Friday, 28 February 2014

What to believe?

Where do you get your information from? The internet? Others? Celebrities? News? Books? Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers? What kind of information do you seek from these sources? It is not uncommon for us to seek information on medications, lifestyle advice, nutrition, exercise, signs and symptoms, etc online. We might not have time to ask our healthcare providers, or we may not remember to ask. We also may feel intimidated to ask certain questions, so we feel that the internet will provide us with a 'safe' and comfortable way of getting information.

And that is not always bad. There are some great websites that provide great health information. But how do you know when what you are reading is true and reliable? For example, let's assume that you are looking online for information on whether or not drinking milk causes cancer. If you type this into google, you will more than likely find many different websites with information about this topic. Which information should you believe? How do you know what is true and reliable?

There are many ways to evaluate ways to determine if information is reliable and if you should believe it or not. First, you should try to stick with sites that are operated by medical organizations that are certified; for example, Canadian Diabetes Association or the Canadian Cancer Society. Great websites like PubMed are also useful, although these are usually tailored to healthcare professionals or individuals who understand research and medical terminology.

Next, look for sources of information. Where did the author get their information from? Did the person cite references, such as the studies that he or she used to write their article? This should be included whenever possible, so that readers can see the information themselves and evaluate what the research found without any bias. But remember, citing sources and studies is not always a reliable indicator. Some studies may not be conducted well, and they may report false conclusions. Go to this site: Sure, the author is apparently a 'Dr'. But there are so many grammatical errors on the page, and there aren't any sources for where the author got the information from. Also, there is no evidence of an in-depth discussion of the issue. All we can see is why we should not drink milk - but there isn't evidence of WHY or HOW milk causes cancer, what benefits milk has for us, etc. In summary, this website is NOT trustworthy - at least, the information and the way it is stated here isn't something you would use as your only source of knowledge. There isn't enough proof on the site to make you believe that what they are saying is true.

What about this article? First, this article contains many references, and if you were to go to each reference, you could see that they were many individual studies - some of them reliable, others not. However, the article DOES tell us WHY milk may be associated with prostate cancer, but it also tells us that this is not a direct cause. So, some people who drank milk also had prostate cancer, but this does not mean that milk CAUSES cancer. The article also states that more evidence is required to determine if milk causes cancer, or if there is something else we are missing here. Also, the article does not tell us, in the end, to avoid all milk consumption. It simply states that more research is needed, and that milk may be related to cancer. This does not mean that we all need to stop  drinking is simply an observation. For example, drinking too much water can cause death. Should we all stop drinking water? No. Again, moderation is often the best way to go.

So, when you are searching for advice, remember what I just talked about. Also, don't make any decisions without consulting your healthcare team and confirming that what you heard or read is true. Do not be a follower od advice without knowing whether or not it is true, reliable, and trustworthy!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Positive Affirmations and Emotions

A positive affirmation is a statement that gives someone strength, peace, comfort, or a sense of control and power. Simply put, they are things we can say to ourselves to makes us feel good, or help us in times of trouble. I'm not suggesting that you say these out loud to yourself, although you can. But usually what I do is repeat some of these in my head when I feel overwhelmed. I've listed some of my favourite or most-used ones. You may have your own - use those as well! The point of these affirmations is to help us feel strong in times of weakness or despair. They truly help, but it ttakes practice. Sometimes, you might not even have the ability to believe what you are saying. But at other times, you can really think about what the affirmation says, and it can help a lot. They can also help you focus on what is happening, why, and what you can do about it.

1) When you feel angry
-anger is a normal human emtion
-I am angry and that is okay. But why am I angry? Should I be angry? What happened?
-am I angry with myself, with someone else, or because of something that happened?
-is there a solution to this problem?
-have I hurt someone because of my anger? Can I do something to fix this?
-how can I calm myself down? Take a walk, drink something, take deep breathes, etc...?

2) When you are sad
-why am I sad? Did something hurt me physically or emotionally?
-do I feel hopeless?
-can I find ANYTHING good in the situation?
-is there someone I can talk to? Do I feel misunderstood?
-am I lonely? Do I just want someone to be there for me, or to tell me that everything will be okay?
-I might feel sad now, but things do get better. They always do. It might not be easy, but I need to look for a solution. What can I do about this?
-Are there any positive things about this situation? Did I learn something new?

3) When you are stressed
-what is happening? Why does this make me feel stressed?
-how do I know that I am stressed? Do I feel hot, tense, sweaty, etc.? Is my heart beating fast? Do I feel dizzy or want to throw up?
-Is there anything I can do to take some stress away? Can I use any relaxation techniques?
-I feel stressed and that is okay. We all get overwhelmed. But the longer I feel stressed, the harder it will become. I need to think of ways to help myself, or to make the situation better.
-Life is hectic, and we all get frustrated. I am not different. But I also know that I can handle tough situations.
-Try to remember a difficult time before and how you handled it. Can you do the same thing now?

