First off, apologies for how lengthy this post is. Getting thoughts, feelings etc. out of my head is one way for me to cope and relieve myself of so much that goes on in my brain. So bare with, bare with.
Learning that I was suffering from depression, stress and anxiety about 18 months ago was daunting but much the same a HUGE relief.
I first thought ‘finally I don’t have to go into work’.
It was crippling me. I woke up, went to work, came home, ate and slept. This sounds like a totally normal routine for the rest of the world. But the underlining things made it worse;
0430 wake up alarm, 40 minute commute – sometimes being stuck in traffic, dealing with staff asking repetitive and simple questions, being relied on for jobs way higher than my pay grade, being the only person who knew how to use this fantastic new machine, being promised a pay rise, not receiving said pay rise, not earning any time in lieu, other staff with the same job title as me receiving and earning time in lieu, having said members of staff thinking I was getting preferential treatment when I wasn’t, having to stay 3-5 hours past my finish time when same level staff went home dead on time, getting caught in an accident on the way home resulting in me being 5 hours late home. I could go on and on and on.
But this 24/5 crept up on me and made me feel worse and worse. Due to the nature of my job I can not discuss the happenings within the work place. So I came home stressed and couldn’t let this out. I would try to explain to my parents, friends and Tim but the machines and protocols were so hard to explain I gave up trying to explain as it felt like too much effort.
I became very irritable. I didn’t care about my personal standards or work standards. I just felt empty and didn’t know how to feel any more. I wanted to put myself into a car crash so I didn’t have to go to work the next day. Rugby, my main passion was a hate/hate relationship. Mostly because I was either too late to go to training or too damn tired. This was a massive change to the person who used to sing Disney and musical songs to her employees to cheer them up when we had no radio. Plus a massive change to the rugby captain who would turn up 30 minutes early to look at equipment and set up drills to help out the coach.
So once the Dr told me that it was normal to feel like this and that asking for help was the best step; I cried. I panicked having to tell my parents – the generation that hasn’t got the best knowledge of mental health. I didn’t tell my friends I was off work – it was only the fact my friend (who lived in the same street as me) noticed my car was actually at home between the hours of 6am & 3pm that she questioned what was up. I had regular appointments with my Dr and every time I cried. It was all very overwhelming. I was scared to tell Tim. We had just put down a deposit on a new build house, would he end up changing his mind about me now he knew I wasn’t well? I had every kind of thought an over thinker could have.
So the first 2 months I slept. No matter how much I slept I was always yawning and feeling tired. My mum was being very supportive but worried I was sleeping too much and was trying to get me to do odd jobs. But I didn’t want to. I needed to sleep.
It was as if I was a hibernating bear.
After this period I started to watch a lot of TV. Hurrah for Netflix who doesn’t judge you binge watching a 4 year TV series within 3 days. I started showering and looking after my personal hygiene more. I went to the Drs regularly and cried every time.
Medication was then discussed at a Drs appointment. I was reluctant at first but I could see that my mood and mental ability was just not improving. My dad had to get his head around it as well. I think he didn’t want me becoming reliant on the tablets like the ‘bad press stories’ he had read and heard within his life time. For the month of my body getting used to this medication, I felt sick and slept some more.
Slowly but surely I started telling jokes again. I smiled more. I became more affectionate towards everyone. My parents and Tim all said they were definitely noticing a difference. I felt like myself again. I remembered who I was again. It didn’t happen overnight however my realisation that I was becoming myself again did. Talking my feelings through with friends, family and my Dr made me think about myself more and how differently I was reacting to situations. I could see light at the end of my very dark tunnel.
Before and throughout this period my eating habits became more and more apparent. I over ate. My portions were increasing. My secret trips to the shop were increasing. Picking up sweet treats at the petrol station became a regular thing. I binge ate – ALOT. But I never had the urge to throw it all back up. I felt it was a waste of food. I literally looked like this……
I knew I ate my emotions. I ate when I was happy, sad, angry, excited, had a sense of failure or achievement. My list of ‘reasons’ was endless. I expressed my concerns again to my Dr who upped the anti with my mental health recovery. Therapy.
