An Imperfect Storm – Thoughts on Fear and Loneliness


Photo credit: A. K. Azad / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

I have no idea why, but I am petrified of sudden loud noises. Most especially the following things:

  • Fireworks
  • Exploding balloons
  • Thunderstorms

These are the worst possible aural torture for me.

I used to even have to avoid parties in case there was a chance of there being balloons. I am somewhat calmer about that particular prospect these days, but I still don’t participate in any balloon games. I still hate the noise a balloon makes if it’s getting twisted and squeezed as its often a prelude to a sudden burst.

Similarly with fireworks. I can just about cope at organised displays if I have my earplugs and I have someone’s hand I can hold. However that couple of weeks around Bonfire night is a very unpleasant one as I fear youths letting off rockets at random. In my opinion rockets make the worst of all the firework noises.

Thunder – the worst noise

Thankfully in this country (the UK) we don’t get those very often and usually, if we do, it involves a couple of just about tolerable rumbles and that’s it. Thursday, Friday and Saturday just gone were, sadly, not confined to tolerable rumbles. I was awoken by loud thunder on both the Thursday and Friday nights. Friday was the worst of the two.

I could see brilliant flashes of light outside my window. The lightning was near.

DANGER!

BANG!

I flinched and screamed with sheer shock of the ferocity of nature.

The weather outside starting to resemble a scene from the Old Testament. I panic realising that the timing between the flashes and the thunder were very short. The danger was close – the next unsettling tumult was only seconds away.

My frightening experience with panic

On both the nights the lights started to flicker, you could hear those electrical noises like in some of the arty scenes from one of David Lynch’s films.

The pit of my stomach fills with nausea, my heart starts beating fast, I feel a flush of heat and energy in my body as the adrenalin floods through.

My mind starts racing.

“Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop”

The power suddenly went out – and I was left with one glimmering bulb and, curiously, the internet.

The desire for comfort

I wanted comfort. A warm caring hand pressed against my own. A chest to rest against. The soft rise and fall of another’s breath. No words necessary. Just the almighty power of touch.

But no one was there. I am alone and I have been alone for quite some time. This in itself was a terrible thing to me right at that moment when I really needed comfort. However, my mind raced on. I had lost those that I had truly loved one way or another. My family, my previous partners, my best friend – unjustly taken away from me at the tender age of thirty-five.

The uncertainty of things scared me.

There was a possibility that I could be alone for ever. After all, who would want to date a plain girl with mental illnesses (possibly with a hint of autism). I would never be normal. Everyone likes normal. Normal is safe. Normal is good. Normal is easy.

Oh the injustice!

My thoughts whirred and were triggered again and again by each successive thunder clap. I rocked myself back and forth under my duvet. I sent messages of my distress on-line, but no one could really help me as I wasn’t in the necessary receptive state of mind. I had blocked out most of the reasonable and rational, clinging steadfastly to the mental sackcloth. I beat myself again and again with a succession of negative thoughts until at last the storm subsided and I passed out exhausted on my pillows.

The aftermath and a possible solution

The next day I felt foolish for what had happened, but I realised that the reason why I couldn’t cope with that situation was simply because I hadn’t previously acknowledged it as a trigger and therefore I was ill-prepared for the onslaught.

I decided that I would have to create an emergency box which I could easily find and open in times of trouble. It would contain those things that would provide me with immediate solace and restore feelings of safety in me.

If you are keen to know the contents, please check out tomorrow’s blog post where all shall be revealed!

 

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki Murakami

 

Mental Health on the Internet 20/7/2014

Blog of the Week

If you suffer from BFRB (Body Focussed Repetitive Disorders – hair-pulling, skin-picking, nail biting) please have a look at the Canadian BFRB Support Network. They have a great blog featuring stories from other people living with these disorders. One heartfelt and positive story that I came across was the following:

I Shaved My Head To Stop Pulling My Hair Out

What a brave lady!

Links I Love

  • A fabulous blog post on depression and masculinity – honest and thought-provoking, time to kick into touch another stigma.
  • Here, in the first of a six part series, a courageous woman discusses her recovery from anorexia.
  • I’ve really admired singer Demi Lovato for her mental health advocacy and using her experiences to help others. Click here for her four tips on dealing with mental health issues on a day-to-day basis.

Video of the Week

Harnaam Kaur shares her story of how she overcame self harm and began to love her body. I found it difficult to resist her upbeat zest for life and unapologetic self-acceptance:

Thank You xx

2014-07-06 19.20.13

Tonight, a short post.

A post to say thank you, dear readers from countries far and wide, for supporting me:

  • Some of you stopped by to admire my novice poetry.
  • Some of you stopped by because we’re Twitter buddies and you were curious.
  • Some of you stopped by because you were searching online for something to do with mental illness and managed to find me.
  • Some of you are fellow WordPress bloggers on a whole host of different topics and just wanted to stop by to have a look.
  • Some of you found me via the BFRB directory on Tumblr
  • Some of you tune in everyday.
  • Some of you stop by now and again.
  • Some of you take the time to comment and say kind words.
  • Some of you shared my blog posts because you thought it might help others.

