Mental Health

They told me that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with a mental health problem. I nodded.

They told me that depression is a serious illness, and you can’t just ‘snap out of it’. I nodded.

They told me that the stigma of mental health needed to be broken. I nodded.

And then mental health started swallowing the people closest to me, and suddenly nodding wasn’t enough any more. This was real, and nobody ever taught us how to cope with that.

I think, I calculated when drunk last night, that there’s around 10 people who I’m not sure I could live with out. I think half of them have an issue with mental health. Eating disorders, self harm, depression, and other variations much more complicated than I’m ever able to understand. Some days, even for me, it can be a battle of fear to get up. Im terrified of a slip that will mean I lose them forever. I’m worried about them, and I think about them all, every single day.

And then, in ways much much less serious than my friends, demons started swallowing me, too. I’ve never admitted that to myself before. I’ve never accepted that in my own little way, I’m not normal. But it’s true, and I’m very lucky that right now, my life is going very well for me! This past 6 months or so has been awesome.

But mental health, especially when it concerns those who you really care about, is scary. I wish I’d written this post when I thought of it. Last night’s panic wouldn’t have happened if not for the alcohol, and 100 meters of darkness. Last night’s panic wouldn’t have happened if I’d had written this post last week when I first thought of it. Last week, when one of my very good friends took an overdose, and tried to commit suicide.

It’s scary. It’s absolutely crushingly scary, but I carried on with awkward laughter through my last week at university. And then I realised that I also had a million deadlines, and I wonder why I’ve had a headache for a week!

I’m lucky to be able to say that it wasn’t the end. My best friend told me, a long long time ago, that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end yet. Perhaps one day the end may come while it’s not okay, but for now, we have to live our lives with hope. I have to jump back onto the mountain that I fell off last week, stay as positive as I can, and bash out another set of exams, just like I did in January.

Sometimes you need to cry, and that’s okay. That’s human. Especially when it involves close friends and mental health. Life was never designed to be easy, but it’s a shame that school never made us better prepared for these situations, when they rolled off their facts to a classroom of nods.

Now, in my degree, when before lecturing on schizophrenia or depression, they give us those same basic facts that they told us in school, I don’t just nod. I breathe, I swallow, and I think, love and hope. It may just be facts for many of you, but it’s my reality, and I wouldn’t change my friends or family for the whole entire world.

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It doesn’t just ‘go’

A mental health issue doesn’t just disappear. An eating disorder doesn’t just go away. You don’t just get better, and suddenly eat like a normal person. And I know that. I’ve said it a million times and I know it deep down, but every time she tells me she’s okay, I believe her. I want to trust her. She’s my best friend, after all, and she should have no reason to lie to me.

But of course she lies. She doesn’t want anyone to worry, because it could stop the eating disorder in it’s tracks. She trusts and loves her eating and her mind control more than me. But I’m her best friend, and thought that we spent the last five years building equal trust. No, I’m fooled again. I fell for the lies and promises, again. And now I’ve realised, again. And I’m crying, again. Because she told me she was okay and I didn’t think she’d lie to me.

But she did, and it’s broken me.

She’s not okay and she’s never going to be okay, because food will always rule her life. But nobody knows that except me, and boy can she hide it from the rest of the world. From 500 miles away, she knows there’s nothing I can do.
‘I don’t skip meals’
‘I don’t count calories’
‘I don’t weigh myself’
‘I value my degree too much’
BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE AND IT’S BULLSHIT.

Every time she lies, and I realise, she hurts me. She stabs me, and it is her fault. Surely she knows by now that FRIENDSHIP isn’t about LIES. I’m going to worry anyway, I’ve cried myself to sleep the last few nights anyway, just thinking. And soon enough, I found out, anyway. Talk to me. You don’t have to listen to me, listening is hard, but please to god be honest with me.

