Friday 1 December 2017

Sometimes I can talk or write about eating disorders and sometimes I can't...

It's funny how sometimes I can visit the Around The Dinner Table Forum (for parents of young people with eating disorders) and blog here, and sometimes I just can't. Sometimes I can talk about what we call 'the ED years' (the years my son was suffering from anorexia) and sometimes I just can't. And sometimes I can update my eating disorders website and sometimes I just can't.

This week has been one of those 'just can't' weeks when my anxiety and depression has been pretty high (both a legacy of 'the ED years'). It's been one of those weeks when I've had to really push myself to take a step forward, even to get out of bed on some days.

Of course this kind of mood makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel as if I've failed in some way to 'recover properly' from the PTSD and other issues that came as a result of the years struggling with my son's anorexia.

After all, I've had masses of therapy sessions over the past few years: CBT, EMDR, psychotherapy... Private and NHS... and I still have bad days.

So I did myself a favour. I Googled things like 'How chronic stress affects the brain and body' and read up on the evidence-based science behind why my head still feels this way.

I found it really helpful to read about the physical changes that can take place in the brain following prolonged exposure to stress along with the various chemicals and hormones that are released which can affect the entire body (e.g. cortisol).

Doing this is a great way to shout out to myself that the way I feel and have been feeling ISN'T MY FAULT, just as many physical illnesses aren't anyone's fault.

Would someone feel guilt at developing, say, pneumonia? And if it got worse would they feel that they 'shouldn't' still have it and 'should have recovered faster' following treatment?

Of course they wouldn't! And the same goes for mental health problems such as those that can occur as a result of chronic / prolonged exposure to stress.

During our child's eating disorder, many of us parents were under extreme stress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, month after month, even year after year.

So is it any wonder that our minds and bodies have been affected as a result? Indeed I believe that it would be unusual for us NOT to be affected in some way, even long after the eating disorder itself has faded away.

And, as I have found, the impending Festive Season brings its own Pandora's Box of bad memories.

So I need to be kind to myself and remind myself that stress has made changes in my brain and released a host of nasty brain chemicals. It's what the brain does under such circumstances; it is science; it is a physical thing and nothing to feel bad about.

After all, we feel bad enough at times like these without the totally unnecessary double-whammy of beating ourselves up at the same time.

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