(More) thoughts about ED recovery

A couple of weeks ago, a friend recommended a documentary about anorexia by Louis Theroux and tonight I finally got round to watching it, which got me thinking a lot more about eating disorders in general and particularly about recovery and what it actually means.  I realised that apart from a few specific posts (21/05/07: probably the most significant day of my life.  Reflections a decade on‚Ķ, the diary entry posts I wrote around that time and ED stereotypes), I haven’t really written many posts directly about eating disorders although they’ve come into a lot of my other posts.  I’m not really sure why; I think it’s partly because I’ve had it so long that it kind of seems like a part of me instead of an actual ‘illness’ but also partly because I’m still not comfortable talking openly about it to many people and it makes me feel really guilty and uncomfortable.  It’s not exactly a secret- more the opposite really and most people who know me just accept it as part of who I am so it’s not really an outside issue a lot of the time especially since my weight’s high.  I think most people would be more shocked if I actually ate ‘real’ food or in front of them rather than it being a problem that I don’t!  But I can’t see that happening anytime soon (or ever) so I have no idea what would actually happen if I did.

The documentary was interesting but I found it hard to watch and cried through a lot of it (although to be honest, I’m crying at pretty much anything atm so that’s not necessarily a reflection on the programme).  The first (and v superficial) part was that it made me realise that I am SO FUCKING FAT which obviously I knew already since I see my body every day and I know what the scales say but seeing that amount of really thin people made it even more obvious and (horribly) I was really, really jealous.  Since I’ve been on medication (particularly antipsychotics), I’ve gained A LOT of weight and even more since I started running longer distances because ironically you train your body to store fat as fuel which combined with the medications means that I’m over my target weight and have been for years apart from a few months last year when I came off the medication and lost most of the weight again, which went straight back on when I restarted the meds.  HATE it so, so much and especially hate feeling selfish, greedy and disgusting all the time and that it shows in my body.  But I can run further and for longer without getting black in front of my eyes or passing out so there are some positives. And much as I hate the medication, it does help to keep my moods more stable so can’t really complain too much.

The other really weird bit of the documentary was that it was based in Phoenix Wing at St Ann’s in London which was where I was outpatient for a year when I lived in London. So that was a bit surreal and weird to watch!  I could relate to a lot of it which felt very weird because I haven’t been inpatient since 2007 but it didn’t seem like much had changed except that they were allowed to go into their ward rounds (we had to submit requests then wait for the outcome), they were allowed home leave before getting to target weight (one year, I wasn’t even allowed home on Christmas even though I’d been there for months by that point) and their supervision was half an hour after meals instead of an hour.  Apart from that, the structure and lack of freedom seemed pretty much the same although he said that the average admission was four months which seemed a bit short to me but maybe the programme was different?

The documentary was based alternately on four different women who had had eating disorders for various amounts of time.  One girl had only had it for a year and her story seemed the most positive- by the end, she said she was determined not to go back in and she seemed to see herself as ‘recovering’ although I’m still not sure what that actually means.  The story I identified with most was with a girl who was on her eighth admission because I could see how frustrated she was with the whole process and going round in circles.  Even though I haven’t been inpatient in 12 years, I’m still on and off under ED services and I genuinely don’t know what recovery actually is or how you get there.  One girl was under a section and the ED service weren’t even aiming for ‘full recovery’ with her although they still didn’t say what that actually is!

The last story was about a woman who’d had anorexia for 40 years and was still an outpatient, and I could relate to a lot of what she said too.  She cut through the psychological stuff and said that it was basically about not wanting to grow up, and there’s a lot of me that can relate to that too.  I’m not really into the deep psychological reasons or any of that, but I know my ED started the year after my periods did and a lot of it as a teenager was related to trying to stop my periods and especially the intense mood swings and obsessions that came with them.  I’ve never experienced sexual attraction but I’m not sure how much of that is related to not wanting to if that makes sense and actively trying to stop sexual development through losing weight and stopping periods- I’ve never had proper regular periods because I’ve always tried to stop them and now I take the combined pill every day without the ‘break’ so I don’t have them at all.  But then it’s more complicated because of autism which is a developmental delay and makes you feel younger than you are anyway and because of BPD which also makes you feel like a child and emotionally immature so I have no idea what comes from what.  The psychiatrist I saw at the ED service recently said that he thought my ED came from having BPD but the other psychiatrist I’m seeing at the community mental health team doesn’t agree so I have no bloody clue and to be honest, I don’t really care what comes from what, I just want rid of it all or at least to be able to manage better!

The thing I found really frustrating about the documentary is that it only focussed on ‘classic’ restrictive anorexia and not other forms such as binge/purge subtype or atypical anorexia which are equally common and dangerous although more complicated and probably make less interesting TV.  I’ve had all of those types of anorexia at various points since I was 13 and ironically the restrictive type was the easiest to manage by far- it’s a lot easier to ‘just not eat’ than it is to balance starving, bingeing, throwing up, exercise and try to seem relatively ‘normal’.  I was actually healthiest when I had restrictive anorexia because I wasn’t doing ridiculous things to my body and metabolism, my weight was low but I didn’t have the energy to over-exercise, I wasn’t throwing up so my electrolytes were relatively OK and the worst physical symptom I had was passing out when I got up too fast.  Annoyingly after a few years, just restricting wasn’t enough to manage the intense emotions and obsessions which kept coming back so other symptoms started and that’s a LOT harder to manage and genuinely does make you feel like a total freak and a failure for not being able to manage it properly.

My current diagnosis is ‘atypical anorexia’ because my weight is high and it’s a lot more about the food and eating/not eating than it is about particular weights.  For me, it’s never been about body image- I hate how I look and I look fat even at my lowest weight, and I don’t use mirrors anyway (even when I was inpatient and had to have one in my room for ‘body image’ work, I hid it in the wardrobe and gave it to another patient who actually wanted one).  I want to be a lower weight because I know that under a certain weight, the intensity of my obsessions gets less and because it’s easier to rationalise being selfish, greedy and lazy when you know you’re at a low weight because you logically CAN’T be even though your brain still tries to tell you that you are.  Plus being a higher weight and still having ED issues makes you feel like a massive failure in so many different ways!

I still find it hard to eat anything that isn’t ‘safe’ (ie porridge, low fat soup or salad) and can’t eat in front of people but I really, really want to change that.  I hate that every Christmas, I can’t eat Christmas dinner at the same time as the rest of my family even if it is different food or that I have to make excuses at school for never eating anything.  Even if I was interested in anyone, I’d never be able to go on a date with them because I wouldn’t be able to eat in front of them.  I also still have the constant ED ‘voice’ all the time and I can’t imagine ever not having it- it’s scary to think of because even though I hate feeling rubbish and guilty all the time, it does help to keep me ‘safe’ and less selfish than I would be without it. The other problem is that I have a lot of guilt and anxiety all the time anyway (physically- it’s in my chest and stomach all the time) and that gets a lot worse when I eat pretty much anything which makes it really hard to even think about changing or varying what I eat. But there’s a part of me that really, really does want to :/ one of the things the documentary mentioned that is absolutely true is how much of a paradox anorexia is- there really is two parts of your brain that are constantly arguing and it’s EXHAUSTING.

I still don’t really know what recovery from an eating disorder ‘is’, and the documentary didn’t really help with that.  When I was an inpatient, the focus was on getting to target weight and learning to stabilise there but that isn’t the answer for everyone or even for most people I think.  I’m at target weight and have been mostly for years, but the ED part of me is stronger now than it was when I was a lower weight (because then you feel safer and ironically can eat a bit more), and it seems to be getting worse as I get older.  It’s also hard because in a lot of ways, I don’t really feel like an adult and one of the doctors in the documentary talked about that- she said that if you’ve had an ED for a long time, you’re following its rules all the time and you miss out on ‘normal’ development in the ‘real world’ and I can really relate to that.  I’ve never done the ‘normal’ teenage or young adult stuff like going out and drinking (I always say I just didn’t want to drink- the real reason is that alcohol has too many empty calories), eating with friends or even socialising much because so much of my life is structured around mealtimes.  Even now, I can only meet people at specific times because if I miss a mealtime, I can’t eat for the rest of the day.  Plus when you’re with people, at least 75% of your brain is taken up already with ED thoughts or obsessions and that’s hard for other people to deal with I think even though obviously they can’t see into your brain.

