A Recovery Wish


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During my relapse there have been times, sometimes only a matter of hours, where I feel somewhere like my old self again. A ray of optimism appears from nowhere and I am suddenly able to focus my mind and enjoy what I am doing for a time.

During one such moment at the weekend, I ordered a beautiful (if somewhat expensive) dress at the weekend in preparation for the time that I would start going to the theatre and social events again and maybe even think about dating.

I would never wear that dress right now.

I am bloated again from several weeks of binge-eating, my face is a bloodied mess from my skin-picking antics and I feel too tired most days to even take a shower never-mind style my hair.

But the dress is important. It is an invitation to better times ahead.

I shut my eyes and imagine me in it.

Forties-style glamour in black and white hounds-tooth print. The weight of the soft ponte fabric hugging my curves as I sashay up and down.  Its the kind of dress which requires glamour, poise, self-confidence, high heels and the deft application of red lipstick.

I breathe in trying to imagine the perfume that I’d be wearing. Something earthy like sandalwood with a little bit of vanilla. My hair would be clean and shimmering with health. It feels soft and glossy as I run my hands through it.

I feel the pressing of palms with an unknown lover…

I feel alive, I feel me again – the dress embodies so much of the life I want to take back. I shed tears when I re-awaken back in my disordered reality.

Dealing With My Internalised Stigma


 

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Stigma. As if having mental health problems wasn’t enough to have to deal with. However, I’m not just talking about other people’s stigmatising views but, sadly, my own.

Intrusive Thoughts

I’ve had a very up and down couple of days. Yesterday I felt quite happy and was waxing lyrical about my fruit-picking activities, and almost feeling “normal” again; come today, tiredness and lethargy punctuated by several crying fits.  I’ve been plagued by many intrusive thoughts.

One of those thoughts was guilt for being ill when there are others around me who are far more unwell. That I shouldn’t be ill because I have a job. That my illnesses were that severe really  – that I should just be able to cope and “get on with it”.

The CBT Workshop

Then I remembered, with some embarrassment, the meltdown I had at last Saturday’s CBT workshop.

I was already irritable and self-conscious that day, as my dermatillomania was particularly bad and the result was a dozen large weeping scars on my face. I didn’t want to be in an environment where I could be seen by lots of other people.

Not that I would have relished it even if my skin was relatively clear.

I always find the prospect of meeting new people inherently scary partly due to my immense talent for causing offence (none ever intended). However, I was determined to go anyway as my therapist had been very kind and good to me – I didn’t want to let her down by not going when I said I would go.

I turned up after getting a taxi to this odd concrete building in the middle of a large industrial estate.

I wasn’t late but most people had arrived some time before me and when I got into the room where the workshop was taking place, I found that the only seat available was in the very middle of about six rows of closely packed chairs. I felt hemmed in, scared. I had not prepared myself for how closely I was going to have to sit near strangers.

  • Could they smell the fact that I had barely washed?
  • Could they see the sticky barely healing wounds on my face?
  • What were they thinking?
  • Why were they here? I could see several rows of nicely groomed people with brushed hair, polished shoes and no marks on their faces. Why are they here?

I was shaking like a leaf. What finally triggered me was when a late-comer had to take a chair from outside and had to ease his way through the clump of chairs (and workshop participants). He accidentally brushed past me and sat closely behind me.

The Melt-down

I freaked out and ran out of the room crying and shaking. I sat down on the carpet outside in the corridor, knees together, back against the wall. I cried and rocked.

One of the facilitators ran out after me. After a few minutes I noticed that she had started talking to me.

I can’t remember exactly what she said; I can remember most of what I said.

“What are they doing here? I’m a bona-fide mental” I screamed, then cried some more. “What are they doing here? – they are all nice and tidy – they are normal!”.

“Look at me! Look at me!”

