Disordered Eating

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Always clear your plate
Here , have some more
Always say thank you
Don’t you know the trouble I went to?

Eat up, eat up
Otherwise you won’t grow big and strong
There’s children in Africa starving
Or there was once a war, you know
Are you spoilt or ungrateful?

Never waste food
It’s so expensive
Never say no, thank you
What do you mean you don’t like it?

If you’re sad or lonely
Food is medicine for the soul
Or even when you’re ill
Then food will be your cure

Make as big a dish as possible
Well, won’t everyone want seconds?
Ladle it out by the bucket
Well, aren’t you hungry?

Serve up a huge ole slab
Blow everyone away
Is it talent or just impressions?
Never mind, there’s supposedly love in every bite

Love is food-shaped
It is smothering, choked upon
Aren’t we fortunate?
Here have some more

Food brings us together
The backdrop to all the fights
The solution to all the problems
Food solves everything

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Doing

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Swan's Head with Dripping Beak

We live in a society that determines our value by our activity.  It is what we do rather than what we think or who we are that assigns our value, our status, our place in this world.  And the emphasis is on doing more, it’s synonymous with achievement; the more we do, the more valuable, desirable and useful we are.

But what if we can’t do something, anything?  Do we automatically become useless?

Not doing is caught up in so much psychological baggage; is it laziness?  It seems to be the last of the Seven Deadly Sins that this hedonistic society still shuns and condemns.  Laziness shouldn’t get you anywhere and we have strong views on the parasitic nature of the lazy and their lack of contribution.

But what is being lazy?  Is it simply a state of inactivity?  Or is it a deeper attitude?  I mean, in this modern world where our participation in the economic systems is the greatest determiner of our value is someone lazy who doesn’t work or can someone in a high-powered job, earning, putting in long hours, still be lazy?  If lazy is an attitude then it surely isn’t about whether we do or don’t do, it’s about our attitude to what we are doing.  Do we cut corners, do we take shortcuts, do we spare ourselves the effort?  Isn’t that laziness when you think about it?

But even with that view, not doing doesn’t become an acceptable option.  We carry an awful lot of baggage with us, remember?

I struggle with this.  I determine my own value by what I can do (although I am, of course, more generous towards others).  But the sad truth is that I can never do enough to please myself.   I worry about being judged, about the condemnation of others but I am my biggest critic.  I set ridiculously, if not impossibly, high standards for myself.

I hear it all too often though, apparently I don’t do anything.  It’s easy to internalise such a message, it becomes a truth.  And I easily accept other people’s opinions as Truth; for better or worse I use their views to forms my reality.  I have spent most of my life believing that I don’t do anything and I feel incredibly guilty about this fact because of course this inactivity comes with a host of negativity and ‘labels’, baggage.  I believe that I am Lazy.  And there’s a whole heap of other words, names that go along with that one label.

But one morning, having heard this claim too many times, I decided that I would question (question not challenge, I don’t have that kind of confidence) this view.  There are days when I can do little.  In fact most days.  But I am aware that, despite the fact that I apparently do nothing, things get done.  Slowly, sometimes incompletely but things do move, things do happen.  It might not be anywhere near as much as I expect my own self to get done but things are done.

So I sat down and wrote me a list of all the things I had done in the day.  It was perhaps a better day than some but I knew that unless I kept a check then I would go to bed convinced that I had, yet again, done nothing.

(The list is not in order, I am not that efficient, except for the two final entries).

Today I …

cooked a meal

put two lots of washing on

put away some knitting magazines

unpacked two bags from going away the other week

put some clothes away

watched some television

cleaned a bin

swept half a floor

rested (several times)

perused inspiration

updated ravelry library

found the brush and pan (before sweeping said floor, funny enough)

tried out a craft project

had aspirational thoughts

burnt rice pudding

put last last month’s final bag of shopping away

brought a line of washing in (we have three)

sorted the larder

texted

read the last section of my non-fiction book

brushed my hair and put it in a pony tail

felt guilty that I could do so much

still saw a thousand and one things that I should have done

And that second-but-last one reveals another complexity to this whole doing things issue.  If I am ill, what should I be doing?  Nothing?  Are ill people those who have to lie weakly on couches, the picture of Victorian invalidity?  Ah, if only life was that kind!  But I definitely don’t feel ‘worthy‘ of the label of Ill, which makes it impossible for me to seek help.

