Day One

swing, girl, book, 'Today your efforts will be rewarded'

My inspiration

I love this poster!!

It inspires me every time I walk past it at my local shopping centre.

It’s actually an advertisement for HSBC insurance, somehow, but I love the thought that the effort I put in will absolutely bring results. It keeps me feeling like there is a point to what I’m doing, and that the goal isn’t so far away.

Okay, time to get serious.

Yesterday I had an appointment with a dietician. Yes, a dietician. To discuss my diet.

Oh boy!!

My GP was lucky. He did some blood tests and found some nutritional deficiencies. Quite a few actually!!

So all he needed to say was that he wanted the deficiencies corrected through diet rather than by adding yet more tablets to my current regimen, and referred me to a dietician on that basis. This is why he didn’t want to add more tablets, and this is just the morning!!

capsules, tablets

My morning kickstart!

He escaped having to go through the process of telling me, ‘you’re fat”! Lucky him! Although we both knew that underneath the conversation that we were actually having was another silent conversation along the lines of “since we met 6 months ago you have gained a tonne of weight and you really have to do something about it, starting now!”

But coming at the subject from a less obvious angle made it a lot easier for him to bring it up, and for me to accept it. Clever!

I’ve seen a new side to being a health professional lately; the ‘getting patients to see things from your viewpoint without thinking they’re being forced there’ skill. It’s vital to successful relationships with patients, and to achieving the outcome that’s best for them. Even when they may not think so.

Kudos to the excellent health professionals that have cared for me over the last year! I respect and appreciate your negotiating and information-giving skills in hindsight, even if I was a difficult patient back when we met. Thank you!

So the dietician. A lovely softly spoken slim fit-looking girl who told me I was beautiful and had amazing eyes! Nice work!! Just like that she had me feeling flattered and accepting of everything she was about to say; well done. Seriously, I’m impressed! And I’m learning new skills in people-management.

So, what did she have to say? Nothing that I wasn’t expecting, to be honest. I knew the ‘what’ of the appointment, although maybe not quite the extent.

Here’s the facts:

1) On October 24th 2013 I weighed 77.65kg. I had spent 14 months from August 2012 to October 2013 losing weight, and had dropped 9kg which I was pretty proud of.

2) On May 23rd 2014 I weighed 95.4kg!! Nearly 18kg gained in 7 months!! Oh dear…

3) My cholesterol level has been borderline high since my first WorkSafe health check in 2010, at that point due to 4 years of chocolate bingeing. Unfortunately in the last 6 months it has gone from borderline high to do-something-now-before-you-have-a-heart-attack-or-stroke high!! At this point, it’s due to 8 years of chocolate bingeing!! My LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) is 7.5, and the upper level of the range is 5.5! So, quite high!!

Question from the dietician: “do you want to live a long life with your husband?”. Me: “yes, of course!”. Dietician: “then you really have to do something about your cholesterol”!!

4) My vitamin D level is getting progressively lower. It was normal last year and at the start of this year and low a couple of years ago so I guess it fluctuates. Spending the last 3 months at home and not getting out much has not helped my incidental sunshine exposure! So back on supplements.

5) My iron storage level (ferritin) is low. This one puzzles me and everyone else because there’s no obvious cause. So diet, you need some change. More meat, but no more fat…interesting conundrum!!

6) My waist measurement is 100cm!! The safe upper limit of waist circumference to prevent heart disease in women is 80cm…quite a bit of work to do there! Oh, and I look like I’m 5 months pregnant!!

7) Most relevant fact: I now have 3 skirts left that fit (ish)and 90% of my wardrobe no longer fits!!! Or it squishes my waist into weird shapes and bulges, or clings to wide parts of me – not nice for anybody!!

So we know the what. Now for the why.

I know this one too.

Binge eating, comfort eating, boredom eating, drug-induced craving eating, habit eating…are there any other kinds? Oh yeah, guilt eating, shame eating etc.

Food has always been a weakness with me. I love it, I enjoy it but it has gotten to be a habit and comfort to me.