I think for me, recovery would be feeling ‘safer’ and more comfortable both with my body and around eating food in general.  I really do want to have a more varied diet but it would have to come from someone other than me- I’ve tried so many times before but the guilt and anxiety are way too intense, and I kind of need someone to just tell me what to eat so it’s not my choice and to have consequences if I don’t stick to it.  But ED services don’t work like that any more :/ I did ask when I had the assessment the other week but he said that they want to promote choice and independence which is fine when you haven’t had an ED that long but if you’ve had it 19 years, choice is bloody terrifying!!  I really do want to ‘recover’ (whatever that means) but it’s so bloody hard and I’ve been trying on my own for years.  Feel like I’m just going in circles and that makes you feel more trapped which then makes the ED voice stronger and safer :/ really want to break the cycle somehow but I have no idea how.

It really was an interesting documentary and worth watching if you’re interested but be aware if you have or have had an ED- it does focus on low weight anorexia and can be a bit triggering, so please be careful!!  I’m glad I watched it though; it really did make me feel even more determined never to be an inpatient again and it was kind of a relief to realise that there are other people who also have long term EDs so I’m not *too* much of a failure.  Am also even more determined now to find out what recovery from chronic ED actually ‘is’ and how to get there…

Positive psychiatrist appointments actually exist!!

This is a bit of a random post because it’s not based around any particular ‘theme’ or event (although to be honest, not many of my recent posts have been!) but thought it was worth a blog post anyway because for me, it’s pretty massively significant. On Monday, I had an assessment appointment with a new psychiatrist which I was really nervous about and not expecting much from it (usually I just get told that because of autism, they can’t help). Amazingly, it was a weirdly positive appointment!! She was very direct and honest which I need, and ridiculously thorough to the point that the appointment took nearly two hours and she’s making another one to finish it off.

The most amazing thing was that she actually didn’t just write everything off as autism- she thinks that personality traits (specifically ’emotionally unstable personality disorder’ AKA borderline personality disorder) are more of an issue at the moment and wants me to read up about it more before the next appointment. AND she’s willing to actually work with me on it!! WOW. Have been reading about it and literally it’s like someone read my brain. So weird and amazing to read about other people experiencing the same sort of thing and to have an actual, real ‘reason’ for feeling the way I do.

This book in particular is amazing:

It’s a really detailed and well-written ‘guide’ to BPD and writes in detail about all the different symptoms, thought processes and behaviours without judging or sounding overly negative or stigmatised about it which a lot of the articles I’ve read have been. It actually made me cry to read it because it made so much bloody sense. Even obsessions, being too ‘intense’ and issues with keeping friendships! I could literally quote half the book in this post but am going to focus on a few pages that I found really, really useful.

This page is incredible. It sort of links to something a friend said to me a while ago that you can’t ‘get rid’ of obsessions or extreme emotions, you just need to learn to manage them and this book explains it in such an amazingly positive way. And it even says that learning to manage the intense feelings will eventually mean that they are less intense which would be an absolute miracle!! Having had 19 years of feeling like I’m never going to be able to deal with it, it really seems like an unreachable goal but definitely one I’m willing to work bloody hard to achieve. Honestly, if I ever manage to be able to deal with intense feelings and obsessions, I think my life would be relatively good and I’d be ‘normal'(ish). New life goal!!

There’s even an actual link to eating disorders in the book! And the really amazing thing about it is that I can totally relate to how it links BPD and ED, much more than I can relate to most ED-specific books or articles. For me, it’s always been about managing extreme emotions and obsessions- low enough weights actually stop them completely which was why I was desperate as a teenager to lose weight. The main reason I binge isn’t for the actual ‘binge’ part; it’s because throwing up helps to shift the intense vertigo-y vacuum inside my stomach. Apart from exercise, that’s the only thing that actually helps with it and gives me a sense of relative calm.

Similar to above, restricting your diet can make you feel calmer and more in control. I can relate absolutely to this page and although i know it’s stereotypical ‘ED’ to be about control, mine has always been more about not eating certain foods or food groups than the weight itself. That came later and only because I realised it stopped intense feelings and obsessions.

The hardest part of the whole autism/BPD mix for me is making, keeping and managing social relationships. I lose A LOT of friends from being too ‘intense’ and I’m constantly scared that people are annoyed or upset with me, find me too annoying, boring or clingy, or don’t want to be friends with me any more. It’s bloody hard not to keep texting friends to check and I used to do that a lot, which would lead to friends asking me not to contact them any more. Now, I’m a lot more aware of it and it really is a relief to read that other people experience the exact same thing and I’m not just a paranoid, intense, horrible person. I can also relate to wanting to just give up on friendships completely but the intense loneliness is too hard to deal with. Makes you feel like you’re trapped in a cycle of paranoia and loneliness that you can’t escape from. But this book says that this is one of the symptoms which you can learn to manage through DBT and awareness which seems too good to be true but am DEFINITELY willing to try…

The last page I’m going to talk about is about self harm. When I read this, I had to re-read it because it described exactly the thoughts and urges I experience on a regular basis. It honestly is an intense self-directed anger and hatred that makes you want to literally scrape your skin off and rip out your flesh which gets channelled into cutting or hitting depending on the situation. When it’s overly intense, it can get to the point where you want to disappear or not exist which can lead to (for me anyway) overdose of medication but I always end up throwing it up ten minutes later because I don’t actually want to ‘die’, just not exist or more specifically, for the intense feelings to not exist. It’s like wanting to kill a very specific part of you (I’ve been calling her ‘borderline bitch’) which I hate and would do anything to get rid of.

The other really positive aspect of the appointment is that I’m changing medication!! Coming of quetiapine which has caused horrible side effects and increasing aripiprazole to make up for it. Really, really hoping it helps!! Anyway, would DEFINITELY recommend this book to anyone who has, knows anyone who has or is interested in BPD/EUPD- it’s an incredible book ūüôā

Explanations and Anxiety

Seem to spend way too many posts apologising for not writing recently! ¬†But yeah, it’s another apology post…sorry!! ¬†Haven’t been feeling great again recently and got ridiculously intense anxiety at the moment which is HORRIBLE and getting in the way of basically everything. ¬†Kind of a long story and won’t go into too much detail but in brief: went to GP, got prescribed lorazepam (on top of sertraline, quetiapine and aripiprazole) and it really didn’t agree with me, was hallucinating and losing hours at a time with no memory which isn’t great when you work in a school, back to GP and got signed off work for a week to stabilise, having pretty major anxieties at school and panic attacks so not in lessons at the moment and doing lots of office-based work instead. ¬†Not fun and genuinely the worst anxiety I’ve ever had. ¬†No idea what’s triggering it but it’s horrible.

I’m trying to see it as Voldemort entering my mind again which for me is the only way really I can make sense of it. ¬†I wrote about this a while ago in¬†Occlumency¬†but basically I try to imagine the negative thoughts and horrible urges as Voldemort planting thoughts in my brain like he does with Harry in Order of the Phoenix, and it’s not actually ‘me’. ¬†Which would be a massive relief because I hate this part of me SO MUCH but I’ve recently lost some very close friends by being too negative and self-critical so I can’t even bloody hate myself properly because of it which is making me feel horrible and trapped. But anyway, back to Occlumency…

I’m trying to focus on the idea that the thoughts aren’t actually ‘me’ which should (in theory) make me feel less guilty about them and be able to challenge them more easily. ¬†I’m really not there yet but that’s the aim, and then I can start to ‘close my mind’ to them the same way that Harry tries to with Occlumency and the mental exhaustion he feels is definitely something I can relate to.

