Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Putting things 'on hold'

We've all had those days (or even weeks!) when we are so busy. We have experienced times when we cannot simply find enough hours in the day to do all we need to do. During those times, we need to prioritize. We need to figure out what needs to be done NOW, and what can wait for a while.

Even when you have prioritized, there still seems to be too much to do! One of the things that I have noticed lately is that sometimes, life goes 'on hold' until other things are over. For example, if you have a big project that needs to be done, you might not have enough time to also go out with family or friends or to see a movie. So, you put everything else on hold until you finish that project.

But what happens when you are done the project? Do you actually find time to have fun and relax and do all that other stuff? Sometimes. But more often than not, you will notice that yet another thing has appeared in your life to replace that project. Now, you see that everything that was 'on hold' needs attention again! It gets overwhelming, to say the least. Maybe you ignored your health and you need to start eating well again. Or perhaps you stopped calling your family members and need to catch up with them. But it becomes difficult to do all of this!

Is there a solution to this 'on hold' dilemma? Maybe, and maybe not. Try as I might, it is humanly impossible to do everything at once, and to do it all well. That is why we need to priotize. Sure, I might not have time to (for example) play a game today, but once I finish my assignment, I will try to find time. Yes. I do not have the time now to go out with friends. But once I get my work hours done for the week, I can try to schedule something in. It is said over and over again, and we often downplay how important priortizing is. But, from experience, I can say that if you are not organized, your whole life will collapse into one ugly and tangled mess because of all you need to do.

It is true that there is always something important to do, and this is why some people have trouble making priorities. Others point out that if you are busy today with one thing, you will be busy tomorrow with another thing and never have fun. BUT, if you do all things in moderation and with a thoughful plan, it is not so bad. It really sucks that you cannot go out tonight, but your work takes priority. Next week, when you have more time, go for it! In another example, it may seem awful that you have no time to wacth your favourite show tonight. Maybe you can catch up with it tomorrow when you sick child feels well. Or maybe you can try to do it today, if you get everything else done.

Key points to take away? We all have times when we need to put some things 'on hold'. It is natural, and actually, sometimes it is necessary. What is most important is that you learn to regulate yourself and organize your time so that you can do what you have to do. This includes obligations, but also finding time for you. Don't forget that without feeling, eating, sleeping, and being well, you cannot achieve anything. A healthy life = healthy body + healthy mind + happiness + perseverance.

Think about it this way: when you call a company and they put you 'on hold', it may feel like it is taking forever for them to respond back to you. Sometimes, you will be listening on the phone to that annoying 'hold' music, and you get so frustrated. But if you hang up and give up, you will lose your place in line and have to start all over by calling them again. If you wait, however long and annoying that may be, you will eventually get answered. The same thing happens in our lives. During tough times, you may want to give up or stop doing what you are doing. But if you quit, you might miss out on some amazing things, and you might lose what you have already started. However, if you are PATIENT and you PERSEVERE, you will get there eventually. So, even if you feel like your life is 'on hold', be patient. Do not put that phone receiever done. Keep listening to that 'hold' music, Because usually, just when you are fed up and totally frustrated, someone picks up and the proboem is solved. Don't quit, don't give up, and don't stop fighting for your dreams.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

LISTEN! My first international RADIO INTERVIEW

I am beyond amazed at the blessings God has given me. I've been published so many times, and now, I have been invited to appear as a guest on a well-known international radio channel, the Orthodox Christian Nework: http://www.myocn.net/index.php/201308214607/come-receive-the-light/4607-anorexia-faith-and-recovery.html

Please click on the link and listen to my interview! For those of you who do not know me personally, you will finally hear my voice! This is, in fact, the first time I have actually spoken LIVE on a radio show about my eating disorder and experiences. This segment discusses the challenges I faced, how my faith helped me, and what to do if you feel that you or someone you know has an eating disorder. I really hope you enjoy listening to it - again, this is such a huge accomplishment for me. I am so blessed to have had so many wonderful opportunities to share my story and raise awareness about mental health and eating disorders. Glory to God!

Thank you everyone for all the love, kindness, and support you show me! It is because of all of you that I have come so far in my journey and recovery. I will never stop fighting and I will always use my experiences to help all those who need it! Listen to the show, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Published once more! 'Fuelling up the vehicle'

I am amazed at the reception of my writing and story. From a year ago, my work has been published over 10 times....within ONE YEAR! This is truly a blessing, and I thank each and every single person (both in my life and on this blog) for giving my this experience. I am so blessed!