While I’ve been really sick it was one of the only things that I could still get enjoyment from when I’d lost interest in everything else. It was nice to be able to enjoy the flavour, texture, taste when everything else had lost it’s interest and enjoyment.

In times of severe depression when I have lost all my energy, motivation, and was tired, flat and struggling to do anything, I would eat sugar after sugar after sugar to try to get just a little scrap of energy so that I could do SOMETHING!! Sour straps, chocolate, licorice, berries, frozen yoghurt…the list goes on!

The rest of the time, just having the food near was enough reason to reach out and eat.

Did it work? Did it give me energy? No. But it made me feel good for a little bit. And I kept doing it, because I like it!

But then it would make me feel bad. Guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, feeling over-full and gross.

The dietician gave me a diagram that perfectly describes how I’ve found over-eating:

a diagram of the cycle of emotional eating

The Vicious Cycle of Emotional Eating – perfectly described!

But it’s time to stop. Time to break the cycle, for once and for all.

I’m (hopefully!) past the worst mood swings and have a bit more energy and time to put into Project Danika. So here we are, Day ONE.

And here’s the plan.

My cholesterol is shocking so it’s the first thing to be addressed. I’m trying a radical new meal plan: eat breakfast, lunch and tea. That’s all.

Hmmm. It’s a long time since I’ve eaten 3 meals and nothing else in the day!! I’m allowed morning and afternoon tea but from today, no more mindless snacking, eating from boredom, for sugar hits, mood improvers or anything else along that line.

What I eat for my main meals is actually fine, no dietician amendments needed. It’s everything in between that needs to be eliminated. So here goes, no snacking!

A few things I learned yesterday: cravings last from 9 to 12 minutes therefore if I can keep my mind and body busy for 10 minutes whenever a craving hits I will be able to get through feeling the need for food to feeling satisfied for food. Such a great tip!! Now I feel like I have an active plan that I can work on to achieve my goals.

I now know the ‘how’ of the equation! I love it. I have strategies and goals and it feels achievable. I’ve been letting myself have a free run but no more. Time for the better me to have a go at life.

The next dietician strategy if I get as far as the fridge; start asking questions! Why am I eating? Will this snack make me feel healthy? Am I hungry? Should I have a glass of water instead?

And if I get as far as actually eating? Next lot of questions: am I enjoying this? can I stop? Did I really taste that?

Failing that, just finish what you’re eating, put it down to experience and try again from now on. I’m psyched!! Having someone give me all these plans and strategies makes the biggest difference to me. I guess it may seem obvious to others, but I really need to have it broken down for me.

So with a fruit bowl full of mandarins and kiwi fruit, some celery sticks and baked bean cans, and a new approach of not buying anything that has more than 2g of fat per serve, off I go. I’ll keep you posted along the way to the 3 week mark when I revisit the dietician.

Wish me luck!

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I can’t seem to find my balance

I can’t seem to find my balance, by Danika Sanderson, written 28/1/2014

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between living and dying, between singing and sighing,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between coming and going, from keeping to throwing,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between laughing and crying, between loving and fighting,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From grinning to frowning, from swimming to drowning,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m here and I’m there, “have to” be everywhere,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m up and I’m down then I’m flat on the ground,

I’m carrying the weight of the world around,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From gorging on food to soothe my mood,

From guilting myself about eating that food,

From kicking myself to the curb and back

For eating too much and getting too fat,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From “too tired to care” and “life is not fair”

To “how lucky am I to have such a great guy”

To “what if I fail?” and “what if they hate me”

To “I am so happy” and “they must all rate me”,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From being a friend to hiding away

And avoiding the customary “how was your day?”,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From confident speaker to introvert girl,

From stomach of steel to wanting to hurl,

From conscientious to “that’ll do fine”,

I’m “stressed out I’m late” but still never on time,

From anything for anyone to “sod them all”,

From standing up straight to curled in a ball,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

My logic says go but my heart rate is thunder,

My sane brain agrees but the renting asunder

Of nerves once so stable but now run amuck,

Is leaving me feeling like one sitting duck!

