Come on, let’s have a chat about depression and eating disorders

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I was going to write something light and fun today, but I’m in a low mood and, after seeing how many of you appreciated me writing about cystitis, I thought I’d delve into something much more important that my latest obsession with slogan clutch bags. Although seriously, how good are they?

I get told a lot, via blog comments and tweets that I need to improve my knowledge of mental illness, show more respect for it, that I’m encouraging eating disorders and making girls feel worse about their bodies, and this is something which continually confuses me.

Those closest to me will know about my own hefty battles with some of the darker, more invisible medical conditions that plague women in our society as often as Kim Kardashian plagues the bloody Mail Online.

Oh look, I made a joke about mental illness. LOL. Haters gonna hate, right?

I was 14 when I developed bulimia. 16 when I first started seeing the signs of depression, and I honestly believe we need to start talking normally about it. Stop treating it like some sort of plague, tip toeing around it and blaming everything on the pressure of body image. Despite what the media want you to believe, and what most of the actual ‘uneducated’ people believe, mental health issues and eating disorders don’t stem from an overwhelming desire to have Millie Mackintosh’s thigh gap. Although yes, a pert bottom the size of a ripe peach would be dreamy.

As the name suggests, mental health is very much mental. It’s more to do with how our brains work than anything else.

I can graphically remember the first time I put my fingers down my throat. I was in year 9 and had watched a programme on eating disorders as part of tutor period. I saw how much attention those girls got and I wanted in on the action.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually as easy as forcing your fingers down and up comes your food. It takes a long time to train your body to release the food from your stomach almost on touch. The natural reaction is for it to hold onto the food you’ve just digested because it’s fuel and you need fuel to survive.

If you’ve ever stuck your fingers down your throat whilst drunk you’ll have probably had no problem. Firstly it’s excess fluid you’re trying to get rid of, and secondly you’re effectively removing a poison from your body, and it’s happy to let it go. It’s not so happy about letting go of that family sized chocolate cake you’ve just inhaled.

My first attempt took over half an hour, and I’ve regularly had times when my body just won’t release what I’ve eaten, and I’ve had to go to bed crying with guilt because that entire family sized chocolate cake is still lodged in my stomach and my body is taking in all the excess fats and calories from it. Dread.

At my worst I was sick up to four times a day, and at my best I’ve gone six months without relapsing. But I firmly believe you are never cured, just in remission, or recovering.

I have ruined my teeth forever, have done damage I can’t even see to my insides, and I’ve spent years needing additional naps because of how unbelievably tired bulimia can make you.

More recently it’s been the depression that’s controlled my life. I’ve had counselling and I’ve been on medication. But the most important thing about any mental illness is to know your own triggers, know what drags you down and learn your own cures to counteract them.

As trivial as it sounds, lighting some candles, putting on Harry Potter, wrapping myself up in a duvet and having a herbal tea picks me up from my darker moments almost instantly. It is my way of coming back up to a normal level mood.

Because there’s not as many physical signs as with, say an infection (apart from tiredness, headaches and aches) and it’s hard to say whether you’re ever really cured. You can’t look at blood test results or a scan to find it.

But you have to keep looking forward and pulling yourself up and surrounding yourself with people who get it, who understand that the disease you are fighting is just as valid as something physical. Because they are rare, and there are a million more people who will say things like: ‘What, you’re taking the day off work because you’re a bit sad?’

So, no, I don’t think me using the word ‘skinny’ or admitting that most young women look in the mirror and feel fat, is encouraging eating disorders or mental illnesses, I believe our naivety about what causes them, and our lack of education as a society about the diseases we can’t see, are the things making these conditions so much worse than they already are.

  • Thank you for telling it like it is, Hannah.

  • vikki

    Hannah, this post has really struck a cord with me. I suffered from bulimia for many years. Although I was never underweight and looked fine to the sea, I was in big trouble mentally. I to have damaged my teeth, and have been left with stomach problems. From 15 I suffered terrible depression. I still have depression, and your right it is mostly a case of learning your triggers and knowing what helps. Plus the right medication. I love that in the 19 years since my depression started its not such a taboo subject and that’s because of people speaking out. It shouldn’t be a dirty secret. Well done huni x

  • Thanks for sharing. Hope you feel a bit better soon.

  • you’re very brave to be so open, good for you and hope you continue to feel in remission http://thewanderlusthasgotme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/7-things-i-didnt-know-about-walking.html

  • Charlotte Webb

    This is the post of yours that I have most been able to relate to. Thank you. It helps show that people aren’t alone in the way they feel. X

  • A

    So essentially this is your get-out clause for using whatever misguided word combinations you choose to use in future with regards to eating disorders/depression?

    • Aly

      What a disgusting response.

    • Bitten

      A, you’re a pure twat. Someone puts themselves out there and you’re trying to cut them down like a keyboard warrior. Take a good look at yourself and don’t ever comment on this blog again. I love reading Hannah’s words and I never want to see yours, understood?

    • If you believe suffering from mental health conditions such as bulima and depression to be a “get out clause” then I think you need to take a look at yourself. Why should we put mental illness aside from all other topics and say it’s wrong to write about them in a relatable manner? At the end of the day people need to be reducing the stigma surrounding them, and that’s not gonna be done if everyone is too afraid to speak out.

      • vikki

        I agree. The only way people who struggle with these issues will ever feel comfortable talking openly about them, is too know that ignorant, closed minded A holes for example, A, won’t judge them and belittle them. Well done Bitten, for making it clear that those comments are welcome on lovely Hannah’s blog x

  • Thank you for posting thing, I could relate a lot to this post as a teenager going through similar things myself. I’ve written a blog about positive body image and self esteem and wondered if you could check it out? http://writingthroughsilence.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/is-there-really-such-thing-as-perfection/

  • Alice

    “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” -Dumbledore

    Rock on Hannah, stay epic!

  • C

    Thanks for your blogs!! I’m currently suffering from depression and as an obsessive Harry Potter fan when I am feeling low I also put Harry Potter on, get my duvet and have some tea. Makes me feel 100 times better. You’re blog cheers me up also and makes me realise I’m not the only one going through this and I can get through it!!

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  • Heather

    I know I’m a bit late commenting on this post.. but thank you Hannah for being open & honest. I have suffered with anxiety & panic disorder since the age of 12 & find it so hard to get people to understand my illness. Depression has played a part in my life and I’m glad to hear I’m not the only 20 something year old out there struggling. Hearing other people out there struggling makes me realise that mental health should not be hidden & should be talked about x

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  • FreyaMay

    I am so happy you wrote this. I have managed to keep my eating disorder/depression secret for nearly 8 years and am finally getting help. Like you mentioned, teeth are ruined, insides are ruined … it is time to try and live. One step at a time.

  • I just read this after a friend linked me too it. It’s so good to read and relate to people and remind myself i am normal! even though i’ve wrote a blog post about depression and bulimia http://ruthieemcc.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/fashion-depression-awareness-and-being.html i continue to forget that its not a weird thing to have this illness so thankyou for reminding me i think it was needed!xxx

  • I appreciate your initiative to start a topic about depression & eating disorder. It’s a health risk and we should discuss it. I’ve learned useful facts in your article. Thanks for opening a discussion and hope people will recover from their depression & eating disorders.

  • Alannagh

    Thank you my story is a bit like yours too


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