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…

Lent Day Three- tough day :/

Day three of Lent and starting to really struggle with feeling full ALL THE TIME.  Found it really hard to motivate to getting out of bed this morning :/ felt totally drained and disgusting, like someone had sapped all my energy and replaced it with heaviness and sludge.  Not nice!!  I literally had to force my body into moving through the motions this morning- coffee first, shower, putting on one item of clothing at a time and really had to concentrate to make sure I actually remembered everything.

Was running late so didn’t really have time to think about porridge which was probably a good thing- made instant porridge and ate it quickly because I hate being late for work.  Didn’t even have time to think about eating when I wasn’t hungry and it was only halfway to work it suddenly hit me!  But by then I was stressed about being late, feeling anxious and trying to manage lots of ‘rule-type’ thoughts which always seem worse when I’m late (radio volume on an even number, swallowing even number of times, making sure I could see exactly half my left eye in the rear view mirror, not looking at the clock at 8.13 and when I did accidentally, having to look at the clock even more times on 8.14 etc) and didn’t have enough brain space to worry about the porridge too.

When I got to school, I had a pretty full-on morning with some of my favourite but challenging classes and I was so exhausted by breaktime that I actually really needed the banana energy boost.  Was really busy again right up to lunchtime, and didn’t have time to worry about how I was going to manage the baked beans and bread.  I was so, so nervous about it- partly the logistics of making and eating it (is it OK to eat food with a knife and fork at lunchtime? and is it OK to do that in the staffroom?) and partly in case someone commented on it and that would make me feel even more anxious and self-conscious, but luckily it’s Friday today and not many people around (lots of staff are part-time) so there were only two other people in the staffroom anyway.  I decided not to risk toasting the break because getting the toaster out and plugged in would draw attention to it and I was nervous enough anyway, so I had bread with cold baked beans.

I felt really sick when I started to eat it and felt full almost immediately, and I really wanted to just eat the beans and leave the bread but I know that would be cheating and would defeat the point of following the meal plan, so I forced myself to eat a few beans at a time then cut the bread into small pieces and ate them too.  Felt like I was going to explode by the time I’d finished and my stomach was bloated and uncomfortable, which was really horrible.  I had a horrible, intense urge to throw up and was very close to going to the toilet but the bell rang and the child I work with in the afternoon was waiting at the staffroom door so I couldn’t.  I felt really trapped and jittery but Friday afternoons are one-to-one work with a child I mentor so couldn’t do anything about it which was really, really horrible.

Then the bitch in my head started up, saying I shouldn’t have eaten it and didn’t need it, beans are OK on their own and bread is another meal in itself so I’d basically had two meals in one which was really, really greedy especially after the banana at break, feeling full is my body’s way of telling me I’ve eaten too much and I was really selfish for ignoring that and eating anyway, I’m a disgusting bitch and that’s why people don’t like me…  I couldn’t challenge her with a child in front of me and ignoring her isn’t really an option because she just gets louder, so I dug the staffroom key hard into my hand (inside my fist so the child couldn’t see) and bit my tongue, and the pain helped to distract enough that she started to quieten down a bit.

It’s a pretty intense afternoon doing one-to-one work which really helped to distract from how I was feeling.  The lesson went OK but way too quickly (I love working intensively with kids because takes so much energy and when I’m jittery-hyped, it’s a great way to channel it positively and the kids really seem to respond well to that), and I stayed late after school to write up notes to try to calm down a bit before going home.  I still felt really bloated when I got home and it’s the first time I’ve seriously considered missing food from the meal plan.  I felt SO FULL and horrible, and I’d got pretty bad heartburn as well which really didn’t help.  I couldn’t face a yogurt so ate some dates instead (needed an energy boost) and played Minecraft for a while to try to distract from feeling sick.

I hate evenings- my mood and energy levels seem to crash and it’s hard to focus on anything properly.  Friday evenings are the worst because I don’t even have school the next day and my anxiety’s really high without structure, and because I don’t ‘have’ to do anything which is really difficult to deal with.  Had to force myself to eat tea again and felt even worse afterwards, and I just wanted to binge then purge it all out, stop feeling so disgusting and bloated and escape form my body for a while.  But I’ve decided to follow the contract for the next 37 days and that means NO BINGEING, and I can’t break the main rule.  My brain’s been spinning all evening :/ trying to manage intense binge urges while the bitch in my head is screaming at me for messing everything up, being a disgusting lazy bitch, making myself even more fat so people will think I’m even more selfish than they already do etc is bloody hard and I am EXHAUSTED.

Still feel like my stomach’s forcing my clothes to stretch and I’m so scared none of my clothes will fit by Monday.  What if I genuinely have nothing to wear?  What if I get so fat people don’t recognise me?  What if the kids say something?  Feeling disgusting and so horrible, and it’s really hard trying to rationalise it and stick to the plan.  Only three days in and it’s BLOODY HARD.  But I managed two years as an inpatient on a much more difficult diet than this one (WAY more food and variety) and didn’t die, so I know rationally that it IS possible.  Just need to keep trying…

Lent Day One…

First day of Lent and survived!!  Totally exhausted already though and it’s been a very weird up and down day, but made it till nearly bedtime with (mostly) sticking to the plan and no bingeing or any other massively destructive behaviours *touch wood* so went better than I thought it would…  It’s weird, I’m feeling a bit spun out and overwhelmed so it’s hard to try to put into words how the first day of ‘simulated inpatient’ has gone, and I’m kind of feeling the same as I have done at the start of every admission which is WEIRD.