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Can’t walk in the dark, but running’s okay,

“Just push through the barriers and all’s well”, they say,

“Just exercise, eat well, sleep well and drink tea”,

“Avoid caffeine and sugar and alcohol’s three”,

“Just keep a good attitude, you’ll be alright”,

But what if they’re wrong and I lose this huge fight?

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

“What if…?”, “What then…?”, “What next?” I wonder,

The evils, the outcomes, the dark side I ponder.

I can’t see the good, the pleasant, the happy,

But then all at once, I become happy chappy!

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m inspired; I’m keen as mustard to learn,

Then gloom, disappointment, my hopes they burn,

Again motivated; success I now yearn,

But failure still looms at every turn.

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Why cannot I just for ONE day be level?

What would it feel like to sing and to marvel?

Instead of dwelling on doom and gloom

And walking around restless from room to room,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I remember now often the days gone past,

When balance was normal, expected to last

All day every day and all life through,

I’d never have thought I’d be like this, did you?

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

And yet there’s still hope at the bottom of the jar,

That “one day”, “ONE day”, maybe not far,

Maybe real close, maybe real soon,

I’ll be singing my song to a different tune.

 

A tune that thrills, and lilts, and strains,

To glorify One who holds the reigns,

Who shows to me His Love and Care

And helps me realise the burden’s to share.

Who shows me that balance is always found,

When God comes first and is followed around,

By everything else, that’s solid ground

For finally gaining my balance.

Copyright Danika Sanderson, 2014 – reproduction only with written permission from the author.

I wrote this poem all in an afternoon on my way home from work one day.

I was getting sick of my mood swings, of depression, of anxiety, and was dearly wanting to go back in time to when life was running on an even keel.

I’d never realised what a privilege it was just to live life with regular emotions, regular response to stress and plenty of serotonin and noradrenaline.

So I started thinking this thought in my mind; I can’t seem to find my balance.

I can’t seem to find my balance. Sometimes I’m full of life and running around, sometimes I’m suffering from suicidal thoughts and wanting to escape life. But I seem to be missing the middle ground where life is straightforward and easier.

I started thinking, I can’t seem to find my balance – I’m up and I’m down…what rhymes with down? Around, ground, mound…what works with I’m up and I’m down? I’m flat on the ground! Boo Yeah! I’ve got myself one verse.

And so it went on. I raced home and grabbed out an old school book and started scribbling. I wrote most of this poem exactly as it appears here; somehow I just got on a roll. Some verses needed some tinkering to make more sense. Some verses got put together, some got taken apart.

I’m really proud of this poem. Not only do I find it a fun rhyming scheme, based partially on limericks and partially on Dr Seuss-type rhyme, but I’m really pleased with how the lines came together to tell the story of where I was at this time. The fun rhyming contrasts with the serious content, and helps me feel better about how I’m feeling.

I’m still kind of in this space now, even though it’s nearly 4 months later. Balance takes a long time to achieve, as it turns out. I have good days, I have bad days. I had a couple of weeks up to last Sunday when I got ahead of myself with how well I was feeling and how much I was achieving and thought I was cured! Then the last week sucker punched me and landed me in bed for most of the week, having 2 naps a day every day!!

So balance, a tricky thing to achieve. Elusive, delicate, difficult, like walking along a fence or tightrope. A fickle wind blowing one way, a strong breeze blowing the other way and off you go smashing down and breaking apart on the ground! Then it takes time and effort and emotion to get back up, brush off the debris, clamber all the way back up onto the fence, gather together your scraps of confidence and faith that there is a happy ending awaiting up ahead, and take the first step again! Nursing your injuries and disappointments, carrying baggage from previous attempts, trying hard to have hope and enthusiasm again.

So today is Day One after that long week of tiredness, total lack of enthusiasm and motivation, crippling lack of energy and a fat lot of blergh!!

We’re putting that behind, pushing on to find a new plan, a new way forward to try to get up on the fence, hands out balancing my weight, eyes fixed forward, trying for hope.