This time, I wrote a post comparing your body with a car. Sounds far-fetched right? Well, if you think about it, they have a lot of things in common. Your car needs gas to keep working, and you need food to keep surviving. Your car cannot operate without gas, and you cannot function without nutrition. Your car needs to be taken care of in order to do its job, and your body needs to be well in order for your to live day by day. See how similar they are? Take a look at this link for the full piece on fuelling your body - just like you would with your car: http://www.nedic.ca/blog/

(PS. A special thank YOU to everyone out there who has supported me through this past year. I can, thank God, say that today, I am doing SO well and am fully recovered and healthy. If you look at the bottom of the article on NEDIC, you will indeed say (under the bio part) that 'Marina....is RECOVERED from anorexia nervos' .... WOOT WOOT! YAY! Thanks again, everyone!)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Neurobiology of starvation-reward patterns

When I was sick and did not want to eat anything, many people thought that I was being silly. My family often wondered how I could 'not eat' and why I never 'just put something into my mouth and chewed'. This was not their fault, of course. They were frustrated by my illness, yet they did not understand that the decision to NOT eat was not mine - the ED had taken over my brain and body. I posted before about how in people with ED, starvation actually released endorphins' the 'no pain' neurotransmitter. This means that once I started eating again, all the troubles and pain returned because food = less endorphins in ED victims. According to researchers, this can take years to return to normal, if it ever does. This means that during recovery. the pain (physical, emotional, and mental) pain that we go through is REAL because our bodies start to make less endorphins in response to the food intake. Now, researchers have discovered yet another interesting fact about people with ED: they have higher levels of dopamine (DA) in reponse to starvation or restriction.

DA is the 'reward' neurotransmitter, meaning that it is released in response to rewarding activities. In people without ED, food intake causes the release of DA, meaning that we feel happy or feel rewarded when we eat. However, studies now show that in people with ED, food intake does NOT release DA (http://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/07/11/11621.aspx). In fact, participants in the study had LESS dopamine when they ate, and MORE dopamine during restriction. What this means is that with ED victims, starvation, on a neurobiological level, truly is 'rewarding'. Eating, on the other hand, results in less DA and therefore less reward. So, why would a patient with ED WANT to eat? The simple answer is, they would not. If eating means that less DA is released, eating will not be rewarding and the patient will not find pleasure or motivation to eat. On the other hand, NOT eating results in more DA release, which makes patients feel comforted or pleased/relaxed.

Some people, myself included, thought, 'well then, why not just give dopamine to ED patients in recovery when they eat?". First, remember that these neurotransmitters are 'strong stuff'. We cannot just go into the brain and start adding and taking away what we want. Also, dopamine is strong and should not be messed around with (although this is used for Parkinson's disease, in which case DA is absolutely necessary and for other reasons not related to reward/pleasure). Also, it would not be wise to give patients DA (aside from all the other side effects) because this would not train/teach them to feed themselves. To me, knowing that there is a DA imbalance in my brain helps me feel comforted because it tells me that I am not trying to sabotage my recovery when I say that I really do NOT want to eat. It means that I truly DO NOT want to because my brain and neurotransmitters are telling me that food = no pleasure while restricting = reward. Although this is challening for me in recovery, it gives me hope because it also helps others around me to understand that my former illness is truly a real, harmful, mental illness. Aside from knowing that, I take comfort in the fact that despite all these wrong messages in my brain, I am doing a good job in my recovery. Even though the DA is sky-high when I DO NOT eat and very low when I DO eat, I am still pushing my way through all my meals. I am eating normally, regardless of the fact that I do not find it rewarding or pleasing.

To top everything off, I love learning about these studies and ED because it shows me just how serious and REAL this illness is. Patients with ED do not mean to starve and kill themselves - the illness takes over. ED causes a series of physical, mental, and emotional changes that the patient can no longer control ot change. Thus, recovery is truly a difficult task because it means fighting all those urges to restrict anf going against what your body and mind tell you is right and rewarding. It also means training myself to ignore what my body and mind tell me because I know that I cannot depend on these hormones or neurotransmitters now. This is why I often tell my family or loved ones that 'eating is not fun for me'. Sometimes they wonder how this is possible, but at other times, they simply nod and say that they understand. Well, now they can REALLY understand why eating is unpleasurable while restricting IS rewarding - it is thanks to imbalances and dysfunctioning of the dopamine-reward system in my brain. Once again, EDs prove to be serious illnesses that challenge their victims to struggle through recovery in order to find health and happiness once more. However, for those patients who are able to fight in recovery, life becomes easier. This study showed that DA might take years to get back to normal, but in some patients, it actually never does. BUT, patients who work hard and have a strong support network are able to continue in recovery, despite this abnormal finding. What this means is that with determination, support, love, motviation, care, God, strength, food, and practice, recovery really can be successful. What a hopeful message.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Getting your doc to understand

Although ED is more common than we think or see in daily life, there is sadly a lack of healthcare professionals who truly 'get it'. Many doctors/nurses think that ED is a problem with the patient and is thus to blame. Others do not know how to help their patients, so they tell them to 'eat higher calorie foods' and to stop 'moving around so much'. Still others think that ED is a phase that people go through.

