I Met My Boyfriend in a Psych Ward

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When you’re admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you expect many things — long boring days, lots of medications, loneliness, arts and crafts, restraints, seeing unimaginable events and maybe, if you’re lucky, a breath of fresh air for five minutes each day. But what you don’t expect is to make long-lasting friendships. You especially don’t expect to fall in love.

Well for me, that’s what happened. In July of 2013, after a suicide attempt and a major decline in my health due to anorexia, I was placed in a psychiatric hospital. The doors slammed behind me as I rode in a stretcher. Horrifying thoughts and feelings flooded my mind as the reality finally hit me — this was going to be my home. I instantly panicked at the thought of being trapped inside. I felt like a prisoner. A prisoner on the outside and a prisoner in my own body. My chains? My own thoughts and distortions.

For the first few days — or maybe it was the few weeks — I isolated. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone or hear anyone. I was in my own little distorted world, trying to cheat the system to avoid weight gain.

After a month or so, I finally came out of my shell and left my room. I started attending most groups and activities, but I still felt isolated. It seemed like no one understood what was going through my head. Most of the other patients were struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism or other mental illnesses, and I felt like I couldn’t relate. Until that one evening. The evening that perhaps changed my life forever.

I was so malnourished, I had to use a wheelchair. Michael happened to be in the same situation. I remember that evening perfectly. We were both sitting at the medication window waiting for our bed time meds so we could finally go to sleep. Something inclined me to introduce myself. That introduction turned into a two-hour conversation. We quickly realized how much we had in common. We both struggled with an eating disorder and suicide attempts. We laughed, sharing our painful secrets and memories. We connected on a level I had never connected with anyone.

Eventually, Michael was transferred to the other unit solely for eating disorders. I thought that was the end. I thought I would never hear from him or see him again. It was just a great few days and that was all.

Now, three years later, I’m proud to say Mike is my boyfriend. We’ve been together for five months, although it feels like it’s been much longer than that. This is the first relationship I’ve been in where I don’t have to hide my struggles and true feelings. Because I know he understands. Some question whether our relationship is healthy considering we both struggle with an eating disorder; I say this is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had. He understands me and I understand him. We push each other to do better, to become fully recovered. Although Michael is much further along in his recovery than I am, it motivates me to get to that same place.

I started to lose hope in ever finding anyone who understood me, but my dream has come true. They say that princes aren’t real, and I tend to believe that. Maybe there are only a few true princes in this world. I’m grateful to say I have been blessed with one of them. My future with him looks promising, and as long as we both stick to being healthy, who knows what we can achieve.

How our paths crossed was unfortunate, but honestly, I don’t think I would change it if I could. Everything truly does happen for a reason.

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What I Want My Family to Know About Having Anorexia on Thanksgiving

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As the first few weeks of November go by, my anxiety has been getting worse. I keep asking myself why? What’s so different? Then I remember — Thanksgiving isn’t far away.

For many people, Thanksgiving brings pleasant memories: warmth, laughter, sharing, seeing family you haven’t seen all year and of course, stuffing your face to your stomach’s content. But when you have anorexia like me, Thanksgiving can be the most dreaded day of the year.

To my family sitting around our Thanksgiving dinner table, let me try to explain what’s going through my mind.

When I think of Thanksgiving I don’t think about positive things. I don’t have any excitement. I feel dread, anxiety, distress, depression, shame, guilt and fear.

I’m not thinking about family time. I’m not thinking about the people I’ve missed. I’m not even thinking about what I’m grateful for. There’s one thing on my mind and one thing only: I am going to get fat.

This fear is so dominating it keeps me from enjoying anything about this joyous holiday. I’m physically there, but mentally I’m gone. I’ve entered the world of numbers and my brain becomes a human calculator. My anxiety has gone from one to 100 just by walking into that room, let alone choosing what I’m going to put on my plate.

When we all sit down at the table, people are talking, laughing and sharing stories. I feel like a shell of a human being. Anorexia is yelling at me the entire time. It’s like putting your headphones on and listening to a record on repeat — except this record isn’t nice. It’s screaming, “You don’t deserve to eat. You’re fat. You’re a failure. You’re disgusting. You’re unloveable. Everyone is staring at how much fatter you are than last year. Everyone will judge you if you eat. You’re ugly. You’re stupid…”

That’s why I’m asking this year for my friends and family to please be patient. It takes courage and strength to sit at that dinner table. Here are some things you can do to make it a little easier:

1. Don’t comment on my looks.

Even comments like “you look good” or “you look healthy” can be extremely triggering. It’s best to avoid appearance-oriented conversations all together.

