Is this what love smells like?

My husband has left me. Only for the weekend but I’m really going to miss him.

Someone asked me the other day how I knew I was ready for him to move in and my answer was “I wasn’t”. I actually told him he was staying over at my house too much. Then I noticed post was arriving at my house addressed to him. Then his payslip arrived and I realised he had told work he lived at my house. I should have been annoyed. I wasn’t. We fit. We always have and I hope we always will.

I picked up a pair of his pants off the bedroom floor and sniffed them to see if they were clean. That’s a mistake I’ll only make once. I immediately text him to tell him what I’d done and heard him laugh from the living room. We tell each other about our poos, from the smell, to the length, to how much we enjoyed doing them.

The other day in bed I farted. It was rotten. My husband took a deep breath. I asked him why he always breathes in when I fart and purposely tries to smell my anal announcements when I go to every effort to protect myself from his emissions. He told me its because he likes them. My husband likes the smell of my farts. WTAF.

In all seriousness though he’s my best friend. I’d hate to think of a day when I couldn’t just text him and tell him I’d had the most amazing poo and get a reply that says “I’m about to have one”.

Mumurwhat

On my morning commute sat at lights, this morning I saw a murmuration. For anyone who doesn’t know what a murmuration is it’s when a flock of birds fly together and form aerial shapes and it can be really amazing to watch. Usually when I see things I just see them and enjoy them for what they are without thinking anymore about it.

This morning was different. I watched a murmuration and I suddenly wondered how they do it. How do they all know when to change direction? How do the birds know which direction to go in next? It all happens so quickly and then I wondered “why have I never thought about this before?” The amount of times I’ve watched a murmuration and thought how beautiful it is, why have I never wondered before about how and why it happens and I realised it’s because my brain is too full of day-to-day stress of rubbish of Facebook, of Instagram, of work and just really trivial stuff. Days pass and my head is full of unimportant rubbish and I’ve stopped asking questions and being curious because I’m in a constant state of brain fog. There was a time I was interested in the why and the how and asked questions. I used to be really curious.

I googled murmurations and why they happen and although I didn’t completely understand the science and the physics of it the bit I did grasp is that each bird in the flock affects the birds closest to it and those birds affect the birds around them. That’s what we do as humans, we have the power to affect those closest to us and if we use that power positively we can create beautiful shapes.

I’m going to go back to being curious because these are the things that are important. Being aware of what’s happening around us, taking a minute, asking questions and noticing things. Noticing the things that are happening around us and the people around us and not living our lives in a meaningless blur.

This too shall pass

After a spectacularly shite month or so things are looking up. I feel like I can breathe again. The clouds have lifted and I can see the good stuff again. Mental health is shit in that in September I felt totally worthless. I felt like a really crappy person and a rubbish mother, the worst thing was feeling like I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone. Now it’s October and I don’t feel like that anymore. If I had acted on those feelings life would have ended in September. Thank god it didn’t.

My daughter and I started reading Chicken Soup for the Soul last night and the story she chose to read first was about a young man who committed suicide and she asked me what the word meant. I explained what it meant and that suicide was a permanent solution to temporary problems. I know that I have spent a lot of time recently talking about suicide but I honestly don’t think we can talk about it enough. If I hadn’t let people know how I was feeling I wouldn’t have had all those hands reach down and pull me out of my pit. I didn’t get to October on my own I got here with the help of every single person who reached out to me when they read my words.

So I’m feeling better and I know that October will be better than September but what I also know is that if November takes a bad turn I have a way of dealing with it.

Having said all that, sometimes I don’t think I’m cut out for living above ground with other human beings. I keep seeing adverts for ways to earn £300-£400 a month from your own home and then it turns out to be some multi level selling scheme like Juice Plus or Herbalife and some other shit like that. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t want to try and get them to buy stuff. I want to earn money in my own home, in my pyjamas and not have to talk to people thank you very much.

