Category Archives: Eating Distress

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

 

 

 

 

Exploring Negative Thoughts

ID-100114054I’ve done really well today so far! I’ve started my new sleep schedule over the last few days (bed by 11.30pm, wake up at 8am) which I’m keeping to and I went for a short walk this morning and did about 20mins yoga and some meditation.

So why am I down on myself all of a sudden?

I’m scared of the thoughts that are creeping in, and feel anxious about them. This is the sequence of thoughts once I got out my sketchbook and pencils:

1. “I can start to do this art work, but there’s not much point as everything I do is rubbish and it’s not like I have a career out of it.”

2. “I have nothing else planned for today. I must do something productive or the whole day will be wasted.”

3. “I could go and get some biscuits and chocolate and watch some movies/tv, then sleep off the sugar hangover. (Feel excited by the prospect).”

This is when I decide to blog first. Writing out a conversation with myself yesterday really seemed to help pick me up.

I’m going to respond to the first thought, as it seemed to trigger the others:

1. “I can start to do this art work, but there’s not much point as everything I do is rubbish and it’s not like I have a career out of it.”

Why do you feel this way do you think?

I’ve never studied past GCSE level (high school). I’m behind everyone else my age. Nothing ever looks the way I want it to. I don’t enjoy it anymore.

If you don’t enjoy it, maybe you don’t have to do it?

ID-10053350I feel I want to. Everyday a little voice inside me says draw, paint, let me have my voice! I don’t understand why I feel the need to suppress this part of me.

This voice, could it be your inner child?

Yes, I’m certain it is.

Why don’t you want to let her speak?

Because she can be scary and out of control. That same part of me that wants to create, my inner child, she has had major tantrums before and can be completely out of control.

This is what young children are like! They know how to express themselves! But adults teach them to suppress these ‘difficult’ emotions, usually because they can’t handle them themselves.  Sometimes children aren’t taught to deal these feelings in a healthy way.

What is a healthy way to deal with feelings of anger, disappointment, shame, etc?

Well, let’s look at how you feel now?

Ashamed that I can’t function like a normal person.

Ok., so how do you think you ‘should’ behave? What do you see as being ‘normal’ behaviour for an adult?

ID-10034835I should have a job and be earning my own money. Not scrounging off the government. I have heard so many working people express anger and resentment at having to pay taxes, so that others can have benefits. 

Ok. So how much income tax actually goes towards benefits? It is 20%. (UK) Therefore the working population are taxed 80% for many more things. Why are you so worried?

People will hate me and ridicule me. I feel so ashamed at not being able to support myself. I know I have more potential.

It is highly unlikely anyone will bat an eyelid about you being on benefits. Other people are wrapped up in their own lives. Any ill-wishing you receive from them is their karma, not yours. It is time to start releasing the need for the approval of others, a little bit at a time. It is safe for you to be you! It is safe for you to express your feelings and to paint and dance and make a mess!! Please don’t expect for this healing to take place all at once. It is likely to happen gently over a long period of time, so that you are not overwhelmed.

What do I need to do?

Be aware. Be aware of when you are trying to please others or gain approval. Be aware of when you are putting their needs before your own. You are your world. You do not need to make others feel safer or be responsible for their fears and insecurities. People are generally living their own lives, and aren’t too concerned about what others are doing, as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Why do you feel you should have a job like everybody else? Why can’t you do the things you love and make money that way?

Because it’s standard and acceptable to society. It’s easy to go with the majority. It’s difficult to forge my own path. I don’t know how I would start! Having a mentor would be very helpful. I don’t believe I’m good enough. I don’t believe I’m worthy of earning money for doing something that makes me happy!!

But you are worthy and you are good enough! Other people are doing it so why shouldn’t you?! Why do you feel so unworthy?

ID-10081670I don’t know. It still feels too childish. I want to feel deserving of earning money by being my childlike self and drawing or painting, writing, or creating in some other way. Or helping people! I feel if I’m earning money then it should be by directly helping others. Being creative feels selfish.

You are worthy. You are good enough. You are talented and deserving of using this talent and nurturing it. By being creative you are shining your own light into the world and making it ok for others to do the same. You are forging a path through which others can follow. You are making it easier for them! Therefore you would be helping others by being creative! You would be helping others to shine their love and light into the world!

It still feels difficult to draw or paint. I still feel a resistance to it.

It will take time, patience and practice. Start slowly- maybe even 15 mins of doodling at a time. Opening up to your creativity, it will be very healing and open many new doors for you! Allow yourself to feel worthy! Allow yourself to receive from the universe- be it financial gifts, or spiritual ones!

Thank you for the guidance and for caring enough to sit and listen to me.


