When you say “they hate me”, do you really mean you hate yourself?: Avoidance and (lack of) Mind Reading Abilities

I think I believe I am a mind reader and I absolutely without any doubt know what people think about me. And usually that is that they hate me.

I use the word ‘hate’ loosely. I do not mean they seriously hate me or despise me. When I say I think someone hates me I usually mean:

  • They think I am a bad person
  • They are sick/tired/fed up of my “issues” and sick of me/sick of hearing about me/sick of having to deal with me
  • They think I am annoying, a drain of their time etc.
  • They do not exactly like me
  • They are judging me on my “issues”

There have been a huge number of examples of how I have felt this way over a number of years, and I can recall my previous psychiatrist telling me that I am not a mind reader and that maybe I should give people a chance, and let people form their own opinions of me rather than doing that for them. In that sense it sounds quite unfair that I assume what people are thinking, because in some ways I am almost judging how I think they think or feel. And on top of that it can lead to me avoiding said people to either a) not make them any more fed up of me, or b) the whole thing where I would rather reject someone first than hang around to be rejected by them.

Just lately there have been a number of examples of this, and I am becoming acutely aware of it because I have both been able to vocalise feeling this way in some examples, and also been given information that suggests the opposite of what I think. (And the fact there has been a number of examples in a short space of time). What I mean is, either I have asked the person if they hate me in a jokingly but not joking manner, or someone has told me something that has been quite the opposite of “they hate you.”

I have to admit that often despite a severe amount of evidence to suggest people do not hate me, these lessons often serve no real purpose. For example, in December I saw my mental health team and I was quite upset and feeling very much like they were very angry and fed up of me, which I translated to “they hate me”. I was given evidence on the contrary, and in said appointment I felt reassured. But come the next day I was straight back into “they hate me” mode. However more interestingly, I saw them again in March and received said reassurance again, and this time I am able to hold onto it much more than before. That is not to say that I have not felt annoying when I have had to speak to them over the phone, but the ‘hate’ bit has been a bit weaker.

My learning whatever mentor (I do not really know what her title is) from my university came to the appointment in March. On the way there I asked her to look out for “any signs that they hate me.” I wanted her to sit in the appointment as an outsider and see what she thought, of which I thought the outcome would be very supporting of my views, although I did add that perhaps they would act differently with her there. Looking back it was ridiculous. The two therapists that were in my appointment are absolutely bloody lovely and I feel awful looking back now at just how suspicious I was of them. Act differently? What was I thinking? That they would “act” because my mentor was there? I think I just thought that maybe my mentor would come to the conclusion they do not hate me, and I would then be able to argue back against that by telling myself that they were just pretending for her sake.

Thinking I know what other people think, and being so suspicious of peoples motives, really is not the best quality I have. It is actually unfair on others and I was yet again surprised today to find out when speaking to someone else, that a person I thought really, really hated me/judged me, really does not.

I think the obvious answer as to why I fall into this way of thinking is what most people will conclude; that I transfer my feelings about myself onto other people. I feel reluctant to agree with this, but then the obvious answer is quite often the answer. I feel insane guilt for my behaviour sometimes, albeit related to not managing to do things i.e. university work, meeting friends etc. or my self-destructive tendencies. I feel bad, guilty, ashamed and disappointed in myself, and I assume everyone else feels said things too, and therefore that they think I am a bad person aka they hate me.

It is a vicious cycle because feeling bad about myself leads to me doing more things that I feel bad about. I avoid university because I feel bad at not being a good enough student, and then avoid university even more because I am scared to face people and feel bad about being bad. I think my mental health team hate me because of my behaviours, avoid contacting them for support because I think they hate me, and then end up engaging in said behaviours even more, leading to more hate and more avoidance. And the same goes for a lot of situations including with friends and family.

Feeling bad about something quite often has no positive outcome. Even with other situations; I feel bad about not going to the gym/not doing a task, and then feeling bad about it makes me even less likely to do it, leading to feeling even worse. How fun!

My best advice in these kind of situations is:

  • Get yourself some actual evidence rather than evidence gathered from your so-called telepathic powers. When your reason for someone hating you is “because they do”, that does not cut it. Ask them. Discuss it with someone else. Give people a chance!
  • DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. Feeling bad about something is just going to lead you to feeling worse in most cases. Very, very rarely I will find motivation through being disappointed in myself, but it is rare, and it does not usually last.
  • Remind yourself of what a truly “bad” person is. For a start I reckon most “bad” people do not worry about being “bad”. I mean, what even is the definition of bad? I don’t know, that is open to interpretation, but struggling with university work and struggling with self-destructive behaviours does not make you a bad person. It makes you a person who tries very hard but is having a rough time.
  • We also have to look at why we are so bothered about other peoples opinions. I spend more time worrying about the opinions of people I know in a more “professional” relationship, than I do about the opinions of people I know more personally. This is a whole other issue/blog post. But remember that you need to try and focus being much more concerned about how you feel about yourself, because that is what is ultimately important (and if you work on how you feel about yourself, it is quite likely you will begin to stop thinking that everyone else hates you – I had not thought about this until typing it, but it makes sense!)