I know this isn’t the most interesting or groundbreaking post; I’m genuinely feeling rubbish and shaky pretty much constantly atm and EVERYTHING is making me cry or have a mini meltdown so I’m kind of impressed it sort of makes sense at all! ¬†Will try to write more detailed posts when my brain is less fuzzy and jittery…

Comfortableness and Chaos

This is a bit of a weird post but it’s something that a few people have mentioned to me recently and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. ¬†It’s not a particularly easy topic to write about so sorry in advance if this post makes even less sense than my recent blog posts have done but I think it’s important to address and try to process properly.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend brought up the idea of ‘enjoying’ having mental health issues. ¬†My first thought was ‘no fucking way!’- it’s bloody horrible having part of your brain that constantly criticises you and tells you what you should/shouldn’t be thinking or doing to the point where it’s so confusing and exhausting that you have no idea what ‘you’ think or feel any more, and I really hate feeling ‘too much’, intense and obsessive all the time. ¬†But there is a (really guilty) part of me that does feel sort of ‘comfortable’ with rules and criticisms which are often easier to follow than trying to work out what’s expected in ‘real life’ and it definitely feels safer with something keeping you in line, limiting greed or selfishness and (to an extent) you know where you stand with it even if the parameters and rules keep shifting.

Around the same time, another friend asked me if I ‘liked’ the chaos of intense emotions and relationships which is something I really struggle with but is ironically something I seem to be drawn to as well- I do become obsessive about pretty much anything I’m interested in and I know I have to regulate myself a lot with any sort of social relationship because I can become too clingy or intense without realising it, and often it’s with similar types of people which can lead to very intense and volatile friendships which usually don’t last very long. ¬†But I think the two things kind of link- to an extent (and I hate admitting this), the ‘chaos’ is also kind of comfortable because once it’s at that point, you know it won’t get any more intense and you know what you’re dealing with whereas ‘normal’ friendships are a lot more confusing and hard to manage because you’re constantly scared of becoming too intense or annoying without realising it and the other person not wanting to be friends any more. ¬†This is something I’ve been working on A LOT over the last few years and *touch wood* I seem to be a lot more able to make actual friendships (rather than one-way annoyingness) than I used to be although it’s still pretty new and I’m still really nervous about messing it up.

I think I can say for certain that I definitely don’t ‘enjoy’ having mental health issues- yes, there are aspects that are ‘safer’ or feel more comfortable but overall there are way more negative aspects that I’d do basically anything to change or get rid of. I don’t like diagnoses because I think they’re limited and limiting but if I could wake up tomorrow and not have autism or personality disorder traits, I’d be willing to change anything to achieve it and I really am trying even if it doesn’t seem like it. I know everyone has aspects of life that are difficult and that life is never perfect but it’s the intensity of it that I hate and how it impacts on other people as well as just me.

Of Mice and Men- thoughts and reflections

Sorry for not keeping up with massively regular blog posts ūüė¶ been feeling v negative and rubbish over the last couple of weeks and haven’t had anything particularly positive to write about, and since this is meant to be a constructive (and honest) recovery blog there didn’t seem much point in writing about feeling horrible and down. ¬†It’s nothing major, just end of term rubbishness and a build up of feeling lonely and negative which I’m definitely working on but taking more time than I’d hoped.

I know this is going to seem like a bit of a random blog post but we’ve been reading Of Mice and Men with Year 9 at school over the last couple of months and I’ve found it really hard to read and talk about with the kids, and it’s got to the point where I feel rubbish for the rest of the day every time I’m in Year 9 English so I wanted to try to think more about it and process it so that next time we do it in class (this time next year), it hopefully won’t be as much of an issue. ¬†Plus I think it’s been adding to the general feeling rubbish recently which I really don’t like so want to try to work out why and how I can manage that better given that it really is just a fictional book! ¬†Quick disclaimer: I am going to talk about the whole book so spoiler alert if you haven’t read it and MASSIVE trigger alert for anyone affected by learning difficulties, autism or emotion regulation issues.

I read it for the first time last year when we studied it in class with the kids. ¬†It’s an easyish story to follow- set in 1930s America, there are two main characters called George and Lennie who work on a ranch to try to save enough money to get their own farm. ¬†George is a sharp, smart man whose ultimate goal is to own his own farm and live off the land and his friend/travelling companion Lennie who has a type of learning disability (it’s never really explained) and who is absolutely, 100% loyal and devoted to George. ¬†George protects Lennie; Lennie would do anything for George. ¬†But Lennie also finds it hard to recognise, manage and control his own emotions which is ultimately what gets him into trouble even though he doesn’t recognise it at the time. ¬†At the end of the book, Lennie gets into so much trouble that he is going to be lynched by the men on the ranch so George shoots him in the back of the head (without him realising) as an act of kindness and to save him from a much more painful death.

When we read it last year, there were lots of bits of the book that got to me- Lennie accidentally killing small animals by petting them too hard (made me feel really guilty), Candy’s dog getting shot because he was old, Lennie being left out because he didn’t have the same ‘urges’ as the other men (they go into town to play cards, drink and pick up women leaving Lennie behind), Lennie hurting Curley without meaning to because Curley provoked him and building up to the end of the book which is genuinely traumatic to read and makes me feel like someone’s physically punched me in the stomach and is twisting my insides into vertigo. ¬†Even though I know what’s coming, it’s still a visceral feeling and makes me shake and my eyes sting, and it’s hard not to cry even though I know I can’t in front of a class of 14 year olds.

In the last couple of scenes, Lennie is approached by Curley’s wife who is a seductive, lonely woman and who invites Lennie to stroke her hair. ¬†Lennie likes soft things and strokes it. ¬†I can’t remember all the details because I avoid reading this part of the book as much as possible (one teacher I work with is amazing and always warns me when we’re reading this part of the book so I can do work somewhere else for that lesson) but basically she shouts at him to stop, Lennie panics and holds tighter, he tries to stop her shouting but she’s trying to get away and he accidentally breaks her neck. ¬†Then he runs and hides in the brush (near the river) because that’s where George told him to hide and wait if he got into trouble. ¬†George hears about what has happened and goes to find Lennie. ¬†He knows that if the men on the ranch find him first, they will rip him to pieces so he makes the decision to shoot Lennie himself in a humane way so that Lennie won’t suffer or even know anything about it.

Last year, the bit that got to me the most was Lennie accidentally killing Curley’s wife- he genuinely didn’t mean to and he was actually trying to AVOID trouble at the time. ¬†He told her repeatedly to leave him alone and that he wasn’t meant to be talking to her but she kept on talking to him, and finally he lost control completely which really, really wasn’t his fault. ¬†It’s hard when you know that a situation isn’t safe and you need to escape but you can’t- it’s a horrible feeling and the more trapped you feel, the worse it gets and something builds up inside you until eventually you ‘snap’ and can’t control it any more, and it really is like an ‘animal’ urge takes over. ¬†I used to get like that a lot when I had more regular meltdowns and it really is horrible- you don’t really remember much about the actual experience but it’s horrible and exhausting. ¬†All I know is that I’m suddenly screaming, sweating massively, crying, pulling my hair out, banging my head against the door/cupboard/floor, biting or scratching myself or ANYTHING to try to get rid of the crazy intense emotion that seems to have taken over completely.

The only way to get rid of it is for the other person to leave you alone completely but that hardly ever happens and it’s genuinely horrible because you can’t speak or express anything coherently, and you know you’re acting totally irrationally but nothing seems to make sense. ¬†Thankfully I don’t experience it much any more but it still happens occasionally and I really, really hate it. ¬†That’s how I’m guessing Lennie felt at the time when he accidentally killed Curley’s wife, and the really horrible thing is that I can imagine how easily it could happen- I’m a 5 foot 4 relatively small woman who’s not that strong but Lennie in the book is described as massive and very strong, so I can see completely how easy it would have been for that to happen if he felt trapped and panicky. ¬†And I also know how horrible and guilty I feel after having a meltdown and that must have been multiplied a million times for Lennie, especially as he’s worried he’s going to lose his only friend who means more to him than absolutely anything else. ¬†So it’s a really, really horrible part of the book to read.

Weirdly when we read it this time, it was actually the next scene that got to me the most. When Lennie’s waiting in the brush, he starts to hallucinate and the visions he sees and hears are horrible, negative and critical. ¬†It’s like his version of the ‘bitch in my head’ and some of the things they say are almost word for word what the bitch in my head says (and is saying on a pretty much hourly basis atm), and that was really surreal and hard to read. ¬†The line that gets to me the most and that I can’t get out of my head atm is when the giant rabbit that Lennie hallucinates keeps telling him that George is going to leave him. ¬†This is the quote from the book:

“Well, he’s sick of you,” said the rabbit. “He’s gonna beat hell outa you an’ then go away an’ leave you.”

