desire

I’m watching the west wing again.

It’s pretty much all i’ve done today, well that, church and buying some new fish. Nathan and Solomon, Solomon only has one eye. They seem to be happy with Jonathan and David (my other 2 fish.)

Anyway I’ve had a weekend of doing nothing but watching the prior mentioned TV show. And it’s amazing because I am an introvert and so I really rather enjoy my own company.

Being an introvert is amazing but it isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

I was at a thing on wednesday at met up with the Mr for Lunch, I ate without thinking and had a calorie loaded caffeinated beverage, in fact 2 as I had one at the end of the day. Normally I would hate myself for this, I would be beating myself up, counting the calories and how much work I would have to do at the gym to burn it off.

But not on wednesday, for the first time in a long time I got back from work and didn’t feel fat. I didn’t hate myself or my body. I didn’t feel the need to go to the gym.

That feeling has gone, thursday and friday, yesterday and today the feeling of repulsion over the need to eat is back. In someways I hate food, I hate that my body needs it and even craves it. I hate that my body type takes after my dad which means I will always be a little bit curvy.

But the other part of me, the rational part that keeps fighting to be well and healthy, that part of me feels the opposite, that part loves food, loves that my body has curves and doesn’t care about size. That part won on wednesday and for a few hours I wasn’t worried about how much I weighed.

Eating disorders are horrible things, I know that when people look at me they don’t physically see someone with an eating disorder, but I have one. I fight with it everyday, watching what I eat, weighing myself everyday, burning as many calories at the gym as possible. I’m lucky, I have control over mine, I know that my relationship with food is unhealthy and I know, most of the time, that my obsession with being thin is unhealthy. I know that this stems from feeling like I have no control and from a deep rooted self-loathing.

But that’s the thing, I know. I know I have, just a few, mental health issues. And everyday I choose to keep breathing, to keep eating, to keep working, to keep communicating, to keep being. I know that being healthy is possible so I’m going to keep trying and celebrating the moments when I see hope.

The last few days have been tough and I have found myself feeling resentful of my illness, asking the age old question “why God,” but I try to remember Wednesday, when I didn’t feel fat, and I didn’t feel crazy, I wasn’t Hypomanic, I wasn’t low, I was just Helen, and those moments are what I try to remember when I feel like I’m falling apart.

So yay I’m an introvert, but mostly yay that I have good days, and because I’m mostly in a positive mood today (probably because I’ve had a weekend of no people,) which means I remember the good days. I may have felt sad today because I’m not at my desired weight and because I didn’t go to the gym, I remember wednesday and remember that in that moment I didn’t think I needed to worry about those things.

unwritten

Thursday, in the states, was Bi-Polar awareness day. A wonderful thing. We should be aware of it, and as someone with the condition I spent a part of the day shouting “NOTICE ME” or “BE AWARE OF ME.”

I have bi-polar type 2. Only 2% of people with BP have type 2. That means I’m even more special than Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher and Catherine Zeta Jones, just throwing that one out there. Type 2 is difficult to diagnose because it’s the less fun one. It means my baseline is depression, my normal is low which means when I’m “Manic” I’m actually having what is called a hypomania which isn’t as extreme as your traditional BP, I appear to most people like a bubbly, outgoing, talkative version of Helen, I appear “Normal.” The problem is I’m not, I won’t be sleeping because that’s a waste of time, I’ll be almost hyperactive flitting from one thing to the next, always busy never stopping and not wanting to stop. I’ll have beyond poor decision making skills which leads to incredibly stupid or dangerous situations, I’ll drink, a lot, and spend money that I do not have. Heck on one occasion I purchased myself a car. My heart rate will be faster and I won’t stop talking, what I’m saying really wont make sense, but I’ll be funny and engaging so you won’t really notice. The thing is you won’t notice much of this stuff really because you’ll just assume I’m the normal Helen, the one you’re used to, so I must be doing well and have gotten over that silly depression.

That’s what it was for years. It’s why Type 2 is so difficult to diagnose because we are told we have depression, then we are “well” and sometimes we are, but sometimes we are “hypomanic” and there isn’t much difference and in noticeable behaviour (there is loads if you know what you are looking for) so nobody notices, and then the depression “comes back.” And that is the cycle, from the age of 12 to 25 that was what we though. It’s not until someone suggests that maybe it’s something else when it finally clicks into place and suddenly you’re not a freak anymore.

