Animal Therapy

As a natural born animal lover and someone who has spent most of her life working in the pet industry, I may be a little biased when I say that keeping animals as pets does wonders for the human psyche. But there have been a number of studies done over the years stating that frequent interaction with animals improves both mental and physical health and some even say that owning pets can make you live longer.

Of course we see evidence of the important role therapy animals play in helping people with physical disabilities every day and we all think of the classic golden Labrador when talking about seeing eye dogs.

Now I am starting to see more and more dogs of varying breeds on visits to shopping centres, some say “hearing dog” on their little jackets but many of these are un specified ‘service animals’ and play big part in helping those of us with mental health issues such as anxiety stay grounded and perform tasks such as grocery shopping more comfortably.

Another great example of using animals as therapy is ‘hippotherapy’ which is despite the name, is actually the practice of using horses as therapy animals – it might not be quite as cool as using hippopotamus’s, but it is still very cool! I personally know a few families that have had wonderful success when their Autistic children with severe language and sensory processing disorders have gone on to develop strong bonds with a horse as they learn to trust each other through touch and body language.

But how do animals improve our mental health?

  • Unconditional love and devotion

This is the big one, something that is impossible to achieve with humans. Animals, dogs in particular will always love you and forgive you no matter what, even if you were too tired to take them for a walk today – or yesterday, even if dinner was two hours late and even if you got mad at them 15 minutes ago for chewing your brand new slippers. As soon as you say their name that tail will start wagging 100 miles an hour and

  •    They don’t talk back

Unless of course you have a trained parrot, in which case any back chat is usually exceptionally cute and sometimes hilarious bordering on the inappropriate. But in all honesty, if you are unable to introduce your pet parrot to your grandmother then you have most likely brought that upon yourself!

But the ability to be able to simply pour your heart out to your feline friend and then be validated by soft cuddles and purring instead of judgement and opinions can go a long way.

  • Ability to pick up on emotional cues

Animals have this innate ability to tell when you are having a bad day and then respond to it appropriately. Who can stay angry for long when those big puppy dog eyes are staring at you with such devotion? I know when I am sad or depressed my animals always respond, my little Pomeranian ‘Deigo’ is particularly in tuned to my feelings and on bad days he will sneak up onto the bed next to me and just cuddle quietly into me giving me the odd reassuring lick to tell me he loves me.

  • No Judgement

So you haven’t showered in three days and just ate a full tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while binge watching seasons 1 and 2 of The Gilmore Girls. So what? As long as your furry companion can cuddle up on the couch next to you then as far as they are concerned, just let it be.

  • Responsibility

Owning a pet, while extremely rewarding, also forces us to be responsible for something other than ourselves and this is important. On days when the depression is winning our pets still need us, their whole little worlds revolve around us and even if getting out of bed seems impossible we still need to feed them, walk them, talk to them and love them. While it can feel like a chore, being forced out of bed to take little LuLu outside into the sunshine for a pee is actually very good for us.

During my many years working in the pet store we had tons of regular customers, we saw these customers go through all manner of life events, we saw how the bond of a dog could be lifesaving after the death of a spouse, we watched the hilarity of merging blended cat families together, lent fish out for weddings, watched custody fights over blue tongue lizards after divorce, supplied information to help convince tentative landlords that keeping a pet turtle would be fine in a rental home, we even babysat an axolotl while one man did a 3 month tour over in Afghanistan.

Some of our customers were unable to keep pets at their own houses but came in every week just to visit. One older lady came into the shop every single morning at 9:30am Monday to Sunday for over 5 years and never bought a thing, her visits were part of her daily routine and helped keep her mental health on track. Pets are simply a huge part of human society, they need us and we need them.

As my regular readers know, my own animals are a big part of my life, I live on a farm and keep many pets. They are just as good as my children at helping me keep structure and routines in my days, better possibly because they can’t tell me what they need verbally so we need to be more in tune with each other and communicate on a deeper level.

I also love the way they don’t judge me if I’m still in my pyjamas when I take them for a walk around the farm and they don’t yell at me for forgetting to buy cornflakes or neglecting to remind them their major history assessment worth 50% of their grade is due the next morning…

So I believe that having animals in your life is an important part of maintaining good mental health. For people with fur allergies fish are excellent pets, I can literally spend ½ hour just staring at my big fish tank watching all the goings on – it’s a bit like meditation for me! Even if you can’t own a pet yourself then go to your local pet store and pat a bunny, visit the zoo or even ask if you can walk your neighbours dog while they are at work. I promise, it will brighten up your day!

