Yet another tricky blog entry to write, but one I feel needs to be done. If only for my own sanity and wellbeing.
To be respectful I will add a trigger warning as there will be some discussion of eating/dieting, controlled eating, disordered thoughts around food and dieting, suicide, self-harm, overdose, alcohol, depression, anxiety and obsessive thinking.
Today is Time To Talk day - part of the Time To Change movement.
Only a few weeks back I had a day off from work to head to the Solent Mind headquarters where I received my Time To Change Champion training. In a nutshell, this training then meant I would head back to work and share ideas and positive vibes with fellow colleagues to ensure that all staff members are looking after their wellbeing.
The irony in this is that after this training I headed to the pub. I fell in to my usual pattern of being on such a high that I drank, and drank, and drank, without considering the consequences and the inevitable point where my mood would drop so suddenly I would feel like hell had opened up beneath me.
This did happen. And it's not the first time it has.
I have had a toxic relationship with drink for many years now. It's something I am aware of, yet something I instantly feel the need to turn to.
But...no more. I will explain why later in this post.
Yesterday - January 31st - marked the end of R.E.D January. For those of you who are not aware of this challenge, R.E.D stands for Run Every Day January. Contrary to many people's beliefs, and given the name of the challenge, participants did not actually have to RUN every day but merely be active and use physical fitness to help 'beat the blues'.
I won't lie...I am so glad that it is over. Don't get me wrong, there have been many perks - feeling more active, having a bit more energy and knowing that I can do things when I really set my mind to it. However, in comparison, the cons majorly outweigh the pros.
This is not common knowledge to many people, it's not even something I have discussed with therapists, but throughout my teens I struggled with my weight. I don't mean just a bit, I mean pure hatred towards myself. Binging, purging, calorie counting, restricting, even finding cheap diet pills. I used to dance. Dancing is all I wanted to do but I never felt like I would truly be good enough. I was never the skinny dancer in the group. There have been times where my weight has shot down. I never noticed at the time, but I see photos now and I'm shocked.
For the first few weeks this made taking part in R.E.D extremely difficult. I felt myself becoming obsessed again. It wasn't as simple as going for a run and feeling accomplished. It was a run, it was workouts, it was continuously moving until I was in a lot of pain. Then the guilt came. I would go to eat and break down. I even remember saying to Mitchell after about the 3rd day (bearing in mind I had not been active AT ALL before any of this had started), "What's the point of even doing this if I'm just going to stay fat?!'
I scared myself after that and took a step back to think. I took a step back and remembered why I was doing this challenge. It was never about losing weight. It was about the challenge, raising money for Solent Mind, raising awareness regarding mental health and proving to myself I can do it and stick it out. So, that's what I did.
Things started to get harder when I created a support group on Facebook. There was already a R.E.D main group, but this had gained SO many followers and a lot of it was about stats and running goals. I wanted a small, safe group which focused more on support and a platform for people to share their emotional struggles. It was great. It's still great, but, again, it brought up challenges. I found myself feeling useless and pathetic if I hadn't done as much as others. I ended up having to put up group rules and asking people to include Trigger Warnings with their posts and others were also becoming affected by some of the subject matter.
I kept going. It hurt so much. The thoughts still crept in. I could still feel myself obsessing. My shins felt like they were about to burst through my skin. My mind was racing at 100 miles per hour. My knees became weaker and I spent many nights after a run, thinking, 'how is this beating the blues?', 'what am I actually gaining from this?'.
I'm stubborn though and if I hadn't have finished, I would have beaten myself up for weeks, maybe even months to come.
Fast forwarded to last Friday. I wont go in to all the details as I am still coming out of a dark place, but again, my high was there. I was in good spirits and then the drinking happened.
I messed up. Without meaning to, I messed up.
From Saturday until Wednesday evening i stayed in the flat. I slept, I cried, I slept, I cried, I screamed in to pillows, I stared at walls. I don't know where I was. What I wanted or how I was going to come back from it.
The strange thing is, the one thing which helped me to come back from it was making myself leave the flat and go for that one final run of R.E.D January.
It hurt. It was freezing. I hated every moment of it. But, I did it!
This morning, with the biggest net of butterflies in my stomach, sweaty palms and uncontrollable breathing, I walked to the train station. I sat on a train. I walked up the stairs. I went back to work. I turned my computer on and I sat to write an email to my colleagues reminding them that today is Time To Talk.
I didn't want to speak to anyone. I knew I would have to, but my goodness I did not want to. I wanted to stay in my comfortable bubble and forget about the world around me.
Today had some challenges, but today also had many positives.
My morning walk was under the beaming moonlight. I saw the sunrise. I spoke with friends at work I care about and got a lot off my chest. I laughed. I started a conversation with a random person on the train which led to us walking through town together, discussing many things we had in common until we parted ways. I heard a woman in the pharmacy declare from the top of her lungs how she was going to rehab and do all she can to get clean and get her son back. I spoke with an old, dear friend who I have not spoken to for ages. I received messages of support from people, just to let me know they are there.
On this date last year, I was in hospital after a night of drinking led me to taking an overdose and self-harming.
R.E.D was hard and I am glad it is over.
Today is a new day and a day in which I am smiling. I am talking. I am writing and most of all, I am living.
Set backs and mistakes are what make us human, but being able to learn and grow from them is the hard part. I have made mistakes, but I am not where I was this time last year and for that I am grateful and proud.
Be kind to yourself and recognise what your downfalls are. Don't beat yourself up when things do get hard.
"Don't give up! You've survived everything you've ever done!"