I’m back, ish

I’m back, ish. After a debilitating fortnight of anxiety inducing incident one after the other I thought I was in danger of spontaneously combusting. Like a planet going supernova, I emotionally exploded outwards before turning in on myself and sucking everything and everyone in close proximity into a black abyss. That may sound dramatic but when anxiety peaks and you feel like you’ve reached the limit of what you can endure that’s what crisis feels like.

My depression is like a black hole in the ground. A deep dark pit with me standing at the bottom of the hole looking up at a circle of light that is normality. All the people I know and love are at the top but as depression worsens the pit gets deeper and the circle of light gets further away and smaller and smaller.

I sometimes feel like I’m a slave to my mental health and I am at its mercy. Other times I’m the Master and the whip is in my hand. I went to the GP and I told her how I was feeling. I was honest. We chatted about what I wanted to do and she gave me a ladder. The ladder was dropped down into my pit and I’ve been able to climb up and back towards normality and the people I love.

I’m not steady, not yet but I’m getting there. I feel better. I feel the whip is in my hand and I’m ready to crack it again.

Labour pains

If I had to describe Bristol Half Marathon in three words they would be; wet, miserable and lonely. It’s no secret that I have been having a particularly shit time of late. An increasing amount of shitty and stressful situations have accumulated to the point where I have felt unable to bear the emotional load. A recent run in with a GP when my youngest son was ill was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was not in the mood for a run let alone a half marathon.

Recently I have felt like a shit wife and a shit mum. The weight of the mounting stress and the pressure has been crushing, suffocating almost but we can always bear more than we think.

During childbirth women experience increasingly painful and frequent contractions as the birth of the baby approaches. The pain becomes greater and greater and just as we think we cannot bear any more it subsides and we get a brief respite. We know though, throughout labour that this pain is temporary and will result in the overwhelming joy of a new child. Contractions are a working pain. They have a purpose and an end point.

Life pain is similar. Stress, hard times, emotional labour is all a working pain. There is an end point and we have to hang in there long enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of the our “labour”. I know that ultimately everything I am going through at the moment will come to and end. Hard times do not last forever. Even if things do not go my way or we do not acheive the desired outcomes in our endeavours we cannot help but be better for the struggles, stronger, wiser people for the effort. Hard work is not wasted even if we fail. Failures are more valuable lessons than successes even if they taste bitter.

At 9.50 on Sunday morning in a soaking wet and cold Bristol city centre I briefly considered not running the half marathon at all and waiting for my friend’s in a coffee shop with a hot drink. 13.1 miles is a long way. It’s even further on your own and excruciating when you don’t even want to do it. At 9.55 I took my miserable self to the start line with thousands of other people and when the gun went off I ran.

I spent the first 4 miles feeling miserable. I spent the next 3 thinking how lucky I was to be able to run at all when I passed a guy in a wheelchair. The last 6.1 miles I just wanted to get to the end. I didn’t enjoy the run but I did feel physically strong. The race was a three hour battle not with my feet, or tiredness or my legs but with my mind. I told myself I was rubbish, slow, tired, worthless, you name it I told myself that was what I was. I completed the race.

Bristol Half Marathon was like labour. It was slow and it was painful but it was also useful. I’m stronger than I think I am in my weakest moments. I can always bear more than I think and mentally I’m tough. I have resilience.

Running and life, it’s not about being the fastest or finishing first or pretending it doesn’t hurt and its not hard. It’s about keeping going. It’s about accepting that it’s hard but that it’s worth it. Most of all it’s about having faith in yourself to get to the end.

“Help, I need somebody”

I told someone close to me that I was struggling with my mental health to the point that I had contemplated suicide. I had thought about asking someone to collect the kids so they wouldn’t be in the house or left alone and I had thought about how was I going to end it. I told that person how I was feeling because I know that when you feel this way you HAVE to tell someone. You MUST reach out.

I also know that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. It may feel like the answer but it is not and that all it does is pass the pain on to someone else.

The reaction I had anticipated from my loved one was empathy, sympathy and understanding. I was reaching out looking for a solid surface to stead myself on so I didn’t slip into the abyss.

