I've spoken on this blog before about my struggles with depression. Its been an issue for me since I was around fifteen or sixteen, although I didn't receive any diagnosis or treatment for it until I was in my first year of university. Its only looking back on the last five years of my life that I am able to recognise that the feelings that were attributed to me 'just being a teenager' and 'a bit of a cow', were actually manifestations of my depression. Don't get me wrong, I was both a teenager and a cow, but my words and actions were not solely due to these two things. There was something much more serious going on beneath the surface.
My depression is not something that I discuss often, nor with many people. While I occasionally refer to it in front of friends and housemates it is only in very shallow terms, and most often in reference to my 'happy pills'. There are a lot of reasons that I don't choose to discuss my depression with every Tom, Dick and Harry, or why I don't mention it with any regularity on this blog. Firstly, while this blog is extremely personal to me and is closely related to my weight loss and therefore my life, I do strive for it to be a positive place. Of course I am honest when I'm struggling, as I was last week when I confessed to my mega Easter weekend binge. But I will always try my hardest to draw some positivity from these struggles for the benefit of my readers. My aim is for this blog to be inspiring and empowering to those trying to lose weight, to show that if a perfectly ordinary student from South-East England with a huge appetite and a clinical phobia of exercise can lose a substantial amount of weight, then by God so can the rest of the world. That is my message to you all. That is my aim. And I hope that I am achieving that aim. This is not a blog about depression, it is a blog about weight loss. And while the two are closely linked for me, I am aware that this is not necessarily the case for everyone, which is why I don't mention it regularly on here. Its also partly to do with the fact that when I see or hear somebody who is going on and about their depression, my instant thought is 'attention seeking'. There is still an awful lot of stigma attached to depression, and perhaps my reaction is a result of society conditioning me to react negatively to open discussions of depression. I know that chances are people who are open about their depression are not attention seeking at all. But even though it may make me a terrible person, that is still my initial reaction. I don't want that to be somebody else's initial reaction about me.
Much of my reticence about discussing personal issues such as my depression - both in 'real-life' and the blog - also comes from my upbringing. Overt displays of emotion are not common in my family. We don't really hug all that much. And we certainly don't 'talk' about things. I'm pretty sure that this has contributed in no small part to my slight social retardation and communication issues. I'm not very good at talking to people about 'personal' things. I'd rather text it to them. Or perhaps send it in an email. I know thats bad, and that it is a sign of the times that an intelligent and articulate young woman would rather resort to forms of social media to tell someone that she likes them or that she's feeling a bit low, instead of simply telling them to their face, is a prime example of the ways in which we depend too heavily on technology, but thats just the way I am. I can compose my thoughts in a text or an email, and phrase them so they make sense. There's nobody to interrupt me and jumble my thoughts up. Its just easier.
So by now you're probably thinking to yourself 'What has any of this got to do with Weight Watchers?'. The answer, really, is everything. For me at least. I've always known that the two are linked, that there is no one without the other and when one is going badly the other inevitably follows suit. The last two weeks have reinforced this message. For the last four months or so, I've been teetering on the edge of a precipice that I really don't want to fall down again. I'm not at rock bottom, but it won't take much to put me there. This I know from experience. For a long time the depression was getting better, then it sort of plateau'd...and since then I feel like I've been on a steady decline. I didn't ignore it like I have done before. I went back to the doctor who upped my dosage of Happy Pills and referred me for counselling, which I've been attending since January. Both of these have helped, marginally, although there's very little counselling can do for somebody who isn't willing to discuss certain issues. The recommendation, after the counsellor ascertained that I wasn't quite comfortable opening up to her, was that perhaps I should speak to one of my close friends or family about some of the things that are causing me problems. I think she thought that if I spoke to my mum or one of my friends or housemates about one minor problem that the floodgates would open and I'd suddenly have all these free-flowing emotions. Sadly it didn't really work like that because I don't do talking. Unless we're counting texts and whatsapp messages of course, which I really don't think we are.