Unlocking Your Passions

Passions are so important, they are what make us the wonderful unique individuals that we are, they give us a sense of purpose, a sense of hope and reasons to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. Sometimes the black cloud of depression can make lose track of the things we feel most passionate about and we are left feeling lost. But with a few simple steps and even when the days are at their darkest we are still able to unlock some of that inner fire burning inside us.

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So what are you passionate about? 

The answer to that question is as individual as you are and as human beings we are all passionate about something, often about lots and lots of different things. But I bet if I asked a room full of depression sufferers to list 10 things they are passionate about most would struggle to come up with enough answers.

But the truth is everyone has passions. Even you. And unlocking our inner passion is what helps us build up or create our own identities, it can make us feel like we have the power to achieve our goals and gives us the strength to go after them!

How do you know when you are passionate about something?

There is a tingly feeling you get deep down when something becomes more important than just another hobby to consider trying or passing idea. We particularly notice this feeling, which can be similar to that of anxiety, when a topic of conversation changes to something more controversial, your heart rate may rise, your speech may start to quicken and become louder, you seem to think faster and with greater clarity and are driven to make your point.

If you feel like you are struggling to find anything that you are passionate about at all, firstly look straight to the hard core debate subjects, sure they may be considered taboo at a dinner party but when you are alone in your own mind and think about them for a while I am sure you will find there are some surprisingly passionate opinions hidden below the surface.

Some topics to consider:

  1. Religion, yes or no?
  2. Politics, who gets your vote?
  3. Is rap music a good or bad influence?
  4. Should women serve on the front line in a war?
  5. What defines equality among gender, religion and race?

Now think about your answers to these questions for a while and you will find yourself feeling quite strongly about the reasons for your opinions, no doubt they will be based on environmental upbringing, influences from the media and friendships, your own race and gender and of course personal experience.

Now imagine that someone has come along and written a blog post and their views are the polar opposite of your own.

Did you feel your heart rate quicken?

Did your mind fill with 100 thoughts and questions you would like to ask or tell this person?

Congratulations, you have found your inner passion.

Argumentative or just passionate?

If we disagree on a subject I have often been known to tell my husband that I am not “yelling” at him and the truth of the matter is that I’m not actually trying to start a fight or ‘yell’, I’m just very passionate about the subject and I want him to hear everything I have to say on the matter, right now and before he can even start to offer his (assumedly incorrect) opinion!

The line between being passionate and being argumentative is a bit like the line between being assertive and aggressive. It can be quite fine. I am lucky enough to live in a country where freedom of speech is a basic human right and I have the right to passionately discuss my beliefs. But within this framework, I must also respect that other people have the same right and accept that their passionate opinions may well differ from my own.

Productive Passions

Now as much as the odd argument can be soul cleansing, passions do not have to be fuelled only by win or lose debates. Passions can actually be very productive; some people are even lucky enough to find passion within their paid work.

Now think about what you love to do, what are you good at? Can you sing or play an instrument? Do you love to take photographs, write, scrapbook or draw? What brings you happiness and hope? Do you enjoy being of service to others?

If that seems too hard then think about the things and the people that are important to you. Do you feel pride in your home or garden? How do you feel about the achievements of your children, personalities of your pets, family and Friends?

Your passions can be inspiring to other people, they can be personal goals to work towards, or simply doing something for yourself because you just love to do it!

Hobbies can be an example of productive passions and are very important in maintaining your mental well-being. Personally I love to write all kinds of things, poems, song lyrics, articles for the local paper, blogs, my memoir and I’m currently working on a novel.

As a person with bipolar disorder I find I can use writing to escape into a fantasy world away from the clutches of my depressions or use words to poetically describe my inner most thoughts and sorrows. When I am manic I am known to spend hours at the keyboard writing all sorts of short stories, songs and random lists. Needless to say, writing is one of my hobby passions; I don’t get paid for it, but it brings me great joy.

How can use our passions to help others?

We must put our own oxygen masks on before helping other people, but when we are strong enough to share our passions it’s amazing how much we can brighten up the world around us.

I have many friends and family members who suffer from bipolar or depression but use their hobby passions to enrich their own lives as well as the lives of others.

One is a brilliant singer/songwriter and she spends time sharing her passion for music, bringing happiness to herself and others through busking and performing.