“He won’t,” Lennie cried frantically. “He won’t do nothing like that. I know George. Me an’ him travels together.”

But the rabbit repeated softly over and over, “He gonna leave you, ya crazy bastard. He gonna leave ya all alone. He gonna leave ya, crazy bastard.”

Just typing it makes me cry and I’ve got mega vertigo even thinking about it. ¬†Because it’s so bloody true, and I know it’s not just people with learning disabilities who can relate to that. ¬†I know I’m not the easiest person in the world to be friends with- I’m too intense, clingy, overly sensitive and even though I try not to act on it, people always get fed up with me and I hardly ever manage to keep close friends because of being too ‘much’. ¬†I lost my closest friend a couple of years ago (wrote a few blog posts about it last year- see¬†Friendships and mindfulness¬†and TOO MUCH EMOTION¬†especially) and since then I’ve realised that it’s pretty much impossible to form and keep close friendships because I’m always going to lose them, which is horrible and hard to accept but it’s definitely safer to recognise and try to accept it than keep losing friendships that I’ve accidentally got too attached to. ¬†But even though I can recognise that, it doesn’t stop it hurting and definitely doesn’t stop the paranoia about it which is particularly intense atm because of losing another close relationship a few months ago, and reading Lennie’s hallucinations which basically mirror my own ‘voices’ and paranoia was a bit too intense and surreal, especially as I’m already feeling more vertigo-y and rubbish than I was this time last year.

The other part of the ending of the novel that really got to my both last year and this year is George shooting Lennie. ¬†Last year, it got to me because of the more obvious reason- however ‘kind’ the action is, Lennie is being killed because he is ‘too much’ and can’t manage his own emotions, and I could identify with that way too much. ¬†When I read it for the first time last year, it made me feel rubbish and horrible because of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, people were fed up with me and it would be better for everyone if I didn’t exist and I still had those feelings this year but it was lot more intensified and with the added complexity that reading it a year on, I actually felt almost envious of Lennie and then felt massively guilty and horrible for feeling that. ¬†It’s really hard to explain and I feel really weird and guilty for trying to put it into words, but I do feel very, very jealous that Lennie has a friend as close as George is and who is willing to put his (Lennie’s) needs above his own feelings. ¬†I hadn’t really thought about George’s perspective on it before but we had to discuss it in class and he must have felt massively conflicted and guilty for effectively having to kill his best friend and probably the only genuine human connection he has. ¬†In class, the kids had to come up with what they thought would happen next (George gets his own ranch, George meets a girl and settles with a family, George continues to work at the ranch etc) but my main thought was that George would now be totally alone and probably wouldn’t be able to deal with the guilt and loneliness, and I honestly think he’d probably use the gun on himself. ¬†Which makes the ending of the book doubly sad and horrible to process.

The hardest thoughts I have about the end of the book though are definitely the horrible jealousy about Lennie and George’s relationship, and particularly Lennie’s death. ¬†Because at the moment, I’m totally aware that I’m constantly ‘too much’ for people and the only way that seems to work to manage that (the over-emotion, mood swings and obsessiveness) is through food and weight which annoyingly also seems to end up affecting other people and there genuinely doesn’t seem to be a ‘safe’ solution. ¬†I’m not saying I’d ‘do’ anything about it because that would also be ‘too much’ and affect other people (especially given that I work with kids) but Lennie is lucky in that he has a friend who is able to see the bigger picture and act in a way that is probably the safest and most humane way for him in the long term, and saves him future suffering. ¬†Obviously I know that that isn’t a practical solution but I really hate how it feeds into negative thought spirals that are so hard to manage.

I can rationalise the thoughts and I know it’s not a practical or helpful way to think but it’s been HORRIBLE recently trying to manage this amount and this intensity of negative thoughts about it while we’ve been reading the novel and especially having to watch the film (the ending twice). ¬†There was one lesson where I was feeling particularly rubbish already and genuinely couldn’t hold in crying which was really horrible and embarrassing, but luckily only one student noticed and he didn’t make a big deal out of it. ¬†It’s still really getting to me though and I can’t get the ‘rabbit voice’ out of my head. ¬†It’s pretty much how I feel about relationships in general- I know they’re fluid and not permanent but it’s so hard to actually accept that, and sometimes it seems easier not to get close to people at all because you know they’re going to get fed up with you, but at the same time it’s horrible and lonely when you don’t have any ‘real’ people contact outside of working with kids. ¬†But also better than losing close friendships which is the worst feeling in the world so a bit of a no-win situation! ¬†Which is maybe the point of the book?

Trying to end on a positive: even though I know that friendships often don’t last, it’s something I’m trying really, really hard to work on and awareness definitely a big step towards that. DBT skills are also really, really helpful in managing interpersonal relationships and wrote about that last year in a blog post called Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare with DBT skills– please read for more info! And will include a list of things I learned from that here because it’s definitely something I need to revisit:

1 Take every friendship at face value.  Don’t overthink it, make assumptions, have unrealistic or idealistic expectations, or make any judgements at all.  Try to take the friendship as it comes and use mindfulness or grounding techniques to manage anxiety.

2 Friendships are fluid and changing. ¬†There is no such thing as a ‚Äėbest friend‚Äô or ‚Äėforever friendship‚Äô, however amazing that would be. ¬†Enjoy the relationship when you can but don‚Äôt have any expectations that it will last forever. ¬†Practise ‚Äėbeginner‚Äôs mind‚Äô (seeing every experience¬†as the first time you‚Äôve experienced it, without any preconceptions or judgements) and don‚Äôt overthink it.

3 People change and that’s part of life.  If a friendship ends, it might not have anything to do with you whatsoever- the other person might have changed or moved on and THAT’S OK.  Growth is part of life and people move on at different rates.  That doesn’t make it any painful, but taking away the guilt or self-criticism will help you move on from it a lot more easily.

4 Be open with people.  Honesty and openness in relationships is the most important part of a healthy relationship and will reduce anxiety more than almost anything else.  Anxiety and particularly paranoia come from uncertainty and thrive in self-doubt or assumptions.  If you’ve got a gut reaction to something- check it out.  Don’t let it spiral into full-on paranoia or depression because then everything’s skewed through a fog of thoughts and judgements and you’re likely to damage the relationship without realising it.  Sounds cliched but if the other person’s worth being friends with, they’ll be honest with you.

5 TRUST.  This is one of the hardest ones for me and there’s different ways it’s relevant to friendships but the some of the key points are to trust that the friendship will still exist even if you’re not constantly contacting the other person, trust that the other person will be honest with you, and trust that the other person really does want to stay friends with you.  I find all of these really hard, especially the last one, but they’re so important and I think they get easier the more you do them…  It really relates back to the mindfulness idea and I’m trying really, really hard to use that in my current friendships.

Either way, I’m really, really glad we’ve finished reading it for this year and I don’t need to think about it for another ten months! ¬†Definitely not my favourite book but need to keep reminding myself that it was written in the 1930s and things have changed and improved A LOT since then thankfully…

Why I really need to make changes :/

Sorry I haven’t blogged in over a week, haven’t been feeling great and not really had anything useful to blog about. ¬†I did manage the soup last week though which was a massive positive! ¬†Took a LOT of psyching up to; there were several attempts where I’d planned to have it but talked myself out of it (I’m too tired, not done enough exercise, got too much going on, don’t need it etc) but I’d promised I’d do it once in a seven day period and last Wednesday was the seventh day so I had to. ¬†The pressure really helped- it meant that it wasn’t a ‘choice’ and I had to do it which took away a lot of the guilt and anxiety about it although I still felt really nervous and ‘wrong’ because it wasn’t what I’d usually have and I didn’t really need it. ¬†But I did it though and went straight out for a walk afterwards listening to Harry Potter to distract, and it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d thought it would be. ¬†I was really anxious afterwards that I’d suddenly gain lots of weight but weirdly I didn’t which was a massive relief! ¬†Tomorrow will be another week so will try it again tomorrow night, *touch wood* it will go OK again…

Things have been a bit rubbish since then though and haven’t managed to do anything else particularly positive which is a bit frustrating. ¬†Had a bit of a mood crash towards the end of last week which lasted into the weekend so spent most of Saturday and Sunday on the cross trainer or bingeing which wasn’t ideal (although I went to an amazing Roger Waters concert on Saturday night so wasn’t all bad) and still feeling overly emotional and rubbish, really hoping it’ll lift soon. ¬†I think it’s a build up of lots of different things- I work in a school and it’s end of the school year which is always hard because of changing timetables and not knowing exactly what’s going on, and kids have left after exams which is also tough because I get attached to kids I work closely with and takes a while to get used to new ones.

