Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘Depression’

For Better after Worse

I mentioned recently that I’m reading Liz Gilbert’s Committed. She talks about her first marriage a bit, and the “mere” sadness that ended it. Obviously her sadness was not “mere” at all, or it wouldn’t have ended her marriage. It was grinding and pervasive and permanent and all-consuming.

Or so it seemed at the time.

I know many people who have become that sad – that trapped – by their marriages, and been infinitely happier when they left.

marriage vowHere’s the thing: I’ve been that sad in my marriage. I’ve had those days (weeks … months … years) where I honestly thought the only escape from my matrimonial hell would be divorce – or death.

Crying secretly, so no one finds out.

A hurt so real that it’s a physical pain that drives into your joints without relent.

And absolutely no prospect of light or joy on the horizon ever again.

Someone once told me that can sometimes happen in a marriage. And they told me it would pass.

I’ll admit that when I was buried in that mire, I didn’t let myself hope for a moment that it could possibly ever need, that anything could ever be good or right again with us.

But that dear, wise person was right. It passed. (More than once!)

one of the advantages of marriageRight now, we’re happier than we’ve ever been. And our relationship is deeper and more honest than ever before.

I don’t know if this heartbreaking, gut-wrenching agony is a natural part of marriage. I really hope it isn’t. But when I was there, I felt like I owed it to the love we had once, and the young and optimistic girl I once was, to see if – just maybe – my friend had the right of it and things could get better.

I certainly don’t think people should stay in a situation that is toxic in any way, whether it’s abuse of some kind, or it generates that numbing depression that slowly engulfs you in nothing from the inside out.

For me (for us) it was worth it to stick it out. And if it happens again, I hope I’ll remember the lesson.

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Black and White, Dark and Light

Suffocating
Drowning
Stuck.
Unable to move.
Deep grey fog engulfs me
and I cannot see the way.
How did I ever have hope
before?
How was there ever
any joy?
The world fails utterly to have meaning.
Not even black –
(that, at least, has a certain ebony elegance,
a dark and thrilling excitement) –
But no. Not for me.
Deep pitch is a luxury
I clearly don’t deserve.
The grey and countourless mist
permeates
my life
to its farthest reaches.
Flat.
Nothing has shape. Nothing has meaning.
Nothing is true.
As if the misery weren’t enough,
the sheer boredom
of
all
this
grey
threatens to overwhelm …
drown.
Suffocate.

Like a blanket fort,
warm and neutral and breathless
(and probably of my own making)
dark and quiet despair encloses me
in its familiar, ancient arms.

Light!
Someone lifts the lower edge
of the heavy grey drapes.
A laser-point of sharp white light
assaults my eyeballs.
I recoil …
for a moment …
and then I am awake.
The stupor dissipates so quickly
I doubt its very existence.
No matter, I don’t have time to contemplate the dark.
Everything is light!
Joy suffuses the earth with fireworks of light and colour and sound and happiness and productivity and being capable and achieving things and having things to say and saying them and doing things and being awesome, generally.

(This is me, truly.
(Surely?)
That dark and grey and lonely tortoise
lurking purposelessly in her shell …
that was just a short (and justifiable, right?)
detour
from the Me I Am.)

Never mind that.
Coffee!
I needs it.
Ooh, time to start running.
Let’s meet friends.
Let’s finish all the things
and find some more
to do.
Sleep?
Bah!
Who needs it?
There’s so much LIVING to do.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Run! Speak! See! EXPERIENCE!
The world is light and colour and joy and BEING!

Yes, this is me.
Truly.

Wait …
what’s that in the corner,
over there?

Excuse me,
has someone lost a bit of fog?
Only, it’s lying on the floor
messing things up
(and it surely isn’t mine).
Could you come and get it?
Only –
it’s getting bigger.

To be … and what to be

As I pondered my pathway to happiness the other night, and dug down into the root of who I am with my series of pointed questions, the second thing I considered was this:

5 things I want to be:

  1. A good wife
  2. Faithful to God
  3. A brilliant mother
  4. An inspirer of the downtrodden
  5. Good at what I do (this one deserves its own post)

After some serious soul-searching (ha! alliteration!) I admitted that id I could be faithful to God, growing in His Word, I would be a good and loving wife, a wise and brilliant mother, and an encourager.

So that’s my next step: confess my terrible attitude, my anger about my expectations not being met (whether they are “reasonable” or not), my seething hatred for everything around me – particularly those things that contribute to my imminent eviction and inability to feed my babies. Then get back to my daily time with God, catch up what I’ve missed, and above all, humbly meditate on His Word.

