Canberra Day Eighteen

Wednesday 28th September, 2016….yesterday still to come.

Well this is all out of order but I’m struggling a bit to keep things together. I took my tablets, and went to bed by 10pm last night to give myself the best chance for today. Slept okay I think, hard to remember, thought I was too drowsy and hungover when hubby was going off to work and tried to psych myself up, but he was actually getting up for his 5.30am morning bike ride!! So…back to sleep, and it’s always a struggle waking up from that second morning sleep. When my 9am alarm went off I just couldn’t feel like it was time for the day, and rolled over. Actually can’t remember now what time it was that I got up, somewhere around 10 or 10.30am. Had brekky around 11.30am, hubby reminded me to have lunch around 2 so at 2.30pm I finally got started on that.

Hubby is being my hero, yesterday and today. Not that he isn’t always; he is. But I really need a helper right now, and he’s being that. The photo of the day is his reminder to me of what I could eat for lunch. I have NO imagination for lunch, I’ve always eaten leftovers and when there aren’t any leftovers, I just stare at the pantry, in the fridge and I can’t think! So I default to drive-through which obviously isn’t ideal, but it’s so close to home, a quick drive away. You may have noticed that weight is a bit of an issue for me. Speaking mildly. It’s become a bit of a thing though, buying drive-through, and even when I don’t really want it, that’s what I do because I know what’s there, and it’s always there, and it’s no bother, and it’s just easy and doesn’t require thought or planning. Sad, you probably think. So do I, often. The rest of the time I’m just pleased that that’s lunch sorted for another day. Plus it tastes good sometimes; not all the time.

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I’m sure that hubby thinks its sad too, so I hide it. That’s become a thing, too. Not quite admitting to what I’ve eaten during the day. Burying the evidence at the bottom of the rubbish bin, or in the bin bag that’s on my side of the bed and only taking it out when I’m taking the bins out to the road, or worst comes the worst putting it in someone else’s bins. And that is not the way to have an honest relationship, which I’ve surprisingly taken a long time to figure out! It just puts up a little wall, stone by stone until you realise that there’s a barrier in the way of the two of you really connecting. Somehow it took an honest conversation last night about me hiding my food habits to start taking down some stones and building a bridge. It’s horrible to think we would have something between us! I’ve hated it lately. We have always been best friends and partners with no lies, no hiding, no buried pasts, full openness and honesty; and this is no time to change any of that!!! It’s hard enough keeping an equal relationship with mental illness on one side. It wasn’t intentional; I was doing the self-protection thing. Which does boil down more or less to selfishness, really. Where to avoid an uncomfortable discussion of my obesity, and eating food that can only contribute to more weight gain, and spending money of unhealthy food and so on, I’d hide anything to do with it: receipts, food scraps and packaging, and even pay cash so it doesn’t show on our credit card statement! It’s all become a sad rigmarole, embarrassing, and many other things; I’m sure you can fill in some of gaps.

But, we’ve opened the door, so here’s the new thing: planned lunches. So far today, so good. A nice toasted sandwich with prosciutto, cheese and tomato. Yum! I’ve got pies to cook with frozen veg, some bacon and cheese topped rolls, and a bit more confidence that I can do this! I can eat regular lunches like regular people and go back to the times before when the day manager at KFC knew me and greeted me with a smile every time I drove through, and had a joke with me! She’s a really lovely girl, is it beyond tragic to say I miss her? So much for new city, new habits!!

Well, that was a lot of spewing of internal bile that I hadn’t really planned on sharing today! But there we are.

