Sunday, 9 February 2014

Understanding Anorexia, and Overcoming Anxiety

Those of you who know me from way back will know that I struggled with eating when I was in my teens.  At my worst, I was 5st 11 (I'm 5'2").  The reason I am remembering this today is I hash-tagged the word #anorexia on Twitter (referring to a programme I had watched) and was horrified to see some of the posts that came up.

Today it much be so much harder to beat anorexia, with social media encouraging and glorifying it - one common thread with many anorexics is a need to please others.  How awful then if you have thousands of people 'following' your 'progress.'

As for me, I got out of it thanks to a friend who threatened that she'd get me sent to one of the Anorexic Camps - the fear of this outweighed the fear of gaining weight.  And I tackled the weight issue by adopting a different 'diet' - one for health.

It's hard coming out of anorexia, as your confidence dips, and, although it sounds weird, you often make yourself feel ill... I'd trained myself to 'tune out' my hunger pangs.  I literally didn't know when I was hungry, and didn't recognise the feeling of being 'full.'

I've been through a fair bit in my life - most of it self-inflicted unfortunately.  And seeing as this is a bit of a self-serving post, I may as well tell you my anxiety story...  I said I'd wait until I was 'better' so I guess that's a good sign.

I'm not going to bore you with details, but when my anxiety flares up it is literally like having 100% panic 100% of the time (there may be a thyroid issue too which makes it harder to manage with rational thought).  I thought I'd beaten it, when, three days after giving birth, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  That blind panic.

Honestly, when you're in it, you fear you will never 'escape'.  I have thoughts of imminent disaster; I was convinced everyone I knew and loved would be dead 'tomorrow' so lived with terrible, terrible anxiety and sadness.  It was so hard to break free.

I did it through control,  'The Linden Method' (which to some seems gimmicky but, for me, really works) and forcing myself to eat right, exercise when I could and tune out as many of the dark thoughts as I could.  It's taken time, but I'm nearly there. I'd also recommend omega three oils from

One thing I've learnt about myself, and I think this is something I have in common with all anorexics and anxiety sufferers - I have a hell of a lot of strength and determination, even when it doesn't seem like it. I got over anorexia on my own, bulimia on my own, several bouts of OCD more or less on my own (and latterly with Ray's help once he was in the picture (poor, long-suffering and wonderful Ray)), before finding 'The Linden Method' and finally discovering how to relax. I've attempted suicide a few times over the years, and been hospitalised twice.

What a freak I sound.  To balance - I also have a wicked sense of humour and bake a fairly decent chocolate cake...  Oh, and I think and hope that I'm compassionate and want to help others, especially freaky anxious anorexics like myself...

My anxious state has also left me with nerve pain at times, with psoriasis, has even created pigment change in my skin.  But I'm still here!

When I went to hospital three weeks after Evie's birth, I was at rock bottom.  I honestly couldn't see a way out... They even took my shoe-laces away.  I thought I was in for the long haul.  But then a voice came to me - actually it was on the phone. An old therapist, who basically said I was the only one who could help myself.  Half an hour later, I asked to go home.

I am a self-confessed weirdo, strong yet weak, assertive, yet shy.  But I love my children passionately, and I know I have so much more to give.  So no matter what life throws at me in the future, I will get up, put my knickers on and face the world. 

OK, maybe a couple more layers of clothing too.

For anyone going through any of the above, or depression for the first time, please believe me that one day the clouds suddenly part, the glass you're behind shatters and you see the world as it is once again. 

And, believe me, it's beautiful.


Anonymous said...

Wow Gillian what a life you have had. I do hope that you can control your anxiety especially with the children. I always believe there is someone out there worse than you, and I think I have found that person in you. My best wishes for a happier future go to you and the support framework you have built for yourself. Debbie xx

Gillian Harvey said...

Hi Debbie - I hope and believe that my problems are now well and truly behind me; I think the only reason for my "relapse" was PND (damn those hormones!). And the children never get to see any of it - I hide it well even at my worst! I wish you well with any troubles you are going through xx take care. x Gill

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