If you follow Mental Health Foundation on Twitter or Insta you’ll know that tomorrow marks the start of Mental Health week. The theme this year is ‘Thriving or Surviving.’ Which do you feel you are? I’d like to think I was now ‘thriving’ but there are still times when I feel I’m merely ‘surviving.’ I guess that’s the thing with a mental issue, it may never actually leave you, it’s there all the time, just in varying degrees.
I’ve said before how anorexia leaves you feeling like you just exist. You’re not actually ‘living,’ but you’re still there in body, watching life pass you by. You really do just survive, and sometimes you’re not even sure you will do that. In my worst period I’d long for the days to be over, for the hunger and constant anxiety to go and leave me. I’d get into bed thankful that another day was done, pleased with myself for surviving on the tiny amount of calories I had, wondering if I could eat even less the following day. I’d look forward to sleep, thinking I’d get some peace, some rest but it never really happened like that. I’d dream about food, I’d dream people were trying to feed me, I’d wake up hungry, and then the whole cycle would start again. Another day of trying to eat as little as possible, another day of feeling utterly worthless and useless, another day of telling everyone you were fine, fake smiling, fake chatting, fake living. It couldn’t be further from thriving. You don’t care about anything else in life- social things, boy things, family things, fun things. Nothing’s fun, nothing makes you happy, you long to be anyone but yourself and think back to the days when worries were what to wear on a Saturday night, or where to go on holiday. Just generally you couldn’t be any further from thriving.
When I feel low, and question recovery, I think back to feeling like this and ask myself if I really want to go there again. Of course the answer is no. It was hell. Part of me feels like it was a lifetime ago, and like it wasn’t actually me that went through it. Then there is another part that remembers it all so vividly, and when I am having a bad day all the negative thoughts come screaming back.
However now I try to control it all, I recognise when I feel crap and I try to address why. I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive, this is the only life we get, I don’t want to spend it being anxious, being controlled by ED thoughts, being unhappy for no reason. Of course sometimes you do feel just that, unhappy, but I’ve come to learn that that’s actually ok. Everyone has times when they feel low, some more than others, but know that it’s fine to feel that way. Sometimes you have to have the down moments to have the up moments, and having those moments doesn’t mean you’ve gone back to ‘surviving,’ it means you’re progressing, because progress is always up and down.
Thriving will mean different things to different people, but it doesn’t have to mean you’re the top of your game, socially, career wise, in relationships, 24/7. If anything, to me thriving just means you’re enjoying your life again. To some it may mean reaching a career high point, to others it may be as simple as having the freedom to eat out with family again. Ask yourself right now, if you are thriving or surviving, and answer it honestly. If you’re the former, that’s great, maybe think of other ways to progress, further ways you can thrive. If it’s the latter, that’s ok, you’ve acknowledged it and hopefully you can now do something about it. Things that helped me:
- Talk, talk and talk some more. Open up to your friends and family, tell them you’re struggling and share the problem. If they care, they will help, they won’t judge
- Don’t feel you have to ‘man up.’ If you’re on Twitter you may have seen a tweet by Piers Morgan saying pretty much just that, that men need to not be so soul bearing and ‘get a grip.’ This is not the case, sometimes you can’t just ‘man up,’ whatever that may mean. In the same respect someone cannot just be rid of a physical illness.
- Know that it’s ok to not be ok. If you have days when you feel unhappy, sad, down for whatever reason, let it come. My housemate and I said exactly this- sometimes you just need a cry, to let the emotions out, and that’s fine. The other day I sat in the car, facetimed my mum and cried the sort of tears that don’t stop, where you can’t catch your breath. It wasn’t for one big reason, I just felt rubbish. A car then reversed into me, doing no damage but the other driver clearly thought I’d found the whole issue very emotional!
- Realise many, many people suffer with mental health issues. I get anxiety, I have friends who suffer with depression. The stresses we all have vary massively but we still understand each other. I worry about day to day things, small things stress me out, much more so post ED than pre. While some of my friends stress about the big picture- how their life will pan out.
I guess ultimately your brain, is your brain. By that I mean it sometimes not as simple as reading a motivational quote, or a self help book. Some days you have to make an effort to thrive, other days it just happens, but that’s life I guess. Thrive for you, on your level, don’t compare to others, focus on you. Find the things that make you happy and do them more, with the people that make you happy. Work at it, and don’t be scared to take a risk with something. I once used to think ‘if there’s the slightest chance it’ll make you unhappy, STAY AWAY.’ Then I read a quote that said ‘If there’s the slightest chance it may make you happy, grab it with both hands,’ and I think that’s the better way to be. Protect yourself yes, but not to the extent where you cut off things that could potentially help you to thrive
To get involved in Mental Health Awareness week see the link below: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week