It’s been a stressful week and I was already feeling fragile when I woke up this morning. Then I went and logged into twitter, saw stuff that made me feel even worse and, by 8.00am, I was in tears #selfcarefail.
Determined not to spend my day off crying, I decided to go out and buy a new kettle because the old one no longer makes good tea. I walked to the supermarket and got the kettle, but I was still crying.
Luckily, we live close to an old cemetery which is also a lovely nature reserve. If there’s one thing that can usually improve my mood, it’s looking for wildlife. This is probably because it puts me back in touch with the happiest times in my childhood. It worked and I came home feeling much better.
Here are a few (not very good) photos from my nature walk.
Common Blue butterfly
So beautiful and even bluer in real life.
There were lots of these guys fluttering around, but they were very difficult to photograph. This was as close as I could get.
I also saw plenty of meadow browns, large and small whites and one small skipper.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars
There were plenty of cinnabar moth caterpillars enjoying the rag wort plants in the cemetery.
I’m trying to deal with a lot of unprocessed grief at the moment and wanted to share a couple of things that I’ve found helpful.
This little video, Why grief is not something you have to get over offers a perspective that really makes sense to me. The counsellor in the video talks about how the therapeutic model for working with grief is shifting, from seeing grief as something that gets less over time, to something that’s always there, but that other aspects of your life can grow around. So, while the grief doesn’t go away, it isn’t so all-consuming. But you can dip back into it at certain times, which brings me to the next point.
@hallygrace posted a long thread on twitter about the concept of re-grieving. Hallygrace makes the point that grief can be a life-long emotional process and you are likely to experience it again and again, especially at significant moments (anniversaries, life milestones etc). Here’s the tough bit, you have to re-process it every time. It’ not a good idea to repress the feelings or shame yourself for having them.
- Visit my mother.
- Shop for food.
- Pick up voicemails from work.
- Look at my bank account online.
- Look at the tax website.
- Phone the energy company
- Attempt to cook.
After my partner had spent about an hour calming me down, she asked me to make this list so that I can look at it the day before my next therapy session.
I just took a big step in eating disorder recovery and got rid of the last of my “skinny clothes”. I’ve only ever been able to fit into these clothes during the times when I’ve been doing something extreme to reduce my weight. They’ve been lurking in my wardrobe for years, taunting me, whispering, “What a failure you are. If you only worked a bit harder, you could get into us again”. “Skinny clothes” is a euphemism really, it would be more honest to just call them my “eating disorder clothes”.
About a year ago I was getting really tired of the morning panic attacks and decided to dispose of all the clothes that were making me feel miserable about my body. I began the process of removing them, starting by bagging up the worst offenders and putting them out of sight for a few weeks, and then taking them to a charity shop when I felt ready.
Content note: post contains descriptions of eating disordered thoughts and feelings and discussion of my desire to lose weight.
My eating disorder has been getting worse ever since my father died. I manage not to act on the thoughts and feelings, at least most of the time, but they’re definitely getting more insistent. While I may be keeping the symptoms to a minimum, I’m obsessed with the idea of losing weight and feeling more sensitive to triggers than ever before.
Content note: description of self-harming behaviour
For a long time now I’ve felt deeply ashamed about some of the things I did during the time when I was experiencing the worst of my mental health problems. I’ve tried very hard to forget but I still find myself lying awake at night in a cold sweat of shame and horror, replaying it all in my head.
When I look back at that time in my life, I can see that it was characterised by an absolute inability to identify and cope with the strong emotions I was experiencing. I still struggle to identify emotions, but back then, well, the phrase “emotionally illiterate” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Because a lot of my emotional responses were based on past trauma, they were disproportionate to the events that were triggering them in the present. I was sort of aware of this at the time, but I didn’t understand what was happening or why. All I knew was that I was experiencing unbearable emotional pain. I felt like I had a volcano inside me that was always threatening to erupt and, when it did erupt, that I was utterly in its power. I couldn’t seem to control either the emotions I was feeling, or my own behaviour in response to them. The experience of being driven by emotions that you can’t even name is quite terrifying.
Depression snuck up on me and took over my life these last few weeks. I had so many things I wanted to do, blog posts to write, books to read, people to catch up with. Instead, I just about managed to do the essentials at work and stagger home in the evenings to sit on the sofa and watch Star Trek.
This particular bout of depression got me thinking about how to identify that I am depressed and then how to support myself through an attack. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that my own depression is probably transposed anger. Rage always seems close to the surface when I’m depressed, which suggests to me that it’s the underlying emotion in my case. Growing up, I had a lot to be angry about in my life, but middle-class girls are not allowed to express anger in healthy or assertive ways, so like a lot of them, I turned my anger against myself and, inevitably, depression, self-harm, and eating disorders followed. I hate the depression, but maybe it’s easier to cope with than facing up to my anger and the causes of that anger. Right now I’m dealing with the emotional fall-out from a very difficult holiday period which brought up a lot of issues around my family. In fact, I think I’m just starting to really get to grips with what really happened in my family, something that has only started to become possible since I’ve lost the buffer-zone represented by my father.