All I can say about today is my planned ride and bird watching didn’t eventuate. Owing to the fact that it took me 20 minutes and a few sit downs to get dressed for the ride after a phone call to hubby for an inspirational speech, and after procrastinating all day! It didn’t seem like I could throw a leg over a bike! My main achievement was sitting around on the couch deleting a few MB of photos from my computer so I can fill it up again with the 800 or so photos that I took yesterday!!! Eventually I’m going to need my own server! And that was my day! So…not the greatest. Not one to remember. Quite frustrating really watching the brilliant sunshine and blue cloudless skies go by, knowing its the last fine day of the week! If only…but no, as hubby says, it wasn’t my day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be firing on all cylinders just in time to watch an inch of rain pour down from the skies! Who knows? There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to me as to how I’m going to be each day. I am missing the routine of getting up early to take hubby to work, I think, but I doubt I’d actually have been up for it today and yesterday. I wasn’t up for it last Thursday; needed a sleep in. And he rode to work on Friday. Maybe this was coming all along and was just inevitable; after all I did surprisingly well for the first 10 days. It’s just annoying, because I can’t say one way or another. Am I just having a bad couple of days like anyone could? Or am I having a down swing with my moods that I should monitor and that might need some intervention? And on and on, my mind is just going round and round and round, on a slight downward trajectory. Things that don’t usually bother me are getting in my craw, so to speak. I’m thinking too much. A good nap has helped a bit, but in total that means that I slept from 10pm last night to 10am this morning, then for another 2 hours from 4.30 to 6.30pm. 14 hours a day isn’t really sustainable. I don’t know whether having a job would have helped or hindered today. Would having to get up have worked, or would it have been another sick day? I wouldn’t have been the best customer service! Enough! No more thinking for now. Off I go at snail’s pace to potter around about dinner. Hubby’s late, poor him. So here we go, off I go. Off I go…

Fun and games

I have been having a really happy time lately. Somehow things have been going really well for me. And for the first time I do believe that my bike riding has something to do with it.

I’ve been cynical of the supposed serotonin-increasing effect that exercise is meant to have on a person. I have experienced severe depression and so many people have told me to exercise, encouraged me to exercise, told me how exercise would help, and asked me if exercise was helping, and referred me to endless articles that supposedly prove how exercise should help me and would help me by increasing my serotonin.

I never got it.

I never felt that I was “better” after exercising, and specifically after riding my bike. I think this is mainly because in my lethargy and weight gain, exercise was so difficult to get started and to maintain that the sheer effort of exercise was greater than any benefit that may have been lurking way back there in the background. I didn’t feel a buzz, I didn’t feel elated, I wasn’t flying high or whatever it was that I was meant to be feeling. What exactly was I meant to be feeling, after all? Exercise was meant to increase my serotonin, yeah? What was the effect or end result of that increase in serotonin meant to be, exactly? What would it feel like if I had it? How would I know I had it? Would it be a direct effect? Would it occur at the time or would the effect be cumulative? I’m sure there are some answers out there but I’ve avoided looking at them, because for a good long while my bike riding was harder than it was anything else, and I just didn’t believe in the serotonin thing.

Until now. I haven’t lost any weight as yet, but half a dozen people have told me lately that they think I’ve lost weight; I’m hoping that means I’ve put on muscle and lost fat but time will tell. I’m a lot less lethargic thanks to returning to work, and having a regular schedule, and places to go, and people to see. Regular bike riding has definitely built up some kind of stamina in me, more than I would have had 13 months ago when I did my first ride with Wheel Women, and thought I would die from it! I view bike rides a lot more optimistically these days, I’m happy to say. This is based on my cumulative experience of so many rides; 60 rides in 59 weeks since March 2015, when I first got back on my bike.

This increased stamina has been improved on recently when I did a 4 day bike riding tour with Wheel Women through central northern Victoria. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will have seen the photos! To prepare for the tour I rode every day for 3 days over Easter in the week prior to the tour. I did this to prepare for the anticipated soreness I might experience when getting back on the bike day after day, and to try to build up the endurance that I would need on the tour. I didn’t ride long or far, but riding every day really did something. Then riding 62km, 43km, 37km and 28km for 4 consecutive days  on tour built up another kind of stamina. Arriving at this level of stamina has brought my riding up to another level, and since I got back its been like I’m riding on a cloud. I think it’s because the 3 rides I’ve done since I got back to town are less kilometres, bar one 40km ride, and less strenuous, also bar one ride with a few “gentle” hills, but overall they aren’t as tough as the rides I did while I was away and so I’m riding within my limit, inside my reserves and so it all feels easier!

