You Got My Back, Yeah?: 2. A Listening Ear and A Hand to Hold

large-3
She couldn’t recover for me, she couldn’t change anything for me, but she could be there, next to me, holding my hand.

Following on from my previous post about honesty, the truth is that it is most definitely not peaches and roses living with an eating disorder sufferer; there were tantrums, floods of tears and moods leveling out at ‘a through the floor kind of down and out’. My partner didn’t always know the right things to say. Sometimes she didn’t even have to talk. We didn’t say anything. She would come up to me as I’m sat to the table sobbing my eyes out because “I just can’t” and just hold me before taking my hand, leading me to the other room and holding me some more.

At other times, in a rage of frustration at food, someone or myself she’d listen, let me vent then help comfort me. Hugs, watching TV, and going for a walk all helped to calm me down, soothe the situation and move on. It was an incident but it needn’t define the whole day. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even talk. I wouldn’t talk and she wouldn’t talk, but the acts of going for a walk in silence, the acts of wrapping her arms around me, and the acts of stroking my head whilst I sobbed helped and became invaluable support. Quite literally, she held my hand. She couldn’t recover for me, she couldn’t change anything for me, but she could be there, next to me, holding my hand – and that is exactly what she did.

3. Encouragement To Negotiate With The Enemy (Click)

You Got My Back, Yeah?: 1. Acceptance, Knowledge, and Honesty

large-2
“We Have Mice, Right?”

After trying to hide my behaviours around food, after sneaking around pretending to eat, and “Oh the ice cream tub is empty? How strange. No I haven’t seen it. We have mice right?”; there came a point when I was confronted. For me, the second time around I knew I had an eating disorder due to my past. It wasn’t the first time for me, but even if it is: once it is acknowledged that there is a problem it is OK to be with it and live with it for a while. I say this because an eating disorder is caused by psychological factors, and no matter how much weight is gained, or how much you restrain someone from purging, if the underlying factors are not healed then the eating disorder is not truly healed.

We accepted this fact. We didn’t ignore what was happening. My partner read about eating disorders. She read leaflets and websites. She took it even further because she understood that only so much of what is going on can be explained in a bulleted leaflet written by doctors – so she hit online and read blogs written by people experiencing an eating disorder. This helped her understand the method to my madness and glimpse inside what was really happening, allowing me to explain better what I could, and for her to understand as best as she could. We were honest. I could say, “I’m struggling with this” and it was OK. I could even say, “that restaurant scares me” and we could work on negotiations. Even if I broke down because of the food on my plate in front of me, she made it so that I could say, “It’s the food.” It was accepted and I didn’t have to fabricate a lie that I’d broken my toe, that someone had been nasty or, ‘it’s just that time again…all the time…every day at dinner time…I get bad PMS”.

2. A Listening Ear and a Hand to Hold (Click)

 

You Got My Back, Yeah? : 10 Key Support Methods In Overcoming an Eating Disorder

large-1

An eating disorder is a real challenge to overcome. The pathology that underlies the eating disorder runs so deep within the core, becomes so entrenched within the psyche and so consuming that no part of life remains untouched, unscathed, or unaffected. Distortions are skewed. Rationale and abilities to make sense of the world are shaken upside down and all around: it becomes one understanding for you and the rest of the world, and another for us. No, you are not fat at X lb, yet if the same stats are applied to me, they are unacceptable. X lb is a disgrace, for me but not you. I am disgusting, not only to myself but to the whole of humankind. I am shameful, greedy, horrific, but not you. You are fine, perfect, wonderful even. For the sufferer, this existence is accepted not as unhealthy, a lack of wellness, or a distorted pathology, no, this is the cold, hard, rational factualities of our existence and life: skin and bone alone would still be too much.

Therefore, understanding that they are unwell, that something is wrong with them, and it is not that they are a disgrace is a feat. Once this understanding has been gained and the sufferer is ready to start taking the initial steps towards recovery, it is difficult to overcome with support, and far harder alone.

In this series, ‘You Got My Back, Yeah?’, I will explore how, by working together, we orchestrated our joint battle against my eating disorder in a set of 10 key types of support that I found the most useful from those around me for overcoming my eating difficulties: from my partner, my friends and the healthcare professionals I worked with whilst battling my eating disorder. (Click Links)

1. Acceptance, Knowledge, and Honesty 

2. A Listening Ear and A Hand to Hold 

3. Encouragement To Negotiate With The Enemy 

4. Boundary Control

 5. Privacy Vs Secrecy 

6. Being Treated Wholly 

7. Affirming Truths and Healing 

8. You Still Need to Eat: Leading By Healthy Example 

9. What Recovery Is, and Is Not 

10. Don’t Forget To Live 

“We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls.”