Some people laugh at the idea that you can have genuine human contact with other people from behind a computer screen.

Yes, its not the same as being in someone’s physical presence but it has it’s own indisputable value – especially for those of us who feel too unlovely to be fully engaged with people on a face to face basis.

In cyberspace no one gets to see my physicality or has to hear my actual voice.

My social foibles and emotional (un)intelligence are, for the most part, deftly disguised with the slower and more considered pace of typing (and the chance of editing) as opposed to talking out loud. When the words roll of your tongue rather than your keyboard then taking any mistakes back is like trying to push toothpaste back down the tube.

I somehow feel freer with my emotions in cyberspace than I do in the off-line world, and as such I have been able to find the peer support for mental health which I struggle to get off-line.

Anyway, I would like to re-iterate my thanks to all of you who read or follow my blog. It helps to know that I do not tread this path alone.

It honestly does.

R x

Afraid of My Reflection – My Experience With Body Dysmorphia


 

Photo credit: ishaip / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains detailed discussion of my negative thoughts about my body. I am body positive and the whilst the post is meant to affirm self-acceptance, some of the content may be triggering to anyone who is struggling with eating disorders and mental health issues related to body image. Please proceed with care only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

Have you ever been to a gym to try and get “in shape” or for your health or whatever. You’re there on the bikes, the treadmills, the weight machines. You’re going to those classes – Spinning, Body Pump, Body Combat, Body this that and the other – just trying your best despite your lack of co-ordination.

You feel self-conscious – you know that you go as red as a tomato with the slightest exertion. Your hair goes frizzy at the merest drop of sweat.

The final insult must be that woman showing up! You know, the athletic brunette. Hair perfectly coiffed, full face of make-up without a single trace of sweat. Body like she’s stepped off the front cover of one of those fitness magazines.

You seethe with indignation as she saunters past in her trendy gym gear. Calves of steel which narrow to slender ankles, slim thighs with that “oh-so-important” thigh gap. No saddlebags, just a smooth hip line that traces up to an impossibly tiny waistline. Flat stomach with a hint of a six pack and obliques. The line widens out to broad, defined shoulders, elegant clavicles and no bingo wings (the injustice of it!). As she goes by you notice her shapely rear – well – you and half the gym.

How dare she come in like this making you feel inferior! Just look at her load all that weight onto the squat bar. Oh! And there’s a guy complimenting her on her calves and shoulders…

Who is she?

Dear readers,

That annoying woman is me. That annoying woman also has mental health problems and one of those problems is called Body Dysmorphia.

“Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance and to have a distorted view of how they look.” (via the NHS website)

It is not about vanity or self-obsession. It is about being genuinely frightened and distressed about what you see in the mirror everyday. You also may think that other people see you in the same distorted fashion.

What I see when I look in the mirror

Today I was trying to get back to how things were before my most immediate relapse. I’m doing my good home cooking again, drinking lots of water and doing my exercise. Just basically trying to take care of myself.

I accidentally caught sight of myself in the mirror post-workout.I noticed for the first time a slight groove over he top of each knee-cap. Ageing, saggy knees. I have fat knees! How can I have fat knees?

My eyes scan for more imperfections. I notice my bow-leggedness – my legs look twisted and unpleasant. My thighs are asymmetric. Different sizes. I notice a horrible fat deposit on the top of my inner thighs – the fat on each thigh looks different. One thing I really cannot tolerate in my appearance is lack of symmetry!

The ghastly ritual continues. I notice muffin top fat, bra strap fat, my stomach fat. I shake each of my arms – to my utter chagrin, I thought I might have detected a slight bit of jiggle.

Oh and then there is my face. My unbearably plain scarred oily jowly sagging old face.

I really am a hopeless loser.

A hidden illness

Let me make clear – I am not trying to fish for compliments. There is part of me that knows what’s what, that has self-awareness. I’m just telling you, as precisely as I can, all those thoughts that beset me every-time I have to look at my reflection.

It is horrible. Sometimes those thoughts can plague me for days. It can make me too self-conscious to speak to people or even go out at times.

How can I be annoying gym woman and the self-conscious woman at the same time? Easy. When depression hasn’t quite squeezed me in its treacherous grasp, I over-compensate with immaculate make-up, hair-styling and designer clothes (albeit I always shop in the sales). Its my armour against people who would call me horrible names, who might laugh at my ugliness.

I know that other people see me as the “annoying” woman – that narrative is what came out from one of my personal training clients. “The gym is not a place for a fat woman”, she lamented.  She was worried that people would laugh and make fun of her. Whisper insults about her size. Fat-shame her.

