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!

 

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

 

 

From Overcare for Others’ Opinions, to Self Discovery.

One of my unhealthy patterns, throughout life thus far, has been to care about what other’s think of me way too much. All the time.

I think many, many people do this: dare I say- particularly women?! But I guess there are those that just worry a little about what everyone will think of their new outfit, and those who care so much about what others think that it affects their life decision-making process, and causes great anxiety (possibly Social Phobia), even shame.

I fall into the latter category.

There are many ways I’ve allowed this anxiety over the opinions of others to affect me, but two really stand out.

Jobs

I’ve allowed my care for what other people think of me to push me into many unsuitable jobs. Jobs that I got just to prove to others that yes I could work and that I wasn’t just going to “sponge off the government”. This usually led to barely controllable Bipolar symptoms.

(I don’t believe it is sponging off the government now. I know I truly was ill with Bipolar and had a genuine need for that financial support. There are many who genuinely need this support).

Body Image

Caring so much for the opinions of others led me to a fairly appalling view of my body- I think I thought this kept me slim and healthy. It did for a while, but not anymore. My self esteem was, and still is, massively affected by how I think others perceive my body. I worried about what other people thought about what I ate. In fact I still have issues about eating in front of other people.

Not Knowing or Trusting Myself

With my mind constantly obsessing and analysing myself from the perspective of how others perceived me, I lost that real sense of knowing who I am. I still don’t trust myself to make good decisions (someone once said to me that there is no right or wrong decision- only the effects of that decision to deal with). Lack of Identity is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder and I believe present in Bipolar too (see Bipolar/Borderline Sensitivity & Loss of Identity)

What do I want from life? This is such a tough question to answer. I’m so used to thinking I must follow the set path laid out for me by society: school, university, career, marriage, babies. Anything less would be a failure right?

But Bipolar has made me reframe my perspective. It prevented me from progressing further down this pre-determined social path. I had to reassess what I believed success to be.

Does it really matter that I’m not going to be a doctor or teacher? I might never be married or have children. Does this matter? Was this really what I wanted in the first place? I don’t know!!! I don’t know what I want. I’m in the process of finding out.

Self Discovery 

Self Discovery is a term I really like. It makes the whole process sound more subjective and a bit of an adventure. There is room for expansion and exploration.

Self Discovery also requires that we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings towards things. You can’t discover what you like or don’t like unless you pay attention to your own reactions. This may sound simplistic but, believe me, I’ve been studying everybody else’s reactions for so long it can really be a challenge to listen to myself.

(Mindfulness is a well known tool in managing depression and anxiety, so allowing this process of self discovery can only be a positive thing).

Individual Needs

I’m enjoying exploring my innate NEED to write, to learn and to analyse things in a psychological way (sometimes this is a good thing, other times it can lead to rumination on the negative). I have a lot of passion in me- for art, music, causes, people, animals, many things.

Everyone has needs that I never knew existed and are completely different from one person to the next. My partner has a need for physical exertion, for engaging in sports like football and cycling. His method of relaxing is through challenges and using skill, for example he loves playing pool.

I’ve never really viewed these things as NEEDS before, more as indulgence and a luxury. I’m learning they are actually essential to our health as a “whole” being-: physical, mental and at a soul-level. All these facets are important in creating a balance in our lives.

I’m learning that I have many sides to myself that all need equal attention: there’s Rachel the artist, Rachel the writer, Rachel the philosopher, Rachel the musician, Rachel the student, Rachel the child who needs to play, laugh and have fun, Rachel the explorer who needs to be out there trying new things and going to new places.

Managing These Needs

These are all needs that I never really knew I had in me. They all need attention which sometimes feels completely overwhelming.

I think organisation might be the key here, which, when you’re a creative person, feels a bit boring and sensible as there is also that yearning for spontaneous creative flow. But I’m learning that you need to put in the structure, discipline and work before you even get to the creative flow. I have to put in the time playing scales on the piano to allow my fingers to work with skill and efficiency when playing the more desirable pieces of music.

Motivation Through Inspiration

I also need to devote time to inspiration. This comes to me when I’m watching ballet, listening to music or out in nature. I always used to view spending time on these things as selfish. But I now know I NEED them!!

Whilst watching the Olympic Gymnasts I was inspired by their beauty, grace and power, but also by their total commitment and dedication to gruelling training, and hours and hours of hard graft in the gym. It is this discipline and mental strength in overcoming self-doubt and discomfort that I find so admirable. It is lacking from my character and something I would like to develop. They are great role models for me and provide motivation.

I’m learning that I do have control of my life- I don’t just have to let it happen to me. I can take it by the reins and steer it in the direction I want it to go, no matter whether other people approve of this direction or not.

