“You Are A Worthless Fat Girl” – guest post by Hope Virgo

“You are a worthless fat girl”

That was the voice that resonated throughout my head as I looked at myself in the mirror in the gym. Over the last few months that voice had got louder again, shouting… that relentless voice nagging at me. It was so loud whenever I went to the gym and instead of my gym sessions being some sort of relief I would leave them feeling so ugly. I hated it. And I hated how loud she was becoming again. It frustrated me and got me down. That voice made me feel not good enough for anyone or anything. The truth is I knew I was struggling. I knew I wasn’t going to stop eating again, but I knew something had to change in me to get my mind set back to where it should be.

Over the last two years my body shape has definitely changed. I stopped running quite as much after I relapsed in 2016 and tried to vary up my exercise by going to the gym. But I then had to learn to navigate having a different shaped body; one that wasn’t stick thing, boney and one that needed a new sort of wardrobe.

The thing about recovery from anorexia is it isn’t a straight line. Over the last year I have talked so openly about my anorexia. I don’t want to speak negatively but I want to be real. I have given my complete self to so many of you, I have been opened up about my medication, about my suicidal thoughts and about the reality of living with anorexia.

I talk very openly about it and I feel completely vulnerable to judgement. Vulnerable to the comments about mental health and people’s opinions about me and as to why I share my story. And the frustrating thing is it is the negative feelings, and feelings of “fatness” that make me start to doubt myself. They start off small but slowly and surely they will chip away at me. Chipping and chipping until I feel a mess. They chip away at me so then other comments hurt even more. They chip away until I feel like I shouldn’t be sharing my story. Until I feel like this fake, standing up there…

A huge part of recovery is learning how to control those voices in your head and learn how to not let them dominate your every day. And learning where to get your strength from when they feel like they are shouting even louder than usual.

For me it can at times feel completely and utterly exhausting fighting these voices. These manipulative relentless voices that I don’t know how to stop but finding this strength is essential to maintaining my recovery. And staying strong is what we need to do.

For me I talk, I tell people how I feel. I share these feelings of failure, the fat feelings…I explain that I don’t want to get sick again and that I know fighting on is the thing I must do. I am so lucky to have people round me who take my eating disorder seriously and that I don’t have to prove a point by skipping meals.

The frustrating thing about anorexia is that when you start to fight that voice it gets louder and louder. And so you have to fight harder. But fighting harder is completely possible and when you don’t feel like you have the strength to do it please dig deep, focus on your motivations, dig deep, and stay strong as beating anorexia is 100% possible.

For me I do just this; I remind myself of my motivations and remind myself that life with anorexia is NOT worth living with. Like seriously what did anorexia ever really do for me other than pop me in hospital for a year. All the stuff that anorexia promised me turned out to be a lie.

Try and remember this, stand strong, keep fighting and don’t ever give up!

 

About the Author

Hope is an author, mental health campaigner and an ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation.  Author of Stand Tall Little Girl, she suffered with anorexia for over 4 years before being admitted to hospital in 2007.  Now in ongoing recovery, she uses her experience to raise awareness for mental health and eating disorders and to inspire people to get well and break the stigma that surrounds mental health.  Why not check out some of her work?

Opening Thoughts From Hannah Brown

There was a time, when fuelled by youth and naivety, I thought of anorexia as simply a silly girls desperate attempts to lose weight and ashamedly I suggested it was attention seeking.

Now, with only a few more years on me, I can say with absolute certainty that Eating Disorders are both horrendous and life changing. They tear apart lives leaving a skeleton in mind, body and soul.

I learnt this the hard way, and after starting my own diet at 19, I was eventually diagnosed with anorexia at 23, eventually being admitted to hospital twice in that same year.

Alex was truly honest when we first spoke and said that he had come to realise that he knew next to nothing about eating disorders. I am always on the look out for new people to connect and link in with as we all pledge to improve the dialogue around all mental health issues. Collectively we aim to break stigma, increase understanding and campaign to improve services and Pushing Back The Shadows is the perfect forum for that.

Knowledge is everything when it comes to showing compassion and empathy to anyone suffering with a mental illness, and that has never been more true than when helping someone who is suffering with an eating disorder. In recognition of this, Alex has dedicated a whole week to raising awareness and improving understanding and I have been given the incredible opportunity to open the week. To try and give a proper introduction to eating disorders I am going to dispel a few myths and try to get to the bottom of an illness layered with misconception and stigma.

There is a massive difference between disordered eating and eating disorders, most importantly is that the latter is of course a very severe mental illness. It is however important to recognise the spiral that can occur when disordered eating takes hold and the person looses their sense of control.

Anorexia, very commonly starts out this way. It certainly did for me, as I said I started that diet, cutting out more and more, restringing my life more and more until my whole existence had been defined by meal times and exercise. All consuming, all encompassing and all dominating. There were rules that I placed on myself that were both unrecognisable and incomprehensible to those around me, but to me they were my everything, my security and my comfort.

For others however, being able to control their food and calorie intake forms their relenting attempt at coping with inner turmoil or external pressures. It’s a terrifying existence and one that the sufferers will find themselves consumed by

So recovery- “just eat”. Because it’s that easy? I recall days as an inpatient where I could eat a meal without almost a thought, but then hours later, after a difficult and painful family session, I would be begging for the food to be taken away, the struggle being just too much.