And I love that!

There’s a saying in cycling, and probably in all sports, and maybe in life too that a certain thing doesn’t get easier as you develop your skills in it, you just get quicker at it. But at the moment I’m not only quicker at riding, but it feels like it’s easier too. And that feels awesome! Not all of it of course, hills are still a bit of a nemesis but I’m even going easier up hills! And I’ve changed my philosophy about hills since the tour. We did 40km or so one day that was more or less flat; my ideal situation, I thought. But now I think differently. Flat terrain just means that your legs go up, go down, go up, go down, rub in the middle on the bike seat, chafe from the bike shorts however comfy they are to start with, get tired, have no chance for a break unless you want to slow down, and it all gets tedious! I thought it was ideal, but now I can see the downsides to flat, and the upside to undulating and even hilly!

At least with undulations or little hills, you get a break while you’re rolling down the other side. It can be quite fun actually, a little up then a little rest on the way down. A little extra work for a little less work; it feels worth it. Plus it’s kind of a challenge for this girl from Flatlandria to operate the gears correctly to get up the incline without changing pedal rotation speed…it can be one way to keep your brain going when your legs aren’t loving the effort.

So here I am, having fun and games on my bike 🙂 I’ve even recently bought a T shirt that says ‘I want to ride my bicycle’. And I’m even heading out on my own after publishing this to do a ride that really sucked a month ago, just to test out my new theory that with the new stamina I’ve built up lately, it’s gonna be a whole heap easier, faster and more fun this time.

Wish me luck!

Minor issues

[Started Tuesday 27th October, 2015; continued Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and finally got to the point, sort of, on Saturday!!]

SOo I’m over my deadline again! It’s Tuesday, not Monday. And it’s Tuesday night! Oh dear.

I’ve been trying, but the other two pieces that I’ve been trying to get publish ready are just not ready. I need my chief editor, my husband, to review them and he’s away…poor me! Of course I’m joking about poor me, no poor me whatsoever.

But, since I’ve had some minor issues lately, let’s talk minor. I’m not sure who it is that decides what’s minor and major. I’m guessing someone who doesn’t have issues either major or minor, because if it was anyone with any issues, they would no doubt rate their own issues as major a fair bit of the time.

That’s what we’re like, isn’t it? Whatever affects us, feels like the most important thing going on. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just how we are. It’s hard to feel for an issue that doesn’t actually affect us, without a great deal of thought and effort, which we don’t always have to spare.

The issues that I’ve been having are medication related. Side effects; well side effect-ish. Sometimes they’re non specific and vague, or even unexpected and the dots don’t get connected.

You know that I’m a pharmacist, and therefore you expect me to know the side effects of medications. I expect that of myself as well, and I do know them; it’s my job. Naturally I can’t know every single one. The aim is that pharmacists know the majority of side effects, definitely the vital ones, and know where to look for the others in our reference books. Our mantra is: until proven otherwise, assume every symptom is a side effect. Umm, did I read that right? Hmm, seems that I may have forgotten that in relation to myself. Oops!

Side effects are ranked as common, uncommon and rare with a special mention for life threatening effects. Common side effects are those that we expect in around or upwards of 10% of patients; uncommon means around 1% occurrence; and rare is 0.1%. Something like that, as a general rule.

When I counsel a patient on a new medication, we talk about all of the common, and some of the uncommon, side effects, and we discuss rare side effects if they are very severe. Must say, I have been surprised at how much of this information I’ve retained despite such a long time off work! I quite expected to have forgotten a lot! But that part of my brain is still alive and kicking, fortunately! Learning it again would take a great deal of time and effort, and I think I’d give up before I began! So I’m glad that all I have to do is remember the path to that information, and it’s all sitting waiting for me.