It also really doesn’t help that yesterday we had a geography field trip which consisted of doing site surveys in different locations around town, one of which happened to be right outside the ED inpatient treatment centre (which is an area I’ve avoided ever since) and that felt really weird and surreal, and I was so scared I’d see someone I know.  Luckily I didn’t but it still felt really strange.  I can’t really describe the feeling- it was like underlying anxiety but mixed with a sort of guilt and intense pain too, no idea why and really didn’t like it.  And then when we went up into town to do another site, I bumped into the psychologist I used to see at the ED service which was even more weird and surreal, and REALLY not the best timing.  She recognised me and started talking to me which was nice of her but so weird and I wasn’t sure what to say, especially in the middle of a school trip!  Still feeling weird and surreal about it today, and starting Lent has sort of added to that.

I’ve basically approached Lent like an inpatient contract- I’ve got the plan and I’ve got to stick to it because that’s the rules.  It’s a lot harder on your own though even though I’ve gone over the rules so many times in my head.  The morning was OK because it was porridge like I usually would, and the first ‘challenge’ was break time at school when I’d planned to have a cereal bar (would usually be biscuits but I forgot to go to the supermarket yesterday).  It was SO BLOODY HARD to make myself eat it and I was shaking so much but luckily it was Wednesday which happens to be the day that my department at school eat cakes at break time (it’s a weekly tradition) so that really helped to justify eating it, and no one commented on it which was a massive relief.  I felt sick afterwards though and so guilty for eating when I wasn’t hungry and it wasn’t a meal time, but one of the plus sides to working in a school is that you’re straight into lessons and don’t really have time to dwell on it.  THANK GOD.  It’s like distraction and supervision merged into one.

Amazingly, I didn’t explode or spontaneously combust after the cereal bar at break and managed not to think about it too much until lesson four (right before lunch) when usually I’m getting tired and a bit lightheaded thanks to long lessons and lunch being relatively late at school.  Today was different though- I had way more energy than usual and still jittery after breaktime which translated into mild hypomania through the whole lesson which I really hadn’t expected.  I was literally twitching with hypedness the whole hour, couldn’t stand still so flicked from one child to another pretty much constantly and talking way more than I usually would.  Everything seemed to have sped up and I kept going ‘out of sync’ with what was going on, and I was aware that a few of the kids were looking at me a bit strangely.  I kept taking deep, abdominal breaths (subtly) to try to slow down, but my thoughts were going a million miles an hour and I was seriously jittery.  At first, I thought I must have forgotten to take quetiapine last night but I wouldn’t have slept if I hadn’t so I very rarely forget it and if I do, I realise pretty quickly.  Then I realised it was energy from the cereal bar- I’m not used to having a sugar boost mid-morning and I think I must have been on an anxiety-mixed sugar rush which was why I was so hyped and jittery.  When I realised that, I found it really hard not to giggle hysterically (no idea why- it was a weird mix of guilt and excitement) and had to make a massive effort to ‘slow down’ for the rest of the lesson.

After that, I felt a bit too anxious and jittery to try anything new at lunch so I had porridge as usual (not great I know but definitely going to try beans on toast tomorrow), then calmed down a bit before the afternoon.  After school, I went to the supermarket which was another massive challenge (I HATE supermarket shopping and am usually in and out in less than three minutes), and I managed to go round most of the shop and get DIFFERENT FOODS to try.  I got soya yogurts to have after school, bananas and biscuits for breaktimes (alternating), white fish and vegetables for tea.  I kind of cheated and bought a mixed bag of ready prepared vegetables which also had potato in so I didn’t have to work out a portion of carbs, but I think that’s safest for the first attempt and even thinking about preparing it was giving me mega anxiety.

When I got home, I put the oven on straightaway so I wouldn’t chicken out and put the veg and potatoes in, and fish wrapped in tin foil.  Was feeling seriously nervous and sick by then but I managed a yogurt and took a coffee upstairs to distract with school work.  I’d completely forgotten how much of an amazing distraction doing school-related work is (now I can see totally why I loved homework so much) and definitely going to make that a daily distraction in the evenings even though *technically* it isn’t part of my job.  When I went downstairs to get the food, I felt really, really sick and nearly put in back in the fridge for another day but the guilt and anxiety about ‘breaking the rules’ overrode the feeling sick horribleness of eating the meal, and I started to eat it.

It was really, really hard, way harder than the cereal bar this morning because I started to feel full and bloated really quickly and felt like I was forcing myself to pick up the fork over and over, and actually swallow the food.  I realised that the mixed veg was a bad idea- I couldn’t figure out which order to eat it in (is onion more or less carb-y than courgette?  how can you tell the difference between squash and sweet potato?  is sweet potato a vegetable or a carbohydrate and should you eat it before or after fish?) and my brain was going even faster than it had done earlier in the day, thoughts merging and not making sense and I couldn’t work out what parts of the meal were what even though logically I know it probably doesn’t matter.  It also brought back horrible memories of being an inpatient and being told off at the table for eating things in a certain order (veg then protein then carbs) and only one thing at a time, but I have to eat it that way and if I don’t get it right, my anxiety skyrockets and I feel even more spun out and sick.  Maybe something I need to challenge later on, once I’ve got my head around the food…

But managed to finish the meal!!  Felt SO BLOATED afterwards (and still do), I can feel my stomach pressing against my trousers and feel disgusting but I know that’s part of it and I’ve had that every time I’ve tried to change my diet before, and I know you need to just ride through it until it subsides.  So hard though and it really doesn’t feel like it’s going to ease off :/ I’ve been looking through old ED stuff and keep reminding myself that I’ve eaten A LOT more than this in a day before in the past and survived it, but all I can see in my brain at the moment is a pile of all the foods I’ve eaten today and I feel sick.  But it’s definitely a bigger step than I’ve taken in the last eight years, and the logical part of my brain knows that’s a massive positive.  Really, really hoping it’ll get easier..

