Accountability: Bigger on the inside

Its been a while since I updated. Life has become slightly busier as I have more commitments right now than I did when I first started writing. The last couple of weeks have also been fairly turbulent, which has held me up from getting on here. For that reason, I’m going to centre this update on my mental health rather than physical. The latter part is also not going terribly well.

I am still unable to exercise, moreso right now because my left foot has swollen up and even walking is a challenge, let alone much else. I had my first physio appointment on Wednesday and I wasn’t even in there for five minutes… I showed the nice lady my foot and she said there was nothing we could do today and I should go to the urgent care centre. I did, and doc said there’s a build up of fluid or something where I’ve been putting too much pressure on that foot to avoid leaning on my bad leg. I kind of have to laugh at this point. It’s Saturday night and I’m sat in my flat with a bag of frozen veg on my elevated foot. I am feeling like quite the lamer. It seems to be getting slightly better at least.

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SOURCE: Goodreads/CBS

So, the last couple of weeks. Again, I have to laugh. I’m better the last few days, but otherwise emotionally, I’ve been very wobbly. Fighting to get out of bed in the morning, crying at inappropriate moments, putting off showering, comfort eating… All the stuff that tells me I’m heading for a dark place. I don’t really want to go into details of what triggered it here but it culminated in a huge blip last weekend. I had a night out on the Friday that went pear shaped – alcohol was involved – and I ended the night going home early and feeling very sad. I know that I shouldn’t drink when I’m already not doing good, it’s the worst idea… I wanted to go out and have a good night and just feel normal. I’m going dry again for a while. Why do it to myself? I didn’t have a huge amount to drink, even, but it didn’t matter. The result was still the same.

The next day – mentally more than physically – I felt like absolute hell. I didn’t move from the sofa, just sort of laid there and cried some and slept a bit and thought a lot. I could have done that all day. I could still be there right now, a week later – it’s not unheard of – except I forced myself to do something I’ve only recently learned to do. I picked up my phone.

I messaged my close friend who lives nearby and asked if she was free to come over. I felt silly, I felt scared, I felt vulnerable – but she came. She sat with me all evening. We watched American Pie and talked about crisps. It was so nice just having her there with me; a reminder that I’m not alone, no matter how much that bitch voice in my head tells me I am. Just a few hours of hanging out with my friend, shooting the shit and being normal – it helped so much. I felt better. Reminded that there are good things and good people in life and what goes on in my head is not the be all and end all.

The next day my mum came over; again, I asked her. I asked for help. Just doing that, made me feel powerful again. Reminded me that I’m not helpless to this stupid illness. Part of it too is that my mum has an amazing way of putting things in perspective. She’s very pragmatic about things, which is what I need sometimes when I get caught up purely with the emotions. I talked about a lot of stuff with her – things that had been happening, things I was feeling, and she listened patiently. I didn’t feel like a burden and I realised I didn’t need to – this is my mum, for Christ’s sake – but it was still such a big deal for me to message my friend, to call my mum, to say, ‘I need help.’

I’m so glad I did. After my mum left, I managed to get off the sofa. I then packed my bag for the next day, had a shower and set my alarm. I was still feeling like a big bag of dicks – but feeling, at the very least, like I could carry on, like I could cope. Maybe it will never feel comfortable asking for my help, but I proved to myself that I could do it. I’m learning.

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Source: Twitter/BBC

People have told that I’m a fighter, that I’m brave. When I’m just going through the motions, it doesn’t feel like that at all. I do all I can; I take my meds, I use all the self help going, but I’ve accepted that for me, depression as a chronic illness that all I can do is manage. And that’s okay. I have a damn fucking good life. I cant always see that, especially when I’m really down, but I really, really do. For people like me, recovery isn’t going to be something that happens once then I never think about it again  Recovery is going to be a constant process. I’ve not failed because I have a blip for a few days. I’m just not doing as good on those days as I do on other days. And that’s okay too. My friends and family have been amazingly supportive over the past few months, and I will never stop feeling grateful for that – for all the people who sat with me, listened to me, put themselves out for me. I am so, so lucky and I don’t know where I would be without them. I couldn’t fight at all without that support. It’s important. There is some guilt that comes with that; fear that I’m a burden, that I’m taking an emotional dump, that I’m just silly and whiny. But I know if any member of my friends or family were in that place – I’d be there too. I wouldn’t think that about them. So why am I so fucking hard on myself?

I’m lucky. But I’m conflicted.

