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.