My 74 year old bipolar Aunt in the UK performs and shares her original poetry as well as volunteering her time as a phone counsellor to troubled young people.

One friend is an incredible seamstress and makes and gifts beautiful quilts to those in need.

Another finds her passion in being of service to others and she volunteers for the SES and St John Ambulance as well as raising a family and working.

Many of my amazing internet friends share their passion for mental health and well-being by writing online articles and blogs or even tweeting to help end the stigma of mental illness, and it’s working!

Be Passionate

So there are many kinds of passions, there are the things that drive us to speak up or act, such as fighting for justice, human or animal rights, political opinions and freedoms. There are the things that we love that give us that warm glow inside such as spending time with our families, friends and pets. There are the hobbies such as cooking, crafts, tinkering with cars, playing the Xbox, writing and music.

Write a list of your 10 most passionate passions with a little sentence describing the way each one makes you feel inside. That way on the harder days you can reflect on them and regain a sense of just how strong and uplifted they can make you.

Take notice of the things you love and believe in, hold onto those things that give you that tingly feeling inside and whatever they may be, once you find them, stand up for them and unlock that inner passion!

TRIGGER HAPPY

*Trigger Warning*

People are triggered by EVERYTHING these days!”, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!”

These were a few of the comments on The Mighty’s FB thread in regards to the ‘trigger’ potential of the new Netflix movie “To The Bone” which is about a girl suffering from an eating disorder.

The Mighty offered trigger warnings at the beginning of the thread and many people with eating disorders recommended not to watch the movie trailer, however on the same thread they also supplied a YouTube link to the trailer. So of course I watched it.

That was my choice to make but in the throws of an addiction (which is exactly what an ED is like), we find ourselves drawn to our triggers the way someone fearful of sharks will watch a documentary about them. If I relapse I tend to seek out doco’s, movies and TV shows about EDs, I don’t know why I do this, perhaps it makes me feel less alone? Obsessions are all consuming.

There are different ways that people can be triggered by things, bad memories can be suddenly brought back to the surface from a simple image or even a sound or smell. These memories can cause us psychological stress, anxiety attacks and promote behavioral relapses.

People can be given ‘ideas’ on how to ‘go about’ certain ED behaviors from shows that discuss and sometimes appear to glorify the topic and there is always the fear that someone contemplating ending their life will be tipped over the edge or learn new methods from a story about suicide.

So yes, I watched the “To The Bone” trailer and yes, it triggered me. There was an image of the main character’s back bone that made me instantly want to be back there, miserable but skinny. That being said the movie looked quite good, stereotypical perhaps (the main character is a teenage white girl) but also potentially educational for people who don’t understand the complexity of Eating Disorders.

A big issue that people had was with the way Netflix apparently automatically streamed the trailer without a trigger warning so unsuspecting ED sufferers didn’t know the subject matter that was coming up.

Honestly though, walking past a café, opening the fridge or seeing a very thin person will also trigger me. The trouble with eating disorders are that other humans are unavoidable, food is unavoidable, so many of my main triggers make up a huge part of the society we live in.

“Facebook friend just checked in to Jenny Craig” No big deal, right? Good on her for taking charge of her health and wellness!

Except every fucking morning when I see this status update from a FB friend I just want to slit my wrists; it triggers the hell out of me.

Because what I see when I read that status is someone holding up a mirror, emphasizing my physical flaws, accentuating my cellulite and tummy rolls, telling me I will never ever be ‘good enough’ while reminding me that I didn’t run yesterday, I claim it is because I have injured myself and need to rest – but is it really that or is it because I am a fat, lazy cow? Why can’t I be more like her? Disciplined, IN CONTROL.

Watching the TV series Orange is the New Black I found myself laughing and crying hysterically, it had unexpectedly triggered me in another way, while I have never been to prison, the institutionalization & banter between inmates reminded me strongly of my time spent on the psych ward, and it brought back strong memories; both horrendous and hilarious.

So are we being too fragile?

This is the dawning of a new era in mental health, an era of awareness and acceptance. Triggers were always there, people have always been triggered but now more people than ever before are speaking up about how common triggers affect their mental illness and in an effort to assist these people to make an informed decision about what they read or watch ‘Trigger Warnings’ are often placed at the beginning of articles or videos.

I know this is MY problem and I have a responsibility as an adult to be aware of what my potential triggers are and avoid what I can and work through my reactions to things I can’t avoid with a therapist so that I can participate in life more freely.

