Thursday 21 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Catrin

The Christmas and New Year period often involves pressure to indulge in wintery food or engage in New Year's Resolution health kicks. Catrin explains how she provides herself support and stability through difficult times in eating disorder recovery.
- Catrin Haberfield

1. What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

More than anything, I love the distinct sensory aspects of Christmas: the smell of the tree in the lounge, how bright everything seems when it has snowed, and the smoky warmth of the house filled with candles. It’s crazy how certain smells or tastes trigger such specific memories or feelings of comfort and warmth and family. 

2. What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

Food is always more stressful for me at home than at university, and the winter period is definitely the hardest. Since I’m semi-catered at uni, I have structure imposed upon me for my meals; I have lunch at 12:30p and dinner at 6pm. At home, it’s entirely down to me to stick to a reasonable meal plan, not to restrict or binge or engage in any other disordered behaviour. To make matters worse, keywords like ‘binge’, ‘treat’, ‘cheat’ come hand in hand with Christmas festivities, while both companies and individuals use the New Year as an excuse to reinforce diet culture. Everyone, from friends to family to social media, is banging on about being ‘naughty’ for eating ‘bad’ food, or lamenting the loss of their ‘summer bod’. It’s chaos. Food is not inherently good or bad; it just is. Ascribing value to certain foods and placing more worth on smaller bodies is such a toxic way to view the world, and it’s almost impossible to avoid situations involving food at Christmas.

3. Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

My best friend and I make a point to always be there for each other, and Christmas is no exception. If family time gets too much then I can just pop into my room and call her, and the same goes for her. I also try to find a balance between work, rest, and socialising – the latter two definitely aren’t the same thing! I have a massive amount of work this holiday, and I know I’m useless at working in the morning, so I try to take mornings off and work in the afternoons. 

4. What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

I’d give myself two gifts. Firstly, I’d clear out my entire wardrobe and donate all the clothes that don’t fit me anymore. There are some clothes that I still hold on to on the off chance that they’ll ever fit me again, though I know they never will. Donating them is one way to completely let go of the old, smaller, disordered me. The second gift I’d give myself would be some decent headphones; listening to music lifts my mood, but I know that when my depression gets worse I tend to isolate myself. I bought myself a Spotify subscription three months ago and listening to music on a regular basis has already made an amazing difference to my mood.

5. What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

I know that New Year’s Resolutions can be helpful for a lot of people, but I don’t believe that you need to wait for a new year to make a change. Even when you have a bad day, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow – you can restart your day at any point. I guess that if I had to have a New Year’s Resolution, it would be to continue the upward trajectory I’ve been on for the past few months. Recovery isn’t a straight line – it’s more like a scatter graph, and I want to keep the correlation positive.

Hi folks! I'm Catrin, a third year Medieval English Language and Literature student at Somerville College, Oxford. I've always been super vocal when it comes to mental health; I love pushing boundaries and challenging people's assumptions about mental illness. I live with mental illness, so I know how much both the illnesses and the stigma can affect your life, as well as the lives of others. I'm incredibly excited to be a Sub-Editor for Student Minds, and I can't wait to help other people share their stories!

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