I started that yesterday, and today I read Proverbs 23, which really speaks to all that we are facing right now. As I confessed my pride and self-righteousness, my bitterness and anger, my envy and hatred, it was if the dark and twisty cobwebs cluttering my mind started to disintegrate, and I am beginning to make out the shadow of a plan, a purpose to all of this.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must hasten to explain that, even though I have laid these things on the altar – more than once in the last 24 hours – they are still there in the background, seething, percolating, waiting for the next set back to knock me off course. I find it very hard to stay on course, and while I know I can’t do it in my own strength – I need Him – I feel utterly alone in the effort. And everything else.

Be still and KNOW

Although, perhaps not utterly. For months, years even, I have been praying for a Godly woman to provide wise counsel and the right perspective, and last night I got that, long after I’d given up the hope of that prayer being answered.

Perhaps He does care about the state of my soul, after all.

Actions steps:

  • Achieve at least three items on my To Do list
  • Spend at least half an hour with the girls focused on something creative and fun
  • Spend time in prayer and reading God’s Word

Verses

By the bootstraps

Alright. Today’s the day. I have decided to be well, as of now. I made lists and asked pointed questions and devised schemes, and I think I have a solution. Even if what I think will work turns out to be wrong, at least I am doing something, on the pathway to getting it right.

And that’s good.

My first question was:

What five things about my life right now do I wish were different?

  1. I wish that, every month, we had enough. I wish I never had to lose another moment of sleep or joy worrying about whether there is enough in the fridge for my family for the day, or enough in the bank account for the rent and bills. (Don’t we all?)
  2. I wish my kids could get all the input and stimulation they need: music lessons, art lessons, dance classes and horse riding and swimming. Or even just one of these.
  3. I wish I spent more time with the girls.
  4. I wish we had insurance.
  5. I wish I was happy.

So, I can start with number five and just be happy. I know it’s not as easy as all that. But I also know that it is. I know I can pull up my boots, focus on my faith, count my blessings and choose joy. So I choose joy.

Just for today.

Tomorrow can take care of itself.

I have enough food to feed my family and myself. We all have warm, comfy clothes on, and the clothes are clean. And they (kinda) fit. I have the sound roof of a lovely home over my head. I have a computer with internet access. I even have coffee. Just for today, I have enough.

Tomorrow I will think about what I have then. And it will probably be at least as good.

I choose joy

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Thank God for my blessings
  2. Make a realistic To Do list and accomplish at lest five things on it.

VERSES:

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus

Where we live, April and May are Autumn months. Branches heavy with berries droop invitingly into our garden, luring deeply shaded birds to come and dance for our amusement.

These months are as heavily burdened with holidays as they are with fruit and birds and fat, lazy bugs. I sometimes think the months of April and May were politically wrangled to asphyxiate small businesses and home schooling families.

When I was a little girl, I loved the holidays. I loved learning, of course, but I always enjoyed the opportunity to do it at my own pace, in my own clothes, and in my own space. Now that I get to do that every single day, the shiny sheen of “days off” has tarnished and I crave predictable, repeatable routine. It acts like splints, keeping broken bones together, upright, in place.

Ah, routine. Predictable. Repeatable. Comfortable.

I know what you’re thinking about comfort zones, but when things fall apart, comfort zones can be very comforting.

Very comforting indeed.

Perhaps in the bleak midwinter lurking just around the next corner, a ray of comforting, familiar, warm routine will poke its cosy light into the grey every day.

We shall see.

Confessions of an anorexic – part 2

“Miss A—” pictured in 1866 and in 1870 after treatment. She was one of the earliest anorexia nervosa case studies. From the published medical papers of Sir William Gull

Yesterday I told you my story: why I became anorexic, how it played out, and how I started the road to healing.

Today, I want to share what I’ve learned from this experience. I hope it will be helpful to you if you or someone you love is facing a similar situation.

9 things you should know about Anorexia Nervosa

  1. It’s not about food. Not really.

    It’s about control. My life was out of control. My parents could not be made to see reason. My siblings would not cooperate. My grades were never as high as I wanted them to be. The popular girls measured their status by how thin they were – and I was a nerd. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I hoped that if I could be the best at this, I might have found a way to be accepted. I knew I could be the thinnest (ie: best). I knew I could control food. It was one thing that was utterly mine.