Oh good – I thought. A softly spoken person trying to make you feel better without hurting your feelings. This was my first reaction. But my relationship with my Dr was strong and I trusted her. The tablets had worked under her referral. So why would this be a waste of my time?
So after going through a therapy service called italk (click on this link to find out more http://www.italk.org.uk/about-us/) I felt better for seeing how many people were going through the same thing as me. For either the same reasons or completely different reasons. It helped me put some perspective into my life as well.
Just little things (please excuse my poor describing skills) image your brain as a bath filling up with water. The water represents your thoughts and feelings. If you keep letting the bath fill up, eventually it will overflow. This is the same as our brains, we cant cope with too much at once. (obviously people’s thresholds for this differs – so they would be a bigger or smaller bath tub) To stop the bath tub from overflowing, we would pull the plug and let the water drain. So to stop us from ‘overflowing’ or not being able to cope we need to find time to let our thoughts and feelings out. Draining our brain from ‘bad’ or ‘unhelpful’ thoughts. I hope this made sense? It did to me at the time!
So I did my course of sessions and felt good. I carried on with rebuilding my routine and life back to normal. But I was still eating my emotions.
I tried Slimming World for the third time. 1st time I was at College at it worked for me – it helped mum was doing it too and cooking all my meals etc. Second time was a new years resolution. I knew I had to do something about my weight and proactively signed myself up and went. But then I got signed off work with depression etc – it was all too much. This time I went with a friend to see if that became a more positive experience. I was feeling better in myself, I knew the drill so it wouldn’t be too daunting and if I could do this before Christmas time I could do it any time.
However it became a competition. Even though we didn’t have the snide comments of who lost of the most weight. In my head, Grace was doing better than me. She managed to lose weight when socialising with friends and for Christmas parties. She managed to lose weight whilst having 2 kids, working part time, having a dog and running a home. I just had myself and Tim. She motivated me with tips and ideas to help me but I just shot them down and put up my barriers. And ate my emotions. I treated myself to a takeaway if I had lost that week. I would get annoyed that I hadn’t lost weight so had a blow out day and ate every single nice thing in the house. It literally did my head in.
At my usual Drs appointment I shared my concern of not being in control of what I put in my mouth. I know some people will be reading this thinking, well don’t buy the bad things, of course you’re in control blah blah blah. But to me I’m not in control. My mind always wins over my physical body. I know an orange is better for me than a donut. I know a jacket potato is healthier for me than chips with my dinner. But my mind can somehow control my thought patterns for me to eat the wrong things.
With italk I wasn’t in the deep depths of depression / anxiety / stress for me to have more sessions with them. I expressed the eating habits with them too but I didn’t have enough symptoms to be classed as having an eating disorder. Probably because I didn’t actually throw anything back up or starve myself. So I felt a bit stuck.
Until my Dr said try getting in touch with this trust – Life Changes. (click on the link to find out more; http://www.lifechangescounselling.org.uk/)
I self referred and waited for my appointment to come through. My first time I went to the wrong place – I felt like a first class prick. But this actually made my first official appointment at the wrong place, which was now the right place, less daunting. I had already done the bus journey (I do drive but we are only a 1 car household), I knew the directions for me to walk the rest of the way, so all I had to do new this time was speak to a therapist!
So I did………reluctantly.
I was there to talk about food and my emotional attachment to it etc. My therapist was the same size as a pencil. I may be exaggerating but my arms were probably the size of her thighs. I was thinking YOU are going to help ME with my eating habits? I don’t think so love! Have you even SEEN a pizza?
