All that we see..

.. Is far from perfect.

I look in the mirror this evening. Well; every day ~ especially since we have returned from holiday. 

I have gained weight – I know it; even without stepping on those dreaded scales to confirm. Of course I have. I spent the last three weeks eating pastries, waffles, pancakes and French toast for breakfast. Afternoon tea most days. Cocktails galore. Exercise – minimal. Of course I have gained weight. I am – almost – ok with it. Everyone, mostly, gains weight on holiday – when they loose themselves. I knew I would, and I have. It’s kind of ok, but it’s not. I see it clearly, very clearly on the scales. I expect, if I tried to fit into some of my smallest clothes from some 2 years ago – I would notice if. Yet sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I can’t see it. I know it is there, but where? I don’t know if this is good or bad. Some friends say it is positive – progress, if you like; as I have been seeing only fat previously. But I am not sure I have been put in the process to make progress – or that I even have; because I know, deep down, where my thoughts still lie.

We constantly see images of “perfection”. Now I know that often these are airbrushed – perfected. Yet it doesn’t change my opinion of myself. 

What is perfection? I will never be perfection. I am 29. I get (a scary amount of) grey hairs. Frequent split ends; despite rarely straightening/curling/blow drying my hair. I have chubby cheeks (yet dimples which are often loved). My face is wonky; I know this from wearing glasses/sunglasses; in fact, my current sunglasses arms are too long for my head. My boobs are saggy; far saggier than any other unchildless 29 year old. My thighs are large, my stomach with pouch – unlike an elite runner. My feet and hands are child sized; never given the opportunity to grow. My general body hair? Much like a jungle.

I like to think I portray online an honest image of my life. I guess I don’t always; without thought. Often the caption of an image might describe something opposite to what the image and hashtags appear. But my life – as is any – is far from perfect. Yes, we just flew first and business class halfway round the world and back – a lifelong dream for many. Would we do it again? Yes, if we could afford it. Would we rather have children of our own? Tomorrow.

Should we stop our lives and make a choice though? No. Why should anyone’s life pleasures be put on hold? Yes, I – we – want children and a family of our own. Should we forgo the rest of our lives – work, careers, livelihood, travel, exercise for that? 

No – of course not. And why should we when others seemingly achieve without doing so? I am no elite athlete – and if they can conceive; why can’t I? My body is used to running. If Miss/Mrs career woman is working like she always did; then changing that is unlikely to make any difference to her conceiving. If you are travelling – will you not conceive? No. Of course not – conception is a fortunate miracle. If you are married or not – will that make a difference to you bearing a child? We all know the answer is no.

Peoples lives may seem perfect; I do try to portray that sometimes they seemingly are, sometimes they aren’t. Why do so many still strive for such trivial aspects of what he/she/kardashians/so-and-so seemingly have? So what! Are you happy? Really? Good; keep it up.

Do I look pretty? Perfect? (No {chubby, and clearly saggy boobs}) A rare observation of myself thinks so [pretty; hair, face alight] but for how long, I wonder? 

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One year ago…

*This was my first public post about my own mental health battle, written a year ago today* X