  2. It’s not about what you weigh.

    That’s merely a tangible yardstick of your success. I cared about what the scale said not because I had a goal weight in mind, but because the numbers were real and clearly indicated that I was “winning”.

  3. Forcing me to eat would not have helped.

    People tried. They failed. All that did was to strengthen my resolve. I would not be controlled. Now, I understand that in cases more serious than mine this is the only way to save a life. However, unless you get to the heart of the problem, this solution is only temporary at best.

  4. Fighting amongst yourselves does not help.

    Blaming one another for my sickness is counter productive. I am trying to distract you from yourselves and unite you in a fight against something that matters. Please stop fighting.

  5. Tiptoeing around me would not have helped.

    People tried that, too. Even though I stubbornly refused conversation, I longed to be heard. A sincere airing of issues and a resolution to start improving would have been of immeasurable value in the early days.

  6. Focusing on healthy nutrition is only a beginning of a cure.

    An unexpected side effect of my experience with anorexia was that I learned that food could make me very sick, and abstinence from food could make me much better. I knew I’d have to start eating again eventually, but I now felt empowered to make choices that would support my body‘s unique requirements, rather than contributing to my general sense of malaise. However, when well-meaning friends and family tried to give me dietary advice, I was deaf. What they advised did not match up with my experience, and my anorexia was never about diet, anyway.

  7. I destroyed my body in more ways than I ever anticipated.

    Even though I would never talk about anorexia at that time, I did read about it. I told myself I was simply proving that I was NOT anorexic, but I think I was actually looking for tips. Perhaps I wasn’t reading the right material, but I can’t recall seeing much to prepare me for the devastation I wrought in my body. My hormones have never been balanced since then. I developed endometriosis and battled for a long time to fall pregnant. I lost  a baby. My hair is strange. I have heart palpitations. And I have a slew of food allergies and intolerances that make virtually every meal a minefield. I was not expecting any of that. I thought I could turn it off like a switch.

  8. I have become the Food Police

    My years of research into nutrition have resulted in a Mama who insists that her kids eat three healthy, balanced, Paleo meals each and every day, and get plenty of snacks and fresh water. Sugar is not tolerated. Starch is only allowed on VERY rare occasions – and even then, never gluten. My girls know more about the effect of GMOs and processed foods than most people my age. I never force them to finish the food on their plates, however, and go all Mama Bear on anyone who does. I also invest a significant amount of time into keeping food and figure separate. My girls think of themselves and others as perfectly beautiful creations of God – regardless of their size. Ugly is on the inside: poor manners and cruelty, not looks.

  9. I will never be WELL – although I AM better.

    What I discovered is that I have will power. For months after my appendectomy, I didn’t want to eat. I had conditioned myself to resist the urge. But I knew I needed to, and I had discovered that I could control my instincts and my body with my strong will. I used that, and it worked. I rechannelled my energy into learning about excellent nutrition, balanced exercise, and a sense of perspective. I stopped trying to be the top of the class, and focused on being the best version of me that I could be. The irony was that I did better than I might otherwise have done as a result of my new, improved attitude. I became a nicer person, too – more tolerant. I stopped trying to make people be what I expected them to be. My parents began to heal their marriage, I focused on the friends who brought out the best in me, and I learnt to be less selfish and more attentive.

    While it’s not a path I would ever recommend or choose again, I am much better for having walked it than I would otherwise be.

    I am still walking this path. When my life feels like it is spinning out of control, my thoughts often head straight for fasting. It seems to be a short-circuit in my brain, thinking that not eating solves everything. It doesn’t. I know that. But I sometimes need to remind myself.

If you’ve faced an eating disorder, or you love someone who has, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The neural pathways that led us to such extremes are hard to rewire. Let me know your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to connect with you on this important topic.

Confessions of a recovering anorexic – part 1

dietThe day it started

I remember the day it all began so clearly. I was fourteen. Just. We were standing in line, waiting to go into our Geography lesson. I’d always had a tendency towards skinniness, and I’d never seen it as an attractive feature – on myself, or anyone else. In fact, I had a passionate mistrust of the word “diet”, or anything to do with radical, short-term modifications to what I saw as a long-term issue.

And that issue was self control.

Around me, the girls were talking about the weight loss fads to which they subscribed, weighing up their relative successes (pardon the pun), and generally bemoaning their obesity. Although I stayed out of the conversation, I was irritated (a fairly typical state of mind for me in my early teens, I admit). “Why must they complain. They all look fine! And if it’s such an issue, just do something about it. If you won’t fix it, don’t complain about it!”

