THE SILENT STRUGGLE AGAINST EDNOS

As some of you may know, May 8th to May 14th is Mental Health Awareness Week  so I have decided to write another article about my struggle with an eating disorder. I first wanted to post this for Eating Disorder Awareness Week in February, but never managed to finish it on time as I first of all drowned my MacBook in orange juice which meant two weeks living without one, and after that I have been busy writing essays and trying to perfect this article, debating whether I should publish it or not. Talking about my eating disorder is not easy, but I am slowly learning to do it in order to raise awareness.

Have you ever heard of EDNOS? I would not be surprised if you had not. EDNOS, acronym for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, is the most common yet less talked about eating disorder. Basically, a person with EDNOS can either show symptoms of other eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Eating Disorder, etc.) combined, or not enough symptoms of one disorder to be diagnosed with it. They are therefore put in the category of an eating disorder not otherwise specified. As you can imagine, this is quite problematic for a number of reasons.

Remember how inactive I have been last semester? The reason for this was not because I was too busy or lacked the inspiration, the truth is that in October/November I relapsed into my eating disorder. I started writing an article about it in December but I never managed to publish it. After my blog post ED RECOVERY AND VEGANISM about how much better I was doing and how my vegan lifestyle was helping me recover, I felt incredibly stupid and disappointed that at 20 years old, after years of recovery and priding myself on being the healthiest version of myself that I could be, I suddenly found myself fearing food again. Unfortunately, that is just how it goes with eating disorders and mental illnesses. So here I am, writing an article about it to not only let you know the real reason behind my absence but also to address an illness that has the highest fatality rate of any other mental illness.

I was going to try and explain what it feels like to struggle with an eating disorder but I could write an entire book about it and it still would not be enough. What is important to know is that it is a mental illness and even though it can be treated, it is often a life-long struggle. My battle against this disorder started when I was thirteen years old,  almost eight years ago, and here I still am. What is also important to know is that an eating disorder is a self-destructive coping mechanism. Although when I was thirteen it did start off as a consequence of my low self esteem and a belief that if I lost weight I would be happier, these are not the real issues. My relapse last semester was a consequence of every single bad thing that had happened in 2016 that I had no idea how to deal with. Believe me, I am fully aware that starving is the worst possible way to lose weight and that self induced vomiting only leads to health complications, but unfortunately these things do not matter when I am right in the middle of it. My eating disorder is this sudden phobia of gaining weight and disgust towards food, this uncontrollable voice in my head that keeps telling me that I am worthless and that I have to starve/purge/exercise in order to make myself disappear because I do not deserve to take up space. The worst part? This voice never shuts up. Even when I am recovering and eating well, it’s always there. Eating disorders aren’t about weight loss, they are about control and self destruction.

I struggle with an eating disorder which is known as EDNOS. I show symptoms of both anorexia and bulimia, all the while being at a perfectly healthy weight. The issue with this is that this is a struggle completely invisible to the ones around me, but a struggle that could ultimately lead to my death. Now I know that may sound dramatic, but unfortunately it is the truth. I am currently recovering and healthy but that does not change the fact that for the past eight years I have completely neglected my body. Fortunately, I have received proper treatment early on and the damage that I have caused my body is reversible, however I do still experience some physical side effects of my ED today. The issue here is that not many people are aware of the fatal consequences of all eating disorders; that people with healthy BMI’s also die from this illness, not just the ones who are underweight. Even doctors often minimise a patient’s struggle because it may not look as ‘serious’ as Anorexia. Because of this enormous stigma around eating disorders, most people with EDNOS do not believe that they are ‘sick enough’ to ask for help. However, EDNOS being the most prevalent eating disorder is statistically the deadliest, which is why we absolutely need to talk about it.

We need to raise more awareness for all types of eating disorders. Which is what I hope to achieve by talking about it one here. If you have no experience with an eating disorder I hope this article might have helped you -even a little- to understand it better. If you have experience with eating disorders, know that it does not define you, that you are not alone, and most importantly that you deserve to get help. Recovery is tough, but it is the right way. Also, if you suspect that someone is struggling please reach out to them, talk to them, be there for them. We need to stand tall against this illness and help each other out as best as we can. We need to end the stigma.