Yes, I am angry. Yes, I’m very angry. Because I tried to hard to make it easy for you, to help you, and most of all, to be here for you. Don’t you remember where this started? Don’t you remember how this makes me feel? Don’t you remember how much I hate it when you LIE TO ME!? Don’t you remember how bad it got, and how bad you were, and how you just didn’t eat at all? That could be happening now. I wouldn’t know though, you’re too far away. You could be taking laxatives, or weighing yourself ten times a day again. I wouldn’t know unless you trust and tell me. But you won’t, will you? I have 21 assignments to do, but I’m curled up on my bed, crying. Crying because I love you. Crying because you lied. Crying because I’m worried. Crying because it’s not healthy. Crying because I need you. Crying because you deserve better than this. Crying because I care.

I don’t have to read back through my posts from a year ago to know how it feels to see you suffer. But maybe you should try it. I don’t have to read them to see how helpless I was and how much I cared, and how much I needed you to trust me. But I think that perhaps you do.

Lying to me helps nobody, and if you’re going to continue, I’m going to start doubting if this friendship is worth it anymore.

I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know. But friends don’t work unless we’re honest. Friends don’t work unless we care. Friends don’t work unless we respect each other.

I’m not asking you to change. I’m not asking you to get help. I know it isn’t easy and I know it won’t go away. What I’m asking is that you treat me like the friend that you claim I am. Answer my questions honestly, and don’t try to make me feel better because you think I need it.

That only makes things about three billion times worse when I found out, as you’d realise if you could see me now.

I’m broken, I’m hurt, and I’m more afraid than ever before.

Where’s the love and friendship?

No matter how hard I try, I can’t find another person who blogs about their friend’s eating disorder, or mental health. I can scroll through page after page of google, or search a hundred different potential tags on wordpress, yet I find nobody. There’s hundreds of people who blog about their own issues, but nobody seems to write about their friends. Perhaps they don’t need to, perhaps normal people cope just fine. Perhaps they don’t feel like they should get too involved, perhaps they fear that someone will see it, perhaps they have another way to deal with their emotions. Or maybe they just hide, deep in the blogosphere. I wish I could find someone though. I think it would make things easier for me, to read about someone else who struggles just as I do.

If you’re out there, and you’re hiding, please come and find me. Come and see hi. Sometimes, this can feel like a very very lonely world. We may not be the ones ‘suffering’, but often, it can hurt just as much.

Letting Go, and Allowing her to Protect Herself

It’s tough to go without contact, and there’s many reasons for that. Over the last six months or so, my trust has grown however, and it’s much easier now than it ever was before. It’s okay, she’s not like the others, and my best friend won’t abandon me. It doesn’t matter if we have a few weeks of silence, to allow her to concentrate, she’ll still be here for me, to hug me at christmas. Until then, I’ll just rock myself to sleep, shhh my own tears, and worry on my own. It’s only two weeks, I’m strong, and I can do that. I’m ready for it, and I’m feeling more determined than ever.

Whilst I can’t promise to say nothing for the next few weeks, I can sure slow down. And you know what I’m going to focus on? That when we meet up back at home, it’ll be even more special, they’ll be even more love, and we’ll truly have lots to talk about.

There’s only niggling feeling that holds me back, and it’s the ghosts of the last few months. Food, eating disorders, pain, worry, lies, and heartache. I saw a picture today of someone on Facebook. It’s been merely months since I last saw her, and though I didn’t know her well, I didn’t even recognise her in the photo. She looks old, her face looks gaunt, and she’s clearly lost a lot of weight since moving away. Someone who I used to go to school with, and see on a regular basis, a completely different person.

That could easily be my best friend. She could quite easily not eat another thing, and exercise for three hours a day for the next few weeks, and I’d be none the wiser. She could end up in A&E having collapsed, or even from self harm, and she’s so far away that she could probably lie it all away. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t happen. I’d like to think that she values her med school exams more than that, and I’d like to think that by this point, she trusts me and values me enough not to lie. I’d like to think that she’d read those envelopes before it got that bad, and she’d ask me for help.

But it’s scary. Nobody is perfect, and the prospect is still very real. That’s why I’m scared to let go. In the past, it may have been about me, but it’s just not that anymore. I truly care about her. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. She’s like a big sister to me, and I wouldn’t cope if I knew she was lying, and I certainly wouldn’t cope if she wasn’t in this world anymore. I love her, she’s beautiful in every way, and the back of my mind is a little afraid to let go, because it means that I can’t protect her anymore. I have to trust her to protect herself.