But I also think trigger warnings for topics known to commonly cause distress are very important, unexpected triggers can send a person spiraling back into a mental health crisis and if we are able to reduce that risk for people then it is our duty as civilized human beings to do so.

I am choosing not to watch “13 Reasons Why” due to my history of  being bullied and a suicide survivor and I am grateful that I was made aware of the trigger potential of the series so that I could make that decision. There wasn’t a whole lot of effort involved in typing the words *Trigger Warning* at the beginning of this post, so surely others can do the same.

** This post originally appeared on http://thecolourofmadness.blogspot.com.au/ **

So I’m Trying Out WordPress…

I have been a Blogspot girl from the beginning, change scares me and I am generally computer illiterate so when I finally figure out how something works I tend to stick to it. But it seems most other people use WordPress these days and I often have trouble commenting on their posts because I can’t ‘log in’ which is frustrating to say the least. So I am going to jump ship and test this WordPress lark out for a bit and see if it really is better.

For now I will just post some of my blog posts from the old site here and see where the road leads me – head to http://www.thecolourofmadness.blogspot.com for the old stuff and I guess I will link up from there to here.

The Final Imprint

I often wonder what my last post, last text, last tweet, email or status update might be. It’s that final documented statement that ultimately becomes your legacy, at least the legacy of your online life.

25 years ago those final written statements would have been personal or private letters to family and friends, but now we live in a world where social media rules and the final public statement to ultimately define our character could well be that we “ate brussel sprouts for dinner, yuk! ” or that we “like” a video of a cat chasing a squirrel.

What about the more meaningful stuff? The stuff that gets lost in the mundane day to day goings on. Sure the little things are important too, after all it is those that collectively form our opinions about the big things. But often we are so busy documenting every meal and every movement that we neglect to take the time to piece the tid bits together and form holistic opinions.

Carrie Fisher’s second last tweet -once you read it enough times to comprehend the meanings behind her erratic emoji use – seemed so eerie given the manner in which she was taken from us, it was as though she knew what was coming. Quoted below, scuze the format issue…

IsYRbody DKaying➕deth marchi🆖ever closer?®the sands 🅾️F time💲🅾️cruel✝️♓️📧Yshud🅱️arrested➕💲📧♑️✝️2️⃣a 🚗dℹ🅰©beach?Get©gℹ,perspective ➕d📧🅰🕒w/ℹ✝️

Time and time again through my depressions I find myself preparing ‘final’ status updates for in the event that I am suicidal that I can quickly type out if I decide to take the plunge. Stuff just cryptic enough not to give my headspace away if I survive, but elude to everything if I dont.
I suppose I just want to leave behind meaningful words, I give thanks and messages of love and hope, things that say ‘despite what I have done, I am still thankful for the good things and there have been so many of those’.

As much as I can be desperate to die at times, when it has gotten to that point I have never been bitter, I don’t truly hate anyone and I have had so many incredible people in the weird and wonderful chapters of my life, so many amazing memories. All of the challanges I have faced led me to special people, places and worlds I could never have otherwise imagined.

I have experienced joy in its most pure form, enlightenment, love and complete oneness with the universe. But as with all things the light must have it’s dark or else we could not truly appreciate the beauty of the day.

There have been no clear cut “reasons” for me to ever be suicidal, no motives that the casual observer could understand as ‘good enough’ and yet the chemistry in my brain holds reason to ransom and I am time and time again sent emotionally to the depths of darkness and depression. The plunge is cold and exhausting and I know deep down that it will ultimately kill me.

I suppose I just want my words to have meant something to someone, when I pop into the mind of an old friend after I have passed, I want them to look at the final update on my Facebook page and smile, knowing that despite my suicide I was happy and I always knew I was loved. Not just that I hated the slow service in Mc Donalds yesterday afternoon.

Once Upon A Time

Time. They say it heals all wounds and they say it flies, yet wounds will continue to heal so very slowly as life flashes past with lightning speed. Another year has passed, yet another year that I thought I would never experience but I blinked and there it went. And I am still here.

I am still here to stare meaninglessly out my study window wondering what I would have missed if I had of successfully ended my life back in 2015. What would be different now, would my family still be living in our rusty old farm house overlooking a flooded dam surrounded by gum trees and squawking sulphur crested cockatoos? Or would my death have seen them move back into the city, closer to schools and support networks surrounded by busyness and distractions to keep them from wondering what could have been.

