Tag Archives: Depression

Let’s talk about mental health

Another aspect of my life I want to focus on is my mental health. This is another subject I find people don’t talk about, like money, and I want to change that in my life. I want to speak out and be an advocate for better care and de-stigmatisation in the ways I can. This feel really important for me this year.

For the last few months I have felt myself struggling more and more even though everything was feeling really good with work and home. I knew something was wrong and have been working ever since to find out what and I think it was the reduced amount of contact with friends that I hadn’t realised was happening. I’ve been very focused on my job and I love it, but I do need to make the time for proper self care, beyond going to therapy every week. There are other things I know are important to creating a healthy life and I have needed to remind myself of them recently, which is why it feels important to take stock at the the start of the year. I’m not looking to track any of this or make goals out of it, but rather for it to serve as a reminder to myself of what I need to do and let others know someone else is working on this too.

I’m not a mental health expert (disclaimer!) and so I am just sharing my story so that more people are talking about it. There is no right way to support mental health, you have to find what works for you. It might change along the way too and that’s okay. Last year was about letting go of my belief in diets and focus on creating a non judgmental relationship with food. I had to let go of something I’ve held on to as a support mechanism for so long. It’s not been easy, but I have felt so much better for it.

So my plan for the foreseeable future is focus on the following things:

Go to therapy

This has played important part of my life for the last year and I am going to continue to make time and put money towards this. In time I may be able to talk to others about the things that I talk about in therapy, however right now I working through long standing, deeply embedded beliefs that are causing pain.

Focus on self care

These are the other aspects of my life that I think are important to my mental health. Before last year I would have focused on the first two alone, but they are only part of the story. Our lives are made up of so many moments that we need to make them count and saying no is just as important as saying yes.

  • Eat well and what I want
  • Stay active through fun ways
  • Dress how I like and makes me good
  • Feel good and even sexy in makeup
  • See friends regularly and suggest to do things
  • Say no without guilt and apology

I am also thinking about volunteering for an organisation that supports mental health like Samaritans or Mind. This would be a commitment and I would not enter it lightly, which is why I am going to take more time to consider it and look into properly before taking it on. I would like to give back in some way and this sounds like a way to help people, but also the organisations that talk about mental health openly.

I feel quite passionate about this for this year. Depression has been part of my life for probably longer than I realise and although it sucks, I’ve been learning to deal with it. When I get complacent it reminds me and I learn to catch it quicker than before. I want to help others and let people know they can live amazingly fulfilling lives even with depression creeping around. I’ve found ways to fight it and I want to help others do the same.

Winter Blues

Yeah, so I’m ready for January to be be here already.

I’m really struggling at the moment and since November I’ve been all over the place emotionally. I’ve been doing really well at work and focused on my mental health around dieting and food, but other things have snuck up on me and caught me off guard. My doctor passed away and he was the one who listened and looked beyond my weight. Then a colleague passed away and that was a shock. Then there are some stupid things going on within my family that no one wants to have a proper discussion about as it ends in arguments.It’s all built up to a point where a feel really overwhelmed.

It’s felt really sucky (totally a professionally recognised term!) and having had to miss two weeks of therapy also has not helped. I’ve found it difficult to talk about as it just feels like I’m complaining and people try to fix it by telling me to ignore it of care less – not helpful! I am an overthinker and need to process my thoughts to move past them. Ignoring my feelings leads to binge eating as it’s the only way I know how to cope.

I’ve also been super tired. I am wondering if I am experiencing a stronger case of SAD then in previous years, especially as I stopped my medication towards the end of last year and maybe the darkness and weather is also taking it toll. I am in the office or inside working more than before as I really love my job and want to do more than expected. However that does mean I am sacrificing being active and this is something I need to rectify.

