There’s Nothing Aspirational About Exhaustion

News

A website called ‘Fiverr’ which allows people to offer their freelancing services to others for rates reported to be as low as £5 has, quite rightly, been subjected to a social media shit storm. Their new advert was spotted in a London Tube station and shared on Twitter where users have labelled it “deeply depressing”, “irresponsible” and damaging”. It is all of these things and worse.

The advert which features a photograph of a model with hollowed cheek bones and unkept hair, yet still looking admirably glamorous, reads: “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

It then signs off as: “In doers we trust”. Sorry, what?

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Photo by @b_cavello on Twitter

 

“Eating coffee for lunch” and choosing “sleep deprivation” as your “drug of choice” might mean you are a “doer” but it also means you are well on your way to some serious health issues. Not getting enough sleep alone, leaves you prone to a whole catalogue of problems, don’t even open the Pandora’s Box of caffeine addiction and skipping meals.

There is nothing sexy about pushing yourself to the brink.

Working hard is great, but so is self-care. At some point we all have to realise that nothing is as important as our health and wellbeing. Nothing even comes close. I came to this realisation far earlier in my life than I had intended to. I had envisioned that my twenties would be a whirl of working and playing hard, spending long hours and late nights pursuing my career. Alongside this, I thought I would also be able to balance a social life, relationship and exercise regime and had even hoped that I would travel, when time and money permitted. These weren’t unique or even unobtainable aspirations, as my generation goes they were pretty average.

However, a chronic illness had other ideas and it soon became clear that I would be lucky if I could manage two of these successfully. On a good day – and thankfully there are more good than bad – I can get up early, drive the hour commute to work, be productive for the most part of eight hours, drive home, cook dinner, have a bath and wash my hair. Not exactly rock and roll is it? On a bad day though, these basic, fundamental tasks are a real struggle, if manageable at all.

My point is that there is nothing glamorous about exhaustion; take it from someone who deals with the effects of it far more often than they would care to. There is nothing glamorous about bursting into tears after taking a shower because it has used up every single drop of energy you had managed to muster. There is nothing aspirational about not being able to progress at work because the brain fog has replaced your once highly functioning brain with cotton wool. There is nothing at all cool about not being able to get out of bed because, even though you had a full eight hours sleep last night, your body is aching from head to toe. And no, you didn’t run a marathon yesterday or dance until the early hours, you went to work.

To get back to the advert, I don’t think there is any question that to promote exhaustion in such a way is beyond awful. To advertise working long hours at the cost of your health and wellbeing, is not only irresponsible but sickening. As one Twitter user pointed out, are we really supposed to feel guilty for eating something at lunch time and making sure we get enough sleep? And all for a company who’s freelancing rates start at £5? Well no thanks, Fiverr. You simply can’t put a price on  someone’s health.

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Let’s Talk About Nutritionists

Food, News

With so much conflicting health and diet advice being so casually thrown around, sometimes knowing what to fill your fridge with can be a nightmare. For someone deep in the throws of disordered eating and struggling with its complexities, a qualified nutritionist can seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. No one knows better what we should and shouldn’t be putting in our bodies than a nutritionist right?

Well that’s exactly the problem. Now anyone can become a ‘qualified’ nutritionist (note my use of quotation marks here) by embarking on an online course which takes just 6 days to complete. The issue was flagged up in the recent BBC Three documentary, Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets – which is well worth a watch, by the way – in which presenter and blogger Grace Victory was able to enrol on the course at literally the click of a button, despite her openly having a history of disordered eating.

It is extremely unsettling that what should be an accomplished and respected profession is so readily accessible. For someone who suffers from troubled eating behaviours, whether presently or in their past, becoming involved in one of these courses is like adding fuel to an already roaring fire. Nourishing the obsession in such a way would undoubtedly have a drastically detrimental affect on their health.

Then you have those who believe that calling themselves a nutritionist entitles them to give sound dietary advice, reeling off long lists of foods to be avoided at all costs and pushing their latest money-making plant based craze on vulnerable followers. Yet what’s worse, is that their so-called qualification means we believe it, however far from accurate and extreme the advice may be.

In the UK, more or less anyone can call themselves a nutritionist because it is not a restricted title. To be a dietician however, requires at least four years of studying at university and to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Qualified dieticians undertake clinical placements and are trained to interpret blood results and medical notes, in other words, they can detect other deficiencies and health concerns caused by disordered eating. Even professionals who call themselves nutrition therapists are often self-regulated and have not completed this essential clinical training and are therefore not suitable to work with someone suffering with an eating disorder.