Wandering Wonderer

I wonder how life would have been different if my best friend had eaten her meal at leavers?
I wonder how it would be if I’d just let her not eat anything, without comment?
I wonder what would have happened if she didn’t suggest that we went for a walk and a talk in the rain?
I wonder if things would be different if my favourite teacher hadn’t caught me on the way back in, angry and crying?
I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t bothered to stop me, to calm me down, give me his jacket, and fetch me water?
I wonder if the outcome would be different if my biology teacher didn’t catch my eye on the way back in, forcing me to sit with her and asking if I was okay?
I wonder what I’d have said to that teacher if my other best friend hadn’t been sat with me, feeding me alcohol?
I wonder what would have happened if after my friend left, my chemistry teacher, sat on the other side of the table hadn’t tried to call me over?
I wonder if things would be different if I hadn’t had a silent conversation with her, trying to tell her that I couldn’t sit with my best friend in that close proximity after all that had happened?
I wonder about if when she did eventually persuade me to move, would the outcome have been different if she hadn’t clarified for certain my silent meaning, and beckoned my best friend over?
I wonder if things would be different if when I realised and tried to stand up, that teacher hadn’t grabbed my hand and pulled me back into my chair?
I wonder what things would be like if when she sat us face to face we’d have actually looked each other in the eye, instead of at our laps?
I wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t tried to obliviously rectify the mess with the words ‘You too are so close, you’re such good friends, you can’t fall out. You two need each other, and it’s leavers. What’s happened?’?
I wonder about the outcome if she’d had left it at that, and not marched us outside to ‘sort it out’?
I wonder what would have happened if when we got out there, my best friend hadn’t turned her back to me? What if I didn’t put my arms around her? What if when the chemistry teacher asked ‘So what’s going on then?’ I hadn’t answered with ‘I don’t know, because if I knew I’d have done something about it before now.’?
I wonder what would have happened if we didn’t cry?
I wonder what would have happened if my best friend hadn’t given me whispered permission to tell? What if I hadn’t told? If we’d lied, smiled, and skipped back inside?
I wonder if I would have spoken if my best friend hadn’t been clutching my hand?
I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t told her the second bit, too?
I wonder if it would be different if she hadn’t told the biology teacher, who by this point was standing nearby?
I wonder if it would have changed things if I’d been allowed to sit with my best friend on the bus, instead of at opposite ends with my biology teacher by my side, and the chemistry teacher by hers?
I wonder how that teacher would have reacted if I’d just ignored her presence instead of reluctantly leaning on her and being dragged into deep, deep conversation?
I wonder if it would have changed things if when we got off, I’d have skipped straight off to the pub with my friends like nothing had happened?
I wonder what it would have done if I hadn’t stayed until I knew she was safe?
I wonder what would have happened if I’d stuck to the intentions as I watched my best friend climb into my teachers car, and gotten drunk as I swore I would?
I wonder if the next day my best friend and I hadn’t sat on the bus to dofe and talked, things would be different?
I wonder if it would have changed things if when we got there she’d have just chosen her dinner instead of flitting around the menu for a good hour saying that she wouldn’t eat any of it?
I wonder if I’d have been as calm that evening if the biology teacher hadn’t cornered me in my bunkhouse room and checked how things were, giving me yet another pep talk?
I wonder what would have happened if they didn’t check my best friend’s food supply and make her buy more?
I wonder if things would have been different if she’d eaten all her food on dofe?
I wonder what the school would have done if she didn’t get blisters, and have to miss tour? I wonder if they’d have told her mum anyway?
I wonder if things would have changed if her mum had listened, and acted a little more appropriately?
I wonder what would have been the outcome if she did just go to uni and not eat?
I wonder if she does eat as she says she does?
I wonder if she’s going to get hospitalised?
I wonder why they didn’t just listen?

A lot of decisions were made by many on that night and the days that followed. Recently, the memories have haunted my dreams, and I can’t help but imagine how one little decision may have changed things for the better or worse.

But we’ll never know, and so we must make do with what we have, and the situation we’re in.

Everything will be okay in the end, somehow.