– Winston Churchill

 

Beat: The UK’s Charity Antidote to Wellness Wankery and Eating Disorders

If you are worried about your relationship with food, who do you turn to? Your mates? Your GP? Or maybe you might turn to many of the numerous blogs, instagram pages and podcasts out there #wellness? Turning to influencers to make sense, I mean afterall, they’re flawless skin, pert tits, perky bum and six pack is the picture of health, right? Surely they must know what they’re talking about when it comes to wellness, diet, and exercise, or maybe not; influencers and #wellness are in a very committed marriage with diet culture. They’re like the grandparents who have been married  since forever #adorbs. This marriage though is #toxic needs to get a divorce, but there doesn’t seem to be one on the horizon *sad face*. Wellness industries and diet culture are like salt and pepper to your scrambled eggs, left and right to your Sat Nav and milk and sugar to your coffee.

A recent study by Christina Sabbagh looked into the validity, accuracy and evidenced based quality of weight management and nutrition of nine influencers, defined as having in excess of 80,000 followers on at least one social media platform. By assessing each blog against twelve criteria, including evidence based information, the use of reliable sources, and clearly stating the difference between opinion and fact, only one passed each criteria – and they are a UK registered nutritionist who is degree qualified. Nine is a small smaple size, but the strength of the results cannot be ignored: there seems to be a clear trend. Especially with many of the influencers having had no accredited training or education in the advice they are pushing on their sites. [More info here]

source

A lot of influencers post before and after wellness photos. Before they were skinny and weak and barely eating coupled with pubishing exercise regimes that proved detrimental to their health. So are the influencers really as #healthy, #wellness, #blessed as they seem? Maybe, but most likely not. Are they really the place to turn to if you have concerns about your own relationship with food? Perhaps you’ve been bingeing in the evening, or skipping breakfast to shed some pounds and the result is that now you are in a somehwat chaotic place with your relationship with food. I don’t have the answers and I’m not going to pretend I do, else I would be falling into the wellness wanker world, no, I’m going to tell you about Beat – a wonderful UK based charity that I have been volunteering for.

Beat is the UK’s leading eating disorder charity. They provide information and services for people experiencing eating disorders, or who may be concerned about their relationship with food – I’m looking at you, the chaotic eaters who feel lost and overwhelmed with food, the fearful who are scared and anxious about eating, and the compulsive overeater who sweats hours in spin class just to try and burn it off. Beat have a lot of helpful information on their website, which can be found here.

What do Beat offer?

  • A phone line that you can call for advice
  • Information
  • Online 1-to-1 chats with a trained advisor (that’s me), like MSN messenger
  • Online group peer support sessions – also facilitated and moderated by trained advisors (Hi again, also me)
  • An email service that people use for seeking help and advice for themselves, loved ones and/or in general. (Me again)(This list is starting to look like it’s all about me, ha!)
  • A service finder application that you can use to find other eating disorder support services in your area using your post code.

So why did I choose to volunteer with Beat? Beat was the first website I was signposted to when I first opened up about my struggles with eating to a teacher way back in 2006. At the time was called EDAUK (Eatign Disorders Association UK): yup, it was that long ago and it was pretty basic. The most useful websites were all American (they get the best of everythign I swear). At the time I was obsessively surfing online between information sites, and other sites where people with eating disorders congregated online at the time (more on that another time). With the majority of sites being USA specific and although they had a lot of information that was useful about eating disorders in general, the support at the time was quite basic and non-interactive.

Sometimes I imagine how useful it would have been to have these online services when I was struggling back then, and as I became increasibly isolated by my bulimia, if I had had somewhere to chat in a safe space about what I was experiencing. Pro-ana sites mainly gave me a space to feel less alone – it would have been nice to have a healthy version as an alternative option; eating disorders are incredibly isolating experiences, particulalry when you have bulimia because a) it takes up a lot of time and b) there is a lot of shame around it when compared to the glorification of anorexia. It is that bit more shameful, that bit infinitely more disgusting and that bit more time consuming, mentally and physically.

So if you’re struggling with any eating difficulties, whether you have an eating disorder diagnosis or not, get in touch with Beat. They offer a good variety of services, and they are all confidential. Finally, if you think you might like to also become a Digital Volunteer, more information can be found here.