It is vitally important that anyone struggling with eating seeks the right help from someone who is going to give the right advice. Their Instagram bio may describe them as a ‘qualified nutritionist’ but they could just be another wellness blogger.

For those seeking help from a nutritionist, ensure that they are registered and are a full member of the Association for Nutrition.

Weight Is Just A Number

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No one likes stepping on the scales to be faced with the horrible reality that they probably ate too many slices of cake last week. The chances are you’ve had your suspicions about those extra couple of pounds for a while but have been in a firm state of denial with yourself. Finally, you pluck up the courage to see for certain and can deny it no longer – the numbers don’t lie after all. While to most, a little weight gain is a minor confidence blip, an inconvenience, for me it’s a minefield. No matter what size I am, I spend my life both dreading it and trying to avoid it, in equal measure.

So when I started to return to health after an illness that saw me shrink to just under 8 stone, the joy and relief of recovery was tainted by the fact that I would inevitably gain weight. I knew it was something that needed to happen – I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, even when in the throws of an eating disorder, I just wasn’t prepared for how horrific it would be when it started to become physically noticeable.

I didn’t notice for a while, I was too busy thinking about what I was going to eat next, high on the excitement of being able to enjoy food again and while I was aware that the food I was shovelling into me wasn’t particularly good for me, I was powerless to my appetite. White bread, smothered with Lurpak became the staple of my diet, I would go to bed dreaming about McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and my boyfriend watched in awe as I devoured sticky toffee puddings every weekend at dinner. Concerned by these new eating habits, I broached the subject with my dietician and of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. My body was starving. I should point out that by this point I had been ill for a considerable amount of time, struggling to eat barely anything most days and what I did manage to eat, my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from. It turns out the human body is a pretty intelligent organism and it knows what it needs. I was craving these calorific foods, high in fat and carbohydrates, because my body was severely lacking the nutrients that they provide. The dietician reassured me that once my health and weight began to return to normal these cravings would stop and my diet would stabilise and she was right. Now that my body is nourished again, the bizarre cravings have stopped and I’m back to eating the balanced diet I had before, I’m back to myself again.

What isn’t quite as simple however, is accepting myself. As much as I know that gaining weight is a good thing, I can’t help but be disgusted every time I look in the mirror. When I step on the scales and the dial inches up a few more notches, my heart sinks a little bit more. Each time I’m offered a well-meaning compliment along the lines of,  “You’ve gained weight,” I die a little bit inside.

My arms – the only part of me I have ever considered as slim enough – now appear twice the size they used to be, my collarbone is no longer protruding and the gap between my thighs is getting smaller by the day. While all of these are positive signs, physical indicators of good health, I hate each and every one of them and I also hate the fact that I hate them. I’m happy my body is healthy again, yet I can’t accept it in its healthy form.

The worst part is not knowing if what I’m seeing in the mirror is as it really is or if my mind is lying to me, distorting my view with it’s dysmorphic tendencies. I might feel bigger than I’ve ever been, but the scales say I’m no heavier than I was before I fell ill – a healthy weight – and the numbers never lie, right?

I may be healthy physically, but mentally there’s still some work to be done. I need to listen to my body and to trust it, if I’m craving that slice of cake it’s not because I’m fat and greedy as the voice in my head would have me believe, it’s because my body needs sugar. I need to train my mind to work with my body rather than against it so that the dinner table is no longer a battlefield. I need to learn to love my body and to look after it, because it is healthy and for that I am grateful. For me gaining weight is the first hurdle, but the real recovery begins after.

Be Balanced Not Clean – The #EatClean Backlash

Food, Uncategorized

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The ‘clean eating’ phenomenon has been clogging up our Instagram feeds for too long. It is finally starting to face its inevitable backlash and I for one, am glad. The ‘eat clean’ hashtag has been deceiving us for long enough, with Instagrammers and food bloggers convincing us that their raw, vegan, plant-based or superfood diet is not in fact a diet, but a simple lifestyle change resulting in a healthier way of living. We are led to believe that not only will eating clean help us lose weight, it will give us clear skin, shiny hair and resolve a whole range of health issues from digestive disorders to reducing the risk of certain cancers. Sounds too good to be true right? That’s because it is, unfortunately behind all those filters lies an unhealthy truth.