2. Don’t comment on what I have on my plate or how much.

People in treatment are sometimes on a meal plan and will base their meals off those guidelines. Bringing attention to portion sizes may raise my anxiety and increase eating disorder urges and behaviors.

3. Don’t discuss your own thoughts or worries about eating.

Making comments about calories/fat in food, talking about diets or discussing exercise plans can encourage eating disorder thoughts and worries. It also sends the message that being full is not acceptable.

4. Please don’t watch me eat.

I’m already uncomfortable and self-conscious — this will make it worse.

5. Do enjoy the food and model healthy eating behaviors.

This includes not “fasting” to get ready for the meal and including a variety of food on your plate if you can.

6. Tell me how happy you are to see me. 

It could be exactly what I need to hear.

7. Plan other activities to do as a family.

Distractions before and after the meal are very helpful.

8. Have normal conversations that don’t include talking about therapy and treatment.

I want to be at that table. I want to spend time with you. The best I can do is just get through it, breathe and remember it’s just one day. I will survive. This eating disorder will not define me or beat me.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorder confidential helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Related: 40 Things People With Eating Disorders Wish Others Understood

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Blogger Shares Tips on How to Really Dress Up as ‘Anna Rexia’ for Halloween

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Every year at Halloween some distasteful costumes surface, but few are as offensive and disheartening as “Anna Rexia.”

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Via HalloweenParty13.com

For under $50, the costume simultaneously pokes fun at and sexualizes anorexia — a serious, potentially deadly condition. This is no laughing matter — eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Jessi Davin, a 26-year-old recovering anorexic from Florida is calling out this tasteless costume. Davin was diagnosed with the disease at 19 and was in treatment until she was 22, BuzzFeed reported.

Two years ago, she wrote a poignant response on Tumblr to the Anna Rexia costume (which is still for sale), and since then her words have moved hundreds of thousands of people.

In her post, Davin lists what a real anorexia costume would entail:

Want to dress up like an anorexic? All it takes is:

  • Four years of hospitalization.
  • A nasogastric feeding tube because you’ve starved yourself so much that your body doesn’t recognize food as a good thing and tries to attack itself.
  • Re-Feeding syndrome, which can kill you.
  • Emotional struggles for years.
  • A father crying and pleading on his knees begging for you to get help.
  • A mother who cries every time she sees you because you look and smell like death.
  • Holidays missed, birthdays crying in a hospital.
  • Almost every major organ in your body failing.
  • A shower chair — because you can’t stand in the shower because you’re too weak and the warm water could make you pass out.
  • A wheelchair, because you are too weak to walk and it could make you go into cardiac arrest.
  • A lifetime of medications for anxiety and the health issues “Anna Rexia” caused.
  • Plenty of money for multiple ER trips due to “Anna Rexia” even in recovery.
  • And if you don’t get help like I do, or even if you do, a coffin. Because I’ve lost more friends to this eating disorder then anything I’ve ever faced.

See images from Davin’s post in the gallery below: 

“Anorexia is nothing to party about or laugh at. It’s real, it’s deadly and should not be marketed as a slutty outfit,” Davin says in the post. “Want to dress as ‘Anna Rexia?’ Just go as a vampire, or a zombie. Because one third of us are dead.”

Davin recently got married and is seven months pregnant, BuzzFeed reported. Though she’s recovering, because of her disease, it’s a high-risk pregnancy and Davin is currently receiving treatment to ensure her unborn daughter’s safety.

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What the Starbucks Barista Didn't Know When She Wrote 'Smile' on My Coffee

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Dear barista,

coffee cup that says smile!! You didn’t know me and you didn’t know my story. Most importantly, you probably didn’t know writing the simple word “smile” on my order would change my day for the better. When you look at me, you might assume I’m happy, bubbly, outgoing and full of life. But you don’t really see the complete me. You wouldn’t know that behind this plastered smile is a girl who has broken and fallen to pieces. You wouldn’t know this girl had so much self-hate, she starved herself  for over half her young life. Or that she’s tried to end her own life five times. I’m guessing you didn’t know these past few weeks, and that day particularly, had been extremely hard. You were just going about your job, unaware that writing a minuscule word on my drink would change my day and possibly my life.