She was scared of catching her reflection. She felt that she could never be happy until she was thin like the “annoying” women.

A war on our own bodies

Whilst I am not going say that her experience and mine were the same (I am aware of thin privilege and that sadly abusive and ignorant behaviours towards fat people are all too commonplace ), I recognised that we shared some common ground.

I wanted to be symmetrical and pretty the same way that she wanted to be thin. I had this idea that my life would suddenly morph from sh*t to perfect the day that happened – she pretty much thought the same way about being thin.

I didn’t tell her that I was suffering from a mental illness, but what I did say was that you can never tell from looking at someone what their inner world is like, who they really are and what journey they’ve been on. For some of the “annoying” women could be struggling with eating disorders which means that they cannot enjoy having that thin privilege, that they cannot really enjoy life full stop.

I can’t “just get over it”

For me its a constant battle between my rational mind and the dysmorphia thoughts. Some people just tell me to “get over it”, that its all in my head. I wish I could just wake up and be over it.

Yes, it is in my head and that’s precisely the problem.

I want it out of my head so that I can think nice sensible thoughts and lead the happy life I want to lead. Instead my imagination creates some alternative reality whereby I can have muscle tone worthy of an athlete but am still “unacceptably” fat. All the compliments were from an army of “polite” people laughing behind my back.

I hate fat-shaming, but some days I think nothing of doing it to myself.

To anyone who doesn’t think its a serious problem – please put aside your prejudice and read up on the subject. People living with body dysmorphia are not vain just troubled by disturbing thoughts which they have great difficulty in controlling.

 

“The mirror can lie.
Doesn’t show you what’s inside.
And it, it can tell you you’re full of life.
It’s amazing what you can hide just by putting on a smile.”
Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Don’t Forget

My Broken Reflection

rosewiltshire:

Today I came across this heart-rendering and incredibly beautiful poem. It has a kind of honesty and sheer raw quality to it which I can only aspire to.

Please check it out and show the incredibly talented author some love xx

Originally posted on Phoenix - The Rebirth of My Life:

July 16th, 2014  8:15 AM

As I stand on my two weak feet
To look in the 22” by 33” mirror reflected in front of me
I see
A hole in my heart,
A shattered knee,
A missing kidney,
A broken rib cage,
An empty stomach,
A dry bladder.

My brain is hollow and desolated;
My intelligence, memory and thoughts have deserted me,
They did not want anything to do with me.
I use my  two parched hands to crack the coronal suture of my head
To gently remove my shriveled up brain.
In the process I crack the frontal bone to shut my sinuses down.
I cup the brain in my two hands;
Here in my hands I hold the key to my youth:
The key to my everlasting fountain of life.
I place the withered and expired brain in my right hand.
I raise my right hand above my…

View original 173 more words

Re-motivation After A Relapse – A Plan Comes Together

2014-07-15 21.49.15

I had been feeling very down over the last week or so – my anxiety was high. Once again the OCD thoughts took over.

I had deviated from my recovery challenge and I felt guilty. I felt that I had let myself down and also let down my supporters.

I had thought about catching up and starting the four missed challenges from next week but then I thought that would be too much for me in my fragile state of mind. I would be setting myself up for failure and then having yet another thing to feel guilty about.

The way forward

So, what I’m going to do is just restart at the earliest challenge that I missed.

I still hope to make the Christmas deadline and since I built in a few weeks to spare I may be able to make up for it by doubling up on a particularly good week (I hope I will have some more good weeks soon).

Rewarding success

I thought I would also up the ante by providing an additional carrot (or rather a chocolate or two.) Today’s blog photo shows some heavenly Hotel Chocolat goodies – boozy chocolates in three delectable varieties!

Okay, okay – its well known that alcohol is a depressant so I shouldn’t try to make matters worse. I’m not actually going to scoff the whole lot down in one go – I’ve decided that I get to have one chocolate for every day where I’ve done all my challenges. Just one. One to savour slowly and appreciatively. One to reward me for a hard task done.

Business as usual

In the meantime, I am just ensuring that I get back to normal with good helpings everyday of tasty nutrient-dense food. Make sure I keep hydrating, make sure I do my exercise.

Most of all, I need to remember that recovery doesn’t need to be a linear path – it appears I’ve chosen the “scenic” route -  all it means is that it will take me slightly longer than originally planned.

No big deal – plans change all the time. That’s life and I plan to get on with it.

 

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.”

Dealing With My Negative Thoughts


Photo credit: Free HDR & Photomanipulations – www.freestock.ca / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Negative thoughts comprise a very large part of my mental health problems.

Since most of my mental health problems relate to an over-stimulated mind (anxiety and OCD related issues), these thoughts can be frighteningly persistent and very hard to ignore.