These feelings, obviously, have had a negative effect on Weight Watchers. Quite frankly I find it miraculous that I've managed to lose anything since January what with how I've been feeling, never mind the best part of a stone. My weight does jump up and down from one week to the next for a variety of reasons. Part of it is quite simply an occupational hazard of being a student - there is a lot of socialising, most of which includes alcohol or food. Where the depression comes into play is that it strips me of my self-control. On a good day I'd go to the pub and have a couple of vodka and cokes or a glass of wine. On a bad day I'd have a couple of bottles of wine or a few pints of cider, plus shots. Where things get really messy is when the alcohol and the depression are in cahoots and not only strip me of my self-control but also any sense of self-worth. This is getting into fairly personal territory now, and its not something that I've ever really voiced before - either out-loud or online. But that is what happens. The little voice inside my head that is so good at telling me that I'm worthless and useless gets louder and louder until it has me completely in its grasp. And if I'm already worthless and useless and completely unwanted then whats the point in being skinny and healthy? May as well be fat and worthless and useless all at the same time. And so the cycle continues...
My issues with food do not stop there. When I'm feeling really low, as I have been for the last few weeks, food becomes both my best friend and my worst enemy. I know many other people for whom depression and overeating go hand in hand, but my experiences seem to differ slightly. There is no doubt that I am a 'binge eater', however I don't seem to binge in the same way as other people do. Other people describe their binges as a total lack of control, and I've heard the phrase 'shark on a feeding frenzy' used many times. My binges have never been due to lack of control - quite the opposite. If anything they were a deliberate and calculated attempt to cause myself as much pain and discomfort as a I could through overeating. Eating to the point that I was in a great deal of pain allowed me to focus on something over than the depression. Thankfully I have have learnt a great deal from Weight Watchers, and my binges are no longer anywhere near as bad as they used to be. The effect is still the same, except now I use the emotional pain of the guilt of overeating, as opposed to the physical pain. Eating an entire jar of Nutella straight from the jar enables me to focus on the crippling feelings of guilt, as opposed to the other things that are bothering me. Food is an escape route. The food itself doesn't make me feel better, but the feelings associated with it allow me to distract myself from the feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness that are part and parcel of clinical depression.
This is all getting a bit heavy now, isn't it? I'm sorry. I feel that I owe you all an explanation though. Some of you guys have been with me since the start, and I know that my weight loss efforts over the last few months or so have been poor at best. Now you know why this has been the case. Its not that I can't be bothered or that I'm just being greedy (although both of those things have been known to happen). Its because I'm struggling in other areas of my life, and this in turn has a knock-on effect on my weight loss.
When I first started Weight Watchers, I truly believed that losing weight was the key to being happy. Actually, its the other way round. I'm not depressed because I'm fat, I'm fat because I'm depressed. I used to blame all my problems on my size, but now that I am only slightly overweight I can't do that anymore. If something doesn't go my way I can't blame it on being 20st. If a guy isn't interested I can't simply put it down to him being shallow. Instead I have to address the other issues that are going on, and that can be really tough.
That being said, I am getting better. I've been clinging to sanity with my fingertips this week, but its paid off and I have managed to lose all of last week's 4lb gain. I did slip up a few times, but I managed to get my head back in the game before I totally blew it. I know that its going to be a long hard slog, and that I'll never really get better, but at least its a move in the right direction.
So why am I writing this then? Why now? For a lot of reasons really, not least because this, writing it all down, is the only way in which I feel able to talk about these things. Also, because I hope to help others out there who may be struggling with similar issues. I suffer alone because I choose to, but you don't have to.
Thank you, once again, for listening to me prattle on! I know this post wasn't exactly 'thinspirational', but hopefully it'll give you some idea as to why I haven't exactly been on top form for a while!
Lots of Love,