Welcome to MTC’s July Newsletter. We’re exploring anti-depressants in Recovery from the perspective of a fully recovered person and from the perspective of a parent, also looking at our definition of beauty and how it can change when we recover, some movie reviews and fun, nutritious recipes. Hopefully you find some helpful tips in this month’s newsletter to help enhance your journey to full freedom.
Are Anti-Depressants Pro-Recovery?
Having recently read the piece on Antidepressants in recovery on the website it got me thinking about their place in my own journey. Of course, they did feature as I went to various places for help – it’d seem they’re quite readily handed out in some cases – but looking back now, I’m so glad that their part in my recovery journey was short-lived.
Marino was the first place I came to that was not eager to hand me a Prozac prescription, in fact one of my tasks to tackle there, under medical guidance, was to gradually stop taking them. Anti-depressants in my experience were given as a solution to my symptoms; I was told by trusted professionals that they would help me, they’d make me feel better, they’d even reduce behaviours. I desperately wanted to believe that and just finally feel okay so this seemingly simple solution appeared ideal.
But the thing is, they don’t actually have that power. I would argue that their powers don’t stretch much further than inducing brain fog and numbness. Though I suppose I could also add intense nightmares, night sweats, agitation and suicidal thinking. I can’t really remember a whole lot of what it was like when I was on them, but I do know the dose kept getting higher and on reflection, there’s so much wrong with that.
Like, is it just me or is it not strange that my levels of serotonin were never tested? Considering this little pill is there to balance something, should we not know the specific levels of imbalance first? Is it not unusual that blood tests aren’t mandatory to monitor the effects of this physical substance building up in my body? What was actually being achieved here? Stagnation, if anything, would answer that last one. I would not deem them to have been any help or of any significance in my actual progress.
As I said, it was in Marino where I stopped taking them and it’s also Marino where I recovered. Maybe these pills can temporarily give us something, maybe we’ve found they take the edge off or make us feel like we’re doing something to help ourselves but personally, my crucial change and growth only came when I was encouraged to take the power into my own all natural hands to fully recover. When I was just being me and putting my energy back into me, recovery tumbled into play.
What I do recall is that it can be scary coming off them, especially when we’ve been told they’ll do x,y,z but the thing is, we’re the only ones who can ever do x,y,z. Recovery to me allowed me feel whole, all emotions allowed and all of my humanity felt. There’s no place for numbness in a real, authentic experience, I just don’t see that as wholly living. So while we may feel like we’re losing a crutch, we’re really just learning to walk again.
There aren’t quick fixes for this process and I’m genuinely glad that there isn’t. For me, it’s about discovery, learning and exploration of ourselves. And trust me, brain fog does not contribute well to such things! Having discovered that it was my thinking that strengthened much of my distress, I got to work on my thinking. I put time into discovering who I was, working on my values, my beliefs, my self-worth and so many more of the fundamentals of freedom.
You cannot prescribe me any dose of chemicals that can give those results and having had the experience of this journey, I honestly wouldn’t want you to.
Yvonne – Fully Recovered
A Parent’s Perspective on Prescription Drugs in Recovery
I am a parent of two girls whom have gone through an Eating Distress and from the first day of trying to get them help, people have tried to push drugs on them. Doctors and health professionals seem to think that the way to treat eating disorders is to medicate and I totally disagree with this.
Both my girls went through the services of our state system and on both occasions I refused to allow them be medicated. Even our GP recommended medication and eventually my daughter went on a mild form of anti depressant. Having been to several therapists and literally going round in circles, we got the opportunity to meet with a clinic that specialised in Eating Disorders. Unfortunately though their ethos was also to medicate. We went along with this as we had no other choice if we were to engage in their services. The medication she was put on was a type of SSRI and the idea was to increase her dosage to a certain level whereby the medication would stop her behaviours in the same way as it was used for OCD.
This did not happen. She became agitated, couldn’t sleep and the behaviours continued. One day she decided to take twice the controlled dosage. This was not a suicide attempt, quite the opposite, she was in fact trying to make herself feel better, after all, she had been told the higher the dosage the more effective it would be!
This was in December 2012, and in January 2013 she started her recovery in the Marino Therapy Centre. One of the first things she did was to be medically supervised as she weaned off the SSRI and then she did her recovery medication free. She is now fully recovered and did it without the use of medication!