The reaction I received was one of fear, confusion and rejection “you represent yourself as strong and as a feminist, one thing happens and everything falls apart”. This led to further feelings of hurt, shame and embarrassment.

Admitting I am struggling is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It is not a sign of weakness. My mental health at its worst does not invalidate all the good things about me. If I tell someone I am feeling suicidal it does not mean I am not a strong person or a good person or that I’m not feminist. It means I am in pain and I’am struggling and I have had the good sense to speak out and seek help.

I know it can’t have been easy to hear what I was saying and naturally humans are fixers. We like solving problems and finding solutions. But we are all living extremely stressful lives and there is no easy fix or quick solution.

Listening to a loved one tell you they feel suicidal is extremely hard. You don’t want to hear it, I know my loved one found it difficult to accept I was feeling that way and didn’t intentionally minimise my experience or mean to trivialise the situation. I didnt expect my person to solve my problems or fix the situation. I just wanted to be heard. I wanted to be comforted. I wanted to know I had solid rock to hang onto in stormy sea. I wanted to know I was not alone in my dark place.

When people commit suicide we always wish they had told someone how they were feeling. We wish they had spoken out.

If someone tells you they feel suicidal it may come as a huge shock. It may break your heart. Don’t take it personally. You can’t solve their problems or fix them. That’s not your job. Just listen and let them be heard.

Run, fatty, run

In 2006 I had just come out of a really crappy relationship and I was 18 stone. Not only was I overweight, by a lot, I was on medication for my blood pressure and to control my cholesterol and if all that wasn’t bad enough I was smoking 20 fags a day.

I had been to the Doctor who said that if I didn’t drastically change something about my lifestyle I was heading for a Stroke. I thought he was being melodramatic. I was in denial. I was overweight and ill. I felt and looked like warmed up shit.

My friend’s told me that because I was tall I carried my weight well and that you would never be able to guess I was 18 stone. That carried me along in my denial for a while. The blood pressure medication was awful, I sweated like a racehorse constantly which, as a fat person, made me ten times more uncomfortable. I couldn’t wear less layers because I had to cover up the fat. So I was hot, sweaty fat and miserable. Until one day a friend told me I looked ill. She was brutally honest and said I looked heavy, uncomfortable and unwell. I was unwell. This was in March 2006. She suggested we sign up for the Cardiff Half Marathon in the October and although we wouldn’t be able to train together because she lived in London, we would run it together in October.

So, I quit the fags and I downloaded a beginner’s walk to run half marathon plan. This, I decided, was IT.

The first run was horrendous. It was daytime. I was huge and I was out of breath. I had to run for ten seconds and then walk for 90 and I had to do that 6 times. I ran around the lake in the local park in front of actual people. I thought I was going to die, either through lack of oxygen or of shame. I didn’t die though, I became obsessed. Obsessed with ticking the boxes off my training plan and obsessed with weighing my food and calculating every single calorie that passed my lips.

I signed up for a Race 4 Life. It was my first ever 5k but I knew there was no pressure as I knew some people would walk it. I was ecstatic at the end. My first ever medal. It was a huge moment. My next race was Swansea 10k. This race was a big deal, it was a proper race. There were people at this race wearing running club vests. Oh my god, would they find out I wasn’t a real runner, I was sure I was going to make a huge tit of myself. I ran that first 10K in 1:10 and in twelve years of running that remains my 10K PB. I didn’t die and no-one found out I was an amateur. There was no flashing sign above my head that said “newbie” and that’s when I found out that the running community is one of the most welcoming you will ever find.

By the time October came around I was 11 and a half stone. The Doctor had stopped my blood pressure medication as I no longer needed it and my cholesterol was normal. In 7 months I had lost 6 and a half stone and sorted my health out. My mental health was still not great but I had found a way to manage it, by running. My friend ran the half with me like she promised and we ran it in 2:24. That also remains by PB for that distance. 2006 was a year of transformation for me, the transformation was physical. I was still a fat person in my head and that’s still how I saw myself. Even though I’d gone from a size 20 to a size 12 I was still the same fat girl with low self esteem.