I used food as the thing that I could control, the thing that kept me safe and it became a comfort blanket. The restriction made me feel powerful, looking back the reality was that my illness was in total control. It harboured itself in my body and it pained every part of my existence.

“Well you can’t have an eating disorder because you don’t even look that skinny” and “surely you’re all better now that you’ve weight restored”. Let me tell you, eating disorders don’t actually care- once they infiltrate the mind they take a powerful grip which can only tightens as ones weight initially starts to increase.  Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and whether the person is underweight, normal weight or over weight they can still be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Lets not forget the complexity of eating disorders, a combination of medical and psychiatric illness that is not going to be “cured” through the attainment of a goal weight. Food has been used as some sort of crutch, coping mechanism- it is indicative of a repressed issue that underpins the illnesses existence, recovery is about uncovering everything, recovery is from the inside out and then the outside in.

The next myth that is far too commonly heard is that eating disorders are somehow selective in the people that they effect. It seems that the white females, from a middle class background of high mental aptitude are more likely to become unwell with a form of eating disorder- APPARENTLY.

Now I am no expert and nor do I have statistics in front of me that might collaborate me but I am almost 100% sure that there is no selection process for eating disorders. There is no discrimination, and whilst it is true that there may be certain predispositions to becoming unwell, these predispositions are not found in demographical variables. This means that men, BME groups and even the working class can and do develop eating disorders.

I could go on into so much more detail on all the horrendous myths around eating disorders that require dispelling, that need smashing down and breaking through.

I’ll be brief though;

Eating disorders are not for life, recovery is possible. If you are suffering from this horrible and debilitating illness, please know that if you want to recover, if you are willing to put your heart, soul and courage into making yourself well, using the people around you for love, support and guidance then yes, yes recovery is possible.

There is no one to blame- parents aren’t to blame, loved ones and family members are not to blame. Undoubtedly they may be contributing factors, they may have triggered but they are not in isolation to blame. To suggest so is not conducive to recovery, to assert blame to anyone but the illness will not help through stages of recovery. We all need to acknowledge that sometimes people do things that hurt, that cause anxiety and so much more but individually they do not cause eating disorders.

And finally, all eating disorders are serious. Anorexia kills, we know that. But Bulimia and all the other variants of eating disorders have associated health concerns in equal measure, the effects of the behaviours on the body can be damaging, long term and devastatingly fatal.

An introduction to eating disorders in 1000 words is simply impossible. To dispel rumours, raise awareness and increase understanding takes time and an army of people to speak out and do so with courage and tenacity. There are not enough resources available to fully and comprehensively give this mental illness the exploration that it requires. Layers upon layers, complexities in complexities- there is so much- too much.

If you take one thing away from this article- take the learning that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, forms and variants. They do no discriminate, they’re not a phase or a habit that’s become out of control. It can’t be “fixed” and just eating won’t be a magic cure.

Enjoy this week, learn and comprehend. Be kind to yourself and those around you but most importantly open your mind to an illness that is almost unexplainable and yet provides so much to those it holds in its manipulative grips.

And if you, or a loved on is struggling please get in touch- because everyone deserves an ear to hear.

About the Author

As a blogger and campaigner on mental health issues, Hannah has used her experience of suffering from Anorexia to help support others through the founding of her, own recovery peer support service- aneartohear.co.uk, working as a voluntarily organisation. Now, working closely with NHS providers, other professionals in the field together with schools, corporations and MP’s-she continues to help others by increasing the dialogue around eating disorders and encouraging those to speak out, reaching for help that she knows they not only need but most importantly deserve.

A Very Mental Christmas – Day 6 Podcast

Christmas Day

Do you struggle with managing your mental health at Christmas?  Do depression and anxiety keep you from enjoying the festive period?  Join Alex and Cheryl as they bring you their top tips for making it through a very mental Christmas!

Today is the day, the big day is here! Join Alex and Cheryl as they talk about how to cope with Christmas day, what you can do to ensure you get through the day without any mental breakdowns.

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 6

Christmas Day

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 5 Podcast

Family Fandangos

Do you struggle with managing your mental health at Christmas?  Do depression and anxiety keep you from enjoying the festive period?  Join Alex and Cheryl as they bring you their top tips for making it through a very mental Christmas!

Spending time with family can be a wonderful thing but sometimes it can be difficult, particularly when struggling with mental health issues.  How do we make it through a Christmas family gathering?  When things get loud, we can struggle.  Join Alex and Cheryl as Alex talks about last Christmas, his breakdown and how he suggests you can get through it this year!

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 5

Day 5 – Family Fandangos

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 4 Podcast

The Most Stressful Time of the Year

Do you struggle with managing your mental health at Christmas?  Do depression and anxiety keep you from enjoying the festive period?  Join Alex and Cheryl as they bring you their top tips for making it through a very mental Christmas!

Christmas comes with so many stresses that, sometimes, instead of being the most wonderful time of the year, it actually becomes the most stressful time of the year.  Join Alex and Cheryl as they talk about reducing that stress and how you can better manage your mental health through those stresses.

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 4

Day 4 – The Most Stressful Time of the Year

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 3

Day 3 – Festive Finances

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 2

Day 2 – Working Wonderland

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