We’ve also been studying Of Mice And Men in one of the English classes I work in which is my least favourite book and I find really difficult to read, and it’s been affecting my moods a lot recently. ¬†It makes me feel really guilty, upset and horrible because of Lennie and how he accidentally hurts things without meaning to and it’s NOT HIS FAULT, and he’s actually trying to do what he thinks is the right thing all the time. ¬†The ending is HORRIBLE and so, so hard to read (we had to watch the ending of the film today which I hadn’t seen because the teacher last year let me go and work in another room when the kids were watching it, and it make me so shaky and I couldn’t help crying although I managed to mostly keep in in and thankfully only one boy I was working with noticed and didn’t make fun of me). ¬†It was actually harder to read this year than last year because I was already feeling a bit emotionally overloaded, and it triggered a lot of not-very-helpful thoughts about how hard it is not being able to manage your own emotions and how sometimes it really feels like it would be a good thing to have a friend like George in the last scene of the book (then I feel really guilty for thinking that and the whole cycle starts again). ¬†Not nice!! ¬†But thank God it’s a whole year till I need to read or study it again…

I think one of the massive downsides to trying to challenge your thoughts is that you’re suddenly more aware of everything your brain is telling you and that you’d usually just accept, and it makes the brain arguments so much more intense. ¬†This morning was a really good example of that and it was EXHAUSTING because I was trying to rationalise too many irrational thoughts at the same time but I did actually manage to successfully challenge one of them in the end! ¬†It went basically like this (‘B’ stands for brain/bitch in my head- bold is where I actually managed to challenge it):

*4am, waking up*

B: Get up, time for coffee and go for a run.

Me: I’m tired, I only slept an hour and a half last night and I’ve got a full day of school.

B: Stop being so bloody lazy and get up, you need to run to use up the extra energy from last night because you didn’t go for a walk after tea.

*gets up, immediately feels dizzy and goes back to bed*

*5.30am, waking up again*

B: YOU FAT LAZY BITCH, GET OUT OF BED.

Me: But I’m still tired, I really need to sleep.

B: STOP BEING SO BLOODY LAZY AND GET UP.

*gets up, goes downstairs feeling like a zombie, steps on scales.  Have put on a pound overnight which definitely wakes me up*

B: See how fat and disgusting you are?  Have coffee and get out running NOW.

Me: *feeling like shit, makes coffee and drinks it. ¬†By this point it’s 6am*

B: Stop being so fucking lazy and get ready to run.

Me: I’m still tired, I just want to hide on the beanbag and sleep.

B: Stop putting it off and just fucking RUN.

Me: It’s nearly quarter past six, I won’t have time to run properly anyway.

B: A short run is better than no run you lazy bitch.  Just bloody go.

Me: But I won’t have run enough to earn soya milk and I’ll feel dizzy if I go to school without it.

B: That’s your body playing tricks on you to make you eat- override it, you’re in control. ¬†Just fucking run.

Me: I was planning to go on the cross trainer later…

B: And you’ll come up with a million excuses- it’s too hot, I’m too tired, I’ve been at after school club running after kids… ¬†Stop being so fucking fat and lazy.

Me: But even if I do run, I won’t have time to shower afterwards and I need to get to work.

B: Who cares? ¬†It’s not like you sweat anyway you lazy bitch- you’re not even working hard enough for that. ¬†Just RUN.

*puts on trainers, goes for a run. ¬†Runs further than I thought thanks to constant ‘motivation’ from bitch in my head*

B: See, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Me: But now I feel really weird and dizzy, and I’ve got ten hours of work to get through.

B: But you ran which is the main thing and you can go on the cross trainer later.  That should be enough to balance it out.

Me: I’m dizzy and shaky, I need food.

B: No you don’t you stupid bitch. ¬†It’s your body messing with you, ignore it.

Me: No, I need to eat something, I need the energy for work.

B: No you don’t- stop being so fucking greedy. ¬†Just go to work.

Me: No, I didn’t eat enough on Friday and people at work noticed that I was dizzy and disorientated, and I can feel it happening again. ¬†I’m going to have some soya milk.

B: YOU DON’T NEED IT YOU FAT BITCH. ¬†You only ran four miles, that’s nothing and you haven’t even been on the cross trainer yet.

Me: But the soya milk will keep my blood sugars more stable then I’ll have more energy for the cross trainer.

B: JUST GO TO BLOODY WORK. ¬†You don’t need anything.

*ignores it and has soya milk, then goes to work*

That was bloody HARD!! ¬†Normally, I’d run further than I did this morning and wouldn’t even consider having the soya milk but last week, I felt really ill a couple of days at work and a few people I work with noticed which I REALLY don’t want, and I know it was low blood sugar levels (I was shaky and zoned out, parts of my body felt disjointed and not real, and I was really itchy all over). ¬†I did go on the cross trainer after work and felt ill again afterwards but luckily I had tea pretty much straight away and although I’m still a bit shaky and zoned out now, it’s a lot better than it was. ¬†But it’s things like that that are making me realise that I really do need to learn to manage it properly and I really, really want to be able to. ¬†I hate the constant tiredness and feeling rubbish, and it’s exhausting having to constantly argue with your brain.

I’m REALLY hoping that the more I challenge it, the easier it’ll be but it really doesn’t feel like it at the moment. ¬†It’s hard as well because of feeling generally rubbish and not very motivated, and it feels a lot like ‘I’m never going to be able to change or get rid of it so what’s the point in trying?’ but I also really, really don’t want to lose my job or have to go inpatient again so I know I need to do something. ¬†Feeling so trapped and horrible atm! ¬†But also determined to start feeling more positive about it…

Trying to make sense of my brain…again!

This is a sort of follow up post to yesterday’s¬†Back to more regular blogging!¬†and I’m going to focus more on food/weight-related issues because that’s basically what I’m trying to work on properly at the moment. ¬†Or at least that’s the aim; the whole idea is absolutely terrifying me and I’m not totally sure how or what exactly I’m trying to change or achieve, so I’m sort of trying to make sense of that too! ¬†I’ve been re-reading older blog posts about similar things (especially¬†21/05/07: probably the most significant day of my life. ¬†Reflections a decade on‚Ķ¬†which I wrote ten years to the day after I was last inpatient and I’m still feeling very similar to how I did then) which is definitely helpful to try to formulate some idea of how I’m feeling but my brain is pretty much constant fuzz and confusion all the time at the moment so it’s hard to make any sort of real sense of it. ¬†But blogging is a good way to start!

Another previous post which was useful to re-read is¬†ED relapse warning signs. ¬†I wrote it about a year and a half ago based on a list of yellow/amber/red warning signs of possible ED relapse that I’d written with a psychologist I used to see as an inpatient way back in 2006, and it scared me a bit because I’m starting to show a lot of the signs again which is a definite motivator to try to address it now before it gets too intense. ¬†It’s always hard trying to figure out what ‘relapse’ actually is because I never really fully recovered in the first place but I REALLY don’t want to get back to inpatient point again and even though it would still be a long way off, I also don’t want to lose my job or even risk getting properly ‘ill’ again so I’m trying to use that as a reason to do something about it before it gets to that point. ¬†It’s hard though because although I’m aware things must have changed recently (people have commented on it and I’m definitely more food/weight fixated than I have been in a while), my weight isn’t particularly low compared to how it has been and even though I’m feeling tired and zoned out a lot of the time, I’m not physically ‘ill’ or passing out so it kind of feels like I’m making a big deal out of nothing and just being selfish. ¬†So hard to work it out!

