WAKE UP CALL (Eating Disorder)

*contains strong language*

I’m at the stage in my mental health journey, where I’m starting to reflect on the part of my life where I finally got hit with my Wake Up Call. Here I’m referencing mainly addictions and mental illnesses that take the forms of additions and dependent cycles.

I remember going to a counselling session for my eating disorder where we were discussing the possibility that I may be suffering some more serious health issue. I remember being sat their in those spongy seats that were always a little too soft and practically watching as my world ran like sand through my fingers and piled up at my feet.

That was the moment I saw how out of my depth I was and how out of control I was becoming. I cannot put into words how painfully alarming it is to realize that the disorder you have relied on for years and years to support and validate you, has, in fact, been an enemy rather than a friend.

If you can imagine looking in the mirror (ironically, something I had avoided for the previous years before this collapse) and seeing someone that you no longer recognize or relate to at all. That is what it’s like when you push your eating disorder or addiction away.

If you took away my mask, I’m not sure who I’d be anymore.

We can all pretend that eating disorders are solely about body image and weight, but i ask you this: what does it take for someone to restrict their nutritional intake to the point where you could count the number of months they have left on the earth, on one hand? Bad body image? I don’t think so.

But when you let go of an addiction, you have to rebuild your self out of papier mache and learn how to think for yourself again. Nobody who has an eating disorder chooses to have this disease:

It’s a disorder, not a decision.

But when you have that Wake Up Call that will sweep your feet from under you, you have a choice. You can choose to give up, like so many have done, and let go of that last image of life and love you used to know (potentially ending up as one of those dreadful statistics). Or you can choose life and recovery. Recovery is not the easy way out. It is harder and it is brutal and it is frustrating and at times even a disaster. But you will get there if you don’t want to carry on living in that war zone that you’ve been stuck in.

Recovery and rebuilding your life means you will almost certainly relapse. It’s okay. Relapse if part of recovery. It’s the necessary step you need to prove to yourself that a blip in your life is just that, a blip. It won’t erase your hard work and success.

And finally, I cannot lie to you and say that you will heal completely, two years on and I’m still relapsing and stumbling. But whenever I’m sat down at the dinner table, and every forkful is becoming for like an ocean to swim through, I ask my self what I’m fighting for here. I ask myself who the hell is my disorder to tell me what to do. Who the hell are they to me from growing into the Emma I want to be.  They will not take away my life any more. Sorry. So to my eating disorder and to everyone else’s: Fuck you.

The dinner table is a battlefield where the warriors defeat the the eating disorder one bite at a time.

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FLOWERS (by me)

We were flowers, so small, beautiful and most of all wild. We had that air about us that made people think we were free and invincible. We are that ephemeral feeling of falling in love that people crave. I love us for being so rare and so magical.

Thoughts on Mental Illness in YA literature.

POSITIVES:

  • The portrayal that all characters with a mental illness are normal and hum deep down. Their issues don’t smother them, they still have interests and realtionships with others.
  • Most of the endings end in a way that they seem reassuring and sensible (it gives the reader hope if they themselves are sufferers.
  • Family reactions and difficulties to the illness are scarily accurate in my opinion.

NEGATIVES:

  • Often authors focus on the extremes of mental illness. Gives readers the idea that struggles are only valid if they are extreme. In my opinion this is an unhealthy idea hold.
  • YA only focuses on the most common mental health issues (more complex illnesses are ignored). I think we are missing a key opportunity to educate young adults on mental health.
  • Male characters are often made to seem attractive and ‘sexy’ because of their mental illness (it makes them seem mysterious and darkly handsome) this is not healthy.
  • ROMANCE DOESN’T HEAL MENTAL ILLNESS LIKE AUTHORS SUGGEST.
  • Eating disorders are shown in ways that portray the character as angelic and pure (this is one of the main reasons that eating disorders are ‘fashionable’ and it makes me so angry).
  • EDNOS and Binge Eating Disorder get absolutely no attention (links to the first point in this section).
  • Suicidal female characters are often shown to be fashionable and are frequently sexualised. This aids the negative stereotype that all suicidal teenagers are reckless and attractive.
  • BOOKS SHOULD HAVE TRIGGER WARNINGS

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Hurt by Tabatha Suzuma
  • Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (HIGHLY TRIGGERING)
  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Not the best representation but good writing)

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Rating: 10/10

Themes: Young Adult, Inter-sex, Gender Identity, Family & Relationships

Notes: Trigger warning- rape/ sexual abuse, suicide. [14+]

Review: I knew as soon as I started reading Golden Boy it would become one of my favorite books.  This story is told from multiple perspectives, but the plot revolves around main character Max. Max is inter-sex and Abigail tackles very complex issues, such as how the family deal with Max’s inter sexuality and gender identity. It is a shockingly sophisticated summary of the issues Max deals with but has a writing style that seems effortless and detailed- this makes the book very intriguing. This book is also not for the fainthearted (triggers are listed in Notes) but the power of Abigail’s writing shows in how emotional I was when reading Golden Boy. Created many interesting discussions about gender and family life that I would not have explored without reading Golden Boy.