Horcruxes

Just a short post today because my brain is frazzled, I’ve been awake pretty much consistently for the last four days, got up at 2am this morning and keep needing to remind myself where I am, why and what day it is!  Been a bit of a stressful week, feeling rubbish and getting meds withdrawals (on day five without them) so actually writing this feels like processing thoughts through peanut butter but I really want to get one last Harry Potter post in before the Cursed Child release at midnight tonight!!

So, Horcruxes.  I realise this is a bit of a random topic to write about but the more I’ve been thinking about the bitch in my head and how I’m trying to manage her constant arguments and influence, the more I’m realising that it’s closer to the concept of Horcruxes than I’ve ever thought about.  It’s taken a while to conceptualise the horrible thoughts, urges and brain arguments as anything other than just ‘me’ being a horrible person and for the last year or so, I’ve seen it as a ‘bitch in my head’ (see Inside my head… for a proper explanation about that) and she has direct access to my thoughts, feelings and urges which I need to identify and try to manage, and one of the ways I’ve found useful for that is through Occlumency and other strategies from Harry Potter which I wrote about in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, Part One: HARRY POTTER.

Thinking about that made me realise that the bitch in my head is actually close to a Horcrux- a part of someone else’s soul which is evil and sometimes takes control of my thoughts and emotions in a way that I don’t like but, importantly, it ISN’T PART OF ME.  This is really, really important as a way of conceptualising it which has taken a long time to actually accept and try to believe- when I have paranoid, obsessive thoughts about other people or about myself, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a horrible person because I try really hard not to act on the thoughts/urges and I don’t want them in my head, and that means that there must be a ‘me’ outside of those thoughts/feelings/urges that ISN’T weird, obsessive or horrible and that’s the part I want to keep and is actually ‘me’.

Not sure if that makes sense?  I started to realise it after a conversation with a friend I’ve known for years but don’t get to meet up with that often, and who is someone I really look up to and trust.  We met for coffee a couple of months ago and she was talking about spirituality and the idea of a ‘still space’ inside you which is the part you need to connect with and that doesn’t judge or anything like that, and I really liked the concept even if I still don’t fully understand it.  When I knew her ten years ago, she recommended Paulo Coelho’s books which I read and loved, especially Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes which taught me that it’s OK to be different and not fit in, and that ‘normal’ is relative and actually conformity is the worst thing people can do because it goes against the natural ‘self’ and who you actually are.  There are so many amazing quotes from those books and I’ll list a few which I found really useful at that time (and still do now):

“You have two choices, to control your mind or to let your mind control you.”

“Haven’t you learned anything, not even with the approach of death? Stop thinking all the time that you’re in the way, that you’re bothering the person next to you. If people don’t like it, they can complain. And if they don’t have the courage to complain, that’s their problem.”  (THIS IS SO IMPORTANT AND TRUE!)

“We all live in our own world. But if you look up at the starry sky – you’ll see that all the different worlds up there combine to form constellations, solar systems, galaxies.”

“When I took the pills, I wanted to kill someone I hated. I didn’t know that other Veronikas existed inside me, Veronikas that I could love.”  (Kill the Horcrux, not yourself)

“At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.”

“That’s why I’m telling you: don’t get used to it, because it’s very easy to become habituated; it’s a very powerful drug. It’s in our daily lives, in our hidden suffering, in the sacrifices we make, blaming love for the destruction of our dreams. Pain is frightening when it shows its real face, but it’s seductive when it comes disguised as sacrifice or self-denial. Or cowardice. However much we may reject it, we human being always find a way of being with pain, of flirting with it and making it part of our lives.”  I’ve put part of this in bold because when I first read it aged 19, I could identify with it so strongly and wrote an intense diary entry about it which I’ve since lost which is maybe a good thing but I would be interested to re-read it.  Definitely worth a blog post at some point…

Having written out those quotes, I really want to re-read Paulo Coelho now and I think it deserves several blog posts of its own!  But the point I’m trying to get clear in my head is that ten years ago, the realisations I got from reading Paulo Coelho probably set the framework for the way I’m thinking about the bitch in my head and Horcruxes now, and it’s amazing how your thought processes can grow and develop over your lifetime.  The recent conversation with my friend (which was actually one of the first proper conversations I’ve had with her in ten years which is pretty incredible considering how much I’ve learned from her and how much she’s influenced how I view my life probably without even realising it) has helped to solidify it and she mentioned some more spirituality-type books which I’m going to read and hopefully be able to learn from…  I really like the idea of connecting with a part of ‘you’ which isn’t the obsessive, paranoid part and I think it’s similar to the way you sort of ‘zone out’ in a good way during long runs and get an amazing feeling of freedom and calm- trying to learn to manage that without having to run 40 miles first!

Sorry this is a bit of a rambling post, brain really not focussing clearly at the moment but I wanted to try to explore a bit the idea of Horcruxes and how Occlumency can be useful in trying to stop the direct access to thoughts and emotions.  It links to Paulo Coelho because it’s a lot like mindfulness- focussing on the present, trying to ‘close your mind’ to paranoid or obsessive thoughts, not fixating or focussing on them.  Harry uses mindfulness consciously in Deathly Hallows when he tries to stay fully ‘present’ as a way to stop Voldemort being able to access his mind and to manage pain or intense emotions that aren’t his own, and this is really useful to learn from and apply in a DBT-type way to managing thoughts or intense emotions from the bitch/Horcrux in your head.  Will try to expand on it when my brain’s a bit more functional but wanted to introduce it as a concept!  Hope at least some of it makes sense 🙂