I have been doing breathing exercises as this is something my therapist is keen on this and I do find it really works, but I struggle to remember to think to do it in the moment and only after or when I’m in bed do I actually focus and relax. My thoughts totally wander all over the place, but it’s okay and I bring myself back to my body and how I’m really feeling. Sometimes it feels okay, other times my body is crying out for attention and the acknowledgment of aches and pains is needed. It really does work and also helps me to step away from my worries.

The big worry I just cannot seem to get away from is that I am not looking forward to Christmas at all. I would love to stay at home all day and have a duvet day rather than face being social with my family. It feels selfish to say that, but I am really anxious about the whole thing. I don’t think any of come away from forced gatherings feeling good about ourselves. I find myself slipping in the child/teenager persona and I hate it. I hate who I becomes and how I let them make me feel. One on one they are great, but together we do not fit. I am not who they want me to be and I feel resentful for them not wanting me to be myself (this may be perceived, but it’s how I feel).  I know I’m over thinking and my focus is on setting boundaries and making sure they do not expect me to be there the whole time. I am going to go for lunch and leave when I want to after. I know I’m making a bigger deal of this than I need to, but it is at front of mind and no one seems to understand.

I’m also feeling lonely for the first time in long time. Maybe it’s my friends all getting married. Maybe it’s hitting 32 in January and still not having met anyone I want to spend my life with. Maybe it’s just time for me to starting looking rather than waiting. It’s odd and I don’t like it. I’ve always been independent and joked I would do a christmas card like the one below as I find it so funny, but if I’m truly honest I don’t want that to be forever. But then part of me says ‘fuck that’ I’m independent and selfish and it means I can do whatever I want!

I am so ready for January. I am glad I am working over Christmas so I have something to focus on. Next year I am definitely going away. Maybe with friends, maybe on my own. All I know is that I need to do something different next year. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to depression and it definitely catches me off guard sometimes, but I know and believe it is only temporary. I just need to do everything I know works to get through this period of time. Expressing my feelings is something I find I can only do in writing. I’m not looking for suggestions or advice, I’m just looking for a place to share my thoughts and hopefully let someone else know they are not alone as I know what that feels like and it still gets to me now, even when I know it is not true.

Challenging my rules

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I’ve been working through Intuitive Eating for the last 6 months or so and it is making a huge difference in how I think about myself and food. Therapy is also helping a great deal as I am actually talking about what I really think and not being distracted by other people’s opinions. I am finding I am beginning to listen to myself first. I am starting to ignore the media and supposedly well-intentioned people who just want to help. I am doing the research and listening to what my gut, heart and head are telling me. It’s hard work, but I feel so much freedom at the same time.

I have been working hard on noticing and trying to ditch the diet mentality. It still rears it’s ugly head with automatic thoughts, but I don’t let it control me. I’ve also been working on honouring my hunger, which again is a work in progress as I have used food as a coping mechanism for so long that it won’t change overnight, so each step is important. The next two principles about Making peace with Food and Challenging the Food Police is where I have been concentrating lately.

Through therapy I have begun to notice, understand and challenge the rules I live by that are not my own. They have been embedded within in throughout my life and no longer serve a purpose and actually cause me more harm then good. Many of my rules are from my parents and this isn’t about blaming them, it is about understanding that those were their rules, but they do not have to be mine. They grew up in a different time and are not going to change, but I don’t have to live by them anymore, I can find my own or throw them all out the window.

In my work I have found a couple of things that have really had an impact on my binge eating behaviour and my lack of trust in myself around food – the idea of waste and the rule of not having it in the house. Both of these enable binge eating behaviour and eat into my self-esteem by encouraging negative thinking about food and myself, both diet and behaviours. I have completely lost the ability to trust myself around food as I have lived by rules that have reinforced that I cannot be trusted around food. At the same time I have been living by rules that mean I cannot waste food and so I have been eating it all in order not to waste it or have it in the house. So confusing!