The reality of the last 18 months is nothing has really occurred, no major events at all. Nothing much has happened that I would have missed out on if I was not here. I still haven’t been able to honestly utter the words “I am glad I am alive to see that”. There have been many things that were enjoyable, fun even but nothing I feel I couldn’t have lived without.

My biggest accomplishment over that time has been writing my memoir, which will probably remain unpublished and yet gave me an inner strength I never knew I had. My story has been told, and if it is read one day that will be a bonus.

Rain is trickling down my window and I glance at the photos I have pegged to string running the length of my tiny study wall. Photos of happy times, of weddings and Christmas’s and babies and pets. Pictures depicting fun and laughter, hope and promise – moments captured in time that remind me there are good days too.

Photos are so often dishonest portraits of a life lived, posed for and propped. After all we seldom photograph the bad times, who wants to re live the sorrow or the fear? These darker times are left to fade in our memories, some experiences fading faster than others.

I become very photo happy when I am manic, evidenced by my hard drives full of images of trees, rocks and tiny mushrooms. I try to endlessly capture the intense beauty seeping from the sheer complexity of everything around me in hope I will revisit these images with the same enthusiasm when the world around me once more fades to shades of grey.

My children had their last day of school for the year today, they will return in February as grade 3, 6,8 and 9 students. They have grown so fast. I look up at my photo wall and I am drawn to an image of me aged 17 holding my newborn son, I look so young – I suppose I was. I had already experienced so much ‘growing up’ at that age that becoming a ‘teenage mother’ was just another inevitable step in my path of manic consequence.

I remember looking at him feeling this overwhelming sense of responsibility. I was responsible for the well-being of a real live all be it tiny human, it wasn’t a goldfish – there were serious consequences if I forgot to feed it or clean it or heaven forbid accidently kill it. This was real. Judgements flew around me, many from total strangers “babies having babies!” disgusted looks and shaking heads.

Depression followed naturally, but it was no stranger to me so I got through it again, time passed, highs flew, lows lingered, marriage, babies, illness, experiences filtered through the in betweens, all these compartments bonding together and creating a wholeness, a story, my story.

Like it or not our stories are made up of time, how much ‘life’ we fit into the time we have, the manic desire for more and the depressives desire for less.

But the hands of the clock will continue to move with every minute long after our time has passed, we can just hope that as those hands tick forward our stories will be told by others as memories and lessons, passed on through the generations of that fleeting moment we spent here, once upon a time

Suicide, The Story We Seldom Tell

*Trigger warning: Suicide- description of feelings, attempt & method* 


Have you ever gone to sleep knowing it was for the last time?

Secure in the knowledge that soon you would take your final breath and there would be no more pain? I have.

I died my perfect death that day, after an intensity and panic akin to nothing I had ever experienced before, in a state of pure peace I lay my head back on the pillow, took time to remember each of the people and pets I had held dear, the places I had been and the good things I had done, grateful for the lessons I had learned along the way. Then I smiled to myself as I felt the drugs take hold of my body and I took a deep breath and let the blackness carry me away.

People don’t talk about suicide, it scares them because they don’t understand how we as living beings can choose to simply cease to exist, they don’t understand a pain so powerful that taking that final step seems the only way to end it, the only way to find peace.

That’s how I felt.

Only I didn’t die, I woke up four days later choking on a tube in the intensive care unit of the hospital, confused, embarrassed and unsure of where I was.

A lot had happened while I was sleeping, I had been found unconscious by the nurse at the mental health unit where I had been a patient and transferred from a country hospital to the big city by helicopter. My brother and sister had flown in from interstate and my husband had to break the news to my four children after receiving the worst phone call of his life.

The pills I had smuggled in to the unit should have killed me in my sleep and it was pure chance I was found when I was.

My depressions have almost always involved varying degrees of suicidal ideation. On this occasion I went into the hospital for dysphoric mania, I went in with the intention of trying to get better but with the hidden pills as a backup plan, in case it became too much – that way my family wouldn’t have to be the ones to find my body, some things you can’t un-see.

The saddest part of my failed suicide attempt was that I was forced to bare witness to the affect my actions had on the people around me. It turns out they had genuinely loved me the whole time and now I had hurt them unimaginably. My friends, my husband, my children and then there was the look of sadness and self-blame through the tears in my mother’s eyes.