Marion★

Interesting further readings:

EDNOS: The Silent Killer

What It’s Like to Feel Like You Are ‘Not Sick Enough’

Anorexia Is No Longer My Best Friend

What NOT to Say to Someone Recovering From an Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified — Real Disorders, Real Risks

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HOW TO GET BACK INTO THE UNIVERSITY ROUTINE

Coming back to uni after having been home for a while can be tough. One night you’re sitting on your couch in front of a nice fire and watching a movie with your parents, and the next you’re suddenly all alone in a cold and dark flat. It’s disorienting. You can ask me any time if I ever regret my choice of studying in Edinburgh and moving 1000 km away from home and I’ll respond with a hard and sincere “no”. However, that first night back in my flat after being away for a few weeks, I might respond with “…A little bit?” I do love living in Edinburgh, however that doesn’t change the fact that living so far away from home is not easy, sticking to a healthy routine is not easy, being an adult (or trying to be) and taking care of oneself is not easy.

When I got back to my flat last week the first thing that happened (even before unpacking) was a panic attack. Suddenly I started freaking out about the fact that I was back in Edinburgh and I started questioning everything. For a moment, I was really scared that I had made the wrong decision to study here and leave my comfortable life in Belgium. So of course I called my mother, and she comforted me by telling me that she went through the exact same thing every time she would get back to her flat as a uni student. This made me realise that even if I had stayed in Belgium, I would still feel the same disorientation when leaving home and going back to the university lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the fact that I study in a different country, but has everything to do with the fact that going from holiday mode at home (where you are taken care of and don’t need to worry about money or food) to work/study mode at uni (where you have to take care of yourself and be responsible) is simply a transition, something that every uni student struggles with. So as this transition can be quite tough, especially at this time of year, I decided to make a list of things that you can do to make it go smoother.

  • “Routines save lives” – said a scientist probably. SO GET INTO A ROUTINE. I’m serious, routines are very important to stay sane. Your day doesn’t have to be planned out by the hour, just have something to do every day which will make you want to get out of bed. So plan your week and have certain things you do every week (or day) at approximately the same time. Humans are creatures of habit. Most importantly: start a routine the first day you’re back, don’t wait for uni to start.
  • Buy a 2017 planner/diary and plan ahead! Make plans that will make you look forward to the next few months or so. This is a new semester so make sure it becomes a good one! Plan to see a friend, travel to a near city, or take yourself out to a new restaurant.  Most importantly, same as the routine: STICK TO IT.
  • Concentrate on your uni work. This is why you’re here after all + it will help to take your mind of things when you’re feeling sad or homesick.
  • Hang out with your friends. Don’t be afraid to message them first and just arrange a hang out: go for dinner, go to the cinema, catch up over a glass of wine in your flat. I meet up with one of my vegan friends here every other week and we go out for dinner and just catch up over delicious vegan food.
  • Get out there! I know how easy it is to lock yourself up in your flat but do not do it. Get some fresh air (yes, even when it’s cold), read in a cafe instead of your bed, go to a museum, etc. Enjoy everything that your city has to offer.
  • Don’t forget to stay healthy. Eat well and consistently. Make a weekly meal plan if it helps. Also, STAY ACTIVE. Unfortunately my ankle is injured which means I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me from going on walks, doing ab workouts, or yoga. To put it in Elle Woods’s words:635735636410905721-1071011617_tumblr_npjg29l3ex1r9n4hjo2_500

It took me a few days but I am finally comfortable in this routine again, and this list of things is what helped me. I’ve got quite a few things planned for the next couple of months and I’ve also realised that it would be possible for me to go home for a bit during my reading week mid February, which is something to look forward to as well. I’ve also got quite  few books that I need to read this semester,so that will definitely keep me busy!

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Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are slowly (but surely) readjusting to the student life!

Marion ★

CONTRADICTING THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON 

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

I’m taking advantage of the calm of boxing day morning (I am writing this on my couch with a cup of coffee, looking over at our Christmas tree. It is 8 AM and I am the only one awake) to finally finish this article about the holiday season.

Here’s a fact about me: I am one of those people who get overly excited about Christmas right after Halloween. I may not be a huge fan of the cold, but I am a huge fan of Christmas. I love the lights, Christmas markets are my heaven, and most importantly I adore going back home to spend this time of year with my family.

Here’s another fact about me: Winter is my least favourite season and the holidays are something that I dread all year round. I struggle a lot with the changing of seasons and this time of year as I have realised, is when my mental health is at its worst, I’ve often relapsed during the months of November and December.

I called this article contradicting thoughts about the holiday season for a reason, when it comes to the month of December, I’m a paradox. The truth is that I am not sure how I feel about the holidays; one one side I love them more than anything, but on the other I hate them more than anything.

