What makes you come alive?

At a recent appointment with my psych nurse we spent a while talking about rubbish things which have probably contributed to the recurrent depression, self harm and anorexia.  Needless to say, the mood in the room was heavy.  Then she turned the conversation and we started to talk about things I enjoy.  After a while, she stopped and looked thoughtful and then told me how she had seen me come alive as I started to talk about photography, travel etc and how she’d really felt the atmosphere change in the room.

A few days after, there was a post on twitter which said find what makes you come alive and do more of it (or something to that effect).

It’s something I’m really trying to keep hold of.

What makes me come alive and how am I planning on doing more of it?

Photography – I’ve started following a couple of photography blogs for inspiration; I’ve made a note of techniques I want to try out with my diana mini; I’m hoping to get to the lomography store whilst I’m in London this week to pick up some interesting film; I’ve got my eye on a new lens for my DSLR and it’s only £150 so is affordable-ish.

Books – keep reading! I’ve got a good routine at work now where I read on my lunch break instead of sitting at my computer.  I also think it would be nice to set aside a couple of pounds a week to go to a cafe with a book.

Travel – I can’t fly at the moment (I have been forbidden by the psych nurse on account of my weight which is a good reason for gaining some weight and I need to keep reminding myself of that) but that doesn’t mean I can’t make plans.  I have planned in a bit of detail an independent trip to Norway.  I’ve also decided on a small group tour in Cambodia and started to look for somewhere to stay in Lille.  In the meantime, my travel is restricted to trains but that’s ok – I’m off to Scotland in August for a writing, photography, art week away on a remote island.  I’m also staying at a hotel which is in a bookshop on the way and way back!

Learning – over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to quite a few workshops and lectures as part of York Festival of Ideas – Writing Recklessly, Randomness and Chaos in Art, The Rise of the Female Diplomat, Listening to the City (a writing workshop), Frogs Don’t Need to Get Hot (about social support and mental health) and Moving Beyond Boundaries (about teaching women’s history in schools).  I’ve really enjoyed these and have (reluctantly) acknowledged that I’ve got so much more out of them because I have been eating more and have gained a little weight.  I’m also trying to get back into my Future Learn courses.  Last night when insomnia struck, I returned to looking at the MA in Women’s Studies that I want to do but I know, sensibly, that I can’t do right now.  I also had a look at some of the open university modules and think that might be an option before the MA.  But before that I need to get healthier.  So I’m currently waiting for the centre for lifelong learning brochure to come out and hopefully I’ll book myself onto a short course or a weekend course which I think will be more achievable.

Dinosaurs – dinos rock!  They are amazing and I feel like me and dinosaurs have been a bit distant of late so I’m hoping to reconnect with them and their awesomeness!  This has most recently included a trip to the natural history museum in Brussels where I bought a hoodie with a dino on it (I’m that cool!).  I also have the bones of a poem about a diplodocus which I need to go back to.

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Anxiety

In an attempt to ground myself during a morning of anxiety, I tried to pay attention to how I was feeling, identify each element with the hope that setting it out in writing, would help to lessen the overwhelming emotion.  I’m not sure it really helped but I do now have a poem out of it:

Blood rushes through the body
Filling the heart with blackness
Jaw tightens and
Face contorts
Hands shudder and shake
The mind melts, amorphous,
Skin prickles with cold vulnerability
Trapped, yet yearning to be embraced
Desperate for release, for relief
Fearfilled anticipate surges
Fuelling heels to run, keep running
Running away from the betraying body

This will pass.

This will pass.

A year on

WordPress has just kindly pointed out that this blog has been around for a year.

My first post included a poem I had written based on my tweets which makes for interesting reflection.  The blog was started primarily as a way of getting back into writing but also because I was sinking further into a hellish pit of depression and destructive coping mechanisms.  My eating disorder was starting to take hold and I had done a good job of self silencing.  I had attempted to seek help from my GP and through work and hadn’t been successful.

Written last year:

Elusive words

Choke
(Bindweed)

Metaphors
Stuck
In the dark

Peaceful/painful silence
(Delete as applicable)

Battle ready
(Battle vulnerable?)

