Last year, on Christmas Eve, I wrote:
So it’s that time of year when people are reflected on the last twelve months, offering round up blog posts and colourful infographics. Condensing 365 days into a few headlines.
I started 2013 denying to myself that I was depressed. I fought against admitting it for months. I discovered the Women’s Holiday Centre, Horton. I gave in to the part of my mind that couldn’t cope with the idea that depression had found me again. I had one of the worst pain months of my life. I hurt myself. I summoned everything I had to contact the employee counselling service who told me I needed too much help for them to see me. I limited my food. I returned to Horton and time in the sun gave me what I needed to see my GP. I was referred to mental health support who refused to see me because of my pain condition. I stopped eating. I was no longer crying in toilets at work. I no longer spent my evenings sobbing into my sofa. I had been denied the help I needed so I treated myself with starvation. I was numbed, it worked. I reached a point of no return. I had relinquished control to the tool I was using to stay in control. I let people know where my head was. I returned once more to Horton. I am here. I am trying to fight.
I know that 2013 hasn’t all been about my mental health. It feels like it has. It feels like it’s been a shadow overpowering everything else. I know there were picnics in the park and pots of tea drunk with friends but they feel like they happened to another person. I can see images but I don’t recall being there.
Instead of looking back on the year that has passed, maybe we’d be better looking forward, to the possibilities that are ahead.
It’s a year later, and where am I? I accessed support through the eating disorder service in May and since then I have gained a stone. My head is clearer and I am managing to eat a higher amount of calories each day. I am no longer quite so stressed by eating although it’s still not coming naturally. I have also joined a peer support group which has been helpful – I enjoy helping others and being able to share my experience can do that. They can also make suggestions and sympathise about the whole NHS system which can feel like it’s against you. I have started, in the last few weeks, to feel emotions again. This is terrifying. They are not good emotions. They are painful and I still have no way of dealing with them. But I can’t address feelings without feeling them.
The theme of 2014 was travel:
• February – Bali and Lombok via Manchester
• April – Edinburgh
• May – Women’s Holiday Centre in Horton-in-Ribblesdale with York Feminist Network and Brussels and possibly Winchester (a key feature of 2014 is losing track of time and what’s happened when)
• June – Manchester, London
• August – Tanera Mor, off the west coast of Scotland
• November – London, Manchester
I love travelling and finding new places and I want to make sure I keep doing this. I have booked to go to Cambodia in March and I would like to go somewhere towards the end of 2015 as well as maybe a UK break. This sometimes feels like an extravagance to me but when it comes down to it, I won’t be able to keep travelling the way that I enjoy (off the beaten track, not in a resort) for much longer. Which brings me to the other, unplanned theme of 2014: pain.
My pain has got significantly worse this year. In June I tumbled down a flight of stairs and never fully recovered and in particular, my legs took a turn for the worse. This has got even worse in the last three or four months. I struggle with the 600metres to work and if I can make it, I end up in a lot of pain. My hands have reached a point where trying to do almost anything is out of the question – I can’t lift things, I can’t slice things, I can’t hold a pen, I can’t type for very long, I can’t turn the pages on my kindle for more than half an hour. All in all, I’m feeling quite low about the pain (but hey, at least it’s a feeling, right?!). I’m frustrated. I can’t do anything creative. I can’t read as much as I would like. I have hardly left the house other than to go to work. I have missed out on seeing friends and I’ve had to ask for help cutting up food when I’m eating out. It’s humiliating and frustrating and I know I need to figure out a better way of living for 2015.
I have spoken to my manager about reducing my hours by one day a week so that I can recover midweek and hopefully then be up to doing something at the weekend, other than laying on the sofa watching Netflix (not as fun as it might sound). I have also made small steps towards applying for PIP. I got a bus pass this year which has made a huge difference and in August I started the process of applying to Access to Work (which has taken until today to get an assessment so I have also written to my MP. It’s a great idea but so badly implemented). So I am asking for help and that’s not something which comes naturally. I am fiercely independent and yet I can’t be anymore. I also need to find a way to be creative which doesn’t involve my hands. And ways of feeding myself which doesn’t involve cooking. So I guess maybe 2015 is about reframing things, finding solutions and adapting. Not quite as fun as travel but probably more important for my wellbeing.