Depression

All posts tagged Depression

Dangling Carrots

Published 20 November, 2012 by ladyem83

Excuse me the indulgence of a further post today.

My last post, ‘A Game of Patience’ explains what the last few days have been like; dark and lonely.

I’ve spent the last hour or so searching for scientific research articles to explain this disease.  What am I looking for; a cure, a step-by-step guide to recovery?  I want to understand the beast that lurks in the dark places in my mind and continues to torment me.  I thought that I was Ana but that’s not the case.

Just as a group of haywire cells divide and form a malignant tumour which invades an otherwise healthy body, a part of my brain malfunctioned on some level and anorexia developed and forced its way into my mind.   The degrees to which I invited it, permitted its presence and colluded with it are something that only I can try to work out.  However, Carrie Arnold’s book, ‘Decoding Anorexia’ is now on my Amazon wish list is a research guide!

It’s different now, I don’t want to be Ana’s victim.  I have chosen not to follow Ana’s ways and yet she’s still hanging on.

However, despite her persistence, I want to let her know and those who read this and perhaps are fighting a similar battle, that our small victories must not be overlooked:

I eat. I even eat chocolate, cashew nuts and…haggis!  Not in one sitting, not frequently and not in great amounts but I know that I can!

I recognise when I’m hungry and I’m generally not afraid to feed my body.

I can leap in the air!  This formed part of one of my exercise DVDs and only a few months ago I didn’t have the strength to jump up.

I wear clothes, I fill them out.  Clothes no longer hang from me.  Yes, this scares me but I will continue to tell myself that it is healthy.

I can read.  My ability to concentrate has returned and I can  now sit and read a book without rereading the same paragraph several times.

I have a growing sense of myself again.  I haven’t got it all back and I don’t like that I lost it along the way but I am finding myself again.

I can run!  I have to be in the mood but my legs feel strong and I feel energy running through them.

I laugh, I feel, I enjoy. Undeniably the most precious and which should never, ever be taken for granted.

So, although when Ana hits me, she hits me hard, I must not overlook where I am now.  I must not forget how far I’ve come.  This is why I have to keep going.

These and many others are the carrots being dangled in front of me and this recovering anorexic is hungry for them all!

 

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I Just Want To Be Happy

Published 21 October, 2012 by ladyem83

I haven’t cried in months.  I don’t know why, I just haven’t been able to.

Today, however, I was moved to tears by the words heading this post:

I just want to be happy.

They were said in a message to me by someone I don’t know and with whom I’m only in contact with via twitter; but they touched me so profoundly.

How many of us want a bigger house, new clothes, the latest gadget, more money, a better pension?  I used to want those things too and, of course, still do. However, I know their relative worth because they are now set in the context of my deepest desire:  to be happy.  I’ll have that over and above anything else.

Happiness to me means a quiet mind.  I so crave the peace that simple inner contentment brings.  I’ve been fortunate that I have felt it in the past so I know it  is possible.

My mind now is awash with a million conflicting thoughts and emotions constantly zapping around vying for dominance.  I feel constantly confused and unsure.  I don’t know which thoughts are real.  On very rare occasions something tugs deep inside me and I feel a twinge of the old me and I know that’s real.  But on a daily basis, I’m walking around with the thickest of fogs clouding my mind.

I’ve been to the darkest of places; places that were icy cold with a toxic air that sucked the very life out of me.  I don’t want to go back there.

The only thing that keeps me going now is the the fear of falling into that abyss again.  Every day, to varying degrees, is a battle.  I may not be taking big steps forward, I may be shuffling along at a snail’s pace and some days I’m standing still.  But, I’m not going backwards.  I never want to go backwards.  I never want to seek ‘comfort’ in Ana’s deathly vice like grip.

I just want to be happy.  I just want a quiet mind.

The only way for me to get that is to keep slogging away.  It’s to rebuild a healthy body and with that a healthy mind.  It’s to accept myself for all that I am and forget about whatever I’m not.  It’s to end the routine of self-torture and simply let myself be who I am in the moment that I’m in.

When I achieve that, and I say ‘when’ because I do not want to live in this fog forever, I will never ever take it for granted.  I will know how precious it is, I will cherish every peaceful moment and know that the trying moments will pass because I am strong enough to see my way through them.

To the young lady whose words inspired this post, please dig deep inside you and do everything you can to slowly walk back from the edge of the abyss.  Happiness doesn’t live there.  You won’t be walking alone, I’m walking that path with you and you have the people around you who love and care for you.

