One Year On – Developing A Healthy Relationship With Myself

Last year at this time, I was sitting at my desk, pondering my thoughts. As usual, I was questioning everything and allowing my thoughts to spiral. Several people had previously suggested that I try journaling because it can be very cathartic and also help transfer your thoughts from your head to a page or screen. I was sceptical, I guess I just didn’t want to deal with the possibility of floodgates opening in my life and drowning me with feelings and emotions I wasn’t used to dealing me. Also, I’m a guy; why would I write down my thoughts? How can that be beneficial?

As you are probably aware, I eventually wrote my first blog and named it The Endless Spiral. The blog evolved into a blogging site, which evolved into a podcast. I wanted to raise mental health awareness. But that wasn’t the end of my story; I still had some skeletons in my closet.

I went attended a clinical psychologist for depression in my twenties; it was a very dark time for me. I was lucky as I know mental health services can be difficult to access. I had a strong dislike for myself and felt there was no way out. I had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. Fast forward to my 30s, and the depression had subsided slightly, but I was still suffering from severe anxiety. I associated the anxiety with changing careers. You may ask, why would someone with a history of depression and anxiety change careers? Well, it was somewhat forced upon me but it was eventually for the best.

Fast forward to my forties, and we arrive at The Endless Spiral. I wanted to provide people with a platform to share their sorties via blog, vlog, or podcast form. I was inspired to share my own story of mental health but I never once mentioned my food or body image issues to anyone. Why? I’m not sure, maybe stigma. How can a man in his forties have an eating disorder or have body image issues? How could I never speak about these things? How have I never dealt with these topics? I guess I felt it was easier to blame everything on external factors rather than looking at myself in the mirror, metaphorically and literally.

Keith as a kid. I have never had another photo taken shirtless.

During the past year ive done a lot of looking inwards. I eventually discovered the terms Body Dysmorphia and Binge Eating Disorder and my life changed. I now had a name for how I’ve been feeling for over 20 years. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. After a few Google searches, a light bulb went off above my head. If these feelings and actions have names, perhaps there is a solution. My story quickly shifted from using sport as an escapism (I used that word rather than saying I was in denial) to raising awareness for BDD and BED. Sharing my story provided me with a plethora of resources, connections and information.

I’ve learned so much about myself and about the conditions I’ve been living with for so long, and it feels incredible. I’ve never felt better about myself than I do right now as I write this blog. I’ve learned to trust my body to tell me when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I’ve learned to exercise to affect how I feel rather than how I look. I’ve learned to use gratitude. I now do yoga and practice mindfulness.

I used to believe that if I looked better on the outise, I would feel better on the inside. This is fine for some people, but I had issues that went deeper. Everything I did was for the wrong reasons. I was focusing on the neck down and forgetting about the neck up. I would starve myself and then binge. I’d then want to purge, and the spiral would begin again. I would feel anxious at the gym. I wouldn’t go out, I stepped into the shadows and there I stayed for a long time.

Once I established a healthy relationship with myself, I was able to establish a healthy relationship with everything else. It may appear simple, but I would never have discovered this if I had kept everything bottled up. Some have said that I’ve been through more in tewlve months than others have in five years. It’s not a race; go at your own pace; you’ll get there eventually. But you must take the first step.

I’ll close with some words of advice: no matter your age, gender, shape, or size, everyone can struggle with food and body image. But keep in mind that it’s never too late to seek help. This is something I can attest to. I’m 41 years old, but I feel like I’m 21. Dont hide, there’s no shame in asking for help, share your experiences, and talk to someone; I can assure you that you are not alone.

Keith Russell

If you’re struggling with body image issue or food you can contact BodyWhys here

Some excellent pieces of information relating to mental health services here

Another source of information from the mental health commission here