Learning to cope.((I don’t have the drugs to sort it out)). 

For the whole of my adult life my mood has been controlled by psychiatric drugs. Since puberty emotions became something intolerably intense for me that needed to be dampened because I felt I wasn’t strong or capable enough to deal with them. 

Any mood swings or problems were considered pharmaceutical in nature; an issue with my medication or dosages, and not just normal human fluctuations.

For over 17 years feelings have been tempered, flattened, smoothed over by daily waves of serotonin with a pinch of norepinephrine and dopamine and one bland day I’d just had enough.

It has taken me two years to complete my borderline homeopathic taper off prozac but as of a couple of months ago I have been drug free. It will be undetectable in my blood soon if not already.

The world has changed. Everything is more vivid and vital, sharper, urgently demanding my attention. Things are loud and overwhelmingly contradictory, and tears flow freely for the sake of a broken pen, or missing words. 

I would like to clarify that although I have never learnt to cope with strong emotions, that does not mean that I am weak or incapable. I need to remind myself this on a daily basis.

And so I wade through the great spectacular symphony that describes the breadth and depth of human emotional capacity. I never realised that the orchestra was so big, that there were so many different instruments that all used to feel just like a blanket of disappointment or anger but now have individual notes of their own.

I don’t know how to deal with the stitching on a favourite dress coming undone, or how to stop myself from shaking while I’m telling you my point of view, but I know this is where I am now meant to be amomg tears, smiles and torn up letters.

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Malign obsessions: On health as a whole organism phenomena

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“she goes to the gym seven times a week, doesn’t drink and watches what she eats. She is so healthy!”

How many times am I going to hear this or its ilk and still manage to keep my volatile opinions to myself. The surface is fraying, I’m losing my composure over this.

The media would have us believe that to be healthy, you must subscribe to a set of rules: you must go to the gym multiple times a week, you must control your weight and diet, cutting out ‘bad’ foods and drinks, and you must drink enough water to detoxify the bad stuff out of yourself.

Exercise, water and a good diet are nothing new as far as ideas go, but what is new, anthropologically speaking, is the attitude that some have towards health.

It’s no secret that a lot of people suffer from mental health problems. It’s all over the news, raising awareness largely of depression, but what there is still a general lack of recognition for less well publicised phenomenon like orthorexia, obsessions, paranoia, dysmorphia and anxiety, and I really think they are creeping up on people without them or their loved ones knowing. What is worse is that others look up to those with such problems as role models.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to live a healthier life and keep your body strong, but there is a line at which the compromise to ones mental state no longer justifies such control over ones thoughts and actions.

Take sarah, she’s in her mid-twenties and to an unenlightened onlooker, she appears to live a healthy lifestyle. She has a normal BMI, goes to the gym seven times a week, she plays squash, she drinks only water eats a healthy diet and gets plenty of sleep. Physically she is in good shape, so all good right? A paragon on virtue. Don’t you wish you could be like Sarah?

Well let me tell you a little more. Sarah gets up at exactly your same time every day and weighs herself, she has each minute scheduled in her daily calendar so that she can eat, sleep and exercise at the times of day that she read are the most beneficial.  All her meals are weighed and measured out and every calorie and gram of fat tabulated. Sarah won’t go out in the sun and only drinks water from a glass bottle because she knows that plasticides in plastic cups are bad for you. Every label is scrutinised for nasty additives and preservatives. She eats alone because she thinks that a late lunch is better for the metabolism, and she eats the same thing every day because she read that they are the healthiest foods. Sarah spends a lot of time reading about new health news about what extra things to avoid, and refuses to take medication that she thinks is bad for her. She has never had caffeine, alcoholic drinks or smoked a cigarette in her life because she considers them too dangerous. Sarah is constantly checking her feelings and measuring her words so that she can stay in control of her mind as well as her body. Occasionally the control is lost and Sarah binges on treats and then compensates by making herself do a commensurate amount of additional gym work.