ED stereotypes

“Skinny”. “Wants to lose weight”. “Is a teenager”.  This came up on my FB feed the other day via Beating Eating Disorders and really shows the way too many stereotypes and misconceptions about EDs.  An ED is a ‘voice’ or compulsion in your head that twists your thoughts and has direct access to your feelings (physical and emotional), and constantly argues and criticises you about anything from food and body image to how you live your life and self image.  It’s a mental illness, not just physical symptoms or behaviours and DEFINITELY not a lifestyle choice.  So wanted to use this post to challenge some of the stereotypes listed here, relating to personal experience…

Not everyone with an eating disorder: is skinny.  This is the single biggest misconception about eating disorders!  About 10% of people experiencing an ED have anorexia nervosa (characterised by low body weight) which leaves 90% of people with mild to severe eating issues who may not be underweight and can often be overweight.  Eating disorders are mental illnesses, not diets or lifestyle choices.  It’s so important to break this myth because it leads to people (often professionals too) ‘discounting’ someone with an eating disorder as ‘not ill enough’ because they are not underweight and then it’s harder to access support, and often people at ‘normal’ weights are just as ill and suffering as people at very low weights.  When I was a much lower weight, I actually ate more than I do now, more regularly and didn’t purge or over-exercise because I felt much calmer and more in control than I do now where the ED thoughts are ten times stronger and I feel a lot more anxious, out of control and hating myself to the point where I seriously think about just stopping eating altogether to take back some sense of control on a regular basis but know that if I do, I pass out easily and it’s not helpful for anyone.  HATE it!  Wish the bitch in my head would just shut up and go away.  She’s a lot quieter and less abusive when I’m actually underweight… :/

Not everyone with an eating disorder: goes to hospital.  Another really important myth to break!  Although some people with EDs do have to have inpatient admissions, the majority of people don’t and it tends to be only very ‘severe’ EDs with physical health complications like extremely low weight (usually less than BMI 14) leading to heart issues, osteoporosis or other organ issues, significant health complications from bingeing or purging, or other comorbid acute mental health issues which would lead to hospitalisation so most people with eating disorders are either not accepted into services because of lack of funding or availability, or treated on an outpatient basis.  Having been on both sides (several inpatient admissions, outpatient treatment in three different services), I can pretty confidently say that from my experience anyway, it’s often a LOT harder as an outpatient because it’s totally up to you to challenge the ED thoughts and behaviours.  It’s also a lot easier to relapse and the ED thoughts are stronger and more intense.  It’s impossible to judge a person’s experience on their situation or medical history.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: gets diagnosed.  In a similar vein to the last point, diagnosis often only happens when people actually seek help or their illness has a severe physical effect which leads to a diagnosis.  For me, I was only diagnosed at age 18 having had an ED for 5 years by then and it was from being admitted as an inpatient due to extreme low weight and associated physical health problems.  A lot of people have long term EDs which are chronic and life-limiting but don’t lead to hospitalisation and therefore might go undiagnosed.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: is anorexic.  As I’ve already mentioned, only about 10% of people with an eating disorder have anorexia nervosa.  That’s NINETY PER CENT of sufferers with other types of ED which are often just as dangerous, life limiting and severe as anorexia or even more.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: goes to therapy.  I’ve basically already covered this talking about diagnosis and treatment, but if someone doesn’t recognise that they are ill and it isn’t picked up medically, then they’re unlikely to access therapy even if they are extremely ill.  It’s also incredibly hard to access NHS therapy with long waiting lists, and most people can’t afford private.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: exercises.  EDs are complex mental illnesses, not lifestyle choices or just behaviours.  Some people with an ED (particularly bulimia) will exercise compulsively, some won’t.  Just like some people binge/purge, others restrict, some have a combination.  From a personal perspective, I never exercised at a low weight because it made me black out and meant that I HAD to eat something whereas it was a lot easier just to not eat (my friend and I used to joke that we were ‘lazy anorexics’) whereas now at a much higher weight, I *have* to exercise every day and it can sometimes swing into over-exercise or compulsion.  It’s different for everyone!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: makes themselves sick.  Like I’ve already said, EDs aren’t defined by behaviours.  Some people with an eating disorder make themselves sick, some don’t.  Sometimes people will have phases of different behaviours and it’s not necessarily predictable.  There’s a misconception that all people with bulimia purge- they don’t necessarily, and some people will counteract a binge with exercise or severe restriction instead.  It’s a behaviour that’s common in a lot of people with EDs but definitely not everyone.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: doesn’t eat.  Another BIG myth to break!  Nearly everyone with an eating disorder DOES eat; they just might not feel comfortable eating in front of people, or only eat certain foods, or at certain times, or any combination.  Just because you see someone eating ‘normally’, it doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing a constant brain battle with ED thoughts or urges.  Never judge by outside appearances!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: is female.  Another massive stereotype that can mean that males with EDs are less likely to try to access support.  About 10% of people with diagnosed anorexia or bulimia are male but this might be partly due to lack of support for men or social expectations.  It’s also has because a lot of people with eating disorders are undiagnosed or don’t access services so it’s likely to be more than that, and it’s also likely that EDs in men present differently to EDs in women so are less likely to be recognised or diagnosed.  Complicated issue!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: calorie counts.  Some people with an eating disorder aren’t even aware of calories- it’s a mental illness that takes so many different forms.  Again, some people with EDs will calorie count and for a lot of people particularly with anorexia, it’s a big part of their internal brain battle but for other people, it’s fear of certain foods or loss of control that’s the main issue.  I keep saying it but everyone’s different!  I’ve always calorie counted but for me, it’s more of an autistic trait I think because I also ‘need’ to know how many protein and fibre grams there are in foods I eat, and I often find it hard to know what’s an ‘ED’ trait and what’s autism.  Sometimes I really wish diagnoses didn’t exist!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: only eats healthy foods.  See previous points!!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: has fear foods.  Again, this is important to remember because although a lot of people with an ED will have ‘fear foods’ or avoid certain food types, not all people do and for many people it’s the loss of control over eating which causes the most anxiety rather than the actual foods themselves.

