Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The annually triggering January diet time.

A few years ago, as April Fools Day approached, a girl I was at school with posted on facebook arguing the case against making 'I'm pregnant!' jokes. It didn't change any of my behaviours- it's probably been 10+ years since I'd have been inclined to post something along those lines-  but it did change why I'd not post one. Before Chloe had written her facebook post, I found the jokes to be not really funny. No big deal, just not all that funny. After Chloe posted, I was more aware of how the posts could make somebody else feel. Her argument was that you don't know which of your facebook friends are suffering with infertility or after miscarriage or infant loss. You never know who is fighting a war that you seemingly are making light of. I'd never really thought about it because, well, it's not really something that's touched my life. I can't tell you how it might make somebody feel without having somebody who really understands the situation explain it to me.

As I'm sure some people dread the same, exhausted jokes being dragged out for April Fools, I dread January. The whole month. Everything that month seems to represent. I dread the implication that the person you were in December needs a complete change, I dread the implication that the way to change that person is to lose weight and I dreaddreaddread the implication that the weight loss needs to be documented all over social media.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that me having had an eating disorder means you shouldn't change yourself or lose weight or be proud of the fact. That's none of my business. All I'm saying is be aware. Be aware that often eating disorders are extremely competitive. Be aware that your comments can trigger a disproportionate reaction in a person that may last far longer than your own diet. For example, I hear someone has lost 5lbs and, even in recovery, I have a sudden, obsessive need to lose 6. I panic that the person posting either has or will go onto develop an eating disorder. And again, my competitive side emerges- I was 'the most ill' for a while and I still don't really know how to be anything else. These are things that aren't easy to admit, because admitting them doesn't paint me in the best light. But this is what eating disorders do.

(Actually, as I type, an ad break has just come on the tele and the first advert is for a weight loss plan that I happen to know- I told you, EDs can be competitive and I'm very up-to-date on fad diets- forces the body into starvation mode. And so it begins.)

It's all well and good for me to be saying this, from my position both in recovery and as somebody who is out of the fridge (it's the ED version of coming out of the closet, I've decided). Eating disorders are secretive by nature and so in a lot of cases you'll not be aware of all the people with EDs within your social media circles. If you're reading this and think that I'm your only friend who has/has had an eating disorder, I can pretty much guarantee that you're wrong. Most people with EDs are not underweight. Most people don't feel comfortable being open about it. But that doesn't mean they don't hurt and won't be hurt by you extensively documenting your weight loss.

Be safe, be well, be aware. If you want to lose weight, do it safely. Watch out for obsessive symptoms in yourself. Be aware of how your words may affect somebody else. Make it a happy new year :).

Friday, 18 December 2015

Sparkly.

It's really hard to sum up how much this Christmas means to me. I keep scrunching up my face in excitement and getting cramp; I am beyond excited and have been since, I don't know, 2011. I am sparkly at the best of times, but a time of year that goes along with that theme is The Best. Seriously. I've been typing and deleting all day, because I just can't get out all them feelingz properly. Ever since I was sectioned (forcibly hospitalised because of a mental health condition) just before Christmas a few years back, I've been waiting for this one. My first one out of hospital since 2011. I've always had to remind myself that I'll eventually get to make up for all the Christmases I missed from being in hospital and all the ones I missed because although I was there in person, in spirit I was too busy planning my next weight loss bloc. I'm well. I'm did it. I got well and I got out of hospital and ohmygod next week I'll get to eat Christmas pudding and brandy butter.

Listen though; it's ok if you're dreading the day, you hate the season, you're lonely or sad or ill. My heart goes to you, but it's ok. I never believed that I would get an opportunity to make up for it all, but I have. I won't rave on about how it's for the best or instruct you to have a good time because, well, honestly it might be crap. It might break your heart. It might be heartbreaking for your family. But there are better days and sparklier Christmases ahead.

If you need me over the season, feel free to get in touch (on Twitter I'm @RebeccaXylo and my email address is rebecca.condron@hotmail.com).

You are not alone. And you don't have to be sparkly right now.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

I was brilliant at dying.

I was brilliant at dying. I got up, rarely ate and usually followed up with vomiting, drank too much and smoked too many, often took the meds I should with a handful that I shouldn't and slept between all of that. And I was really brilliant at dying. I pooled all of my money into my ventures, as well as some other other people's; I begged, borrowed and stole to fund my risks. And I was really, really brilliant at dying. I spent my time in a cloud of misery and bitterness, not daring to do anything that might challenge how dark I thought the world was; too afraid to be wrong, because that would take away the twisted stability that being ill gave me. And I was really, really, really brilliant at dying.

And then, well, then it didn't happen.

Then I lived.