The irony is, that I actually enjoy many of the foods that fall into the ‘clean eating’ category, but it’s the term that I dislike. Describing a particular way of eating as ‘clean’ implies that any other way of eating is ‘dirty’ ‘unclean’ and generally negative, therefore shaming those who are not on the bandwagon. It’s that issue again of labelling certain foods and in this case, even entire food groups, as ‘bad’ and if we consume them, that makes us bad too. This is not just true when it comes to others, but also ourselves, leading to self-persecuting behaviours which are at best a very unhealthy way of thinking and at worst the early symptoms of an eating disorder. Lets remind ourselves that being healthy is not just about the body but the mind too.

Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh, who has spoken publicly about her battles with eating disorders, has been one of the first to lash out against ‘clean eating’, penning a controversial column for Vice in which she attacks food bloggers – and now authors of their own cookbooks – such as Ella Henderson (now Mills) and the Helmsley sisters, the leaders or shall we say, instigators of the clean eating craze.

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ruby-tandoh-eat-clean-wellness

Like Tandoh, I bought into the clean eating concept, believing that I was heading towards a healthy lifestyle and that eating clean was a positive way to deal with recovery – I could concentrate on what I was eating, rather than not eating at all – and not only were these foods okay to eat but were actually good for me. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I was actually not recovering from my eating disorder at all, just channelling in a different way. I became obsessed with what I could and couldn’t eat, overcome with an astonishing sense of guilt if I so much as looked at a carb. For me, and for many, eating clean is just another way of controlling what you’re putting into your body.

Orthorexia, an eating disorder which stems from an obsession with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ foods, is not yet officially recognised by the medical profession, but this doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. I don’t want to presume, but the fact that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from this disorder in recent years, correlating with societies preoccupation with clean eating, I think speaks for itself. Food snaps and selfies of post-workout abs on Instagram, are just a part of the latest wave of thinspiration. These images which fill up our news feeds are just as detrimental as the photos of thigh-gaps and collarbones which I used to scroll through on Pro-Ana sites. Only now, the problem is that it brands itself as ‘wellness’, fooling us into believing it is a positive, healthy lifestyle. ‘Wellness’ is a term that should mean caring for and nourishing the body, but in this case, it is quite the opposite. While it is true that not everyone who chooses to ‘eat clean’ will develop an eating disorder, we need to be aware of the dangers and we need to stop branding these trends as healthy, preferable ways to live.

To me a healthy lifestyle is about being balanced, not clean. Cutting out entire food groups unnecessarily is not balanced and certainly not healthy. Eating healthy is not a new concept or a latest trend, it is what we’ve been doing for years – eating three meals a day which include fruit, veg, meat, fish, dairy and carbs. There’s a reason that these foods make up a balanced diet and that is because they contain the nutrients that our bodies need to survive. It’s incredibly simple, so why is this so often forgotten? Food is a resource for life, not the object of living.

Near the end of Tandoh’s column, she cites an experiment in which a group of women were fed foods they knew and enjoyed and then the same foods in a pureed form. The results showed that their bodies absorbed more nutrients from the meal they had enjoyed eating than from the less-palatable pureed form, proving that taking pleasure from what we eat leaves us better nourished.

So there you have it, scientific proof that enjoying your food is good for you. What you enjoy is down to you, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to diet and the best part of being balanced is finding foods that both you and your body love. Try new foods, experiment with recipes, learn to cook, go out to dinner and most importantly, ditch the #eatclean for #balancednotclean.

What Does True Luxury Mean To You?

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Luxury

[luhk-shuh-ree, luhg-zhuh-]
noun, plural luxuries

‘free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being’

The dictionary defines a luxury as an indulgence, something beyond necessity, a pleasure to be sought after and enjoyed. We grow up with pre-conceived ideas about luxury, the thrill of fast cars, the feel of soft Egyptian cotton against your skin, the exhilaration of champagne bubbles slipping down your throat, white sand between your toes. To put it simply, luxury is usually inextricably connected to money and possessions. In reality though, it means something different to everyone. Who is to say that what gives one person the ultimate enjoyment out of life is the same for everyone else. In reality, luxury is much less a materialistic thing and more the ability to have a certain experience or a particular outlook. A feeling rather than a thing.