Overstep
Reclaim

By a strange coincidence I wrote another poem based on my tweets today:

pretence at sanity guides through
disturbed moments
a reminder of lost feelings
sharing imaginings of gifts

fight back with uncomfortable defiance

A year on and I’ve managed to speak and I’ve finally managed to get some help.  It’s a huge relief but in order to recover I know I have to struggle back through the hell of depression.  Anorexia has numbed me and eating releases the feelings but anorexia is not sustainable.  I face the depression or I die.  They are my choices.  I choose to face it.

I don’t want to be sitting here, wasting my life to anorexia, when wordpress tells me it’s been two years.

Speak louder (or why I’m talking about my mental health)

DSC_0294 edited

I’m talking a lot about my mental health at the moment (more so on twitter than here) and I feel a need to explain.  One of the reasons I think I have ended up where I am is because I didn’t talk.  Therefore talking is important to my recovery.  Also, having a way of externalising bad thoughts and feelings and acknowledging the good days and behaviours is a healthier way for me to validate my experience.  I have an overwhelming need for validation and I know this is something that drives my destructive behaviours and keeps me trapped in their vicious cycles.  Eating disorders and self harm can be incredibly secretive and talking about them is helping to free me from them.  Talking (or tweeting as is more often the case) helps to keep me accountable, even if it’s just being accountable to myself.

I also think that we should talk about mental health and one of the ways that some good can come out of where I am is by raising awareness of depression, self harm and eating disorders.  Even if it’s just normalising the fact that someone is talking about it.

So, if you happen to speak to me you may find I mention my psych nurse, my eating disorder appointments, my weigh ins or my dietitian in passing.  These are part of my life at the moment and the fact that they are means I am fighting, I am trying to recovery.  The fact they are part of my life is a positive thing.  If my talking about it makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why.  I am not ashamed.  Are you?

Poetry and illness

The Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders is exploring poetry and illness.  As part of this, they have been running a series of workshops aimed at health care professionals, and people affected by chronic illness.  In addition to the workshops there are a couple of events coming up in York in June and an anthology of poems is going to be put together.

I went along to one of the workshops this week, not entirely sure what I was walking into.  I really enjoyed the two and a half hour session led by Peter Sansom who has contagious enthusiasm.

The afternoon was generally took the form of a poem being read aloud and then a few minutes for us to write, generally based on a similar structure or prompt from the poem.

The following are some of my unedited scribblings from the afternoon.  I do plan on revisiting and revising them.

Prompt: Where am I?

I’m under the duvet hiding from my life
I’m twisted, contorted around a waiting room chair
I’m in every joint of my being, feeling the blurry edges of pain
I’m stuck in my mind, trapped by mental illness, freed by imagination
I’m sunsoaked, by the sea
I’m where I want to be

Prompt: Julia Darling’s Chemotherapy, “I did not imagine…”

She did not imagine that at twenty seven she would have shrunk
Smaller than her eighteen year old self
She thought there was a world, awaiting her
Free from the black that clung to her

She had moved one hundred miles
One hundred miles, nine years
More scars, new pains
She hadn’t had a plan but she did not imagine this.

Prompt: I’ve not done… but I have… (I think this was based on a poem by Simon Armitage)

I have not climbed Mount Everest
But I have reached the peak of Pen-y-Ghent
My own, overwhelming challenge
The same aches in my painful joints
The same sense of achievement
And once in a lifetime-ness

Prompt: Imagine a time you were in a hospital

Hurry though automatic doors
Trying to find her
Eyes searching
No one helping
Heart racing
Hospital induced panic

From a seat, next to her bed
We pass an iPad between us
Her morphine mind grappling
With scrabble words, scrambled words

One room, four patients, one visitor
Loneliness cast over the elderly woman
The nurses say they were unable to reach her children

Clatter of life outside rattles into the ward
Her phone alerts her to a friend’s concern
Ours are the only voices
Disrupting the symphony of A&E.

Later, I hear how the laughter has brightened
Her roommates’ day and how lovely my sister is
She’s always been a charmer
Even from her hospital bed

Prompt: Write to something eg jogging, stammering, piano lessons

A letter to my chronic illness:

Why did you come into
My life and start stealing from
Me? What had I done to
Provoke you? You are
Stripping back my independence.
I’m clinging tightly but it’s
Exhausting when you throw toddler tantrums
How can I hold my
Grip on myself when you scream
At my ankles, at my legs, at my body?
You’ve taken so much and
Given so little.  If you were a
Friend, I’d have crossed you
Out of my address book years ago.
You’ve ripped my dreams to pieces
Whilst laughing in my face.
You’re always and forever there.
Please tell me
How can I get a divorce?

