It’s hard to explain 27 years of being messed up with food, I’d love to say I don’t know why I am the way I am but I do. I’m smart enough to understand the psychology behind what I do but I’ve never been bothered by it enough to change it. It’s always been a fall back, a quick solution to not feeling great about myself. Far less effort than putting the work in on a healthy diet and changing the way I see food. But I’m going to try to put it down into words not for you but for me because it’s only once you fully understand something that you can begin to change it and, well, at nearly 28 it’s a bit ridiculous that food still stresses me out as much as it does.
So the history is fairly simple to understand, my dad and myself always struggled with our weight so I’d been on diets with him since before I can even remember. One time I was about 12 we did the special k diet which was 2 meals as cereal each day, I think after about week I was so malnourished I was in bed with the shakes. When I was about 14 Dad created his own weight loss website, created a plan for me from it and everything. They never pressurised me to lose weight but they were always super happy when I did. The website didn’t last long, he got sued by sa big weight loss company, but now my dad was a pro on diets and always trying to chip in with advice. Even now I get unjustifiably annoyed when he tells me about his weight loss or diets. During all this Mum started having her own weird relationship with food. She used to be the same size as me a 14 we would share outfits all the time, but she got ill one Christmas and just went off food. Lost a lot of weight by just not eating and dropped to a size 8. She will watch you eat dinner while picking at a bit of chicken, offer you snack after snack while she just nibbles on grapes. You’d think her having her own issues she’d have spotted them in me but it’s amazing what you can choose not to see when you want to.
It didn’t start as an accident it was a conscious decision. I’d been bullied for years, it got especially bad when I was 15 turning physical and just getting really mean and all it was focused on was my weight. Since I’d ben on diet after diet and I couldn’t stick to, I just kind of banned myself from food. If you can’t choose the right food then you don’t get to choose any food kind of thing. I knew it was anorexic behaviour, I had had a conversation with a friend saying I knew I’d get to a point where I lost the weight but would be so lost in the method I’d take it too far and he needed to tell me when that was. So I lost a lot of weight, in the space of one summer I went from 14 stone to 11 stone. I turned back up to school for year 11 and I was unrecognizable, people genuinely queued at my form door to see how different I looked. It was the first time I’d felt attractive. The bullying stopped, people were kind to me, I got invited to more parties and I had attention from boys for the first time ever.
You’d think I kept going not eating but I didn’t really, I would be normal for a week then not eat for a week. Its a trust thing; I never trusted myself to make the right choices I would either eat whatever I wanted or nothing at all. So I stayed that weight for a few years until I broke my ankle and gained most of it back, then I was at Uni and swimming and happy and it sort of went away a bit, I’d still periodically stop eating, lose weight, start eating again and gain it back, but I was in a weird category of being an overweight person with mild anorexia so nobody said anything and my friends from school that knew weren’t around as much. That’s pretty much when the bulimia kicked in. I wasn’t at home for my parents to hear, my Uni friends didn’t know, it was just easy...I could eat what I wanted and throw it back up so it didn’t really count. Another way to avoid having to make the right choices. And again another conscious decision to do things the easy way.
In the years after Uni it settled down and flared up depending on my emotional state and how I felt about myself. It peaked during my teacher training with the stress, where once again I stopped eating and if I did eat I threw it back up, this coupled with depression put me in a pretty bad place, I lost 2 stone in a month before I went to the doctor for help, about the depression not the food because that was a decision I’d made not an issue I had, obviously.
When I got better from the depression I got a bit better with food too I went travelling and no one really questioned when I dropped to 2 meals a day to save money, or didn’t eat one day. There was nobody around to say anything and I’d rather spend my money on doing things. When I got back from travelling a weird thing started happening when I dated people. I’d start getting super self conscious and not eat around them or become highly bulimic so that i could “look good for them" it had happened before in the early days but not in years. I tried to confide in one boyfriend I’d had but he didn’t seem like he wanted to know and I wasn’t going to force him to listen so it just became a me thing. If I ever tell my friend I'm back in those habits I get a tirade of abuse and I know it’s because she cares but it’s not as simple as just don’t do it. I’ve been doing this for so long now it’s a habit and it’s embedded in me.
When I used to eat a takeaway it was always with the understanding the calories didn’t count because I’d purge them. And that full feeling was always followed by purging too so I never had to deal with the feelings of guilt attached to my overeating. Its a form of losing control and gaining control. I self punish by banning myself from food when I make bad choices surrounding it, and then I punish again by making myself purge when I slip up. If I actually accept the full feeling and dealt with it that would serve as the reminder not to do it again.