Maybe you wrote “smile” on my drink because you saw the feeding tube. Or maybe you could see past my fake smile because you’ve been where I am. Either way, I’m grateful. You didn’t have to make my order special. You could have treated me like another annoying customer. But you took that extra second to add some positivity to a life that’s been filled with so much negatively lately.

You see, my day consisted of a horrible doctor’s appointment and a horrible therapy session. I was filled with hopelessness, and my suicidal thoughts were getting worse. When my anorexia is bad sometimes coffee is the only thing I can drink. But I was afraid to consume even coffee that day. If I hadn’t encountered that cup, I could have done more damage to myself that night. When I read that word, I couldn’t help but smile, literally.

A simple act of kindness can mean the world to someone. It can provide hope for the hopeless. Now I plan to pass this hope along. So barista, thank you. Thank you for turning my day around.

author smiling in her car

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

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My Breakup Letter With Anorexia

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Dear Anorexia,

When I was 12 you had a lot of control over me, and you took that control at my weakest point. I couldn’t eat without crying and shaking. I couldn’t step on a scale or look in a mirror without breaking down. Calories and fat filled my mind, and gaining weight became my biggest fear.

Anorexia, you took away so much from me — my friends, my health, my happiness and my life. You were very subtle at first, but then you quickly took full control. You are like a demon sitting on my shoulder, constantly bringing me down. Using words, food, the scale, my family and even my own self.

You told me if I was skinny I would be perfect, but didn’t let me know it was an impossible mission. Standing on the scale I cried, standing in front of the mirror I cried. Sitting in front of food put me in complete panic mode. It was never perfection I could reach.

The strive for unreachable perfection took me to some dark places. It brought me a lot of fear, anxiety and sadness. For a long time, I didn’t have hope.

Three years later, at the age of 15, I decided it was time to change. I was tired of living this way. I tried my hardest just to eat and gain weight, but I couldn’t do it. The anxiety was too strong for me to deal with on my own, so I got help from a therapist and a nutritionist. They got me to where I needed to be to gain weight and be OK with it.

At the age of 16 I’m back to a healthy weight, and have been for a week now. And I’m happy. I’m working on becoming more confident and loving my body, but it’s still a work in progress. I still face you every day.

Recovery isn’t easy by any means. You can’t just eat to get better, you have to work through a lot of difficult things. You have to work through each one of your triggers, but do it slowly so it doesn’t make the trigger worse. You have to face foods that give you a lot of fear and anxiety, but you can only do it on really good recovery days. Yes, you have to eat and yes, you have to gain weight, but recovering from an eating disorder is so much more than that: It’s learning not to be afraid of food because you need it to nourish your body. It’s being OK with gaining weight because your body needs a little bit of fat. It’s not being afraid to eat a little cake every once in awhile. It’s learning to be OK with the number on the scale. It’s learning to love your body as it is, and it’s knowing there is life after an eating disorder. Not every day in recovery is perfect, and sometimes you’ll slip into your old ways. But recovery is always getting back up. It’s being strong and choosing recovery, even though it isn’t easy.

Recovery has taught me an important thing: My worst days of recovery are better than my best days of anorexia. 

So I chose to beat you, Anorexia, before you beat me. You don’t have control over me. It’s time for me to eat without fear, get on the scale without tears and look in the mirror without breaking down. I will stand a little taller and walk a little straighter, keeping my head held high. Anorexia, you and I are done.

Love,

Alli

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The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why We Need to Talk About Postpartum Depression

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It’s a rainy Monday morning and a very pregnant woman arrives with her husband at the hospital. Today is the day she will welcome their new child into the world. She can hardly contain her excitement, but she also can’t hide her obvious worries. Despite all the birthing and breastfeeding classes, as a first-time mother she still has lots of questions. No matter how many times she was reassured her motherly instincts would kick in once the baby arrived, she felt no indication of it. All she could think about was experiencing childbirth. From the time she announced her pregnancy, every mom she knew shared their birthing horror story. All these thoughts swirled in her head as she was led back to her birthing suite.