 

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The Reality of Anorexia Nervosa: There is no magic wand

Mark Austin has admitted to The Guardian that he told his daughter, who was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, to “starve yourself to death.”

Undoubtedly it was not an easy thing to admit to, but the reality is that when you are a parent with a child who is quite literally starving themselves to death, you get desperate. I can recite the desperation of my parents when I was destroying myself. What do you do when your 15 year old daughter is laid up in bed, and has not eaten or drunk for the last week? We all say things in anger, but more than it being in anger, it is pure desperation to get a reaction, to change the situation. It is hoping that she will get up and eat.

The problem is, she won’t.

People close to me went to some shockingly desperate extremes that make me want to reach out to Mark Austin and say “it’s ok, really it is ok”. Some of the extremes people around me went to were not ok.

This admission from Mark is to make people see that eating disorders are a serious illness that cannot be ignored. People suffering with eating disorders are not selfish, they are not attention seeking, and neither are they vain. In order to help someone get better it is important, vital in fact, that we realise that this is a serious, life-threatening condition, that is going to require much more than anger, threats, or “just eat” comments to treat. It is a mental illness that requires treatment. It is a mental illness that carries the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, a fact, that even today still shocks and terrifies me.

There is no easy fix to an eating disorder. There was nothing my parents could do, not really. They could love me unconditionally, they could get me the help I needed, but this was something that was going to take a lot of time, and professional help.

At 15, I spent a year on a child and adolescent psychiatric ward being fed, some time of which was spent sectioned under the Mental Health Act because I could not see that I was ill. Life consisted of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, tea, supper. I was fed all of the foods we are told not to eat. Doctors were forcing me to do the opposite of what most GP’s are telling their patients to do. Sponge and custard after lunch and tea, toast and cereal for breakfast. Insane amounts of milk (full fat of course!) and fruit juice. No exercise. Meals were followed by observations where we would have to sit in the lounge, watched by staff, being told off for so much as tapping our fingers. Bi-weekly weigh-ins where we were woken up, taken to the toilet where we would have to prove we had been, and were not water-loading, followed by the dreaded stepping on the scales.

It was a strange time of my life. I forgot the real world existed, I almost thought the real world was on pause, waiting for me. But it was not, and when I was finally discharged I had gained 37lbs which I lost in a matter of weeks.

I was not prepared for life outside of the hospital. It was a bleak time. I started giving up on the idea of ‘recovery’. I thought at best I would manage to survive.

Here we are, nearly a decade later. I underwent further treatment;  I had outpatient treatment in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services  (CAMHS), plus outpatient and day patient treatment in the local adult Anorexia Nervosa Service including some time on a gastroenterology ward in a general hospital following a bad relapse…and here we are! (I make it sound simple, ta-dah! It was not.)

Am I 100% fully recovered? Nah. Am I surviving? Yes. But more to the point, I am doing more than that. My eating disorder does not have a devastating impact upon me anymore. I can go out for lunch, eat in front of people, have cake on my birthday and roll my eyes when people tell me how they no longer eat chocolate (more fool them!). Most importantly I have the energy to live my life. I will admit that my eating disorder still lingers there, constantly. I still do not get a day free of it, which is sad. Ten years of not a single anorexia free day. However, it is not loud any more. Yes it is always there, but it is floating in the background. I control it, it does not control me.

How did I get here? Time and professional help, plus support from the people around me.

This is not the sort of illness that can be easily fixed. There is no magic wand. There is no overnight transformation. It requires a lot of patience, specialist care and baby steps – but it is possible.

Mark Austin did not get it perfect. No parent gets it perfect. I do not read his account to The Guardian and feel shocked. I do not think anything negative of him, in fact I applaud him for speaking up. I know what it is like to go through this kind of illness. It is arguably harder for the family than the sufferer when the person is at the worst stage of being unwell, with no sign of wanting to get better in sight.

What is not acceptable is to have professionals that do not take it seriously, like the GP who met me aged 14 and said I would be fine after my exams, and who never saw me again because I was sectioned in hospital; this is what is not forgivable. It will not be “fine.” It is not a problem that will go away however hard you try to ignore it.