Then the very last item?  I still went to bed seeing all the things that I ‘should’ have done, I still felt that I hadn’t accomplished or achieved.  There is so much that I want to do, would like to do yet can’t.  Even on a ‘good’ day when I do all that then I am still surrounded by voices who tell me that I have done nothing.

Do You Really Mean Me?

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Studio30 Plus - A Community of Writers

You know that thing people do when they’re not entirely sure if someone is talking to them or someone else, they look over their shoulder?  I’ve been doing that a lot the last few weeks.  Probably mixed with a bit of rabbit-caught-in-headlights too.  You can’t seriously mean me?  OK, you are.  Panic, doubt, worry.

Losing one’s inner Voice should be a good thing but actually it’s slightly unnerving.  Sure, I’m not feeling guilty all the time over everything (which in itself is kind of weird, partly because I can’t remember before the Voice, it’s been so long) but now I feel guilty that I’m not feeling guilty.  Am I being insincere?  Am I being uncaring?  Am I being selfish?  I’m not sure, surely I should feel terrible when someone goes out of their way for me or does me a favour?  I don’t know.  How do ‘normal’ people react and feel in these situations?  I don’t know!

I feel a little lost at times, almost as if I’ve lost something as important as my compass or even my conscience.  The ground beneath my feet isn’t quite where it used to be.  And that’s going to take some adjusting to.  A lot of adjusting to.  Have you ever had a heavy load taken off you?  You go all wobbly for a bit, it almost feels like you’re still carrying it sometimes.  That’s what I’m like at the moment, unburdened but very unsteady.

But I think that I was living with an impossibly heavy burden because life and relationships are going so much better now that I’m not dragged down, swamped in paranoid guilt all the time.  That kind of guilt, that level of guilt is crippling and it’s not sustainable.  Although I seem to have been carrying it for most of the last two decades.  It destroys your life and you.

Without it, I’m having to get to know myself all over again.  The survival skills that have kept me alive all these years are turning into positive qualities, when I have the confidence to trust them and myself.  I’m probably even coming across as outgoing.  That’s weird, very weird.

Guilt has held me back too long.

Now I need to try to find a life without it.  I’m still a little wobbly.

I’m working on accepting compliments American-style, that is graciously.  Instead of guiltily and self-deprecatingly.

I’m having to dare, to dare believe in myself and my talents (still questioning whether I have any though!), to dare to dream.

If the present isn’t a burden and the past can be forgotten then the future is possible.  I haven’t believed in a future for a very, very long time.  It’s a little scary.  So I’m just going to take it one day at a time.

So when I received an email asking me to guest post on a proper writers community blog, I did look behind to see if they did really mean me.  Maybe they got the wrong email address or something?  No, it was me, they’re talking to me.  Cue rabbit-in-headlights.  I can’t do that!  I’m not good enough!

OK, deep breath.  Accept graciously.  Be accepted.  Panic.  What on earth can this little idiosyncratic waffler contribute?

More panic.

Decide to ignore it for time being.

Post idea slowly forms in head, doesn’t really want to be written down though because I’m probably blocking.

Deadline comes up rapidly.

Have to write post.

Why is that posts are never as good as when they were first drafted in your foggy head at some unsociable hour?

I get husband to proof the post, it would be mortifying if there’s a mistake in this one.  This one post that introduces me to a world of proper writers.

Submit post.

Wait for post to appear.

Realise that with all the different time zones available, I actually don’t know when it’s going to appear.

Spend day anxiously checking website, fretting all the while.

Post appears.

Freak out.

Then grin.

I did it!

I have written my first ever guest post, it’s over at Studio30 Plus.  Let me know what you think.

It’s been quite a journey.

Grateful for the Fire

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Gas Ring in the Dark

Coping strategies.  There’s something inherently wrong with that expression.  Strategy, well, you need a clear head and a good idea of what the playing field is for that.  Coping, well, that implies a little too strongly successful management.  But the reality is that coping is just another word for surviving.  We bury our heads in the sand ostrich-style; we duck behind parapets; we get on with life.  Because that is what society expects of us.  And what we expect of ourselves.

I cope.  I survive.  Why?

Whose expectations am I trying to meet?

Only my own.

But coping shouldn’t just focus on success, that sets the bar too high.

A forest can be destroyed by fire.  Yet it survives.  In fact, it can come back stronger.

That’s resilience.

That’s bounce-back-ability.  (Yeah, I’m sure that one’s in the dictionary, dare you check).

