On Wednesday I got excited…

[Author’s note: written two weeks ago]

The last three weeks have been a bit tedious, and boring, and uninteresting, and flat, and sleepy, and just hard to enjoy!

On the 19th May, after 5 days in the manic sphere having a fabulous super productive and energetic time, I collapsed! Literally collapsed into bed, fell into a coma (*exaggeration*) and hardly got up for week (*not an exaggeration*)! I left the house 3 times – Thursday, Friday and Sunday. A friend’s birthday lunch, a mother’s club that I nearly cancelled on, and the gospel meeting. I showered once. It was rough!

The last week of May was slightly better, I got out of bed every day and left the house a couple more times. I did next to nothing but I ate most meals and had a couple of laughs.

The first week of June I had a couple of ordinary days, an intermediate day that I thought might crossover into mania but didn’t (thank goodness!! Can’t take another huge mood swing!), and a couple days that felt like regular good days 🙂 I’ve had a bit more energy and for the first time in three weeks I actually feel like I could hit the gym! I’m even almost excited to go; to run, and jump, and lift weights, and be part of my fitness group again. This is great!

I mean I felt like it, I didn’t actually go; but I felt like it. So that counts, right?

So Wednesday. June 4th. Not a great day; an intermediate day. I left the house because I had an appointment with my psychologist/counsellor. Probably wouldn’t have left it otherwise. Got up late, showered – sad that this is noteworthy! I started well with a good breakfast, then had another good breakfast, then a couple of mandarins and it was starting down a slippery slope of sour straps and peanut butter that luckily got interrupted cos I had to leave for my appointment!

Getting out of the house makes a HUGE difference to how much I eat. This is something to always keep in mind. Having something productive or useful or purposeful to do in the day significantly reduces how much I eat. Mainly because I’m distracted from sitting and staring at food, and actively doing something else like driving or catching public transport or using my brain!

So off I go to the psychologist. Trying to think of something to talk about, and coming up with nothing! Nothing had happened in the week since I saw her last; no improvement, no gains. My brain is not getting exercised and can’t think of anything that we can work on. Luckily, she is a psychologist and counsellor and her job is to know these things.

So we got chatting about the week that had been, and things that had happened and how everything was going. Then about strategies to improve the days, to give me something purposeful to achieve, to help fill in the gaping hours. And it kick-started something in my brain. It jogged my memory again. It gave me flash backs of useful and interesting things that I had done, and plans I had had for other things that I hadn’t done yet, and which my mind hadn’t been able to access for the last few weeks.

It is amazing and fascinating that in down times I really can’t use my brain as well as in better times. There’s actually evidence to show that the pathways to creative and imaginative parts of the brain are diminished and much harder to get to when a person is in the midst of depression. The absolute opposite is the case with mania; the pathways are much easier to access and the creative brain is firing on all cylinders.

I started to get excited. I remembered my knitting, my drawing, my bird watching, my photography. I remembered how I’d been planning to join a choir, that there were pharmacy continuing education sessions I could go to during the day, that I had meant to go back to the zoo, to do a bush walk, have a bike ride, visit some gardens. It came to mind that I could call the pharmacy counselling number and have a chat to another pharmacist about where I’m up to and how I can proceed from here, that I could visit friends, finish my half-done quilt, sort some boxes from the shed, get involved in life again.

And I guess that’s why they pay psychologists the big bucks. This is why I definitely need my psychologist sessions. Just someone professional looking at how I’m going and offering a different perspective and some guidance on how to proceed.

I went into this session unable to think of anything to talk about, to discuss, and unable to see how I could be helped.

I came out of the session inspired with a long list of things that I could do if I wanted; interests re-remembered, hobbies re-energised and feeling more optimistic about the days ahead of me. I had things I could do, I had reason to get up in the morning, I had plans for spending the days. I had hopes and ideas and inspiration.

For that, I owe great thanks to my lovely psychologist. What would I do without her?

“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!!