We need to be willing to face up to the reality of eating disorders, and the support that people need. Recovery is not easy or quick, but it is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s update time again!

I started my six week internship on Monday. I was meant to start two weeks ago, but unfortunately ended up in hospital twice.

I had no belief in myself that I could work. I thought that there was no way I am confident enough…no way I was going to get myself there. The two hospital admissions served as further evidence of this. Fast forward to Monday 8:20am, leaving the house to get there…and it hit me…the “normal” worries. Can I do the work? What if I can’t? What if I make them regret taking interns from my university? I had been so worried about not being able to even get myself there, that I had somehow forgotten about the more important worries.

Well, it has been fabulous. I am fortunate that both my university, and the place I am working for, have been very accommodating, and although they do not know it, have helped me stop myself from self-sabotaging.

I am working for a charity, as a Campaigns and Communications Officer, working primarily on one campaign. Everything is good. The routine and structure is good for me. The people I work with are lovely, the charity itself is amazing. When I applied for this intern scheme, I never expected to be so lucky to get the perfect match; not only am I doing a role I would love to do in the future as a career, but I am also working for the kind of place I would love to work for.

My work is especially geared around social media – scheduling posts and analytics. As well as drafting emails, promoting our campaign strategies etc.

My normal life is quite unstructured, especially as I do my own research at university, and therefore have minimal contact time. My sleep routine is less than healthy, and my iron levels dropped in December to borderline transfusion level. I felt like the odds of coping with working were against me. And yet the hours go SO quickly. I would work here part-time for free, without a doubt. I am so interested in what I am doing, I find myself researching and keeping an eye on one of our campaign strategies as soon as I get home. Heck, I check one right before I go to sleep!

The hardest part has to be managing my medical appointments. At the moment I have no contact with mental health services, other than the crisis team which is due to end tomorrow (and they can see me late evenings, so outside of office hours), but I am seeing two outpatient clinics for physical health problems plus another service. I feel like I live in hospital at the moment. I was at the hospital yesterday, and the day before, and two days before that. I finished work just after 5pm today, and went straight to the hospital. Tomorrow I am back at the hospital again for an X-Ray and then for a fracture clinic appointment. Then I am seeing my support worker at university, followed by the crisis team. I want to fit the gym in somewhere, but I am not sure where!

I am kind of relieved that my referral to CMHT is being messed about with. Every week I am told this is the week I will hear from them, and every week I don’t. I’m not sure I have the time for them right now, nor do I particularly want to engage in mental health services anymore. I was discharged from the two services I was under in November and December. The November one was due to being classed as “too high risk” for what they offer, and the December one was because the person I saw retired, and I no longer required help for that aspect of my problems – it was the Anorexia Nervosa service from where I am originally from, and I am doing well in that respect. I must admit it is nice not to travel back home every week! I’m finding I prefer not being under anyone at the moment. It’s a nice break from 10 years of mental health services. Whether it’s a good thing, or a bad thing, is debatable.

The service I was discharged from in November want me to consider returning there in a years time, when I am more stable. But it’s a three day per week day programme, for one year. Plus a prep group before you do that for a maximum of 6 months, and an after group as well, for six months. As a member of the main programme you are also expected to run the prep group in blocks, increasing it to four days per week at times.

I’d rather not go back to a place that made me feel the way it did, with people I would honestly rather never see again in my life. I’d rather do my PhD full time without juggling therapy, or get a full time job in the field I am passionate about.

Right now, I am focusing on managing this internship and my medical appointments, and I need to make sure I get on top of my MA work. I will re-assess after the internship.

For now, I’m going to focus on the fact that I am doing this, and that I am more capable than I realise. I don’t know how many positive experiences it is going to take for me to learn this!

No, I do not wake up at 6am.

I do not get up at 6am. I do not start my day off with a coffee followed by a yoga session. I do not eat overnight oats made with almond milk and topped with chia seeds.

I lay in for as long as I can, and stay up as late as I can. I plan to try yoga, and never do. I’ve got chia seeds in my cupboard and I have absolutely no idea what to do with them. I am not an early bird. I waste a lot of time doing not a lot. I work better at night.

And that is ok, and it has taken me a long time to feel ok about it.

There appears to be an installed belief that certain things make you a better person. For so long I have wished I was a morning person. That person who wakes up and exercises before breakfast, has managed a gym session before work. That fills their time efficiently.

I am not that person. I need food as soon as I get up. I prefer going to the gym late afternoon. I procrastinate. I do not drink coffee and if I want a packet of crisps, I am having a packet of crisps. The chia seeds are probably going to remain in the cupboard.

