As part of my blog I believe it’s important to share common and shared experiences, by highlighting the link between physical health and mental health.
I’d like to introduce you to Marianne Husnes (MH) who is inspiring me with her journey.
MM: Can you discuss the reason behind, why your raising awareness of anorexia and its challenges on your Instagram profile?
MH: I am raising awareness of eating disorders and its challenges on my Instagram profile because I’ve struggled with anorexia for 18 years. During those years, I didn’t come across any success stories related to this disease. By telling my story, I will show others that it is possible to recover and regain a healthy and active lifestyle.
These days there is too much focus on having a slim and fit body so I am open about the side effects of being severely underweight. Many people do not know that weight loss often leads to other serious diseases such as osteoporosis or hypothyroidism (slow metabolism).
MM: What have been your biggest lessons from completing EcoTrail?
MH: I have always had a desire to be the best. When I studied an A grade was the only acceptable grade, everything else was failure in my head.
At 12 years of age, I developed performance anxiety and anorexia. I actively avoided various activities that I liked because I knew I could not win. Lately I have tried to change this disruptive behaviour and I signed up for Eco Trail Oslo 2016 (my first race ever) to help me break these subconscious thoughts.
I love to run, but I never dared to run with anyone else as I feared falling behind them. Before EcoTrail I said to myself that I’m not the best, many people are going to run faster than me, but that’s okay. I am here to enjoy the race, the atmosphere, the surroundings and to finish.
My heart rate watch did not work, my Runkeeper went quiet and last but not at least I made a detour in the middle of the race, but I still think It was a success. I finished without any signs of anxiety.
Therefore, my biggest lessons from completing EcoTrail is that the joy of running is the only thing you need to take part in a race. No one can judge you by the time you ran on, instead they’ll give you a high five when you finish. Runners are wonderful people.
MM: When you have experienced low moments, what advice would you give to people about how they can ground themselves?
MH: I have lost count of how many doctors and psychologists I have visited and how many times I have been hospitalised. In 2009 I was still so depressed that I was left with two choices: put an end to it all or do one last effort to recover.
Luckily, I decided to make one last attempt and finally I succeeded. I took responsibility for myself, to make the situation better and I began to talk openly about my difficult feelings, such as those that made me think that I did not deserve to eat, sleep or live a happy life.
Now I have been healthy for almost three years and it is amazing. Of course, some days are tough, but then I try to think about what I have been through and what I have achieved and survived. I have fought so hard to get to where I am today and I really do not want it to go to waste.
If I may give one piece of advice to others who are experiencing low moments, it is to ask for help! It is so easy to think that no one cares about you, but people aren’t mind readers. You and only you have the power to change the situation you are in. If you want help, you must tell somebody about how you feel. Surprisingly, most people are caring and willing to help.
MM: In your experience, how important is the link between physical health and mental health?
MH: Emily T. Troscianko wrote an article about anorexia in “Psycology Today” where she claims that “the mind may make the body sick, but only the body can help the mind be well again.”
If you are underweight, your brain does not work as a normal, healthy brain. It is common to not want to gain weight when you are underweight. That is one reason why it is so hard to treat anorexia. “Put another way: you can’t make an anorexic want to put on weight until he or she has begun to do so.”
As an ex-anorexic, I can relate to this. I was not comfortable in my body before I reached a healthy weight. Some weeks ago I saw a picture of myself when my BMI was below 12, and it was awful. However, thinking back to when the photo was taken at the time I could not see that I was especially thin.
My way of achieving successful treatment was to fall in love and begin to workout. I met my fiancé about four years ago, and since dating often includes food, I was “forced” to eat more than I did at that time. Suddenly he became more important than counting calories so I slowly began to gain weight. I do not say it was easy, but for the first time it was possible to imagine a healthy life without anorexia. As I put on weight, I experienced that I was happier, more focused and had a lot more energy. I started to work out and I started to run. Regular exercise increased my appetite and I just got happier, healthier and stronger. My body was finally a friend and a collaborator. So yes, I my experience shows that there is a bidirectional relationship between mental illnesses and physically healthy outcome.
MM: Having a mental health illness could be seen as a weakness, but in your experience how is it actually a strength?
MH: Due to my situation, I have met many people who are struggling with mental disorders. Some of the ones I have been hospitalised with are the wisest and most careful people I know. I guess you could say that having a mental health illness is a weakness, but yes, in my experience it could actually be a strength.
If you have reached rock bottom and got yourself up again you are strong! If you have experienced the worst, I think you are better able to appreciate it when things are good. You have acquired some experiences that may benefit others. As an example, I work as a volunteer at the Red Cross. I am one of the leaders of an art group for people that suffer from social anxiety etc. I am not sure I would have been there without my my previous experiences.