The holidays are beautiful and walking around wearing an ugly Christmas jumper is so fun. In Edinburgh the Christmas cheer is already felt all through November and there’s nothing quite like sipping on a hot gin toddy with a good friend at the market. But the end of November and the beginning of December is also a time of constant stress. Between managing my time to write essays, buying Christmas gifts, organising trips, staying active, and trying to stay financially responsible through all of that is extremely stressful (and oh so exhausting). I’m already quite stressed all year round, but man am I stressed during the holidays. Trying to deal with that stress on my own + the depression that comes with the changing of the season often equals to nightmares, a loss of appetite, and pushing my friends away.

Christmas is also about spending time with your family. Which is probably my favourite thing about the holidays: going home. I love coming home and seeing my family again, but going home can be quite nostalgic. Even though this year I’ve actually had the loveliest Christmas in a while it will never be the same as when I was a child. Every year it somehow gets harder. This place is filled with so many memories, both good and bad, and in my opinion one of the most painful things about growing up is when the bad memories start to overpower the good ones of your childhood, which is something that has slowly been happening to me these past few years.

This holiday season has probably been the strangest one yet. I’ve had the worst of times leading up to it but ended up having the best Christmas. I have received the loveliest presents and with the birth of my first nephew three weeks ago (yay! I’m an aunt!) this Christmas has been really refreshing. I am also leaving for Berlin in a couple of days for New Years and I hope my mood will stay up for that trip. 2016 has been rough, but I will do everything I can to finish it well and most importantly to have an amazing start of 2017.

To everyone who also struggles during this time of year, wether it’d be with your mental health or your family; it’s okay, you’re okay. I know this time of year is difficult, but you will make it through.

Much love everyone and take care of yourselves ♥

Marion

QUICK UPDATE

Hi guys!

I apologise for being so inactive. I have tried multiple times to write on here and I do actually have quite a few articles in the making (which I will post as soon as possible) but for some reason I have not been able to finish/perfect/post/ any of them. Just so you know, I am still alive and I am still using this blog, it has just been a crazy couple of months (as per). So this is a quick update letting you know that I have returned to Edinburgh almost three months ago now for my second year of English and Film, and I’m okay.

The main reasons for my absence are because I have been quite busy with university work, dance (I got accepted into the university’s jazz/contemporary AND hip-hop competition troupes), and just with life in general. We’ve moved into a new flat and experienced quite some difficulties at the beginning which was stressful, I’ve also been working on my mental wellbeing and my relationships here which hasn’t always been easy; basically, I’ve been trying to be a healthy adult and that is really why I haven’t found much time to sit down and write for this blog. Also, my good friend Steffi Buchler has just created a lifestyle blog called Herland Magazine  and has asked me to be a guest writer for it. You should all go check it out!

Anyways, tonight is Napier dance’s annual fundraiser Strictly Come Dancing which I’ve been working on (and stressed about) for the past month. Once that is done I promise I will do my best to finally concentrate on this blog again.

Stay tuned,

Marion

 

 

20 THINGS I LEARNED BY THE TIME I TURNED 20

Hey everyone!

After turning 20 years old exactly one week ago, I started working on a list of things that I have learned by the time I turned 20, a list of 20 things that I would tell my younger self if I could. Here goes:

