I could have called this post “I wasn’t okay but then I was but now I’m not again”, but it’s not particularly catchy or focused, is it?
This was not an easy post to start writing (those about your own mental health never are) and, talking of focused, that’s exactly what I’m NOT right now. I’m so far from focused you could say I’m as blurry as a blurred blurry thing seen through blurry eyes without their glasses on.
Enough about blurriness.
Regular readers may know that I wrote about the state of my mental health and how I admitted to myself I was struggling with my mental health back in March. Within a couple of months I’d got myself sorted by picking myself up, dusting myself down (otherwise known as a lot of self-care) and dishing out a whole load of tough [self] love. Things were good better.
But then, of course, LIFE happens. Some good sh*t happened, but a lot of bad sh*t did as well.
Photography by Giles Caldicott
[Reading time: 8 mins]
I’m not sure what else to call it, but let’s call it a “blip” for now. A blip that is – was – mostly of my own doing. And when I say my own doing, I mean the blip was caused by my reaction to events around me. It’s taken me a long time to realise it (and it crushes me that it takes a philosophical meme or two on social media to help me understand my own failings), but I’ve realised that you can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control YOUR REACTION to them.
My reaction? To eat constantly, and to stop moving.
And so the cycle of self-destruction began.
Realising my mental health and physical health are linked
Before I go on, I’m setting a timer for writing this. I usually write for hours and hours when writing any of my wordy (rather than straightforward outfit) posts. So, I’m going to say what I have to say by writing for one hour, and that’s it. I’ll proofread after, but I don’t want this to go on and on. Short and sweet. (Famous last words?!)
So as I was saying… what happened? In a nutshell, I ballooned in a very short space of time.
I basically self-sabotaged the one thing that I have a certain amount of power over, and that’s my physical health and fitness. In another nutshell (let’s say the first one I mentioned was a walnut shell, and while I’m on an analogy roll let’s describe this one as a mofo COCONUT shell), I realised that when I’m unfit and piling on the weight, my mental health inevitably takes an absolute DIVE.
Ting! Lightbulb moment.
The next thing was to recognise how I get to that stage, and what I can do to break the cycle.
But before I talk about that, here’s the cycle in all its gratuitous viciousness:
How the vicious cycle of my mental health crash goes around
- Something sh*t happens. I’m not going into any specifics here (some very personal things I do keep to myself), but there’s often an initial trigger. It can be a sudden occurrence, or it can be something that’s been building up. But something sh*t happens – sometimes (often) it’s more than one thing.
- I lie awake worrying about it at night. Or I don’t go to bed till stupidly late, usually as a result of knowing I’ll lie awake unable to sleep. Either way, I’m exhausted the next day due to lack of sleep.
- I’m so tired I forgo my morning walk to try and get an extra hour in bed to catch up on sleep. And I’m definitely too tired to do any sort of strength training workout or run in the evening.
- Due to missing out on my morning walk my routine is buggered. I just flounder about without any structure to the day.
- My fatigue causes me to crave sugary foods, and lots of it. I’ll buy everything naughty at the supermarket, I’ll raid the cupboards and fridge all day.
- I forget to drink enough water, again, because my routine is out of whack (amazing how a routine can help you with things like structuring healthy snacks intake and water consumption).
- I get headaches due to being dehydrated and experience sugar crashes so my energy levels divebomb.
- Over the course of time all that poor diet, lack of sleep and no exercise results in weight gain.
- Weight gain leads me to not being able to fit in my clothes, low fitness levels give me regular headaches and extreme lethargy.
- I stop washing my hair regularly. I start skipping stages in my nightly skincare routine. I wear nothing but sweatpants and hoodies because that’s all that fits me.
- I start to lose interest in everything because I feel so utterly, utterly exhausted and rubbish-looking.
- All the health issues I can normally cope with (the general aches and pains of getting older as well as recurring pain that may suggest my cyst is back) are now exacerbated.
- All of those things cause me to lie awake at night worrying about them, or I go to bed stupidly late. My mental health is back down the pan again.
- I’m so tired I forgo my morning walk…
And thus, we have the vicious cycle of my mental health being inextricably linked to my physical health (and fitness).
And if you’re wondering how all of this could have happened in such a short space of time (I wrote about being in such a bad place in March this year, then wrote again in May about how I’m really, honestly doing okay – which I was), then this is the timeframe:
As someone of (a little over) average height and slight build, who was always a skinny child and slim adult but who’s had to be more careful about weight gain as she’s got older, I managed to put on 1½ stone (21lbs/9.5kg) in just THREE MONTHS. In fact, it could be half a stone more (7lbs/3kg) more than that, judging by how my clothes [don’t] fit me. That’s a worryingly large number of excess pounds in a very short space of time.
But there is something I want to say about weight gain in general (before anyone accuses me of my life revolving around my weight or letting myself be defined by my size).
This is about ME, and no one else. I know myself well enough to know when extra pounds are for a “bad” reason.
This is MY personal journey – and my physical health is suffering
Weight gain is natural as we get older. There are, I’m sure, some women whose metabolism isn’t affected by age.
I’m not one of them.
I’m also not obsessed with my weight in such a way that makes me feel like I’m worthless unless I’m “skinny” (I purposely used the word “skinny”). I have more than accepted that I won’t naturally be the beanpole [with boobs] I used to be, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I know that my current, healthy shape and size is what it naturally is when I’m treating my body with care.
At the moment I am NOT treating my body with care – I am, in fact, being completely careLESS.