It was true –  I looked a mess. I had taken the trouble of wearing a brand-new sweater for the day but my jeans I had worn for the entire previous fortnight and slept in them. It had couple of stains from some barbecue sauce that I had spilt. I wore my battered Converse trainers, shrivelled up from my ill-advised attempt to put them in the washing machine.

My hair was greasy from not having been washed for weeks. It had a slight halo of frizz from having walked through some drizzle earlier. I was deodorant and make-up free.

In my meltdown my brain decided that appearance was a universally reliable diagnostic tool for mental health.

Tears and prejudice

Indeed my appearance is not my “normal” baseline and is indeed caused by the lethargy and decrease in self-esteem that I am experiencing with depression. However having previously talked with my therapist I consider the possibility that I have in fact been unwell for quite some time before my actual breakdown.

The OCD thoughts had been sapping at me, I started having crying spells, anxiety and intermittent insomnia. I did used to make an effort – nice hair, nails and elegant dresses – but OCD was such that it compelled me to spend hours so that I could look that way. I was burning the candles both ends. Beneath the professional exterior lay a mind in turmoil.

Yet I judged other people for looking “tidy”.

Some time later when I had calmed down I ventured in. The nice facilitator lady had got me a chair next to a side table and away from the main group.

I started listening.

Amongst the presentation of the material people shared their stories of how anxiety and panic attacks had prevented them from driving, going to the supermarket and a whole load of other common scenarios.

The fact that they looked presentable did not make their distress any less real. I suddenly felt ashamed at myself.

Challenging Stigma

One of the disturbing things I have encountered over the last couple of weeks is the realisation of how much of society’s stigma and stereotyping of mental illness I had internalised.

I realised that if I was to make progress in my recovery, I would have to ensure that I am more conscious of these thoughts. I need to challenge them and not use them on myself as a tool of oppression.

Mental Health on the Internet 24/8/2014 – Love Your Body Edition

Blog of the Week

If I could have half this woman’s body confidence I would weep for joy! Please check out Jes Baker’s blog promoting body acceptance. In particular I love the blog stating the best things she has learnt whilst being twenty-seven.

Learning to accept my scars and believing that I am worthy of love are definitely things I wish to learn.

Links I Love

  • Are you conscious of having stretch marks? This is a lovely article on body acceptance – I think women (particularly as mothers) have so much pressure on them already – its refreshing to see something like this emphasising the positives.
  • Here’s an article doing a take-down on skinny shaming. I can’t believe that there is a site dedicated to mocking thin women with a hearty appetite!
  • Body dysmorphia and pressures to achieve a body “ideal” don’t just affect women. James Fell writes a thoughtful article exploring the increasing pressures on men and what the leading film stars really have to do to get those six pack abs.

Video of the Week

Via Huffington Post – Watch Jes Baker ‘s talk about how we should change our world rather than our bodies.

As someone who has put my life on hold due to the distress I feel over my appearance this really resonates with me.

Why wait?

Love ourselves now. Love ourselves even if we a re always shy of perfection (in other words – do it!)

POEM: Love – No Substitute


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TRIGGER WARNING: This poem describes, with frankness, my current experiences with disordered eating and therefore may be triggering for some vulnerable readers. Please proceed with care only if you are comfortable with the subject matter.

There is no substitute for love in that overflowing basket

Filled to the brim with boxes of cakes and ice cream tubs.

No amount of chocolate can ever take away or numb

Those feelings of emptiness, grief and loneliness that I suffer

No amount of doughnuts can quieten the noise and turmoil in my head

The almond croissants and cherry pies make a poor buffer

Against thoughts of worthlessness and the injustice that I fear

Could never be put right – a debt left unpaid

No substitute for love in that apple custard bun, filled to the brim

With fatty highs but no comfort when I lay awake at night

Welling with anxiety and the terror of existence

I stuff and stuff the food down inside in a vain attempt to fill

The void within,  the hunger remains insatiable

I mistake the physical realm for the kingdom of the heart

No food can wrap its arms round me and tell me that things will be alright

The brief moment of fullness is not the same as a kiss

A cuddle, the holding of hands, or a wishing me goodnight

A treacle pudding lasts just hours where the trace of an embrace

Imprints on the memory of my flesh and lasts a lifetime.