‘That’s not even anorexic’

“I tried to go anorexic for three hours. I ate celery and ice, and that’s not even anorexic, but I quit. I was like ‘mum, can you make me a sandwich, immediately?’ She was like ‘are you okay?’ and I said, ‘yeah just feeling a little light headed.’ I was too hungry. I don’t care, I wanted pizza instead of starving myself.”

Megan Trainor, you are someone who doesn’t understand eating disorders. I’d probably go as far as to say that you don’t deserve the praise that you’re getting for your song. You’re all about ‘promoting positive body image’ but I’m not sure if that’s what you’re really doing. What about accepting everyone no matter what they look like? What about promoting self confidence and a caring personality?

You don’t choose an eating disorder. Nobody chooses a mental health issue. Yet again though, we can see someone that doesn’t understand. She thinks she gets it, but she doesn’t. Anorexia is about much more than just wanting to be thin. It’s not about choosing not to eat, or trying to fit. Eating disorders are a cycle of self-hatred and loathing, and there’s all sorts of reasons for it. Mental health isn’t a choice, and it can be just as life threatening as many physical disorders. Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not real, or that it’s not there.

Maybe someone needs to educate Megan instead of her trying to educate the rest of the world.

Is it lack of care, or understanding?

A friend came to visit me last weekend, and she told me the unfortunate news that her grandma had died.

It got me thinking. It got me thinking about mental health. I was thinking about her mental health and how this death may have affected her. The day before, I’d also written to a friend who has just been released from an eating disorder clinic. All this thinking got me down, and a little worked up. I got home, my flat mate text me, and I told her that I was taking a little time out to be in my room.

She continued to text me. I told her about my four friends. I told her about the eating disorders, the depression, the self harm, the attempted suicide, and the rape. I mentioned no names, and I wasn’t specific about who and what. The talking didn’t help. I got emotional, and I got worked up. She just didn’t get it.

I’m slowly realising that sometimes, it’s not that people don’t care, they simply don’t understand. ‘Why would anyone self harm?’ she said. ‘It’s just so selfish.’ I wasn’t in the mood to explain, but I tried. Explaining by text isn’t easy, and still, she didn’t get it. Unless you’ve lived through it, I’m not sure you ever can get it. Even I, as someone supporting people going through it, cannot ‘get it’ completely.

It made me realise though, perhaps those people who don’t do anything do care, they just don’t understand. They don’t understand that this isn’t chosen, and that it’s not something that will cure itself.

I told her about leavers and I told her that I’d tried to tell adults and I told her how worried I was. Still, I said no names. I told my flat mate about the mother who denied her child’s eating disorder. The people that didn’t believe me when I nearly messed up my friendship by making a desperate cry for someone to help her.

My flat mate couldn’t understand why the adults wouldn’t listen. But I think that my flat mate has helped me to understand. These people are just not sure what they can do. It can be tricky to help someone when you know that in all honesty, they don’t really want to be helped. It can be tricky to try and help, because in helping, you take some responsibility. Taking responsibility for something that is so destructive and you know that you’re going to struggle to change can be hard. I know. Because I’ve been trying to help for months.

Five minutes later, after drying my eyes and breathing deeply, I walked out of my room. It just so happened that my flat mate walked out at the same time. She smiled. ‘Ready to make dinner?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said.

We have an unspoken rule, I thought. We only have deep conversations by text.

And this could be very dangerous.

Please say it’s not too late.

I knew there was something wrong last night. I knew it wasn’t quite normal. I don’t know how I knew, but something in my head told me it wasn’t right, and so I couldn’t sleep. The silence was abnormal, especially when she’d said earlier on that she wanted to see something. I couldn’t understand, but I pacified myself, and I slept.

I don’t know what I dreamt about in my sleep last night, but I know that it wasn’t pleasant. I woke up this morning, my ponytail hanging out, my neck blotchy, my covers tangled and my pyjamas in a mess. Normally, I’m a delicate sleeper, who doesn’t move. My dad has described me as sleeping beauty. I was definitely dreaming last night.

