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Being open about mental health: what about eating disorders?

Author:
2109

By Isla Whateley

Content note: Mental health, eating disorders

Society, in the last couple of years, has changed with regards to attitudes to mental illness. Depression and anxiety are becoming less stigmatised – people talk about them a lot, it’s more acceptable to use humour as a form of coping with them, and it’s more understood. Maybe this is just in my social circles and the corners of the Internet I personally inhabit, but it’s a change I have noticed and one I’m thankful for. The rise of mental illness memes too, for me, normalise these conditions without trivialising, and help those suffering find solace and a sense that they’re not alone.

But this is only really for the two ‘main’ (i.e. most talked about, most understood and most focused on) mental illnesses – depression and anxiety. Although I suffer from both, and find these online communities and acceptance very helpful, one of my other illnesses is still hugely stigmatised.

I have an eating disorder. My first appointment with the mental health services is next week, although I’ve suffered for nearly 5 years now. It was only a few months ago that I realised what I had was an eating disorder and went to the doctors to try and get help. Now I’m being open about it, both to myself and everyone else, I’ve noticed some things.

It’s a lot more stigmatised than depression or anxiety. Family members tiptoe around it, and ask me when my “special appointment” is, or will say things like “how’s the food thing” instead of being upfront. Every time I try and use humour as a way of coping, I’m met with awkward looks and uncomfortable silences. Although I have many friends who can relate to ‘depression jokes’, I have comparatively few who ‘get’ the ones I make about food and eating. I know it makes people more worried. People don’t know what to say. And it’s isolating.

A huge symptom of eating disorders is hiding it and denying the fact you have one. I should know, because I did it on and off for 4 years, and still sometimes lie about my eating to friends. So by nature, it’s not talked about nearly as much as it should be. There’s not the same level of understanding in the general population, so people are taken aback when you make a joke about food and how you haven’t eaten all day ha ha. Especially at the stage I’m at right now, where everyone KNOWS you have an eating disorder (because I’ve publicly posted and spoken about it online and to most of my friends), so there’s that constant level of concern every time you make a joke that implies you haven’t eaten, or that you’ve eaten the ‘wrong thing’.

I like to think that I’m doing the right thing by speaking up about it. I hope one day we reach the point that ALL mental illnesses are on an equal playing field with regards to awareness and discussion – even the ones with the worst stigma and stereotypes, like schizophrenia, personality disorders, bipolar and OCD. It’s isolating, and it’s lonely. There’s only so much that a couple of ED-related Facebook meme groups can give you. But I’m not giving up. I hope that someone might see my posts or my tweets, or even this article, and realise it’s okay to talk about it. It’s not easy but it’s okay. And the more you talk, the more people listen.

If you are worried about your eating habits or think you might have an eating disorder, beat is the UK’s national eating disorder charity. They offer a wide range of support which can be found on their website. https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services

Find Isla on Twitter at @islarosem

My bloody menstrual cycle

Author:
periods2

By Christiana Paradis

This article was inspired by the Huffington Post article, No I’m Not Going to Hide My Tampon From You” written by: Madeline Wahl

In middle school, we called them fruit roll ups. We’d draw a friend in close and whisper as though we were about to share the most sacred thing ever, “Do you have a fruit roll up? I didn’t know I was getting it today!” In middle school we couldn’t even utter the word tampon, the fact that we needed to start using them for that thing that happened once a month was so new and awkward and because of the fear of not knowing who else had theirs yet, we had to be very careful with our word choice. At the time, I was so afraid, fearful and ashamed. I do what down there every month? But there was hope. I’d grow up and since all women bleed once month it would have to get normal at some point, right?

WRONG. I’m twenty-six and even though I couldn’t care less about shouting it from the rooftops when I have my period, unfortunately I’m living in a world where women are still ashamed and feel like they need to whisper when they need a tampon, pad, menstrual cup or whatever else they use. Still living in a world where, “It seems like common sense — like, why wouldn’t you hold a tampon on the way to the bathroom instead of shoving it up your sleeve, sliding it in your back pocket, or bringing your whole purse with you, wallet, cell phone, keys and all?” (Wahl, 2015) Yes, we still feel we have to hide our feminine hygiene products instead of carry them to the bathroom.