I recently read a blog post by about what true luxury means to someone who suffers from anxiety and it pretty much summed up all my thoughts on life right now. What luxury means to me has suddenly and dramatically changed, whereas I’ll gladly admit I used to have those very same materialistic concepts about luxury which I mention above, luxury for me now couldn’t be more different.

Luxury for me now is being able to eat a meal of my choice and actually enjoy it. At no point in my life did I ever think it was possible to get so excited about having a cup of tea in the morning – I actually go to bed looking forward to this very prospect. Speaking of which, another luxury is actually sleeping through the night, as is going to work every day. Luxury is waking up in the morning and wanting to go outside, to make plans with friends and to be able to stick to them, to not flinch or pull away when your partner touches you. Laughing and making someone laugh is one of the greatest luxuries life has to offer.

I used to read articles in magazines about people who had found a new love for life after overcoming illnesses and personal battles but these stories never resonated with me. I found them touching, sure, but emotionally they never really scratched the surface. Now it turns out, I can not only relate to these accounts but I have one of my own. I have had the epic realisation of how enjoyable every day life is once a heavy burden, such as illness, is lifted and I am probably happier than I was even before the burden was put upon me. Throughout the worst of it, it seems I was too busy concentrating on simply getting through another day to realise how much my illness was affecting me. Slowly eating away at every aspect of my life. It sounds grim and it is, but when you come out the other side and begin to reclaim each of these aspects, the happiness is overwhelming. It’s like discovering everything you love for the first time again.

It’s safe to say that there are very few benefits to living with chronic illness, a lot of the time it sucks, but the times when it doesn’t and I am well, I feel a sense of genuine happiness which I truly believe – knowing myself, as I think I do quite well by now – I would never have felt had I not had to feel all the bad stuff. That to me is true luxury.

Destination, Barcelona.

Features, Uncategorized

People travel for many different reasons. To find themselves, to lose themselves, to escape daily life and to experience the unknown. Travel is a mental journey, just as much as a physical one. For me, travel is what I turn to when I don’t know where I’m headed. When my life reaches a sudden point of change and I am forced to decide on the next step, that step is usually in the direction of the nearest airport check-in desk.

It all started when I finished school and didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. Instead of dealing with this unnerving prospect, I decided to take a gap year and booked a flight to South East Asia. I spent six months backpacking through various countries and while I was there decided I wanted to study many things, photography, psychology and nutrition, to name just a few. I ended up choosing none of these subjects but having one of the best experiences of my life. Fast forward three years and I graduated from university and was faced with the even more daunting task of entering the ‘real world’ and perhaps even finding a job, so me and my best friend – neither of us particularly thrilled by this prospect – began planning a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year, despite the fact that just getting out of bed was the last thing I felt like doing, I cautiously packed my bags and spent two weeks travelling up the Croatian coastline with my boyfriend. The amount of prescription drugs I was carrying was enough to get me stopped at security, but the best medication was being in a new country, experiencing the unknown, discovering the undiscovered.

This habit of reaching for my trusty old backpack when things get complicated has stuck with me as the years have gone on – although admittedly now it is often a suitcase I’m packing for a weekend mini-break, rather than a six month expedition. When I’m feeling low or unfulfilled I find myself scrolling through stranger’s beach snaps on Instagram, manically Googling holiday deals online and day-dreaming about my next adventure.

Recently, my agreeable nine to five existence came abruptly to a halt and I was faced with whole load of those dreaded, daunting decisions, so naturally I reached for my laptop and Lonely Planet and began planning a trip.

Funnily enough, one thing I don’t mind deciding on is where to travel to on my next journey. This time I settled on four nights in dynamic Barcelona. A city bustling with art, culture, history, shopping, beaches and of course, nightlife. I would go so far as to say that Barcelona is the pretty much the perfect destination for a mini-break, whether you have in mind a romantic escape for you and your other half or an energetic girls weekend away. Culture buffs, sun-worshippers, shopaholics and alcoholics, Barcelona will prevail. Absorb yourself in Gaudi’s awe-inspiring architecture, soak up some sun on the beautiful coastline (the weather was just about warm enough for sunbathing when we visited, although I didn’t brave the bikini) or treat your tastebuds to the illustrious tapas dishes and sip copious amounts of Sangria. Do any or all of these things. This city is what you make it.