The staff began checking her vital signs, asking questions and preparing for the forthcoming arrival. She was encouraged to walk the halls to help speed up labor and decided to peek into the nursery where they would bring the baby shortly after the birth. As she approached the window she gasped at what she saw — snakes. There were snakes in the nursery slithering inches from newborn infants. “What’s going on here?” she cried.

“It’s OK,” a nursed comforted. “We’ve had a snake infestation for years and we’ve never been able to completely eliminate the pests.”

“Why wasn’t I told of this ahead of time?” asked the now crying mother.

“No one ever talks about it, so we’ve learned to ignore the problem. Besides, who wants to hear that in birthing class, right?” she chuckled.

The mother stood stunned in front of the nursery window. The air escaped from her mouth when her husband turned to her and said, “It should be fine, just go back to the room.”

“Yes,” the nurse agreed, “very rarely will one of the snakes actually bite the newborns.”

The mother, now completely dismayed, wandered back to her room. She couldn’t understand what was happening. She certainly couldn’t have been the only one to notice the invaders. The new mom now had a choice: remain quiet or speak up. If she spoke, she wondered who would believe her and worried she would sound crazy. What if this was all in her head? So she decided to take her chances with the snakes.

This story itself may sound crazy — no one would allow snakes to roam freely in a nursery— but there is a very real problem that no one is talking about: postpartum depression (PPD). And it’s just as sly as any snake, waiting to strike and squeeze the life out of what should be a beautiful moment in a woman’s life, the birth of a child. It can strike so quickly it even interrupts the bonding experience between a mother and child. Yet, many people are still tight-lipped about PPD and some women don’t feel like they can be open about it. These women often feel brushed off, just like the mother in this story, and end up deciding to take unnecessary chances with an invader rather than speak up. This is why the discussion about PPD needs to happen. Turning a blind eye to PPD can no longer be acceptable.

I struggled with depression after my first son was born and anxiety with the subsequent three. I was fortunate to have a supportive husband and a knowledgeable family physician who worked with me when the hospital and gynecologist failed. After his birth, I had experienced unexpected complications, and by the time I was released from my six-day hospital stay on a mere couple hours sleep, I felt like I was falling apart. I couldn’t fathom taking care of a child when I felt like I couldn’t even take care of myself. I felt worthless as a mother and the overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame were crushing. My husband felt very alone as I deteriorated before him. He had no idea what he could do to help. I was a shell of myself and I couldn’t make it better.

Thankfully, I had a common sense family physician who removed me from the counterproductive medication I was given at the hospital. The physician assured me my feelings were common and in time I would feel like myself again. It took me weeks before I began to feel better. Getting the proper help and listening to my body was a must. I had to realize it was OK to open up and ask for help, but it wasn’t easy. Like many mothers, I didn’t want to admit I needed help because it felt like if I wasn’t able to care for my child, it meant I didn’t love him.

Over the years, I’ve personally witnessed other women struggle with PPD in various degrees, most more severe than my personal experience. The biggest issue I saw was the judgment these women faced. Comments like, “Shake it off,” and “You just have to get on with life,” invalidated their struggle and made them afraid to reach out. PPD has nothing to do with how strong a woman is anymore than someone dealing with physical pain. If a woman broke her leg on a icy sidewalk, she would be encouraged to seek medical care. The same woman suffering deep emotional distress cannot be asked to brush off her emotional pain and steer free of a qualified professional.

Pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful and natural, but they can also come with a price. Women experience very real hormonal and physical changes — before, during and after pregnancy — and the effects are real. With so much recognition of all the amazing things a woman’s body can do, why is there still a stigma around the emotional changes that happen during any of her body’s natural processes?

Real change about PPD needs to happen long before a women ever gets pregnant. Healthy conversations about how hormones can affect mood and cause depression need to couple with discussions explaining the physical processes of womanhood. Young women need to know they are supported and loved even when they are struggling with the real emotional effects of hormone fluctuations. So if the time comes, they can be honest and talk about how they feel.

PPD and depression are real and treatable. Seek help and discuss depression with your daughters (and sons). Please be aware of some signs of PPD:

– Feelings of anger or irritability

– Lack of interest in the baby

– Appetite and sleep disturbance

-Crying and sadness

-Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness

There is hope, but we have to start talking about it. We have to discuss it often and we have to support each other. When we fail to acknowledge the mere existence of PPD and depression, we are all failing.

Follow this journey on CrossRoadTrippers.

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