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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Accountability Week 3: January, emotional eating and the kitchen floor reset.

If January was a dessert, it would be the kind no one orders, like a wilted fruit salad with grapefruit in (NIGHTMARE) or a bland sorbet. Go away, January. This is awkward, but nobody actually likes you. We’re skint, we’re cold, it’s ages until summer and even longer until Christmas. And a lot of us are facing you stone cold sober.

January, I loved you in the beginning; on our first meeting on New Year’s day, you made me feel so powerful and special. You and I were full of possibility, and you made me feel all brand new. But as time has worn on, I’ve seen that you are not quite who I thought you were. Things between us are becoming so fraught,  January: youre cold, you continually make demands of me, and you’re downright difficult to live with. This is hard, January, but I’m starting to think we cant continue. Shall you change or shall I? The crazy thing is, you and I were never even about resolutions. You were just a really good month. But you let me down, man. You let me down.

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                                     Source: CollegeTimes.com                                        January, you’ve been manipulating people for years with your fancy ‘look, I’m shiny and new and you can be just like me.’ Piss off.

So basically I fell off the wagon big time last week with this low carb business. The monster of emotional eating has crept up on me big time and I haven’t wanted to fight it. It’s been a rough few days. I broke up with my boyfriend the week before last, and at first I felt great. I was angry, but it was a productive kind of anger, that spurred me on to get a lot of shit done. I suddenly had this incredible confidence. I was in Beyonce mode, spending time with my friends, doing stuff I liked, dyeing my hair really pink because I no longer had to worry about his conservative ass not liking it. I worked out hard, ate well, meditated and felt great.

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                                                  Source: Giphy.com                                                  I’m actually very very uncool but on the internet I can pretend.

But then, perhaps inevitably, the crash came. I’m definitely on the other side now but it was rough. I came home to my mum’s place for a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday night and I didnt actually leave until Friday afternoon. My friend calls this behaviour the ‘kitchen floor reset’ – you go home to mum’s, have an emotional meltdown, get it out of your system then go home all shiny and new. My place was on the sofa under a blanket rather than the kitchen floor and my family quietly allowed my miserable ass to stay there – they’re awesome –  but I’m back at my flat now, sitting in front of daytime TV like a true student, and feeling calm and energised again. Beyonce is still in there somewhere.

I digress. Emotional eating is my arch nemesis when it comes to staying healthy. I think it has an even bigger hold on me than smoking did.

I think there are a bunch of reasons why it grips me and many others. For a start, food is widely available. Nobody will bat an eyelid if you buy a whole madeira cake at 10 o’clock in the morning like they would if you were getting a bottle of wine to drown your sorrows. You don’t buy Oreos off some sketchy guy on a street corner in Hackney. You also can’t simply abstain from food like you can with any other form of abuse/addiction because you’ll like, die… so whilst you can change your habits, know all there is to know about healthy eating and implement it daily until you’re blue in the face, when sadness creeps up on you… hi, my old friend pizza.

There’s also the social aspect of eating. Alcoholics and drug users manage abstinence by breaking the connections they have with the people they used to drink/use with, but imagine saying ‘yeah, I can’t be friends with Bob anymore, he eats too much pasta.’

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                               Source: The Methods Man                               Bob, your addiction is negatively affecting our lives. So we made you an appointment and we want you to keep it.

Beyond the social aspect, you have the social acceptability. Especially after a break-up, and perhaps even more especially for women,  perhaps the main factor is the pure social acceptability of it. People are generally unnerved by the idea of themselves or others reaching for a bottle of vodka to deal with heartbreak, believing this to be akin to alcoholism and the very accurate belief that this will simply make things worse. But a tub of ice cream, or a whole pack of oreos, devoured with a side of tears and snot in front of a Jennifer Aniston romcom isn’t only considered okay, for women, it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do when a relationship ends.

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Source: CBS

Its no problem if it occurs just the once. Its expected. For example, here is the sitcom version:

  1. Tearful woman squirts a whole cannister of whipped cream into her mouth, or devours a tub of Ben and Jerry’s with a wistful, trance like look on her face.
  2. Woman is later comforted by a usually platonic male friend who utters a few clichés, woman tearfully smiles, there is a hug, the studio audience ‘awws’ and everything is okay.

I’m sure this is not too far from real life for many (apart from the studio audience,  unless you have your own personal one following you around everywhere). But for emotional eaters, there is more ice cream and whipped cream beyond the reassurance from kind friends that your sexy ass deserves better. There is chocolate and pizza and secrecy and shame. (Shame is particularly yummy BTW.)

So ranting aside, my accountability for last week: low carb happened here and there but mostly I ate shit. I kind of went into this with a hopeful heart that due to the lack of restriction on calories, the naturally curbed appetite and the fact that with a little creativity, it’s easy to substitute high-carb food with more fat and protein loaded options, this would kind of be the solution to temptation. Of course it’s not. It has helped the boredom eating; being so full all the time means that my mind genuinely doesn’t wander to ordering a takeaway or watching a film with chocolate on a slow Sunday afternoon. But when I’m sad – nah.

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                                              Source: Channel 4                                                   Mmm potatoes…

I can say with certainty that it’s nowhere near as bad as it was, probably down to awareness. I’ll do a little advice post on this at some point. But the last week or so has shown me that I’m definitely not there yet and changing the way I eat is probably not going to solve the problem. I am going to stick with the low carb for a while longer as it has helped with the appetite control, weight loss and I’m definitely feeling the benefit of eating more veggies. But it’s certainly not the solution to emotional eating, kids. Though you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

January, maybe it is me. You still suck though.