Anyway you are now aware of me. Except you’re not. You’re aware of a mental illness that I have, but not of me. And that’s why my tweets on thursday were not “be aware I have bipolar” it was “be aware of me.” I am more than my mental illness, I am more than a condition that I have. It does not define me and it shouldn’t be why people notice me or talk to me.

I am more.

I AM more

I am MORE

and together you, me and some other randomers in my life and on the internet are going to figure out what that more is. Currently all I’ve got to add to the more is knitter and tea drinker…..

Jump

This is one of many incredible clips from The West Wing which I have been watching obsessively (yet again) for the last few days.

I’ve not written anything for a while and a big part of this is because I have been doing well, heck I’ve been a functioning adult. The most part however has been because I keep forgetting too, which you know, my bad.

Anyway I was watching this episode of the West Wing and found a solitary tear running down my face, vulnerability, solidarity, love, friendship, these are beautiful things. Especially when we get to use it to help the people we journey through life with.

Part of my job is to do 1:1 work with young people who are struggling. To accompany them. When I was at uni there was a book that I quoted a lot, it talked about this idea of accompanying instead of mentoring. That we walk alongside people, sharing life and finding the way together. It isn’t about bestowing all your “wisdom” and “knowledge,” it isn’t about telling them what to do or how to live and act, it is about being there and discovering and learning together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been doing this for the last year with a number of girls that I am working with, sometimes it gets labelled “mentoring” or “1:1′s” but the reality is it’s more and less than that. I guess I don’t really know what I’m saying (not that I ever do.)

What I like is this, we should be doing it everyday. To jump in the hole which our friends have fallen into and to work our way out together, sharing our experiences as equals. Because the point of the story is that the guy jumper in, he didn’t shout down the instruction he decided to do it together.

Life is better together.

My life is better because we are together. And I guess I’m hoping and believing that your life is better because we are together (fyi I’m not just talking about the Mr here, though his life BETTER be you know better cause we are together.) So yeah I’m trying to be kind to myself today by remembering that I get to jump in the hole with the girls that I accompany, that I’m helping them discover the way out. That I’m pretty ok at that, and I’m pretty ok at walking alongside my friends too.

I’m being kind to myself cause I right now it feels like I’m starting the descent into the hole, and I know it’ll be ok because I know I have friends who will jump in with me.

Let it be?

“If to be feeling alive to the sufferings of my fellow creatures is to be a fanatic, then I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large” William Wilberforce.

Currently the world of facebook is inundated with photo’s of women wearing no make-up in a bid to “raise awareness” of cancer. Are people not aware that cancer is an issue? How is taking a photo actually making a difference? And on a feminist note why does it have to be about make up and looks and only women involved?

Their hearts are in the right place I guess.

Or are they?

Today I watched a harrowing documentary on Sex Trafficking. The director knew that this was an issue but didn’t know enough about it, so instead of taking a selfie, he travelled around the world talking with traffickers, Johns, Pimps, current and former prostitutes, psychiatrist, activists, members of government, and so on and so forth. His aim was to really understand what trafficking was, who was involved, the effects on the women and ultimately what could be done about it.

The point of this is, the director cared so actively went out to learn more about the issue and to then learn how to make a difference, THEN HE ACTUALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE, one obvious way being making a documentary to continue raising awareness.

He could have spent that time taking photos of himself and talking to people on facebook.

The world is a bit of a mess, there are so many things that are unjust, illnesses that need cures and regimes that we need to stand against. But hiding behind our computers isn’t going to change anything. What will change is finding one thing that you 100% believe in and devote your time, energy, resources, passion, imagination, skills to doing something about it.

Many of my friends inspire me in the way they live out this idea. I have a friend who is taking a sabbatical from work to go and live in an incredibly volatile and dangerous country to work with orphans, being there she runs the risk or imprisonment and possibly worse. But she believes in her cause. I have friends who run marathons to raise money and awareness for mental health charities, cancer research, rehabilitation homes and such like.

I see people making a difference.

And they inspire me to want to do the same.

There are many problems in the world that make me want to speak out and challenge people, and they are causes worth speaking out about, Female Genital Mutilation, Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence (abuse of any sort,) Pornography, LGBTQ and Hate Crime, the list kind of goes on really.

