#Losing

You know it’s never a good time when you come home and say to the boy ‘Excuse me but I’m just going to eat the leftover flapjacks that I made for you to take into work as you are leaving at the end of the week’ and you sit on the sofa eating straight out of the not exactly small tupperware.

It is payday. But your online food shop is coming late this evening (hello cheap delivery slot) so as you look in the cupboards you realise you are missing one vital ingredient from every dinner the boy eats (which also explains why you had cheese on toast for breakfast because you had run out of margarine and figured you would notice it less with cheese).

So you have a mish mash of things from the freezer. With bread.

In 50 minutes your father in law is going to call to discuss the weekend (the boy is doing a half marathon) and you will finally tell him the news you’ve been sitting on for weeks which is that your contract at work isn’t being extended. This is one of the reasons why you have vowed never ever to work with someone you already know ever again.

It has been raining heavily and you just want to scream ‘F*** you poetic symmetry, I know your game’ but you reluctantly admit that your lovely rain coat is doing it’s job properly. But your only waterproof pair of shoes are no longer that.

You think your low spirits are why you have suddenly developed a crush on a certain TV chef to take your mind off things and now every time you pull up the internet on your phone your phone might as well say ‘You’re going to google him again, aren’t you?’ and you think ‘STOP JUDGING ME, PHONE!’

And there’s no denying it but you have to face facts you have now spent the majority of your 20’s overweight and the evil bitch in your brain who torments you has suggested a bout of anorexia.

In your counselling sessions your counsellor often talks about there being an adult you and a child you, and the child is emotional and can’t handle the injustices that they’ve been dealt, and they must be soothed by the adult you.

Except the adult you is a t***

You often think about how true what your counsellor says is. What kept you going as a depressed kid in high school was that ‘it’ was all going to be worth it. That you could stand all the pain and suffering because you were going to make a success of your life.

And you do want to soothe the child in you, because all you’ve done is let them down. You want to say ‘Yeah, I’m sorry I failed our degree and you aren’t a success or even have a secure job, but I did take you to see We Will Rock You which you wanted to see since you/we/I was 12…’

You can handle the fact you might have to wait to make something of your life. You just want to be sure it will happen.

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In a Cage (On Prozac)

What would my life be like if instead of fearing the worse in every situation, I anticipated the best?

If I woke up excited for all the wonders that would fill my day instead of awaiting the potential (and often unrealised) horrors?

If I believed that I could change my life for the better?

That I wasn’t doomed to be overweight, in debt and socially incapable all my life?

If I reminded myself of all my good points instead of sending a constant stream of abuse my way?

If I didn’t torture myself?

If I focused on my achievements instead of my mistakes?

If I could just say one nice thing to myself?

I think my life would be pretty good if I could do that.

I must try.

I’ve seen pigeons with more confidence than me

Most people when they get a job in their dream field (which they thought was out of reach to them) would be overjoyed.

About 24 hours after I found out I got the job in my dream area, I was looking for reasons to diminish the achievement.

I began telling myself that I only got it because I could start instantly. I only got it because I knew someone in the department. I only got it because they were desperate and I ‘would do’.

I didn’t tell myself I got it because I aced the interview, because I did the spreadsheet task in half the allotted time or because I had done my research on the company and I could relate my answers to the company’s future vision, values and goals.

Why am I so quick to be my worst enemy?

I am so afraid of being verbally assaulted by other people for any little thing I do wrong, but that has never happened. What has happened is I tell myself on a daily basis that I am scum, that I am worthless, that I am fat, ugly, terrible, hated, unloved and pathetic.

I need to give that side of me a good ass kicking.

Am I the disgusting person I say I am? I guess not, but brains are mercurial things.

Brains like truth. If I feed into my brain the statement ‘Flo is Rubbish’ then my brain will look for evidence of that. Due to my low opinion of myself I can find evidence in any moment of my life, from genuine ‘I was a twat’ moments to something as innocuous as that time I tripped over a paving slab.

I was recently ill and had to cancel some self employed work with my friend. I was unbelievably apologetic and my friend who is wise and calm just told me to get some rest and as they could sense my anxiety, they told me that it can be exhausting punishing yourself.

It really is.

Yet I do it on a daily basis.

I feel ok to a certain degree, and I can truthfully say I haven’t been plagued by my former friend depression for probably the longest stretch of time in my life since it first appeared.

