I have to tell you, you’re probably best off not reading this. I’m having a bit of a ranty day.
I had a really awful night last night. My digestive system was playing up AGAIN. It felt like I’d eaten something I have an intolerance to. There was a lot of cramping and unpleasantness involved, but the worst symptom is this hollow, sick, sucking feeling in my abdomen which feels almost exactly the same as incredibly intense hunger. Only eating something makes it worse rather than better so there’s nothing I can do but wait it out, and it takes HOURS to settle down. It’s like my body is punishing me for starving it – well, you beat me up for years, now I’m going to torture you right back. The empty feeling hurts more than the cramps, it’s excruciating and it seems to be the one thing that can actually make me cry at the moment. I was lying there at 1am all itchy and uncomfortable, with my heart beating too fast and my digestive system feeling like it was full of emo butterflies with razor tipped wings, crying into my pillow. Fabulous. Just fabulous.
Needless to say, I woke up in a bit of a bad mood. Not irritable, not anxious, I could have dealt with either of those – I woke up feeling really, really depressed. You know that sort of depression which feels almost more like a really bad case of flu rather than something psychological? Like you are all heavy, aching and slowed down, and everything you try to do takes a hundred times more effort than usual. I still made my damn breakfast and ate it sitting in the conservatory with the sun shining on me, but I felt so limp and despondant. My first reaction to this sort of thing is always to start shouting at myself – oh for God’s sake, don’t be so fucking pathetic, get off your butt and DO something, don’t just sit there. What the hell is moping about and crying going to achieve?!
Shouting at myself isn’t going to achieve anything either though. It’s not exactly likely to make me feel better! If the answer was as simple as thinking ‘by golly I’ve been an idiot, I will get dressed right away and smile and act like a normal person!!’ then you can bet that I would have done so by now. Probably about ten years ago, in fact.
A combination of waiting it out and distracting myself meant that I was feeling a bit better by mid-afternoon anyway. I think it was partly to do with whatever the hell I’ve eaten which has stopped me sleeping and driven me to tears for the last three nights. I’m wracking my brains to think what it might be. My top three suspects at the moment are the pea protein powder (I’m intolerant to lentils, and they are related to peas), the vegan chocolate spread (could possibly be contaminated with milk, these things happen) or the vitamins I’ve been taking. No pea protein powder for me today. If it happens tonight and I don’t end up jumping out of my bedroom window in the bid for unconsciousness I will have to try eliminating something else. I fucking hate this, I really do. My diet is already so restricted – eating a weight gain diet with my intolerances and allergies is really hard and requires a ridiculous amount of preparation and effort, I don’t need any more hassle.
After lunch I started doing some exercises in a depression workbook I have. I have a bit of a workbook addiction if you haven’t guessed by now 😛 this is a good one anyway, it was written by a woman who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder decades ago and has dedicated her life to studying what works to get and to keep people suffering from mood disorders well. My CPN suggested it last year. There’s a heavy emphasis on taking responsibility for your mental health, which I am absolutely all for. The saying ‘you save yourself or remain unsaved’ is completely true, particularly once you are over 18. This is really rammed home by the adult mental health services. Take the eating disorder services as an obvious example. In the UK people are usually only admitted as inpatients to eating disorder units if their BMI goes under 13.5 or they are purging so much they are at risk of organ failure. That’s only true for the first hospitalisation though, and maybe the first relapse. I know several people, but one friend in particular, who is only admitted to our local EDU when her BMI hits 10-11, and she is usually discharged at 13.5. The day programme won’t take people under a BMI of 14 so she is left essentially without treatment until she loses enough weight to have to be admitted again. This time when I was re-referred to the EDU I was told to go home and start gaining weight before they would put me on the waiting list for the day programme too. They need people to prove their commitment to recovery after their first strike out.