This is why I find it frustrating when I get people telling me to “get over it” or “try harder” as I’m trying very hard every single day. I don’t want to be ill.

Perfectionism and Drive

In fact bold efforts, both physically and mentally, are just my norm. It seems to be part of of my psychological make-up – Type A personality – accomplished and driven, but always anxious and on edge.

I’m usually very focussed. However I wish I could direct most of that energy towards positive thoughts rather than letting it fuel eddies of negative ones.

My negative thoughts often represent a complete disregard of facts and have a creatively negative spin on just about anything I can think of.

Take my recent relapse which I am just starting to claw back out of. One day at work dealing with a rotten person set me back a few weeks and plunged all of my achievements seemingly into oblivion in one fell swoop! Now that I’ve let the dust settle on that turn of events I’ve starting reclaiming the positives over the last few weeks.

Quite a lot of the positives have to do with running which I think will always be a favourite hobby of mine:

  • I can now run for about 6 miles in one go at an increasingly respectable pace – in fact a full 2 1/2 minutes a mile faster than some 6 weeks ago when I started running. (I used to run quite regularly but depression cast it by the wayside for nearly a year).
  • I enjoy not the mileage or the calorie burn, but the feeling of getting faster and faster each week. Feeling more competent on the pavement and starting to get too fast to tempt cat-callers and those stupid people who yell original things like “run Forrest run!”
  • I like that feeling of heat and euphoria that come over me in a big wave after a run. I feel great for hours afterwards.
  • I’ve discovered that a lot of other people in the mental health community like to use running as a form of therapy too. It is wonderful when I get encouraged to keep going out for my runs – even on those days when I am feeling very depressed and don’t want to. In fact those days that I am very depressed are the most important days to run.

Given that much of my distress is connected to my appearance (or how I perceive it) I did notice today, despite my recent skin-picking relapse, that my skin was looking much better.

  • It looks brighter with more colour (although perhaps I have caught a little of the sun).
  • I look less haggard and sunken – this might have been yet another positive result of drinking my 1.8 litres of water a day.
  • My skin is healing much more quickly and some of the marks are starting to fade – perhaps this is the result of a much improved diet and a more normal pattern of eating which does not involve starving and bingeing. The increase in nutrients probably has a knock on effect.
  • My overall picking time (even taking into account the relapses) has halved – therefore my skin looks a lot less damaged.

To round up the other positives:

  • My gums have stopped bleeding – I have never missed a floss from the day I started that challenge.
  • I am now much stronger from the weight training. I like the definition it produces on my shoulders and calves. I like feeling strong!
  • I’m rediscovering the joys of home cooking – its such a great self-care ritual to treat myself to healthy and amazing tasting food everyday (and sometimes I treat myself to amazing tasting not very healthy food – I try to focus on a good overall diet rather than thinking of foods as bad or good.)
  • Discovering the joy of writing poetry. I do not think I am a very good poet, but it doesn’t matter. I really enjoy writing it and sometime it helps me to say things that I have trouble expressing in other ways.

So you see despite what lies my depression chooses to tell me, I’ve had a good few weeks.

Positivity is not a panacea

I do not believe in all the New Thought/Positive Thinking gurus out there. I don’t think it is healthy to just ignore negative thoughts.

Negative experiences are a valid part of life too – I believe that it is important to think about the messages that discomfort sends me, that I need to evaluate and engage with them in a rational fashion rather than rather than trying to ignore them (which never works for me). I also need to invite in the positive thoughts and accept that life is usually a mix of the good the bad and mostly the mundane.

I need to work out how to resume the challenges which I am getting behind on. It wont be easy but none of this has been. Great reward usually comes at great risk, and I think it is a risk worth taking.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
Helen Keller

Mental Health on the Internet 13/7/2014

Blog of the Week

thementalelf.net

An intriguing look at the latest mental health research, policy and guidance in the UK. Although this is primarily aimed at professionals working in the mental health field there is plenty here to engage the interested layperson. Regularly updated and a great resource.

Links I Love

  • Whilst not a magic cure for mental health conditions, exercise brings with it great benefit for most people – read about some of the mental health benefits in this Huffington Post article here.
  • A wonderful article on how Gina Shaw is living with Alzheimers and some of the things she is doing to make her home city (Liverpool) a dementia-friendly one.
  • A fascinating look at how work-space design can have an impact on the mental health of the employees using that space.

Video of the Week

In this TED talk, Denny Morrison challenges three erroneous beliefs about mental illness:

Reflections on Surviving Abuse

I sat down at my computer to type this blog, but found that I was, for once, really lost for words.

I’m in a great deal of distress, but I cannot get to the root of it at this time. Trying not to over-think. Practising my mindfulness, being present and knowing that this state of mind will not last.

And then a song came to me, one which says everything about the impact that my mother’s abuse had on me:

I have no other words.