My name is Mel Bender. I’m thrilled to be joining HealthyPlace as an author for the Relationships and Mental Illness blog. I’m a freelance writer, blogger, and artist living in Toronto, Canada.
Presenting myself with new challenges has been a great way to boost my self-esteem because it makes me feel strong. I know that when I conquer internal challenges, I can conquer external ones too.
Recently a friend ruined my mental health. Well, a friend combined with preexisting bipolar disorder, ruined my mental health. I don't believe in blaming people for mental health problems, per se; but, sometimes people do things that are so damaging, a change in mental health really is pretty much their fault. So, what do you do when a friend ruins your mental health?
This might seem like a bold, hyperbolic claim, but it just so happens to be true: I have no regrets about my eating disorder. Of course, there are some behaviors I am not proud of, relationships I have worked fiercely to restore, and memories I still flinch at. But in terms of actual regret, I simply think it's a wasted emotion. While I have absolutely no desire to relive those 15 years of battling anorexia, this formative chapter in my life transformed me into who I am right now—a person for whom I feel genuine love and respect. So if you'll indulge me for a few minutes, I will unpack why I have no regrets about my eating disorder.
On July 16th, 2022, the new three-digit Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Hotline went into full effect.¹ The transition from a 10-digit number to the convenient and memorable 988 is a positive step toward adequate and widely-accessible mental health resources for all. Moreover, the hotline is no longer solely for suicidal individuals but anyone facing a mental health crisis. The overall messaging behind this change is perhaps the most impactful. We hear you, we see you, and we’ll show you not only through our words but through action.
Many individuals, including myself, can take notice of subtleties later when they are no longer the subject of verbal abuse. However, it shocks me as I look back and replay many of these instances in my head. There were several reasons why I never recognized it as abusive, which led me to remain in the same situation for years.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is the first major mood disorder I suffered from as a kid. However, I did develop early symptoms of bipolar disorder as a teen as well, and that later led to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a very extreme form of what is commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Untreated, I don’t have minor bouts of irritability or sadness during my period--I have full-on depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. The way I treat my PMDD is with birth control pills.
We all experience cycles or patterns of behavior that we want to change. Those of us who have experienced binge eating disorder (BED), or eating disorders in general, know the pain and frustration that is felt when you are trapped in a cycle of disordered, destructive eating. It is especially frustrating when you try to recover and leave behind your old cycles and patterns and you realize you're still stuck in a binge eating cycle.
I didn't get a say in my birth. My mother and father took the executive decision to procreate without my input, and I landed on the scene in the April of 1985 before I could register any objections. Upon my arrival, the doctors deduced a few things: I was a boy. I was healthy. And, given the amount of wailing and thrashing, I appeared mildly inconvenienced by this whole birth scenario. For nearly 32 years after that, the doctors didn't miss much--except to diagnose me with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Before I knew anything about borderline personality disorder (BPD) or antidepressants, I knew that pharmaceutical drugs were bad. Or, at least that's what I was told growing up. I learned from a young age not to trust therapists or doctors. Doctors wanted to poison your body, and therapists wanted to poison your mind. Why would I think that? Well, because then it would be easier for them to control you.