A great friend gave me this awesome print to go with my poem that I now have framed next to my dining table:

just balancing, girl on rocks in heels

A gorgeous print that I have framed in my living room

Onwards and upwards!! Balance, it’s time. I’m here waiting, I’m ready. Let’s go!!

Friends

“At the end of the day

Some you win, some you don’t

So I’m glad that I’m here
With some friends that I know
Always there with a smile
Saying you’re not alone
Singing la la la la
Que sera”

-Justice Crew

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1E30IQIPk8

One of the most important things to me over the last few months has been good friends.

Friends who understand what I’m going through from their own experience with anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.

Friends who understand what I’m going through from their experience with family members or close friends who they have supported in the past.

Friends who have worked with patients suffering from mental illness.

Friends who don’t understand the experience, but listen and learn and are there for me.

Friends who help in whatever way I need help.

Friends who call, message, email, who send thoughts and gifts,who love and visit.

Friends who are kind, compassionate and supportive.

Friends who let me know that I’m not alone, that there’s always someone I can turn to, and someone that I can talk to.

Friends that have always been there, friends that have become close friends, friends who had drifted away but made the effort to reconnect, new friends that I didn’t know I had.

You may be near, you may be far, but you have touched my heart.

I may not have taken up the opportunity of calling you for a chat, of visiting you for cuddles, of staying with you for a while, of catching up for coffee and chatting with you over text, messenger or phone.

But don’t ever think that your offer was wasted; it means the world to me, and keeps me going through difficult days. And it’s still with me in my heart and mind; I may still call on you some day.

sealions, Galapagos Islands, beach,

Beautiful sealion friends hanging out together on a beach in the Galapagos Islands

The meaning of ‘que sera’ is what will be, will be. It’s good to know that I’m not alone, whatever happens; it gives me courage and strength to know you are out there, giving me your support.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

– A A Milne

A fabulous quote!

The words ‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’ were given to me by a few people early on in my illness, and I’ve appreciated them ever since.

It’s always good for me to think about these words. It’s easy to forget our capabilities when we’re confronted with our weaknesses but good friends help us to remember.

Even when they’re not nearby they can help us, just with their few kind words.

I’m the most fortunate girl in the world in that I met my husband when I was young and he became my best friend years before we were ever married.

Having such a great friend with me all through the journey has been such a comfort and help to me. Everybody should know how it feels to have such a great friend.

I sometimes feel guilty that by putting my battles into the public sphere I have gotten such a huge amount of support that other people silently battling on alone have not had. I didn’t publish my issues for that reason, but it has been a beautiful side effect.

So please, for my sake, remember the others, all those quietly struggling and pushing through their hard days without the support of so many wonderful people.

I have come to realise from so many people contacting me to express their empathy that there are so many people fighting this all too common battle in one way or another.

9 times out of 10 it is the person you least expect, the bubbly, bright, always laughing, always smiling, friendly, outgoing, sociable person who is most affected. I don’t know why it is this way, or what came first, the personality or the mental illness. But it may not be who you expect.

So be courageous: ask your friends “are you okay?” and listen to their actions, their body language and their words. You may not know what to do, but the sheer action of asking, and then listening is mostly what will mean the world to someone, and help them in their time of need.

I read a powerful quote in a meme somewhere on Facebook that I have found to be so true:

“Smile, it’s easier than explaining what’s wrong”

-iliketoquote.com

I still find this to be true with some people, and similarly it’s so much easier to answer “fine” when asked a cursory “how’re you going?”. This customary greeting is often not really the place for deep and meaningful answers, so we need to find another time and place to give people a chance to properly answer.

Taking the time to give the full answer is emotionally and time consuming, and not everyone wants the full answer. Nor do they have to, so being selective can save time, hurt and emotional energy.

But I’m glad for good friends who have the time, and have the interest to really ask and really listen. Not every day, or every occasion but from time to time it’s nice to feel listened-to and valued.

bright colours, macaws, south america, peru, amazon

Good friends standing side by side – Macaws, Amazon rainforest, Peru, South America

Silent support should never be underestimated, either. Sometimes words just aren’t enough and just having someone near, or knowing they have your back is a very powerful help. Even from far away, just knowing people are thinking of you and rooting for you is a great encouragement.