A Complete Guide To The Mental Health Policies

News

 

Today marks the start of a big week. After a month of political party broadcasts, heated TV debates and desperate public appearances, the election is almost upon us. Yet even in this position, less than a week before we must make the informed, intelligent decision on 7th May, 40% of us are still unsure how we will vote.

I totally get it. Even after completing The Quiz, tuning into all of the debates and engaging in my fair share of politically charged discussions, I still can’t say that I am 100% certain about my vote. In fact, I struggle to see how anyone can be.

But for me, theres a game-changer. While I care about all the issues addressed the manifestos, its the party’s mental health policies that could potentially swing my vote.The fact that mental health is even addressed in the parties manifestos this time around (the first time, ever) is encouraging, maybe even hopeful, but who is actually saying what?

Below, I have copied each parties policies on mental health, so if you’re still undecided and the thought of voting in a few days is making you freak out, here’s what they’re all saying about mental health.
Conservatives

• Ensure there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment for those who need it.
• We are increasing funding for mental health care.
• We will enforce the new access and waiting time standards for people experiencing mental ill-health, including children and young people.
• We will ensure that women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy, while strengthening the health visiting programme for new mothers
• We will ensure proper provision of health and community-based places of safety for people suffering mental health crises
• We will review how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions back into work.
• People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work. If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.
• New support for mental health, benefiting thousands of people claiming out-of-work benefits or being supported by Fit for Work

Labour

• People will have the same right to psychological therapies as they currently have to drugs and medical treatments.
• NHS staff training will include mental health.
• Increase the proportion of the mental health budget that is spent on children, and make sure that teachers have training so they can identify problems early
• To support young people’s health and wellbeing, we will encourage the development of social and emotional skills
• Set out a strategy with the goal of ensuring that the great majority of patients can access talking therapies within 28 days, and that all children who need it can access school-based counselling.
• Overhaul the Work Capability Assessment
• Ensure there are no targets for sanctions in Jobcentre Plus
• Commission a new specialist Work Support programme, working with local authorities to give disabled people more support in employment.

Liberal Democrats

• Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards
• Ensure no one in crisis is turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care
• Radically transform mental health services, extending the use of personal budgets, integrating care more fully with the rest of the NHS, introducing rigorous inspection and high-quality standards, comprehensive collection of data
• Introduce care navigators so people get help finding their way around the system
• Develop a clear approach on preventing mental illness
• Support good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing
• Establish a world-leading mental health research fund
• Continue to support the Time to Change programme to tackle stigma against mental health
• Ensure all frontline public service professionals get better training in mental health
• Simplify and streamline back-to-work support for people with disabilities, mental or physical health problems.
• Raise awareness of, and seek to expand, Access to Work, which supports people with disabilities in work.

Green Party

• Ensure that no one waits more than 28 days for access to talking therapies
• Ensure that everyone experiencing a mental health crisis, including children and young people, should have safe and speedy access to quality care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
• The use of police cells as ‘places of safety’ for children should be eliminated by 2016, and by the end of the next Parliament should only occur for adults in exceptional circumstances
• Ensure that everyone who requires a mental health bed should be able to access one in their local NHS Trust area, unless they need specialist care and treatment.
• Implement a campaign to end the discrimination and stigma associated with mental health through supporting the Time to Change programme
• Offering employment support to those with mental health problems.
• Pay special attention to any mental health issues of mothers during and after pregnancy, children and adolescents, Black and Minority Ethnic people, refugees, the LGBTIQ communities and ex-service people and their families.
• Give higher priority to the physical healthcare of those with mental health problems.
• Consider offering more personalised job-seeking support for people with mental health problems
Plaid Cymru

• Plaid Cymru will increase access to talking therapies, as well as funding support for eating disorders, and drug and alcohol treatment.
• We will also increase resources for mental health services for young people in Wales
• We will encourage employers to provide adequate support for staff experiencing mental health difficulties.
• In order to help prisoners with mental health and drug or alcohol problems we will improve co-operation between the prison service and health and substance misuse services.
• We will help people who have the most difficulty finding work, including those with a disability and who have limited skills and qualifications, to find a suitable job.
• This will be achieved by dealing with people fairly and by focusing on what individuals can achieve on a day to day basis without the threat of sanctions.
Scottish National Party