Fire has its uses.  It refines; it strengthens; it can actually promote growth.  Many valuable things are proved by fire.

I don’t know whether or not we need it, but we do have fire in our lives.  And sometimes that can be a good thing.   As the song says, it takes a little rain to make the grass grow.

Sometimes the fire comes from other people, people who may even be trying to destroy every fibre of our being, crushing us physically and psychologically.  But to them, I owe a debt of gratitude.  It is because of them that I am who I am today.

I think that I have to conclude that my stubborn streak is one of my best qualities.  It keeps me alive.  It keeps me fighting.  It keeps me coming back.

I doubled my medication, then consulted the doctor, who also switched me to the tablets.  I’ve had some rough days of nausea but there have been definite benefits.  The tablets are more effective, if I thought I felt good on the same dose of liquid then the tablets make me feel even better.  I am confident in an assured way even if I can’t be in a hopeful way just yet.  I sleep well.  I can cope.  Everything has been like water off a duck’s back.  Breezy, my style is breezy.

It was very strange to start with.  It was like being someone I didn’t actually know, like not really being myself.  I’ve grown up with Depression; I’ve never been an adult with clear thinking before, a clear mind.  It’s very strange.  At first, I felt as if perhaps I was still a child in my mind, living in an adult body and an adult mind.  I had to get used to being a ‘normal’ adult, free from all that distorted, negative thinking.  Free from constant, continual guilt.

It’s the guilt that has made the biggest difference, or not feeling it.  I have more time to do things; my mind has more time to concentrate on other things.  It’s like having a massive weight taken off your shoulders.  You kind of stumble around for a moment, missing it, having to steady yourself but you adapt.  I adapted and I’m getting used to it.

The silence in my head.

Silence.

I can’t remember a time when my head was silent.

I don’t blame myself.  I don’t let others blame me.

I don’t agonise for hours about things I have may have said or done wrong.

Things happen, I deal with them, I move on.

Isn’t that strange?  Or maybe you take that as normal.

I don’t.

I’m getting used to it though.

However, medication can’t make all the problems go away.  They are still there, a billion and one different issues and worries that I have very limited control over.  I don’t like that because I always want answers and solutions.  And for all my love of nuance, I like the black and white.  I want things to be clear, I want there to be just one option, just one outcome.  Life is far more complicated and complex.  And sometimes it can be hard to deal with.

 So I freeze up.

I stop, numb, overwhelmed.  I withdraw from creative processes and I shy away from writing.  Maybe I’m just not ready to face the issues, expose them so clearly by the written word.  I stay still, meditating, dwelling on them in an absent-minded way.  Chewing the cud whilst pretending that I’m not.  Distracting myself with tacky television.  Sometimes I can’t even knit, it requires too much of me, sometimes I don’t want to put where I am and what I’m feeling in the stitches.  As if they could be tainted.  Or a permanent reminder of something that I may late wish to completely forget.  I freeze up, do little.  But slowly I find my feet again, I make a little more sense of the riddles that are playing through my head and I decide where I stand on issues.  I come out of it stronger, ready for action.  But I shut down, giving myself the energy and time for psychological matters.

Is that coping?

Perhaps not.  The washing and the washing up pile higher.  I don’t engage with the things that I enjoy doing.  I do little.

Maybe I need to find another ‘strategy’, maybe catatonia doesn’t help.  I don’t know.  Or maybe like fire, I just haven’t learnt to appreciate it just yet.

With fire, I know that I will survive.  I can and will come out the other side a better, stronger person.

It turns out that I don’t need to find myself after all.  I was there all along.  Buried under the debris and chaos that my life and illness have brought but still there.  Existing, alive, breathing.   Just like a small patch of blue sky behind the clouds, I have had glimpses of myself.  Now I know that there was always enough to make a sailor man’s trousers.

I am me.  I always have been.  And I always will be because I will keep surviving, whatever happens.

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Depression’s Legacy

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~ Trigger Alert ~

The word ‘legacy’ does kind of suggest that something or someone has passed, legacy is about what is left, what remains.  A legacy can leach through history.  Like the effects Romans have had on the countryside, justice system, architecture, diet and goodness knows what else.  Some legacies are more tangible like the ten bob your aunt left you.  But perhaps those aren’t the ones with the most potency after all.  I’ve heard of ‘legacy systems’ too, something to do with computing and possibly to do with whether or not your software came out of the metaphorical ark.  Metaphorical because I don’t think Noah had a PC although he’d have loved CAD.