BUT…..

My anxiety seems to be getting worse. Previously I was taking my newest medication just on days when I had to socially interact with people, but now I have been experiencing more moments of anxiety and have been taking it to try and make that go away.

I start my new job tomorrow. I will end on a positive and say that one thing I have learnt in life is things have a funny way of working themselves out. Eventually.

Every little thing is going to be alright.

 

Rebellion 2: If Food be the Music of Love…eat on

Yesterday I spoke about how my getting into debt was probably a rebellion against having to be so careful with money, and indeed not having any money when I was younger.

Well, I believe there is another area of my life where the current bad state I am in was caused by a sort of self destructive rebellion.

And that is my weight.

I am, to put it kindly, overweight. I am, to put it technically and accurately, obese.

I have always struggled with my appearance and how I view myself, and that was centrally pinpointed around my body.

I began restricting what I ate around the age of 10. I was careful to make sure my packed lunch consisted of very little so that no one could call me a pig. When I was at a party where food was served I made sure to only have on my plate the exact same amount and items of food as the other guests so that no one could accuse me of eating too much. I would not eat my lunch as often as I could get away with it.

It didn’t help that my mum, as well as being an alcoholic, was anorexic. I found this out later, and to be fair food is usually not of much interest to an alcoholic, but at the time when I was 12 I was very, very aware that my mum was thinner than me and this made me hate myself.

I remember once being in a clothes shop with my mum and a woman, in hindsight a very rude woman, was telling my mum she was far too thin and needed to put on weight.

A ‘normal’ person would have taken that as a sign that my mum was ill and just as unhealthy as being overweight, but I remember clearly being jealous of how thin my mum was and felt that this woman must have thought I was disgusting.

I barely spoke in school and never drew attention to myself or stood up for myself as all someone would have to do was call me fat and my world would crumble.

At this point I was not fat.

During the summer between the end of middle school and starting high school I did put on weight as a combination of many things, puberty, stress over the terrible my-mum-is-an-alcoholic thing, and started school feeling utterly exposed.

This is when I stopped eating.

For several years I would severely restrict the food I ate. I invented what I called, rather unimaginatively, the ‘chewing gum and water’ diet where all I would do all day is chew gum and drink water to try and block out the aching hunger.

A few months later someone in a writing class would describe me as thin and I felt they said it as a cruel joke and was waiting for the room to burst into laughter, which for some reason didn’t happen.

I had stages where I did eat normally, but even up until the age of 17 I mostly just ate one meal a day and that was dinner because it was the only meal that if I didn’t eat it it would draw too much attention to myself.

At this point my rather blunt sister visited and asked me point blank if I was anorexic and people started commenting on how thin I was.

I was 5 Foot 8 inches and when I once weighed myself at a friends house (we didn’t have scales) I discovered I was under 9 stone.

I could fit into a skirt I last wore at the age of 12 (it was a size 6).

I have no recollection of being thin at this time, no pictures exist of me on account of having the self esteem of….I dunno….a piece of string. If you want to know the truth I still believed I was fat, I still believed I was, if I was feeling kind, perhaps ‘chubby’ rather than grotesquely huge but one thing I could not believe and if I am honest still don’t believe was that I was, or have ever been thin.

I finally came to my senses when I started fainting at college and realised my work was suffering.

There were points in my life where I tried to make myself sick but being quite crap at it meant it never developed into a real habit and starving myself was easier and less gross and less likely to draw attention to me.

I am an emotional eater, I mean how could I not be?

My mental health took a deep dive into the abyss after graduating from University. To be honest I had it at University and saw a counsellor in my first year.

I had such low self esteem that I pretty much went the whole three years going to barely any lectures.

I graduated with a 2:2. This is the lowest grade I have ever got and I cried when I got my result despite my dad and boyfriend trying to tell me they got the same grades and had done fine in life.

After University I put on weight very very quickly and by all accounts I have ballooned into an overweight woman.

And I do think of it as a rebellion because basically I think I used up a lifetime of ‘having discipline about food and not eating cheese’ as a teenager and now I have to go through life without this crucial life skill.

And if I am being truthful stuffing my face, whilst terribly unhealthy, is a damn lot more fun than starving myself ever was.

I need to get a grip. I have sorted out my lack of control over spending money, now I just need to apply the same healthy skills to losing weight.