I know I’ve already said it but have got total fuzz brain at the moment and I really need to try to sort it out enough to know what I’m trying to actually do. ¬†I’ve got the bitch in my head pretty much constantly reminding me that I’m just being selfish, I’m a lazy greedy bitch and I just need to get on with it and try not to let people notice but that’s bloody exhausting because the rules keep changing and I’m having to be active and walking ALL THE TIME especially if I’ve binged the night before or not managed to get the right amount of exercise in earlier on in the day. ¬†But it’s doubly hard to think about doing anything else because she starts up more aggressively and it’s really, really hard to ignore or think of anything else. ¬†But I REALLY don’t want to end up inpatient again and I know rationally that that is a possibility however far off, and I also know that the closer you get to that point, the harder it is to change anything so I really do want to do something now to stop that from happening.

It’s really hard when it genuinely doesn’t seem like a big problem at the moment though and even small changes seem really, really scary. ¬†I know my eating patterns aren’t ideal but they never really have been (except briefly just after I was inpatient) and it’s only really since coming off medication that it’s been a more obvious issue because my weight went down a bit. ¬†But it feels so much safer the way it is- obsessions are less intense, it’s easier to rationalise feeling fat/lazy/selfish, I’m constantly a bit zoned out so things don’t get to me as much (although having said that, I had three meltdowns over the weekend including one where I was crying, pulling my hair out and banging my head off the floor so maybe that’s not *totally* accurate), and things seem more manageable than the intense obsessions and mood swings I’d been experiencing. ¬†But at the same time, I’m also not sleeping properly, tired all the time, finding it hard to run properly (and hating it), not really enjoying anything and feeling like I should be exercising all the time even if I’m exhausted which also isn’t great.

A friend who I really trust brought it up last week and said that I really need to make some changes before someone at work says something and so I don’t get to inpatient point again, and she’s not the sort of person who would say things she doesn’t mean. ¬†She’s been really direct and honest about it which really helps to put things into perspective but as soon as I’m on my own and my brain starts up, it gets confusing and overwhelming again and I still have no idea how I feel about it except that it’s bloody scary and I feel stuck and overwhelmed. ¬†The directness really does help though and she’s set me a challenge of swapping low calorie soup for regular soup one night this week which I know doesn’t sound like much but every time I’ve tried so far, it’s sent my brain into overload- didn’t realise how confusing soup could be but after spending nearly 40 minutes in the supermarket trying to work out which one to get.

It was really hard because I ‘need’ the right amount of protein per 100g as well as trying to work out what an equivalent to the soup I’d usually get would be without ‘cheating’ and getting the lowest calorie regular soup which I couldn’t get anyway because it didn’t have enough protein; regular soup cans say they serve two which would mean one serving is less than the low calorie soup I usually get which would defeat the point and be cheating (that caused a ridiculous amount of brain arguing!) and also need it to be an easyish number of calories in the can to work out in a daily amount. ¬†I did finally manage to get a can of soup though which had the ‘right’ amount of protein, counted towards 5 a day, also had a good amount of fibre and was (scarily) almost twice the amount of calories of the soup I usually have without being too much volume which would make me feel too full and risk bingeing straight after, which was a definite achievement! ¬†Haven’t managed to have it yet though :/ I meant to try it over the weekend but had a really stressful few days where nothing really went to plan so going to have it for tea tomorrow night after work. ¬†Really, really nervous but it helps that it’s not *my* choice if that makes sense- it was my friend’s idea and I said I’d try it, and I’m trying really hard to think of it as a ‘rule’ I’ve got to stick to instead of a choice. ¬†Which I know sounds ridiculous but it’s worth a try- every time I’ve tried to make the decisions on my own, I’ve never managed to stick to it and I really do want to make it work this time.

Another ‘rule’ I’ve set for myself is that I need to be doing something creative from 9pm every night- either blogging, drawing, colouring or writing, and I’m really going to try to stick to that too. ¬†Lots of reasons but mainly because it puts a ‘limit’ on the amount of exercise I can do in the evenings- longer evenings has meant a ridiculous amount of walking (or sometimes running) which really isn’t helping and is exhausting, and also because I’ve totally got out of the habit of doing anything creative which isn’t great because creative stuff is a really good way to ‘escape’ my brain for a while and to try to channel it more constructively. ¬†So hoping to stick to that too! ¬†Will see how it goes anyway…

Insomnia 24

Sorry this blog post is so late! ¬†I ran Insomnia 24 back in August but have been so busy with going back to work, sorting out stuff for Open University and trying to deal with a pretty persistent mood crash that I haven’t had the energy or motivation to write a post after the race. ¬†But it was such an amazing, magical run that I can’t not write one so going to attempt to use photos to try to channel the amazing feelings and moments over an amazing 24 hours…

The run started at midday and was in Leicestershire so for once, I didn’t have to travel too far. ¬†I drove there on the Saturday morning and set up my tent with two hours to spare, so got chatting to some other people doing the run who were lovely as always and started to get excited. ¬†It was hot already so I decided to leave my backpack by the start line instead of in my tent (because everything would melt) and put on sunscreen- REALLY didn’t want a repeat of last year’s ridiculous sunburn from a summer 100 miler! I wasn’t too nervous about the run because it was my fourth ultra over the summer holidays, I didn’t have any specific goals or targets and just wanted to enjoy the weekend of running. ¬†So as midday got closer, the pre-run nerves never really got past the jittery stage and I was definitely more excited than terrified. ¬†The course looked awesome, it was a six mile loop and the weather was amazing which is pretty miraculous for an August bank holiday weekend!

The course genuinely was amazing! ¬†It started with a gentle downhill run across a field with a windmill then looped back behind some woods, through the trees, up the other side of the field, through more trees, over a pumpkin field, past farmland with strawberries, blackberries and probably more crops that I didn’t recognise then down through some more woods and back up to loop round yet another field. ¬†It was undulating but not massively hilly although it was one of the most technically challenging courses I have ever run- very uneven ground in a lot of places, overgrown nettles and (obviously, since it was an ultra) mud. ¬†But the scenery made it worth it a million times over and it was so well organised that even I couldn’t get lost!

It was HOT!! ¬†It took a while to get used to running in the heat and was drinking a lot more than I usually would even during an ultra, but it was close to 30 degrees and hardly any clouds in the sky so definitely needed. ¬†I’d thought ahead enough to bring a cap and sunglasses (super organised for me!) and had electrolyte tablets so was about as prepared as I could be but was still tough running across exposed fields in the heat. ¬†But considering the last 24 hour ultra I ran was postponed overnight because of torrential rain (see Hope24 2017), this was definitely preferable and once my body had adjusted, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as previous hot races I’ve run. ¬†Possibly because I’m not taking risperidone or quetiapine any more but it’s amazing the difference it makes!

The first few hours passed pretty quickly and it was awesome to listen to Harry Potter with no interruptions or distractions apart from amazing scenery which made it feel like I was actually running through the story. ¬†I started to feel more relaxed than I had done in weeks (it was the last week of the summer holidays and my stress/mood levels were pretty much at breaking point by then), my brain was finally starting to slow down, the bitch in my head’s voice was less intense and I was actually beginning to feel ‘real’ and connected again. ¬†After a couple of hours of magical running, I met a guy I’d run with on previous races and ran a lap with him which was awesome as always (thanks Nick!) and crazily inspiring given that he’s currently holding the Guinness World Records for most marathons and most ultras in a year. ¬†By then, I was getting seriously caffeine-deprived so ditched Nick for coffee after the lap and took a quick caffeine break to fuel up for the nighttime part of the race.

After an energy boost of coffee and peanut butter, the sun was starting to set so I set off on a ‘photography lap’ which is my version of a recovery lap- slow running and lots of walking to take photos, and basically just enjoying the incredibleness of nature, God and calmness. ¬†It was a seriously amazing sunset- genuinely one of the best I have ever seen and that’s including Aberystwyth! ¬†The only word to describe it is MAGICAL ‚̧ clear skies with horizon clouds meant that the whole sky turned orange and pink, and you could connect with everything around you in a way that I’ve only ever felt mid-ultra when nature’s doing something incredible. ¬†Can’t find the right words to describe it so I’ll stick to sharing photos instead (photos still don’t do it justice!).