  1. When you need help, ask for it. Your friends, family and even teachers are here for you. Remember that your mental health comes first, no excuses.
  2. Everything is temporary. The bad times will pass but unfortunately so will the good. Enjoy everything as best as you can while you can.
  3. Some days you will feel overwhelmed by the horrors and pain of this world but do not let this change you, do not let this make you cold. Breathe. Always stay soft and compassionate. Remember that this world needs people like this or it will not survive.
  4. Feeling everything is better than feeling nothing at all. I know it hurts, but this is living after all. Imagine how dull the world would be if you did not experience all of it to its fullest.
  5. Growing up some people who promised they would never leave, will eventually do. People change and friendships fall apart. Never forget to appreciate the people who haven’t left.
  6. Some days the tears will come and you will not be able to stop them. It will happen in awkward places, in class, at a party, in the car… Do not apologise for it, your emotions are valid.
  7. Appreciate everything your body does for you: the way it is constantly healing itself, the way it keeps you alive. It is alway kind to you so you better be kind to it back. Listen to it, take care of it, do not try to burn it down.
  8. Learn the difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone is healthy, being lonely is not. Do not lock yourself away when you are lonely and excuse this behaviour by telling people that you like being alone, they are not the same thing.
  9. Do not get into a relationship because you are scared of being alone or because you need validation. Do not tell people that you love them if you do not mean it, do not ever play with someone’s heart like that. Using people for your own entertainment will not make you feel whole.
  10. The people you love will not always love you back. It is going to hurt, it is going to be infuriating, and you will find yourself crying under your blanket and feeling as empty as the bottle of wine by your bed. It will not be easy but please do not blame these people, their emotions are valid too.
  11. Recovery is difficult and it will take a long time before you feel okay again. Some days you will feel overwhelmed by the possibility that you might never get better; this is just your illness talking. Keep going, one day at a time.
  12. Do not hurt someone else because you are hurting. Again, your emotions are valid but so are theirs. There are better ways to deal with your pain.
  13. You do not always have to be strong, some days it will be difficult to get out of bed, some days it will be difficult to eat. Fall apart if you have to, but do not forget to get back up.
  14. Make art, as often as you can and as much as you can. One condition: do not hold on to your sadness or anger just to make it good. It is possible to write good poetry when you are happy.
  15.  Never apologise for doing or feeling things that other people do not understand. some days you will feel like you are taking up too much space, like you should apologise for who you are, do not do it.
  16. Traveling is good and healthy but do not use it as a way to run away. You cannot run away from yourself and it will not be pretty when you finally understand this.
  17. Always be honest. Alway say how you feel and what you think as long as it will not damage the person you are saying it to. You like someone? You tell them. You do not like the way someone is treating you? You let them know. Speak your mind, even when it is scary. This world needs more honestly.
  18. Growing up they will never let you be angry, anger is not a “lady-like” emotion after all. Do not listen to them. When you are angry you better feel it, you better show it, you better scream it out.
  19. The best way to get over something is to get through it. When you get shot you have to remove the bullet or it will just cause infection and this poisonous object will never go away. There is no getting better without feeling pain first. This is how you get through it, it is the only way to truly let it go.
  20. Always try to see the beauty in everything. I know that it is difficult some days, but remember that this world is a gorgeous place and you are so lucky to be experiencing it all.
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summer 2000, Corsica

 

Marion★

ED RECOVERY AND VEGANISM

Hi everyone!

This article is going to be a lot more personal but it is something that I have wanted to write about for a long time and in honour of mental health week (which was actually two weeks ago, it took a while to finish this article), it felt like a good time to finally share this with you.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I have only transitioned to a vegan diet last February but that I have been a vegetarian for almost a year now. However, since writing about vegetarianism/veganism I have never actually written an article about why I personally chose this lifestyle. I have mentioned the meat and dairy industry, which I find absolutely disgusting, but to be completely honest that was not the main reason for my dietary choice.

The main reason was my mental health.

DISCLAIMER: I am not trying to generalise eating disorders nor am I generalising veganism. I am not saying that switching to a vegan diet is the best way to recover and will cure your eating disorder, because it is not. It is helping me recover, yes, but it is not curing it in any way. Eating disorders are complex mental health issues that are different for every individual experiencing them and to truly recover takes so much more than a change of diet (e.g. therapy). This is my personal story, not a recovery guide. Thank you.

I will try not to bore you with my entire mental health story, mostly because there is just too much and because I still don’t feel 100% comfortable talking about it, so this article will only cover my struggle with food. Here goes.

I started dieting when I was twelve. Nothing harmful at first; I tried to eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water, excercise more, all the good stuff. Except that I was twelve, had a low self esteem, and consequentially became a bit too obsessed with the number on the scale. When I was thirteen and sick with a stomach bug I discovered the efficiency of self induced vomiting, so as my mental health got worse, I started using more and more unhealthy dieting methods as a coping mechanism. At that point it wasn’t even about losing weight anymore, it was about self destruction. A year later my parents found out and send me to a therapist. Four therapists later and a terrible relapse which made my parents and my best friend cry, I realised that my self destruction was everything but a self destruction. By hurting myself I was hurting everyone that was close to me and I couldn’t live with that, so I decided to genuinely do my best to recover (I was 16 going on 17 at that point). I found a new therapist and went to a nutritionist to get tested to see if anything was physically wrong with me. From my blood to the chemicals in my brain, everything pointed towards a slight depression: my dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline levels were lower that the average human being, but not low enough for antidepressants. So we decided to try it the natural way: a change of diet and supplements (iron, magnesium, omega 3, etc.) plus a tiny bit of lithium, in order to control the mood swings. That was it.