Today, is World Mental Health Day 2015.
A chance to raise awareness. A chance to share and encourage understanding. A chance to stop the stigma.
I’m gonna leave myself pretty open to the elements here… And whilst it’s scary, it’s the truth, and the truth needs to be heard and understood and helped.
Often I felt like I’ve been put here, in this world, for a reason. Often I’ve wondered what that could possibly be – I don’t have any wonderful,special talents. I have been lucky and am eternally grateful for the multiple opportunities that have and are available to me, but I am not outstanding at anything. Recently though, I’ve started to wonder if my part to be played is in raising awareness and breaking that stigma around mental health illnesses, yet this in itself represents a challenge to me, as despite some long term suffering, I still struggle to even say two of the words that describe me, that are my diagnosis. How can you help to break the stigma when as a sufferer you struggle to utter the words “anorexia” and “depression”? How can you break the stigma when you create your own stigma? 
I often feel like a fraud when I reflect on anorexia; I am no longer that thin frame of someone in the deepest darkest depths. I never have been, yet that doesn’t mean that most days can still be challenging. And as for the word depression? I agree with many that it is not really the best word to describe the sheer chaos it (often alongside anxiety) can create in your head. You are fighting another voice in your head telling you you shouldn’t even be here, existing, and something as simple as tripping up a stair or falling off the curb or spilling some water reminds you that you can’t even cope with basic aspects of life; you are utterly useless.
But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it. It is all in your head. And so to the average bystander you are physically well, therefore there is nothing wrong with you. You wouldn’t go into work if you were throwing up, and in the deepest darkest corners of mental health illness you also wouldn’t, couldn’t go into work; leave the house; leave your bed even. The difference is when you stop throwing up you return and bounce back to your old self in a perfectly healthy condition. With mental health, you can come out of a bad spell, but it’s still there, lurking. But you look fine so it’s assumed you are fine, even though you know you are still constantly battling. You know it’s still there. It will always be there, lurking, just waiting to surface.
Eating disorders, anxiety, depression, all mental health issues are NOT a choice. I do NOT choose to feel this way. You try your very best to fight it but sometimes it is just too hard. Too exhausting. People don’t realise that you are fighting everything every second of every day. You feel like you are giving your all and it is still never good enough. 
Would you choose to scrutinise every mouthful of food, drink, every calorie, every clothes label, every number on the scales. Would you chose to judge your own worth based on these numbers. Would you chose for your mind to be completely unable to focus on anything. To struggle to string together a few sensible words let alone a full conversation; to live in fear of having to participate in conversation with and around others when you know you open your mouth and nothing but fear comes out. Would you chose to no longer be the social butterfly you once were? To be terrified and to avoid social situations. Would you choose to feel constantly on edge, have constant headaches? Would you choose to have panic attacks strike at any given random opportunity. To feel terrifyingly abnormal palpitations in your heart; to faint because of them. To be afraid to do anything alone in case it happens again. Would you choose to have to pull off a motorway because you feel like you are floating just above your own body? Would you choose to incessantly have the weight of guilt resting heavily on your shoulders? 

I didn’t think so. So why would I?

This is not a choice.
I don’t think I’m that nice or great or good a person, so I feel like it really says something when I say I wouldn’t even wish this on my worst enemy – so please, tell me, if you think still think this is a choice, why would I chose to feel this way? 
I still highly recommend that everyone, sufferers, but particularly non sufferers of any mental health problem (although particularly anxiety/depression) read “Reasons To Stay Alive” by Matt Haig for a fantastically clear picture, understanding and advice on mental health illnesses because they can’t be overcome alone, and the stigma needs to be broken to help your husband/wife/friend/daughter/sister/mother/brother/father to get through this hell.
Regardless, I will keep fighting. I will have better days and not so good days. I will try to have more better days. I will try to be open and to talk (FYI questions or leading questions can be a much easier place to start/a good start). I will continue to fight to break the stigma and to raise awareness and understanding, because living with any single mental health illness is debilitating, and just not worth the waste of already short time we have to live.

One year on

Where, just where, has a whole year gone? A whole year to the day since I broke the silence, the stigma, about why I hadn’t been at work for 2 weeks in March 2015, and why I wasn’t at work then.

I had some overwhelmingly positive responses from so many people. I also had a handful of ignorant responses from people I once called friends; although really their ignorances had shown through long before. It’s still something I struggle to accept; I had these people at my wedding, I also suspect I spent far too much time with some of them at the wedding – my biggest, my only, regret.

It’s been a full year now since the fight against my own mental health left me so ill that I collapsed. One whole year. Seriously, where has that time gone?
Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, I was forced out of my job, my career. I mark the collapse on the 2nd of October 2015 and eventual long period of being signed off as the final demise, but I guess Clarks had started to wear me down long before then; although I can’t pinpoint exactly when.

I wouldn’t go as far though, as to say Clarks started it. They just pulled the final trigger to tip me over the edge. This started a long, long time ago and has simply been building, hiding, shut down by the eager, vibrant social butterfly I once was for longer than I am probably even aware. Perhaps it was constructed within my DNA before I was even known about – who knows.

This anxiety, this depression, these suspected side effects/control methods of mine which include anorexia/orthorexia/compulsive exercise won’t ever leave me – I won’t ever be the Karen I once was. I won’t ever be able to always control this mental health illness either and on some days, weeks, months, maybe years even it will all creep out of the darkness it’s hiding in and hit me like a flash of lightening, a tsunami washing over me, crumbling me once more. Hell, there has even been occasions in the last few months that I have quietly managed to keep it to myself, where instead of going out for dinner/that BBQ/party/event I have simply, for no apparent reason, wanted to hide myself away from everything and everyone, cry, and shrink to nothingness.

