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
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.
I could spend this whole post telling you about how bad the last few months have been. I could tell you about one of the most crushing lows of my life so far, a low that saw me isolate myself from the friends that I love, the job that I feel priveleged to have ever been given and the project I was so determined to complete.
It can wait however for another day. This is the first time since February, maybe even longer that I have felt like myself. It is selfish and unprofessional I know to have offered no explanation for my sudden silence over the last few months and for this I do apologise and I will explain all in full. Just not right now.
Today is a day for jubilation. After months of misery, messed up mood, flat shoes and a flat face today I am smiling. I smile at simple normal every day things like ladybirds and bumble bees. A beautiful happy woman passes me by and rather than silently sob at the fact that once upon a long time ago I knew how to smile, I smile back at her and just feel glad that there is some sunshine in my day.
The Psych told me that I would be feeling better this week but I doubted him and that night spent hours on the bathroom floor toying with the idea of ending it all. Just days ago I was having dark suicidal thoughts and yet today I cannot imagine ever having wanted my life to end.
There is a possibility that today is just a fluke and that tomorrow I will wake up with the cloud coming down again, but today I can’t contemplate it. I have to believe that this truly is the start of me getting better and that I can return to my life and to the pen once again.
I apologise for the lack of posts and photos but I have been rather unwell all weekend and had to take time off work. It seems strange to say but it makes a nice change for my illness to be down to my body rather than my mind.
Normal posts and pictures will resume from tomorrow but last week I was wearing a pair of peter pan style brown velvet boots and this week so far I have mainly been wearing slippers!
Yesterday I started on a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It will do little as I understand it to help with the highs but it does have an excellent rate of preventing recurrent episodes of depression. There is something about going to the course that I find quite upsetting and by the time the boy comes home this evening I am quite tearful about the whole thing.
What upsets me is that it feels like there is something almost shameful in going to a course like this, an admission that I am not normal. I know that it is an irrational thought and really rather silly but I cannot help it.
The course itself is quite good really and the people I must admit do seem to all extents and purposes just like anyone else. One of them seems so normal that I actually mistake him for a doctor.
I suppose that it just goes to show how mistaken my idea of normal really is but I still feel like a freak and having to meditate over a raisin does little to remove such a thought from my head.
My parents are away for a long weekend leaving me to take care of the house, and more importantly, the dog. As much as I love our West Highland Terrier whose name is Bonnie looking after her is definitely not one of my favourite tasks. I have found it difficult to warm to the dog over the years mainly because she has a few terrible habits that include destroying much of my property.
It all started when she came into our lives ten years ago as a scruff of a pup who was crying for her family. Although my mother’s first words on seeing her were, ‘My life has gone down the toilet’ she has since warmed to the dog. Our relationship has been rather fraught however due to her beginning life by destroying my best shoes which she went on to do three more times. Over the years I have become more careful with my shoe collection, storing it well out of the reach of her mischievous jaws but lately she has developed a new and far more disturbing habit.
I do not know if this is something that other dog owners have a problem with but I am just putting it out there in the hope of finding other sufferers. My dog is a determined destroyer of knickers. And not just any knickers, she seems to deliberately seek out any that are expensive, matching or silk. The dog is selective in what she shreds it must be said.
This is something that I try to avoid by having a steel washing basket and leaving none around. I had hoped she would instead target the boy’s underwear which he frequently leaves unattended all around my bedroom but it seems she is after only kickers.
All this makes it difficult to have a healthy relationship with an animal which has cost me the best part of £300 over the years, shoes included. Despite this however when she pulls her lead off the table and starts dragging it desperately around the kitchen my heart melts and I take the delinquent for a walk. I have been watching The Killing this evening and am a little jumpy as I walk through the church yard. What turns out to be even more disturbing is the dog who leaves a mes which I have to clean up. I find myself wondering whether there are special flags one can leave that say, the owner of the dog is away but will be back on Monday to collect this unsightly deposit. Alas I fear these may just be in my imagination and am forced to pick up the poo.
I feel like a responsible dog owner but am very much looking forward to when the boy gets here as he is always willing, well sort of, to take the dog out and it is a job that I will not miss at all.