We all bleed. And we do so because our bodies give LIFE, so why the secrecy? Why the shame? Well what does society tell us? A couple of years ago in TX we were told by lawmakers that tampons were contraband, but guns — they were a-ok. And how could we forget Rupi Kaur whose photo was taken down by Instagram twice because of featuring menstrual blood?

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I mean c’mon who HASN’T this happened to? So who sets those community guidelines anyway, because 50% of your users can totally relate! Furthermore, tampon companies continue to profit off producing the same products they’ve always had, but now in NEW! DISCREET! PACAKAGING!

It infuriates me that we can’t talk about menstrual health, not only in the United States, but across the world, and that this shame takes on such epic proportions that it disrupts women’s access to menstrual hygiene products. As the Guardian reported, “Girls in rural Uganda miss up to eight days of study each school term because they are on their periods…this is due to lack of washrooms, lack of sanitary pads and bullying by peers. This eight days translates into 11% of total learning days a year”.

On May 28th, Menstrual Hygiene Day, WaterAid launched a YouTube campaign entitled “If Men Had Periods,” which included two videos that not only aimed to raise awareness of the issue, but also to critique a society that shames a woman’s menstrual cycle but would celebrate a man’s, if they were capable.

In 2015, ALL women should have access to free menstrual hygiene products. ALL women should feel like they can talk about menstrual hygiene in public spaces without being ashamed. ALL women should be free to walk, run, dance, or tango to the bathroom, tampon in hand without fear. ALL women should know that our bodies do amazing things and yeah it gets messy from time to time, but it does so for the sake of creating life. Well, I’m off because it’s time for me to change MY tampon and no that rant wasn’t “just because I’m PMSing.”

Why Are We So afraid of the F-Word?

Author:
By Gemma Garner
‘I think men and women should be treated equally… but I’m not a feminist!’
At the ripe age of 14, I liked to seem controversial, smart and in the know. ‘I don’t get feminists,’ I’d say ‘why not just be a humanist?’. Of course, I was blissfully unaware that humanism was already, in fact, a thing. Still, I’d feel quite satisfied with myself and my new word, and continue on with my day, making sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks in order to fit in. Because I was a ‘humanist’, of course.
In the 4 years it took me to truly understand what feminism is about, I came across people who were on the same journey as me. And yet, no matter how far they got in understanding the injustices women face on a regular basis in our society, they still struggled to really cross the finish line and gladly call themselves ‘a feminist’.
What does this mean? Mostly good things, actually. The majority of young women are beginning to take the time to understand their rights and have a voice, have independence, and speak up. Despite their hesitance to label themselves as a dreaded ‘feminist’, I still find myself overcome with joy when I see women everywhere take a stand and defend women worldwide. There’s hope!
I’ve heard many, many reasons as to why women and men can’t be associated with feminism. It still shocks me when I see women in the spotlight further create misconceptions about feminism… whilst still being incredible role models. Shailene Woodley, for example, is a very powerful, independent, confident woman, who’s taken a stand for women everywhere with her own little (undeclared) forms of activism. She proves that beauty does not have to be accentuated with makeup, by baring her makeup-less face on the red carpet on a regular basis. But still she insists that she is not a feminist, because she ‘loves men’ and thinks we ‘need balance’. Oh, Shailene. What you’re thinking of is misandry, not feminism. By believing in equality you aren’t required to hate men, or to believe women should be the superior gender… that’s an entirely different matter.
I know feminism can be complex, and not all feminists have the same opinion on certain things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist you’re proud of. So, to all out there who believe in equality, even those who insist they aren’t a feminist (I’m talking to you, Shailene), I give you this, the ‘Am I the F word?’ quiz. You’re welcome.
Feminism_Quiz

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