Food is no substitute for love.

POEM: The Only Thing Is Now

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The only thing that I have is now,

The soft breathing, the rise and fall of my chest

Ribs expanding then contracting,

The sensation of air taken in,

And pushed back out through my nostrils.

The pulsating in my chest that is my heartbeat

Sending life-giving oxygen around my body

Travelling neatly in spurts of red blood cells

My unquiet mind, ragged and insistent at times

Wells with thoughts, blocks of meanings, images

Noise, rousing my emotions,

They come and go as they please

But change, there’s always change, nothing stays still

Now is not infinity.

Reclaiming My Identity from Mental Illness

By far the most frightening thing that has happened since depression took a choke-hold on me is the insidious, creeping loss of identity.

I realised with some sadness that my mental illnesses form almost all of my conversations on-line and off-line.

People with mental health conditions are more than those conditions. I am more than depression. I am more than OCD and whatever other mental health quirk I seem to have going on.

I am more than just a broken survivor of abuse.

Yet in recent weeks when asked to rattle off my list of hobbies I had to really think about it. As though being a happy, active and energetic person (as I once was) is now an alien concept.

Today, I started one of those Pinterest boards (basically online scrapbooking) – marvellously therapeutic and gradually some of the colours in my mind re-activated as I filled the boards in.

Music! Books! Food! Dance!

So many things, images filling up the boards like long lost friends.I had thoughts about the places I wanted to visit, the bands I wanted to see, the food I wanted to cook, the races I wanted to run and even the house I wanted to live in.

I don’t want to be overly optimistic at this stage but maybe that’s one way I’ve found to start letting some of the light back in.

I thought of this tune, one of David Bowie’s finest, Heroes. I hope that this glimmer of light lasts for more than just one day.

Depression – How Did This Happen To Me?


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I’m sat here typing, open wounds gaping on my face. I’m trying hard not to touch them, but I’ve run out of plasters and the temptation is unbearable. My hair is tied back in a tight greasy bun – I haven’t washed my hair in over three weeks.

I’m wearing a jumble of mismatched clothing chosen for comfort over any other consideration. My belly is bloated from three weeks of filled of mostly bingeing ice-cream, cakes, anything high-fat, high-sugar and convenient. So my nice clothes don’t fit right now and that acid reflux thing has started up again and its painful.

I managed to take a quick shower today but it was the first time in nearly a week.

The flat is untidy. A little bit dirty even.

No clean crockery nor cutlery. Takeaway boxes and empty microwave meal sleeves lie strewn everywhere.

The only reason the bin got taken out earlier, was that period a while back when I had forgotten to take the bags out twice in a row and had to suffer a bluebottle invasion for the next three weeks.

I’ve spent more than three-quarters of the time this month sat alone in my flat. Afraid to wander out and risk jeers of disapproval.

Old Rose is gone.

Old Rose travelled to different cities, baked cakes, ran marathons, wore pretty dresses, went to test cricket, enjoyed concerts and the theatre, was a film buff, an audiophile, a sci-fi freak, explored the countryside, adored cats, loved life.

Something happened.

Perhaps a time-bomb caused possibly by a mix of genetic and environmental vulnerabilities.

I knew I had to do something once I started slipping – that was the start of this blog. I don’t remember now how I ended up slipping back in this pit of despair

Depression has no respect. Depression has no compassion. Depression is greedy and doesn’t want to stop.

But I don’t want to stop either – no matter how long it takes me I will come out and see the light again.

A Letter of Thanks To My Body


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Dear Body,

You’ve been with me for almost forty years and you’ve kept me alive and warm this whole time.