Finding My Voice

Published 12 October, 2012 by ladyem83

Depression, my ‘black dog’ is a mysterious, unfathomable, organic creature.  It’s a shape-shifter.  From day to day, even moment to moment it changes its form and alters my state of mind.  It pulls my strings and plays with me.  It makes me feel hopeless and numb, then it allows me to feel empowered and elated.  Then it seemingly leaves me feeling flat.  What it doesn’t let me feel, however, is me.  

So, instead, I have learnt to become grateful for the days when I feel flat.  I hate the dark days, and the moments or days filled with elation are deceptively high; I don’t trust them.

Monday was flat.  Tuesday was dark. Wednesday was brighter. Thursday was a little brighter still and, today, there’s a glimmer of me.  I felt her yesterday evening.   I’d been occupying myself all afternoon trying to resist the pull of my gremlin’s voice. I was swinging from the flat baseline to feelings of empowerment and back again.  A voice told me that I could manage my gremlin, I could play with him but be strong enough not to give in to him totally.

But, then something told me otherwise.  That something was me. My black dog and my gremlin were colluding with each other.  They have become master ventriloquists and their voices are frighteningly convincing; they sound like me but their message is dangerous.

So, I sat still.  I continued to read my book (and re-read the pages and passages where my mind had wondered for the umpteenth time as it tuned into my gremlin’s voice).

Mum arrived home late and I told her the way I’d been feeling the last couple of days.  I like being honest with her. Even now, I expect her to be disappointed with me and somewhat ashamed of me because, essentially, I am; or at least I’m ashamed of the characteristics  that my black dog and my gremlin play out in me .  Mum never, ever judges me.  She listens and acknowledges.  She points out the possible pathways to further improvement and she commends the steps and/or the truths I’ve discovered so far.  She gives strength to my emerging voice.

I spend all day on my own with my thoughts, my black dog’s thoughts and my gremlin’s thoughts.  By the end of the day when Mum arrives home I’m exhausted from all the mental to-ing and fro-ing.  So, everyday (more or less) for the last 10 months I’ve looked forward to the evening when I would numb them all into submission.  It has been bliss.  I would feel the wave wash over me and the voices would be silenced.  What was left was banal and I gave in to its calming, wonderful simplicity.

But, I’d wake feeling guilty.  I’d wake knowing that all I’d done was temporarily gag the mouths of my black dog, my gremlin and, most worryingly, myself.  The numbness wasn’t selective and I favoured drowning out all the voices.

I realised that the longer I continued with this destructive practice, the weaker my voice would get.  I was worried that I would start to forget it.

Something had to change.

So, for the last two days I have heard and cowered from the growls and vicious barks of my black dog.  I have wrestled with the devilishly teasing, tempting, coercing voice of my gremlin.  I have not handed myself over to them, however (despite wanting to at times).  They have been noisily occupying my mind so I have gone for walks, I have even gone for a run (!). I have cleaned, I have read.  I have even just sat and listened to their raucous chatter .

Today, they are still there; I know they are.  This evening will be a test for me.  I will write about it this afternoon, or later.  However, the fact that for the last two days I haven’t played ball with them makes me start to believe that I don’t have to.  I have the strength to say no, I don’t want to play the game and nothing truly bad will come from that.  

Ok, I acknowledge that I’m writing this on an ‘up’ day.   But I believe it is important for me to take everything I can out of these moments.  It is important that if I hear my voice that I listen to it and praise it because, when the down days come I need to know that they will not stay forever.  I need to know that my voice is still inside me and that I have had the strength in the past to overcome or simply live through the dark moments.

When I hear that voice that I know to be mine, when I feel the feelings of old Em again, I cling on to them for dear life.  I am not ashamed to say that I liked old Em! Old Em doesn’t deserve to be cowering in a dark corner with a black dog and a gremlin nipping away at her.  They deserve to be kept in the dog house!

This week has been another learning curve.

World Mental Health Day and Me

Published 10 October, 2012 by ladyem83

It’s World Mental Health Day today and twitter has been flooded with positive words of support, inspiration and motivation to all those suffering with a mental illness.

This morning I joined the masses and wanted add my voice to the increasing chorus.  I wanted to shout about it, let everybody know that what I’m going through isn’t unusual, it isn’t wrong, it isn’t my fault.  After yesterday being such a dark day for me, today I felt buoyed up by the determined voices speaking out in unison each against their own ‘Black Dog’, ‘Gremlin’.

