Category Archives: Eating Disorders

Nikki Grahame: In Therapy

42ed1fd300000578-4757264-image-a-54_1501764528746I recently watched an episode of the Channel 5 (UK) programme In Therapy. Each episode of the programme follows a different celebrity through counselling sessions, in the hopes of resolving certain issues.

I was particularly interested to see this recent episode as it featured Nikki Grahame of Big Brother fame, who developed anorexia at a very young age and spent most of her young years in treatment centres. Nikki endured herself to many, myself included, with her witty personality and intelligence, but sadly also her temper tantrums which displayed genuine distress.

I think the documentary can be accessed by UK viewers via Channel 5’s catch-up service below (sorry everyone else!):

Nikki Grahame: In Therapy

The Therapy Sessions.

The counselling sessions with therapist Mandy Saligari began with Nikki having a meltdown (panic attack?) about having to open up about the past.

It was sad to see this, and part of me wonders whether the media are exploiting her in the name of entertainment. But that’s another issue in itself.

For the most part I feel her open-ness about her condition is beneficial in helping people to understand their own issues and to reframe themselves and their identity in a positive light.

A Distorted Perception

It was clear during the therapy sessions that Nikki is very hard on herself, even to the point of hating herself in some moments: as suggested by the disgust she has felt looking at her body in the mirror- which she now avoids.

I think many of us who have an extreme sensitivity and have been through childhood experiences that invalidate our sense of self-worth, may have felt similarly that they do not like themselves, perhaps to the point of hatred. I know I have and it is painful to remember those dark times.

It is also clear we are looking at an intelligent, witty young lady, who also has insight into her condition and its effects on others. It is so easy to see the good in her. Her past anorexia has distorted her view of herself physically too- self disgust, yet she presents as anything but disgusting!

So, if I am feeling bad about myself, I can be assured that my opinion is probably completely distorted towards the negative, and perhaps other people see something good and worthy in me. I start then to think of good qualities they may see and then the good thoughts multiply and add to a growing positive relationship with myself.

9496tn1l70tebfRecovery from many mental health conditions seems to be about making friends with yourself, loving and taking care of yourself. This is what we haven’t developed throughout childhood- we’ve had mirrored back to us only the negative (the majority of the time anyway) which has coloured our perception of ourselves as “bad” and “shameful”.

Consciously Denying Feelings

One particularly disturbing moment of the shows Nikki respond to perceived criticism by Mandy, by making the decision to not talk. She stares at the ceiling and seems to numb herself to any feeling she might have about this. It’s as if she decides that she doesn’t want to deal with this situation or person anymore, like she can’t cope with it, and the only way she feels she can deal with it is by numbing herself of all feeling and denying it.

This was very familiar to me. I developed a similar pattern of behaviour (though less overt) when I felt I couldn’t cope with certain situations throughout childhood. It is a very childlike way of coping. But we have been taught no other way of dealing with our own distress, so have developed our own coping mechanism at 3,5,9,10,11 years old, whenever, and that part of us is stuck there with this behaviour. We have learnt no other way of dealing with overwhelming emotions.

At one point, Mandy makes the point that Nikki’s emotions are no stronger than anybody else’s, she just hasn’t learnt to manage them. I actually disagree with this. I think some of us do feel emotions much more strongly than others- our sensitivity makes it so. To imply we all feel the same intensity of emotion is quite simplistic I think, and invalidates Nikki’s experiences of her own feelings.

Thankfully Nikki begins talking to Mandy again and they work through what happened in a healthy way. She could have remained in the cocoon she created for herself and refused to finish the counselling. This is a majorly positive step, anybody who achieves a breakthrough like this in counselling or life in general is moving forward positively, to greater maturity. Congratulate yourself! Achievements in life don’t have to be about academic or vocational gain. We must learn to see all the positive steps we take in life, in order for us to see who we truly are- wonderful beings!

A Positive Future

Nikki has moved on from feeling so controlled by anorexia, though she still admits to obsessive cleaning. But it is evident she has more self acceptance than she had in the past and is developing a more positive relationship with herself. This is such a hopeful thing to see- we are all capable of growth and developing self-love. We will move towards the positive and recovery, if that is what we want.

Related Posts

Binge-Eating: Empty Inside

Counselling: My Wellbeing As Priority

I Am Angry and It’s Okay.

Body Image and Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’.

You Are Amazing!

 

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Binge Eating: Empty Inside

ID-10035460Whilst in one of my counselling sessions, I was trying to describe to my counsellor how I feel about my own identity. It dawned on me that I feel completely empty- as if everything outside of me is important and much more concrete, but inside me is completely unimportant and empty. I visualised it as an invisible human form, with the whole of life happening around them.

