So there I was, happily plodding on, content may even have been a word that would have described me, and then it came at me again.
I feel like an utter fool. While I was blogging away about how much better I was and how thoughts of suicide are far from my mind, a storm of the sad sort was brewing.
It started yesterday, slowly at first, just waves of discontent, despite nothing around me having visibly changed. I did my best to ignore it, after all it was my birthday, and who wants to be miserable then?
Then today it hit me, came crashing down like a badly tuned drum kit. I have been trying to fight it all day but there were moments when I would find myself staring into space or stopping at the top of the stairs unable to go down for longer than I would care to admit.
The truth of the matter is that I feel ugly, useless and utterly hopeless and it feels as though there is nothing I can do to change the way that I feel or the way that I am. Come Saturday there is to be a celebration of my birthday but at the moment all I can think is what is there to celebrate?
I’m nearly 30-years-old and I still can’t get a handle on my own mental health. It has eaten away at large chunks of my adult life, and when I’ve been ill I have been mean, obnoxious and utterly foolish, to name but a few.
Perhaps tomorrow I will feel differently, perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to respond more positively to my mother when she talks about the importance of loving life, but for the moment I feel sad, fed up and utterly alone with what I fear is fast becoming yet another period of depression.
As I near my 29th birthday, I find myself feeling rather reflective. Over the last ten years I have tried to kill myself four times and although it may be stating the obvious, if I had managed to do so, I wouldn’t be sat here today, writing this and telling this tale.
In the past I have always believed that I would never live long enough to get married, have children or even grow grey. I believed that I would take my own life, that ill health or the natural process of growing older would ever have the chance to take away my last breath.
Now though I am not so sure. As I approach the day on which I celebrate my birth, I find myself thinking, albeit rather morbidly, about death. In the past, assuming I would die young, I have always spoken to the boy about how my funeral would be. I have chosen songs, hymns and even prayers that I felt I would like had I been alive to see it.
Sitting here now, I realise that maybe the time where my life would end after a rash swallowing of pills and the downing of any alcohol available may have come to an end. It has been more than a year since I have fully succumbed to the depths of depression and although there has been blips, isn’t there always, I’ve never quite given up as before.
A couple of weeks ago after a difficult week I found myself however back in that place. I found myself pressing the sleeping pills out of the packet one by one and preparing to down them all. Unlike in the past however, there was something that stopped me seeing it through. I called my mother in tears and I called the boy and before I had a chance to think about it further my brother was at the door ready to take over the situation that risked rolling out of control.
The difference is these days, apart from freaking out about wrinkles and worrying about not being able to wear nineties fashion, I don’t mind the passage of time so much. I look forward now to friend’s birthday parties, to becoming a God mother and one day even maybe a mother.
I may still have bipolar, I may still have blips, but I am loving life again and because of this I have no more time to devote to wondering whether my mourners will wear black or brights.
The signal goes out, the train doors close, I try to force myself to get up, to get off the train but I can’t and before I know it, within the blink of an eye, I’m gone and he’s still there.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. A desperate goodbye, a half hearted wave and a choked back tear. I was meant to be, well, normal. Able to say goodbye without succumbing to utter and complete sadness.
It started this morning when I woke up. It was there in the background as I tried to shake it off with a shower, it was there, lurking at the back of my mind and now, well now it’s here.
The depression has returned and as always I am failing to understand where or why it has come from.
As the day goes on it gets worse. I try to distract myself by immersing my mind in a show, in a drama that is not my own, but it doesn’t work. I keep thinking about what a dreadful person I am, how ugly, how much of a failure.
I read a magazine, again in search of escape and distraction, but it only serves to remind me of how disgusting I am and just how fat I feel.
The day gets worse and by the afternoon I find myself staring into space ruminating on everything that’s wrong. I feel unable to think of anything that’s right in my life and the dark thoughts start cascading into my cranium, filling me with nothing but desires for an end and for escape.
I want to run away but I don’t know where to go. I end up sobbing in desperation in the arms of the boy who struggles to understand what’s wrong but who knows enough of this illness now not to ask.
I crave sleep and after what feels like forever I drift off away from the tears only to wake shortly after gripped by anxiety. The thought of my train home is not something I can handle and the tears come again. I feel sick at the thought of it and don’t know how I’ll be able to travel in this state.
But we go to the station and I get on the train and i get home and now i sit here alone, and so miserable I could cry. And I do.
Having breakfast with the boy this morning we get to talking about depression and the near crippling effect it has had in our lives.
There was a time, now years ago when depression was an every day part of our lives. I was in a psychiatric ward. There because I was so low that all I could see as a way out of it was death.
I would wake up every morning with dread, filling the hours until I went to bed again with nothing but tears and thoughts of nothing.
I could not see then that I would ever come out of it. The only time I would get myself dressed was when one of my ever patient visitors would coerce me into doing so.
Over breakfast we find ourselves reflecting on that time, and again I feel the tears start to flow.
