It’s been a long time since I’ve done a serious update, or a really serious post. There’s a reason for that – I’ve been not out of action, but hunkered down, holding on for dear life. As you do when things get stormy!
Sometimes, that’s all we can do – hang on tight. And that’s okay.
My biggest ‘storms’, as usual, have been the PTSD most, and the depression and anxiety. I had my monthly appointment with the consultant psych on Monday (the head of my treatment team) hoping that he could help in some way that would ease the worst period of both anxiety and depression in my life – and that’s including all the years of abuse and bullying. Instead, he complimented me again on how far I’ve come, and how well I’m doing.
I’m still far more functional than I was for over a decade, and for them, that is more important than the level of depression and anxiety I’m feeling. I do worry that these will make me lose function – avoiding doing things and hermiting, being too lethargic and miserable to move most days – doesn’t make functioning very easy! The PTSD, I’m hardly even asking for help with that any more – trying instead to keep using my strategies and wait for the new psych appointment – finally – next week! It seems like I am haunted by the nightmares and the sense of horror every waking, and not waking minute. There is no easy cure to any this, I wish there was. There is only really bearing it. But I guess I have to just suck it up and hang on tight.
I’m feeling worse now, because I’m not running away any more. I ran so far, for so many years. In the past, when the depression was this bad, I used to go out stomping across the city, counting everything I could possibly count – calories, steps, kilos lost, kilos to lose, grams of this and that to two decimal places, to block out everything else. Later, I would cut myself to bits. Or I would take an overdose and hope that this was it, it was all over now. Or I’d purge until I was sure my stomach itself was going to come up. A lot of the time, I did all of the above, and still hadn’t escaped far enough from myself.
When I became bulimarexic, I would spin out of control – rushing around at top speed, in and out of shops, amassing as much food and other odds and ends (clothing, housewares, bits and bobs, most often gifts for other people) as I could afford and hold. Stuff them all in the back of a taxi or struggle onto a bus, and charge on home to binge and purge, binge and purge, collapse for a few hours of exhausted slumber, wake up and survey the mess and the things I’d bought that I neither needed or could afford. Taking them back to the shops was a good excuse to buy more food and repeat the whole thing again. And again, until the money was gone, or more likely, I collapsed in a heap.
Then, came depression so deep that I couldn’t move. I’d spend days in bed, blocking it all out. Opening my eyes was painful and took too much energy. Life had too many problems to face and I just couldn’t cope with them – so I didn’t. I pretended I wasn’t there instead. I fell deeply into that dream world, the one that I wished dearly I could stay in. This lethargy was heightened because when I came down from whatever frantic phrase, I would always have lost all the weight I’d gained last hospital stay, plus interest, so I’d hit rock bottom like a lead bomb. In later years, I was still too sick on being discharged to even be able to go on that frantic spree, so I went straight home and to bed most times. This would go on until one or both case managers came round to shovel me out of bed like one might shovel roadkill off a road – and ship me back for hospital admission number whatever.
It wasn’t a life. And I’m not surprised I wasn’t able to function at all. It shocks me how much pain I put myself through in order to avoid pain – even writing this sentence – it’s crazy! It’s like chopping off your whole arm because of a little scratch on your finger. (I know paper cuts can hurt like hell, but really?)
Thinking about this more – I’m sure this overreaction was because of FEAR of the pain – I find that the fear of things is often far worse than those things I feared.
Anyway – I’m now feeling things. Staying with it. The sky still hasn’t fallen, despite that ever-present feeling of doom approaching. I do still struggle with bingeing and purging, and with restricting – and this makes me feel like I haven’t made progress at all. That my weight maintenance and great bloods (this is a big deal for me) and actual ability to do things, are flukes. That at any moment it’s all going to come crashing down around me. I’m not just letting it happen – I’m trying to approach each meal as it comes. Trying to have meals, and then at night, trying not to binge on anything I didn’t eat during the day that I was meant to. How I hate that word, “trying“. Every time I write it I wince.
It makes me think “not enough” immediately – another of the myriad problems all tangled up in this web of disorder. I’ve never been good enough, I’ve always felt like an imposter. My best efforts always fall short, I’m not trying hard enough, I’m just not enough. Except when it comes to my body and then I’m too much.
I never wanted to be slim, beautiful and vogue. I did want my dancer’s body back at one point – but that was more about my belief that weight gain had ruined my dancing rather than being sick from chaotic eating habits, and was aimed more at function than form. I never understood how people cared about “thinspiration”. I didn’t want to look like anyone else. I didn’t want to look like anyone at all – including myself.
I wanted to be gone. Nothing. Zero. Not size zero. ZERO. Not there. Not taking up ANY space. Not seen, not heard, not felt. GONE.
Because it wasn’t my body I couldn’t cope with. It was LIFE. And I was trying to opt out of life and all that I had to feel to be there, in any way possible.
These days, I am coming round to the fact that I can’t be ‘gone’ and still be alive. Rationally, it’s an easy thing to realise – if you aren’t here, you are dead, right? In my brain, despite the rational knowledge, the irrational ‘can be both’ line of thinking persists. As does most of the ED screwed-up-irrational-thinking. See Missy’s post for a good explanation of how her ED brain screws things up too. We know it ain’t true. It’s like always having to argue with a whinging, stubborn child who knows the rules, but wants his own way regardless. It’s another kind of ‘storm’ we must weather – and then wade through the lies to pick up and keep hold of the truths.
I now have a lot more wisdom and insight than I had back in those days. The dialogue (accusations and threats is more appropriate!) from my ED brain is still the same as the worst years – but now, I am able to tell the difference between ED brain thoughts and rationality. Not just that – but I’m getting closer to being strong enough to change what’s not right. One step at a time.
When it comes to life – I have to stay here. Take all that comes my way. Accept it. Tolerate it. Hang on tight. And trust that this too, will pass, and I can survive it. Cause let’s face it, it hasn’t killed me yet, right?
So that’s it. For me, right now, it’s about -
- Weathering the storms. They will pass.
- Trusting my team, life, my body, the process.
- Not backing down when anxiety fights my ability to get out and engage in activities and socialisation.
- Using my strategies – mindfulness, acceptance, being in the present moment, distracting myself.
- Not fretting over the small things – keeping in mind the bigger picture, but
- Not trying to leap huge bounds instead of taking one small step at a time.
- Refuting lies – hanging on to the truth.
- Challenging myself constantly, and
- Remembering there is no failure – only the failure to try.
In future blogs, I’m thinking of writing about my experiences as a long term patient of the public hospital system in Australia, specifically going through a psych ward ED unit. I’m wondering if there is anything in particular you might like me to write about in this context, or any other subject. Thank you
Finally, I just had to share this with you. I was google-image searching for pictures and came across this hilarious thing! Enjoy