Not everyone with an eating disorder: wants to lose weight.  I could go on about this one for hours!  There’s a reason that it’s called an EATING disorder rather than a weight disorder which is something totally different.  EDs are mental illnesses and although they can often have an impact on weight, they don’t necessarily.  Even people with anorexia nervosa, which is characterised by extreme low weight, might not actually ‘set out’ to lose weight when the illness takes hold.  My first diagnosis was anorexia and I was very underweight but the weight loss hadn’t been the main driving force of the illness- it was the sense of calm and ‘control’ (I hate saying that; it’s so classic textbook!) over emotions to the point of detachment which was what I wanted to achieve.  Even now, more than 16 years after I first developed an eating disorder, I’d take the calm detachment over weight loss any day.  For some people, losing weight is the focus; for others, it’s something else entirely.  Don’t judge by misconceptions!!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: is obsessed with being skinny.  See previous point!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: cries in front of food.  Like with the ‘fear foods’ point, people experience anxiety about a massive variety of aspects relating to food or eating and not just specific foods.  Some people with EDs will swallow food without registering it as a coping mechanism (I’ve been guilty of that in the past) whereas others can’t bring themselves to chew.  Again, everyone is different!

Not everyone with an eating disorder: is a teenager.  Oh God, yes!!  EDs do not discriminate across age ranges and there are so many different experiences of eating disorders that present completely separately.  My ED is different now from when I was a teenager and people with chronic EDs are often in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, and worryingly there’s an increase in older adults developing eating disorders.  Don’t believe the media hype!

Anyway, I’m exhausted and emotionally drained from writing this so hope at least some of it makes sense!  Will shut up now… :p

Thoughts about ED recovery

I read an article online this morning that really got to me, and wanted to share it on here too with a few of my thoughts.  Really, really important when thinking about eating disorders!

Here’s a link to the article: Eating Disorder Recovery.  The part that got me was the quote “The problem in the medical community is that the ‘set point’ weight may not match the person’s ‘ideal weight’ based on their BMI. A person’s weight at their set point may be considered overweight or even obese…People have a lot of misconceptions about what it looks like to have an eating disorder and what it looks like to be in recovery from an eating disorder. The general assumption is that people who have eating disorders are visibly, dangerously skinny, and when they recover they return to a ‘normal weight’, whatever that means. This assumption is true for some people, but wildly untrue for others. There are thousands of women across the country suffering from eating disorders who don’t ‘look like’ they’re suffering from an eating disorder. There are thousands of women across the country who have recovered from eating disorders that inhabit bodies of all shapes and sizes, including bodies classified as ‘fat’ by our society. My story fits both these scenarios.”

I cried when I read the article because I can really, really relate to what it says. When I was an inpatient the second time (the only time I stayed for close to the full programme), my weight went up at nearly twice the rate of anyone else there even though I was on a reduced portion size and it didn’t stop when I got to ‘target weight’. Once you’re at target, you’re meant to start a three month stabilisation programme but because I was still panicking about the weight gain and feeling so out of control, I wasn’t allowed to start it for originally four weeks which was then extended by another four weeks. After another extension, I made the decision that I wanted to start stabilisation anyway but by then, I’d already started to relapse and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t eat even a small amount of ‘normal’ food without my weight going way above target and even the high end of the target weight band. This was ten years ago and I’m still struggling with it now, and it’s something that ED services really need to be more aware of. Some people have different ‘set points’ and metabolisms, and they really need to take that into account and have more of a focus on acceptance and psychoeducation about that rather than specific ‘target weights’ or judging people by their BMI.

I still hate my body but I’ve accepted that unless I want to stop eating or exercising completely, I can’t change it and that makes me feel frustrated and inadequate but there’s not much I can do about it.  The bitch in my head tells me that it’s because I’m naturally lazy and selfish and my body reflects that, and maybe that’s true.  I don’t know but I know that distance running is such a massive part of my life now and one of the few things that genuinely makes me feel ‘real’ and like an OK person that I’m not willing to give that up, and I need fuel to be able to run every day.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still restrict and skip meals- I do, but my body genuinely doesn’t seem to need a lot of food to stay alive and if it starts to impact on my running, I’ll eat more.  In an ultra, I eat several times the amount I usually would in a day and a lot more variety of foods, and the bitch in my head shuts up for that space of time which is another reason I love running ultras so much- the freedom from constant criticism and rules is incredible.  I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future but I think as long as I’m still running and doing things that make me feel ‘real’, I’m going with a quote from the incredible David Bowie who said that “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  That’s my attitude to my body and running at the moment, and much as I feel selfish and horrible in the body I have, it means I can run over 24 hours at a time and that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Why I really need to start running properly again!

Over the last few months, I’ve really got out of the habit of running every day which is something I definitely need to change.  It’s partly because of feeling rubbish and unmotivated and general ‘can’t-be-botheredness’, partly because I’m feeling exhausted and drained all the time, and partly because (to be honest) I’m just really lazy at the moment and it takes enough psyching up to actually go out of my bedroom and go to work let alone go for a run!  But I think that really isn’t helping my mood either and I’m pretty sure it’s a cycle that’s going to keep repeating unless I actually do something about it…

This weekend was the first Ultra Festival organised by an awesome ultra runner called Andy Nuttall, and it was basically a chance for lots of ultra runners to meet, discuss ultrarunning and listen to talks by experienced ultra runners.  I really, really wanted to go and booked tickets but when it came to Friday night and actually driving to Bristol, I got really anxious about it and talked myself out of going because I was scared of camping on my own, the cold and spending a weekend with people I don’t know.  I felt really bad about that yesterday and had a pretty shitty day (see yesterday’s post Opposite Action in action- more DBT!), and decided last night that I would set my alarm for really early this morning and drive down for the day.