Yes it’s hard to deal with the guilt of the fallout, let alone the fact that you are still the same person you were a moment before you chose to take your life. You are still held prisoner by your own mind and now there is more pressure as the people around either don’t trust you enough to leave the room or they expect you to just feel grateful for a second chance and excited to be alive when in reality that takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

Over a year on and the depression comes and goes as it always did, the new meds only muffled the mania and made me numb. I still have days and weeks when I wish I had died that night, times when I cry myself to sleep and curse my illness for grasping me so tightly in its clutches that I forget there is a different way to feel.

Death lures you with false promise, if you are looking for peace or relief it is not the answer you are simply existing in a state of sadness and fear and then you are gone. Nothing. Finished. Sadness was all you knew.

They say where there is life there is hope and I guess that is true, each day may seem harder than the last, problems may feel unsolvable but you really do still have a chance of finding some happiness, if you choose death there is 0 chance of happiness. So I try and remember on those long nights when the depression hits and I lie awake crying, no matter how hopeless I feel, I tell myself I do have a chance – even if it’s a little one.

Suicidal ideation might be a taboo topic but it is also a very, very real one and it’s not going away. Discussion leads to understanding and the realisation that we are not alone, it gives us the ability to share our stories, and as they say a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are going through a tough time reach out to someone, it doesn’t have to be a person in ‘real life’ if you are uncomfortable with that, some of my most validating friendships have come from people on the internet who are going through similar things to me.

Take care of yourselves, you are the one person you have to live with for the rest of your life so treat yourself with kindness and respect as you would to other people, your mind and body will thank you for it!

Have you or someone you loved struggled with suicidal ideation?


If you have been triggered by this topic or are experiencing suicidal feelings, in Australia please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or international readers please see our “Help In A Crisis” page

My Eating Disorder Story

ED Trigger Warning: Contains numbers

(From original blogspot site dated 31st August 2016)

A big portion (pardon the pun) of my day is spent thinking about, cursing, regretting, planning or eating food. I have had a poor relationship with food my whole life and an eating disorder since I was 14 years old.

I was an overweight child. Not grossly overweight by today’s standards but a heavy set, flubby tummied, wobbly thighed kind of overweight. I had started piling on the kilos when I was around 8 years old and worst of all, other kids quickly noticed.

I ate a LOT of junk food and drank a lot of soft drink. The chocolates and chips in my lunch box, ice creams and lollies from the school canteen, the Mc Donald’s treats after school on top of my mother’s delicious home cooked meals created a calorie overload.

I wasn’t an active child either, after school I would come home to my friend the television and eat one of my mums scrumptious freshly baked treats. I HATED sports at school and I was teased because I frankly wasn’t any good at them. I particularly detested running as it would quickly give me an asthma attack and my slowness was embarrassing.

One activity I did eventually get into was swimming and I was surprisingly good at it, I joined a squad team and won ribbons and medals at competitions but after Saturday morning training we would often go to Macca’s for breakfast and sadly Bacon & Egg Mc Muffins and Hot Cakes tended to negate any of the calories burned during the swim. All the other girls on the squad were slim and trim where as my thunder thighs felt exposed and my tummy rolls were visible through my swim suit.

As my body expanded my self-worth shrank, I was teased mercilessly about my size at school my best friend even stopped talking to me because she was being teased for hanging out with someone as fat as I was. I felt awful, I had no friends and I felt like I had ruined my old best friend’s life, ‘how could a worthless piece of shit like me get so fat that it was hurting my friends?” I would wonder, blaming myself for causing her such distress.

Eventually I found some friends that were new to my school but it didn’t stop the teasing and every time I looked in the mirror I would see what they saw, a fat, ugly, worthless piece of lard. Mum would take me out for coffee and cake or to Mc Donald’s to try and cheer me up and I would cry myself to sleep at night feeling fatter than ever. After a boy called me a “beached whale” at a swim meet, I stopped swimming too.

Fast forward to year 9 in high school, I had been through the ringer but had some solid friends at this point and was starting to experience mild ups and downs of what I now know was the beginnings of bipolar mood swings, when I wasn’t in a funky mood state I was pretty happy in general but I still had no self-esteem and I was still fat. I was also still getting teased on a daily basis about my size but being older and having more knowledge about why I was overweight I also knew how I could potentially lose weight.