So I use the word with some caution when describing the effects that Depression has had on me.  Or maybe has on me.  Because, you see, Depression has not passed out of my life.  Not just yet.  Possibly never will.  If it still exists, can it have a legacy?  Mind you, if Depression is an inanimate … thing (words fail me), can it have a legacy anyway?  I would argue that Depression is a sentient being, it does seem to know when best (from its perspective at least, worst from mine) to kick me up the backside (pardon the French*).

Anyway, here’s me trying to divert matters and enjoying all sorts of side shoots as I do, shall we get back to the subject in hand?

I’ve told you about the Voice in my head?  Well, that’s sort of under control.  Depending on how much stress there is in my daily life.  (There’s a lot of it sometimes).  Remember too that Alphabet of Emotions that I came up with even further back?  Well I talked briefly about some of the issues then but I’d like to follow that up now.

These are the ones that I talked about in relation to Depression:

C is for Confidence

I lack confidence, you may have noticed, but this blog is the garden where I am growing my first crop.  A measure of confidence and self-assurance is necessary.  A life without confidence is very limiting and painful, I know.  I have another post in the pipeline on this very subject so check back shortly!

D is for Doubt

Doubt follows that lack of confidence.  It eats away at you, nibbling away at your edges until you’re unable to stand on your own.  Doubt erodes safety and peace of mind; it’s like living on the edge of a very crumbly cliff.  But there’s more to follow another time!

F is for Fear

No confidence, full of doubt?  Then fear will naturally follow.  Fear includes so much.  Maybe for many, fear revolves around phobias.  I have those too.  Arachnids are on that list, or at least my entirely rational belief that these are vicious animals that live purely to ‘get’ me and that cobwebs are harmful may be.  I’m terrified of losing things and of drowning, I hate having the windows open on a car journey and bridges over water are the stuff of nightmares.  I’m scared of pain and am not ‘keen’ on medical personnel and procedures.  I’m afraid of messing up, of getting things wrong.  I’m a claustrophobe who hates sitting with people behind me.  I suffer with panic attacks, I’ve always got an exit plan and my average ‘bounce’ rate is higher than that of the most doomed website.  When times are uncertain and your financial situation shaky then the future can certainly induce fear, a gnawing worry or dread.  Living with chronic illness, when you’re just not sure how tomorrow is going to feel adds to the uncertainty, the worry, the dread.

G is for Guilt

When you’re always doubtful and scared of messing up then too you will also spend your life feeling guilty.  We quite often accidentally raise our children with guilt complexes: think of the children in Africa and eat your dinner, we can’t afford this but we’re giving you a present, you don’t know how fortunate you are to have the things you do because it was so much tougher when I was a child.  Regrets are another form of guilt.  Oh to have lived a life free from regrets!  I guess that is a question of attitude, do we make the most of each moment, cherishing the precious and valuable in our lives?  We have to assess our priorities and give our best each day, each moment.  We can’t do more and only an unreasonable Depressed mind would expect it.

W is for Worrying

I worry.  I worry a lot.  I can worry even when I’m doing half a dozen other things.  I can even worry when I am meant to be asleep.  I worry about worrying.  Need I say more?

This is the effect that Depression has on me.  Depressions affects me every day of my life.  I don’t even realise it half the time.  But when I start thinking about it, I don’t know who I am without Depression.  That’s scary.  Everything I do, everything I say, everything I think.  Depression.

That kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

Four of them really all come from the first one: doubt.

Doubt is erosive, maybe even corrosive.  It is Depression eating away at me, gnawing at my soul until I’m just a gaping open wound.  Depression takes away everything that you once believed in and completely trashes it.  Depression never lets you believe another thing again, well not unless it’s negative.

It’s crazy but I struggle to even make a statement of fact.  The earth is flat?  Well I’m probably going to say something like ‘most folk believe that’ or ‘I understand it to be the case’.  I may get it wrong because after all Depression tells me that I get everything wrong.  Yeah, Depression loves generalisations like that.  Broad, sweeping statements that bounce the pieces off the chessboard of life.

I can’t say that ‘we’re friends’ because that’s so presumptuous of someone who can’t be liked, who isn’t good enough for anything or anyone.  I wistfully, tentatively say that ‘I am friends with‘.  Whilst wondering how they really see me.

