I now have a diagnosis of anorexia in remission, and I am in a good place with my recovery.
I also have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, an illness which I manage very well most of the time. Although these two conditions are unrelated, when they collide they are toxic.
There is a huge overlap between eating disorders and depression, which to me makes perfect sense. It’s well known that adequate nutrition is a huge part of contributing to overall positive wellbeing, and not nourishing yourself properly is obviously going to impact upon that. Added to that the rock bottom self esteem, intrusive thoughts and feelings of utter worthlessness, and that’s a pretty potent mixture. It’s clear that eating disorders and depression go hand in hand.
What may be more unclear, however, is the relationship between mania and eating disorders. The lure of mania is well documented – although it is disruptive it is also fun (to a point), and I’ve had some of my very best ideas when manic. I already have the temptation to try and engineer an episode (though I never have done). However, there is another layer to this for me. When I am manic, I am busy and I have no appetite. I don’t eat, and without fail I always lose weight. That means that when I come back around and stabilise and I suddenly have to start eating normally again, I don’t want to. Suddenly that anorexic voice is back telling me how easy it was to lose that weight, how I should just carry on not eating for a little longer. I challenge it now but the thoughts are intense. So not only do I have the thoughts of how happy and creative and productive I am when I’m manic, I also have the thought that hey, I can also be thinner.
It’s toxic and I hate it. Although up to this point I have been able to avoid this, I don’t know if that will be the case forever. It is stressful because it means not only do I have to work extra hard at managing my mood, I have to put a lot of extra effort into my eating disorder recovery, which as some of you will know is incredibly difficult – that voice is so powerful. It means that not only do I have the anxiety of suffering a bipolar relapse, I have to worry that it will cause an anorexia relapse too.
Recovery doesn’t take a day off, and when you have more than one mental illness it’s twice as hard to maintain.
I can do it and I will do it, but the anxiety around a ‘double relapse’ is very real.