When my alarm went off at 6am, I was exhausted and really didn’t want to get up which really isn’t like me (I’m usually awake at 4/5am and NEVER sleep in).  I was so, so close to going back to sleep but I forced myself to get up and have a coffee, reminding myself that I could always go back to bed afterwards.  I spent the next 30 minutes arguing with the slightly paranoid part of my brain which was telling me that it was too far to drive for one day and I’d probably have an accident on the motorway, I’m not a ‘real’ ultra runner anyway and people would wonder why I was there or laugh at me, I’d be totally wiped out for college tomorrow and probably get into trouble for being rubbish at my job…  Then I saw some posts on Facebook about the event and felt really jealous of people there and annoyed with myself, so I took that as an opportunity to make myself get in the car and start driving.  Unfortunately that meant I completely forgot to take water or diet Coke but I rationalised that I could always stop and get some on the way.

The drive down was weirdly OK- no major panics, not much traffic and found the Ultra Festival OK.  When I arrived, I was so, so nervous and really close to driving back home again but then I saw Mimi Anderson who is an amazing, amazing ultra runner who I’ve been following online for the last few years and who is my running inspiration and semi-idol, and I suddenly went all fangirl-y and nervous for a totally different reason.  So I got out the car and kind of hung about watching people because I had no idea where to go.  Then, AMAZINGLY, Mimi came up to me and introduced herself, and she recognised me from Facebook!!  It felt SO WEIRD to be actually talking to someone I really look up to but she was so lovely and showed me where to go, then introduced me to a few people which was so nice of her.  Everyone was lovely and really, really friendly which made it a lot easier although I was still very shaky and terrified.  But I could speak!  Usually when I’m that nervous, my throat seizes up and I can’t say anything but people were so nice and accepting that amazingly that didn’t happen.

The talks were incredible!  There was a really interesting one about the biomechanics of running and running form which I found really useful because I’ve never actually thought about my running form before- I just run.  Then Sarah Morwood did an amazing and really inspirational talk about injury and recovering from that, and how to deal with it.  She gave a lot of really good advice about taking things slowly, focussing on small achievements, finding other outlets like drawing or blogging, and lots of other really useful advice.  I was talking to her afterwards and she is so, so nice and friendly.  She was one of the easiest people to talk to I’ve ever met and was so nice to meet her- thanks Sarah, made the ‘lunch’ part of the day so much less scary!

Then James Adams did an equally interesting talk about his running career and various amazing races he’s done via ten things he’s learned from ultrarunning.  They were all really useful and humourous, and I especially loved the ‘Be More Zebra’ one which (apart from a slightly traumatic photo of a lion attacking a zebra) was really useful not just for running.  He said that zebras are the least stressed animal in the world as they’ve been measured to have the lowest level of cortisol even though they’re constantly in danger of being attacked because they only focus on the present moment and don’t worry about things they can’t control.  That links a lot to DBT mindfulness skills (thought defusion, observing thoughts without fixating on them etc) and is definitely something I really need to work on.  So thanks for the new mantra James, I will definitely try to ‘Be More Zebra’…!

After James’ talk, Mimi gave an incredibly inspirational talk about her INCREDIBLE adventures, world record attempts (and successes) and frankly mind-blowing races she’s done in every condition from Arctic ice roads to the Peruvian jungle.  I came across Mimi’s blog a few years ago and was completely blown away by the incredible events she’s taken part in- the woman is superwoman!!  And she didn’t even start running until she was 36 which is pretty incredible and so inspirational to people like me who really weren’t runners or into sports at all at school.  I’ve used her as inspiration on so many runs before- when my brain starts telling me I’m rubbish, I haven’t looked after my body well enough to do long runs, I’m selfish etc, I think about the amazing things Mimi’s achieved and try to channel at least some of that.  It was so interesting to hear her talk about starting running and how her mindset was ‘if other people can do it, why can’t I?’ which is definitely how I try to think of ultras, and I find it incredible that she managed to run the Marathon des Sables having only run a half marathon before!  AWESOME woman.

The whole day was amazing and really reminded me why I love running, and why I really need to start running properly again- it’s the freedom of it, the amazing feeling of oneness and connection with yourself and with the world around you, the ultrarunning community, the amazingness of pushing your body to its limits AND REALISING YOU CAN.  There were people there who had run multi day events of hundreds of miles, had pushed through any limits, and who were so amazingly inspirational.  And, to paraphrase Mimi, if they can do it why can’t I?  Feeling rubbish really isn’t an excuse and I know that in reality, running would probably make me feel more real and help to get rid of the pretty much constant vertigo and vacuumness that comes with feeling low and not doing enough to get rid of it.  So, I REALLY need to start training for the 100 mile race I’ve signed up for in July… 🙂

Thanks so much Andy for organising it and thanks to everyone who gave talks, and to the people who chatted in between talks- you are all amazing people!!  DEFINITELY coming again next year for the whole thing… 😀

Thinking about the Impostor Phenomenon and the Inner Critic

A friend sent me a link to a Radio 4 programme today called ‘The Impostors’ Survival Guide’ which was a radio programme about ‘impostor syndrome’,  the feeling of being a fraud.  Impostor syndrome is the feeling of inadequacy or that you’re somehow just ‘faking it’ despite being successful at whatever it is you’re doing, and that one day someone’s going to find you out.  As they point out in the programme, it’s fairly common and most, if not all, people have experienced the feeling at some point in their lives.