There was time when I was in there, falling apart and totally floored by the depression, that the boy and so many others could have walked away. And for the fact that they didn’t, for their perseverance in the face of my despair they saved me from myself, from my illness and between them they made sure I would live to see this day and I hope many more to come.
There are days like today when a thick black cloud descends over my head and turns everything I see a dull grey.
I’m on holiday from work and yet I am deeply miserable. It’s awful because all the things I was looking forward to about this week seem impossible to even consider, let alone to do.
The boy is trying to be patient, I know that he is, but I keep losing my temper out of intense frustration and I fear his fuse wears thin.
I wonder when things get this bleak how on earth I am meant to carry on. All I want to do is stay safe up in bed trying to weather the storm and hoping it might pass.
I have to admit that on days like this, when the clouds are closing in, I worry about what is still to come.
The worst of my thoughts have not yet arrived and maybe this time they won’t, but I am scared that they will, and that feeling as blue as I do they will be all the more difficult to defeat.
So, it has been a little while and I have been reflecting on a lot of things lately. I don’t know why it is that I have been so silent. Lithium as a drug can be such a great thing, but I wonder sometimes if it doesn’t have a negative effect on my creativity.
I write at work but I lack my usual playfulness with words. I miss writing I really do but I do struggle to put my thoughts to the type.
Being on lithium to date has been great for me and I wonder why it is that I resisted this drug for so long. I no longer have the highs, which I admit I miss from time to time, but equally and far more importantly, I don’t have the lows on the same scale as before.
Gone are the days, at least for now, when I would wake with that crippling sense of dread, that knowledge that the day was to be bleak and that the light was nowhere in sight. Over the years I have had many bouts of depression, they seem to arrive unannounced and rarely with reason.
It is difficult when it comes. Every day matters become near impossible and the pile of mail at the door builds steadily as I struggle to leave the house, even to buy a pint of milk. I do not miss these lows and even if my creativity seems somewhat cut, it’s worth it just to have the dark days gone, god willing this time its for good.
Three years ago I wrote a guest blog during Ellie’s 365 dresses project. It started off as a tirade against eating disorders, detailing how mine had stripped me of my teenage years, and how happy I was to be recovered. Yet it ended with me questioning whether I’d ever be free of the insidious voices that had invaded my head. In hindsight, I can see that I was not as well as I’d thought.
Yes, I could recognise the life-altering impact my eating disorders had had on my life. Yes, I was at a healthy weight. Yes, I felt ready to speak out about my experiences, but I inwardly longed to have the security of my previous hazy existence back. Although I’d learned to fight it, the fight was unwilling. I viewed recovery as a temporary state. Being in recovery was an inconvenience.
The last paragraphs of my post are terrifying to me when I read them now. In trying to persuade myself, and others, of the wonders of recovery, I’d inadvertently remembered the apparent ‘pros’ of being gripped by my disorder. What I’d thought was an honest appraisal of my successful journey of recovery was in fact a testament of the remaining depths of my illness.
“I preferred the days of being stared at… I preferred waiters asking me patronisingly whether madam would require the children’s menu.” I wrote. “Now I suffer alone and in secrecy – just how my ED wants it.” I described myself as being “plastered in a sufficient layer of fat,” and said how helpful that was in hiding my inner turmoil. I am horrified to see how the voice of my anorexia replaced my own voice without me even noticing. “I miss the ladder of success that is my ribcage…. My collarbone was like a handle; I could hold onto my bones and know that I was holding onto myself… I miss constant achievement, clothes getting bigger, and the little needle on the scales falling that bit further each day, getting closer to home.” I ended by questioning whether I even wanted my head back. “I have no idea when the hell I am going to get my life back, my thoughts back. My eating disorder has nearly killed me on more than one occasion, but I cannot let it go. I just don’t know.”
The most telling statement I made was, “Eating Disorders are devious. Mine makes me devious.” The irony is sinister. I was so firmly entrenched in my illness that I was unaware of the effect it was having on my writing. It was so devious that it could speak for me without me even noticing. It was so devious it could trick me into thinking I was recovered when I clearly still had a many a battle yet to win.
Three years have now passed. I hope, and believe with every (now unimportant) bone in my body, that I can see the world through my eyes, rather than through the eyes of my illness. In the time that has gone by, I have realised that recovery is not a linear journey. It is a cyclical process, as you learn to deal with setbacks that six months before would have sent you spiralling back into the darkest of days.
I now consider myself “really-nearly-fully-recovered”, and I am so proud to be where I am. It has not been an easy path. I went through a stage of exercising obsessively. I went through a stage of relapse, into both anorexic and bulimic behaviours. I went through a stage of trying to compensate for that by eating compulsively, and then through a stage of trying to halt that addiction before it too took over. All of this was after I wrote the blog believing I was ‘recovered’.