• We’ve already committed £15 million to a mental health innovation fund and will seek to increase this investment to £100 million over the next 5 years.
• Resources will be directed towards projects that will improve mental health treatments
• The fund will also enable further investment in child and adolescent mental health services.
• Scotland was the first country in the UK to introduce waiting time targets for these services, and we have increased the workforce by 45 per cent.
• We will demand an urgent review of the conditionality and sanctions regime. The review will take particular account of the needs of people with mental health issues.
UKIP

• Directing patients diagnosed with a debilitating long-term condition or terminal illnesses to mental health professionals when appropriate
• Recognising there is often a link between addiction and mental illness and offering appropriate treatment where this is the case
• Offering direct access to specialist mental health treatment for pregnant women and mothers of children under 12 months of age
• Fighting the stigma around mental illness and supporting those seeking to get back into work.
• Patients experiencing distress or exhibiting mental ill-health issues when admitted to hospital should have both their physical health and mental wellbeing assessed.
• We will end the postcode lottery for psychiatric liaison services in acute hospitals and A&E departments.
• To fund these initiatives, we will increase mental health funding by £170 million annually, phasing this in through the first two years of the next parliament.
• We will end unfair ATOS-style Work Capability Assessments and return assessments to GPs or appropriate specialist consultants.

13 Things No One Tells You About Depression

Features

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1. It physically hurts.
Although depression is a mental illness it can cause physical pain too. From muscle ache and joint pain to stabbing sensations and that physical dull ache you feel in your gut when totally overcome with misery.

2. You literally feel like you are going insane.
Depression manifests in various different ways, including panic attacks, irrational thoughts and social anxiety. It can make you feel like you are crazy, you’re not you’re just sick.

3. You can’t differentiate between which thoughts are rational and which are the depression speaking.
Suddenly your head is filled with intrusive, depressive thoughts. Identifying these against your rational thoughts is tough and confusing, but an important step towards recovery.

4. Depression often makes you feel nothing at all.
People assume that depression means you are sad or “down” but it can actually mean not feeling anything at all. Feeling numb and emotionally exhausted is a definite a symptom of depression.

5. Except guilt, you feel guilty all the time.
If suffering from depression isn’t bad enough, imagine feeling guilty for suffering from depression. The guilt is a depressive emotion that makes you feel selfish, ungrateful and a failure, but the illness is out of your control, it’s not your fault.

6. The future is the most terrifying thing out there.
The future is a huge black, meaningless void that you cannot bear to even think about.

7. No matter how much outsiders try, they will always lose an argument with depression.
However much they reassure and argue with you, your people will never be any match for the arsehole that is depression. “You ARE worthless, useless etc…”

8. Most things people will say to you are not just not helpful, but categorically unhelpful.
Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand depression which is why we so often here things like “just cheer up” or “don’t be so depressed.” This is not only completely pointless advice but it can also be detrimental to how the sufferer feels.

9. It doesn’t make you sad all the time.
Believe it or not, depression doesn’t have to mean lying, weeping in bed in the dark for months on end. Many people living with depression go out, carry on working and even make jokes. Stereotypes don’t allow for this.

10. Likewise, even people with a happy disposition can be depressed.
It is a medical illness, individual to the sufferer and it can affect anyone.

11. Everything that ever meant something, suddenly means nothing.
In a depressive state, you lose sight of everything that you ever loved or enjoyed previously – hobbies, interests and relationships. It’s like you never even existed before the illness.

12. You can’t just take a pill to make it all go away.
Doctors are pretty quick to prescribe antidepressants these days, but while they can help some people with depression to live a more normal life, they are not a long term or permanent solution. Getting better is a long and complex process.

13. It’s a lonely place.
Depression is a seriously lonely illness. It feels like no one in the world understands, and it’s no wonder, because a lot of people don’t. What’s important is that some people do and some are willing to try. Surround yourself with these people or be one of these people. They’re the ones who matter.

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7 Ways to Make Sure Your Easter Isn’t Ruined by Your Eating Disorder

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If were being honest, for most of us Easter is about one thing, chocolate. It is for this reason, that after Christmas, Easter comes in a close second as the most difficult time of year for people with an eating disorder. For some, Easter means overindulging on chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, or sitting down to catch up with family over a traditional holiday meal, for those with eating disorders, Easter often means guilt, anxiety and fear. There is no avoiding the fact that holidays are stressful – I mean, they do involve family and food, at the same time –  but there are some ways to take control and make sure your Easter isn’t ruined by your eating disorder.

