Tuesday 5 February 2019

"Eating Disorders: What Are We Truly Hungry For?"

❤️❤️ c 
For two years in my 30's I had an eating disorder: bulimia. It took me ten years to admit that to anyone, even my doctor. I felt so much shame. So. Much. Shame.

I had a job that was high pressure, in an industry that I hated, working for people whose values conflicted with what I believed in. I was in a deep depression, had horrible anxiety and every night after work I would bring home take out, binge eat and then immediately throw up. 

I wasn’t hungry for food. I was hungry for comfort. I wanted to relieve the extreme discomfort in my life, a life that I didn’t feel that I had much control over at that moment in time. So, I ate. And, I felt better immediately. Momentarily.

But half an hour later, a few hours later, the next day? The guilt and shame were overwhelming.

I finally quit that job - walked away without another job to go to. Eventually my mental health improved, and the bulimia ended.

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada. Eating disorders don’t just affect women or teenage girls. Eating disorders cross socio-economic boundaries, gender, cultural background and sexual orientation.

Here are some statistics about eating disorders in Canada:

  • Four percent of boys in grades nine and ten reported anabolic steroid use in a 2002 study, showing that body preoccupation and attempts to alter one’s body are issues affecting both men and women.
    Boyce, W. F. (2004). Young people in Canada: their health and well-being. Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada.
  • Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with AN will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder.
    Sullivan, P. (2002). Course and outcome of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In Fairburn, C. G. & Brownell, K. D. (Eds.). Eating Disorders and Obesity (pp. 226-232). New York, New York: Guilford.
  • Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.
    (Stice et al., 1999).

Today I still have a complicated relationship with food. And I still feel some shame. But I also understand that an eating disorder is a mental disorder – an illness. I am trying to focus on healthy habits and making positive choices that will have a lasting impact on my mental and physical wellbeing. It’s not easy – I follow the adage of “one day at a time.”

I share this story - and my other experiences with mental illness - so that the other person (maybe you) feels just a little less alone. And it also helps me to chip away at the shame and embrace the fact that the hard times have shaped who I am today.

By shifting the narrative around eating disorders – around all mental disorders, really – we can create a healthier, more understanding and empathetic world. And that’s what I truly hunger for.

KB xo

Wednesday 30 January 2019

"On Bell Let's Talk Day Count Me In"

Help end the stigma around mental illness.  It’s easier than you think! Here's a tip from #BellLetsTalk. #endstigma
I have a fantasy. Or maybe it's a dream, or a wish. Perhaps it's all of those things.

At a particular time, on a particular day - maybe it's a Tuesday or it could be a Saturday - every single person in the world who lives with a mental illness, and every single person who has ever experienced one, takes one step forward. That one step is a step out of the closet of mental illness.

That closet is a dark and lonely place. It's where shame and stigma live. It's where illness gathers strength. It's a place that encourages mythology to thrive outside of its dark recesses. 

We place people there because we don't really understand disorders of the brain. We still largely fear them. People with mental illness are crazy, unstable, emotional and dangerous. People with addiction are losers. They are lazy and lack self-control and discipline.

We tell ourselves so many stories - through media and through the language that we use. As a result, we take illnesses that are inherently isolating and make the isolation even worse.

Here are some startling statistics about the state of mental illness in our society today:

* Two in three Canadians suffer in silence fearing judgement and rejection. - Canadian Medical Association

* One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. - Canadian Institute of Health Research

*Less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research. - Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health

* Only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. - Canadian Medical Association

That last statistic is particularly heartbreaking to me. It keeps people isolated. Isolation, stigma and shame are what prevent people from seeking help and treatment. It is, quite simply, what ends lives.

So, how do we shift this? How do we create an empathetic world where you don't have to understand the illness, you just have to recognize human suffering and move towards it rather than moving away from it?

Last week my friend, Stephanie, messaged me. She said that she was planning to post about mental illness on social media as part of Bell Let's Talk Day on January 30th. And then she said this, "What else can I do?"

That is the first time that a friend has ever asked me that. 

What else can I do?

The power in that question.

Here is the answer...

We talk about it. We share our stories and we shift the narrative. There is incredible power in storytelling.

We challenge less than inclusive language and behaviors. We advocate for each other. We act just a tiny bit brave and perhaps a little bit vulnerable.

