Heart hurting sunny days

As I sit here inside the shop, keeping an eye on the weather outside and hoping for it not to rain, at least until after 3 this afternoon so that the blankets I have hang up this morning can be taken inside, I have an immense feeling of despair. I have been feeling like this for most of the week. The weather today, for most of it, has been splendorous. It is warm (20 degrees C is warm for New Zealand), the sun is shining, and apart from the clouds rolling in, the sky is crisp. Most days when the weather looks like today, I am in a cheerful mood, enjoying every minute of my day. But today I feel like crying.

This morning, in the kitchen baking with the kitchen windows wide open, over-looking our lush green back yard, letting the fresh spring air in and having the sunrays dancing on the dining room carpet, I found myself thinking how wonderful it would be if I could stay home. How much there is for me to do at home, how much has been neglected since I started working 55 hour weeks. I would have opened every window and sliding door to get a proper breeze throughout the house and let the magpies’ singing fill the house. I would have sorted, scrubbed, played my music, ironed (and I do NOT like ironing) and washed the delicate mountain of clothes.

Yes it my choice to have these working hours as we get our new part-time staff member on her feet. As a small family business we do what we can to help each other out. And obviously the additional income helps a lot towards our (first in 10 years) family holiday next year. It has only been 3 1/2 months but it feels like a life time!

Today I miss my friends. My lavender companion. Our house. Our dogs. Our random and spontaneous braais. Sitting outside in the shade with our kids when they were babies and toddlers, playing, laughing. I miss the connection with my family. Having Wimpy breakfasts with my sister. Secret Santa with our home group. Our church.

To have these memories are an absolute blessing, but today they hurt my heart.

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18, and still counting.

class-of-98

7, the year standard you were when you entered our school and our lives.

1, the number of days it took for me to secretly fall madly in love with you.

3, the number of classes we had together: English, Biology and Registry.

2, the number of Judo Jnr World Championship titles you held.

2, the number of times we were dared by our friends to kiss each other in socially awkward moments.

0, the amount of times we actually followed through on these dares.

Too many to count, afternoons we trained together in our local gym, just as friends.

1, the number of chocolates we gambled on in support of each other’s weight loss/weight gain.

1, the number of times I won our chocolate gambled bets.

3, the number of dances we attended separately, with me wishing I was the one holding your hand.

1, the number of times we actually danced together.

18, the age you were when you decided to end your life.

4, the number of family members you left behind.

Too many to count, the number of people that attended your funeral.

12, the number of times you have haunted my dreams and filling me with a desperate hope.

18, the number of years it has been since that dreadful day.

You will stay forever 18, while we keep on counting the years without you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is social media an acceptable platform to ask for help?

A week ago I read a post, which was controversial to say the least, on one of the groups I follow on a social media site. The group is aimed at connecting South African expats within New Zealand, answer immigration related queries and general support. This particular post however was very unexpected and abrupt. A lady posted a photo of a handgun and in the post she admitted to buying it for the purpose of committing suicide. She confessed that she is depressed and has been since immigrating 7 years ago. I found it to be raw, emotional, honest and heart-felt. She was asking for help! She was begging for someone to contact her, reach out to her, show her she is not alone.

Now you can imagine the response she received. Overwhelmingly some members firstly tried to contact one of the administrators of the group who also happens to be a phycologist. Then they responded with constructive comments, telling her that she is not alone and that she did the right thing to reach out. I refrained from commenting at first, and instead I send her a personal message. I asked her if there is anything I can do to help and that it seems like she is receiving immense support from certain members so that is a positive outcome. I also told her that she is not alone as many immigrants often experience depression or anxiety either due to a lack of friendships,  or relationships taking a strain in a new country or from being home sick. I didn’t hear from her straight away, but when I did I was mortified to what happened next. She said that someone called the cops on her and that she received an aggressive message from one of the members. The message was filled with hostility towards her, telling her that social media is no place to post such extremities and that she’s only looking for attention. Now that got my blood boiling!

I do agree that it was shocking and unexpecting to see the post, but since when do we discourage people from seeking help, or place restrictions on when and where to ask for help? Are people so ignorant to the need of others or do they simply not understand the seriousness of mental illness? How many people don’t seek help because of the lack of empathy from others? Or that they are scared of being judged, criticized and ridiculed?

A few hours passed and I didn’t hear back from her. And it wasn’t only me who was concerned. The administrator of the group put out a message asking if anyone who knows her personally can please go out to her place of residence to check up on her as no one had heard from her since. And this is where the floodgates of opinions opened and a platform created for fingerpointing and blame-shifting. One of the comments posted was in support of the lady, a friend of hers (she clearly knew of all that was said via personal messages). Her courage to post her comment gave me a boost of confidence and I put in my 2 cents. I posted one comment, and left the discussion. I needed to express my utter dissapointment and frustration towards those who blatantly blamed her for posting the photo. I know that I possibly overreacted, and that this is a topic so close to home it still hurts but I feel that it shouldn’t be overlooked because it then means we are not crediting the person, not accepting that their feelings are real and true and don’t believe that they really do need help.

Thankfully and with great relieve the lady responded to the comments, expressed her gratitude to those who contacted her and said she is feeling less anxious and can think clearly about her situation. She did however mention that she doesn’t think calling the police was the right thing to do because even though they meant well, it placed more pressure on her to deal with their queries as well as made her panic about the possible outcome.

I am fully aware that there are several people who has not dealt with mental illness before, and perhaps don’t know how to respond to such an outcry for help. I am also not expecting everyone to become warriors, fighting the battle of depression and suicide. I do however hope that the above mentioned controversial social media post brought awareness to the fact that people are suffering, most often in silence, from mental illness. I hope that this makes people stop, look at their friends, family and acquaintances and ask with true sincerity “Are you okay?”