  • Talk to someone close to you and that you trust, about your concerns. It’s easy to get trapped in your own head, getting an outside perspective can make a huge difference. A problem shared and all that.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be seeing family and friends who haven’t seen you for a while, be prepared for any questions that might come and think of your responses in advance. This way you don’t feel unprepared or put on the spot.
  • Be Mindful. Practice some Mindful Eating techniques throughout the day to help you stay in control. For example: eat small or moderate amounts every few hours, before eating ask yourself, am I hungry? Am I thirsty? What type of food or drink do I want? Eat slowly and think about the taste, texture, smell and sound of the food. Check in with your hunger signals every few minutes. Stop eating just before you feel full, and wait at least 20 minutes before eating again if you are still hungry.
  • Relax. Whatever your plans are over the weekend, make sure you allow some time for yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy, and something that doesn’t revolve around food. Go for a walk, listen to music, read a book – it is supposed to be a holiday after all.
  • Remember that holidays were made for overeating. People will eat too much chocolate and then they will talk about eating too much chocolate. Remind yourself that these comments are not aimed at you.
  • Remember also, that all eyes aren’t on you. Although it feels like it everyone is watching you, judging how much – or how little – you are eating, this is not the case. Most people are actually too preoccupied with their own food – humans are pretty self-involved, especially at meal times.
  • Enjoy the fact that it is totally acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and at various intervals in between if you so desire. Guilt is inevitable, but keep it under control by being aware of how you feel, you know better than anyone what your limits are. Easter or not, it’s your body and your mind, you decide what they can cope with.

Happy Easter!

Don’t Forget to Breathe

Fitness
Photo Credit: Wari Om Yoga Photography

Photo Credit: Wari Om Yoga Photography

Starting a new exercise that you’ve always wanted to try, is not dissimilar to asking someone you’ve fancied for ages to go out with you. It takes confidence and you need to build up the courage to make the first move. You are leaving yourself totally exposed, treading on unknown territory and you probably put it off for quite a while. For me, my date was yoga.

Yoga is an exercise I had wanted to try for many reasons but never knew how to go about it. I had always felt intimidated about making the first move, how would I know where to start? What would people think of me? What if I couldn’t do it? I looked up classes and stumbled across different types, which of course, meant nothing to me, so I freaked out and retreated back to my comfort zone. When my friend and I set off across South East Asia last year, yoga was on our bucket list. I finally lost my yoga virginity in Indonesia, in a small bamboo outhouse in Yogyakarta, just me, my companion and a fellow traveller were led by a beautiful french instructor. Finally taking a class made me feel silly for all the worrying and deliberating I had put myself through, I was completely defying the point of yoga. The atmosphere of the class was calm, relaxed and not in the least bit competitive, in fact it was so calm I actually nodded off at the end (this is highly embarrassing and I wouldn’t recommended it, but apparently it happens all the time.)

Now, in slightly different circumstances and certainly a less exotic setting, I have found a yoga class in my hometown and I am a convert. I am only on my second class, so am by no means an expert, but already I feel like a yoga enthusiast.

We practise two different types of yoga in each session, Yin and Yang. Beginning with Yang, which involves more movement and is more strenuous on the muscles, and finishing with Yin, for relaxation. That does not mean however, that the Yin is easy, it can involve holding positions for up to five minutes, which in practice is actually pretty tough.

Two classes down, I have learnt the importance of focusing on breathing and that this may be the best life advice I have ever received. When holding a position, particularly in Yin Yoga, it’s inevitable that wandering thoughts will sneak their way in, this is where you learn to patiently put them to one side, and return back to concentrating on your breathing. Breathing is the only bodily function we are able to control, and it will always be there, taking a moment to reconnect with it is something we should actively practice, and obviously not just in terms of yoga.

What I love about the class is that our instructor drums into us throughout, that every body is different. The more yoga you practice, your body will get used to the stretches and you will find you can push yourself further, but there is no competition.There is no right way to look when you are holding a stretch and there is no shame in not being able to push yourself as far as the person next to you, each of us is made up differently and we all have our own limits. Yoga is individual and unique to each person.

For me, this is what yoga is about, taking time out to feel calm, be myself and absolutely not think about anything else. In turn, I’m hoping this will make me happier, healthier and more productive in other – less calm – aspects of my life.