 

So I have been challenging these rules, but buying things in large amount and keeping them in the house. This has been my list so far:

  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Fresh bread
  • Full fat yogurt and milk
  • Biscuits
  • Alcohol

I have binged, but the majority of time I forget they are there until I fancy something. I have given myself permission to break those rules and prove to myself I can trust myself. I taken them off the banned list and therefore reduced their appeal. It’s been liberating!

Ignoring people is the harder part for me and in the past comments about food or weight have knocked my self-esteem out the park. But now I am trying to give less of shit about other people. I listen to myself and make my own choices, then bat other people’s opinions away. I’m keeping it simple and having a few prepared lines to respond to people with such as ‘and I’m really looking forward to eating it’ in a sweetly innocent tone or being a bit stronger and challenging them by asking ‘why does it matter to you what I eat?’. It’s an interesting process at the moment and does depend on how I feel about myself at the time. Sometimes though I am just choosing not to acknowledge the matter at all – such as my rant on twitter about the random old man in the supermarket who tried to encourage me to ignore the chocolate aisle – and for me that is re-enforcing within myself that I do not have to conform or agree with societal standard or stereotypes, and instead I can say fuck off!

It’s a long journey, but I feel in a really good place with it all. It will take time and I am so glad I have taken the focus off weight loss and just focusing on being the best me I can be and loving myself exactly as I am so much so that I threw the scales out! I’ve also been buying clothes that fit and throwing out the ones that don’t. I want to feel good and that is what I am going to do and anyone who doesn’t want me to feel good can go on their way and stay out of my life. Simple.

Learning to love my body

 

  • Skincare – check
  • Make up – check
  • Therapy – check
  • Giving less of a shit – in progress
  • Hair – in progress
  • Clothes – up next
  • Body – up next

Have you ever realised it’s not your voice in your head telling you how you should feel about yourself?

That is exactly what I’ve been working through in therapy and it is truly enlightening.  Especially around the thoughts I have about my body. I find it quite sad I’ve let other people and social pressure dictate how I feel about myself and my body and I’m only just realising I don’t need to care what others think.  I’ve been working on creating identities for the voices in my head, specifically the negative ones, as this is helping me realise they are not my thoughts, but external influences being voiced.

I have a women as the thin, always made up to perfection, weight watchers leader character who provides the fake sincerity and makes everything about diet and appearance. This is the voice we think is helping us and being kind, but is really Professor Umbridge in disguise!

I also have a general type character; a uniformed shouty man who is all about the rules. Nothing is ever good enough for The General and no matter how hard you try you will never be what he wants you to be. It’s also the voice that sends you on the overeating followed by over-exercising cycle. It’s never ending. It’s all criticism and all about power and control. It makes you feel weak and useless.

Both of these voices are not mine. They are the things I’ve heard and learnt from others and think I believe, but really they are at odds with what I really value. Putting names to them allows me to see they are not internal and that I can choose not to listen to them. I’m slowly building another voice that is really from the inside, but I’m yet to fully see that voice as it’s still in the shadows and shyly taking steps out as my confidence grows.

All this history has really taken a toll on how I feel and see my body. I’m so detached from it that I probably wouldn’t recognise it if I saw it in a line up! How crazy is that?

However I’ve been working on this without really realising that is what I was doing. I was thinking about it as positive self-care. But really this goes deeper below my skin and into my being and impacts on how I really feel about myself. I’ve been concentrating on my skincare and make up in recent months to learn what my skin needs and what makes me feel good. I’ve even committed to bulk buying a few products to keep up my new run of consistency in these areas.

Skincare – Balance Me – I love this range as it’s mostly natural and leaves my skin feeling hydrated. I’ve moved away from fearing oils and although I’m not yet spot free yet, I am having fewer breakouts. I think the rest is to do with what foods I’m eating and being active.