Do you still aspire to be like Sarah ? Or do you feel sorry for the way she needs to obsessively control her body to feel in control of her life?

Let’s take a step back.

Exercise:
Someone told me the other day that I didn’t exercise because I didn’t go to the gym. Where did this idea come from? Why the hell do I need to go to a small petri-dish of a box room with a bunch of sweaty people to be considered to be exercising. The 1 hour of medium impact cycling that I do each day counts for nothing? What about the fact that I have gym equipment at home should I feel the need, and a half a ton horse that I wrangle at the weekends? Well you can discuss your concerns with my body fat percentage because I’m not buying such a blinkered view, and yes, of course I can lift that 10 litre water butt for you because you aren’t strong enough…. Exercise can be walking, cycling, shopping, cleaning, gardening, dancing or having sex. You don’t need to be in that mirrored box with onlookers to make the exertion count, nor do the calories burnt need to be emblazoned on an lcd for them to be real. Personally I think that if you can get a decent quota of exercise without resorting to the gym, then you’ve proven self-sufficient in your ability to keep yourself active. Hurrah! If you happen to like going to the gym then good for you, but I don’t see the point. Bottom line, moving your body and using your muscles are good things, obsessing over reps, times, steps, times etc, not so much.

Diet:
There are huge debates over dietary recommendations. Each week there is another article telling you to eat this but not that, and scaremongering about how terrible some foods are for you, for the story to be reversed months or years later. Keeping up with those articles is not only exhausting but also damaging if you start cutting out food groups willy-nilly. The keys to a healthy relationship with food involve a balanced and varied diet that includes snacks and treats, and not ignoring the social aspects of meal times; cooking for a loved one, or sharing and enjoying food and drink together. I really feel like enjoyment and savouring what you nourish your body with is important, as is including a variety of foods, and including fruit, veg and fibre in with your fats carbs and protein. If you only imbibe things that you dislike and deny yourself the things you enjoy then you might get a certain ascetic kick out of being so controlled, but really, what are you doing? You are strictly denying things that you enjoy, to what end? So that the numbers add up right? so you get to feel virtuous? So you get other people’s approval? Think about what you are doing and why.

The other stuff:
As I have described above with respect to meal times, social interactions are important and isolation can be very damaging to someone in the throes of monomania; with noone to argue against their floored logic, it becomes cemented as truth and then paranoia slips in that others are trying to make them unhealthy or fat by sabotaging their strict regime. It’s a very delicate insular experience to be so absorbed in one aspect of your life that you obsess over it, and it has all manner of costs to you. It may feel like you are controlling your world from the calorie control room, but all you are doing is feeding the anxiety fire with more fuel so that everything outside of your safe boundaries becomes some kind of threat. Can you imagine pulling up the drawbridge like that?

I can. The reason why I have such a strong opinion and feel that I have a right to thrust this tirade internetwards is that I have had a serious eating disorder and a fixation with my health for most of my adult life. When I was sick I got so many compliments about how disciplined I was and how they wished they could be like me, how lucky I was to be thin etc. This kind of attitude was very unhelpful because it reinforced the idea that the way I was living my life was good and something to be admired. It fucking wasn’t, I was constantly exhausted, medicated up to my eyeballs, and every single thing in my life revolved around making sure I could eat ‘safe’ foods. I missed out on so many experiences in those years because I was too busy sat at home weighing and reweighing myself and my food and trying desperately to make the calories balance out. That is not a way to live, it’s barely an existence and if you genuinely admire those who live like that then maybe you aught to try some meds too. It has taken very many years but now I can exercise and eat without a thought for numbers of the energetic kind, and I can finally concentrate on the things that matter in life and every day is another day to try and maintain a healthy weight. I enjoy food and drink, and try new unknown dishes sometimes. For this gargantuan effort I receive the opinion that other people think I am not as fit or healthy any more. Health is not as superficial and the glossy magazines would have us believe. It encompasses the physical and the psychological, and people should not underestimate the physical impacts of a psychological problem. Unsatisfied as you may be with aspects of your physical form, if you had the opportunity to swap with Sarah to have a fitter, more muscular body and also take on her insecurities and necroticisms, would you do it? No, neither would I.