When I decided I wanted to conquer it I realised how twisted my thinking had become. Last summer I spoke to a therapist for a few weeks mostly about relationships but we got on to food too and it made me realise I don’t want to do this forever. I walk into a supermarket and I’m overwhelmed by all the choices I have to make. Healthy food unhealthy food, vegan, gluten free, plastic. It stresses me out so much I avoid it. I shop once a month usually, which is not Ok. Restaurants stress me out, what do I eat, how bad am I going to feel if I eat a starter and a main, will I be able to purge when I get home, do I even want to.
So I guess that’s everything: I have an eating disorder because my parents have a messed up relationship with food and only 1 person ever really told me it was wrong. I thought I was too clever to fall into the pit of losing too much weight but I didn’t realise all the other effects it would have on me in the long term or I might have made a different decision. And now I purge and restrict to get rid of the guilt of eating the wrong food and punish myself for making bad choices, except I now have to deal with the guilt of doing that.
You’ve been gone for a while. Until today. Today you decided to hit me like a tonne of bricks. Turn me into a zombie. Make me cry in a meeting and snap at my friends. Today you made me mean and tired and you made me not care.
You made me hide in my room all day, you made me sit in the dark and my thoughts darkened with it. Today was not ok. Today I crawled into bed at 8pm but I’d wanted today to be over since the second I woke up.
Today you won, I didn’t even try to fight you, I let you wash over me like rain. I forgot your power and today you reminded me of it. Thank you.
Today is not tomorrow. You can have today, but tomorrow is mine.
Tomorrow I will smile again and laugh, I’ll chat to friends and open the door. I’ll turn the light on and pretend no one saw me shed that tear in the meeting.
Yes, you can have today, but tomorrow is mine.
Can we talk about diets for a second?
I need to get this off my chest. I’m overweight that’s no secret and a lot of my mates are too. So today I get bombarded with group chats about them all joining a new diet programme and I should get on board. Because you know I’m fat. I should just accept I’m fat and jump on the plan to loose weight.
So whatever I let it go and let them talk me into it but jeeze that’s a blow to a girls ego. I already have a mild eating disorder I don’t really need anyone making me feel worse. And to top it off one my friends knew about this. How the hell is someone supposed to recover and eat normally with your best friends shoving diets down your throat.
But I can’t actually be mad because 1) they are actually right and 2) I don’t think they really understand how it makes me feel (and no I won’t be telling them).
So there. Thanks. I feel better.
Something you may not know…
Most schools are signed up to a service called The Schools Advisory Service. They have lots of resources for staff and 1 of those is 5 free phone therapy sessions.
I’ve received about 3 or 4 emails throughout the year reminding me these services were available. But I didn’t really feel like I needed them.
However, after starting a new relationship and the stress of GCSEs getting closer and closer, I was falling back into patterns I hadn’t seen in myself in a while. Its not depression, I'm not feeling depressed and I feel fortunate enough to recognise that, but I have been feeling anxiety and insecurity I guess. So I decided to call the number and see if I could catch this feeling earlier and maybe even deal with some of the things I’ve always pushed to the back.
So I sat down in the comfort of my own home and had my first therapy session in 3 years. It felt so good to say the things I’ve been thinking but too afraid to say to anyone. Since its not depression I’m feeling I’m finding it hard to talk to people about it. I don’t want them to worry, I don’t want them to think I’m going back to that place. What I feel like I’m doing is finally dealing with issues I’ve previously just accepted as a part of me: my inability to commit in relationships and my relationship with food..
So far all I’ve realised is that these are very real issues for me and ones that I’ve never really addressed despite knowing they exist. At 27 years old I’ve never been in a relationship longer than 3 months, all ended by me because I’ve felt trapped or like I’m losing myself. And since I was 15 being bullied for my body, constantly being told to diet by those around me I’ve had issues with food.
But the first step has been taken. It feels good to know I have someone to talk through this with, who’s only job is to listen and help without judgement. In a weird way I think it also validifies my feelings, having someone say no that doesn’t sound like something you should just accept, we can address that. I’m not sure I’ll solve all of my problems in 5 sessions but they took 27 years to create they’re not going to go away in 5 weeks, but a start is a start.
Now I have to just get over the thought that I’m still not “out" of this mental health black hole. When you deal with one thing another pops up, is this just life? I mean is this what I can expect for the rest of my life? A never ending battle between me and my mind.