Mirroring

My counsellor said this is due to a lack of mirroring in childhood. Mirroring is when a parent reflects back to you the things you like, how you’re feeling, what your preferences are.

Sometimes parents project their own identity onto you, which means that we learn to be what others expect us to be. We learn to take our cue from the world around us, for other people to decide. We don’t learn of our innate power to create a life of our own- one that feels true and right to each of us individually.

Healthy mirroring might look something like this:

A child spends lots of time drawing and creating art work. Their mother makes enthusiastic comments: “how wonderful that you enjoy spending so much time making these beautiful pictures. You seem to like drawing butterflies very much”. This reflects back to the child what they are doing, what they are expressing as part of their identity and who they truly are.

3261685752_a0a4e4a961_mIdentity Malfunction

A childhood full of healthy mirroring and guidance down the path the child chooses for themselves, gives the grown child a strong sense of who they are and the direction they wish to take in life.

Discussing this further with my counsellor we talked about how a childhood without mirroring can cause the grown child to feel very little sense of connection to who they really are.

In my case I had my parent’s tell me how I was feeling, what I preferred, etc. I wasn’t allowed my own opinion. If I made my own decision I would be criticised and warned about the consequences. If I was angry I was very bad indeed and on occasion was locked in my bedroom- anger was not an option. It was as if I didn’t exist when I was angry.

To survive in my childhood home I learnt to anticipate my parent’s reactions and to act in a way that kept them happy. I spent so much time and energy trying to avoid criticism and any anger on their part that I put little energy into finding out who I was- I was constantly scanning my environment.

Keeping my parent’s happy was so important to me as they both had traumatic pasts and suffered from depression. My paternal grandfather had ended his life due to mental health issues. I learnt this at the age of 11, and was terrified at the prospect of losing my parents, so I resolved to do everything I possibly could to prevent this from happening. So I became as “good” as I possibly could and tried my absolute hardest to make them happy.

ID-10039145Bring on the Food!

I’ve been putting this into the context of my binge eating and it makes so much sense! This strong sense of emptiness is filled with food. Food temporarily gives a feeling of fullness. It also gives a certain identity in that we have a relationship with food, the disorder itself becomes part of who we are!

So part of the recovery process from binge eating, for me, is going to involve getting to know myself and what my needs are.

 

 

Counselling: my wellbeing as priority.

So much has changed in the last 18 months it all seems a little surreal!

Big Decisions

ID-10059543I finally put my needs and wellbeing before my fears of insecurity, and left an unhappy relationship. I moved to a new house, sharing with housemates.

It was a scary move. I’d been in the relationship for 11 years and had become so comfortable having our own house, living in a lovely area, and with our beautiful dog- who I was heartbroken to leave. Despite the unhappiness between the two of us, we did try to make it work, and we still care about each other, but as friends. I regularly dog-sit, so I still get to see my gorgeous girl.

It was a really tough decision and I still can’t believe I was brave enough to do it. I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do.

My happiness now has really made me realise how important it is to be true to ourselves, even if it means sacrificing other things.

Binge Eating & Counselling

ID-100136585My binge eating has definitely worsened since the move. I think this is because I feel like I don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have someone else’s needs to consider, and a dog to look after. I’ve spent too much time in my life trying to look after other people’s emotions, and not enough time looking after my own. So, as I posted back in May, I took the step of getting counselling for my disordered eating and body image.

I feel I’ve struck the jackpot with my counselllor- she is fantastic, and it feels right.

She’s really helping me to work on identifying how I developed such low confidence and self-esteem, and how I can nurture and parent myself. This is most definitely going to be an ongoing process.

The most uncomfortable I have felt so far is dealing with other people’s reactions to increasing my assertiveness. Having grown up a people-pleaser, upsetting others is extremely scary! But she’s helping me to see I’m not responsible for their reactions when I’m creating a boundary- so I don’t allow myself to be walked all-over.

I’m beginning to realise that there is a healthy level of selfish-ness!

ID-10039145Binge Triggers

Binge triggers have been relatively easy to identify so far:

  • Being alone- this often leads me to feel anxious about jumbled up, traumatic emotions from the past surfacing, which they tend to do when I’m alone.
  • Going to shops.
  • Being over-tired and uncomfortable, eg. aching feet from too much shopping, and tense body. Too much time spent with other people too.
  • Being angry and feeling ashamed of it.
  • Arguments/disagreements.

I think the main reason I binge eat is to stuff down the emotions of the past. I’m grieving for my inner child and the things I went through at that time. I’m a little scared of my inner child though, as she is very very angry and likes to have temper tantrums!

I’m learning to manage that anger in a healthy way.