Even just admitting sometimes that I’m not doing so good is very difficult. I am pushing myself hard to be open on this blog. In day to day life, I have no problem telling people I have a trapped nerve. But telling them I have depression? That’s different. I fear judgement. I fear they’ll see me differently. Yet usually, they’re just really surprised. They say things like, ‘really? But you seem so happy.’

In a way, I am happy. Life is good. I just have an illness. And that illness is not who I am. It’s also down to the fact that chronically sad people learn from a young age to pretend everything is fine, even to act as if we’re more chipper than the average. We have to mask it, otherwise we wouldn’t get by in this world. We would just be crushed. Sometimes I feel ashamed that I feel things so much more intensely than other people. I feel like a freak. Intellectually I know I’m not. I purely have a chemical imbalance in my brain. But emotionally? Forget it. I’m working on it. The stigma against mental illness will never change without openness. Be the change you want to see in the world and all that noise. It’s just not always that easy.

Speaking of quotes, there’s a song by Amanda Palmer called Bigger on the Inside that I haven’t listened to for ages, but it popped up as a random earworm the other day. I started thinking a bit about what that phrase meant. Presumably from the lyrics she wrote the song in response to all the horrible cyber bullying she was a victim of a few years back. I really like the phrase, though: I am bigger on the inside. I can handle more than I realise. I am stronger than I think. That’s how I choose to interpret it. I’ve adopted it as my new affirmation.

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Source: Rebloggy/Disney

Tonight I made myself a nice healthy clean meal for the first time in several days… And I already feel better from the simple pleasure of cooking. Also just from getting some food inside me… I have little appetite at the moment. I’m trying to remember this feeling; that nice, contented relaxed feeling of being full of healthy food I made all by myself. There’s no reason why I can’t do that every day. And I didn’t even make too much mess in the kitchen. My flatmate will be pleased.

Exercise wise, I hope I can start doing some yoga at least when my foot is better. Physio says I can indeed do some exercise with my leg, just that I need to lay off the HIIT. That’s a double edged sword…

I digress. I’ll end with this: If you want to help someone who is depressed, know that you cant fix us. We dont expect you to. Ultimately, just be beside us. If we need to talk, listen; if we don’t want to talk, just be there. Your presence is comforting.

Equally, sometimes your presence isn’t comforting and we need to be alone. That’s about us, not you. The best way to help in this situation is to give us space.

And please, if you need to: set boundaries with us. Do it gently. Sometimes we’ll drain you. Sometimes you’ll feel helpless. Call us out if our behaviour hurts you – again, gently – there’s no point in both of us being depressed.

But above all, remember us how we are when we’re well. That’s the real us. And above, above all – please, please don’t give up on us. We’re still in there. We’re fighting. It may not look like it sometimes – but every second we’re still here, we’re fighting.

And if you’re depressed – if you can bear it, please reach out. To anyone – a friend, a family member, an organisation, a helpline… The list is endless. And it’s so worth it. I promise

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Treats.

I have a sore throat and am munching blueberries like there’s no tomorrow. I forgot how yummy they were. Fried chicken and Sainsburys muffins literally wreck your tastebuds. And your waistline. And your body. And your LIFE. But damn they sure are good. Why can’t they also be nutritious?!

So as the sore throat part might imply, for the past couple of days I have been a big old sack of lurgy. Literally a sack until early this afternoon, all sacked out on the sofa like a big old saggy sack watching David Bowie concerts on YouTube (God rest his soul). I don’t like taking time off work, it makes me feel bad. And what with being a student in one of the world’s most expensive cities, I don’t particularly like missing out on dem coins either (yes I did just say dem coins and I won’t apologise). The latter is a pain in the arse but not the end of the world; the former is also a pain in the arse but something I am working on changing. I’ll do a post about guilt at some point.

But today’s post is more about how when I’m sick, I tend to think I can do whatever the fuck I want. And by do, I mean eat. Starve a fever, feed a cold, has always been my mum’s motto, and it’s one I’ve taken to heart big time. That’s where one of my biggest problems with sticking to a healthy lifestyle long-term comes in: the excuses. I am a master of making excuses for myself. “Well, I’ve quit smoking, I’m not drinking for at least the next 24 days… guess another square of chocolate is okay… when I’m well enough I can HIIT it off… and besides, gotta have some kind of a treat!”

I used food to death when I first quit smoking. I know that’s quite common, largely because your sense of taste starts coming back and food just feels so good that you can’t stop putting it in your mouth. I was probably quite capable of eating a whole cow those first few weeks. I took the attitude that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for eating a huge portion of spaghetti for dinner and then two cupcakes for pudding; I didn’t really seem to be gaining weight. Plus, my lung capacity was increasing, meaning I could exercise for longer (as an aside – quitting smoking makes exercise so much more tolerable, please do it for that reason alone!) and again… can’t smoke, so gotta have a treat!

