When I first heard this theory, it made sense to me and I believed myself to be an abstainer. It’s true that the best way for me to not binge eat is to not have the foods that I tend to binge on in the house. But ultimately, this categorisation of myself wasn’t very helpful because it meant that if I did eat a piece of chocolate, I could justify eating the whole box because “I’m an abstainer so I actually can’t stop.” Then, feeling sick with sugar and shame, I would vow never to touch chocolate ever again. And I wouldn’t. Until the next time I ate far too much in one go.
Eventually, I decided to try just eating one piece of chocolate, or having a few spoonfuls of ice-cream without devouring the whole tub. And while it is difficult, I found that it is perfectly possible to put the food away and not finish it. After a while of doing this, it became easier to enjoy a small amount but know when to stop.
So, I much as I admire other things that Gretchen has to say, I’m calling bullshit on the abstainer-moderator theory because at it’s best it gives us an excuse not to try and change our behaviour, and at worst encourages the cycle of bingeing and purging. It reinforces the message that we are “just like this”, that there is no other way. Continue reading →
Although my recovery from severe anxiety and depression has since plateaued, in the first few weeks following diagnosis I was surprised at how much better I felt so quickly.
A number of things had changed during this time:
I had spoken to the doctor about how I was feeling, and entered the system of seeking treatment.
I had written about how I had been feeling, and had a lot of conversations with people on and offline about mental health.
I took on more responsibility at work and got a pay rise.
The gym re-opened and I developed a regular exercise habit.
I overhauled my diet: less carbs, more protein (including shakes and supplements after working out), less alcohol, and started taking daily vitamins.
These last two resulted in visible changes to my body, with people telling me I felt more toned (I can also feel my abs move when I walk, and so have taken to keeping my palms pressed to my core).
Basically, I started doing stuff and I started seeing results of what I was doing. It reminded me that one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your happiness is to feel in control of your own life.
Granted, in the midst of depression this can be difficult. But even things like choosing to and being able to cycle somewhere (previously I had been to anxious to get on my bike) made me feel powerful. Small wins towards my goals, like making it to the gym for ten minutes or turning down a second biscuit at work, built up momentum and I was gradually more able to feel in control of the bigger things.
Once I had decided that control was a key to happiness, I started noticing it everywhere. Continue reading →
I’m currently reading Becoming by Laura Jane Williams and would definitely recommend it. She writes with such intelligence, self-awareness and grace about her journey to where she is today. There have been so many moments in it that ring so true for me, I have to pause and let them sink in a little bit.
This one in particular stood out because it was about something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. I just didn’t know where to start, so let’s start with what Laura has to say.
I wanted love to wash over me and heal me and be me and become me.
I wanted to love myself.
That was it.
A voice raged inside me as the thought wandered across my mind.
YES! She screamed, uncompromising and forcefully. YES, YOU DO! THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT!
I let that sit with me. I wanted to love myself. I didn’t know how to get there, to that. How it looked. But I knew how it would feel.
It would feel like enough. And I – I desperately wanted to feel like enough.
As people, and especially as women, we are not very good at loving ourselves. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about this. For the most part our culture is set up to make us feel bad about ourselves, so we might buy all the things to make us feel better, to keep the economy going and make sure everyone has a job (which they need to make sure they can buy the things that probably won’t make them happy).
The thing is, I’m starting to believe more and more than loving ourselves might be the thing that helps us most in our lives. I don’t want this to be the answer. Firstly, because it sounds really trite, and secondly, because it’s a lot more effort than buying a new dress. But boy does it work. Continue reading →
It was a victory for worried-about-being-late Kate when I arrived at my appointment 40 minutes early. The door was locked so I had to ring the buzzer. “Erm, hello, I’m really early. Is there a place I can sit and read for 40 minutes? I’ve brought a book!”
I tried to read but couldn’t manage it. This must be the short concentration span and lack of focus that the pre-appointment anxiety quiz was asking about. Eventually, it was time for my appointment.
The practitioner introduced herself. We sat down and talked for a bit about how I have been since my assessment. I was half concentrating on this conversation and half on her eyebrows – they were amazingly neat! Goodness, I thought, mine must look awful in comparison. I really need to be better at personal grooming. I’m such a mess.
We talked through what she called the cognitive cycle. This is what it looks like.
“My word for 2016 will be peace. I’m going to focus on staying still.” – Me in January
At the start of the year, I set my one word goal as peace. I’m still not sure whether it was prompted by trying to stay still, but the months that immediately followed setting this resolution were possibly the most emotionally tumultuous of my life. They say that if you want to make God laugh you should tell him your plans.
Emotional roller coaster sounds like such a cliche but it is the most useful way of describing how it felt. I went from not wanting to get out of bed to manic excitement in the space of a few hours. I returned home from work a nervous wreck, likely to collapse into uncontrollable tears for barely any reason at all. It was exhausting.
Thanks to a combination of medication, writing and talking, my moods are now much more stable. I’ve had a chance to think about how my year is going in terms of peace. The conclusion? I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I spent 40 minutes answering questions about my life, my habits, my thoughts, and my feelings. I was more honest than I am with most of my family and friends. At the end of the appointment I was told that I am displaying “moderately severe” symptoms of depression and “severe” symptoms of anxiety. Hey, at least I aced the PTSD test! With a score of just 24/88 I’m barely displaying any symptoms at all.
Now, I am struggling with the identity shift that has come with a mental health diagnosis. I’m not just grumpy and neurotic. This isn’t just a slightly charming personality trait. I am formally, clinically, depressed and anxious.
I was surprised at my reaction. Even though I have offered support to friends with mental health problems without (or so I thought) judging them in the slightest, I guess I felt that I was somehow above them. I was the person who had their shit together, and who other people (the kind of people who didn’t have their shit together) came to me with their problems. In short, I have been a bit of an arsehole. And I might have carried on being an arsehole, had I not married someone who has their shit together even more than me. Continue reading →