During June of 2018 I spent a month at the hospital, mostly for my eating disorder, but also for many other little problems I have. They made me realize I also struggle with OCD and two months after leaving my depression was making a come back. It has been seven months since it all happened and I really wanted to take the time to write about my recovery because it sure hasn’t been a straight line, but I’m still making progress and I am definitely going somewhere.
So, here is my seven months recovery journey.
As I am writing this today I can’t thank enough my past self for sending this letter to the hospital in January and agreeing to finally see some specialists for my eating disorder. At this time I felt scared and alone, and I sure wasn’t feeling sick enough to ask for help. I’m really glad I still managed to do it, because I wouldn’t be there today without this journey to the hospital.
Even though I asked for help in January I couldn’t have an appoitment before months later. I spent the entire day running tests and talking to doctors. It felt weird but as I spent most of my life in hospitals it was still manageable for me. At the end of the day I went to see a psychiatrist and we talked of all my results for an entire hour. We talked about how scared I seemed to make mistakes, how I wanted to be perfect, how I pressured myself, how I seemed to suffer from OCD but mostly about how I suffered from bulimia. That’s it, I wrote it. It’s my first time clearly saying it on the Internet (as I only ever said I was suffering from an ED): I suffer from bulimia.
It felt weird to hear it the first time. As I said, I didn’t feel sick enough. Worse, I thought only skinny girls got to suffer from it and that I wasn’t skinny enough. Of course now I know it was the disease talking, but it still felt weird. As soon as I got my results and my diagnosis they told me I had to spend at least a month at the hospital. It took a lot of courage from me to take a whole month out of work and to tell my parents about it, but as soon as university ended I packed my stuff and left for the hospital.
My time there was hard, but it still was a beautiful experience. It was hard because I felt alone and I kept comparing myself to others. I had so many panic attack there and I felt so ashamed every time it happened. Yet, it was still a beautiful experience because it made me stronger, made me learn a lot about myself and I have made some great friends. We were all suffering but we all got each other backs, and it felt so good. (Every doctors and nurses were amazing as well.)
Unfortunately the last week I spent at the hospital was the worst. Even though I was getting better my body let me down and I became very, very sick. Worst of all my grandma passed away, and it was a first for me. From there it all changed.
As I left the hospital I thought I was getting better. I was trying hard to do it all for my grandma, for my grandpa who asked me the day we said goodbye to her that I had to get better for her. But as I said, recovery isn’t a straight line and I did what I shouldn’t have done: I stopped eating. I only ate at lunch because that’s when I was surrounded by people but other than that I just stopped eating. And that’s when my depression decided to make a comeback.
I was so unhappy that all I could do was sleeping. I wasn’t eating, wasn’t seeing my friends. I was only going to work because I had to but I talked to no one, I lied to everyone else and pretended it was okay. Thankfully I was still seeing my doctor from the hospital every month and she made me realise how bad I felt. When I realised I was depressed again my bulimia started getting worse and all the weight I lost during those few months… Well I gained it again.
And so January started. I am someone who is very affected by the new year, so I knew I wanted to make a change in 2019. I spent the entire month listening to myself and spending time with myself. I learned so many things. I realised so many things too. And that’s when I started to get better.
Today my bulimia isn’t okay at all. Yet as I am writing this I haven’t had any single panic attack in three weeks, my new treatment is working super well and I am feeling happy. Despite it all, I am happy.
I am happy because I have the best doctors I could ever dreamed of, my treatment is working magic on me, I found out so many reasons why I was unhappy before and changed it all, and overall everything feels right. I am starting to fall in love with myself and it feels amazing.
Now I know some harder times are to come and that I will have to face them all. I know I am not done with it all and I am certainly not done with bulimia. Yet I am proud of all the progress I made in half a year. So, yay me!
I asked on Instagram if people had questions about mental health that I could answer on this blog post, so here they are!
Did it take time for you to accept the fact that you have a diagnosed mental illness? How did you come to accept it?
To be totally honest, it wasn’t that hard for me, but only because I have been living with one my whole life. My anxiety truly started when I was 11 years old (that’s when I had my first panic attack) and my doctor immediately talked to me about it. I have been diagnosed with depression when I was 14 years old and had to take meds right away. Hearing that I was suffering from an ED and from OCD wasn’t necessarely easier because I felt as if it was too much, as if I was doomed and had to suffer from every mental illness imaginable, but as I lived with all those things for most of my life I tend to see diagnosis reassuring. At least I know what I suffer from is valid and can be taken care of. And I have to say that my friends helped me a lot with it all. I have always been surrounded by nice and caring people who made me feel valid and loved no matter what. When I told them I suffered from bulimia they immediatly asked what they could do to make it easier for me, and I can’t them enough for it.