You’ve provided me with amazing experiences:

  • The tongue lets me taste all the wonderful edible goodies this planet has to offer – along with the vocal chords and other fabulous support acts it allows me to laugh, and sing and tell another human being that I love them.
  • Those ears allow me to hear the miracle that is bird song, Rachmaninov, rivers flowing, the sounds of sacred gongs and the purr of a cat.
  • Those eyes let me see rainbows, sunsets, the stars in the night sky, and children smiling.
  • The nose helps keep me safe from germs and allows me to smell roses, curries, freshly baked breads and all sorts of wonderful perfumes
  • The skin keeps me waterproof and also helps keep germs out. It protects me from injury and has all sorts of wonderful mechanisms for healing when harm has been done. It allows me to feel the heat from a warm summer’s day, a cool breeze on an autumn morning, a kiss from a lover, the softness of satin, the hands of a skilled masseur, the lapping of the ocean waves against my toes with the soothing granularity of sand underneath.

Being that you are a female body you even allow me the opportunity to bring forth another life. Alas we are not enough without another body to do this but I am thankful anyway.

I celebrate you even if I think you are imperfect

  • My so called saggy butt is as comfy as heck!
  • Those thighs I call wobbly are capable of running for miles and miles, capable of squatting the entire body’s weight – gap-less but absolutely strong!
  • My huge duck-feet keep me upright and stable. They can pirouette and tap and do cabaret. They are happy bunionless feet!
  • My supposedly flabby back is both strong and flexible. Able to yield to deep yogic back-bends and move upright pianos.
  • My skin may be marked but the nice Asian genes mean it has its own built-in sunscreen (neat eh?)

Considering all the wonderful things that you do for me, it’s time for me to tell you I’m sorry for all the pain and mistreatment I have put you through over the years:

  • All those times I starved you when you were crying out for nourishment
  • All those times I force-fed you piles and piles of junk food
  • All those times I forced you to stay awake when you needed rest
  • All those times you needed air and exercise and I trapped you the house
  • All those times you needed water but I let you go thirsty
  • All those times I gouged and cut at you even though you were trying to heal me
  • All those times that I continued working when you were begging me for a rest
  • All those harmful drugs I used to put in my body
  • All those insults that I could think up for you

I’m truly truly sorry.

I’m hoping that we can start off afresh as friends, really get to know and appreciate one another. I hope you will still be good to me over the next forty years and beyond.

I love you dear body

Rose

xxx

 

Mental Health on the Internet 17/8/2014

Blog of the Week

http://www.bakeformentalhealth.org.uk

Okay, this isn’t a blog as such, but a marvellous young lady who bakes cakes to raise money for the mental health charities Mind and Rethink. I may have to review the tasty looking offerings at some point!

Links I Love

  • I’m a fan of darts although I haven’t had a lot of time recently to watch much on TV. I was surprised to learn that a top British pro, James Wade, was diagnosed with bipolar and that a depressive episode resulted in a stay at The Priory clinic. He even nods to it in self-deprecating fashion by choosing Dizzy Rascal’s Bonkers as his walk on tune. I wish I had a sense of humour about my illnesses. That’s certainly going to take some time!
  • Here’s one of the best posts I’ve ever seen on masculinity and mental health. There still seems to be a particular taboo on men seeking help for their mental health problems. Let’s change that!
  • Can diet affect your mental health – I believe it can be a contributory factor but apparently there has been some recent scientific studies on this. The Washington Post reports.

Video of the Week

The ever eloquent Stephen Fry talks about his depression:

POEM: Precious Slumbers

Night night! I drift into velvety darkness

I’m light as air, heavy as the night

Eyes drifting back to the beyond of sockets

Tingles as tensions disintegrate in ghostly flight

I lie motionless over soft feathers

The deeper consciousness awakens in me

Thousands of colours not known in daylight

Hours form my palette for the night

Visions, formless on internal cinema reels

The comic strips of the netherworld tell their stories

Sifting through long lost memories and emotions

Showing me things that I dare not speak.