Why is it so hard to find someone who understands ED and how to treat them? First, ED is not really spoken about in medical school. Sure, they may hear about ED, but students do not really get an opportunity to understand how ED works. They also simply hear that 'food is medicine', but they do not get taught how to deal with a patient who is suffering and desperately needs assistance. Furthermore, many theories about ED are still (sadly) prevelant in today's society, such as the idea that ED results from a bad relationship with one's mother. Because of all this information (which, by the way, is wrong), medical professionals usually do not know how to treat EDs.

But what is a patient to do? Can you leave your doctor and look for one who understands ED? In the perfect world, this would be the solution. But, unforuantely, this is not practical. First, it is unlikely that you will find an ED professional close to your area who can help. Next, you will likely be placed on a long waiting list. Third, these professionals can sometimes be costly if they are not covered by insurance. So what do you do? Well, if possible, educate your doctor. Refer them to resources that can help them understand what ED is and what they can do to help you. If your healthcare professional is willing to do this, then GREAT! If not, they may be able to help you locate other resources or professionals who can help you.

There are a lot of resources out there, so be careful. Some good sites are FEAST, NEDIC, NEDA, etc. (Note: I am not endorsing any of these. They are simply suggestions). Some of the top things that doctors/nurses who work with patients with ED are:

1) It is not the patient's fault. Do not blame them for their illness.
2) Patients need a lot of help. This may include dietary consultation, therapy, or family intervention. Do not think that this will be a temporary 'phase'. It takes a lot of time to help patients recover.
3) Sometimes, patients need hospitalization. There are guidelines that specify what conditions must be met for this to be true. Know what the guidelines are for your province/location.
4) Food is medicine, but patients need more than food. They need care, time, motivation, and hope.
5) Let the patient know that this is a serious illness, but that it can be treated. They will need to work hard, and they might not like (actually, they will probably hate it) treatment. But it will get better.
6) Recovery is not a straight road. It may have good times and bad times. Relapses or mistakes do not mean failure. It simply means that the patient has learned a lesson and will be stronger.
7) Families and friends can be helpful, but make sure that they are supportive and educated about ED.
8) Not all ED patients have comorbid disorders. Medication is not always necessary, so do not assume that you need to medicate your patient for depression simply because they have ED.
9) Patients do not mean to be hard to deal with or difficult. They are scared and frustrated. They will not be excited about eating and gaining weight, so be gentle but firm. Patients need to trust you before they are willing to work with you to get better.
10) Educate yourself. When you get an opportunity to learn about ED, take it. ED is more common than you think. Learn to screen for ED in patients, to recognize warning signs, and to help paients get treatment as soon as possible. You just might be saving lives.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Social media

Social media is all around us. There's email, twitter, Facebook, and more. There are chat rooms and forums. In a sense, this is beneficial because it allows us to communicate with others  and learn about them. It also helps us learn new things, stay connected to people, and share news and events with them. Therefore, social media can be very useful.

But, like many other things in life, social media also has it's drawbacks. I'm not going to write a post about what's wrong with social media. Instead, I'm going to discuss why you need to be aware of what you post on social media or how you use it. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we get so caught up with posting that we forget the downfalls of social media.

Lets start with posts. You can often post your status on Facebook or twitter, which allows others to see how you feel or events in your life. This is nice because you can share moments and thoughts with others. But sometimes we post without thinking. We might post something that doesn't seem offensive, but it might be to some. Or we may 'like' a status or post that can be harmful to others. For example, you may like a page that has revealing images on it. This happens to show up on my news feed. Well, I don't want to see that! So in a way, your social media has harmed me or has made me uncomfortable. Or consider what happens when you share a post that has swear words in it or vulgar language. Why should others reading your posts have to contend with that? You may be causing others to fall into temptation or sin. Looking at it another way, you may be causing yourself to sin and not realize it.

What about what social media reveals about you? Social media is just that - media that provides us with ways to be social or connect with others. The key word here is 'media', coming from 'medium' which is another way of saying that it transfers something (information about us) from one place (us) to another place (people's computers, the Internet, etc). This is great at times, but have you ever thought about LIMITING social media is? At the most, we type our thoughts/feelings/statuses and post them for others to see. We share our pictures or 'like' other photos. But this is problematic because it often paves the way we see people - our impressions of them. For example, what would happen if I posted quotes on my facebook wall that swore and insulted others? People would think that I am mean and rude. What about someone who posts love quotes and quotes about finding the 'right person'? People would assume that this person is 'desperate' or lonely. It is sad, but the fact of the matter is that we make assumptions based on what we see and read on social media.