Side effects don’t occur exactly as the math indicates, obviously; the math just gives us a ball park of what to expect when a patient takes a medication. Some patients never get side effects, some people get a really rough go with lots, some have one or two, and some people can’t even breathe the air of the pharmacy without developing severe side effects. It depends on all kinds of things; genetic, psychological, race, age, number of medications, how you process the medications through your kidney and liver, and more.

I know the side effects of my medications. But the pharmacies I’ve been to don’t know that. Some gave me CMI leaflets, some mentioned a side effect or two; but I’m ashamed to say that most of my pharmacy encounters have involved a pharmacy student or intern or practicing pharmacist handing me my medication and asking, have you got any questions? This is infuriating! How do people know what they don’t know, and therefore how can they ask questions? Pharmacists really need to pull up their socks on this! The responsibility is on the pharmacist to ensure the patient has enough knowledge to safely use the medication, and if I wasn’t a pharmacist myself, this would not have been the case with a single episode of having a script dispensed.

Did you know that 1 in 3 hospital admissions are medication related? That’s a very serious statistic. Imagine how that could be improved by pharmacy staff just taking a little extra care! I know they do care, and I understand that the sheer volume of workload is very oppressive, but surely we can do better.

Some of the side effects I’ve had have been textbook examples, and I actually find this very satisfying! It impresses me when what I’m experiencing is exactly what someone has described in the medical literature. How clever of them, and how observant! Of course when I say I’m impressed, I don’t mean that I like it, or appreciate it. But I think that the person who wrote it down was very intelligent, and perceptive especially for the era that they worked in which was often centuries ago, and the fact that we still find their information relevant however long later is such a testament to them.

So my textbook issues impress, but frustrate me: sweating, hunger, weight gain, sedation, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, suppressed thyroid, heart burn, memory impairment. And the consequences really get me wound up: chafing thighs, red face, jiggly bits, lethargy. Not all minor, of course.

But as an example, I would never have thought sweating was a big deal. So what? Everyone sweats. It’s just natural. Or perspires; if you’re ladylike! You’re exposed to heat, you exert yourself, you sweat. You wear deodorant to prevent smell, you take a towel to the gym, you shower as often as necessary; and that’s the end of the story. There was this one guy at my old job, an orderly, and by the time I walked into work at 8.30am he already had enormous arm pit, neck and back sweat patches going on. I felt very sorry for him, only a young guy! He is really a candidate for botox injections into his sweat glands to block them permanently and give him some dignity! Or aluminium deodorant, much easier and available at your friendly local pharmacy.

And now it’s me. As always the subtleties fascinate while irritating me. I don’t sweat how you’d think: armpits, back, neck line, like you get from exertion. I sweat like a normal person, with the addition of sweating on my face! Nice and visible, up front and prominent! In defence of this sweating I armed myself with a whole host of clinical anti-perspirant products: under arm roll-on, face gel, leg and groin gel, and used them liberally. Under arm: success, leg and groin: success, face: fail!! To be honest I’m not sure that the others do a lot, cos I don’t sweat there anyway…but the one I really need fails! Or just doesn’t work as much as I want it to, I guess! I’m a bit hap hazard with remembering to use it, but at the end of the day if its slightly warm, if the sun shines, if I have a shower, if I wear too tight or too much polyester clothing, if I get stressed or upset or nervous in any way, I sweat from my face!

sweating, cooling

My doctor recently gave me the medical reason: my core temperature has been increased by as much as one degree Celcius by my anti-depressant. It’s to do with the increase of serotonin. It doesn’t happen with all antidepressants; mainly the class that I’m on that also increases noradrenaline. 1 degree isn’t much as far as the outside temperature goes; I doubt you’d notice it. But our body is extremely finely tuned and our core temperature should always sit between 36.5 and 37.5 degrees. If you’ve ever had a fever you’ll know how crook you feel when your temperature is about 38.3 degrees. But that’s where I am all the time! I get hot, prickly, sweaty, slightly nauseated, and irritated at the rolling sweat beads multiple times a day!