It was great losing all the weight and my health definitely benefitted from it. I kept the weight off for three years but now twelve years later I’m a size 20 again. But I still love running and I still love what running gives me. I’ve learnt loads about myself and about running over the last 12 years. I’ve done over 30 half marathons, countless 10 and 5ks, 4 full marathons and one Ultra Marathon. Out of those 50 odd races I only did 3 of them when I was skinny. You don’t have to be skinny to be a runner. You just have to put your trainers on and run.

For me, running is 5% physical ability and 95% what my brain believes I can do. I’m back to my heaviest and I will run the hardest marathon of my life in 6 weeks time. I’m not advocating being overweight and I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to be skinny again one day. What I am saying is that I won’t let my weight stand between me and running. Hopefully I can and will lose the weight and carrying all the weight definitely makes running harder. But, running is always teaching me new lessons and what running taught me this weekend is that running doesn’t care whether you are fat or thin or fast or slow. My trainers still fit whatever my weight. Running loves you if you love running.

Anxiety and Custard Creams

I sometimes wonder if I’m actually a sociopath. If I am the bad person I was told I was. I question my recollection of the past. Have I exaggerated those things that happened. Were things really as bad as I have made them out to be. I scrutinise my memories and try to see things from my parents point of view to see if it was me or if it was really them. Am I broken but I can’t see it because I’m on the inside? Am I psychopath who has managed to convince myself that my lies are real.

I become sweaty and anxious. I’ve confused myself now. Were my parents really the villains they are in my memories or have I fantasised the whole thing because of some weird munchausens type condition that I don’t realise I have.

It’s not fun being me when my anxiety is this bad. I feel like a terrible person and that everyone is going to find out. I know what’s triggered this and it’s another hole in my mind that I need to plug before all the good stuff leaks out.

My breathing slows. I am not a sociopath. I am not a psychopath. I’ve had loads of counselling, if I had some weird munchausens drama whore type complex, someone would have spotted it and diagnosed me by now. I am not a bad person. Oh god someone pass me a biscuit before my brain explodes. And…….sugar. Ahh that’s better.

And that’s how I eat my feelings.

Emotional baggage, bags of fun

Paddington Bear carries a suitcase with him everywhere he goes and so do I, but you can’t see mine because mine is in my head. What did Paddington carry around in his suitcase I hear you ask, “Paddington is famous for his love of marmalade and he is particularly fond of it in marmalade sandwiches. He always carries a jar of it in his suitcase” I don’t have a jar of marmalade in my head. If I had a jar of anything in my head, it would most likely be Nutella.

My suitcase is jammed full of emotional baggage, experiences, ingrained beliefs and unhelpful thought patterns. I carry it with me everywhere I go and some days its more cumbersome than others. I imagine my head as an old-fashioned Stage Coach, like the ones in the old Wild West and my suitcase is sitting on top of it. Some days are bumpy, and all the shit falls out for everyone to see and other days it stays neatly packed and folded away.

In terms of my mental health, on good days the stagecoach bumps along nicely, during stressful times or when I’m struggling the wheels look like they’re about to come off the coach, the suitcase bursts open and all my shit falls out for everyone to see, including my embarrassing smalls and other unsightly bits and pieces.

At the moment, the stagecoach that is my brain, is going over some really bumpy ground, the suitcase is wide open, and stuff is starting to fall out. People can see it.

Loss, bereavement, betrayal and abuse, all these adverse experiences add up. Each devastating or profound event leaves a crack or a scar that is carried around. Every bad relationship, hurtful experience or wounding words, bounce around inside my head until they find a permanent place to rest inside the suitcase.

When the suitcase is closed, and all the ugly beasties are locked inside, life is safe and flows along gently. When the case is open and on display, it cannot be ignored. Everything comes under close inspection. Am I a terrible wife, friend, mother? Are people distancing themselves from me? Why didn’t she answer my text message straight away? Is he ignoring me? Doesn’t he love me anymore? Am I a selfish person? Why is my head always stuck so firmly up my arse? I become hyper sensitive and take things personally. This becomes a cycle of unhelpful thought patterns as I then berate myself for being so self-absorbed and assuming that everything is about me and so on and so forth until implosion is imminent.