Yours, in shackles and chains.

This is my life. This isn’t a life.

Wake up, run hands over body to check for overnight weight gain.

Drag self out of bed. If I stand up and the room goes black then I know I’m on track.

Put on the kettle.  Make coffee.  A taste acquired through anorexia .

Strip off.  Weigh self.  A good day will see weight loss.  A bad day, weight gain.  You have to weigh yourself before you can eat or drink anything.  You have to weigh yourself naked.  No more pj days for me.

Slowly get dressed.  Exhaustion makes it difficult to do everything.

Wearing seven layers and still not warm.

Drink coffee.  Possibly have dry cereal for breakfast.

Then drag self to work.  Walk seems like forever.  Have to take the lift one floor.

More coffee.  Mainline diet pepsi.  Countdown minutes till lunch.  Lunch, which can barely be called that.  Constant counting of calories.  Working out the possibilities of food combinations.  What can I have for tea? If I have that then I can’t have the other thing.  How can I reduce calorie content of foods?  Constantly thinking.  Constantly counting.

Countdown minutes till I can leave.  Struggle to get to the end of the day.  Trying to remember how to hold conversation.  Pretense of normality.

Dragging self home is almost impossible.  Miles and miles of painful exhausted steps.

Surrounded by mess and dirty dishes, force self to cook.

Eat watching dvds.

Stay, stuck, on the sofa.

Bed. Dreams of food.

Start again.

This is my life.

 

This isn’t a life.

 

Off Topic – Part 4

I was going to sit and write about where my mental health treatment is up to.  Treatment is probably not the right word.  Treatment suggests that someone is doing something.  I also draw a blank about where to start.  For months I have been sending up flares, trying to get help from healthcare providers.  I have friends who are supportive but I need more than they can offer.  I need someone else.  Someone who knows what they are doing with this.
I’ve tried to map things out to outline my journey.  Partly for myself.  Partly because I keep getting asked to retell my story so that the next person can give me a piece of the jigsaw.  I feel like I’m getting to a point where I have enough jigsaw pieces to get a feel for where I’m heading.  This doesn’t sound like much but it’s been a lot of struggling to get that much.  Apparently I still need a few more jigsaw pieces before I can actually get help.  Instead of where I am at the moment which is getting help so that I can get help.
Winter 2012 – Began to feel depressed
Spring 2013 – I approached employee counselling who refused to see me because I was too complicated
May 2013 – GP referred me to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) who refused to see me because I have chronic pain and suggested the pain clinic.
June 2013 – GP prescribed antidepressants and referred me to the pain clinic
Summer 2013 – I stopped eating and successfully numbed my feelings.
December 2013 – I saw the pain clinic for an initial appointment.
January 2014 – Pain clinic carried out their assessment and my manager convinced employee counselling to see me
February 2014 – Pain clinic concluded that I need to see CMHT or an eating disorder specialist and advised the GP of this.  Employee counselling decided that as they can only offer short term help they wouldn’t go near the food stuff and would instead focus on mindfulness.
March 2014 – My GP said I weigh too much for an eating disorder specialist.  Occupational Health told me that if I was their patient I would have been signed off work as my BMI is too low.  Employee counselling wrote to my GP to express her concerns and discharged me as there isn’t anything helpful they can really do at this time.
I have managed to slowly increase what I am eating but I’m still not eating enough to maintain my weight although if I don’t there’s a very real chance I’ll end up off work sick which I don’t want.  There’s also a higher chance of death.  I wish that scared me.  (I’m not suicidal but I don’t know that I’d move out the way of a car).  What I am currently eating is resulting in stomach cramps, back pain and nausea.  This isn’t a brilliant incentive to keep pushing.  It also feels like if I maintain/increase my weight I won’t be able to access the treatment that I know I need.
I am physically and mentally exhausted.
Returning to the purpose of this blog, I haven’t written anything this month.