My second child did not remain in this country and decided to go abroad. After a few years, she was diagnosed with bi-polar. Once again medication was the first means of treatment. In fact she hasn’t actually been offered any other type of treatment. It’s just medicate and make sure and keep your prescription up to date! However, after having been on medication for a few years, she recently decided that it was not actually helping. All these chemicals, that actually have so many other possible side effects, some of which can be dangerous, were actually doing her no good. Four months ago she decided to wean off all medications and hasn’t felt better in herself for such a long time. People are actually commenting to her how well she looks, how happy she is, how even keeled she is. She is once again in touch with her feelings and emotions, having had them numbed for so long by the various medications.
Medications have not been proved to help, as another article on this website mentions, how can you measure a person’s serotonin levels and balance them, when there is no actual scale. Medications tend to stop you from actively participating in this world. They tend to cause sleepiness or insomnia, they tend to numb your feelings, they even tend to increase the risk of suicide, so how can this be helpful?
As a mother of two daughters who have experienced eating disorders, I cannot and will not ever agree, that medication has a place in recovery. My youngest did her recovery medication free and now my eldest is following in the same way. Therapy, life skills, and changing our thinking are huge in the recovery of a brain that has for some reason gotten stuck in a negative world, medication cannot change your thinking, it can impair it and it can distort it, but the real recovery is with talking, learning, and changing.
Tips & Support for Parents/Carers
Following Saturday’s group session, 11.6.16, I felt that I just had to share a bit of my experience of my daughters recovery. This was my second time round with having had two daughters with an eating disorder. The first time round there was no help, there was no support, and in fact if you googled the causes of ED quite often the parents and family were blamed. I was very alone and very stressed out with trying to help my child, deal with the arguments and protect the two younger siblings from knowing what was going on. However, second time round has been different. This time there was more education available on the illness of Eating Distress. The family were not to blame and you could actually get involved in your child’s recovery.
This time around there was Recovery Class for both the carers of loved ones and for the loved ones, together. This recovery class is very facilitated and has a huge energy in the room. People are there because they want to be. Because they want to learn, want to share some of their experiences and want to share what has helped them. It is not a forum for comparing how bad or how ill any one person is, but instead it is a forum for each and every person who has any form of eating distress to be helped, supported and comforted in a very non judgemental setting.
As a parent it helped me to see that my child was not unique in the behaviours that she engaged in. That if she did not respect her safety, or did not engage in therapy, or refused to eat, or refused to stop eating, whatever the behaviour was, that she was not alone, that this was nothing new. But it also helps the sufferers know, what we as parents are going through. How we worry about them, how we want to help them, or even how some parents just can’t face it. It also gives the clients the opportunity to inform the carers what helps and what doesn’t help, but at the same time acknowledging that that is their experience and not necessarily what works for everyone. Attending the recovery classes brings like-minded people together and people who are all striving for something better. It helps you understand what some of the struggles are for the people who are experiencing the eating distress and also to learn how they are recovering from them. It helps you learn and accept that the journey is one with lots of little bumps in the road, with lots of choices, and that a step backwards is not a failing, but instead a learning.
Now in Marino you have the added opportunities of learning about and educating yourself on the illness and its recovery from the Parents Workshops that are run periodically. These unfortunately came too late for me, but I did actually attend one. At this workshop I learnt how I could maybe have done things slightly differently, not that I ever want to have to deal with it again! It gives you skills on how best to work with your loved one and at the same time look after yourself.
There is also the opportunity to engage in care work. I know when I was going through this for the second time that I didn’t cope with it very well myself. I did all the right things for my daughter, be it by supporting, encouraging, financing, trekking backwards and forwards to sessions and the doctor, attending group, doing family sessions, etc etc etc, but I didn’t do anything for me. I could have done with someone to talk to about how this was affecting me, how I could perhaps support her better, how maybe I could start letting go again and trusting her to stay safe and healthy. Getting some support for yourself and taking a time out for yourself is also so important. So perhaps maybe think about a care work session or two just for you. After all, the healthier and happier you are, the more controlled and capable you will be to help your loved one. Don’t reach burn out before you reach out!
Finally, as a parent/carer perhaps consider the following for yourself :
- Engage in some self care every day.
- Do not tolerate bad behaviours directed at you.
- Walk away from an antagonistic situation until you are both calm enough to discuss it
- Don’t waste time and energy on feeling guilty.
- Educate yourself.
- Attend group sessions regularly.
- Talk and get support.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable – its human afterall.
- Take the journey with your loved one, it will be hard, it will have its ups and down, it will have its fun parts, it will have its successes – but in the end its worth it.
- Always believe there is full recovery.
- Believe in your loved one
- Do not personalise their bad behaviours!
- For your loved one
- Don’t smother your loved one
- Listen to him/her
- Give your loved one space when they need it.