My Worst Moments of Anxiety #3 Graduation Day

#3

Newport, Wales, UK 2011

I have a habit of getting extremely anxious at big social gatherings which are supposed to be happy occasions. It is primarily for this reason that I fear having a big wedding and instead hope to have a small one.

In general I had poor mental health whilst at University. I saw a counsellor in my first year and the rest of the years were dotted with moments of breakdowns where I couldn’t speak and would just be some sort of comatose blob on the verge of tears.

In many ways I should have been happy at University. I was away from my overbearing father and to a certain degree I had freedom. In some ways I was happy.

But I guess it’s the classic tale of a high achieving student going into an environment where they are no longer teachers pet or the best in the class. I compare myself to other people in every single way possible and suddenly I was forced to be alongside hundreds of students who I all considered to be better than me in terms of talent, or they were thinner, or prettier, or had a boyfriend or were more popular.

So you would think graduation day would be a happy day as I would be leaving that world behind and would never have to be in that high intense situation again.

Except a few things had happened in my last year and the summer preceding my September graduation.

In Summer 2010 my grandmother passed away. She was the matriarch of my family, our carer, our shining light. I did not cope well with her death.

As a result of this I did quite badly on my course in the final year. I also spent most of my time at University not going to lectures with my classmates as I found it too terrifying being around people who were so much better than me. I couldn’t handle that intense scrutiny, whether imagined or real.

There was also the fact that realising I was potentially going to get a bad grade on my degree I decided that the best way to give myself some good employment prospects was to gain work experience. So I went through one of those companies that arranges a work experience placement abroad in a relevant area.

Except they never found me a placement.

And they never refunded me.

And I can’t take them to court as when I sought legal advise my lawyer had to tell me it would cost thousands of pounds and the company had so many bad things about it I could lose on a technicality.

This is how I originally got into debt.

So graduation day approached. A time to put the bad times behind me?

There were many reasons I was not looking forward to my graduation. One was the fact that I had (by my accounts) ‘failed’ (this means I did not fail, I got a grade that many people would be happy with, but for me as a high achiever it was one of the worst grades I had ever got).

There was also the fact that my Dad had decided his car wouldn’t stand the journey from West Sussex to South Wales and decided he wasn’t going to come. For some reason getting the train didn’t occur to him.

I am still angry about this.

I woke up early on graduation day to straighten my hair. For many years I would refuse to leave the house if I had hair that hadn’t been straightened. I had such low self esteem I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me if I had my natural curly hair on show.

The trouble was as it was Wales, in Autumn, there was mild rain and just picking my mum up from the station about ten minutes away was enough to put a wave into my hair that I found horrendous.

I was already in an extreme state of anxiety when I got to my University and was getting overwhelmed by everything. I had bought heels to wear but after realising they were impossible to walk in I decided against it and had to carry them instead and wear my flats.

As I entered the hall where my graduation would begin I was looking around for where to go when a member of staff took me by surprise by saying hello to me. I was in a state of anxiety remember and this threw me. It was then the member of staff next to him felt the need to do that thing I hate most. Which was to say ‘Smile’ in a snotty voice.

I think there is a special place in hell reserved for those people.

The actual graduation event itself passed relatively straightforwardly. I even evr so slightly cheered up.

But the rest of the day was just awful. It’s like my anxiety sees a happy occasion and puts me in a state just to spite me, just to go against the grain.

My boyfriend and mum were both attending and I couldn’t even stand near them or talk to them. I would pointedly stand a few steps away and could see them getting more and more concerned and asking each other what was wrong with me.

I couldn’t be happy at graduation because I had failed. I was in such a state that I walked past my best friend and blanked her without even realising whilst she called after me.

In some ways going to University was the happiest time of my life, and I did have good moments.

In many more ways it was hell for me.

Most people are normal and feel happy at graduation days, like so many other happy events before me I was incapable of overcoming my anxiety and instead had a miserable time.

In the end it was a good thing my Dad hadn’t come as I couldn’t have been anxious or been uncommunicative as my Dad has never understood mental health or anxiety and he would most likely have ended up screaming at me or something. Maybe, maybe not.

I did not take a single photo at Graduation, and I certainly didn’t have one of those classic professional graduation photos done. There are only a few photos of me that friends took where I have a posed smile on my face. I just want to forget that day ever happened.

Flip It

At the weekend I was chatting to my boyfriend. It was about my social anxiety.

