mewn i edrych. Wrth logio i mewn gwelais fy mod wedi derbyn lle yn Brifysgol Caerdydd ond nid yn fy newis cyntaf. Roeddwn yn andros o anhapus ag wnes i fyrstio i mewn i ddagrau. Roedd yn golygu fy mod i ddim wedi cyrraedd fy ngraddau disgwyliedig. Roeddwn wedi gwneud digon i gael lle mewn prifysgol ond ddim digon y cyrraedd y disgwyliadau ohonai. Ar ôl anfon negeseuon i rai o fy ffrindiau yn eu llongyfarch, roedd yn amser i fyn i mewn i’r ysgol. Roeddwn yn cael pyliau o banig un ar ôl y llall i’r pwynt o fod yn sâl yn gorfforol. Wrth weld fod fy nghanlyniadau ddim beth o’n i’n disgwyl dechreuais grio unwaith eto. Dywedodd fy mhennaeth blwyddyn yr un peth roedd wedi dweud drosodd a drosodd yn ystod y misoedd diwethaf – roedd popeth yn digwydd am reswm a fyddwn yn caru Caerdydd. Ar yr adeg ni roeddwn yn gallu gweld hynny. Roeddwn yn drist ac yn siomedig gyda fy hun. Cymerodd siarad gyda Childline er mwyn i mi weld hynny ac i ddechrau ymlacio a bod yn hapus gyda beth roeddwn wedi cyflawni er gwaethaf y flwyddyn roeddwn wedi cael. Ar y diwrnod yna dysgais fod peidio bod yn iawn yn iawn ar ddiwrnod canlyniadau weithiau – ond fysai’r teimlad yn pasio. Mae yna wastad opsiynau a ffyrdd i lwyddo.
Mae hynny yn jyst un o fy mhrofiadau o ddiwrnod canlyniadau ond roeddwn eisiau ei esbonio er mwyn ddangos ei fod yn iawn dweud eich bod ddim yn hapus neu yn poeni cyn neu ar ddiwrnod canlyniadau. Dywedwch wrth rywun rydych yn ymddiried ynddyn – athrawon, ffrindiau, rhieni neu hyd yn oed llinell gymorth. Hyd yn oed pan rydych yn cael y canlyniadau rydych yn disgwyl mae’n gallu bod yn llethol gan ei fod yn gallu bod y dechrau o newid enfawr. Beth bynnag yw’r canlyniad mae o wastad yn iawn i beidio bod yn iawn. Dyma rhia o’n awgrymiadau gorau ar gyfer beth allech chi wneud ar diwrnod canlynidau:
Siarad â rhywun am sut rydych yn teimlo yn arwain i fyny at y diwrnod ag pan rydych yn ei derbyn boed yn dda neu yn wael.
Rhowch amser i’ch hun i’w brosesu er mwyn gallu edrych ar opsiynau eraill gyda meddwl tawelach os bydd angen.
Edrychwch ar eich opsiynau os ni wnaeth pethau'r ffordd oeddech yn disgwyl. Gall hynny fod yn ail farcio bapurau, ailsefyll arholiad neu gymryd cwrs gwahanol mewn lle gwahanol.
Atgoffa’ch hun o beth wnaethoch yn dda boed yn fach neu’n fawr.
Gwnewch rywbeth sy’n eich gwneud yn hapus.
Canolbwyntiwch ar beth rydych wedi ei chyflawni dros y blynyddoedd.
Dywedodd un o’n gwirfoddolwyr “Ceisiwch resymu gyda’ch hun cyn a pan rydych un casglu eich canlyniadau, atgoffwch eich hun o faint o waith caled roeddech wedi rhoi i’r arholiadau yma. Dylech fod yn falch o’ch hun waeth beth sy’n digwydd a chadwch ffydd yn eich gallu.”
Pob lwc i bawb sy’n casglu canlyniadau wythnos yma neu nesaf! Beth bynnag yw’r canlyniad – cofiwch ei fod yn iawn i beidio bod yn iawn ac mae yna wastad opsiynau eraill.
Hi, welcome to the Spot the Signs blog! Spot the Signs aims to educate young people and adults about how they can spot the signs that someone they know may be struggling with a mental illness. We aim to do this by providing information on our website, delivering workshops or simply informing you of places you can go to receive professional help. We will use this blog to keep you updated with tips for maintaining a positive mental health and spotting problem signs in others. As well as providing relevant topical news articles to keep you updated with what is happening in the media around this critical issue. We want everyone to know that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and does not have to define you. There is so much help and support out there for you, or whoever you know that may need it. :)
Look out for the next blog post to find out which social media platform a recent survey has found to be the most damaging for young peoples mental health.
Helo, croeso i blog Adnabod yr Arwyddion! Mae Adnabod yr Arwyddion yn anelu i addysgu pobl ifanc ac oedolion am sut i adnabod yr arwyddion o rywun sydd efallai yn dioddef o afiechyd meddwl. Rydyn yn anelu i wneud hyn trwy ddarparu gwybodaeth at y wefan, cyflwyno gweithdai neu yn syml eich cyfeirio at lefydd i gael help proffesiynol. Fydden yn defnyddio'r blog er mwyn rhoi’r wybodaeth ddiweddaraf i chi ar dipiau er mwyn cynnal iechyd meddwl positif ac adnabod problemau mewn eraill. Hefyd bydden yn darparu newyddion pynciol er mwyn rhoi gwybodaeth am beth sy'n digwydd yn y cyfryngau am y mater hanfodol hwn. Rydym am i bawb wybod nad yw dioddef o afiechyd meddwl yn unrhyw beth i fod â chywilydd ohono ac nid yw'n diffinio chi. Mae yna gymaint o help a chefnogaeth ar gael i chi neu unrhyw un sydd ei angen. :)
Edrychwch allan ar gyfer y blog nesaf i ddarganfod pa gyfryngau cymdeithasol mae arolwg diweddar wedi darganfod i fod y mwyaf niweidiol ar gyfer iechyd meddwl pobl ifanc.