I took some time out and continued reading ‘The Chimp Paradox:  The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness’ by Dr Steven Peters.  I have been attending CBT sessions and this book neatly compliments them.  Through the metaphors of a ‘Chimp’ (the emotional and reactionary part of our mind), a ‘Human’ (the logical part of our mind) and a ‘Computer’ (the part of our mind which stores the information (which becomes our core beliefs) sent to it by the Chimp and the Human , the book explains how our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and beliefs inter-relate.  It invites you to stop and break down your engrained thought processes and behaviours with a view to understanding their origin, questioning them and, where necessary, re-programming your ‘Computer’.

This book has provoked me to consider myself in a way I never have before.  Of course, implementing the changes I know I need to is a challenging and slow process.  Especially when there are days when I can’t see the value in anything, when I feel numb and just want to sleep until this all goes away.

I have digressed.

I started to become aware of how much ‘thinking’ I was doing.  I was thinking  about my feelings of depression that have flared up again over the last few weeks.  I was thinking about my reliance on my Gremlin.  What did my depression and my Gremlin make me?  I’m recovering from anorexia. I’m recovering from depression.  I’m teetering on the edge of succumbing to another Gremlin and trying hard not to.

I can only describe what I felt by likening it to being in a noisy shop, when there are too many people around you, you can’t quite see the way through to where you want to go and you’re constantly being distracted by them and their chatter.

I wanted some silence.  I didn’t want to be surrounded by the chatter in my mind.  I didn’t want to be a recovering anorexic, depressive!  I just wanted to be Em.  I wanted to return to the days when I could read a book and my mind wouldn’t wander.  I wanted to hear only my voice and be comfortable with it.

I put the book away and picked up a fiction book, The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler.  It’s a fast paced thriller which I’ve just started reading and am increasingly enjoying.

I’d read a page, then my mind would wonder to my Gremlin; how would I cope later on without its support? I refocussed on the book.  I thought about the number on the scales this morning; is that a good or bad number, should I do something to reverse it, am I lazy, am I greedy?  I refocussed on the book.

This mental cycle continued for an hour until I decided it was time to break the motion and go out for a run.

My point is, whether it is depression, an eating disorder or any other mental illness, it is just a label.   The illness tries its damnedest to define us; to suppress our individual spark.  Today, I wanted to to take a step back from it.  I didn’t want to think about it any more.  I didn’t want to listen to its voices.  I wanted to remember me and just be me. 

Of course, the hard thing now is for me to believe that the person I am without Ana, my Gremlin, or my Black Dog is enough of a person.

Am I a good enough person….?

That phrase captures it all.  Good enough for whom?  I should only be trying to be good enough for myself.  I know that I used to be so content with the young woman I had become.  I was confident, comfortable and accepting of myself.

I think I need to stop thinking and questioning.  I need to quieten my mind so my old voice can come through again.  That’s the one that I need to listen to.  That’s the one that will help me recover.

I’m Em; nothing more and certainly nothing less.

 

Rules, Rules, Rules

Published 8 October, 2012 by ladyem83

Whether consciously or not,  I’ve always adhered to a set of rules which I’ve imposed on myself.   I touched on this briefly in my post, ‘Breaking The Routine and Going With The Flow, however, over the last year and particularly when I fell into Ana’s tight grip, I have added to these rules and become imprisoned by them.  Abiding by them has become such an engrained part of my life that departing from them, or even bending them, causes me so much inner torment and confusion.

My CPN asked me to consider the rules which I live by and the effect they have on my life.  So here’s my Rule Book.  I need to see it in black and white.  I need to consider the true worth of each rule.

Rule #1 – I must always be active.  Being still is lazy and indulgent.

Rule #2 – I must make sure that those around me are happy. I must look after them.

Rule # 3 – I must be ensure that everything I do is to my standard of ‘perfection’.  ‘That’ll do’, isn’t acceptable.  Nothing is ever totally right, I need always to learn how to better what I do.  I cannot settle for anything less.

Rule # 4 – I cannot treat myself unless I have done something to deserve it.

Rule#5 – I must achieve the goals I set myself.

Rule #6 – I must please others.

Rule #7 – I define myself by the goals that I achieve.

Rule#8 – I must adhere to every plan that I set ahead of myself.

Some of these rules have been engrained in me since I was young, others have developed latterly and others I have taken to extreme lengths only recently as depression and anorexia took over.