And there are other emotions as well, but I am sure you get the general idea. Reorient yourself and try to take control over how you feel. Remind yourself that emotions are normal and human, but you should also try to think of ways to make yourself better. Find ways to express your emotions, though - this is very important. Sometimes, we do not always want solutions. Expressing our feelings is all we need. That is okay, because solutions can come later. Find ways to help yourself, or seek others to help you. Emotions become easier to handle and experience when you acknowledge your right to emotions, and you also feel better knowing that you CAN overcome this situation.

Friday, 14 February 2014

My Identity Crsis: Published!

I have a confession to make. I struggled for around seven years, trying to find out 'who I really was'. Some might call it an identity crisis, others may call it crazy, To be honest, it doesn't matter what you call it: the end result was the same. I was being controlled by ED, and this made me wonder what was ME, and what was ED.

This is what this post is on. But you can't read it on my blog...because it is PUB:LISHED on NEDIC! NEDIC really liked this piece and felt that it was powerful and reached out to many people...not just those with ED. I'm sure we all go through something similar. Think back to a struggle that you face. It could be a medical illness, such as diabetes or cancer. It could be something mental, such as depression or anxiety. It could even be a habit you have, such as smoking or swearing.

Sometimes, it is hard to determine who is control of our lives: is it the illness/addiction/habit, or is it US (and by us, I don't mean to discount God's role. I just mean: who is in control of your thoughts, feelings, etc). For example, if you struggle with alcoholism, you may WANT to stop drinking. But it isn't that easy, is it? No. You really WANT to, but you CANNOT because of the addiction. Or, if you have depression, you WANT to feel better. But you cannot because you feel so sad or hopeless.

I struggled with this when I was ill with ED. At times, I said I wanted to die as long as I could stay thin. But that wasn't was the eating disorder. It took me so long (and a lot of crying, shouting, eating, gaining weight, and reflecting) to realize that this was not me. I had to be stronger than the ED. I wanted to get better, and soon, I vowed that it didn't matter how long it would take me...I was going to recover from ED, and I would be myself again.

So please, check this post out and comment here and at NEDIC, if you wish to. Are you struggling with an identity crisis? Don't worry - we all do. The key is to recover from it: to realize that you are stronger, smarter, and braver than you think you are.

Friday, 7 February 2014

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 2 - February 8 of this year, 2014, is/was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada (other countries may have different days). Clearly, this is a big deal. But why? What's so important about eating disorders? Why have a whole week for awareness?

As a recovered patient with anorexia nervosa, this week is super important to me. It is the week when everyone should aim to learn at least one important thing about eating disorders. Of course, there is so much to know. Did you know that ED is the number one killer of all mental illnesses? Did you know that someone can have an ED even if they don't look thin? Did you know that EDs can cause damage to the body (on the inside) that tests and blood work may not even be able to detect? Did you know that most patients with ED do not get help until they are close to death? Did you know that recovery from ED is nowhere close to being a simple and quick fix? Did you know that ED is NOT just about the food, but about other factors, self-esteem, body image, and more?

I challenge and urge you to take a moment at least once this week to learn something new about ED. Since I have recovered, I have devoted much of my time to advocating for EDs and mental illnesses. This week, I want you to know that EDs are real, mental, and terrible illnesses. I want you to know that although having a week for ED awareness is great, we all need to be aware of ED all the time. If you or someone you know might be ill with ED, please DO NOT delay getting help, Sure, you might not feel ill now. But you will be sick one day, and ED will become stronger and stronger. I was ill with ED for seven years. Even as a smart student - and one who is studying to be a nurse - I still got sick with ED.. Coming from a culture where food is loved, I still developed an eating disorder. ED does not discriminate against anyone - young or old, short or tall, male or female, etc.

Finally, my message to everyone - with ED or not - is to learn to love yourself. Love your body for what it helps you do. Love your abilities and talents. Love your smile and laugh, and use them whenever possible. Learn to accept your weaknesses and to use them to improve your skills or knowledge. Let go of grudges and strive to be the best you can be. Do not compare yourself or your skills to anyone else. Be your own competition. Do not let anyone take you down or make you feel inferior. \Make goals and strive to achieve them. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve anything. Many healthcare providers told me that I would never recover - and here I am, fully recovered and healthy. I was bullied and hated by others - but here I am, writing my blog and for other organizations, and living a happy life.  It is POSSIBLE. Recovering from ED - or from any mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc.) is possible - but do not give up. Wake up each morning and know that today will have some good in it. Refuse to let the world tell you that you aren't good enough. Because you are. Surround yourself with people who love you and who care for you simply because you are YOU - a special, beautiful, handsome, smart, and unique individual.

So, this week was dedicated to raising awareness about eating disorders! They are real mental illnesses and deserve treatment, attention, care, and support! Of course, we should strive to make this known all year long...but remember, regardless of what day of the year is, mental health illnesses are real, and they are not something to be ashamed of!