Things are very different now. I am no longer an isolated little girl clinging to the most irrational of illnesses to try and rationalise my world. I am a young woman seeing that world with an entirely different perspective. I have my ambition back. I can handle and throw myself into social situations that I previously ran from.
Noticing that I was doing well in recovery was not an instant thing. It was a slow understanding that my eating disorder was no longer dictating every single thought I had. It was realising that I was looking forward to a beach holiday, rather than starving myself in preparation. It was having dessert put in front of me in a restaurant, and noticing that I hadn’t even given calories a second thought for the entire meal. It was waking up the morning after devouring pizza with my friends and laughing that the urge to be sick had been absent, and that I hadn’t missed it.
Living my life again has been the most liberating and exhilarating experience. But to me, the most important testament to my recovery is knowing 100% that I can distinguish between the diseased voices and my healthy voice. I will not sit here and write that my life is utterly transformed, that I never hear the whispers. They still niggle at me. When I’m stressed, upset, or struggling they can become a plague. I’m not entirely immune, and I’m not undefeatable. What I am is aware that I do not want to give in, or need to give in. I am aware that I can fight to turn my eating disorder down. During the more difficult times, it takes all of my energy. It occasionally feels like it would be easier just to let go. The difference between the ill and the healthy me is that I won’t let my life slip away again. Every battle I win makes the next one easier, and further away. In between these struggles, I am alive, and I am recovered.
It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I hope that this post combined with the destruction detailed in the one three years ago will give an insight into the complexities of eating disorders, and mental illnesses in general. Invisible illnesses are among the most tiring and most shameful to live with. It is difficult to seek help when it doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong.
But to all those who are suffering, and to all those who read this, there is one thing I will say: we are not weak because we suffer. We are strong because we are surviving. No pity, no shame, no silence.
By Georgey Routen
I like to think that things are stable nowadays and that there will be no more dark days or manic highs. I like to think that nobody else will have to suffer the worry and upset of what goes on when I go into a high, I like to think that I will make no more attempts on my own life and that life will be full of blooms and full of roses. I worry though because the stability is fading and the worry is starting again and I fear that I feel the high start to take flight once more.
It starts with the sleep. Already I have more energy, so much more that even when I go to bed late I find myself waking way before I should, already tuned for the day.
The spending has started to increase. All my plans of saving for a holiday went out the window the other day when I walked into Monsoon in my lunch break and bought clothes that I do not need. And I can take them back I know but it’s not just that. It’s what I bought and the strange reasons I bought it. In my mind one top I bought was to be my dinner party hostess top. Now this is odd because nearly one year on and I’m yet to hold a dinner party in my new home.
The talking is another thing that worries me and that I know worries others as well. I get carried away and say stupid things. I prattle on at the boy who I fear has had enough of listening to me getting all enthusiastic about a tin of paint.
What I’m getting at here is that I do not feel well anymore and it’s terrifying because it has been so long since this has happened. I thought that lithium suited me, that it would be a miracle drug but my expectations were so high that I forgot to listen to warnings that there would still be mood fluctuation. I’m paranoid and I worry about everything and it is so exhausting.
I feel lost and I feel alone, and I have no idea of how to stop the high that feels like a racing heat in my head.
Since I’ve been on the combination of Lamotrigine and Lithium something has changed in the way I interact with people. Not only am I more able to have a joke and say what’s on my mind but I’m also able to answer that question of how are you, in a more normal way.
I spent some time with my sister over the weekend and not once did I feel the need to talk about my health. What was doubly reassuring was that she felt no need to bring it up.
Admittedly there are some side effects to this drug. One second I can be talking normally or conducting an interview at work with ease, the next second I am prone to severe shakes which makes shorthand a bit of a challenge.
The truth of the matter is however, that for how I am feeling, the occasional short episodes of the shakes and the occasional bout of nausea are bearable. I am not depressed but neither am I high. I feel like me and it is just so wonderfully refreshing to feel that way.
The last time I posted was back in June after making the decision not to carry on with the shoe project. It’s been nearly three months since then and I truly do not know why or where the words went but I can feel them coming back.
I’ll be walking to work and all of a sudden an idea for a post will come fizzing up from inside me. It’s a wonderful feeling to think that it’s still there but it’s a little bit scary too. I know that sometimes my blogs can be all too sudden, splashed out and smashed out on the keys in a fit of mania or a dreadful depression, and I worry about what comes across to people reading them.
Before I started writing this post I was of a mind to delete the whole of the Lost in notation blog. The last couple of years have been a rollercoaster with too many highs and lows to count, and there was a part of me that wanted to forget it all, to leave the past and all the posts behind. I couldn’t do it in the end. Whether I wrote them when I was high, low or stable they are a part of my past and deleting them would feel like burning a diary or a love letter. It would be nice to pretend that I was never sick but then if I did that how little would I have learned.
The blog has taught me signs to look out for of when I am going one way or another, it has put me in touch with other people suffering from similar issues and has given me an outlet in times where I have trusted nobody, not even myself.