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Coping with Easter - Gemma Oaten

15th April 2019

Happy Easter!!! Although for many suffering with an Eating Disorder it's anything but.

A mini Christmas in many ways…food, food, gatherings, family, people, feeling exposed, guilt, scared, shame. Believe me, I get it.

When I was ill I remember the sheer dread at this time of year. Fish and chips with the family on Good Friday, Easter eggs galore, Easter Sunday Roast, Easter Monday looming for more food and more situations where I had to put on a mask in front of loved ones. It's a very difficult time for you and there's no shame in that.

However the eating disorder takes shape in your mind, I want you to know, I understand it's not easy, and that's ok to admit that. So I want to turn it on its head in the hope this will help anyone reading this cope as a carer or sufferer around this time of year. Here's the tip…take the pressure off! See it as a time to relax a little (4 day holiday! Yay!) and don't put the emphasis on what you think is traditionally expected. Easter can simply be a time to relax, a time for new beginnings, a time when Spring is here and Summer is around the corner.

Go easy on yourself and look at the positives of this time of year. If it's possible, sit down as a unit (carers and sufferers) and talk about what scares you, what you are fearful of, and how together you can take all that pressure away. Communication, compassion and understanding is key. For me, I see Easter as a time for me, friends, family and fun…that's it! Nothing scary about that is there? I know I am well now, but my point is, how amazing is that?! I was once fearful all those years ago, and now I love it…you can change your mindset, you really can.

Think about the flowers blooming, the sun feeling warmer, the joys that spring brings. Be kind to yourself. I know it may not feel like it now, but you can get better and recovery is possible. I am writing this little message to you from my flat in London where I am living my dreams as an actress and am surrounded by some of the most amazing friends…20 years ago I would have had to write this from an adolescent psychiatric unit as an inpatient…in fact I wouldn't have had the strength to write anything, as I was on deaths door.

See? If I can do it, you can too, I swear. Take each day as it comes, step by step. Visualise that time that's coming where you will be living your dreams too, whatever they may be, and smile. A day is coming where you will love yourself again, every part of you. And if that seems hard right now, here's something from me to you…I love you, I think you are amazing, I see your worth, and I know you will get well again if you want it. I want it for you so much. I value you.

My 2 teenage nieces arrived in London last night to come and stay with their Aunty Gem for the weekend. Their first trip away from home alone and they came to see me. I can't tell you how amazing that feels. One time of day they would travel with my parents or my siblings to visit me in hospital or in units, sometimes which where miles away from Hull. And now they are visiting me in my home. Do you know how wonderful that feels? That's my focus this Easter…celebrating life and the amazing possibilities it can bring.

Sending love,

Gemma xxx

Gemma Oaten