On the really bad days this can change by the hour. A single text message can mean the difference between feeling in control and being crippled by anxiety. On the good days the suitcase is celebrated like a badge of honour. I hold the suitcase up and declare “Behold this suitcase, the spoils of the many battles I have survived! I am a warrior!”.

Today I am not the warrior, today I am the worrier. A middle ground would be nice, but I can’t seem to find it. Yet.

Why my weight does matter, but only to me

This morning I stumbled across a blog post which has been ringing in my ears all day. I think everything happens for a reason and I was meant to read this post (my views on the universe in another blog post coming soon, not really).

The writer was discussing the connection between Adverse Childhood Experiences and health issues, such as obesity. I could see so much of myself in the writers post. So much of what she said was a description of my health and my experiences.

A few years ago a friend asked me why I am overweight. I’m overweight because I eat too much that’s obvious, you can’t be overweight without eating too much, but that wasn’t the question he was asking. I answered the question without thinking so my response was honest and unfiltered. I told him I was overweight because the excess weight was protection. It protected me from having to put myself out there romantically. I reasoned that I couldn’t date at that weight and I believed (at that time) that no one would want me. At my heaviest I was not at risk of meeting someone, getting close to that person and, my biggest fear, they potentially hurting me, ultimately rejecting and abandoning me. My weight was the thing that kept me safe. I wasn’t overweight because I was greedy or lazy, we had this conversation on the top of Pen Y fan during the Three Peaks Challenge. I was overweight because it was comforting.

It took me a few years after this but I realised that I had the inner strength and resilience to deal with disappointment and rejection which made it safe to venture back out into the world of dating and the possibility of a romantic relationship.

So why now as a happily married woman am I still overweight. My weight has the potential now to stand between me and my goals so why aren’t I glued to a nutrition regime with the weight falling off me. I can stick to a marathon training plan for 6 months why not a diet? I know that my weight will be a barrier to me achieving the things I want to achieve. This raises even more questions. Am I still overweight because I’m afraid of failing? Am I afraid of having nothing to blame for poor performance. What if I lose all the weight and I still can’t achieve my dream of a 6:10 marathon. What do I blame then? Can I cope with that failure? Is that the reason I can’t let go of the weight?

I’m unhappy with my weight not because I think being overweight it makes me a bad person or it’s something I should be ashamed of or that it makes me lazy or unattractive person. I’m unhappy because of the things my size prevents me from doing. My weight isn’t the sum of who I am. I am in a happy loving relationship with someone who values me for more than the size of the dress that I’m wearing. So why, apart from not being able to run faster, does my weight bother me so much. I think it’s because the number on the scales is not a measurement of my worth but a reflection of the state of my emotional health.

I’m unhappy with my weight because my abilities are severely hampered because of it but I’m also afraid of not being able to keep it off once it’s come off. I lost a lot of weight about 10 years ago and I was able to keep it off for 3 years but as soon as I hit a crisis it all came crashing back on. I eat every bump in the road, every stressful situation and every argument. What if I lose all the weight and then hit another crisis and it all comes piling back on. Currently, crisis after crisis has seen my weight soar and it is reaching a critical point.

I must find the courage to face down the reasons that have previously stopped me from being successful in losing the weight and overcome them. I’ve got to find the reasons and deal with them. I won’t lose weight because I think I need to look beautiful or because I know it will reduce my chances of developing cancer and diabetes. I don’t want cancer or diabetes but personally those things won’t motivate me or help me find the trigger or flick my switch.

I have lots of great qualities and I’ve achieved lots of wonderful things. My body size and shape does not reduce or erase these but my weight does matter, to me. But not because of the reasons you might assume. It matters to me because it demonstrates I have a problem. A problem I need to root out and resolve.