Doubt means that I have no trust or faith in myself.  Depression has taught me to hate myself, to crush myself into powder because I am so unworthy.  I can’t tell you anything about myself.  I stick to bald facts and add disclaimers to prove that I’m not boasting, not being big-headed, that I do know how dire I am.

This presents various challenges in everyday life.  How can I go to a job interview and sing my own praises as apparently I need to do?  I know that I’m rubbish.  I know that everyone else knows that too.  They just do.

Doubt means I agonise over every little decision.  Was that really the best value pasta sauce in the supermarket?  Surely everyone else would have come to a different conclusion.

Doubt means that I don’t think I’m a good person.  Woah, that’s a confident statement.  At my worst, it’s I know that I’m not.  Maybe there has been progress.  It means I don’t believe/I know that I am unlovable.  It explains why I’ve never had many friends and it’s not just the stigmatised stink of illness.

Doubt has me crippled.  I can’t believe anything anymore.  Do you know what that does to a person?  There’s probably all kinds of beliefs that you have, that you almost take for granted.  Whether they’re religious or social or ethnic or environmental or wherever else you’ve formed belief systems from.  You can say with confidence that children should be in bed by 7 pm on the dot because you believe that.  I believe nothing.  Not for me.  Most major belief systems are based on meritocracy too, I deserve nothing.

It is a weak human whose views are entirely based on those of others.  But that is me.  It’s not that I’m saying that I only believe things because they’re fashionable or because someone else believes that to be so.  I do make my own informed decisions, I’m not a puppet, I’m not shallow.  I just struggle to believe those decisions, I question them forever afterwards.

Where I am shallow, I guess, is that my view of myself is entirely based on what I seeing, hearing and feeling from others.  For example, if other people are cross with me then I will assume, like a small child, then it is because they are cross with me.  I am to blame, I am at fault.  People don’t understand that I do that.  And even if I say something and they say that they’re cross because something has gone wrong and not because they’re actually cross with me then I will still take that blame upon myself.  I must have done something wrong for this to have happened.  I link their mood with my guilt, something I must have done.  I apologise, spend my day saying sorry for everything and anything.  Well, it must be my fault somewhere along the line.  They just tend to get funny with me when I say something.  Vicious circle.  It’s hard because people, you and me do it too, get cross and stressed out everyday for a whole variety of reasons.  It also gets pretty tiring having the blame of the world on your shoulders.

It gets even more shallow.

I need other people to say good stuff about me.  Now that’s a very big-headed, wicked, prideful thing to say.  And also incredibly shallow.  But I can’t think positive for myself.  If the people around me are positive about me then I absorb that, my confidence grows and the Voice disappears.  I start to make small victories over Depression.

But of course that is a lot to ask.  (Depression says that’s because they’d have to lie all the time, that there’s nothing good anyone can say about me).  In reality, people have their ups and downs.  We’re not always fair to the people around us, sometimes we take our moods out on them.  Sometimes there’s just too much stress for us to think about feeling and speaking good.  But I really need that positivity around me.

That’s what living with my head is like.  That’s how vital other people’s words are, day in, day out.  Depression analyses everything.  It doesn’t believe ‘I love you’ when you’re acting cross around me.  It becomes a lie because you’re cross with me, for something I did.  Depression creates negatives out of everything.  You know that classic line people do when you’re going to take an exam or something?  They say ‘I hope that you do well’.  Depression sees the negative of that.  It means that they don’t think or know that you will do well.  It means you will fail.

It’s absolutely exhausting.  And writing this post has been absolutely draining.  It probably doesn’t even make sense.  And you’ll think that I’m an absolute nutcase.  I am worn out by these battles though, I am old enough and in some ways wise enough to realise that there are other realities out there.  Unfortunately I’m stuck with mine, a legacy from my old friend Depression.  It is something which leaches its rank stain through my soul, my very essence.  It is inescapable and tied up in too many conditions.  There is no love in this legacy, just imprisonment and bitterness.

Thank you for reading.

Oh, and I’m sorry.  (I’m always sorry).

*  Why are the French always blamed for the presence of bad language?  What is this premise that presupposes that they all use incredibly vulgar language?  I’ve never met a shred of evidence for it, I would in fact as go as far to suggest that the English use of the English tongue is the worst example of linguistic murder ever.  Or best.  And why do people effuse about a blue moon?  I’ve never heard the moon say a single word much less cuss.  If it’s any consolation, French women blame the English for other troubles, les Anglais sont debarqués.