I promised myself last night that I wouldn’t be the first to talk today. I swore that I wouldn’t send the first message, or the first snapchat. I knew she’d been out last night, but when I woke up today and saw that there was no reply to last nights messages, and no drunk snapchat story, I was sure it wasn’t right. Thinking that perhaps she’d just lost her phone, I sent her a facebook message. A few other signs led me to complete uncontrollable panic before she replied. She’s alive, at least. No, actually, I’ve got that wrong. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that she’s simply living.

It’s rather odd that I sensed there was something wrong, when she’s so far away. But perhaps I already knew, really. A few days ago, she told me that she might have to start opening her ‘open when’ letters soon. I questioned it then, asked her if she was coping, but she denied all cases of struggle. Of course she did, she always lies to me.

I’m heartbroken. I’ve told her that later, she is going to Skype me, and she has to eat before then. I thought I was a friend, I thought that I was somebody that she could trust, and talk to. I can’t give her s choice this time, I’m just going to have to show her ghat distance doesn’t change anything. Everything had been going so perfectly, and now she’s crashed so suddenly. It was always too good to be true. I’m so worried about her, because there’s nobody up there who knows, and who can care for her. Oh wait, there’s nobody at all who actually really believes it. It’s just me and her against the world.

I can’t fix everything, but I need her to talk to me. Now, the questions are spinning around my head, and I’m glad I don’t have any lectures today. There’s no way I could concentrate. How long have you not been eating properly for? What’s happened? Have you done anything stupid? Why didn’t you talk to me?

I’m here for you. I love you. It’s a shame that you can’t trust me to be by your side as much as I trust you, because right now, you’re falling from the sky, and I’m beginning to worry that it might be just a little too late for me to give you a parachute.

Just thinking is killing me. But this isn’t about me. This is because I care about you. Deny it all you like, but it won’t change anything. I care, and I want you to talk to me. I don’t want you to be alone.

I don’t want you to die.

Slipping Into The Mindset

Just over a week ago, I moved to university, and met the six other people that I now share a flat with. One girl has cried a lot since she got here. Personally, I find the concept of homesickness after only a few days of being away a little strange, but there are also a few more unusual habits that I’ve noticed. For one, she keeps all her food and cooking equipment in her room instead of the kitchen. As well as that, she also never seems to eat that much in front of anyone. Another flat mate and I were discussing this, and her comment was ‘it’s really strange, like she wants us all to believe that all she eats is a pot noodle a day or something’.

As time has passed, I’ve thought about it more and more. At one point, I considered for the first time that maybe she has or is developing an eating disorder. I found myself, for a very split second, thinking ‘but she’s definitely not even close to skinny so I must be wrong’. It took less than a second to realise what had just crossed my mind, and to reverse my thought process. How could I, after everything that has happened, be so naive?

I don’t know her well enough yet to make a good judgement, and I don’t know what has been her lifelong norm. I’m also very aware that this could be just our own obliviousness with regards to what she is eating, or she could have one of several other physical health conditions. What concerns me about my thoughts is not that I considered the possibility that she may have an eating disorder, but the way with which my mind discarded the idea so quickly.

For some readers, that thought process may seem perfectly reasonable; for me, it is shocking. For months now, I’ve been working to try and get people to understand the eating habits of my best friend. People have written off my concerns with comments ranging from ‘I only ever bump into her in the supermarket buying food’, to ‘she’ll be fine now her mum knows’, to ‘she eats at home’. There is also the one comment that disheartened, shocked, and angered me more than any other: ‘she’s too fat to have an eating disorder’ and ‘she’s not skinny enough to need to worry yet.’ How could people have such an unrealistic understanding? Why could nobody see what I could see, and why wouldn’t they listen to me? Didn’t they know that it’s not the weight that matters?! It’s been a massive frustration of mine for a long time.

But now, I think I can understand how easy it is to stereotype a person who has an eating disorder. If I, after watching everything that I have over the past few years, can still occasionally think that, then what chance does anybody else stand? It’s so easy to presume, and often it can be difficult to remember that it doesn’t always work like that. At the time same time that it still angers me that all the people I’ve tried to tell, who I prayed would provide comfort and hope, won’t change their mindset after several conversations, I can now sympathise with their initial moment of confusion.