I wish I could support all of these issues and divide my time to making a difference, but I know that the reality is that my time would be spread so thin that I wouldn’t do anything other then send an occasional angry and judgemental tweet. Instead I’ve picked my cause, the standard I shall carry, the song I shall sing.

For me it is the state of Mental Health support, awareness, bigotry, judgement, misunderstanding and fear. I want this to be a world where there is no shame or fear in admitting to having a mental health diagnosis, where there is understanding and support. I want this to be a world where there is appropriate knowledge, understanding and support programs for people with a range of mental health problems. In particular, as a person of faith, I want to challenge the churches views and approach to be with mental health.

I have bi-polar, I have struggles with mental health since I was 12, with self-harm, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and a few other bits and pieces. I am not ashamed of this, more than anything I’m proud of myself for not only being alive but holding down a full-time job, being in a happy relationship for 2 years, being a friend and Godmother, a sister and daughter. I am alive and living life.

And I want people with mental health to have the same quality of life and self acceptance that I do.

The problem is people in the church are afraid of me, members of my family are ashamed of me, friends have abandoned me. I have been called many things, I have been told I was that I have a demon, that I don’t have enough faith, that I can’t be a Christian, that I have spoken it over myself and talked myself into being ill.

People are afraid to ask for help for these reasons and more.

It’s important to note that a large number of people don’t respond this way, I know plenty of supportive and loving people both in the church and out of it.

But it should’t be a large number of people, it should be all the people.

So I have my cause. I am doing something about this. I openly speak about my mental health and challenge the people who have a more narrow world view of the subject. I support and encourage people who have their own mental health problems. I work for a charity called selfharm.co.uk training people how to support those who self injure. I am constantly trying to learn more about the many diagnosis that are out there.

I wish I could devote my time to all the issues, that taking a photo was enough to change the world, but it isn’t. So I’m picking my battle and I’m fighting it, and once I’ve won I’ll start a new fight.

And that’s what I like about me, I ain’t giving up on what I stand for, I’m going to change the world.

 

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce.

Slavery is out there, in so many forms, what are you going to do about it?

I knew you were trouble

Once upon a time there was a boy called Josh, I met him whilst camping, we had a thing, he bruised my heart, then my best friend was named after him.

 

Josh, it’s a normal name for a girl, honest. 

 

I am a big fan of this girl, she has listened to me cry down the phone, she has squealed down the phone with me, she has been there through break ups and make ups. She has sent people to find me when I’ve gone missing, we have our own language (like all best friends do.) This girl gets me. 

She is crazy talented, she writes wonderfully and is so creative with the ideas that she comes up with. She has an wonderful capacity to love people, to forgive people and to be compassionate. 

There is a reason she is my best friend (other than all of those.)

 

She speaks out for what she believes in, not just rugby players thighs, but you know other important stuff. During the last few years of our mateship I have put her through some interesting experiences. I can’t imagine how unbelievably hard it must be to have a best-friend who half the time didn’t want to be alive, who kept trying to push you around, but this girl has conviction and faithfulness so stuck it out, and I am so much the better for it. Because of all I have put her through, and because of her general sense of justice, she is a real advocate for changing the stigma around Mental Health and Self-Harm, supporting and encouraging charities and people that work towards this change. 

She is one determined, motivated, opinionated, thigh loving, Gilmore Girl watching puppy. 

 

And gosh do I love her. Which is why I love me, because I have an impeccable taste in friends. 

Pretty Amazing Grace

Tomorrow I turn 26.

This is something that a number of people in my life didn’t think I would achieve, in a large part due to my struggle with not wanting to.

For 14 years I have struggled with mental health issues in a variety of ways, I still struggle.  Every day is a battle, it has gotten easier as I am now equipped with the right armour, the right weapons and the right people to stand beside me. For that I am eternally grateful.

I am grateful for so very much in my life, not least of all the fact that I am still alive.

One of the many reasons I am still alive is Grace (not a human.) Now this blog isn’t about my faith, and trying to get people to become Christians, this blog is about me being honest, about me being authentic, and sometimes that means I’m going to talk about my faith. This is one of those times, but I ask of you to not stop reading simply for that matter.

 

For me having a faith, a relationship with Christ, is more than rules and regulations, about the do’s and do nots. For me it is a lifestyle, it is about freedom, about fulfilment and ultimately it is about Grace.

