Hello friends! It’s been a while, but I promise I’m coming back to life. Exams are being tackled, time is being let out on parole from the study jail, pumpkin season is coming, the weekend draws nigh, RIPE BANANAS ARE WAITING TO BE MADE INTO SOMETHING DELICIOUS but today’s post is a little something special. The only food you’re getting today is food for thought, sorry about that, but it’s great food for thought. So I sit here after a tiring math exam (that felt like it was a troop of sumos that marched into my skull with wooden spears and stiletto boots and started doing the can-can aggressively while poking the spears viciously in every orifice of my brain) with an important message to spread, so please-if you could be so kindly bothered-have a little read. And ignore my photography that is peppered throughout because I haVE NO IDEA WHAT TO PUNCTUATE MY BIG BLOCKS OF TEXT WITH.
Today is Friday the 10th of October, and that means it’s World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. It aims to provide an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
In case you are new (in which case HELLO! Be ready for a lot of chocolate) or just know me as the girl who really, really likes peanut butter and often spams your feed with pancakes and moans frequently about math and life, I receive many messages on a daily basis for help regarding mental health, because I have an eating disorder. I’m actually not too sure whether to say “I have” or “I had”, to be honest. I no longer struggle as badly and do not consider myself to be considered by my eating disorder any more, but I don’t think I can consider myself to be fully recovered either, so For Diplomacy’s Sake I’m just going to stick with “In progress”. So while I may not be a Celebrity or an Organisation or a Very Influential and Popular Figure, I know many people follow me for my food, and a large amount of those include teenagers, especially females, who suffer from eating disorders. And as a person who has been in their position before, I feel like it’s only right that I speak out about the issue and share a little, especially in light of World Mental Health Day.
I do admit, this is rather tough for me. Having been featured by Instagram earlier this year and published on sites such as Huffington Post, I’ve been facing a certain awkward sticky spot. Articles with titles like “15 year old Girl uses Instagram to Recover from Eating Disorder”. I felt like I was being known purely as “The girl who had an eating disorder”, and it was an uncomfortable umbrella to stand under, hat to wear, shoe to stomp around in. It was a sudden thrust into a spotlight cast in a rather uncomfortable shade, especially as someone who was trying to step out of her disordered past into something bigger and perchance brighter. I didn’t want to always be pinned down and tacked with a massive EATING DISORDER HERE in neon lights on my forehead, and so tended to keep quite mum about my past unless probed. When asked for interviews, majority of the questions would inevitably revolve around my disordered past, and it was something I started to run away from. I didn’t want to be stuck with this label forever! I don’t want to always talk about my recovery! I started to conspicuously avoid talking about it on the context that I was trying to leave it behind me, which was true. But recently I’ve been more and more aware, thinking more, looking at statistics, brooding. Stewing like, uh, like a stew. Brewing thoughts like tea. I don’t know. But I’ve come to a realisation.
While I don’t ever want to be forever pinned with such a category, or a label, or a title, or whatever you may call it–I need to accept that it’s okay. It’s okay to have had an eating disorder, it’s okay for people to come to me for help, it’s okay that people know. Because here it is–the big, black balloon that had caused so much late-night-worry and thinking about, that is hard to say but I’ll say it anyway. I’m ashamed. Ashamed that I’m ashamed for having an eating disorder. Ashamed that I had an eating disorder. Ashamed that I wasn’t as strong as I thought, and that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I could be. Ashamed that I caused my family so much pain and was a total noxious brat, isolated myself from my friends, lost 3 years of my life trying to die. Ashamed that I didn’t know I was dying. Ashamed that I was trying to die. I feel ashamed.
I feel like this bit from here helps to kind of explain what I was/am feeling:
“Of all the stigmatized conditions in current society, mental illness is near or at the top of the list, generating the kinds of stereotypes, fear, and rejection that are reminiscent of long-standing attitudes toward leprosy. Mental disorders threaten stability and order, and media coverage exacerbates this situation by uniformly equating mental illness with violence. As a result, stigma is rampant, spurring family silence, outright discrimination, a lack of parity for mental health care coverage, and social isolation. The pain of mental illness is searing enough, but the added layer of stigma affects personal well-being, economic productivity, and public health, fueling a vicious cycle of lowered expectations, deep shame, and hopelessness. ”
Many people avoid seeking help for mental illness because they are afraid of the stigma that is attached as firmly as a bulldog with cemented jaws on a bone; the stigma of “Dude, you’re crazy.” “Dude, what were you thinking?” “Is this person nuts?” “Wow, that’s weird.” “Woaaah, you have a mental illness??”. The stigma that will bring about rejection, isolation, ostracisizing. Discrimination, judgement, misconceptions. These are incredibly daunting especially when you have your mental illness that inevitably will want you to reject help already–with all the heavy, daunting prospects and what-ifs, it’s no wonder people are afraid to step out. But what else is truly worrying are the recent mental health statistics.