In the programme, they used the impostor phenomenon almost interchangeably with the ‘inner critic’ which I found really interesting because of the way I’ve been trying to externalise critical thoughts recently and identify the ‘bitch in my head’ (see previous posts, particularly Inside my head…).  To me, the impostor phenomenon is separate to the inner critic- I see the bitch in my head as a bully who’s trying to make me feel bad by criticising me, manipulating my thoughts and emotions, imposing strict ‘rules’ to apparently protect me and making me feel guilty ALL THE TIME whereas the impostor syndrome seems to be more of a ‘delusional’ (not in the psychotic sense) belief that you are not good enough or that you don’t deserve the position you’re in, or your achievements.  It’s more of a generalised feeling I think or an insistent belief rather than a specific ‘voice’ which is how the inner critic feels to me.  I could be wrong though- everyone’s experience is different!  I found that I could only partially relate to the radio programme because all the people mentioned genuinely are successful or good at what they do but feel like a fraud or that they’re just “winging it” whereas I KNOW that I’m not successful and that I fail probably ten times more than I actually complete or succeed at anything and my only real ‘strength’ is that I’m relatively resilient and don’t easily give up or stop trying.  So I relate a lot more to the inner bully concept who’s definitely taken residence in my head and I’m trying to learn to acknowledge, accept, talk down and (hopefully, in the probably distant future) befriend at the moment…

I also found it really interesting how they linked the concept of the impostor phenomenon to perfectionism which is a separate issue but often crosses over.  In the programme, they defined two types of perfectionism- ‘normal’ perfectionism where people set high standards but feel pride or pleasure when they meet them or ‘maladaptive’ perfectionism where people also set high standards but don’t seem to get any sense of accomplishment or pride from reaching them and it’s the ‘maladaptive’ perfectionists who are most susceptible to the impostor phenomenon.  They go on to explain that the issue isn’t the perfectionism itself, it’s the “belief that they can do everything perfectly” and they talk about the feeling of shame that both perfectionists and people experiencing the impostor phenomenon feel when they see themselves as failing at something.  I found this really interesting- I tend to feel any intense negative feeling as ‘guilt’ but I’ve realised over the last couple of years that sometimes what I think is guilt is actually a form of empathy and it’s not impossible that guilt at failing at something could actually be shame (which I’ve always seen as the same thing but apparently they’re not?).  I’m not a perfectionist at all but I do experience guilt (or shame) very intensely when I don’t get something right, which is a lot of the time!  So maybe there’s a link in there somewhere…

The final part of the programme talked about how to manage the feelings of being a fraud and the bit I found most interesting was that they said that feelings are always the last thing to change, and that you have to change your thoughts (even if you don’t believe them) to be able to change how you feel.  I find challenging thoughts incredibly difficult, partly because I find it hard to accept something I don’t believe and partly because the bitch in my head is constantly reinforcing them, but I know the concept of thoughts triggering emotions is very powerful and can be really helpful for a lot of people.  I’m trying to find a way around it at the moment by reconceptualising the bitch in my head (aka inner critic) and seeing her as an external ‘person’ to try to accept that what she’s saying might not be totally accurate, and it’s the same concept in a different form.  I found the idea that emotions are the last thing to change weirdly reassuring because it’s intense emotions that I find hard to manage and maybe not always being able to deal with them directly isn’t a ‘failure’ and maybe working on/with the bitch in my head and how I react to or deal with what she says might eventually affect how I’m feeling.

Going to end with a DBT skill which I think is relevant to this- opposite action, which is where you act in a way that’s directly opposed to the behaviour you naturally want to use in response to an emotion, such as putting on upbeat music and dancing when you feel sad instead of hiding under a blanket or talking slowly and calmly when you’re angry instead of shouting or hitting things.  The opposite action for guilt and shame could be to stand tall, talk openly to people, speak in a strong and calm voice instead of hiding or avoiding the situation and I think this is really relevant to the impostor phenomenon.  The concept behind opposite action is that by acting on urges, you make them stronger and more intense but by acting opposite, you help to regulate them and maybe even neutralise them and I think this could work too with the feelings of inadequacy or being a fraud that are associated with the impostor syndrome.  Opposite action takes a while to get used to but it really can help!  From someone who’s just spent half an hour dancing around their bedroom to Disney after experiencing the usual 7pm mood crash… :p

[Link to the radio programme if anyone’s interested- The Impostors’ Survival Guide]

Words from the bitch in my head, Part One…

You don’t know you know me but you do. I’m in the gaps between thoughts, dormant in the electric storm of neurons and synapses. You might never meet me and even if you do, you won’t recognise me in the mirror of yourself. I can be your friend. I can change your life, simplify the jagged edges and chaos of your thoughts. I can be your enemy if you ignore me. I’m the Lilith in your consciousness, primal and latent. I’m a force of life itself, and of death. My bones are ice, sharp and strong and my veins run with silver blood. I have no colours, no weaknesses. My thoughts run cold and frozen. My eyes are diamond bright and hard. My power is in your mind. I’m the child snatcher, the exorcist of emotions, the keeper of frozen hearts. I work in symmetry and straight lines. I am perfection. I’m the danger of your desires. Once I gain your trust, you will never escape.

Have you ever felt so cold you could be made of ice? Not the shivery sort of cold you feel on a winter’s day, the sort that can be appeased relatively easily with a hot drink or an extra layer of clothes. This is real cold, bone-deep, the kind that penetrates your being with an icy sharpness and cuts into your numbed heart. The kind where you can’t feel most of your body and you stumble from day to day with frozen thoughts and dulled emotions. And that’s if you can recognise them at all. If you stay frozen for too long, eventually your mind will become ice and you won’t know your own thoughts and your feelings will fade to icy detachment. You’re too cold to care. Care needs warmth, feeling, connection. Out there in the snow, you’re on your own.