I 100% believe that there was a chap called Jesus of Nazareth, I 100% believe that He was God, I 100% believe that he was crucified and most importantly I believe 100%  that he rose again, and because of this I choose to live my life a certain way. I know that Christ did this because he loves me and wants me to experience life in it’s fullness, and the only way I can do that is by accepting his grace. I know that, despite all my many struggles, I will never be truly happy and fulfilled without this faith and relationship, without this knowledge of Grace.  I know that without this Grace I wouldn’t have had the strength or resources to make it to 26 years of age.

I’m telling you all this for a reason I promise.

You see one of the things that I like about myself is this recognition that I have that I need Grace, that others need Grace and that I *try* to live my life by showing Grace by being authentic to that, to treating others as I would want to be treated, to respecting them and loving them and forgiving them, to show others the Grace that I have so freely been given.

I choose to believe the best in people, I long for them to find the fulfilment that I have, I long for them to find the joy that I have. I just want people to be happy and it to be all rainbows and puppies. I want people to find the strength that I have.

 

Grace has made me a better person, it helps me see past myself, it helps me to see that what I go through as a purpose and ultimately it makes me grateful for how far I have come, who I am, for the people, the friends and family I have around me.

 

I like that I have received Grace, that I try to have Grace and that I try to show Grace.

Wonder

I know, I know it’s been a while, a new year has come, there was that Christmas thing that happened and much time spent with the family.

Family.

Mine is full of fun, and drama, different views and opinions, different characters and stories and life choices. At the centre of all this are my Mum and my Dad, they’ve been married for over 30years, been together even longer, they have 7 children, copious ‘adopted’ children, they’ve had loss, gain, careers, times of being at home with the kids, they have led lives as a couple and also been individuals.

What does this have to do with me, well kinda everything, they raised me, They are the two biggest role models in my life, they taught me, they allowed me to grow and challenge and fight and to figure out who I am and what I want to be. My parents did all of this whilst dealing with all their own stuff. And my journey wasn’t an easy one.

My Parents are heroes.

My Parents are my heroes.

My Mum in particular is my superhero.

She is the greatest woman I know. She has an inner strength that astounds me; she has been through so much in the last few years, let alone all the years of her life, and she has handled it all with grace. She taught me humility by showing me how to ask for help. She taught me mercy and forgiveness by the way she has dealt with those have hurt her and her family. She taught me joy by finding it in the smallest moments and celebrating the little things. She also taught me how to make a good cup of tea, how to knit and how to tie my shoe laces.

I am who I am, in the most part, because of my mother.

She inspires me every day; all I can ask is that I am half the woman, daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend that she is. Without her, in so many ways I would not be alive. She is the person who has journeyed with me to the darkest moments in my life and come out the other side still holding my hand, she has never, and will never abandon me, she loves me unconditionally.

What I like about me is my mum.

What I like about me is that I have my mums’ eyes. They are blue, and speak of the road that has been travelled, the lessons learnt and the moments shared.  

It’s not much, but it’s one way that I get to be a little bit like her. 

I am not my hair

Today I was given a label.

Bipolar Type 2” 

I’ve been waiting for this label for a very long time. I have seen plenty of mental health nurses, and counsellors and gp’s since I was 12, but in the last few months I have been meeting with a psychiatrist and a mental health worker who today diagnosed me with my condition. 

It is a huge relief to finally know what the heck is wrong with me and why I am the way I am, it also means that I finally get the right medication and support, I’m looking forward to that. Mostly because I get to be normal. I get to function like most other human beings.

But the thing is my diagnosis doesn’t define me. Same as my eating disorder doesn’t define me.

 

I am more than my circumstances. 

 

I am more than being a third child in a family of 7, I am more than being a youth worker, than a girlfriend, a godmother, a woman. I am a human being and I am made up of so many different facets, my story and identity is woven together of so many different threads. 

For a while I allowed myself to be defined by the labels I put on myself, “stupid” “ugly” “irrelevant” “useless” “crazy.” I allowed myself to be defined by the labels other people put on me “bitch” “selfish” “attention seeker” “weak.”

No more. 

Now I know that I am so much more than those things. That a label can’t sum you up, it can not describe you or help someone to know you better. I’m not scared of this label, it’s just another phrase that helps me to understand. 