I decided I’d show them how it was done.

More to it than meets the eye

There were other things going on in my life at that time, as well. My parents were fighting all the time. They often spoke of divorce. We’d looked at countless houses with my mom as she tried to find “somewhere better” for us to stay. She’d even taken a job – a new development for our family. We knew the quickest route to a divorce and the legal ramifications of a trial separation. All weekend long they’d rage and fight. Threats were thrown down like gauntlets, and plans were made for “moving on”. By Sunday night, there’d be peace. And while the week would generally start off well, by Friday we’d be back at battle stations, armed and ready for combat.

Nothing I did could ease the tension. I tried to control my siblings’ behaviour to reduce tension. This would be amusing even with average individuals, but with my headstrong, stubborn and independent brother and sister, it was a recipe for disaster. I tried to ace all my classes at school, but there were some I could never master, and there always seemed to be someone better than me. Nothing I did could propel me to the top of all my classes, and I put in longer and longer hours to achieve mastery.

To make matters even worse, I was often sick. Food made me nauseous and caused my skin to break out. I had an ongoing cold and frequent bouts of bronchitis. My stomach was a hard knot of cramps no matter the time of the month, and I was plagued by headaches. Now I know that these were symptoms of my gluten intolerance, but at the time I simply felt like an undiagnosable failure.

These contributed to growing sense of being out of control over every aspect of my life.

It felt like flying

First, I gave my sandwiches away. There were enough growing, geeky boys around to help, and I explained that I “wasn’t hungry today”. That worked very well for some time, but eventually one of my teachers got suspicious when she caught me sleeping on her desk, and told my friends not to accept lunch from me.

Next, I made up a story. I told my mom I thought I might be gluten-intolerant like her, and asked if I could take a salad to school instead of sandwiches. She obliged. I loved that because even if I did “cheat” and have some of the salad, it was just lettuce and tomatoes, and I knew that wouldn’t have any effect. (I had no idea, then, that my “lie” was the truth).

Besides feeling tired (which took some time to start), I felt fantastic! For the first time that I could remember, I didn’t hurt. My skin was sallow, but my spots were gone. My stomach was flat, and my gut no longer ached. My brain was clear, and I could think. For the most part I had so much energy that I hardly felt the need of sleep. It did occasionally catch up with me, but over all it was a significant improvement in my quality of life.

After a few months, people noticed. I would fob them off with vague excuses, such as having an iron deficiency when I as obviously tired. I told them they were imagining things when they said my weight had dropped. I claimed I was dancing in my spare time, and that accounted for it. I said I ate like a horse at home (and at home I said someone had given me a meal at school).

I avoided meal times and family gatherings involving food. I hid food, threw food away, and claimed to have stomach cramps or nausea when faced with a full plate of food. My history of gluten intolerance symptoms was my firm ally in this deception.

I would never tolerate the mention of the word “anorexic” – after all, I didn’t care about being thin. But that’s what I was – and it had so very little to do with my dress size or a number on the scale

Coming back down to earth

Eventually,my period stopped, which was a welcome relief. However, I knew what I was doing. I had made my point and began to see that the time would soon come when I’d have to “go back to normal”. I was dreading it.

Then one night, around 1AM, I woke my parents up because I had severe abdominal pain. I thought my dad was spinning me around and around, but when I woke up in hospital I discovered that in fact I had passed out and been rushed to ER. I had appendicitis and needed emergency surgery. My moment of truth came when I needed to be anaesthetised. I hadn’t told anyone my real weight in so long that I couldn’t bring myself to do so now. I lied, giving the nurse a number nearly 10kg higher than my real weight. As I drifted into unconsciousness, I heard the nurses comment on how my body looked like that of a 12-year-old. They were sure someone had written the wrong information on my forms …

It took a long time for me to come round. My surgery was at 6AM, and at 3 in the afternoon I was still out cold. Even the doctor was concerned, and they took measures to wake me up. When I came to, and after understanding what had happened, I realised just how foolish and selfish I’d been.

I resolved to live a little more boldly, and leave a few things to chance. I also made a commitment to my own health: I would find out why food made me sick, and I would stop taking on other people’s problems.

This journey was a trial by fire, and it taught me a lot. I’ll discuss the lessons I’ve learnt tomorrow. But today, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever faced an eating disorder? Are you facing one now? Or have you loved someone who battles with food/body issues? I’d value your comments. Please share your thoughts in the comments box below (just be nice :)).

– Vanessa

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