You don’t know how amazing you are. You don’t know how important you already are, and how vital you could be to someone. You might never know it, but you will be a great help just by doing what you do, caring like you do and being there for others.

Go you!!

And most of all, THANK YOU!!!

 

Feathered friends

I have a bucket list.

On that list are birds, and some animals, that I want to find in the wild and take photos of.

It all started in September last year (2013) when my husband and I took our first overseas trip to South America.

That trip occurred smack bang in a period of huge change for us with both of us having quit our jobs before we left and taken new jobs in the city, having decided to rent out our old house and rent a new one in the city but without having anything signed and sealed, and with me being one month into a new medication for anxiety that was working pretty well. But I still had twinges and the organising of the trip had been a trigger for a whole stack of ‘what if’ anxiety for me.

We had been to New Zealand a couple of times before but it was so easy that it didn’t feel like overseas. We didn’t change any money, just used our card; we drove a car around on the same side of the road; we ate the same food that we’d eat at home etc.

So this was the big first trip. We choose South America because my aunty lives in Brazil. Our trip planning started with a wish to go and visit her, and ended up an epic 30 day adventure through 5 countries, 6 currencies, 23 flights and many many people!

We started in the Galapagos. I’d heard about the birds and animals there and wanted to see it for myself. This was my holiday pick, my husband’s was Macchu Picchu and we both wanted to see the Amazon.

Armed with a new digital SLR camera and keen interest we arrived in the Galapagos by plane and were immediately entranced with everything we saw; plants, animals, birds, reptiles, both exotic and common.

And so started a new awareness in me of the joys of spotting fauna in their own habitat, and the equally exciting thrill of getting the perfect snap to take the memory away with me.

I started to realise that I had a real passion for this hobby.

I realised that it brought me happiness and a genuine peace. I realised that when I was looking for and finding different species, everything else faded into the background, my stress response was wound down and I thought of nothing but the joy at hand.

What an amazing revelation!

I’ve always loved animals.

Ever since I was a little kid and got into the dog’s kennel to cuddle the pups, to “help” the mother dog feed the babies and take them for walks.

All my favourite kids books involved animals. I was an animal person.

I wanted to be a vet, until I realised it was mostly cats and dogs and not lions and giraffes. I wanted to work at the zoo, and still do inside!! I wanted to be a marine biologist so that I could swim with dolphins all day long; then I realised there was a LOT of counting pippies on the beach instead.

Then I realised I didn’t want to be around sick or dying animals, so I decided to keep animals as a fun hobby rather than a job.

As a kid we had a couple of horses in the vacant block next door that didn’t belong to anyone in particular, and we would go over and feed them.

I raised ducklings into ducks and supervised their swimming in the channel, sitting on eggs and hatching of more ducklings. I mourned the ducklings death to our evil Jack Russell, sobbed over squashed ducklings with a negligent mother and thrilled to see the half grown ducklings taking their first swim in the irrigation channel.

I sort of thought of the family dog as mine, and cried over it like a family member when an idiot neighbour ran it over.

So I guess it should be no suprise to me that this is a passion for me.

But in the midst of moving to the city as a student, getting married and moving to the country, buying a house and moving again, then moving back to the city and all the challenges in between, I had forgotten how reviving I find it to get out into nature, to see birds and animals and plants, and to just take time out of life to enjoy creation.

But I now feel how much difference it makes to me to get out, to open my eyes to really see the world and to look for wonders. It always completely absorbs me, gives me a break from my head and the whirling swirling thoughts that seem to never end, and gives me something beautiful to carry along the way with me!

So, to my bucket list. One of the birds was a kookaburra. And I got it!! YAY!! My husband rides a lot and is always telling me about kookaburras that he sees. On a road trip last week we saw a few on the telephone wires, but I didn’t have a chance to snap one. Then, while walking across a bridge spanning a creek, I happened to look down and see one, sitting on a branch just a few metres away!! Bliss!