Underneath my clothes

This project is constantly challenging me, especially on days like today. There are days when the lies in my head are just too much and it is so hard to hear the truth. All weekend the mister has been telling me the truth and because I have this stupid illness I can’t accept that it is true.

The point of this whole thing is that I give myself a little break, some grace, that I stop beating myself up, which is sadly my default. Sadly my default is getting worse at the moment.

At the moment I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.

It’s not about my face, deep down I know that it is an acceptable face. Heck it’s even a nice face.

The problem is, I’m fat.

This is the point where everyone who knows me or has ever seen me will take a moment to mentally slap me.

Because, even though I don’t believe it, and it’s certainly not what I see when I look in the mirror, the reality is I’m a size 8/10. My face is so thin I look a little bit like a heroin addict. Most of my clothes are too big for me and I have definitely gone down a cup size or two. I have a thigh gap, boney hips and weigh under 9 1/2 stone (I’m not allowed scales so that is a guesstimate.) In my adult life I’ve never been so small.

I have had to come to terms in the last few months that as well as all my other issues and mental health problems I have an eating disorder. That my brain does not see my body the way it actually is. I feel guilty because I ate mac and cheese tonight, I have to fight the urge to purge. I have to fight the urge to not eat for the next few days because I’m terrified that I am this hideous fat blob.

I’m not sizest, I promise, I think the human body is beautiful whatever size or shape. I think some of the most beautiful woman in the world are the ones with real curves and full figures. I have fought so hard to encourage my little sisters to be happy with their bodies, to not be ashamed of having a little big of chub.

Whatever size you are,

YOU

ARE

BEAUTIFUL

size doesn’t define you.

Unless, well unless you are me. I don’t even think my size makes me successful.

I just hate myself and am finding anyway possible to punish myself.

But the truth, what Jamie tells me every day. The truth that I don’t really believe.

The truth that more than anything I WANT to believe is this;

I am not fat.

I am not some hideous blob.

But I am beautiful, and not just because I’m super nice. But because my parents genetics have worked in my favour.

Fighter

The part of my illness that I hate the most is that I occasionally hear voices in my head. Often they are just that, voices, it’s hard to tune them out and ignore them, but I try my best. Then comes the occasion when the voice sounds like someone I know, it’s not a memory, I know this because rarely is it something they have said out loud to me, rarely it is the actual truth just what the voices want me to believe. 

Once again I’m needing to remind myself that I am so much stronger then people could ever know. 

A war rages on inside my head, a war for my sanity, for my very life. You see if I let the voices win then, if I’m lucky I’ll be locked up for my own safety, if I’m not then I’ll be meeting the Maker. 

I am unashamed of my mental health, sadly so many other people aren’t, or they fear it, they don’t know what to say, or they judge it, tell me I’m weak or that I’m making it up, that I’ve spoken it over myself. So many people have walked away because of my mental health, and the things that my illness has resulted in me doing. People have an expectation of what it should look like and when you don’t fit that box, or when you don’t get better as soon as they would like it’s your fault. 

But it’s not. I have illness, and it’s terrifyingly lonely because people can’t see what’s wrong with you, people only see the good days, or the lies you put up to make them feel better. Yes there are good days. But they are so few and far between, or the voices stop you from remembering them, or twist them into a lie, that you weren’t really happy. 

The voice tonight sounds like someone who I love but who recently walked away, well they let me know what a disappointment and failure as a human being I was first, but then they left. The thing is for me, it’s not that simple. I remember the words they used, they get added to the arsenal that the voices already have against me. 

All I can do is sit and cry and tell them they aren’t true. 

 

I battle with this almost every day. And it is exhausting. I already know how worthless I think I am and hate that this illness has made other people feel the same way. I hate that it makes me feel weak and that I deserve what they think about me. That I deserve to have my friends and family turn their back on me. 

 

But I am NOT weak. I AM strong. I am alive, I am battling self-harm, eating disorders, voices in my head, a body that won’t let me sleep (at normal times,) a sense of almost debilitating loneliness. I am battling myself. It is exhausting. But I am doing it. I’m getting help and dealing with the consequences of some of my more stupid mania induced decisions. I am taking my meds and talking to people. I’m not locking myself away hurting myself or punishing myself. I have gone 5 days without smoking and almost a month without harming, I’m eating meals and going to work. 

I am not what the voices and naysayers proclaim. 

I

Am

Fighter

and what’s more, I have the courage to be honest about it.