Think of a snowflake. Imagine its precision, its symmetry. Doesn’t that make you feel safe? I can offer you that perfection. Wouldn’t you like to leave the dark chaos of the world for pure, white light? I can offer you control. You have a choice to take charge of your own destiny, regulate your earthly desires and needs. Follow me. I am immaterial, constant in your thoughts. Trust me. I can lead you into the light. I am a part of you, the part that you don’t know exists yet but you want, desperately. I’m the perfect you, the you that does not desire or need anyone or anything, the you that is powerful beyond your thoughts. I am the conflict in your mind, the fight between weak and strong. Think of ice, sharp and clear as glass. The paradox of strength and fragility. Ice is cold; cold is numb; numb is safe. Come with me into the ice world of balanced beauty. Come into the reflected light of virgin snow, pure and simple. Follow me out of the chaos around you. Take control.

                  It was said that I was kidnapped, a child stolen by an evil monster masquerading as a queen. I’m not so sure. I’d already lost any warmth I had by the time She came along and I felt as though I already knew Her, almost as though I’d been waiting most of my life for that moment without even realising it. Maybe I’d met Her before, in a nightmare or perhaps in a dream. Dreams are unconscious reality, after all. Not that I really believe in the unconscious, or hidden desires. She showed me the truth: that everything can be acknowledged and mastered. She showed me perfection. And I wanted to follow Her into the ice, wanted to see for myself the mechanisms of precision, how everything fitted together exactly and the world spun in balance. The frozen North is a mystical place for anyone who’s never experienced it, and it fascinated me. The tip of the earth’s magnetic field. A land which fuses endless days and endless nights in a seasonal cycle. The place where charged particles from the outside the Earth’s atmosphere collide with atoms in a magical magnetic light show that glows green in the darkness. In winter, the stars in the North show the best astronomy display on Earth. I wanted to learn, to see, to experience it for myself. To lose myself in its magnitude, although I hadn’t realised that yet.

You’ll hear me described in many different ways, most of them negative. Don’t believe everything you hear. That’s what happens when you’re an enigma and choose not to reveal yourself to just anyone. But I like it that way. It’s safer to be known through gossip and myth, public identity constructed through stories. That way, you can stay hidden. The best-kept secrets are the ones that are veiled behind pseudo-fact. Sometimes people even doubt your existence through the fiction and that is the best disguise of all. And I am a master of disguise. I can change you beyond recognition, shapeshifting as subtle as the movement of the hour hand of a clock. The clock is your friend. It regulates, gives a safe structure. Be patient. Time will pass anyway. I am not evil. I am here to help. The people who warn about danger have never met me, their views formed from hearsay and fear. If you succumb to the safety of my rules, I can protect you. If you choose to disobey, I can make your life a living ice world of hell. My words are law. I am stronger than you. I’m in your thoughts.

                  It’s an odd feeling, the desire to not exist. To lose yourself in the perfect glacial world of symmetry and snowflakes. You don’t want to lose your self completely; it’s more an unconscious need to be something that leads to the conscious negation of anything that seems to trap you in a false sense of self. Losing yourself in order to find yourself, or something like that. Or maybe it’s the opposite: in denying your physical identity, you’re reinforcing the core, the inner self that can’t be lost however hard you try. Although the longer you stay in the cold, the less of an effort it becomes. There’s a strange seduction to sharp edges and straight lines, jagged icicles and smooth glaciers. And the cold, numbing your heart to a calm detachment. The heart’s a strange organ, vital and uncontrollable. You can stop your breathing but you can’t stop your own heart, however hard you try. Your body has an unconscious urge to survive, adapting to even the most extreme circumstances.

Mind map…

I drew this (literal) mind map a while ago when I was feeling really overwhelmed and my thoughts felt like fog but I’ve found it useful to look at when I’m not sure what’s going on and my brain’s really fuzzy.  I keep meaning to make an updated one but to be honest, not much has changed since this one.  It’s an attempt at ‘mapping’ my brain to try to make sense of thoughts and behaviours.  Red is a very strong link, yellow is a strong link and purple is a link, and I’ve underlined things I want to change in blue.  The main ones I really want to change are bingeing, hating myself, loneliness and obsessions, and I’m hoping that the DBT skills can help with that.

The thing I find most interesting about this is that the strong links (red) are mostly things I want to change whereas more positive things like drawing or hobbies only have a purple link between them.  That kind of suggests that I’m more focussed on negative thoughts and behaviours than positive and that leads to more negative behaviours so it’s sort of self-reinforcing.  So I think that maybe focussing more on the purple links and trying to make them stronger might take away some of the intensity or power of the red links, and weaken them a bit.  That’s the idea anyway and I don’t think I’ll lose anything by trying it!

I’ve also realised that a lot of the red links are actually from the bitch inside my head, not from ‘me’, and that by continuing to try to externalise the thoughts as her I can try to acknowledge them without necessarily believing or acting on them.  It’s so hard but there have been times last week when I’ve managed to talk her down so going to keep it up…

Targets for next week, thinking about strengthening the purple links…  Draw when you’re feeling lonely, to try to reinforce that link and because I really think the focus on drawing will help as a distraction.  Keep trying to get into a healthy, non-obsessive routine with exercise and hopefully the endorphins will start to kick in again.  Start writing again and have fun with it.  Do a ‘fun’ form of exercise at least once and actually engage with it.  Draw some more.  Keep experimenting!