It’s not about losing weight.

Fairy Homecoming: my inner child- she looks a bit calmer here!

Fairy Homecoming: my inner child- she looks a bit calmer here!

It’s not about losing weight- I can’t stress this enough.

I am not on a diet.

I am focusing on managing my emotions and my own needs. The healing comes through this, not through calorie-counting.

I am learning to love my body the way it is. I can still walk and be active and function pretty well! That is something to be profoundly grateful for.

I am really grateful also for the counselling that I am receiving at low cost. It is providing much-needed support. The universe is looking after me- and I am thankful!

Relevant Posts

Binge-eating Counselling

Bipolar Disorder: Body Image and Anxiety

Bipolar Disorder: Eating Distress

Full Moon: Releasing Old Baggage

Mental Health: Looking After Ourselves

 

 

 

 

Binge Eating- Counselling

11206469_10153078075981943_8308496157568323825_oI’ve recently started to accept the full extent of my binge eating and the fact that no amount of dieting is going to help me overcome the psychological basis for it. So I started counselling yesterday at a specialist eating disorders organisation. You don’t have to have an official diagnosis- which is handy as I don’t have one- though I’ve always seen it as binge eating disorder, as I don’t purge, or use laxatives, which would qualify as bulimia.

My counsellor is lovely and helped me to calm down as I was feeling panicky!

I chatted mainly about my experiences in childhood and as a teenager. There is a lot of rubbish stuff that needs to come out of me. I always wondered whether talking about abusive experiences would ever really help me, but now that I am ready to talk about them I feel that I would be somehow ridding my body of the toxicity of the emotion and energy attached. I feel a need to rid myself of this toxicity and this feels like the right way to do it.

I know Slimming World and Weight Watchers can’t help me with my psychological issues. I use food to soothe the pain of the past. I abuse my body as I have learnt that bingeing does temporarily soothe that pain.

But I also realised recently just how much time, money and energy I put into my binges. I worry about where and when I’m going to get my next binge stash. I worry about finding the privacy to binge, of being found out, of hiding food packaging from my housemates. I always wrap the packaging up in black bin-liners and take it straight outside to the main bin. I’m anxious about being caught amidst the shame of my lack of self control. The anxiety and effort of it all are exhausting!!! Lol!

Happy me- singing!

Happy me- singing!

But, do you know what? I really am starting to believe that I can overcome this. It is going to be about working on loving and taking care of myself. I really am starting to believe I deserve to have a great life and be happy! Food can’t take the pain away, or re-write an abusive past, but the more I love and care for myself, the less I will feel this pain. It will take patience as I think this is going to be an ongoing project, but I am loved and supported and for that I am truly thankful.

Full Moon: Releasing Old Baggage.

ID-10032826It’s a Full Moon tonight.

Spiritually this is a time to let go of old patterns, habits, fears, emotions & beliefs (or “baggage”) that no longer serve us. This is an extremely healing thing to do & helped me enormously in overcoming the parts of my Bipolar Disorder that medication couldn’t touch.

Layers of Healing

Since I quit my job a year ago I’ve been trying to release as much baggage as I possibly can. Every time I think I’ve finally forgiven somebody (including myself) for long-running, deeply-felt grievances, I end up finding new threads of resentment stealthily growing again. The emotions are always lessened in intensity compared to how they were a year ago though, so I’m thinking that we can only release small layers of baggage at any one time. This is perhaps more gentle on us. We are healing one layer at a time.

Simple But Not Easy

Releasing all the baggage is not something you can do overnight. I honestly used to think it was. Self-help books would suggest releasing old baggage as if it was the simplest thing in the world to do. It is simple, but it’s definitely not easy.

Intentions

I believe the key is to start with the intention to release old patterns/beliefs/habits/fears/resentments.

Affirm as often as you can:

“I am willing to release old patterns”.

Even if you don’t feel willing yet, you will begin to. Once you’re in that space of willingness, you are then able to begin work on releasing.

ID-10038600Food Addiction!

I still have so much to release though!! One of my main negative habits is my food addiction. I am rather resistant to releasing this one (to say the least)! I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be dragged away kicking & screaming from my beloved Ben & Jerry’s, though I certainly hope it doesn’t get to this point!

I’m going to work on being willing to release my unhealthy eating habits.

I also have to remember that it is often the behaviour/the habit, I am addicted to, not necessarily the food.

I’ve started changing the habit by increasing my daily intake of fruit & veg. This tends to work extremely well the first few days after supermarket shopping, when I’m more inspired by the lovely fresh produce. But as the fruit & veg runs out over the week, or goes off, well-intentioned convenience store visits for apples & salad become binge-eating triggers. Training myself to walk past the chocolate/biscuits/ice cream/cake-aisles has definitely got to be at the top of my “releasing” plan.