- Learn to trust him/her again. (with nutrition, safety, alcohol etc)
- Acknowledge the successes
- Let your loved one recover in their own time.
- Do not accuse them of doing this to you – they did not ask for this illness.
- Let them know you love them/proud of them
- Support and encourage your loved one.
- Be there for them.
- Do not pressure them into talking about their therapy sessions. They will talk when they are ready.
- Do not expect a quick fix.
- Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do – and don’t be offended if they say “nothing”
- If they are in education or working, consider whether time out from these may be of benefit in your loved ones recovery.
- Encourage continuity of care – I firmly believe that this was a crucial part to my daughter’s recovery. She started with twice weekly sessions, then weekly, had nutritional sessions, group sessions, doctor visits and care work sessions.
- Ask only that your loved one does his or her best, not what you expect or what other family members have achieved. Treat them as an individual.
- I’m sure there are many other tips that could be added to this as with each journey there are different experiences. Good luck to anyone who is starting their journey, it’s an interesting one with many ups and downs, so celebrate the ups and learn from the downs. Get as much help and support as you can and practice self-care every day. Keep the light of hope shining and always believe that there is full recovery. I have witnessed it!!
Carers and Recovery
Words from a Freedom Fighter
At the very beginning of my ‘recovery’, before MTC, my mam made the decision to commit to doing whatever she could do to help me. She bashed down walls, researched online for places I go get treatment and basically threw herself into trying to get me to work on recovery. In the depths on ED, I had no idea the effect this was having on her emotionally – she was so determined but also fearful.
When we came to MTC, my mam became a class-member too. She attended group on a weekly basis regardless of whether I went or not in the early days. Initially she wanted to learn about ED and to gain understanding. She has since told me that by coming to MTC, she learned how to put complete trust in my practitioners. She saw the recovered and free people coming to group and believed that I could be one of them too. She listened to other freedom fighters share things that I initially wasn’t able to express myself, and could identify times that I was struggling at home. Group is a safe place for her to leave her worry behind and to share what is concerning her so that afterwards she comes home much clearer and refreshed. Her attitude at home with me gradually changed – instead of the worry and the anxiety and the stress about the family and me she learned how to manage challenging situations. She often says how she’s learning another language – a new way of speaking and expressing. With time she knew how to react to the things my condition shouted, cried or whispered to her and knew that the real me was still there under the distress
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Dressing for Recovery Class
I’ve heard it mentioned a number of times that if someone walked in off the street on a Tuesday evening or Saturday morning they would think they had stumbled into a book club meeting, rather than an eating distress group. In many ways this is true. But this is not a book club. It is a place where people with eating distress meet to try to learn more about what they can do to recover. Everyone is different and is at different stages. Most attendees are super sensitive. They are prone to comparisons. Every day can be a challenge. They are trying to love themselves and their bodies again.
A one Recovery Class a Freedom Fighter mentioned their belly. They were speaking about how they were much more connected they are to their body now and they were using ‘belly’ as part of an example of how they used to think and feel about their body. It was a completely positive, honest sharing. However immediately afterwards a Carer spoke about how the entire atmosphere in the room had changed at the mention of this little word.
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Recovery Suggestions in 4 Words or Less!
The beginning is hardest.
Then it gets easier.
Don’t give up.
Have fun with it.
Spread hope where possible.
Learn to simplify.
Less talk, more action.
Learn the freedom lingo.
Reassure yourself every day.
Give yourself credit.
Go to bed early.
Answer the condition back.
Listen to uplifting songs.
Watch more TED talks.
Explore a new hobby.
Stay in the present.
Less trying, more doing.
Crawl if you must.
Count your blessings.
Write daily gratitude lists.
Collect role models.
Let free you speak!
Be open to change.
Ditch the overanalysing.
Walk (slowly) in nature.
Don’t scare yourself.
Look at the birds.
Say hello to strangers.
Say yes to opportunity.
Meet friends; don’t isolate.
Make health a priority.
Answer with ‘at least…’
Criticise yourself less.
Stop saying ‘I can’t…’
Prioritise self care.
Embrace your sensitivity.
Give trust a chance.
Do as you’re told.
Floss your mind everyday.
Nourish every few hours.
Ban unnecessary apologising.
Share your opinions.
Dare to dream.
Search out hope.
Prioritise your journey.
Cry the condition out.
Let it go.
Free yourself of shame.
Embrace your differences.
Speak the truth.
Overdose on kindness.
Live in candle abundance.
Don’t shy from challenges.
Remember you are loved.
Remember we care.