Spending so long wanting to be different, wanting to be what I feel I should be, has done nothing but make me worse. It has done nothing but make me feel bad, guilty and wrong.

I am awful for not doing work for ages, and then doing a heap of work at once. And I say ‘awful’ because people do not see it as the best way to be – but now I am asking why is it not? I get my work done. I produce good work. Just because I work differently to what you do, or differently to what is apparently ‘ideal’, does not make my way wrong.

No I do not eat chia seeds. I eat far too much peanut butter. I have crisps with my lunch everyday and I do not measure out everything I eat. I eat the way I always have. I eat what I want, when I want, making sure I get everything that I need. I am at a healthy weight, I exercise regularly. I do a lot of the things we are told not to do. I eat sugar. I eat ‘junk’ food. I skip the gym because sometimes skipping the gym is good for my soul. I always eat after 8pm. I am sat typing this at 00:19 in the morning.

Finally I am at peace with this. Right now, this works for me. I am sorry if you think this is bad. I am sorry that my way of working is not of the standard you expect. I am sorry that we live in a world that makes people think they are better than someone else because of the way they live their life.

But I am here telling you it is ok to be the way you are, if it is working for you. And it is also ok to be working on things. I want to start yoga. I want to meditate when I wake up, and when I go to bed. I want to start lifting heavier weights at the gym. I am a work in progress and that is ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of my undergraduate degree (and a little update!)

I handed in my dissertation last week, and my final assignment this week, and I don’t know if it hasn’t hit me yet or if I’m just not a very emotional person, but it hasn’t bothered me that much! Everyone keeps asking how it feels and I don’t really have a response!

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I also had a final presentation and the transformation with my confidence has been incredible over these three years. I know I talk about it a lot…but in first year I didn’t do my presentations and so I got ungraded for one, and capped at 40% for the other because my lecturer agreed I could hand a paper copy of what I would have said. Second year I did them, I’m not sure how well. This year I have been so much better. I mean my hands shake and I feel terrified but even turning up is a big deal with me! And a friend commented on how I seem like the calmest/most confident person in our group hahahaha if only she could see me inside!!! But it feels so good to see this progress. It means more to me than any qualification or grade, as insane as that sounds.

Today was a big one! I never go out with my friends, but it was one of theirs last day here before they move back home and I went. Not only did I go but I ate waffles!!

waff

To think that when I was 15 years old I had a crisis meeting with mental health services because I hadn’t eaten all week and then I ate a grape and had a total meltdown, I feel this is a pretty big deal. It is probably the most challenging thing I have done in recovery (oh and a pizza a few months back).  And it was so lovely to see my friends, and I am going to miss them so much.

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I also met my best friend at home yesterday after seeing my psychiatrist. I met her at the anorexia nervosa day programme I used to go to and we’ve only actually been really close for 9 months-ish but she is literally such an amazing person. It sounds cheesy but she brightens up my life so much, she really brings out the best in me. She makes me feel ambitious and determined, happy and just able to be myself. She is probably the most amazing person I have met in my life. I haven’t had someone I can call a best friend in so long, I thought I’d never get that close to someone again, but this girl is like a second sister to me. She is a ray of sunshine even when things are tough. She makes my mood go from pretty damn low to absolutely amazing just by being herself. I am so lucky to have this girl.

I have been struggling a lot this last few weeks. I had an incident 3 weeks ago, which I am absolutely determined will be my last, but it has led to such an insane number of hospital appointments and I might need surgery and I am sick to death of hospitals/clinics right now. I have been to the therapy preparation group twice now and it’s, overall, good. I lost it on Tuesday-Thursday and was adamant it is stupid and I am not interested in going, but I have come through that now ha! There has been an issue within my family that has basically changed my whole life. I don’t want to go into it, but I’ve lost a member of my immediate family. I think I am fine with it, that I am coping, but then there are moments where it hits me and those are pretty tough – especially with things like finishing university and graduating, knowing that person isn’t going to be there. My psychiatrist told me I can get upset, that it is ok. That I won’t disintegrate, and I keep reminding myself of that.

I have been referred by occupational therapy for camouflage make-up and I’ve seen some examples of how amazing it is (this guy with full body tattoos had them all covered and you couldn’t see them at all!) and it is going to be so so life changing for me. I’ve also booked a holiday to Marrakesh at the start of September with my best friend! And I’m going camping in the peak district in a couple of weeks with my sister which is going to be so lovely. I love a walking holiday. I haven’t been on holiday since I was 18 for various family/health related reasons so this is all very exciting.

I guess I am learning that I can be both happy and sad and that is ok.