What Stephanie was saying to me in that message was this: I am not just an ally, I am also an advocate. I stand beside you, not behind you. Count me in.

On Bell Let's Talk Day and every day of every year can we count you in, too?

KB xo

Learn more about mental health and mental illness. Education and knowledge are power.


Friday 28 December 2018

"To New Beginnings"

It's a page turner for sure! Comedy, tragedy, action, horror and romance. Working on the happy ending. <3

Christmas and Hanukkah are over. The new year is just around the corner. Most of us are considering how we are going to get back on track with some resolutions around eating better, getting more exercise and the things that we want to achieve at work. But are you also considering your mental health?

The past year was a difficult one for me. I lost someone dear to me to cancer and I struggled in my professional life. This all took a toll on my mental health; I experienced heightened anxiety throughout the year and a recurrence of my depression, both to an alarming degree.

I could have chalked this all up to just a shitty year, frankly. But one thing that I have come to believe over the years is this: there is always a lesson.

My lesson was this:

Life is too short.

It's too short to not live it on your own terms and in ways that support your overall well-being: physical, mental, social, spiritual and financial.

In 2018 I was faced with what I recognized as a choice. Continue to live a life that was clearly impacting my health in a negative way or change what I could. So I did that. I made a BIG change and started my own business.

It was, perhaps, a big decision to make during a time that I was very unwell. But I listened to my intuition and it turned out to be the right thing for me. I knew it almost immediately.  After many months of reflection - and mourning my friend gone too soon, only six months older than me -  when I chose my new path I felt relief and a lightness that I hadn't felt in ages.

The old path had served me well. Until it didn't. Time to follow a new path.

In the past month I have had four friends reach out to me to share their private struggles with depression - three of whom are experiencing this for the first time. My message to them and to you is this: you are not alone, you are not weak and there is support available to you.

In the words of Oprah, this is what I know for sure: to live your best life - whatever that means for you - means that you must be intentional. Just as you brush your teeth, make emotional well-being a regular, daily practice. Consider what is working in your life and consider what is not.

The coming year holds many great, wonderful things. And I am equally certain that it will hold challenges. But you can meet those challenges head on - I believe in you. And you are not alone.

KB xo

P.S. Here are some resources that I think are pretty great:

5 Mental health apps to try

 Ted Talk: Guy Winch: Why we all need to practice emotional hygiene

Ted Talk: Nikki Webber Allen: Don't suffer from your depression in silence

12 Canadian books that explore mental illness 

The five essential elements of well-being

Sunday 11 November 2018

5 Things You Need To Know About Men & Mental Health

a battle against food, body image, and mental health does not make you any less of a warrior.  #bodyimage #mentalhealth #devotional #quotes 

Man up. That’s what we tell the men in our society. You must not show weakness. The messaging that we send to men is consistently one of  hyper-masculinity.

What happens when a man experiences anything less than Western society's ideal of the ultimate strong male characteristics? What happens when a man experiences depression or anxiety?

The reality is that men do experience mental illness. It's not just something that impacts women.

1. When we talk about mental health we tend to focus more on women.
When I first decided to write this post to coincide with Movember, I began googling statistics on men and mental illness. Here's what I found: not a lot and certainly not enough. And that is a problem. While women still experience mental illnesses at higher rates then men, the gap between the sexes is smaller than one might guess. 

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the StatsCan Canadian Community Health Survey on mental health and well-being "found that 10% of men experienced symptoms of the surveyed mental health disorders and substance dependencies, compared to 11% of women."

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one in four people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Illnesses associated with mental health challenges are now the number one category of disability worldwide. And in Canada, by the age of 40 almost 50% of us will have experienced a mental illness.

2. Men often don't recognize when they have depression.
Many of us - men and women - associate sadness with depression. Men will often display symptoms that differ from women such as anger, hostility and aggression. And many still don't understand that mental illnesses also manifest themselves physically. Classic physical symptoms of a mood disorder are back pain, migraines and digestive issues. Because we don't associate these things with depression, men often go undiagnosed. And that is dangerous.