I can see the rationale for this, obviously. The NHS doesn’t want to waste money on people who are just going to relapse when there are other people, less entrenched in their illnesses, who might respond better to treatment and stay well. People with chronic eating disorders are often put on harm minimisation plans aimed at maintaining a BMI of 15-16, told that they have to manage their conditions rather than hope for recovery. The nurse I see at the EDU actually tried to talk me out of aiming to gain back to a BMI of 19-20. Fucking hell, eh? There’s not much else you can say to that. I have also been told repeatedly by my psychiatrist (who I’ve flat out refused to see for the last eighteen months) that I will never recover, I will just have to learn to live with my anxiety and depression. This is the same man who, at an appointment I had when I was absolutely desperate and suicidal a couple of years ago, because the repeated med changes I’d been through over the last six months had messed my brain chemistry up so much that I’d been constantly dizzy and sick and unable to eat or sleep for weeks, said ‘Well I don’t know what you expect me to do’. I’m sure it’s not right for people to leave appointments with mental health professionals feeling MORE suicidal, is it?!
I know that there is no magic cure for mental illnesses, and that no one can stop you from killing yourself, hurting yourself or starving yourself to death if you are really determined to do so. But at the same time, why are people labelled as unwilling to fight off their illnesses, judged, stigmatised and dismissed as hopeless, when the difficulty sticking to recovery is a symptom of that illness? There’s such a contradiction. On one hand we are told that there is a significant genetic component to eating disorders, that anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness and that only one third of sufferers ever recover fully – but on the other, many people with eating disorders are treated like they are just being stubborn, willful, ungrateful, attention seeking, and hopeless if they relapse. I wonder if someone should suggest that it’s the treatment that is deficient rather than our characters.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. I’m thinking of a story I read in the papers six months or so ago. A woman inherited a house from her father, but included in the deeds was ownership of a local church. The church was in desperate need of repair, and it was a listed building so they had a legal duty to make sure that the church didn’t fall down. She had to essentially choose between virtually bankrupting herself to get the church sorted out, or being taken to court for failing to look after the damn thing and being forced to pay anyway. The church was her responsibility. She hadn’t asked for it, hadn’t done anything to deserve this problem, she couldn’t afford it, but no other bugger was going to pay for it so the case was dragged through the courts for nearly 20 years. I feel similarly short changed sometimes. Many members of my family have mental health problems, from depression to OCD to eating disorders and alcoholism, so there is obviously some dodgy genetics going on in there somewhere. I also had the environmental triggers: I was bullied at school when I was a child and raped at 18.
None of those things are my fault, but I still have to deal with the consequences. I have to motivate myself to get and stay well when the primary symptom of depression is a loss of motivation, energy and pleasure. I have to carry on eating, try and talk myself out of low moods, pay for my own therapy, cope with my ridiculous digestive system, and somehow try and become a functioning member of society, all while physically and mentally depleted. If I do get seriously depressed I am told that there is nothing anyone can do for me, since I respond so badly to medications and I’ve had lots of therapy already. When I left York earlier this year I thought I was doing the responsible thing by asking for help and not waiting until I was carried away on a stretcher under a court order, but I was treated like I was wasting everyone’s time and wasn’t worth the effort. We are all told constantly that it is our responsibility to recover and stay recovered, and it’s true, no one can do it for us and I certainly don’t think that anyone ELSE should have to take care of me – but, at the risk of sounding like an ungrateful brat, sometimes also I feel that it’s incredibly unfair that I have to put in all this effort, go through all this pain, work ten times harder than most people just to maintain a basic level of functioning, because of something which isn’t my fault and which I will have to live with to some extent for the rest of my life. In the face of that sort of shit it’s rather tempting to give up on this living business as a bad job.
I can’t decide whether the overwhelming emotion is anger at the injustice or shame at feeling angry and like I must sound like a child having a tantrum at the moment.
Anyway. Having gotten that out of my system (it didn’t really make me feel any better either, which just goes to show that my mum is right, whinging doesn’t make things go away. Damn it!)…
Three good things about today:
1. I planted some more sprouts earlier, just alfafa and broccoli this time – I think the radish gave me heartburn! I like watching things grow 🙂
2. On the subject of growing things, I am very much looking forward to planting some carrots when we get some more compost. They are spherical parmex carrots – have a look at that photo, it’s really funny!
3. On my walk earlier I heard a cuckoo. Despite living in the country all my life I still find things like that a novelty.