After that, it got properly dark so headtorch and layers time. ¬†Given how hot it had been during the day, it was a bit of a shock how quickly the temperature dropped thanks to the clear skies and pretty soon I was running with a growing amount of layers culminating with two long sleeved tops, a fleece, an anorak and a fleecy blanket towards dawn! ¬†Nightrunning is my least favourite part of ultrarunning :/ not because I don’t like running at night (I actually love some aspects of it) but because I get scared and a bit paranoid on my own in the dark, especially on a course like this which was all trail and a lot of wooded areas.

I’m really lucky though that I have some seriously awesome ‘text buddies’ who are AMAZING people who don’t mind random (usually over-excited or panicky) texts during ultras and who always reply with encouraging or inspiring words, and which sometimes have been the only reason I’ve completed some of the runs I’ve taken part in. ¬†It’s weird, even though I know that they’re nowhere near me and that even if something did happen it’s seriously unlikely that they’d be able to do anything, it feels infinitely safer to know that they’re ‘there’ even if just through a Nokia 3210 (or running in spirit if you happen to be an awesome inspiring running guru!) and it makes such a massive difference to running on your own at night. ¬†Can’t express enough how much it helps and how amazing it is to get those texts especially when I’m physically and mentally exhausted- you know who you are and thank you so so much!!

One close friend texted some quotes about darkness which really resonated with me and helped so much with running on my own in the dark: “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must also be present”- Francis Bacon, and “I used to be afraid of the dark until I learned that I am a light and the darkness is afraid of me”- Ephesians 5:8. ¬†Can’t put into words how much that meant when I feeling nervous running on my own through trees at night and it really, really helped. ¬†Another amazing friend texted to say that she had run two hours and so I wasn’t running alone, and that also really, really helped because it really is scary and lonely on your own at night! ¬†Even though there are other people doing the run, you spread out so that you don’t really see people especially on the nighttime part so feeling connected to people in any way makes a massive difference.

I can’t remember a massive amount about running overnight apart from a few, very vivid moments which made the run probably the most magical run I have ever taken part in. ¬†The clear skies meant that the temperature dropped quickly and it was like running through Narnia with more stars than I’ve ever seen outside of a dark sky park, cold, clear air and absolute quiet. ¬†The stars were incredible. ¬†I saw Orion for the first time this year which was pretty special (Orion is my all-time favourite constellation and I always use him as a ‘grounding point’ because whenever you are, you’re always looking at the same stars and he’s always roughly south-west which makes me feel safe because it helps you locate where you are, and west leads to Aberystwyth), the usual constellations like the Plough and Cassiopeia and could even see the Pleiades.

The most magical moment was when a shooting star shot across the sky so fast that I thought I’d imagined it. ¬†It was seriously amazing- I was listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar album while running across the open field and it was totally unexpected. ¬†Then not long after, there was another one and I could feel the amazing, infinite oneness that I can’t describe fully in words- it’s like you’re connected with God and the world around you with an intense energy that makes you feel real and safe and connected all at once. ¬†It’s the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced. ¬†The rest of the night passed in a bit of a blur and pretty soon, the sun was starting to rise and it was time for another coffee/porridge break!

If I’d thought the sunset was amazing, the sunrise was even more incredible. ¬†It happened as quickly as the evening- quiet pre-dawn seemed to morph straight into flaming sun and morning mist. ¬†It was equally magical as running across the stars but in a totally different way- this was surreal and unnerving, and it was a relief when the sun cut through the fog like a flaming dagger. ¬†My absolute favourite part of a 24 hour run is the sunrise especially on a midday to midday race because the start of a new day seems to ‘reset’ any tiredness or negativity, and I could feel the underlying nighttime fear and tiredness start to ease off.

Physically though, I was starting to feel the impact of running for God knows how many hours (my brain was mush by then) and was feeling exhausted, dizzy and nauseous. ¬†I was 10 laps in and needed to decide if I was going to stop at 12 laps or try to aim for 14 by the end of the 24 hours (I can’t stop on 13 laps because it’s bad luck). ¬†It was pushing it a bit tight to aim for the 14 laps and I was feeling physically horrible but mentally I was feeling better than I had done in months and I really, really didn’t want to lose that feeling. ¬†So I decided to go for the 14 laps and see how far I could go. ¬†The dizziness was a pretty big problem though and I walked the remainder of that lap to see if it would help. ¬†I tried to eat a cereal bar but immediately felt more nauseous, and ate some Haribo in mild desperation and amazingly, I felt better almost straight away! ¬†It was incredible so I ate some more Haribo then started to run slowly again, and pretty soon I was feeling like I’d just started the run instead of being nearly 20 hours in!

The temperature rose almost as quickly as it had dropped the night before and pretty soon I was running in just a T-shirt and shorts again. ¬†It was so hot that the Haribo had melted which made it taste like food from Heaven (seriously- melted Haribo is actually the most amazing food ever and even beats peanut butter!) and that fuelled me of the rest of the race. ¬†I didn’t want to stop running ever- the light was like golden syrup, the mist was like running through somewhere Gothic and magical, and the whole world was amazing. ¬†I was seriously hyped by that point (probably Haribo-related!) and having the most amazing run of my life. ¬†It passed way too quickly though, and suddenly it was midday and I was finishing my final lap. ¬†Really, really didn’t want the race to end!

Then the weirdest thing of the whole race happened: I was first female!! ¬†That was so, so strange and felt totally wrong- I had to get it checked several times over before I could believe it. ¬†I have never won a race in my life, and definitely not running! ¬†The closest I’ve ever got was 3rd in hoop skipping on sports day in Year 2- every running race I ever took part in at school, I was last or close to last and I am really not a natural athlete. ¬†But I actually did come first female in this one (still can’t believe it!) and got a ¬£50 voucher for a running shop which is amazing given that nearly all my money goes on running stuff! ¬†Such an incredible feeling, and really does show how positive and inclusive ultrarunning is.

THANK YOU so so much to everyone from Go Ultra events for organising such an amazing race and can’t wait to take part again next year!! ¬†INCREDIBLE running event, so well organised, so friendly and amazing people ‚̧

Frustration about mental health and how it impacts life choices

Sorry I haven’t posted much in ages :/ not been massively busy or anything (school holidays atm) but brain has been a bit of a sieve recently and finding it hard to keep up with basically anything that isn’t running so been half-planning blog posts then never getting round to finishing them so if this is a bit disjointed, that’s why! ¬†Thanks for still reading though if you are ūüôā

The main thing I wanted to write about in this blog post is frustration about ‘recovery’ (or not being clinically ‘recovered’) and how that impacts over and over on what you want to do with your life but in order to write about that, it would be important to understand exactly what recovery ‘is’ and I realised I still don’t really know. ¬†On one level, it’s simple- the OED defines it as¬†“A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength” but that requires an implicit understanding of what ‘normal’ means and anyone with any experience at all of mental health issues in any context will know that that’s impossible to apply universally and doesn’t even exist as a yardstick to measure from.

Another definition would be the absence of symptoms or ‘illness’ but again that’s really difficult with mental health because everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety, depression, paranoia etc at some point and there’s no real way to decide what’s ‘normal’ and what’s ‘illness’. ¬†I heard someone say recently that recovery isn’t the absence of symptoms but it’s when your symptoms don’t bother you any more, which I like as a concept and in everyday life that’s probably the most useful definition I’ve come across but it still doesn’t help when you’re got a clinical diagnosis (or diagnoses) of specific mental health issues that you still show enough symptoms of to meet the criteria so can’t be classified as ‘recovered’ even if you have managed to build up enough coping strategies or techniques that it doesn’t significantly impact your day-to-day life. ¬†I wrote a blog post about similar ideas a few months ago- see 21/05/07: probably the most significant day of my life. ¬†Reflections a decade on‚Ķ¬†if you’re interested. ¬†So complicated and frustrating!!