So I don’t feel loads better. But I am grateful for the guidance, whether this is from my higher self or a spirit guide. I am grateful to myself for writing, rather than running to the chocolate straight away. I am grateful to myself for at least trying to overcome unhealthy habits. I am doing my best in these circumstances with the tools that I have.

I love and approve of myself just as I am.

I am worthy of living as my true self.

I am worthy of expressing my true self creatively!

Related Posts

Conversations with Myself: Exploring Low Mood.

Releasing Judgement: The Love Thermometer.

Overcoming Boredom

10 Ideas to Distract Depression: Don’t Feed the Monster!

Photos: freedigitalphotos.net

Conversations With Myself: Exploring Low Mood

ID-10013428If you’re light sensitive like me, then you may find a grey day can really lower your mood

I’ve only been up two hours on this gloomy day, but I felt my mood dip within 30 minutes of wakening.

My Lumie lamp is a blessing on such a day and really helps to keep my mood up. It’s basically a lamp emitting natural light, and is designed as therapy for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I’m attempting to curb the comfort eating that I automatically resort to every day at the moment.

It’s difficult.

I feel bloated and very out of shape at the moment.
I feel all these negative thoughts building up. So I want to have a conversation with myself to see what’s up. I know I try to avoid looking at any problems I’m having.

Conversing With Myself

How are you feeling today Rachel?

Blue and bored and a bit lonely. I don’t like myself very much for all the comfort eating and lack of exercise. I have little will-power or self-discipline.

What is it about eating sugary foods that helps you?

It distracts me from negative thoughts and feelings.

ID-10075308Why distract yourself from them? They are normal and natural.

They feel bad and uncomfortable. I don’t feel able to deal with them. They feel too much to cope with. I feel like a bad person if I have negative feelings and thoughts.

You are not a bad person for having low vibration thoughts and feelings. It is all part of the human experience of growth and learning. It is safe to look at these feelings and really experience them. They might not be as scary as you think.

I feel really ashamed that I can’t control my eating. I worry so much about what other people think of my body shape. I worry about my physical health. I’m so disappointed in myself.

How can you see this in a loving, compassionate way towards yourself?

I developed my eating patterns as a coping mechanism. The depressions I have experienced could have claimed my life on a few occasions. It was natural that I should find any means possible of surviving those dark times. The fact that these patterns have continued is natural if unhealthy. It is my inner child who needs the soothing. She still calls out for love and attention, but I deny her.

Why do you do this do you think?

I don’t feel worthy of expressing my creative side, that my inner child longs to experience.

Why not?

ID-10054876It is whimsical and childish. I am an adult, who should be giving to the world in an acceptable manner. This is not acceptable!!!

Wow! I can’t believe you feel like that! Maybe you could see what it feels like to allow yourself to create?

It feels unsafe. I feel like I’ll be found out and punished.

Wow!

That’s so strong!!! That’s such a strong belief!! I do feel scared to create! I’m quite shocked that I feel that way- or some part of me deep inside does. I was teased as a child, at school, because of my magical stories I wrote about unicorns and pegasus, which would get read aloud in the classroom. But it got to a point where the teacher asked me to try writing about something else next time. But it is these magical worlds that I love to express.

I feel bad when I draw now, or paint.

Why is that do you think?

It makes a mess. I need to have things cleared up or my parents get annoyed.

But it’s normal for a child to make a mess!

It was safer to keep my parent’s happy. I hated being told off. It felt so scary. It felt like they disapproved creativity and steered me towards sciences. Art wasn’t a suitable career choice.

But it is safe for you to create now! You don’t need to tell yourself off just because your parent’s didn’t allow you to be childlike!

I think this will take some working through. But I will try and do some artwork or write some stories. Starting off a little bit at a time.

Gratitude: Creating Your Own SunshineID-10041509

Is there anything you feel thankful for today?

My Lumie light- it’s bringing some sunshine to my day.
My boyfriend, and the fact I get to spend lots of time with him at Christmas.
My new crystals.
The mind body spirit fair I went to at the weekend- I really enjoyed it.
The fact I can have a whole day to myself and not have to be anywhere or do anything (just for 1 day is nice).
All the books I have to read!
The fact I have the opportunity to improve my body condition. Some people don’t have this privilege.

You Are Amazing!Affirmations for today.

I love and approve of myself just as I am.

It is safe for me to be childlike and creative.

It is safe for me to look at and experience my darker feelings.

I am worthy of improving my health.

I enjoy preparing and eating nutritious food.

I am a beautiful person, even if I don’t feel like it!

I am talented, even if I don’t always believe it.

I am worthy of using and developing my talent.

 

Related Posts

Bipolar and Seasonal Affective Disorder

10 Ideas to Distract Depression: Don’t Feed the Monster!

You Are Amazing!

 

 

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