And later in the day I saw this one! Another one, sitting on a post just near the pathway. Awesome!!

SO now my list is: a lyrebird (incredibly shy and hard to find!), a bellbird (that delightlful ting ting sound in the bush, but brown and drab and hard to find), a black cockatoo, a gang gang cockatoo, swallows and a koala.

I’ve seen koalas before on Raymond Island in Gippsland, but it’s kind of like taking pictures in the zoo, they’re so common. So I want to find a koala somewhere they are hard to find.

Another bird crossed off my list this weekend: superb blue wren. Gorgeous!!

I have some new areas in my sights for bird watching, and photographing, and can’t wait for the next day out enjoying the benefits of this great hobby 🙂

“Are you…?”

Today it happened.

Someone patted my stomach, raised their eyebrows, smiled suggestively and asked, “so, are you…?”

“Oh no”, I laughed, “it’s all fat”.

“Oh, too bad, I had my fingers crossed”.

Well it is too bad, too bad that I give the impression of a fairly pregnant lady! My husband told me so last week, and I know it. I’ve known it for a while.

In my life up until a few years ago any weight I put on was fairly evenly distributed over my body so that I never got the fat belly look, but maybe I’ve filled up all the other spaces because now it seems to go onto my belly really easily!

As a kid I could always eat as much as I liked and not put on weight. As a teenager and adult it took me a while to work out that this system no longer worked!

I’ve put on a lot of weight over the last while. There’s a few factors to blame but of course at the end of the day the only real cause to be found is food entering the body in excessive quantities. Something that I’m good at!

I love food. I’ve always loved food. I love looking at food, touching food, eating food. I love buying food, cooking food and I sometimes dream about food! I am a food person. A foodie.

I’ve always been this way, apparently right back to when I was a toddler and was easy to feed because I just liked food. As a little prep student, when the other kids were ordering 2 or 3 party pies for lunch on lunch order days (Mondays and Thursdays) I would order two full size pies and eat the lot.

But it’s more than just liking to eat and liking food.

I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about food. When we were little there was no “junk food” in our house. No lollies, chips, soft drinks, salty sugary high energy low nutrition lovely tasty food. We would have takeaway sometimes, KFC, charcoal chicken, fish and chips on a Friday night. I loved takeaway nights and hoed right in with gusto! Had to make the most of it.

We would go to the local agricultural show every year and get a show bag, the “quality” Search and Rescue for-a-good-cause type not the junky ones with lots of lollies. Still they had a few lollies and usually a Whiz Fizz. I would go home and immediately eat everything out of my bag til it was all gone.

I remember a school friend’s 7th birthday party clearly. There were Cheezels, chips, snakes and sausage rolls. I always got right in close by the table and ate as much as I could; you never know when you’re going to see Cheezels and snakes again! So I would eat mouthful after mouthful enjoying the luxury treats. Then a game was organised and everyone ran off to the next room to start it; but I stayed to cram in a few more mouthfuls so I made the most of it!

I  remember eating calf milk powder because it tasted like skim milk powder. I would take a cup full into the garden and eat it dry by the teaspoon, so it would form thick slabs on the roof of my mouth.

Then there’s my Uncle’s 30th birthday. Instead of hanging out with my cousins I hung out by the table glorying in the rare and amazing foods: cheese, fruits, lollies, chips, and one fabulous honeycomb! I stayed and ate and ate and ate. That night we drove back to the hotel where we were staying and on the way I started to have stomach pains. Stabbing, burning, hard hot pains. I had gorged myself til my stomach was literally stretching to bursting point! I rolled in agony for a couple of hours before enough food passed out of my belly to release the pressure and ease the pain. Not a great moment.

I remember stealing sweets at home on the occasion that they made in into the house. The art of finding the hidden stash, removing some of the loot and rearranging the rest of the food (dehydrated apples or apricots, fruit cakes, fruit chew bars, chocolate etc) to look as though nothing has been removed.

I remember eating frozen pastry sheets, sneaking cups of ice cream after work and eating them with a teaspoon; I loved teaspoons! Making soy and sweet chilli stir fries after work. Eating cups of cranberries and white choc chips.

