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how to cope with an eating disorder and self harm during exams

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TSR's new app is coming! Sign up here to try it first >> 17-10-2016
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    i've been suffering from an eating disorder for about 2 years now and lately it's got much, much worse (i count calories and restrict my food to get a sense of control, but with exams and stress it's really hard not to just eat my feelings, which makes me even more stressed, less confident and less able to concentrate). recently my stress and anxiety caused by all this has led me to harming myself in order to deal with it, instead of coping with my problems in a healthy way, because
    1. no one knows about my mental health issues and i would prefer if it remained that way since it's unnecessary stress for my family and friends and i'm sure it will go away once i'm at university in september, and
    2. i just generally don't like talking about my feelings so it's hard to resist self harm when i've internalised all this negativity for so long

    so i was wondering if any of you had advice on self-help (i don't intend to get any clinical help or to talk to parents, teachers or doctors any time soon so please don't recommend this) - how can i tell myself it's okay to eat a bit too much during exam time and how do i prioritise my revision until this is over? it's really hard and it's wasting so much of my time

    I know the feeling after suffering with ED (bulimia alternating with orthorexia) throughout two of my three years of University study.

    I think I just told myself that whilst the obsession and behaviours took over and impacted a lot of things, that it would not cause me to perform poorly academically.

    Because of the lack of control during exams, my binge-eating was actually more out of control... I know some of my friends went the other way and basically didn't eat to regain some form of control.

    I know this is going to be super hard, but you must realise that counting calories is a key part of this vicious cycle, and so I would recommend you stop this for now and focus the energy that you use obsessing over everything into your revision. It will be hard to begin with but you need to adapt to channeling your mind into this.

    It is probably not possible right now because of the time and the immediate pressure approaching but the only thing that actually helped me to overcome my ED and associated obsession with food and weight was:

    and intuitive eating (I bought a book called 'overcoming overeating').

    A good relationship with food is not easy to get back after you have ruined it with ED or even disordered eating (you can have disordered eating without a clinical ED for example). But it's something you have to work at and you should make a pledge that you will do so when your exams are over.

    Until then, quit the calorie counting, realise that in any acute exam period your weight is not going to change significantly and focus on not letting this affect something that has the potential to determine your future (i.e. exam results).

    Good luck, and feel free to PM me.

    Mindfulness has always helped me, and it's scientifically proven to work! Id look into that if I was you, very good for stressful times

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    Mindfulness is fantastic but it takes a little practice so perhaps as an ongoing approach. As far as exams I would really try and put together a plan and try and stick to it. By plan I mean you need to allow yourself to eat a reasonable basic amount of calories of proper food so you can keep track of binging and so on and try and alleviate some of the guilt. You are not going to gain masses of weight over a few weeks of eating a slightly more reasonable calorie intake and it will massively help your revision if your brain is properly nourished. Try and plan in revision time as well, set yourself targets in terms of tasks instead of time as it is easier to see you're making progress and stay motivated if you know you can finish earlier if you focus.

    On a side note, I know it's not what you want to hear, but in my experience (both personally and people I know) these things do NOT go away when you go to uni. When you end up in a situation without support, where you don't know anyone, no one will notice if you don't eat, all the stresses associated with your course/meeting new people. Support is also easier to access at university, most places will have free counselling services, you'd also be able to get a referral from your GP and go to appointments without anyone knowing if that's a concern. You should also consider whether there might be any issues with accommodation in terms of needing a self catered flat etc as you can contact disability services and request that.

    I know you think you have no one to talk to, but you like you can drop me a PM and we can discuss things further on skype or tinychat (anonymously), i will do as best I can to help you.

    The thing with any maladaptive coping mechanism is that it moves with you. So it might stop for a short while but the the next time you have a stressor it will come back. Self harm makes it more and more difficult to cope with any emotion so you won't need any stressor beyond having an emotion before you want to do it.

    Your parents etc don't need to know that you're seeking help for a problem. But, if you leave this unchecked (particularly the eating disorder) there could come a time where they would have to know - they'd see it and you don't want to spiral down to the point of an involuntary section.

    Therapy is scary but, with the right therapist, it's one of the best way to learn how to manage your emotions and to reduce coping mechanisms which damage you further as you use them.
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