The first time I remember skipping a meal was when I was 8/9. I was at primary school and – I can’t remember why –but I decided I wasn’t going to eat my packed lunch for a few days. My best friend at the time told my mum and she had a talk with me about eating and how important it was not to skip meals etc.
I yoyo dieted throughout my school life. I always looked at food as the enemy. I wanted chips but I should have the salad and if you have that now you can’t eat that later and so on…. So I really can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t link food to guilt. In year 10 I suddenly dropped weight. But not to the point where everyone was worried – just to the point where everyone was saying how great I looked and boys were noticing me. So, unknown to them of course, that was seriously unhelpful.
I was able to keep my obsession with food and weight a secret – it was just for me – because I would lose some, gain some, lose some. I was never perceived as a cause for concern and have actually spent most of my life on the heavier side of ‘normal’ – whatever that is.
I moved out of my mum’s house at 16 and went to live with my boyfriend. My ongoing love hate relationship with food got worse and in the midst of my first severe bout of depression I developed a fairly heavy duty recreational drug habit. Which of course made my mental health so much worse. But at the time it was the escape I craved.
Throughout my life I have had periods of severe depression, anger and anxiety and have been on and off prescription medication since the age 16. I never really knew why I behaved in this way sometimes – I had begun to accept the fact that I was a difficult, angry, sad person who had a fantastic way of putting on a show of being the life and sole of the party/rave/house gathering etc.
I became more aware of the concept of having mental health issues and possible causes for them in my early 20s. Then I met a young girl that would have a more of an effect on me than either of us ever realised at the time.
My mum was directing a production of Oliver and had asked me to do some one on one rehearsal with a girl who, although extremely capable, was having a crisis of confidence and needed a boost. That girl was Jess.
I spent quite a lot of time with Jess and got to know her quite well. She opened up to me about the problems she was having with eating and her general mental health. This inspired me to go and research what I could actually say or do to help this girl who seemed to be fading in front of my eyes.
I stayed in touch with Jess when she was in the unit and it was her that made me realise that I wanted to help other young people like Jess. I made mental plans to become a counsellor one day.
I started this when I was 25.
Just before that the doctors picked up that I had a large cyst on my ovary, over 4cm in diameter, I had this removed via keyhole surgery and then my hormones went MENTAL. And I mean mental. I turned into a periodically sad, angry person again. That was when I was diagnosed as having PMDD. Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. It’s a chronic hormone disorder with a side order of mental health issues. In simple terms I am essentially allergic to my own hormones. So I have periods of chronic fatigue, compulsive food cravings, body pain, brain fog (I HATE brain fog), depression, anger and even suicidal thoughts. It’s very similar to having ME and Bi Polar at the same time – but in a fairly regular monthly cycle.
Just before all of this I had met up with Jess again and started helping Debbie and all the other lovely volunteers to set up The Project.
Then disaster struck and my PMDD symptoms were the cause of the end of my relationship with someone I felt would be the love of my life. In fact it was this, and a pile of other things from the previous 12 months, that caused the anxiety attack that lead to my emotional breakdown – which in fact happened a year ago in June 2013.
I always thought having a breakdown would be terribly dramatic and the actual breaking part – the 2 hour hysterics and panic – I guess was but the weeks that followed were pretty dull to be honest. I managed to survive solely on cigarettes and pepsi max for nearly 3 weeks. When I say survive I mean sit in the same spot on my sofa and stare at the wall or the TV when I could be bothered. I lost over a stone in weight. And ridiculously in the depths of my despair I still felt like that was a good thing to come out of it – have an emotional breakdown and fit into size 10 jeans! Now I look back and realise how unhealthy it was.
OK, so rock bottom had been achieved. But as you can see, here I am a year later looking pretty normal – whatever that means!
FINALLY my medication started to balance me out a bit.
I got an email from Debbie one day talking about the opening stuff for The Project. I realised that if I stayed in this limbo state, still alive but not really living, I would never be able to use my experiences to help others and me feeling like this would all be for nothing. So day by day I wrote myself a ‘to do’ list. As simple as – brush teeth, feed dogs, have a shower. And every time I did one I crossed it off. I started to gradually go back to work and socialise again. Be out in the world without fear of my ‘crazy’ seeping out for all to see.
Things that have helped me
- To do lists – even as basic as ‘have a shower’ or ‘feed the dogs’
- Walking and looking after my dogs, a purpose.
- Qualifying as a counsellor and learning so much about myself and why I am the way I am.And following a dream and having a goal. Has given me so much better self esteem
- Ridding my life of the people I felt had a very negative impact
- My boyfriend. He came along when I was on the edge of getting better and his understanding and support has been invaluable.
- Katie R – she introduced me to the primal/paleo way of eating that has greatly reduced my PMDD symptoms and also helped with accepting myself and body for what they are
Thanks for reading and if anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to ask either in the comments, in person or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.