Next vivid food memory: moving out of home. Getting my licence, a car and living a couple of minutes from the local supermarket. A quick drive, park and browse. I had my own money from scholarships and school holiday work and a whole supermarket. I developed some favourites and tried some new things. Twiggy sticks, brie, Shapes, Cadbury chocolate, sour straps, other lollies, chocolates, chips and drinks. And I could buy what I liked! No rules! No forbidden food. I could just go nuts!!

One favourite was Cadbury’s Peppermint Chip flavour, sadly no longer available. A fabulous combination of milky sweet chocolate with the crisp menthol tang in crunchy mini-chips. Ahhh. I would smuggle these past my chef of a Grandma and eat them in secret seclusion in my room where no one knew and no one could tell me no. Then, when tea was announced, I of course was already full but made myself eat the meal so I wouldn’t have to tell anyone that I’d already eaten, and also as a punishment for eating “naughty” food. A weird system.

So it’s been a battle of the “junk food” ever since. I read this week that 1 million Australians have an eating disorder. And I don’t think it’s only anorexia and bulimia; I think there are many over-eating disorders as well. But over-eating disorders are easily blamed on a person, calling them lazy or greedy. I’m not saying that I have an eating disorder, but I do have a certain amount of disordered thinking and eating  about food.

So that’s one factor, kind of a big one.

Second: anxiety/depression/bipolar. Lack of motivation, feeling down, feeling strung out, no energy, unable to enjoy anything. Comfort eating, eating to get energy, binge eating so that my body feels as bad as my mind, eating to enjoy at least one thing when I can’t get enjoyment out of anything. Many reasons and combined with absolutely no motivation to improve myself or keep fit at the time, make a fateful combination. Plus boredom eating.

So here I am.

9 months after I finished a 10kg weight loss over 12 months to get down to 76.7kg, my lowest weight since high school, I have put on 16kg!! I have a weekly weigh-in which is a non-negotiable thing; the theory being that at least I keep track of my weight. Yeah, that’s working! But it all happened pretty fast, with the binge eating, the medicines and the sitting/laying around the house.

So my current weight is 93.2kg. The heaviest I’ve ever been. Actually, not true – the heaviest I’ve ever been was last week, 93.75kg. Yes, I have lost 500g over the last week. It’s a good start. And I’m determined: right now I have energy, motiviation, I can get up in the morning and so it’s on!! Watching my food and exercising, here we go!!

I’ve always loved using the MyFitnessPal calorie counter. It used to work really well for me. It was a challenge, and I loved it. But now, as soon as I see the calories go into the red I just bust and go nuts! It’s not giving me the right psychology right now.

I used to love training myself. I did a three month Madison magazine fitness program where I watched my food, did 3 couch-to-5km training sessions per week, 3 strength training exercises per week and 3 stretch sessions per week. I lost weight, learned to jog and run and it was awesome. But now I just don’t have the motivation and energy. So now I need the gym – and I have an awesome trainer and a great bunch of girls at Urban Fitness doing the fab Fit Chicks program. I’ve just gotta get myself up and going and get there and it’s all on!

Third: medication. Both my antidepressant and mood stabilisers change my hunger sensors so that half an hour after a meal I can be salivating and my stomach can be rumbling even though I KNOW that I’m not hungry. Annoying, but something I can manage if I have the motivation and mental energy. Which I do now, but didn’t before.

So despite being confused for being halfway through a pregnancy, I’m pretty positive. In fact, I’m gunna go hit the gym now!! I’m psyched, I’m pumped and I love it!! I feel like a regular girl 🙂 I feel like I’m back to my old self 🙂 It’s awesome!!

Choices

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So here I am. Bright, beautiful autumn day, not quite 10am in the morning and I’m in the gorgeous Fitzroy Gardens wandering my way back to the city. What a fabulous way to pass the day!! And that’s right, not quite 10am and I’ve gotten out of bed, dressed, had breakfast, walked to the station, caught a train then a tram to an appointment and now I’m out the other side, carefree and almost dancing my way along. It’s a sweet happy day.