This blog gave me a place to put my feelings to release my hurt and to talk about the things I needed to talk about. But in the process of sharing this blog with those that I love, it stopped being a safe place for me to be honest and I started to hide or sugar coat the things that I needed to say. It’s why it started anonymous and why I should have kept it that way.
So if I have any right to ask a favour I’m going to ask this one; if you know me, if you know who I really am, stop reading. I need the anonymity to be able to be honest and I really need a place to be honest again. Because I know its ok not to be ok, but when I’m not ok I need a safe place to talk and I feel like I’ve lost that.
When I blog about depression and dealing with anxiety there’s a sense that it’s ok because that was then and this is now. I’m through the worst of it and so there was always a sense that even when I was low it’s ok because I’m not ‘that’ low. But how low do I need to be before it’s a problem, the more you ignore those moments the more they build and the lower low becomes; until you realise you waited too long. For me, I cried at work. I cried at work and then I realised I had a problem. No it wasn’t in front of the kids, thank goodness for small mercies, but it was in front of colleagues. Colleagues who were shocked and surprised that their strong co-worker who is never stressed had broken. And why were they shocked? Because I’m a master and pretending everything is ok. It’s really the only thing I know I’m truly great at. I have a mask an inch thick, one that never cracks and never moves, you can’t see through it or past it there’s no gaps at the eyes for you to seek the truth in its impenetrable and it took my years to build. When I write here I take it off and bare my soul, but at work I wear that mask to protect myself and those around me and it’s exhausting that mask weighs heavy on my shoulders, I need to take it off sometimes. That’s what I lost here; the reprieve, the release, the moments of honesty.
I didn’t turn to my blog, I didn’t turn to the one place that has helped me process 2 years worth of feelings. And I felt that loss, because putting it here would mean telling those I loved that I’m still not ok, I don’t want them to worry about me, I don’t want anyone to worry about me I just want to be able to say what’s on my mind and not feel a sense of letting people down. Or worse have people tell me how brave and strong I am when all I feel is weakness and cowardice.
I feel enough guilt from myself, like I’m letting myself down every time I have bad days. By feeling low and have anxious thoughts I’m wasting the gift I gave myself, wasting the progress I made. I know that mental ill health is not something you fix, it’s lifelong and you learn to manage it better, I know that. And yet. And yet I still feel like I’ve failed somehow when I feel like this. I can’t put a happy twist on the end and say it’s all ok I learnt a lesson and that’s what really mattered because the only lesson I learnt was that I’m not as invincible as I thought I was.
Perhaps the lesson I learnt is that I have depression. But that is a horrific thought that I’ve been through everything I’ve been through, travelled the world, fundamentally changed who I am as a person but that person still has depression and anxiety.
That may be a truth that I have to accept but I’m not ready to, I don’t want to. I feel like a child banging their fists against the floor having a temper tantrum because they can’t have their own way. But hey that’s how I feel and I’m so, so, so glad I finally got to say that.
When you start teaching at 22 you can’t help but think I’m way too young to be a “real” teacher. It’s fine when you’re training because you’re not a really a “real” teacher, but once qualified it becomes very surreal.
Then NQT year comes and you can do the job of a teacher but you’re mostly just faking it till you make it. Or at least i was! It’s like you’re getting really good at impersonating a teacher but you’re still confused as to how you ended up being the person people look up to. You are suddenly the responsible adult in the room.
Then just as I was getting into the flow and maybe, just maybe feeling like a “real” teacher; I quit my job and went travelling. Not very adult of me, eh?
Now I’m back with a TLR, a pay rise and a fresh start with a new school. I’m giving presentations to staff on things I stumbled into doing and got to know through Twitter mostly. Today I had a teacher come in from another school for an hour meeting with ME to teach her all I knew about PiXL. I’m running the Duke of Edinburgh award on my own, holding meetings and getting emails from parents...and I can’t help feeling like I’m there. A real teacher. Im not quite sure how it happened; but apparently it did.
Just don’t tell my new school I’m actually technically NQT+1 because I honestly don’t think they realise!
I’ve taken on too much. Again. I promised I'd say no, I have been saying no, but somehow everything's piled up and my work just threw in a formal observation.
I’ve felt like everything was going great, I've got to grips with my classes and started my Whole School Numeracy role. The pieces were just dropping into place. I started flat hunting, and not like I have been for the last few months, but in a way where I actually wanted to move out and get my own place.