Initially, it can be so easy to fall into the trap, regardless of how well you think you understand. For me, it was a split second and very shocking mistake, and a mistake that I hope to never make again. Perhaps if like me you’ve just met someone, then don’t jump to conclusions either way. Never presume something that you haven’t been told, because it is not based on fact. In my case, the subconscious mind from a distance past jumped to conclusions, and I feel very guilty. In the cases of many, it’s definitely the conscious mind that comes to such a conclusion

What I think is important however, is that you’re prepared to adapt your views. This is the side of stereotypes that I really know about, because I’ve been screaming out for help for my friend for months now. Nobody listens, and slowly, it’s killing us both. Perhaps it’s not those initial considerations that really make a difference, but the later ones that matter. Listen to the people that are crying out to you, and if someone is screaming for help, please listen, try to understand, and trust them, regardless of how the situation might seem at first glance. If someone has come to tell you that there’s a problem, that probably took a lot of courage and they’re unlikely to be lying. Initial thoughts based on your own interpretations are one thing, but if you’re told there’s a problem, and THEN you decide that there can’t be because someone is ‘too fat’ or similar, your mindset is the real problem. The difference may be subtle, but that’s the mindset that angers me. That’s what ruins lives.

You can’t see an eating disorder, and please, if someone is crying for help then I’m begging you, to try your very hardest to never ever slip into that mindset. It has the potential to be the most fatal mistake that a friend, or anyone else for that matter, could ever make. It takes away hope, and it rips away the sunshine.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Crying Until I Feel Sick

I can’t tell you why I feel angry, because if I’m completely honest, I’m not sure that I know. The hours and hours of endless tears that I’ve endured today are making me feel sick. The adrenaline, the fight or flight, just the emotion. I thought maybe I’d caught a stomach bug, but it’s not that at all. It’s the crying, it’s hard work.

What I do know, however, is that tomorrow, I want to drive somewhere, and be completely alone, just for a couple of hours. Time to breathe, to relax, to cry all the tears that I have left so that they cannot interrupt me at awkward times anymore. I won’t, but I’d like to.

I’ve had some pretty tough conversations with my friend today, and it’s the first time we’ve had such in-depth conversations for a while. She’s afraid of dragging me down, but what she doesn’t understand is that I’m prepared to be dragged down. For goodness sake, if this is what it takes, then I want to be dragged down. Today however, at the same time that the trust is something I appreciate, it’s a little exhausting.

Recently, at night, I lie in my bed and imagine, just for a second, that she’s here with me. That she’s telling me it’ll all be okay. I allow myself, just for a moment, to believe that it isn’t her that is sick. That it’s someone else who is battling this, and she’s just there by my side as my friend, helping me to breathe, and to hold it together for their sake. I can imagine she’s rubbing my back or holding my hand, and for a millisecond, I can just about feel safe. In reality, I know that I’ll probably never get another hug again. It’s too hard for her to battle the contact, I understand that. It hurts, but I can understand.

But then sleep drowns me and I pray that tonight will be good dreams. Sometimes, it is, but many times, sleep is when the stark reality hits me. Sleep should be a time of escape, but right now, it’s not. You can’t escape your dreams in the same way that you can escape reality, and when your dreams are telling the story of your woken reality, it’s even more difficult.

I just want to run up to someone, anyone, and shout that I’m scared. I’m genuinely afraid for both her and me. I’m afraid of where this is going to lead and although nobody else seems to see it now, those late night text message conversations are our reality. If they saw them, perhaps they’d start seeing the issue, too. Perhaps they wouldn’t write off my tears as those of an emotional teenager. I won’t show them though, I couldn’t.

I’ve got less than a week to make her listen. A week until she goes from having to at least pretend to acknowledge me to never having to listening to me again. It doesn’t matter how amazing a friendship is, distance will only make it easier for the ED side of her to rule her life. There will be nothing that I can do.

Now, as I brush my teeth, I gag. The waves of adrenaline-fuelled nausea are almost too much to handle.

It’s time to face the darkness yet again. It’s time to go to that place where she’s almost here with me. It’s time to try and sleep. It seems, however, that this time of day is the scariest of all. I know that my dreams are simply a continuation of the day, and there is nothing that I can do to change that.

Loving.

alex122rw