By the way “Sarah” in real life could just as easily be a man.

A veteran of things I don’t much want to be

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Sometimes the mirror is ripe with vines of shadows, circling my shoulders, pressing all too urgently and familiar.

The air suddenly slices through to my bones.

Weeping skies and hollowed heartbeats threaten to pull me back to the tornado of disjointed memories. The taste of fever and hatred is in my mouth and I wonder for a second, if I can breathe in these mirrored shards before they perforate my mind.

One eye still on the future, I swallow the bilious threats and smile because this is me looking the hypnotising past straight in the eye, and chosing to look away.

“Calculate what we will or will not tolerate”~Tool, the grudge

In which I consider some pitfalls in online fora for mental health problems

As you may recall, I said in a previous post that I had joined a forum to support people who were recovering from eating disorders. Well. It didn’t last long. It only took a few recent posts from a moderator to realise that the things that I had to say and suggest were not compatible with the way in which the site was being run. What I mean is – if I posted one more honest reply then I would have been banned.

I think I’m in a pretty stable and balanced state of mental health (despite the last two weirdo posts – sorry about that folks!) and was giving up my free time and energy to give input to people who I will never meet in real life. I did so because I myself used to go to those sites for support when I was still recovering and I actually found the responses from other perpetuated my problems rather than fixed them. Knowing there were others in the same boat, hearing other people talk about being worse off, having circular discussions, the constant focus on the self and not considering others or general thoughts or even philosphies that might help people to dig deeper. I was frustrated with the superficiality and focus on behaviours and ideals in responses rather than reality and possibility from some members and felt that perhaps I could give an alternative view that might click with some members. All well and good, right?

What I had not anticipated was that by expressing an opinion or exlaining something, I might provoke an aggressive, threatenening response from a moderator.

As I listed in my last post my very few epectations from other individuals as:
To be addressed and treated in a civil manner
To be allowed freedom of thought and speech
To be respected as a human being
To be forgiven for my mistakes
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I feel that these have not been met on this occaission and as I am forced to taste disappointment, I’d sooner take my meanerding thoughts elsewhere.

I am not going to give up my free time and energy to something that causes me upset, or that of others. I am sorry that the moderator in question was incapable of understanding my standpoint, or why I was seemingly undermining their ill-considered challenge to the OP, but I expect more from senior members of fora – I expect them to be impartial and not get involved in emotional responses and public displays of instability. It sets a bad example. Responses and challenges to people with ingrained or obsessive pychological problems require a lot of thought and consideration for the individuals situation. Any ill-considered or inappropriate challenges that display a lack of understading and consideration of the OP undermine the reponder’s ability to appear all-seeing and wise. I know we are all only human, but to be healthy it is important to admit when you make mistakes, and to accept information that fills in the gaps that you had without overt defensiveness or aggression.

Perhaps what I said (albeit in a non-confrontational style) was considered inapropriate and insubordiate, undermining the unshakable wisdom of the moderator in question, but I had rather fancied that as a recovered indivudual who had been asked to contribute to the forum due to my experience etc, that I might be considered an equal and not subordinate. I won’t lie, my instinct was to respond with the full force of my upset, disappointment and fury at being singled out as a troublemaker when I felt my contribution was perfectly valid. I realized quite quickly though that this would not help anyone – not the disgruntled moderator, not the OP, not me, and so rather than get involved in a discussion that would detract from the OP’s problems and appear petty and self-involved, I chose rather to do the dignified thing and just leave the site, saying it was nothing personal, but I didn’t want to go upsetting anyone, especially those so vulnerable, so it was better if I just left.