- What made you reach for help?
It was one day in 2017. I had to go my doctor for my diabetes and when she asked me, casually, how I was, I started sobbing. I couldn’t hold it anymore. I was way too unhappy. She is the one who told me to send a letter to the hospital I went to and to ask for help. I guess it was just too much and I couldn’t live with it anymore. I was having suicidal thoughts and was scared of it because I already went through it once and didn’t want to do it again. So, I guess I was just lucky that someone was there to ask me how I was and that I decided that I still wanted to get better.
- What helped you the most beside the meds?
Weirdly it has been my bullet journal. I have been using one ever since September and it sure helped me a lot to try every day. I have always been someone who seeks comfort in organisation, so having a bullet journal definitely helped me. I use it to track my moods but also to track my habits (i. e. eating well, exercice etc).
- What do you advise to do when having a bad mental health day?
As I wrote a blog post about it, with different things to do regarding of what you may prefer, I am going to link it here. Although, if you are having a really bad mental health day, I would really recommend to seek help to a friend or to do something to calm you down. Find something that works for you (meditation, reading, listening to music etc) and stick to it. If it lasts the whole day, then take a deep breathe and go slowly with yourself. There are some bad days, but there are some good days too. Just be gentle with yourself, take the day as it comes and relax as soon as you get home.
- Do you have any music that helps you deal with a bad mental health day?
I do! I am someone who is easily affected by music, so I often avoid listening to sad songs. Lately I have been playing over and over again the Hairspray album, it has been a favourite of mine for years and it feels good to listen to it again. Othewise I usually listen to songs that I know will make me happy, like the Hamilton soundtrack for example.
- How does an anxiety attack feel like?
I know that anxiety and panic attack aren’t the same, and I feel as if I have more panic attacks than anxiety ones, but I can still try to answer to this question. When I have an anxiety attack I am feeling lost, afraid and I can start shaking or catching for my breathe. When I have a panic attack though I feel like dying and I start to breathe too much, everything hurts inside my body and I can’t seem to make sense of anything.
- What do you do to deal with the secondary effects of meds?
I think that my meds are actually making me gain weigth, which isn’t so good for me because I already struggle with it. For now I have been okay because I still love myself no matter what. However if you struggle with the secondary effects of your meds, please ask your doctor or specialist about it.
- How to make understand people (friends, family etc) that we can’t just stop? that it’s not a choice?
Unfortunately, my family doesn’t fully understand it either and I used to be friends with people who wouldn’t understand it. I think you may try and sit with them to talk about it, to express your feelings and to tell them that as every disease it’s not something you are choosing to do. If they don’t understand it, then you can either try again or just let it go. Hopefully you’ll meet kinder people who will be willing to understand.
- When and how did you realise you had mental health issues?
My doctor always described myself as a very stressful child, but I guess I realized I wasn’t okay when I had my first panic attack at 11 years old. After that I just tried to learn all I could about anxiety etc. It was hard though to fully understand that I still wasn’t okay at 18 years old and that I was suffering from many, many things, but at least I always had the Internet to make me realise that it was okay to suffer and that I could get help.
- Would you have a rec on how to ask for a diagnosis? Are there criteria or can anyone get one from a specialist?
I don’t think there are actually criteria or anything. You just have to be willing to see a specialist who will be able to give you a diagnosis, but I believe anyone really can see one.
- What’s something that helped you most while in recovery?
This may sound cheesy as I am a book blog, but books definitely help me the most. Whenever I felt down I knew I could just pick up a book and escape from reality while reading. It always made me feel better, and still do. I would recommend you to either talk about it to a specialist or to look online. The Internet is full of useful posts about mental health.
- How do you deal with intrusive thoughts?
For now I don’t have any “cure” to it. By that I mean that I still deal with intrusive thoughts and don’t do anything about it. I sure have meds which help with it all but I don’t have tools or anything to fight against it when it happens.
And here it is.
This blog post is nothing, really. I just wanted to write it all down so that my future self can read it someday and so it can remind myself that I already did so much.
Anyway, thank you for reading. I hope that you are okay. I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that brighter days are coming. You are not alone and you sure make a big difference in this world.
I love you.