3. More men die by suicide than women.
Women are more likely to attempt suicide but men are more successful at it - at a rate of four times more than women. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that suicide is the second most common cause of death among Canadian men in the age group of 10 - 49 years of age. Yes, you read that correctly; males as young as age ten die by suicide. It's a staggering statistic.

4. We don't want to talk about it.
Depression and death by suicide are frequently referred to as a silent epidemic. Because there is still so much stigma, misunderstanding, bias and frankly, discrimination, that surround the topic of metal illness, many men don't want to talk about it; we still buy into the belief that men must be strong.

In the words of broadcaster and mental health advocate Michael Landsberg, "Sick not Weak." Mental illness are real illnesses and they cut across culture, socioeconomic status and gender. To have an illness - any illness - is not a moral failure. We have to keep telling ourselves this. And we have to begin believing it. Lives depend on it.

5. There is help.
If you think that you may have a mental illness, please ask for help. Visit your doctor, go to a clinic, tell a loved one. One thing that I have learned from sharing my own experiences with mental illness is this: it is extremely rare that the person you tell has not had some experience with depression or anxiety - if not them then it's a friend, colleague or family member.

What if you think a friend or loved one is struggling? Start a conversation. It's as simple as saying this, "You aren't quite yourself lately. Is there anything that you want to talk about? I care about you." And if you think that someone is considering suicide, ask them. I promise that your question is an important one and could save a life. Don't be scared to ask.

Here are some resources to get help and to learn more about mental illness:
Suicide Prevention Canada
Heads Up Guys
Mental Health Commission of Canada

In the words of former American President Bill Clinton, "Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."

The strongest people in the world are the ones who recognize when they need help and ask for it. It's time that we redefine the word strength.

KB xo

P.S. Here are a list of common symptoms of depression. Please note that not everyone experiences all of these - human beings are all unique and symptoms will differ among us. If you think you may have a mental illness, please visit a health care professional for a professional diagnosis. 
  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
  • Feeling anxious, restless, or “on the edge”
  • Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
  • Problems with sexual desire and performance
  • Feeling sad, "empty," flat, or hopeless
  • Not being able to concentrate or remember details
  • Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • A need for alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from family and friends or becoming isolated

Monday 11 June 2018

She Seemed Happy

I really love stuff like this because it shows that you never know what's inside someone. Even if the outside seems perfectly fine

She seemed happy. He was so successful. He had it all - love, money and fame. The last time that I spoke to her she was making plans. These are all things that have been said about people after they died by suicide. They also show what we fail to see: mental illness is not about being sad all the time. You might not see the signs.

The high profile deaths this past week of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef/writer/TV host Anthony Bourdain were shocking, heartbreaking and perplexing to many.

Both of these people left behind young children, partners, families and friends. And, of course, their millions of followers and fans. The question that follows is often this: how could they do it?

Here's what I believe to be true about those who die by suicide. They don't want to die - they just want the pain and suffering to end. For those of you who have never experienced severe mental illness this must be difficult to imagine.

To feel that there is only one way out, to feel that there is no hope left and no light at the end of the tunnel must be horrible. When I went through a major depressive episode about five years ago I had suicidal thoughts. But I was one of the lucky ones; I could still make out that tiny sliver of light. So I held on. I was not without hope.

I am one of the 14.7% of Canadians who have thought about suicide, according to data collected from the Canadian Community Health survey in 2012. Sadly, 11 people will die by suicide in Canada today. It is the ninth leading cause of death in Canada. This statistic, coupled with the fact that mental illness is the number one category of disability worldwide, points to a serious health problem.

To put this into perspective, let's compare it to breast cancer. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 5,300 women will die from the disease this year. Suicide deaths will total approximately 4, 015. And there will be no pink ribbons to raise awareness of this.

Mental disorders - depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, to name a few - are complicated disorders of the brain.  What scientists know about the brain is a small amount. What is known is that these are real and they are serious.

We will lose people to suicide as a result of these illnesses. But we can save some people, simply by talking about this. Educating ourselves about mental illness is crucial. And choosing to be curious rather than judgemental is important.

Maybe the person that we need to worry about is the one who seems to have it all together, who never lets you see them cry.

KB xo

Get help: Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

"Eating Disorders: What Are We Truly Hungry For?"

    For two years in my 30's I had an eating disorder: bulimia. It took me ten years to admit that to anyone, even my doctor. I f...