I’m already dreading next week, with year 11 parents evening on Thursday and lots of little jobs to add in; I was at my limit.
Now, I have my first official observation at this new school, my first observation where I'm not an NQT. I didn't even teach a lesson on interview because I was abroad, so there's a lot of pressure.
So I'm in bed at 7pm, with a mini migraine, ready to burst into tears at any moment, debating whether it would just be easier to take a couple of painkillers so I can sleep heavy and deal with this tomorrow...
Yep, that's healthy isn't it.
Let me set the scene...
It's the second to last week of term, a departmental meeting to discuss end of term exams and data drops. The head of department decides to do the exams on the Thursday to give us Thursday through to Monday to mark and put our data drops in. The data drop is due Tuesday after school. Seems pretty reasonable right? Except I’m on a course that Thursday, a course neither him nor the second wanted to go to. So I can’t mark while the exams are being done, I can’t even get the papers until Friday morning which is a 5 period day for me; and then he says the thing that gets my back up “ I know its not due till Tuesday, but I want this done by Monday, so if we can all get these marked and on the system over the weekend that would be great.” In my head I’m panicking, there’s no way that I can do all that work in work time. But I have a rule, and I wasn’t prepared to break it so I said something I don’t regret.
“that’s not feasible, I don’t take work home with me and Friday isn’t enough time to get that done. I’m not working over the weekend. I’ll stay late Friday and Monday but I can’t take it out the building.”
And there it was. That Look. The look that said this is the job, you have to take it home with you. It has to be done and that’s your problem not mine. The look that said “you’re going to be a problem , aren’t you.”
To his credit, he immediately made it Monday night not Monday morning he wanted it done by, but my issues still stood, that’s not a lot of “work hours" to do a lot of work. I said I’d try and that would just have to do, I didn’t want to make an issue out of it but I was seething. It was the casual way he said to work over the weekend, I’m new to this school and I don’t know him all that well as a boss, he’d seemed great up to then but had I ruined it all with that one statement?
A colleague came up to me after to see if I was ok. Which in one way was sweet but also made me feel like an emotional person when really my statement was not emotional it was fact. I have a very clear divide between work and home, it’s the only way I keep my mental health on track. But that’s not something they need to know. What they need to know is it’s not Ok to ask me to do work over the weekend.
In the end I had 75% of the work done by 5pm on Friday. I had no breaks, no lunch and very little energy left when I slumped onto the couch that night. But it was mostly done and I had 2 frees on the Monday to finish it. Which I did. Again by losing my breaks and lunch. But the important part was, I didn’t take it home and it was done.
The next day, I popped into a colleagues class to borrow books and he is doing a mathematical colour by numbers, I frowned at him trying not to judge his lesson plan, when he said he just really needed to get the data drop done and was using that time.
I’m not sure what is accomplished with this horrific last week of term scramble, why we have to do assessments every 6 weeks to be marked and analysed, but clearly it’s affecting teachers and students alike. My classes on Wednesday asked if I was ok and if I was feeling better from the previous lesson. They could see my stress and I’m not surprised! But I had my weekend to myself and some of the other members of my team didn’t.
I don’t regret what I said, I work damned hard while I’m at work and I don’t need to do it at home, it always takes twice as long that way anyway. But putting that statement out there has probably put a target on my back, I’m the odd one out in a school of people working at home.
For me it’s a non-negotiable, I know the second I bring a set of books home to mark I’ve lost some internal battle, the floodgates will open, work becomes life and life becomes work.
Warning – this is riddled with triggers, it's how I felt at a bad time, please don't read this and struggle in silence, if it hurts talk about it, read this knowing I'm ok and I survived and you can too.
So I read a blog today. A brave beautiful blog by @miss_aknight. In It she spoke about her struggle, but stopped short of talking about her feelings at the time. It made me really think about whether I’ve actually spoken about that part. You won’t have to look too far to find my story, to know I suffer from depression and anxiety, but I’m not sure if I actually can explain the feelings I had (have?). Today, though, I’m going to try.
No background, it doesn’t really matter how it starts, sometimes it’s nothing, or everything, or both.
It starts usually with general lowness; the sun still shines but it’s not as bright. Flowers are there but they loose their vividness. It’s so gradual you don’t really even notice: you’ve become a zombie. Walking through life; looking but not seeing, hearing but not listening, touching but not feeling. You become a little bit numb , life’s loses everything that made you love it and at some point a question pops up that you can’t answer: what’s the point?