Makeup – Hydrating primer and foundation – As I’m not yet clear of acne I’m still using foundation and concealer to cover up blemishes, but I’ve swapped to more hydrating products. Old favourites have had to go as I realised they were drying out my skin and making everything worst. So I’m now a fan of Smashbox Hydrating Primer (although I would like to find a cheaper version) and Kiko Hydrating Foundation.


Make up – Beauty Blender – I am a convert! I love these sponges for applying all forms of makeup. So much so I’ve bought the standard one, the mini ones, the pure one, and the blush one – I know, I know, I’ve bought into the brand! Honestly though the sponges are applying the makeup so well that I am using less product and getting the finish I think is natural and provides coverage. I also bought the cleaner and find that is working well and takes the product off after each use. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to travel with them as I leave them out to dry, I’m sure I’ll figure it out though!

Therapy – This has been key for me this year to really get under the skin of my disordered eating and relationship with food and people. The only limiting factor for me is the finances and is something I need to consider going forward.

Hair – I’ve finally booked in for a haircut and colour at an actual salon! I’ve neglected my hair for the last 5 years. I’ve just let it grow, then had it cut, then let it grow, and then had it cut again, irregularly I might add. So I finally took the plunge and asked my friends who they see and booked in on their recommendation. I’ve been for a consultation and colour test and have an appointment next month!

Giving less of a shit – This is one that I’ve begun to notice I’m doing without focusing on it. As I’ve been doing my therapy and taking the time and putting the effort into looking after me this feels more and more natural. I feel like I can voice my opinions and not care if someone doesn’t agree or worry that I’ll cave in. I have the right to take up space in this world and is some doesn’t like it, they can fuck off!


There are two areas I would like to work in order to really truly love my body and those are the areas of clothes and actually seeing my body – also crazy right, but not really at the same time. These areas are the two I find the hardest. I haven’t really ever enjoyed clothes shopping as it made me face my discomfort around my body. But I am starting to find this goes hand in hand with giving less of a shit about what others think and my desire to quieten the voices who aren’t really mine. I want to go shopping for clothes that fit and look fantastic on my body exactly as it is. I want to then continue to do that as my body changes with age, whether that is gets smaller or bigger as it doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be healthy and will continue to monitor that with my doctor, but if the only problem I have is that I weigh too much and that isn’t impacting on anything else, you know what, I’m going to focus on what makes me content and I hope that will then mean I find equilibrium within my body naturally.

Acknowledging my emotions

Emotions:
a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others
instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge
I’ve always struggled to articulate my emotions and I’ve been working in therapy to address this and put words to all the emotions I feel. My therapist has encouraged me to say what I feel however I need to and often I find I use hand movements or metaphors or even sounds, rather than words. So this last week I’ve been referring to the emotions wheel below and putting words to the emotions I feel.
_ Emotions Wheel-page-001
The focus for me has been about changing my relationship with food and understanding the emotions I am feeling is a big part of this. Being able to put words to feelings is helping me make them less scary. I have found I have developed rules around what emotions I let be visible and when I feel something that breaks the rule I usually use food to distract from it. This is really unhealthy and I don’t want to behave like that any more. However it is not an overnight change and I have to give myself time to change my rules.
I am finding it hard, but worthwhile. I’ve started to sit with my emotions and listen to my thoughts, but rather than act I am watching as an observer. I have to focus as it goes against all my ingrained habit to do something to avoid feeling the emotion. I am also giving myself permission to not blame myself for things I feel, no matter the trigger. My therapist points out to me all the time I usually take a very balanced view of things, even if they make me angry or upset. So I am trying to free write at times of anger or sadness to get out what I feel. I find this hard as I live by the rule ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all’. I’ve been giving myself permission to write what I think about people or experiences without guilt or shame. It is only about acknowledging how I feel and helping ride the emotion wave until it subsides.
It’s an interesting time in my life. I am feeling excited and optimistic about lots of things and working through the things that are causing me pain. It’s weird, but I finally feel like I am being the real me most of the time (I still need to work on the rest of it) and it’s feels great!
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