I was saying how in 2015 my biggest problem was the fact I was a financial hell mouth and somehow haemorrhaged money each month (each day would be more accurate) and felt like a bottom feeder living off my boyfriend. And yet my social anxiety was barely noticeable. So it seemed unfair that I spent all of 2016 becoming ‘great’ (translation=better) with money and now have it pretty much covered, but my social anxiety has decided to rear it’s ugly head and take over my life.

Basically it comes down to “Why is there always something wrong with my life?”

Is it too much to expect a certain degree of ‘having my shit together’ at 27?

My boyfriend is a calm, reasonable and intelligent man. Despite not believing in self help ‘mumbo jumbo’ he could actually write a very good book about helping people as he has collected-through first and second hand experiences-a lot of wisdom and psychological based facts about lots of areas of life people need help with.

So I came to him and got a very good response.

He said that the fact was in 2015/16 I identified that I had a problem with money and decided to solve it by reading about it. Then I became obsessed with it and passionate about it and it changed my life, and now as a result I am very knowledgeable and clued up on the subject.

He said that I would have to approach combating social anxiety in the same way. That it was time to put down the personal finance/money saving/frugal tips/economics books and pick up the social anxiety ones.

I guess it’s true. Whilst someone with my credit rating-though greatly improved-could hardly be accurately described as an expert on money saving, I do have a good fountain of knowledge and get excited by how much I save, even if only pennies.

My debt situation isn’t a nice situation to be in, but it is stable (or as Penny in The Big Bang Theory would say, it’s ‘homoeostasis’ ) and as long as I don’t have too many gaps in my employment history between now and my 30th birthday I can reasonably pay it off in that time, probably before.

My finances are ok, well aside from the complete lack of savings, work contract coming to an end in April, terrible Broadband contract and debt equal to 1/3 of my post tax annual income. In all other ways it is ok.

So as Life Coach Michael Heppell would say (in his book of the same name) I need to ‘Flip It’

Put down the personal finances books and pick up the psychology books.

Learn about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/Techniques.

Maybe as I play football I can look into sports psychology as well. So I can stop claiming it as my sole responsibility if my team loses.

I need to fall in love and become obsessed with making myself better. For my friends, my family, my boyfriend.

For me.

My old friend Mr Anxiety strikes again

Today involved a fair bit of spending-all from the approved categories.

£1.10 for Milk (Work Expense), £3.90 Train fare to friends house (Travel Day to Day) and a £2 donation to my Boss’s maternity leave present (Gifts).

The reason why I was travelling to my friend’s house is because she is the Vice Captain of the girls football team I am a part of and we were having a theory session.

I started off in good spirits but soon my mood deteriorated.

The trouble is other than the hostess who I have been good friends with for years, I either know everyone else a little bit or not at all. Some people are new and I don’t even know their names yet.

Some would see this as an opportunity to get to know people, but I am scared and intimidated by these girls. They are all lovely, some of them I have spent a lot of time talking too and we have even competed in the same running events, but I am shy and feel too scared to strike up a conversation.

Why? Well I guess the answer is I think very little of myself. Indeed I have often wondered how other people’s insults could ever hurt me as I don’t think there is anyone on this planet who hates me more than I do.

Ultimately I think of myself as worthless, and I find it hard to talk to people and to get to know them because I am scared that the more I reveal myself the more they will hate me.

I am genuinely puzzled when people say nice things about me.

I think this is the route of why I got into debt. Part of me was desperately trying to be normal and liked. Have nice clothes so that people wouldn’t realise I was weird. Buy a round of drinks so that people would like me. Get people good gifts so they might just give me the time of day.

Yes, effectively I was trying to buy people’s affection.

I do have a strong core of friends who I am almost completely certain do like me for who I am. My problem is I need constant validation just to believe it.

When you feel bad about yourself you search for a quick buzz in whatever makes you feel good, no matter how temporary. So maybe it’s better that all I did was run up a lot of credit card debt then get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but my vice is just as damaging and will have a lasting impact on my life for the foreseeable future.

Some days I feel good about myself, and actually my debt has given me a drive and a focus that I have never had before. Bizarrely the thing that makes me happiest is my debt because I am obsessed with saving money, getting the best cash back deal, comparing price per gram across different foods and seeing the debt decrease month after month. I love everything about my tackling my debt, I just wish I didn’t have to be in this situation.