I always wanted to be great at something. The best. You know those kids at school who could turn a perfect cartwheel, or score goals, or dance en pointe, or paint a picture that actually looked how it was intended? That was never me. But I was brilliant at dying. I didn't even realise in the early days, and by the time I did I was too good at it to give up. It was a started as a secret obsession. It became a total addiction, and like any addict, I was never really sure that I enjoyed it. It wasn't really relevant. I just enjoyed finally being the best, and that prevented me from giving it up.

But, of course, then it happened.

But then I began to live.

Because I wanted grace and beauty. I had thought there was poetry in dying slowly. I had thought there was lyricism in dying young. I had thought my tragedy would result in black clothes and a few days of tears, before life without me would go on and everyone would be better for it. I had thought that people might read my words and forget my decomposing body. I had thought that dying would be going out in a blaze of glory, rather than gradually disappearing. I had thought the only thing I could ever do that could ever be graceful or beautiful would be dying.

There is no beauty in the life or death of an addict. It doesn't matter what the addiction is, there's no beauty in any of it. There's no beauty in death caused by addiction, either. Corpses are not beautiful. Tragedy shouldn't be confused with poetry. Dying in the way that I was, was causing anguish that wasn't going to be ended with my death- dying is a debt that saps the resources of the living. That's all.

And so, I'm learning to live. And I'm ok with not always being the best at that.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

I hate the phrase 'mental health.'

I hate the phrase 'mental health.'

I hate that we differentiate. Physical health? That's just health. No prefix needed. That's because physical healthcare is the healthcare that matters by default, whereas mental health needs to be put in its own little box. It's like it's not worthy of being categorised with 'real' health.

I hate that completely random illnesses are grouped and treated together under the mental health banner. Sure, some symptoms overlap- but I hear voices because I have complex PTSD, as opposed to hearing them because I have schizophrenia. It's a bit like how you might have a headache because you have failing eyesight, or you might have one because you have a brain tumour. Imagine being treated for poor eyesight in the same room even as someone is being treated for cancer.

I hate that there is only really one expected treatment path with mental illness and a lot of services won't touch you if you tick too many boxes, because they're not set up or funded for divergence from whatever the norm is thought to be. They're starved of attention and determined by their outcomes, punished in a way that physical health services aren't.

I hate that we talk about admitting we have a mental health condition. Admitting. Like it's a crime. I mean, I'm always much more afraid of telling someone I have mental health conditions than I am a physical ones. Somehow, saying I used to eat very little is worse than saying that I get migraines.

I hate that even the phrase is enough to send adults running for the hills. I have been asked to refrain from telling certain adults about my conditions. I am not ashamed, so don't you dare be ashamed of me.

I hate that, as a society, we forget that it's not only physical health problems that kill. That those heart attacks that seem to plague some, are often a consequence. That addiction kills. Eating disorders kill. Stress kills. Ignorance? I'd say that's one of the biggest killers.

I hate that people honestly think that it's possible the have any health without both mental and physical health.

And I really, really hate that people hear 'mental health' and immediately imagine some kind of personality deficiency that they don't associate with the word health, alone.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Growing up.

I officially applied to uni yesterday. Slightly different from when I applied the first time around. Not just because the mental health nursing I'm planning on studying now is more than a bit different to the politics I did when I was younger (insert a joke about politicians being mental, I dare ya). The first time around I got my applications in just on time, because my tutor had been nagging me for forever to do it and I was pretty bloody awkward. Hello, I'm Contrary Mary. Back then, I eventually got my personal statement done after skiving college and getting hammered at dinnertime- a tradition that would result in being sober by teatime and totally recovered by the time I went to bed, for a good night's sleep. So grown up.

Eventually though, yesterday I got my applications done, all whilst sober. I may have just about grown up. It's funny, because selling myself was somewhat harder this time, as opposed to when I was 18. I think part of that is because I'm now more comfortable and confident in myself. I know that might sound a bit backwards, but to write my personal statement at 18, I had to be drunk and pretty much taking the piss a bit, because it was the only way I could possibly imagine writing it. Now, at the grand old age of 25, I was in the strange position of just about being able to write it sober, from the heart. 

I joke a lot about growing up. Comments about who/what I'll be when I grow up (tall, for example), laughs over how I thought by now I'd be a real grown up. Behind all the jokes though, there is something else. I feel like I never really did the usual steps that a lot of other people my age did, that signal adulthood- graduating, careers, leaving home, weddings, kids, and so on. I think a lot about where I should be, without acknowledging that I've had to take a totally different route from the average person, but have come pretty bloody far.

I think we all feel, at some point, like that episode of Rugrats where the kids have suits on and go to work. I think we all look at the lives of others and only notice the best bits. Which is fine, it stops us being horrible, but it'd probably make us all a bit nicer in general if we looked at ourselves with that kindness. I'm not sure what being an adult is really all about, part of me always feels like I've been one and part of me is sitting waiting for it to happen to me. I don't think it really matters though. All I do know, though, is that being 25 is a damn sight better than the adulthood 18 promised.