What do we learn from this? Know that although social media is great, it is limited. This has implications, of course, as to how you should use it. Before you post something about yourself (no matter how private you have made your settings), know that it is not out of your hands and into the public. Anyone can see it. Do others really need to know that you feel XXX or just did XX? If this is not necessary, do not post it. Or what about quotes and pictures? Remember that nearly anyone can see this stuff. What does the image or quote say about you and your values or thoughts? Is this the kind of impression you want to give off? Do others REALLY need to know that you are looking for love, that you are a snobby person, or that you hate XXX? If not, do not post it. Keep these tips in mind. Sometimes we become so obsessed and attached to our social media that we often forget that what we are posting is now available to many people out there. And these people may not know you well, so they will make assumptions about you based on what you post. Do not let social media turn you into a person that you are not. Be warned that it can. So, think before you post. Be media-smart.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

'Non-compliance' with ED treatment

I have heard from many patients that they were kicked out of treatment because they were 'non-compliant' with their treatment. For some, this was what they wanted because they did not want treatment anymore. But for others, this wrecked their recovery and left them hopeless.

First, what does 'non-compliant' mean? Technically, it means that you are unwilling to do what your treatment plan/team says you should do to get better. In ED treatment, doctors refer to a patient as being non-compliant if she/he does not eat enough, does not gain weight, or does not suddenyl have amazing thoughts and high self-esteem. But, is this non-compliance? Or is just part of the illness?

My first time in therapy was when I was in grade 12. Let me tell you - I hated it. It was with some therapist that my father found because 'she was the best with EDs'. I won't get into that part much, but I will just say that I absolutely hated it. No offense. Anyways, this therapist worked with me for a while. But after my weight started to plateau, she brought me in for a serious talk. Basically, she told me that since I was not trying hard enough to gain weight, I was being non-compliant with treatment. If I did not gain weight and get back into recovery mode, she said that I could not see her for therapy anymore.

That really hit me hard. I was not trying to NOT gain weight. I was just scared of it. And I felt so weak and tired of gaining and eating. I was frightened, and I felt as though I did not have enough support and love around me. And now this therapist was telling me that I was being NON-COMPLIANT?! I'd prefer to call it scared. I was sick with ED, an illness that despises food and weight gain. Of course I would have moments when I would not want to gain and eat! But this therapist was acting as though as a consequence for my illness, she was letting me go.

Let's rephrase the situation: what if I had cancer, and chemotherapy did not stop the tumour from growing? What if, even after chemo, my cancer continued to grow. Would my doctors kick me out of chemo because I was being non-compliant? No. Of course not. Because it woud not be my fault. The same thing goes for patients with ED. While some people believe that patients with ED are purposefully being non-compliant, we need to realize that they are scared of what recovery will bring and that this is a symptom of their illness. Would a doctor who was treating a patient with chemotherapy blame the patient for their cancer? No. Then why do we blame ED victims for ED?

Maybe 'non-compliance' is actually used in the ED treatment world for 'not going as I had hoped'. For example, maybe therapists tell their patients that they are being non-complaint when really, it is the therapy that is not working out so well. Or maybe the treatment approach needs to change. Or perhpas the patient needs to realize that recovery is really what they want. Helping patients stick to recovery is important - they need support, love, and motivation. They need to realize that even though eating and gaining weight is hard, recovery is worth it and it will get easier. So, perhaps, we need to stop using the word 'non-compliant' as an excuse for failure of treatment and start seeing where the real problem is. It could be motivation, treatment approaches, or something else. But blaming the patient and calling them non-compliant is unfair and unacceptable. My message to treatment providers is this: stop blaming the patient and calling them non-compliant simply because your treatment plan and strategies are not working as you had planned. Start acting like a real professional and find out where the real problem is. Then, make a new plan with the patient. Do not be harsh and treat the patient as if it is their fault that they are not improving. This is part of the illness. ED is tough to treat - ED will not go away quickly. So let's stop blaming the patient for failure of treatment and therapy and srtart finding new and better ways to help the patient overcome this illness.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Published AGAIN! - Seeing yourself through God's eyes

I'm so blessed. I can't seem to put a number on the amounts of times my writing has been published and acknowledged internationally! Yet again, my work has been published on Fr. Anthony's blog (which is amazing, by the way!). http://franthony.com/2013/08/seeing-through-gods-eyes/

This post is about seeing yourself through someone's eyes who always sees the good in you - God. I've had my share of tiresome and frustrating days, and often, these are the times when I begin to feel as though I hate myself. Sure enough, God never fails to tell me how much He loves me. And He loves you, too. He is waiting for you to call to Him, to tell Him how much you need Him and that you know that He can do anything. It does not matter what religion you are born into or what you belive in - there is ONE God, and He is there for you.

Please take a look at this post. It took me some time to gather my thoughts and find relevant references, so I guarantee that it will NOT be a waste of your time! Let me know what you think!