Then came my exchange year in the US. When I first started working on my application with AFS they told me that there was very little chance of me actually getting accepted into the program because of my struggles with my mental health. I worked extremely hard to cooperate in therapy and eat well in order to prove them that I was not a danger to myself anymore nor the people around me. It was exhausting, but it paid off. When I finally got accepted it made me the happiest person ever. However, there was one thing that terrified me about going to the US: gaining weight (I had already gained a healthy amount of weight back during my recovery, but I was nowhere near being fully recovered, so gaining more weight than was necessary frightened me). During the first month or so I tried not to eat too much but I quickly realised how sad that was making me. I was happy with my life in the US, the happiest I had been in years. I learned there that I did not need self destructive coping mechanisms to survive, I was fine without them. So I decided to educate myself on nutrition by watching documentaries and by joining a fitness class. If there was one thing that I had learned that past year was that taking care of your body also meant taking care of your mind.

By watching documentaries on nutriton I realised the health benefits of a vegan diet, this is when I decided that I wanted to reduce my animal product intake. Step by step though; first no meat or fish, then no milk, then no egss, and finally completely vegan. This transition took about nine months because it’s a transition that has to happen carefully. Going from an omnivorous to a herbivorous diet is not easy, and to not only survive but thrive on a plant based diet one must have a good enough knowledge of nutrition and how much of what the human body needs on a daily basis. This is why I tried to educate myself as much as I could before actually making the full transition.

Going from an eating disorder to veganism may seem like an radical switch, when you think about it they are complete opposites: one is extremely unhealthy, the other (if done right) is extremely healthy. One is centred around pain and destruction, the other on avoiding pain and destruction. One thing they have in common though, is the sense of control. My eating disorder was mainly about control over my food intake/weight/body because I couldn’t control anything else that was going on in my life. It was a sort of reassurance, knowing that I had this power. This is why for me becoming vegan was the best thing for my recovery: I still have that sense of control which helps me feel in control of everything else that is happening in my life, and I feel better about myself because I’m healthier and each day, on a vegan diet I save 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.

I’d be lying if I said that I was completely okay now, that I never find myself skipping a meal or crouched over the toilet anymore. I’m still recovering and I will be for a long time. Recovery is a slow, exhausting and painful process and as I said, a change of diet is not enough to recover from something as complex as an eating disorder. The good news though, is that I’m better. I haven’t had a drastic relapse in years and I haven’t been to therapy in a while either. I’m more comfortable with my body and am learning that self destruction is not the answer, that being healthy and compassionate is what’s going to make me happy.

Marion★

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHORT HAIR AND LETTING GO

Hey everyone!

I thought I’d take a little break from talking about veganism to talk about something a little more personal: why I suddenly cut my hair and how it’s teaching me the art of letting go.

If there is one thing that I am really bad at, it’s letting go. Of the past, of resentment towards people who hurt me years ago, of letters, photos, you name it. So it’s no surprise that I am also really bad at letting go of my hair. Let me explain.

I’ve always wanted long hair. I’ve had mid-length hair for most of my life as I always seemed to have terrible split ends and therefore ended up going to the hairdresser, where they always cut more than you ask, quite often. When I was 16 I dyed my hair red, yes bright red, and had it like that for more than a year. When I decided to dye it back brown we had to bleach it first to completely get rid of the colour, which damaged my hair a lot. Once the dyed part grew out I was ready to take care of my hair as best as I could and let it grow out. I kept my hair super healthy, made sure to use the right products, eat well, and so on, until I finally had the long and healthy hair that I had always wanted. Having put so much effort into it there was one thing that scared me more than anything else: going to the hairdresser. Even if it was just for the split ends (my mum took care of those) I would never trust a hairdresser with my long hair that I loved more than anything.

Until a few months ago, when my life completely derailed and I found myself having a mental breakdown on my friends couch. I remember telling him (through the tears and from under the blanket, I didn’t want him to see me like this) that I needed to get away, or at least some sort of change. To this he replied “why not cut your hair? that might do you good” and to which I responded with a laugh. Cut my hair? Absolutely not.

When I came home that night I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of actually going through with it. It’s common knowledge that a lot of women drastically cut their hair after break ups or big life changing events because it’s a way of letting go, of literally getting some weight off your shoulders. I had gone through a lot with that hair, it was almost like a reminder of everything good or bad that had happened these past years and it was just too much, I did not want it to be a part of me any more. So two days later I went to the hairdresser and asked him to just cut it off, and it felt great.

I love my short hair because it was exactly what I needed at that time, but I do prefer it long and plan on growing it out again. However, I do not regret my decision one bit. So when I look at old photos and start missing my long hair, I try to remind myself of why I cut it and how miserable I’d feel today if I hadn’t. It sounds strange, but letting go of my beloved hair taught me (and still teaches me to this day) how to let go of the things that are bothering me and the people who hurt me, and most importantly that it is okay to do so, that I don’t have to hold on to everything in my life with both hands.

 

BYEEEEE

Marion★