Judgments

Judging myself & others harshly is definitely another pattern I want to release. I don’t think I realise I’m doing it half the time.

If we judge someone else on the street as “fat”, what we are really doing is setting a standard by which we judge ourselves. If we get that fat then we will judge ourselves as harshly as we judges that other person- if not more so. I’ve felt absolutely despairing over my body image before- like it was completely disgusting. I was so cruel to myself! I think I thought it was the only way to lose weight- to bully myself. In reality this just made it worse!

I need to stop looking in the mirror and criticising myself all the time!!

I will look only at my beautiful hair, skin & eyes!! And I will appreciate every little bit of these wonderful things I am blessed with!!

291inxphzttgyEmotional Healing

I believe releasing baggage is one of the keys to overcoming many mental health conditions. I do believe that there are conditions where biology takes over, but I also believe that medication can never help 100%. This is where we can help ourselves by beginning work on being willing to release old patterns & experiences of the past, then form the intention to heal them. This is a great starting place!

 

 

 

Related Posts

Changing The Mind-Programming.

You Are Amazing!

Old Patterns

A Little Bit On Eating Disorders

Body Image & Lena Dunham’s “Girls”.

 

Photo Credits

Moon by Exsodus, Food Heart by Grant Cochrane via freedigitalphotos.net

A Little Bit On Eating Disorders

Dysfunctional Eating & Body Image

Today in The Sun Lucy Davis– known in the UK for her role in hit comedy The Office- spoke up about her eating disorder and how she has been in its grip for years.

I could really relate to the obsessive thoughts about food and body image she spoke about.

Since a teenager I’ve been absolutely fixated on how much I weigh and how I look. This has stayed with me through periods of mild restrictive eating, to where I am now, in over-eating-ville. Medications like Depakote and Olanzapine haven’t helped as I was totally ravenous on them.

Binge-Eating and Impulsiveness

Binge-eating is a common problem in people with Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and is an addictive pattern I myself have developed over the years.

With Bipolar I always think it’s the impulsiveness that is the problem. Binge-Eating Disorder (click here for a detailed profile of the disorder) is characterised by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, often impulsively. There is an out-of-control quality to the eating which can feel desperate.

It differs from Bulimia in that no purging or reversal behaviours are present. The impulsiveness of Bipolar and BPD make us particularly susceptible to addictions of all kinds. Some of us just choose food!

Interestingly I found a clinical study on Medscape that discovered the behavioural disturbances involving impulsivity in Bipolar patients were present both in manic/hypomanic and depressed periods.So we’re pretty much screwed all the time then!

Societal Problem

I really do think it’s about time our government and the NHS would look into treating Binge-Eating and Compulsive Eating seriously. I’ve never been given adequate help, even when I’ve spilled my guts out about how I’ve felt to my GP. The usual line is “eat more fish and vegetables”. Thanks, like I didn’t already know that! Those of us with this kind of problem usually have full awareness of what is healthy and what isn’t. Control is the issue, as well as managing our emotions effectively. Please government- help us with these things!! We have a massive obesity problem in this country and it wont go away until someone important takes eating disorders and their treatment seriously.

Things That Have Helped Me In The Past….

I can’t really impart any words of wisdom on how to overcome such behaviours, as I still grapple with them myself. But these are some things that have been useful to me in reducing binge eating and improving body-confidence in the past:

– massage. Someone else accepting your body for the way it is really helps you accept it.

Hatha Yoga. The physical relaxation gained can be very therapeutic and helps you feel comfortable in your body. Also the principle of working at your own level, and acceptance of what your body can/can’t do is very helpful. You can get to know your body with Hatha yoga and become friends with it, rather than enemies.

– exercise. I hate to say it, but exercise did help me with feeling good about myself.

– journalling and writing down things we’re feeling can help us become more self-aware and manage our emotions effectively. Seeing as bingeing most often occurs when our emotions are all-over-the-place, this helps to reduce the need to binge.

OK, just need the motivation to get exercising and yoga-ing again!

In the UK help for eating disorders can be acquired from B-EAT, who help all ages and also have specialised help for young people.

Resources

Lucy Davis on Bulimia- The Sun (UK)– really worth a read if you have eating issues too.

Binge-Eating Disorder on Bipolar Central

Pharmacotherapy of Personality Disorders With Impulsivity– Bipolar is included in this.

Bipolar and Binge-eating Forum

Weight Gain and Bipolar Disorder Treatment

What is Hatha Yoga?

Photo Credits: Fork by Grant Cochrane; Massage by satit srihin, both via freedigitalphotos.net