I’m coming to the end of a good few weeks in Day Service. And this time I’ve done some of the things I wanted to do over a year ago and didn’t manage. Behaviour changes. Weight gain. Food rules. And what strikes me is how messy the process has felt so far, and how lost […]

I think of anorexia as a bit like ivy. In the same way that ivy works itself so well into a wall, that you don’t realise what a good job it’s done until you try to remove it, anorexia creeps into everything. It takes up all your space. Anorexia edges into the existing vulnerabilities that […]

Your definition of recovery can change as you move through the process. Mine definitely has. I said recently to someone that I think my initial definition of ‘recovered’ was quite ‘anorexic’ in that I thought I’d eat differently (more food, more variety, higher calorie foods) until I reached a healthy weight range and then go back […]

There has been growing debate about the usefulness of mental health professionals sharing their own lived experience of psychological distress. As a social worker with my own mental health label, this naturally interests me. I have written about the difficulty of being on ‘both sides of the desk‘, and the tension between my professional role, […]

I always say no one chooses an eating disorder, but a part of me definitely thinks it’s somehow ‘my fault’. I especially think it’s my fault for still being stuck with it at this stage. I know better, I should be able to do better. I am sure at least some people in my life think this too. I thought recovery would be relatively easy. That the reason it hadn’t happened so far is because I chose not to rather than couldn’t. Once I acknowledged to myself – and others – that actually, I’m not ok, I expected I’d just be able to drop the restriction, manage the guilt, the thoughts. I’ve discovered over the last few months that (even with great support from professionals, family and friends) it really doesn’t work like that. Recovery seems to be less about ‘letting go’ and more about wrestling your way out of something you’re so entangled in you have no real idea where you end and it begins. Continue reading

As anyone who follows me on Twitter will be all too aware, I’ve recently been banging on about the aspects of mental health care that are working well, and asking people to share their experiences. Maybe the people I follow on social media just grumble a lot, maybe we only hear stories of fault and failing in the press, but whatever the reason, we need to correct the balance. Good things do happen, every day, we just don’t hear about it. And when we do, it’s all too often through an avenue that makes us sceptical.

To begin, I’ve gathered together a few comments I received yesterday. This reflects one day, a couple of Twitter requests. They aren’t dramatic but they reflect the difference services (both statutory and voluntary) make and the commitment and care of staff who often work with extremely limited resources and are individuals, like anyone, with their own lives and ‘stuff’ going on too.

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I’ve been having a bit more support for my eating disorder recently. This means more time away from work, absence which will definitely impact on my colleagues. I feel I owe the people I work closely with an explanation about where I am disappearing to and why. I also won’t see many members of my team for a while, and (if all goes to plan) I’ll look noticeably different when they do next see me. I am still fairly private at work (and in general) about my ‘issues’, but during the last year conversations about food and weight have gradually become part the normal fabric of life with my partner and close friends. Not so long ago I couldn’t say the words ‘eating disorder’ or ‘anorexia’ without becoming overwhelmed, so the talking is definite progress, even if I do feel ashamed and guilty, hate that it is necessary and feel horribly embarrassed that I find certain things so difficult the stage of life I’m at. I don’t know if anyone actually gets how embarrassed I feel every time I try to ask for help, help I don’t think I should need, can’t judge how or when to ask for, and can’t always say what I think I actually might need.

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Because people do, don’t they. Even those who know us well and would call themselves friends or colleagues. Or maybe it’s just me.

Part of the challenge is that I have been MUCH more open about my eating disorder recently. For years, no one in my wider life, including work, had any idea. If I weren’t trying to change things, I could have continued this indefinitely. But keeping things private at work wasn’t an option if I wanted time off for therapy. So far, my manager has been supportive. The work friends I’ve been open with continue to express confidence in my ability. I suspect I’m fortunate. It’s no secret that mental health services haven’t always been great at looking after their own.  Continue reading

If you’re recovering from an eating disorder and are underweight, you really can’t get away from the fact that weight gain is an inevitable part of the process. It’s definitely the most ‘visible’ part, and often the element that people focus on most. At the same time, we often hear that it’s really not about the weight. It’s true that weight gain alone definitely won’t fix everything, although it may shift some of the rigidity that is secondary to ‘starvation’. But the uncomfortable truth is that for me at least, gaining weight may make some things worse, before they improve. This may not be the case for everyone, and I’m definitely not saying it isn’t worth it.

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The topic of eating disorders has been in the media a fair bit recently, and a recurring theme is that of ‘choice’. So for what it’s worth, here are my (unfinished) thoughts on the subject. I wonder what it will take for society to realise that eating disorders are no more an active choice than any other mental health problem. I also sometimes whether we need to think differently about the role of choice within recovery.

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