While anorexia in itself is a severe form of mental illness, there is often a cormobidity of other illnesses that can occur. Mine happens to coincide with my bipolar disorder.
I suspect I always had bipolar disorder since I was very small; my moods were never even or stable. There also happens to be a strong genetic background within my family. My family life was not easy and I looked to food for comfort as well as to stabilize my mood. I was often overweight in my childhood and adolescence and was called fat more times than I care to count. My moods worsened and I sank into years of anorexia.
I was put on a consistent flow of antidepressants. This is detrimental for someone who is bipolar as it induces mania. Mania is where your brain is flooded with serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and gaba. What that means is you make impulsive decisions and have very high self esteem, and in my case I feel that have no need for food when I am manic. There are different forms of bipolar and the way people react. Not everyone that has an eating disorder is bipolar. All these chemicals in my brain flood me with such “feel good” feelings I literally could go days without eating very much and feel fine. I have such frenetic energy I am burning what little I do eat.
My Breaking Point
I was not diagnosed until I was 22. I had full blown mania with psychosis, had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. I was doing too much and taking on too many projects which rapidly spiraled out of control. I was also on numerous diet pills for 15 years which would fuel my mania. I would not take my medication in order to feel the mania and the control I thought I had by starving my body. It enhanced these feelings. The downside to the mania was the severe, horrible, and debilitating depressions I would get where I could barely get out of bed. Once the mania took its course I would start eating again. I would gain a few pounds and it would spiral me deeper into depression.
Recently I had become manic triggered by the fact I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis and not medicated. My world fell apart. Those chemicals flooded my brain and I had no need for much sleep and decreased need for food. I was dropping weight rapidly – to my elation as I am a severe restrictor with food. I didn’t even think about food. I had no desire for food, it was every anorexic’s dream. Then I crashed and went back on medication. My current depression is keeping my weight stabilized because I have no desire to eat. I am sitting here wondering: As my mood continues to stabilize and my interstitial cystitis improves does this mean I’m going to gain weight because my appetite will be more stabilized? I look forward to seeing a nutritionist so that I can be healthy and prevent my weight from spiraling out of control in either direction.
It is very difficult to survive with an eating disorder and be bipolar because one could always trigger the other. Not to mention I will have severe interstitial cystitis forever. It feels like I have a chronic UTI with no infection present. While I am a normal weight, I still very much carry the anorexic’s mindset. I have horrific body dysmorphia as well. Despite all this I am trying to see myself as a warrior. I am trying to hold a full time job as a laboratory department trainer, have a husband, friends and family and sweet animals. It is definitely a daily struggle of finding balance while recovering from my disordered eating and preventing further relapses into bipolar disorder or hoping my interstitial cystitis does not get worse.
Most people with just one of these conditions has the risk for suicide. I have all of these and I am still alive. That means there is hope for all of you out there who struggle too. Never give up hope. It is all we have.
Writer: Alannah Saunders
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