You wonder why you need that job, why DO I need to get out of bed, who am I showering for? What will actually happen if I disappear, I’m basically gone now anyway. Small tasks take monumental effort and the unanswerable questions are screaming at you.
The days that aren’t numb are spent wondering why anyone would even consider you a friend, after all you are a hideous person. Every bad thought about your body or yourself is proof of people not liking you, a delayed response is all the evidence you need of someone’s hatred. Every time you even attempt to find something good about yourself, you see a hundred reasons that contradict it. You're having an argument with a voice inside your head, except that voice is still you. If even you hate you, how could anyone else like you.
The anxiety is even more fun. Every embarrassing thing you ever did plays on a reel. A game of top trumps with only one loser (you). When some one reaches out a branch you throw it back in their face because you know its only pity, further proof of how ugly a person you are. When you try to go out and be normal and see your friends, panic attacks literally rip the air from your lungs. They blur your vision like an angry ex jealous of you seeing other people. It locks you in isolation, forces you to withdraw from the battleground. A vicious bully, intent on finding you vulnerable and alone.
And after months and months and months of this continuous bullying, when every reason you ever had for choosing life was thrown out like trash. That one solitary thought creeps into your head. There’s one way I know will stop it. One way to make the pain and all that hurt just stop. It sounds awful to us too. We don’t want to die. We just don’t want to live, not like this. I’m tired, I’m so damn tired of living. I don’t necessarily want to die I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep and I want this to be over. But those two things are the same and eventually it’s not a choice you want to make but have to make. Because even though one option is death, choosing to live is killing you too.
I’ve heard a few metaphors for what depression feels like and there’s two I’ve kind of identified with. The big grey cloud almost exemplifies daily life, but it doesn’t really show how bad it is. It’s just this negativity that follows everything you do. Some people walk in the sun but you walk under a thick grey cloud.
The one I think will help you understand is this: you’re locked in a room with the windows open, it’s the biggest storm outside you’ve ever seen. The rain and hale is blowing in and you’re trying to hold the window shut. But it’s broken. Trees are flying against it, the wind is howling and you can’t hold it shut. You’re cold, you’re tired, you’ve been in this room for months, maybe years. How long before you chose to leave that room one way or another? It’s not what you want but it would be a whole lot easier.
My experience is not everyone’s experience. I can only say how I felt and why I ended up where I did. In the frame of mind that I was. All I know for sure is that I was in a world of pain that I wasn’t equipped to deal with. But remember my story had a happy ending. For thousands of others it didn’t and for thousands more their ending is yet to be written.
Help is out there if you want it. There are people who will help you close the windows, who can shine a light through the darkest clouds. And you can choose to accept that help.
They rule our lives in one way or another. We can’t leave home without it. We check it on average every 5 mins, some 200 times a day. They tell us when to get up, where we are supposed to be and literally anything else we want to know.
The smart phone.
But I say it’s ruining our lives. Depression rates have never been higher, nor have rates of anxiety. Bullying is infinitely easier and happens at all times of the day from people you’ve never even met. Social media has decimated our social lives.
It would be far too radical of me to suggest ousting the smart phone completely, though doable, even I got lost the one time I went for a walk without my phone to sat nav me home. Nor, am I suggesting we turn them off at a certain time – does anyone remember what happened to your alarm clock after a power cut? Really, my alarm didn’t go off!!
I want to draw your attention to the options at the top of your screen, the power saving mode....
On my phone at least, power saving mode allows me to deactivate all my apps except a select number I pick to remain. The regular phone and text still work, a basic version of the internet exists, there’s a camera and of course an alarm.
But what’s important is what’s gone. No facebook alerts, messages or tags. No whattsApp group conversations going crazy at midnight over a random meme. No work emails popping up before bed that just NEED a response before tomorrow. And no endlessly checking your phone to see if anyone has swiped right.
It’s the 3310 for the modern world.
And I turn it on at 9pm, none of the messages get delivered until the next day and my sleep isn't interrupted by a multitude of vibrations. But the part of me that screams “what if it's an emergency!!!” is kept happy, in a real emergency they'll call; otherwise it can wait till tomorrow.
Once I started I couldn’t stop. Watching a really good film? Power save mode. Out for lunch with friends? Power save mode. Having a bath but want music? Power save mode. It really is that simple. AND. Your battery lasts longer.
I urge you to find yours now and save yourself from the screen addiction. Every minute counts if that minute is spent on you and your loved ones and not your phone.