So if there are any keyboard warriors out there who feel the need to berate me for my self-condemnation of my own weight gain, this is my response: I am extremely worried about my physical health. I am not obsessed with or fearful of weight gain, I am extremely fearful of the effect weight gain has on my body and, therefore, my mental health and well-being.
I can’t help disliking all the things that happen TO ME as a result of ME mistreating MY body. If my body is suffering, so will my brain. That’s just the way it goes for ME.
For example: not being able to do my trousers up comfortably. Feeling like my pants are digging into my thighs (you know it’s bad news when even your UNDERWEAR is too small). Finding that slimmer sleeves dig into your armpits. Looking down and not being able to see your =ahem= ladybits when you’ve always had a very flat tummy. Ditching your knee-high boots because the zip just won’t do up… it all gets to me. Every time one of those things happens, my brain is screaming at me, WHY ARE YOU ABUSING YOUR BODY IN THIS WAY?
I’m not gaining weight due to a “happy” reason. You know how you can gain weight at the beginning of a new relationship or in the first few months of marriage, or because you’re now working from home and you suddenly have access to your chocolate and treats drawer at any time of the day? Or if you’re taking a new medication where weight gain can be a side effect?
I call that honest weight, and it’s perfectly okay. There’s no self-sabotage going on. You simply need to address your routine and slightly naughty habits and make sure you’re treating your body right, or in the case of taking medication you know that you’re doing what’s best for your body and a few extra pounds can be addressed later.
For me, extreme weight gain (not due to any of those factors I mentioned) is a sign that my physical health and fitness levels are shot to pieces. And if the reason for that is anxiety, poor mental health and extreme sadness, then deep down I know I’ve got to do something about it. Because one won’t get better without the other.
If my physical health is poor, my mental health will only get worse. And if my mental health is poor, my physical health will get worse. And on and on, and so on and so forth.
There we have it: the lightbulb moment described in superfluous detail. Plus, my phone has pinged to say my hour of writing is up.
✷ ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷
What happens now
I KNOW how to get myself out of this, I’ve done it before.
Firstly, self-care, self-care, self-care.
Secondly, talking about it with someone – like me having a one-hour conversation with the interwebs [you] where you’ve listened really, really well without interruption (and if you’ve made it this far down the post, I thank you for that!) – is a big step. Getting it off your chest, and recognising you have a problem.
Although I’m supremely worried about my physical health and want the headaches/the insomnia/the fatigue/the leg pain to all go away as soon as possible, I’m starting with the basics.
Also, I’ll wash my damn hair. You will not BELIEVE the difference that makes to your brain.
Then I’ll tackle the house. Whenever I get the mean reds on any kind of long-term basis, the housework suffers. It’s actually an ongoing process, but I’ve started. I’m one of those people that either has an impeccably clean, tidy house where every speck of dirt or dirty mug is whisked away before it’s barely had time to get comfy, OR I live with a messy kitchen, floordrobes and piles of not-yet-put-away clean laundry in every room. There’s literally no stage in between. So I’ve finally got my housework mojo back, and there’s only one floordrobe left to tackle now. But I’m on it.
Once I have the house sorted, it makes me breathe a sigh of relief, and it’s amazing how much calmer I am. It also has a HUGE knock-on effect with everything else in my life; they don’t say, Tidy house, tidy mind for nothing. I LIKE the person I am when I put my mug straight into the dishwasher: it doesn’t get left on the side by the sink because the dishwasher’s already been emptied. That, in turn, makes my evening more relaxed… tidying up is quick and easy.
Ergo, I get to bed quicker.
(You can see where this is going, can’t you…)
Earlier to bed, easier to rise – and the likelihood of going for my morning walk is far, far greater.
I’m then more likely to do my strength training and/or run in the evening. All the time I keep up the early nights, I’m back in The Routine and everything else falls into place.
I’ll work my way through this blip – it’s just that sometimes I guess you have to hit rock bottom before you can pick yourself up again and get back on the wagon.
So if you’re starting to struggle, I get it. Just make sure you talk to someone. Don’t sabotage your health – mental OR physical – because you’ll only ever have one brain and one body, and both need to be looked after properly.
Now that I’ve recognised just how intrinsically my mental health and physical health are linked, it’s a whole lot easier to cope and shift my thinking. I’ll be 100% focused on eating less and moving more the very SECOND that last floordrobe is whisked neatly away. Any last words, blip? Because I’M now in control of my reactions to your sh*t, and I’m gonna kick yo ass.
If any of this resonates with you, please do share your experiences below… talking about this stuff ALWAYS helps others. You only have to read all the comments on my first and second posts about my mental health to know that you are most definitely not alone x
Stay safe XOXO
I always add this: a final note on getting help…
If you’re having the sh*ttiest time in life then please, please, please reach out to someone. Whether it be a friend, a relative or a professional, just reach out and ask for help. Things can get better… just don’t try and get through it alone. There will always be someone who can help you.
If you’re in the US, call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Linking up to… Monday: Stylish Monday (second Monday of the month), Inspire Me Monday, My Glittery Heart, On Mondays We Link Up || Tuesday: Style With a Smile, Trend Spin/Walking in Memphis in High Heels, Turning Heads Tuesday, Spread the Kindness, Confident Twosday, Happy Now Blog Link Up || Wednesday: WowOnWednesday || Thursday: Chic & Stylish, Ageless Style Linkup (third Thursday of the month), || Friday: Neverending Style, Fancy Friday, On the Edge, Fabulous Friday’s Link Up