There it is again: a treat. Sure, a cupcake is a treat. One cupcake, maybe once a week. Two nightly – that is not a treat. Quitting smoking or not.That is not good. I know that when I eat bad, I get depressed. I know that I feel worse physically.

A couple glasses of wine on Friday? Nice, that’s a treat. A couple of glasses on Tuesday, a bottle on Friday and then a night out involving spirits on a Saturday… each fun on occasion, in isolation. But in 2016, most of my weeks looked like this. “I’m a student!” I would say. “Only young once… can’t do this shit when I’m a real adult with a job. Besides, I work hard… gotta have a treat!”

One of my many unhealthy talents is excuses. I’m a student. I work hard. I’ve had a bad day. I did a Fitness Blender 1,000 calorie workout on Tuesday. So abusing my body and mind is totally fine. Gotta have a treat…

My dictionary defines a treat as “An event or item out of the ordinary that gives great pleasure.” Yes, drinking booze and eating crap does give me great pleasure. But it’s increasingly not out of the ordinary. There was a time in my life when these things really were treats. And my life was better. I was healthier, mentally and physically.

A little while ago, I started referring to myself as a hedonist. I think this was my pretentious way of applying the principle of ‘YOLO’. And also excusing the fact that I was indulging in stuff that felt good because I didn’t feel good a lot of the time and I wasn’t ready to start working for healthy, lasting happiness, rather than spending time looking forward to doing things that created short sharp bursts of pleasure… short lived rather than constant. I came across this great quote the other day – I can’t remember where but please leave a comment if you know who I can credit this to – “bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with; good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with.” That rang so true.

Do I want to stop treating myself? Absolutely not; I’m determined to enjoy my life. But you really can have too much of a good thing. That’s when it gets bad. So, it is my goal to work at keeping unhealthy treats few and far between; to be enjoyed IN MODERATION and in a way that has no adverse effects on my life.

But healthy treats? Why not every day?

I’m trying to change my mindset as to what a treat that can be enjoyed regularly is. So, here is a list of five healthy treats. Feel free to nab them:

  1. Grooming. Putting on a facepack, a hair treatment and doing a good old DIY mani-pedi of an evening is a treat I’ve been indulging in often lately. It’s relaxing and makes me feel better, no matter what mood I’m in. I’ve decided to set aside an evening for this at least once a week this year – regardless of how busy I am. In fact, especially if I’m busy.
  2. An overpriced smoothie. Sadly not a frequent one if you’re a poor student like me, but sometimes swinging by itsu or equivalent and spending five quid on a healthy smoothie I’ll devour in as many minutes is a nice little feel-good boost. They’re yummy, make me feel all bright eyed and bushy tailed and happy that I’ve done something good for my body. One little thing at a time. And if I can spend five quid on a glass of wine, I can spend the same on this.
  3. BAKING! As long as you don’t munch down all of your creations after the fact (note to self after all discussed above), baking is one of life’s simple pleasures. I keep meaning to take a batch of my M&M cupcakes to the ill-tempered neighbours downstairs. Might get on this one soon.
  4. A YouTube session. This one is particularly good when feeling really bored or a bit low. Sit down for an hour or two and just binge on YouTube vids – I recommend Animal Planet’s Too Cute! selection after a particularly rough day. This is also a good distraction if you’re trying to quit a bad habit like smoking or frequent drinking – how can you still want that vodka and coke when you’re distracted by videos of tiny mewing kittens befriending a big snuggly dog?! Oah teh cutez.
  5. Create something for the pure fucking fun of it. Writing is often such a chore for me, because I have things I am seriously working on for serious and if I don’t treat it like work and take it seriously for serious then how do I expect to seriously get anywhere? But sometimes, it’s nice to just write something that I want to… a silly little yarn or a poem or something purely for myself. And when I do, it’s a real treat. Or I do something I don’t take seriously, like one of my video collages or some doodling. It’s a nice distraction… and stops you resenting the serious stuff.

So much better than cupcakes.

Also, I’ve raised £55.00 for Cancer Research so far for the Dryathlon. Not bad! Love to everyone who’s sponsored me.

I’m going to have a Strepsil now and think about a healthy dinner. Eating crap is not going to make my cold go away any quicker. I’ve typed it, now I have to stick to it. Which is what this blog is all about.