Resources

How to Stop Worrying What Other People Think

Social Phobia

Bipolar: The Identity Thief

Who Am I? Borderline Personality Disorder and Identity Problems

How You See Yourself is What Matters (blog post in relation to the writer’s eating disorder and Complex-PTSD)

Photo Credits: Girl & Apple by Imagery Majestic; Cartwheel by Imagery Majestic via freedigitalphotos.net.

The Lightning Process & Bipolar Disorder

I was recently speaking to a new acquaintance about The Lightning Process. I’d heard of it but didn’t really know what it was. She had experienced severe ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 20 years, for 10 of which she was in a wheelchair. She told me that she’d completed a 3 day course called The Lightning Process and that she’s been completely better for 5 years. I could hardly believe she’d been so unwell as she looks so healthy!

As far as I can gather The Lightning Process involves reprogramming the mind to give us the choice whether or not to accept our symptoms. Not a lot of detail is given on the official website except about something called the Physical Emergency Response (PER)- all this coming from the guy who developed the method: Phil Parker. He has found success in treating a range of disorders including eating disorders, addictions, ME, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, phobias etc.

The main reason I wanted to post about this is because attached to the website was an article by a Bipolar II sufferer who went through The Lightning Process successfully:

The Lightning Process and Bipolar II Testimonial (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Bipolar II Feedback).

I know it definitely interested me and I would like to try it!

Teen Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health has again been in the UK press this morning- this time regarding the inadequate care and treatment of suicidal teens.

Mental heath issues during the teenage years is a topic very close to my heart. I had some extremely despairing thoughts and feelings whilst in high school and sixth form. My mood had started swinging from the age of about 13 onwards. It never occurred to me that I had an illness.

Depression & Anxiety During School Years

Sobbing silently in my bedroom I tried to conceal my unhappiness from my parents to protect them. They both had depression and the last thing I wanted was to make them worse! I was so lonely. I didn’t even know what I was crying about half the time. But I remember that desperate helplessness and thinking that things would never get better for me. I was angry and jealous that the other kids seemed to find school so easy to cope with, whilst I found it extremely stressful, even traumatic.

I was terrified of a couple of boisterous, aggressive lads in our class. Their chaotic, angry natures disturbed me a lot and I felt extremely uncomfortable even having them in the class. They weren’t particularly horrible to me, but their behaviour to others was enough to affect me negatively.

The jostling, pushing and rushing through crowds of chaotic kids, in a mad scramble to get from one class to the next, was enough to leave me feeling exhausted! I never really knew why. I was always so affected with anxiety in these situations- I was in a chronic state of stress.

I think all this was a part of my general unhappiness with my teenage life. I was so sensitive and really needed a calm, quiet working environment, even then. School was an unsettling, disturbing, even threatening environment for me- and I went  to a fairly decent school! I dreaded Monday mornings with a passion.

Parental Depression

This was just one aspect of the difficulties I encountered as a teenager. In retrospect I wish my parents or teachers had done more to help me. There was a vague attempt to speak with my parents when I had frequent short episodes of sickness from school, but nothing ever came of it. My parents knew I cried regularly due to red, puffy eyes, but my Mum attributed it to hormones. I think they should have sent me to a doctor or counsellor.

I wish I had known sooner that I was experiencing mental illness. I just thought I was defective and felt in the wrong place on the wrong planet. I couldn’t talk to anybody at all about how I felt. I was so worried about making Mum & Dad’s depression worse. I felt completely responsible for their happiness. I didn’t realise I was only responsible for mine.

Awareness & Intervention

I was so innocent and naive. How could I have known I was ill or that there was help available out there? Why didn’t anyone do anything to help me? I don’t think I could have hidden it all that well, could I? Maybe I did! It was an extremely lonely time. This and the anxiety were a constant.

So yeah, I feel exceedingly for teenagers who are experiencing their own, or their parents’, mental health problems. I think as much as anything I just wish that someone, anyone, had noticed and got me to a doctor or counsellor whilst I was still that young. I think parents and teachers (I know they are very overloaded already, but they are important to kids) should be made more aware of the signs a kid is experiencing difficulties with mental ill health s intervention can be taken earlier. I’m sure I wasn’t completely devoid of signs of my illness, I just didn’t know that help was available or how to ask for it.

You Never Have to be Alone.

If I could revisit my 13-year-old-self today, I would tell her that her repeated, despairing sobs weren’t normal and that she doesn’t have to suffer in silence or alone. There is help available to her. An earlier diagnosis would have helped me enormously, just so I could feel that at least there was a clinical reason for my emotional pain- I wasn’t just a freak!

Maybe this was all just my experience. Maybe kids these days are better informed and get help more quickly than I did. But judging by the news article today, enough still isn’t being done to help teenagers in distress.

Resources & Links

BBC Newsbeat

Teen Mental Health

Child and Adolescent Mental Health

The Guardian- Today’s Youth: Anxious, Depressed & Anti-Social

School-based Mental Health Support Results in Positive Outcomes for Children

Photo Credit: David Castello Dominici