When a hypomanic episode hit me and I found myself with incredible energy I went crazy goal setting, exercising and cutting down my meal portions, planning my life. I lost weight all right, it was falling off me but suddenly like a light switch my mood dropped into depression, I was still losing weight but I felt awful, I was still being teased, I felt like everybody hated me.

Months passed and the weight was still dropping off, terrified of gaining back any of my loss I forced myself out of the house to go for walks, I started throwing away my school lunches, putting some milk and a few cornflakes in the bottom of the bowl and putting it in the sink to make it look like I had eaten breakfast. I went to the local gym and did aerobics classes and cardio and started keeping a diary of everything that went into my mouth, I had become completely obsessed.

Over time I lost so much weight other people were worried about me, at 165cm I weighed 44kg. I would get a strange high from the feel of my hip bones jutting out and from the sense of power and control I felt over myself all the while ignoring the fact that my hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. I made my own dinners using the lowest calorie items I could find and made a rule that for every calorie I consumed I had to burn two, the thought of gaining weight was terrifying and I started to imagine that there were calories free floating in the air, scared to breathe in too deep in case I inhaled them.

I would eat anything prepared by anyone else in case they had contaminated it with calories, I trusted no one, everybody was trying to make me fat. My Mum took me to the doctor but knowing I would be weighed I drank nearly four litres of water before my appointment to make myself heavier, I felt like my bladder would burst as I feigned surprise that people were concerned about my weight and told the doctor what she wanted to hear “I guess I had better eat more if you think I should”.

Somehow I managed to avoid hospitalization as I was about two kilos over the “admission weight” for anorexia (thank you water loading). At 15 years old and in year 10 at high school, I carried on with my disordered eating and got a dog, a border collie named Bowie. I walked that poor dog to within an inch of his life. I also made a friend who was as fucked up as I was from an eating perspective and we (pardon the pun) fed off each other which was all fun and games until she ended up hospitalized.

That shook me up big time and I started to settle down a bit, don’t get me wrong I still hated myself and I was still scared of food but I was able to hide it better and function at home and at my part time job as long as my list of “rules” was adhered to.

Months passed and on a bit of a hypo manic surge I punched a girl at school who had been bullying me since primary school. God it felt good. That was to be my last day of school, I was done with all the bullshit and when they told me I would have to have mediation with this girl at 15yrs old I walked out of the building and never went back.

The pet shop where I held my part time job was looking for a full timer and after discussions between my boss and parents they decided earning money would be better for me than roaming the streets. Six months later my weight was stable on my strict regime and I left home to a place I will talk about another time, most importantly for me at the time it was where I could control all aspects of my food intake. I was free, or so I thought, but in fact I was far from it, I was trapped in a web that has entangled me to varying degrees ever since. Pregnancy, meds, holidays have all impacted my weight and relationship with my body.

My mood tends to directly tie into my food issues, the food issues are always there but the degree in which they impact me relates to my moods. For example if my mood is stable I hate my figure and am unhappy about my weight but don’t care enough to actually try and actively fix it or kill myself, when I am depressed I binge eat badly and my weight becomes “just another reason” why I should commit suicide.

When I am hypomanic I tend to take care of myself, I have more energy so I eat better and exercise more although I have to watch it doesn’t get out of control, I don’t allow myself to be weighed and I don’t allow myself to properly calorie count, my husband has also capped my exercise to 1hour daily.

As my hypomania increases my care about these rules flys out the window and I start weighing, counting and exercising in secret, not to mention the calories I burn off from not being able to sit still and jiggling constantly. If I progress to mania my eating disorder comes back in full force, probably because it is the only thing I can control. I stop eating more than a couple of hundred calories a day, I exercise compulsively and I am scared of Calories in the air making me fat again.  It sounds ridiculous now, but it is terrifying at the time.

Right now I am fairly stable erring on a bit depressed mood wise, I have been binge eating daily for months and have gained around 5kg judging by the way my clothes fit. My binges tend to be on healthier foods so that saves me somewhat but they are completely compulsive, it’s as though I am watching myself go to the fridge and I just can’t stop. I don’t throw up after – not for lack of trying unfortunately. I don’t seem to be able to make myself vomit no matter how hard I try and believe me I have given it my best. Really I should be thankful, bulimia is not something I need right now.

So that’s the rather long history of my eating disorder, at 31years old I cant believe that I still struggle with it and it saddens me to think I probably always will.  I could probably write about it for days if I got into all the emotions that go along with it. Feel free to ask questions though, I am happy to answer.

Do you struggle with food or weight issues?