I was running though my head the email I was going to send to the person who set up and runs the forum about how I was worried about the moderator who I unwittingly disguntled, and their inappropriate and aggressive response, as well as the concern that this person was doling out a fair bit of blanket responses and non-constructive comments, such as indicating in a rather harsh way, that a member wasn’t getting replies because they didn’t bother to reply to anyone else’s threads. When people need support and help they don’t need to be told that its their fault and it is irresponsible and inconsiderate to push those kind of opinions onto them. I also recognised that pretty much every time that I have planned out such an emotional email it is a very bad idea – so, that recognised, I shall refrain and rather have expressed myself here in moderation (if you’ll excuse the pun) rather than cause a total meltdown from any party 😛

I don’t want to be associated with a community that perpetuates meaningless, hurtful or ill-informed comments, and I certainly don’t want to be fingered as doing so myself, and so, even here I refuse to sink to the level of petty bickering despite my very strong instict to put my nitpicking attitude to work at pointing out that the offending agressive response to mine was concluded with a sentence that made absolutely no sense, conceptually or gramatically. I would have continued to contribute to the site for years but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let someone threaten and upset me online when there’s enough of that going on in real life. Call me immature for having a tantrum and slamming the door but life is too short to do somthing that makes you unhappy.

If you want help for your eating disorder, look to people in real time – talk to your family, your friends, your therapists, your doctors – don’t rely on online discussion boards that may inadvertently neglect the need to take responsibility for yourself, or learn acceptance and compassion. A forum can’t cure your problems – only you can.

“The coin flips again and again, and again, and again
as our sanity walks away”
~live, white, discussion

Clumsiness and unwelcome reminders

Accidentally spilt toilet cleaner on leg
Rinsed off immediately
Jokingly accused of self harm to get out of chores
Then noticed bruises and a white line…anxiety rises
Allegedly I  scratched myself
And HOW can he be so sure?
Cos I did it ten years ago with nail clippers…
Actual self harm…oh the irony

I did WHAT?! Oh..yeah I suppose that’s plausible….

So glad I’m not that person anymore
I’m glad, though occasionally disturbed that I can’t remember whole years.

Onwards! Time for some tea 😉

Still waiting to see if trousers have escaped burn-free or not….

Good job I fished those loose and somewhat sticky semidissolved ricolas out of the washing machine!

Striving hard to spite myself

One day last week I thought was unequivocally a bad day. Not just a bit rubbish but downright unfairly, unacceptably crappy and depressing. It was one of those days that genuinely have you questioning why you hauled your ass out of bed, or indeed, whether you actually did was this all some horrible mundane dream? Just one of those days where nothing is going to go right, no matter how hard you try. Bad things coming not in threes but rather in the dozen..

now to bemoan my lot (though honestly, looking at the weather conditions that others are having to deal with recently, these are very much small fry.

  • Upon waking I realised I had contracted SO’s cold
  • On the way to work I was yelled at (by a colleague!) to get out of his way!
  • I was running a couple of mins late for a meeting when I got distracted by another colleague and my boss caught us chatting when I should have been in the meeting…
  • In the meeting I failed to comprehend a fairly simple hypothesis and looked entirely gormless
  • After the meeting, boss snuck off to a secret seminar that another group in the unit knew all about – so they all went and I could not so missed out
  • While cleaning my bench I stabbed myself with a hypodermic (dirty) that I had re-sheathed the day before, but it had bent around and pierced the sheath (and them my glove and finger)
  • When transferring precious purified protein from one receptical to another, I ommited to check the security of the transfer vessel and deposited 2/3 of the protein on my bench.
  • I lunched alone
  • The machine I was using was being stupid, so I had to spend ages in the cold room (4c)
  • shortly into my cycle home I discovered I had a puncture and had to return to the lab to change inner tube
  • I broke a nail fixing bike
  • when I got home I was yelled at

BUT somehow I managed not to let all of these things get to me, I chose instead, to see that things could have been a good deal worse and I was grateful for that.