About one quarter of the population will experience some form of mental health problem, within a year alone. Depression affects 1 in 5 people. 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time. Suicide remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35. And eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness–50-70% who seek treatment will recover; 20% will improve with treatment but still struggle with the disorder, and 10-20% will die. And these are only some of the frightening ones out there regarding mental health.
What I’ve learnt is that I’m not going to be scared anymore. I still do not wish to be always known as “the girl from Instagram who had an eating disorder”, but I have come to accept that it’s an integral part of my past which has contributed to who I am today, and will continue to shape who I am in the future. I can’t run away from it; I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but I have to accept it. I know that I can do something to help those who are currently struggling, and while I will take care of my own mental health, I will help those who come to me for assistance. I will speak out about it, because this is an issue that I believe is highly pertinent and has the potential to be massively destructive if awareness is not spread, and because people need to know about it and also know that they’re not alone in suffering from mental illness. The illness I battled for 3 years was one I won’t wish on anyone, ever, and even though I lost that period of my life and won’t be able to get it back, I will now try my damn hardest to make sure it doesn’t extend the utter misery and darkness it brings on any further on anyone. If I can’t get back my time, I will try my hardest to make sure it doesn’t take any one else’s.
And I will forgive myself, because I can’t help anyone or do anything if I spend my life resenting who I was and what I did.
So, more about mental illness. Mental illness tend to be the lesser-known and even lesser-recognised gamut of disorders; they are illnesses of the mind, which are deceptive and certainly not easy to diagnose, because they do not have physical manifestations. This is something many people have yet to but need to recognise: mental illnesses are not defined by physical manifestations. They are illnesses of a psychological plane, not physical. You may look fine, you might be able to run a mile in a second, you might take 5 hours to run a mile, but that has no weight in deciding if you have a mental illness or not. Sadly, mental health is often treated with flippancy and dismissal, which is dangerous as many of them will accelerate over time, and can be potentially life threatening without a full course of monitoring, medication, or help. A mental illness is just as important as any other illness–you’d be concerned if you had a heart disease, or kidney failure, or lung cancer. Why should an illness concerning another organ–your brain–be any less regarded?
And like previously mentioned, the stigma plays a huge part: 65% of people believe that being treated for a mental health issue is a sign of personal failure, according to a survey by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. Some 20% of people are unsure they would want to live next door to someone who previously had a mental health problem, and 15% are not sure if people with mental health issues should have children. But research tells us that people who experience mental health difficulties are no more likely than those who don’t to commit a serious crime and, indeed, some research suggests that they are less likely. Personal despair rarely transfers to violence against other people. This requires anger, premeditation and motivation; feelings not normally associated with mental health difficulties.
And, most importantly: seeking help for a mental health difficulty is not a sign of failure, but is, rather, a courageous step towards addressing issues that one has been struggling with, recognising that one needs help, and acknowledgement that this can no longer continue. Seeking help requires self-awareness, commitment, and courage, and is no easy feat. It’s not a sign that you have failed, unless you count failed at being miserable for a long, long while, which isn’t a failure so that doesn’t count. Clearly I am very eloquent. But you get the point.
So today, I want you to be aware. Ask those around you if they are okay; take the effort to give a hug, lend a listening ear, be a shoulder to cry on. Everyone is fighting their own battle, and it’s only right that we treat others the way we would want them to treat ourselves-with kindness, compassion and understanding. Be there for yourself, too: if you are experiencing trouble, if you aren’t okay, please don’t feel afraid. Don’t lose hope, don’t believe that you are at a point of no return. Know that no matter what, you are a glorious, glorious piece of the universe–how beautiful is it, that you can walk and talk and laugh, sing badly or sing well, jump and skip, and breathe? Isn’t it glorious how you can give joy through a hug, or create something with your hands that can touch and feel and shape? You are amazing. You are a miracle. You are fierce, dude. And you deserve happiness. You deserve to be free of mental illness, deserve to love and accept yourself for who you are, deserve to have every single joy in the world. And if you are so experiencing such an issue, know that you are not alone–there are people who care for you, love you, and are willing to help you. Be brave, be courageous, be hopeful.
In case you guys need some help, here are some useful links (just a few I found, feel free to comment more below or research!):
Phew, that was a long one. Thanks for sticking through it if you did. In which case, hi. What is the difference between a nicely dressed man on a tricycle and a poorly dressed man on a bicycle? A tire.
Love to everyone. Stay safe, and stay well x