In my mind is always the question, is it a too happy day? Am I tipping the scale into the slightly manic?

Today, the answer is: I don’t really mind, I’m happy, it’s a good day and I’m out lapping it up 🙂

Why up so early? Two answers.

1) I’ve changed over antidepressants, again! I’m up to number 7 now, all within 12 months! 5 of them in the last 6 months! It’s been hectic up in my brain!! But to tell the truth, number 7 is actually a repeat of number 2 which I really liked and had to stop because of side effects. So I’m “cautiously optimistic” as my doctor would say, but keeping in mind that I may have to stop this one again. Which would be very disappointing cos so far I’m loving me with this drug in my system! It’s been all of 4 days but it’s made the most amazing difference! I now wake up at 5.30 – 6am like I used to when I was first starting antidepressants again in December.

Which is an incredible change from dragging myself out of a stupor at 9.30am to try to start the day, cutting out all non-essentials sometimes including showering and doing my hair. Now I’m up and ready to start the day with the normal people 🙂 And I still get a pretty solid sleep thanks to my mood stabilisers, although it is a bit more fragmented. But I’ll take that over being doped out!

2) I have a 9am sharp appointment with a private psychiatrist. So far I’ve only seen one psychiatrist, not sure if he was a fully fledged psychiatrist or one in training but I really like him either way. He was friendly, professional, asked questions no-one had asked before and got really quite a lot of information out of me.That was way back now, in early March, two days after I was sent to emergency suicidal and utterly despairing. That day that I saw the last psychiatrist was the day when I realised that the question mark over me having bipolar disorder did actually make a lot of sense. Because from acutely suicidal on Monday night, to that Wednesday midday was the biggest change you could possibly see in a person! By Wednesday morning I was happy, active, energetic, motivated, full of life and ready to go gangbusters!! It really was that dramatic and gave a lot of credence to that theory.

This visit is not at all acute, it’s really like an all over review of my treatment to date and making a plan into the future with the expertise of the specialist. I’m very happy and confident in my GP but a second opinion and eye on the situation never hurts. So yes, 9am sharp! Which a week ago would have been physically impossible but today it’s all good! Yay for that!

So, choices. I loved coming to this point in the path and having the options. Where to go?

I have been given choices in my treatment. Choices about where to next, about what’s tolerable and what’s not, about what’s important to me.

Given the choice between flat, unmotivated and doped out or somewhat anxious and a bit zingy I chose pumped up. So I know I have to take the lesser quality sleep, shaking hands and faint but persistent feeling of something not quite right. It’s been a while, I must say I’d forgotten just what it was like to have my heart on full alert all day. That vague feeling of anxiety about anything and everything, but at least I’m functioning and out enjoying the day instead of thinking about dragging myself out of my slumber.

I chose anxious over depressed. Because I can handle anxiety. I’ve been seeing a psychologist for months now so I have the strategies, the coping techniques, the knowledge of triggers and stressors. So although it’s not what I’d chose given a choice between anxious and not anxious, it’s what I chose over depression.

Depression I can’t handle. I don’t like it, I don’t like me in it, I can’t manage it away. Strategies seem so unachievable, thinking differently is just too hard, mind over matter just isn’t a thing! The awfulness, the horridness, the terrible feelings are just unconquerable. All I want is to run away, escape, go into a time warp. That last one is my favourite. It doesn’t involve self harm or permanent damage or death or anything undoable; it’s just somewhere I can go for as long as it takes until the pain has gone away. So if there’s any option other than having to suffer through depression I take it!

In this case it’s anxiety. You’re back, old nemesis. But this time I’m running the show, I hold the reins, I control the degree and depth and frequency, as much as I can. I have my strategies, my re-thinking, my knowledge, my support, so much on my side.

It’s going to take some getting used to, it doesn’t sit well. I have to be aware of it, and not let it get started so that it can’t get out of control. At the same time it’s important not to get anxious about getting anxious. So back to all that. But the upside: not depressed, touch wood!!