TW – Trigger Warning – this blog contains honest content about weight loss and symptoms of eating disorders. Please consider taking care of yourself and clicking away if this may be triggering for you.
For 2 weeks at the beginning of September I lived with an undiagnosed fractured jaw. Not just a little chip, my mandible is completely broken, all the way through! I went to hospital but they were certain it wasn’t broken (that’s a story for another blog). During the 2 weeks before diagnosis I was trying to manage a soft tissue injury which involves gentle exercises and trying to chew despite the terrible agony! I was even playing my saxophone!
Anyway, long story short, fracture diagnosed, surgery untaken, restricted diet underway and I’m losing weight like it’s going out of fashion!
I’m trying really hard to be honest with people about how things are going. Things haven’t been straight forward with the recovery, I’ve needed extra appointments and additional management.
This is a mental health blog where I talk honestly about mental illness and recovery. Being on the right side of recovery it’s (relatively) easy to talk about the bad stuff because I can see that things turn out alright in the end. But at the moment, while things are physically really hard, my mental health is under strain.
I always think twice about writing a blog like this because I don’t want anyone to worry about me (as there genuinely is no need).
My mood has taken a hit, for a number of reason: missed diagnosis, pain, fatigue, not being able to do the things I usually do. I think all these things would take its toll on anyone’s mood.
I also have a history of anorexia and despite full recovery, something I struggle to talk about is my residual poor body image. I was told, as I was supported to weight restore, that my mind would catch up with my body; they tell you, you must weight restore first, then you will gradually start to feel ok about a “normal/average” body size. But I never have, I’ve never felt ok in a “health” body. It’s always felt too big, too fat, like I’m taking up too much space. So as my weight has dropped on a liquid diet, I’m feeling a bit better about my body – I know this can be a slippery slope but it’s a familiar space and when you’re feeling low, you grasp for anything comforting. Old thought habits fall into place easily.
I’ve had people say “you’re looking good”; this really doesn’t help. Those of us who’ve been down the ED black hole know these comments fuel the fire.
The most scary thoughts/feelings are when I’m walking around a supermarket or in a cafe and I see lots of foods I want but can’t have. People often think anorexia is about hating food, forgetting about it and not being bothered by it – far from this, anorexia is an obsession with food, thinking about it all the time, the body wants it but the mind has to find ways to avoid due to shear fear and anxiety. When I had anorexia whenever I walked around a supermarket I would see lots of foods I wanted but I couldn’t have – right now this is all too familiar.
Ways I’m looking after myself:
- Learning to rest and enjoy it – a familiar pattern would be to exercise away my limited calorie intake but I know this would be unhelpful. My body needs to heal, I need to help it as much as possible. It’s easy to feel guilty about resting but why should I feel guilty about looking after myself?
- Getting fresh air everyday – it’s easy when feeling down to shut yourself away, especially with so little energy but fresh air is good for the soul!
- Continuing with routine – although I can’t do a lot of things I usually do I’m still going to work and church. If I’m looking for familiarity, I can’t go wrong with being around familiar people.
- Keeping meal times – not being able to eat (only drink) it would be easy to fall out of meal time routine but I’ve remained with the pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner, trying to vary the drinks I have!
- Being honest with people – how easy is it to say “alright” or “fine” when someone asks how you are?! I cut down what I say depending on how much time someone has but right now things aren’t ok so I say it how it is. I never want people to lie to me when I ask them how they are, so I treat people how I want to be treated.
- Being conscious of calories and nutrients – Feeling low and lacking appetite, it would be easy not to bother with food but I know it’s important. It’s hard work getting in enough calories when they’ve got to be accompanied by so much water but there’s good information online for post surgery dietary intake. Plus I have a good dietitian friend who’s helped me out!
I wanted to write this blog, partly to raise awareness about the chronic nature of mental illness. Even when recovered, it can lurk in the background, we remain susceptible to relapse. I also wanted to let anyone who’s struggling with relapse know they’re not alone, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable black hole. Right now, I’m working hard to stay well, by looking after myself I know things can get better.