  • A cold is a very minor ailment, quickly fixed, other have to suffer chronic conditions
  • At least he yelled and didn’t crash into me (how embarrassing would THAT be!)
  • At least it looked like I had an excuse for being late
  • At least I didn’t pretend to understand, this way, despite looking dumb, I got an explanation and understood…eventually
  • turns out boss thought the seminar was private so she wasn’t purposefully hiding it from us..
  • H & S said that i was not at risk as luckily the contamination was a defined source and not a high risk
  • Somehow I managed to get enough sample at the end (just) for what I needed
  • eating alone is faster
  • I was able to fix the machine
  • I was able to change my inner tube unaided
  • nails grow back.
  • Grrrrrr

The following days have posed more upsetting events, such as the loss of Casper. I didn’t find out for sure until last night that he’d been put to sleep on Wed afternoon. There was this part of me hoping that he’d made an amazing recovery and it has been undecided and he’d still be running around full of life but . no. He has appeared lively and healthier the two days before the event, even managing to buck and canter!! making my friend question if the right decision had been made, but when he was led into the trailer to depart he collapsed and could not get up. My poor friend had to see him struggling and grounded even before the vet went near him, but at least now we know that it was definitely the right choice, as the poor boy could have collapsed in the field alone, or in his stable, and could not have been found for hours. Obviously I am very upset to hear that Casper is no longer with us, but the most upsetting thing is knowing that he actually must have suffered in his collapse and trying to get up again. At least he didn’t have long before the end. My friend was too distraught and crying too much to tell me about it until I asked yesterday evening, and she was clearly trying to minimise my upset. After hearing the news, I was offered a hug from SO, which I accepted, but then he said to me in a patronizing voice “Do you want to cry? you can if you want to” to which I responded that I did NOT need his fucking permission to cry thankyouverymuch. I was then accused of being a spoilt little bitch. So I did the only thing I could – I went and bawled my eyes out in the bathroom, then apologised for being so horrible.

Amazing how difficult it is to eat when you are tearful. Honestly, it’s like you entire body has forgotten how to put food in mouth, chew and swallow.

Other annoying things have also gone wrong; bike gears, kitchen taps, work stuff, forgotten meds, forgotten pills and today I really didn’t  want to get out of bed. I can’t wait for this week to be over.

I will end on a positive note.

I have now been discharged from dietetics as being healthy with regard to food attitudes / weight / food intake so now in all respects am officially in no way eating disordered. I am glad to have shrugged off the burden of that label. It is possible to totally recover from anorexia.

 

The last step of eating disorder recovery

The final step of eating disorder recovery looks a lot like many of its predecessors, only this time, it’s global.

So you are weight restored, mentally stable, and do not consider yourself to have an eating disorder any more.

And yet

And yet you still want someone checking up on you, prodding you, reminding and encouraging you if you veer outside of your healthy boundaries.

If you are still maintaining weight or eating healthily or taking your medication just to get a pat on the head and to be told you are doing well, at the age of 31, you need to think of the following:

Take responsibility for yourself. Until you are doing these things for YOURSELF rather than for other people’s sake, you will not truly be recovered.

So that’s where I stand. On the brink. The final frontier. Leaping off and knowing theres no specialized doctor ready to catch me. Im not a child any more. I have been educated and encouraged sufficiently to understand the importance and the reality of what must come to pass. It’s time to stop dumping responsibility on others. I still want someone I can say made me fat or skinny or think a certain way or whatever but at the end of the day, the only person who controls my diet, exercise and extent of preoccupation, is. Me.
It’s my fault and to my credit that my body and mind are healthier. I had help along the way but why must I keep creditting or blaming others?

It’s over, anorexia. One more weigh-in under surveillance then all the safety nets will dissolve. For the first time im kind of excited about that.