My new comfort zone is when the outside weather is below 20 degrees. I’ll be the one in a T shirt deliberately sitting outside just soaking up what its like to not be hot, not be sweating, and just comfortably existing!

Is there a solution? Yes. It involves a maximum of two layers of thin cotton clothing, fans, air conditioners, face gel (might as well keep using it!), tissues, handkerchiefs, anything that will mop a brow, a bicycle to create my own breeze, and suppressing my pride. For every time someone looks at my forehead while talking to me, asks me if I’m okay because I’m sweating, every painful time I’m forced to use my hand to mop my brow because I’ve run out of nicer options, for every time I’m counselling a patient at the bedside with my hands full and sweat is starting to roll down my face! ARGH! I know I’m not the only one, but you can only feel your own problems, can’t you? No one else sweating makes me hot and prickly!

But, this is the only antidepressant that has ever truly worked for me, so I’m sticking with it! Reluctantly, unfortunately, but the show must go on. And if I’m not on this medicine, the show will rapidly cease to go on. This brings up an interesting concept: what side effects are you willing to exist with, in order to get the benefit of your medication?

A lot of people have asked me whether I’ve considered stopping my medication. The answer is distinctly NO!!! Seriously, without knowing anything about my condition, my medication, and the subtleties of mental health, how could you ever ask that? And IF you ask it of anyone, you have to be responsible for the outcome, which may be dire, just like a doctor would be!! I understand that you are asking out of care an concern, I do. But it’s not an option with me.

Some have asked whether I’ve considered natural therapies: well NO, I want medications proven to work. And the ONLY natural therapy with evidence for depression is St John’s Wort which is only recommended in mild to moderate depression, which is not what I have.

So this is life. I sweat, not that big a deal when you consider the grander scheme, but oh so degrading on a day to day basis. A minor, but not so minor problem. Still, it’s not a suppressed immune system, or clots in my legs, or a physical disability. I can live my life, mostly do what I want, and be functional. That’s a pretty good hand to be dealt!

I promise I won’t hate you if you can’t resist looking up when we next talk. I won’t be annoyed at you for noticing. It’s just how I am now, and I’m trying to roll with it. Because in the end it is worth it, you know? I couldn’t live before; now I can live pretty happily. It’s just this one thing, and that other thing, plus the other one that take some dealing with, but it’s okay. It’s worth it!

Tired

Tired. Being tired. Feeling tired.

This is still the hardest thing of all for me to deal with. Especially so because I can’t really see that much of an end to it coming up with any haste.

Being or feeling tired, is pretty much the physical equal of being or feeling depressed, mentally. In fact I think they are different ends of the same condition. I’m sure that every depressed person feels tired; I’m not sure if every tired person, who is tired from some other cause that is ongoing and continuous, feels depressed but I’m guessing the percentage that do feel depressed is pretty high.

Most of the stereotypes are exactly the same.

You know, all the old favourites: “you don’t look tired”, “you don’t seem tired”, “I bet if you pushed yourself you would find that you’re not that tired”, “if you just tried a bit harder I’m sure you’d be fine”, “exercise is good for people when they’re feeling tired”, “if you were really tired you’d be sleeping instead of just laying around”, “are you eating properly because if you were I’m sure you’d find you weren’t so tired”, “are you sure you’re not just being lazy”, “are you sure you wouldn’t feel better if you did something for the day instead of sitting/lying there”, “are you sure quitting is good for you? If you pushed yourself I think you could keep going”, “everyone gets tired, you just have to push through it”.

Yawn! Surely it can't be time to get up! bed

Yawn! Surely it can’t be time to get up!

Really?! So let me get this straight. It’s not bad enough that I’m suffering with tiredness, but now you get to judge me for the affliction which I would never have wished for, and condemn me for however I somehow manage my way through it. Hmmm. Yep that sounds reasonable.

