Friday, 16 January 2009

one up side to (my) depression

I've been MIA for awhile, mostly due to ill health. I've had viruses, on and off, since November, plus I've had the PCOS diagnosis, and now I'm on antidepressants. This isn't the first time I've been here, and it's kind of not surprising, considering the amount of crap that's been going on in my life lately, most of which I'm not going to go into here.

But there's a positive side to it, and that's this: I haven't gone back to the bingeing. I haven't even wanted to. I've spent the whole of my life eating uncontrollably when unhappy, and it hasn't even occurred to me to do it this time around. And if I can face feeling as bad as I've been feeling lately without hitting the cupboard, I really think I've moved on.

It's struck me recently that on the occasions in the past when I've been clinically depressed, it has, at least in part, been triggered by the loss of a large and very destructive chunk of my life. I've been overjoyed to be rid of it, but the loss still leaves a space, and a feeling of "I don't know who I am if I'm not this".

In the past this has been related to religion. Now, I think, it's related to eating. Because, you see, all this blogging and feeling my feelings and fat acceptance and changing my neural pathways in relation to my thoughts about food and my body has been successful. I know I keep saying this, but I have to keep reminding myself of it: a year ago, almost to the day, I was sure I was living with compulsive eating for the rest of my life, that there was no way out, and that nothing would help. Now...I'm not even living with it today, or this week. I'm goddamn depressed and I still haven't gone for the food. Even the whole PCOS diet malarky (which has resulted in some not-insignificant diet changes for the sake of my hormones and my relationship with insulin) hasn't driven me back to it.

The eating disorder is a memory. I'm aware that it's not completely erased - I still refuse to participate in diet talk because I know what it can do, and I still have to make sure I don't start celebrating weight loss for its own sake (though I'm nearly there with that - I've gone down two jeans sizes and don't really care, except that it makes it easier to buy clothes) - but it isn't a living part of my day any more, even when I'm having days as bad as the ones I've been having recently.

And you know, as horrible as it was, that leaves a hole, both in my day and in my sense of who I am. I've essentially just got out of a twenty two year relationship - a destructive relationship, certainly, but a very long term one. And in the same way that I get kind of lost and confused if my husband is away for any period of time, at the moment I'm lost and confused, because who am I, if I am not eating-disordered? And I think that there's part of this depression which has been triggered by a very real grief for something that I felt defined me for the best part of my life, and now just isn't there any more.

This, by the way, is not to say that I want it back, any more than I want the religion of my youth back. I recognise these things as destructive for me, and I have no desire to go backwards. And in a lot of ways, I can recognise the depression process as positive because it means the business is done.

I do have to give some thought to who I am without it, though. It's a funny business, self-definition. All this life-changing work, every painstaking deliberate step of it, and here I am, depressed in part because I'm not sure who I am without the very thing I've worked so hard not to have.

It's good, though. I'd rather be here; even as bad as I've been feeling, I haven't been feeling it about my body. So there's an upside even to being depressed. I think it's a final goodbye.

Monday, 5 January 2009

gratitude (open letter to Shapely Prose)

Dear Kate, Fillyjonk and Sweet Machine,

I'm a fattie with a long term compulsive/binge eating disorder, and I've been reading Shapely Prose for less than a year. This time last year I was weeping on the eating disorder clinic's couch about how I couldn't cope with my eating disorder any more and couldn't cope with being fat any more and oh my God please help me or I'll die. (They didn't, for various reasons.)

Now it's a year later, only a year, and I am faced with a PCOS diagnosis and possible diabetes diagnosis and the resultant change of diet that those things may entail for best health, and, amazingly - beyond amazingly, staggeringly, astonishingly, incredibly - I'm okay. I'm emotional, sure. I'm worried, definitely. And I'm really pissed off when I go into the shops and see foods that I'm being advised to avoid to help with my insulin resistance. But I'm still okay. I'm not pissed off because I need all those crazy foods I'm being told to cut back on - I'm pissed off because it's so incredibly boring to have to worry about this.

The thing is, though, a year ago? Boredom wouldn't have even entered into this. I would've been crazy and desperate and bingeing like a maniac. Only a year ago...

At some point early last year, after the encounter with the eating disorder clinic (which didn't go very well), a friend of mine pointed me towards Shapely Prose, and it's just struck me that without her recommendation, without your blog, and without the whole FA environment (including all those awesome people who have been reading my own blog), I really doubt that I would be where I am now. Without understanding that it was okay to accept myself exactly as I was, even if I was fat, even if I was crazy, even if I was unhealthy, I would not have stopped binge eating completely.

Yes, of course, there are other factors - I recommend Stephen Cope's work a lot, and there are various other things I've been up to, and I've slogged my guts out over the past year. But I can't underplay the importance of what reading your blog has done for me.

If I hadn't found you, I wouldn't be in recovery. If I hadn't found you, I wouldn't be able to face all this low GI nonsense with relative equanimity and emotions going only from grief to boredom. If I hadn't found you...I don't even want to think about it.

So from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Thank you for pointing out that it was okay to be fat, not just fake okay, but really, really okay. Thank you for pointing out all the flaws in the "OMG FATZ IS BAD" illogic and bad science. Thank you for giving me a language to talk to myself about this in which was positive and logical, because without you, I doubt I would have made it, and I'd be facing the illnesses I'm facing without the tools and relative equanimity I now have.

I know the three of you get a lot of shit for all kinds of reasons, but I wanted to put it out there that what you do here is of immense value. For me, it has been life-changing.

Thank you all three so much. Seriously. Thank you.