The reason I’m thinking about this so much at the moment (and this week in particular) is because I applied to foster a couple of months ago and found out yesterday that the application was unsuccessful because of my medical reference which wasn’t that surprising as I’ve had issues with occupational health before when I’ve applied for certain jobs and had the job offer withdrawn due to medical references, but it’s still really frustrating and disappointing. ¬†It’s partly the frustration of medical (mental health) issues continually getting in the way of things I’m really, genuinely passionate about and want to do with my life but also anger because I know I’m mentally more stable over the last few years than I have ever been and I really don’t know what more I can do to prove that to people. ¬†Anger at myself for not having managed to ‘recover’ from a clinical perspective but also (horribly, because I hate feeling angry at other people) anger at the whole system and how restrictive it is. ¬†I know I could be a good foster carer and I genuinely would put the child’s needs above anything else. ¬†It’s what I try to do in every job I’ve ever had- child/young person/service user’s needs are absolute priority and that’s the main ‘rule’ in my life and being totally honest, it’s the main reason I’m still trying to get rid of the horrible parts of my brain because it would be so much easier just to accept it and go along with everything the bitch in my head tells me but I try so hard not to and to be ‘normal’ as much as I can because of the impact that could have on kids I work with or who I’m close to. ¬†Which makes it doubly frustrating when as far as health professionals are concerned, it’s like I’ve not managed anything at all.

The other side to the situation is the fact that I really, really, REALLY want to have kids. ¬†I know it’s something most people want at some point in their lives and sometimes it doesn’t work out for various reasons, but since I was really little I’ve wanted lots of kids and I’d give up anything else to be able to have them. ¬†To me, it’s the point of being an adult and probably the only benefit to it. ¬†There’s already the complication of being asexual and never being in a relationship which is something I can’t see ever changing because I’ve genuinely never experienced sexual or romantic attraction to anyone, and the idea of having sex with anyone makes me feel physically sick. ¬†Then there’s the other problem of having had an eating disorder for 17 years; I still have very irregular periods, I’m not sure how fertile I would be even if I was sexually active and I also know that with my current food intake, it could be potentially dangerous for an unborn baby so would have to make some drastic changes although I think that pregnancy would be a massive motivator for this because the baby would have to come first.

Adoption or fostering seemed the only option which is why it’s so upsetting that it’s not a possibility. ¬†The woman who assessed me was lovely and suggested voluntary organisations which support young people in care and I have applied to volunteer for, but it’s not the same as actually having the parent-style responsibility and relationship with the young person which is what I really, really want. ¬†It’s hard to describe because I don’t really know what the feeling is :/ it’s like an intense need to ‘give’ to and care for another person in a way that’s more than childcare or friendship- I want to be able to fully support someone and for their needs to be my absolute priority, which I know sounds weird and it’s not exactly what I’m trying to say but I have no idea how to phrase it.

I work with kids and have done for years which I absolutely love and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to develop very close bonds with kids and young people, but it’s not the same as being the main caregiver for someone and having that sort of bond with them even though I know that parenting in any form is hard and isn’t always a positive experience. ¬†But even if it’s not, I still want to give it a try- I get really upset when people say things like ‘it’s hard being a parent, you’re lucky you can give the kids back, you wouldn’t feel like that if you had your own’ etc because actually I WANT the challenges of parenthood, I hate having to ‘give kids back’ and (I know this is horrible) I get really, really jealous of parents’ relationships with their kids even when they’re arguing because I really want that sort of bond and to know that even if someone is angry at you at that particular moment, you’re still their parent and there’s still an unconditional bond there which won’t go away just because they’re upset. ¬†I’m not being naive or thinking that parenting is easy or anything like that; I just really, really want to be a parent. ¬†I’m 30 now and have wanted kids for years, and I’m starting to realise I probably won’t ever have them which hurts so much just to think about and I really, really don’t want it to be true.

I also know though that it would be selfish to go through with the fostering application knowing that it could be potentially damaging for a child or young person who’s already vulnerable to have a foster carer with (apparently) clinically significant mental health issues so I have to respect and accept the decision of fostering services even though I am really upset about it. ¬†I’m not angry with them at all- they need to prioritise the needs of young people and I completely understand that, but I am frustrated about the system and how I’m seen as not “mentally stable” enough to be a foster carer. ¬†The main issues brought up in the medical report and in discussion with fostering services were emotion regulation issues relating to ASD (the GP said that he wasn’t confident I’d be able to have enough emotional empathy or understanding to fully support a child with emotional issues) and having a “long-standing eating disorder” which is a factor that has impacted on occupational health in the past and I have no idea what I’m meant to be about it. ¬†Yes, I have had an eating disorder for the last 17 years but I haven’t been an inpatient in ten years, I eat regularly even if it is only certain foods and I am a ‘healthy’ weight.

I know I still have some issues around food and eating but it’s definitely not obvious and it’s mostly the bitch in my head shouting at me 24/7 which is the problem and not the actual behavioural/physical side which I’ve learnt to manage pretty well over the last few years and I’m not exactly going to vocalise the bitch’s words to a young person I’m caring for. ¬†And to me, it’s not as potentially risky as someone who drinks alcohol regularly or smokes (for example) which is totally socially acceptable. ¬†It’s also frustrating because ED services won’t work with me anymore because it’s ‘chronic’ and my weight’s stable so I don’t meet the criteria for ED services but it’s still seen as a medical issue that stops me from being able to do things that I’m most passionate about like having/looking after children, working with young people in mental health services or being a teacher? ¬†I have no idea what the solution is and if anyone has any experience of this, please feel free to email me on rainbowsandrecovery@gmail.com!

Really sorry that this seems to have been a mostly ranting post and haven’t even got round to trying to define ‘recovery’ properly yet. ¬†Will shut up now and save that for another post… ¬†Thanks for reading ūüôā

On this day ten years ago…

Still re-reading my diary from my last inpatient admission in 2007 and getting close to discharge…  It’s so weird reading it now- so much has changed but weirdly my thoughts and feelings haven’t changed that much and I can still totally relate to so much of it… :/ 


I can remember that week like it was only a few weeks ago rather than a decade :/ I felt so trapped and guilty, and every choice seemed wrong.  I didn’t want to stay because it was wasting people’s time, I felt like everything I did was affecting someone else and I was being so selfish allowing my life to be ‘put on hold’ instead of being at college and working.  But when I decided to leave, it made me feel even more selfish because suddenly people wanted to talk about that and it took up so much group time and I hated it.  I literally just wanted to disappear and not exist any more but that’s even harder in a psychiatric ward than it would be anywhere else, and I hated it (and myself) so so much.  It really was the worst week of my life.


This basically sums up exactly how I felt ten years ago, and there’s not much I can add to it.  All I can think now is that yes, I was being selfish and self-absorbed but also that that really is part of having an acute eating disorder- your life becomes eating/not eating and you can’t see outside of your own ‘bubble’, and it’s even worse as an inpatient where you’re totally out of control and hating yourself for it so you become even more self-absorbed.  I did manage to stay out though, even though I know nearly everyone thought I’d be straight back in.  And ironically, the decision to leave is the most assertive thing I have ever done in my life, and probably the most positive choice I’ve ever made.  I wanted to ‘recover’ on my terms and I knew then (and am even more convinced now) that for me, inpatient treatment was actually detrimental in the long term because I became dependent on the routine/structure and it was/is so hard to break free from.  I’ve only managed it through ultrarunning, and still working on it.  Yes, recovery might have been a lot slower than if I’d stayed inpatient but that would have been a ‘false’ recovery based on following yet another set of rules, and I want to escape all of that.  I’m not there yet but am way, way further than I was in 2007.


The last part of May 18th 2007’s entry surprised me, and I’m still as confused about it as I was then.  Although now I can see that it’s not that I get ‘too close’ to people- it’s that I give them too much significance and get too dependent on certain people, and that’s a massive difference because there isn’t a reciprocal closeness and it’s ‘safer’ to an extent because it’s mostly one-way.  Maybe she was right…?  Something that needs a lot more thought, I think.

Coming scarily close to the ten year mark and still not sure how I feel about it!  It’s a big achievement in a lot of ways but there’s still part of me that feels like a total failure because I’m still working at it and not ‘there’ yet, or even sure where ‘there’ is but will post more about that nearer the time…