The way therapy worked this time was me talking constantly. They encourage it. At first I talked about food and my habits making sure not to say names (as she didn’t know who the fuck they were so what’s the point). My therapist then proposes questions of the classic ‘and how did that make you feel?’. Cheesy as it sounds it makes you think and access. And ‘ding’ my time was up. I surprised myself at how much I talked to a complete stranger about my fucktard ways of choosing a caramel shortcake over an apple.
The next session was much easier to talk and I started saying names as ‘my friend’ was getting annoying. Plus I said anything that I was thinking or feeling. Regardless of how stupid / unimaginable / exaggerated it seemed, she would always listen and refer me back to the question at hand. ‘So how did that make you feel?’
My first ‘mind blown’ realisation was when she said to me ‘the only thing constant in life is change’.
I LOVE to plan. I like to control the situations I put myself into. But having some third party tell me – hang on a minute you cant physically or emotional control every single little detail of your life, made me think – fuck she’s totally right. Yes I could have got my mum or friend or any of you random strangers to tell me that for free. But the way she then explained it all to me just made so much sense.
I now don’t plan as often and don’t become bogged down if plans change.
My second realisation was actually related to me eating my emotions. I was feeling much better and happier that maybe I didn’t need any more sessions with her. But I had been going a bit off track with why I was there. So last week I started to talk about my eating habits again. How I’m still over eating even though I have learnt to love the body I’m in, to be happy with how I am right now and not eating because of an emotion. How I’m worried I am still putting on weight – eeeeekk! How I knew that 3 stone ago I needed to eat better etc. All she had to say to me was ‘What is food to you? When did this begin?’
It started as a kid. It was because you want the biggest piece of birthday cake you can get at a birthday party when you’re small. Food became a friend. My friends wouldn’t come and call on me to go out to play because I lived ‘too far away’ – I definitely did not FYI. But food never made plans which didn’t include me. Food became a pick me up for when I got bullied by people I used to hang around with. (I left the cool group because I didn’t smoke and I knew I actually wasn’t ‘cool’ but they didn’t like that I left them so then they started picking on me. WTF?) It became a comfort for when boys would put you in the sexiest ranking order. (I was always at the bottom – even though one of the guys who compiled the list quite possibly liked you back but wouldn’t admit it.) Food was a trick to overcome boredom. Food was a treat when you started earning your own money. Food was a competition within your family (my dad would raid our sweetie tin whilst doing the washing up so I had to get in there first to not miss out). Food was needed to fuel me for all my sporting activities I did. Food never judged me. Food was my constant.
So I have now realised that even though I may be putting on more and more weight at the moment (opposite to goal #26 of losing weight), I have to learn to undo possibly 20 years of bad habits. Now even I know that’s not going to happen overnight! So I may have to gain to eventually start losing.
My blog post May’s Mission talks about me and Tim giving up garlic bread. Sounds pathetic. But its a step in noticing that its a bad habit and how do we stop it. We still haven’t eaten any and I’m actually proud that we have stuck to something and know I don’t need garlic bread with every meal.
I talked to my parents about this too and told them that we hadn’t had a takeaway for a whole month either. We ate out – yes. We had McDonalds breakfast – yes. However it wasn’t because I couldn’t deal with the thought of cooking. It wasn’t because I was having a bad mental health day that we ordered a takeaway. It was because we had legitimate reasons. Eating out was date night. McDonalds breakfast was because Tim had sliced the tip of his finger off. They turned round and told us how well we were doing. They had both admitted that they actually realised what my relationship with food was as well. How in depth it has affected me. It wasn’t a case of ‘you need to exercise more’ or ‘do you really need that?’ or ‘you’re addicted to sugar’. Its now a case of supporting me through this long journey of me rewiring my brain to change what food is to me.
So although our diet isn’t healthier, my mental illness isn’t affecting my choices on food AS MUCH. I cant stress those last 2 words enough. I have a long way to come still but I am damn proud of my efforts so far.
Thanks for reading
Just FYI……I also thought these videos put a lot into perspective for me…..