I don’t doubt that there are also numerous other rules  to which I unconsciously adhere.

These rules gave me a sense of security.  When I was younger I had no self-confidence, so ensuring that I got full marks on each test, passed my exams, got a good career meant that I was worth something.  It gave me a means against which to measure myself and my value.

When I qualified as a solicitor, those regular benchmarks disappeared and I felt lost.  I had nothing against which I could measure myself; so I started to loose my self-confidence and my self-esteem.

As this happened my fixation on the other rules grew.  If a test couldn’t tell me how good I am then I needed to go into overdrive in all other areas of my life.  I needed to ensure that I was the best person I could be for other people.  Whether it was friendships or relationships, it was those other people who mattered more than I did.  I lost my identity by trying to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be.  This manifested itself not only in my behaviour but even the way I dressed changed.

My Rule Book engulfed me.

So now it’s time to re-write the Rule Book.  In fact, let’s throw it out!  I don’t want my life to be governed by rules.  I want to govern my life.   Of course, this doesn’t mean that I will lower my standards.  I believe in being the best I can be.  I believe in learning and growing.  I believe in being a loyal and supportive daughter, sister and friend.  These are my values.  Values are important; they help to define a person’s character.

How could I ever  fully experience my life, and thereby become the rounded person I want to be, if I am forbidden from stepping outside of certain fixed parameters?

As long as I remain true to my values then I don’t need rules to govern my every action and thought.  I can explore, learn, try, fail, succeed…live!

I don’t expect that I will be able to throw the Rule Book out today but I’ll close it and put it on the shelf.  The only question I need to ask myself is whether I’m being true to what I believe in.  If the answer is yes, then I’m free to do it!

Do you have a Rule Book?  

Dreams of a carefree meal

Published 7 October, 2012 by ladyem83

All week I’ve had in mind a topic I knew I wanted to write about.  This isn’t it.

I thought Ana had gone and, in the main, she has; but, her presence still lingers in me.

This last week has been up and down.  My feelings of depression overcame me for most of the week and I withdrew into myself again.  I slept in the afternoon, I feared the future, I couldn’t see the point of my being here, the part I have to play in my life, in other people’s lives.

I’ve been in a baking frenzy; it’s a way of testing and punishing myself because I love to bake cakes, experiment with recipes, share my baking and, in the past, enjoy the sampling!  Of course, now I rarely eat the products of my baking so, as always, Mum has been my grateful guinea pig!

Finally, on Friday I tried two of the buns I’d made as I was experimenting with new flavours.  I didn’t sit down with the finished buns and a cup of tea and enjoy them as a treat.  I mulled over in my mind the pros and cons of eating them; what else had I eaten that day, that week; how active have I been; can I justify them? I ate them to test the flavours, not to enjoy the fruits of my day.

Later, after dinner Mum and I were enjoying a cup of tea and I brought out some of the buns.  She had one and commented on how delicious it was and said she just couldn’t resist another one.  I wanted to be part of that.  I wanted us to share the enjoyment of this treat, my baking.  I sat with the tiny bun and a cake fork and ate it as slowly as if it were an entire celebration cake. But, this time, there was something a little safe in eating it because Mum was too. She eased the guilt and I said, ‘It’s nice to enjoy a cake with a cup of tea.’  Something so very very simple is so very very significant and challenging for me.

We’re spending the weekend with Granny.  Granny’s house has always been the place were you enjoy her homemade flapjacks and fruitcakes.  Of course now it’s something that preys on my mind all week.  Can I have a treat?  I know I shouldn’t; but why shouldn’t I?

After dinner last night I ate a huge piece of fruit cake.  But I didn’t do it freely, I did it because I’d had just enough wine to take the edge of the endless mental to-ing and fro-ing. I ate it and went back for more, despite not wanting it, despite being full.  I was binging on the thing I so desperately wanted to freely enjoy because the alcohol meant I wasn’t thinking or feeling.  So I didn’t really, truly enjoy it.

Of course, I woke this morning tormented with the guilt.  I don’t want my relationship with food to be like that.   I don’t want the only time I eat certain foods to be if I’ve been drinking.  There are so many more foods that I’m happy to eat now but still so many that confuse me and challenge me.  I want to simply pick up some chocolate and eat it without giving a second thought to it. I want food to be a fun, sharing experience again and not accompanied by a million conflicting thoughts.

I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to eat like that again.

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