I understand, at times, some of it. I understand the need to starve myself and literally run myself into the ground to be tiny – near invisible. To not look like the adult I now am. I understand that anxiety in relation to time passing too fast, and, despite having always wanted to “grow up”, marry and have children of our own; I never wanted to GROW up, and be an adult. Time, after all, is a villain and a thief [thankyou, Through The Looking Glass].

I still, however, struggle. Forming the words “depression” and “anorexia” and attempting to say them out loud are still an alien concept to me. They are still words I avoid saying out loud. They are still attached to stigma.

I have definitely digressed, again writing this over a few days, weeks even, as my “bit” towards 2016’s World Mental Health Day. I am, certainly, improved – better I suppose – both physically and mentally upon who I was this time last year, but I am still not there, I am still broken and I always will be. Never again will I be able to resume my old career, and work in a large company that doesn’t really care again; I will always remain thankful and grateful that I don’t have to put myself through that. But I am better. I judge others less, try to keep my “chimp” under control a little more (more to come on that later) – or at least understand it. I am not crying daily or having panic attacks every morning, noon and night. Generally, I sleep better. I have not collapsed – even from injections or bloods (& God knows I’ve been a pin cushion this last year!) since the New Year. I’d say the only thing I miss of the complete hell I was in is that I feel I wrote better, easier, in times of sheer distress. And seeing a therapist regularly is probably very good/supportive for me.

I like to remind everyone that no-ones life is the perfect it can appear to be on social media: and we all know I don’t hide that fact. I’m incredibly lucky and have a wonderful life – I’m still in Bali with my fab husband as I finish this, but I still have many difficult days – even whilst we’ve been here. I find myself at times describing myself using both past and present tenses, like a longing for who I was before all these breakdowns happened; “caught between two lives as though trying to piece myself back together” ~ I thought, at first, well over a year ago that I could bounce back. I hadn’t wanted to be signed off work for any longer than I was and I was eager to return; my GP not convinced and wanting to give me longer…in hindsight, he was right…. I still fight myself every waking moment of every day – sometimes even in my non-waking moments too, my mind toys with me! I often have no recollection of what has been reality and what has been a dream. There are still occasions I say something and then repeat myself minutes later having completely forgotten I’d said it. On holiday, I am reading books which I know I have read before; but I have absolutely zero recollection of what happens in them. I have huge chunks of my memory of my own life missing – and that can’t change, but things can help and contribute to making mental health illness easier, and I urge anyone to seek those out. 

X

A period.

Two years. Over two full years now since we started trying for a family – and I couldn’t feel any further away from this ever actually happening. You can tell me to “stay positive”, “think positive” send me {beautiful} “positive vibes” but I can’t help but give up hope. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and I’ve thought for a while now we will need IVF.. But now, months away from starting that, I still am unsure it will ever be enough. 

The blow of a period doesn’t ever lessen – even whilst enjoying a wonderful holiday/honeymoon part 4 (second wedding anniversary). The hope was that this would be our last “big” holiday for a long time whilst we have our family… I can now see us doing the same next year, for our third wedding anniversary. I feel exasperated and heartbroken. I feel hopeless.

As a teenager/young adult I remember the constant “fear” of falling pregnant. For me – it wasn’t really a fear of falling pregnant, more of a fear of upsetting/disappointing my family. I wish I hadn’t had that. Whilst I wouldn’t want children by various different fathers – I’ve known since I was 20 that I wanted children with my [now] husband, I wish I hadn’t wasted years putting my body (and mind) through more hell being on the pill; I’d have known a lot earlier that something wasn’t right. 

Despite not really wanting to grow up – with the years of anorexia alongside that – I’ve always wanted to be a mother; and for me, the younger mother the better. I’ve wanted four for as long as I can remember but I don’t want to be starting old; I want to be a young mummy – yet time is zooming by which in turn sees that dream disappearing. 
All around me are children, families, babies and pregnancies… Announcements like “we are thrilled and surprised to announce we our expecting baby #5!! Surprised? I can’t even grow one healthy baby for more than a *possible* week yet other women are on their fifth? How? I feel like this is my life – working so hard to achieve so little..And all I can think is perhaps we should just downsize now as it isn’t ever going to happen for us.