Rant over; that’s not what this is about. But I will make a side point here before we move one. Every single time that you want to ask someone a question that subtly suggests they are being useless and not helping themselves, think about this.

If that person had cancer and was suffering from whatever-it-is, in this case let’s say tiredness since that’s the topic, would you still ask the question? Would you still hint that they could do better and be better?

If that fails, try, and I mean REALLY try, to empathise with the subject, in this case, let’s say me. How about, as a mental exrcise, you imagine you were me? You may be a friend who knows a little about me, family who knows a bit more about me, or a stranger unmet that knows only what’s written here…but try. And if you can’t imagine it, or have insufficient information to really get into my shoes, then maybe it would be appropriate for you to consider that you also have no right to comment.

And please don’t take this as a rudeness or a get-out-of-here sentence! It’s meant only as a demonstration because I’m certain that most people commenting on health and mental health these days are not the people who have an inside and intimate view of the various conditions that exist.

So; being tired.

Here is the 50 million dollar question: is it physical or mental?

Here is the 25 million dollar: does it matter?

And here’s the question that I want answered that I’m not sure there is even an answer to: what the ……. am I supposed to do about it??? Fill in the blank yourself.

I have no idea what to do about it. No clue.

Everyone else has a lot of ideas.

Who has the answer that is best for me?

So here’s my systematic approach.

Why am I tired?

First cab off the ranks: I have depression, bipolar depression that comes with lack of motivation, lack of energy, lack of stamina, lack of feeling. So there’s that.

Second idea: medications including quetiapine (Seroquel) which literally puts me to sleep at night and possible hangs over a bit the next day; lithium which is known to slow you down a bit, so there’s a bit more.

Third thing: I have underactive thyroid which was caused by lithium and we’re still working on getting the thyroxine (Oroxine) dose right. I started on half a tablet, now I’m on a full tablet of the lowest strength and we’re waiting the 6 weeks before we can take a blood test to check if we need to bump it up again. Also I’ve had iron deficiency anaemia over the last year and while my iron levels are finally okay, my iron stores are still low so I’m still getting that sorted out with iron tablets and I’m also enrolled in a clinical trial to help with iron levels. None of that helps.

Fourth: the weight gain thing. The last time I ran around and got excited about jumping up and down, I was 30kg lighter! Thirty kilograms. It should surprise no one that a person carrying a bag of 30kg moves slower than they used to! It’s logical maths.

So actually, when I see it all written out on paper in detail…I realise maybe I could be giving myself a break.

Hmm. That’s actually quite a lot of reasons to be going slow…maybe I need to go back to psychology basics and re-frame my life these days. Maybe what is desperately needed here is some of that self compassion that I blab about but forget to apply, and a new perspective.

The perspective that says, Danika, whatever you can get done today is excellent. Congratulate yourself for getting up out of bed, for having breakfast, for getting out of the house, for getting through a shift of work, for whatever activity you do.

Forget about wondering why you can’t this and that, why you used to be able to do this and can’t now, why it’s hard to get through what you want to get through.

Try being excited and satisfied and happy about whatever you can get done. Give yourself a break. Don’t just say it, give it! It’s not a theory, it needs to be a practice. Give yourself a break!

And remember that you have hope of improving in the future: the plan to eventually wean you off sleepy quetiapine, your intention to slow weight slowly but steadily, your commitment to your medication that should correct your thyroid function and anaemia.

RIght now, it doesn’t matter what the tiredness is; could be anything off the list. Just take each day as it comes, and try not to have excessive expectations of yourself in your current state. You aren’t last year, you aren’t later this year; you’re right now, so just handle what you can handle, and leave the rest to another day.

And seriously: take your own advice! Don’t just right these easy lines for someone else’s benefit; read them and believe them and check in on them again each day. Every day. I don’t want you getting into a state about this tiredness thing anymore; give yourself a break!

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!