Chapter 2 – part 1

I was discharged from ICU a few days later which was also the same day the doctor diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and depression. I was no longer myself, but instead labelled a ‘depressed anorexic’. I wasn’t told the reasons for his diagnosis, but I knew that something was wrong with me. I weighed 65.2kg at the beginning of 1998 when my obsessive behaviour started, and on the day of my discharge I weighed 57kg. Within four months I lost 8.2kg, controlled what I ate and how much I ate and started to have an unnatural relationship with food. Surely this isn’t normal?

The April school holiday was well into its first week, and with two more weeks left before school starts there was no rush for me to get back on my feet. Once I was home my mom told me that one of my friends called while I was in hospital as she was concerned that I didn’t attend our last day of term. To be honest I can’t remember what my mom told her happened, but the realization that she or anyone else at my school might hear of my suicide attempt left me with a sense of embarrassment and fear. At the time I didn’t know that this realization became a pinnacle moment, as that was when anorexia’s voice resurfaced and a decision was made that this will be kept a secret. She will be kept a secret.

Most of my friends went away on holiday so the first few days was lonely. I was in bed most of the time as I felt weak and had several dizzy spells throughout the day, and had difficulty eating. My dad decided to send my mom and I away for a long weekend so that I could get out and that we can ‘bond’, because apparently that’s what I needed.

We booked into a resort in the Free State called Thaba Nchu Sun. It is very warm there and being inland the surrounding area is flat with not much greenery. There is plenty of wildlife and often the local monkeys and ducks will help themselves to our food.

I found this to be a very awkward time between my mum and I. I didn’t know what to talk about, and was not interested in answering her many questions about the incident. As much as I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to be there with her. Meal times were the worse. I ate what I found to be manageable, but that usually started arguments between us as we both had our own opinions of what is a suitable portion of food. I believe this is when she consulted my dad and the idea of a dietician and a visit to a phycologist is needed. I didn’t have any say in this, and was not too thrilled with the thought that I have to talk to a stranger about my secret, about anorexia. Was I really that sick that I needed help? Surely I can do this on my own.

To be continued

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 4

I was empty. Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.

I spend 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit where the nurses were monitoring me 24/7. I was send to ICU because I lost consciousness once the nurses administered the medication to force me to vomit and clear my stomach of the pills. I can’t remember much between the time I was administered and taken to the ward. My body’s convulsions woke me constantly but I was in a drugged state of mind, not knowing what is happening and why it is happening.

The more I vomited, I more aware I became of my surroundings. And finally 12 hours of my head slummed over a bucket came to an end. I slept most the time and had tubes running to and from my body.

During this time no one really spoke with me, they all spoke about me and to each other but not really to me. The doctor will ask “How are you feeling today?” and I will respond “Better”. My parents will ask “Why did this happen?” and I will reply “Don’t know”. My pastor will pray and say a blessing to which I humbly said “Thank you”. In all honesty I needed a someone; not my parents, the nurses, doctors or pastor. A someone who either understood, or just wanted to be there for me, not because I was sick or needed help but because they wanted to. I didn’t want to admit to any problems or discuss functional outcomes, I just wanted to be near someone, be still in their presence and if needed, talk about stuff. Preferably a stranger who wouldn’t need to report to my parents or teachers, and who couldn’t be bothered with the social politics at my school.

But instead I found myself alone with my thoughts. I know, I know, I could probably have spoken to those around me but I didn’t want to think of excuses and explanations. I needed comfort, not judgement. I needed a someone.

To be continued

Chapter 1 – Part 3

A new year dawned, new years resolutions were made but nothing seemed to have improved.

I had been binge eating/starving myself for approximately 6 months. Our final exams were long over, and my friend had since stopped fasting. Before I knew it I was caught in a vicious binge eating cycle, and was trapped in a down spiralling, out of control eating disorder. I was in denial that anything was wrong at the time, because I only knew of 3 types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and obesity (and I had none of these, so therefor I am okay). My friend often asked me whether I was still fasting, to which I lied and said no…honestly lying had become far too easy of a thing to do. I felt bad for not telling her the truth, but by then my ED had convinced me that if anyone finds out, they will try to stop me.

By the end of our first semester I felt extremely alone, even though I was surrounded by school friends every day. I felt sad even though this was meant to be the best year of my school career as we had our school ball to look forward to and the ever rebellious 40 days. I became more socially distant and easily distracted during lessons. My thoughts were often interrupted by images of death, my death. Self-loathing soon filled empty gaps. Why are you allowing this to happen? Why are you eating uncontrollably? You are fat! You are ugly!

I developed a fear for food, yet I couldn’t stop myself consuming every last little morsel whenever I ate. That fear grew into a panic, a panic so severe that I felt as if someone is trying their utmost to stop my heart from beating, forcing its last beat upon my breath. I was in a dark pit of loneliness and entrapment, and the only way out was to not be anymore.

*my blog entry Blank Space is a follow up event to the above, but I will use an edited version to highlight what took place. Please read with caution and an open mind as the wording depicts the impact depression and the onset of an eating disorder can have on ones behaviour*

The school semester has come to an end and it was not mandatory for the senior students to attend the last day. Mom left for work but reminded me that she will stop by early afternoon. I pretended to eat a small and healthy breakfast but I binned it as soon as she left. I made myself comfortable on the couch and did a bit of channel surfing. Not long after I remembered dad’s whisky collection in the kitchen cupboard and thought now is the perfect time to try it as there are no adults around, and I am not out in the public eye. I have had sneaky sips before but didn’t know anything about single or double shots and myself a generous helping. I drank with ease and on an empty stomach I felt lightheaded with a hint of courage. I used this new found enlightenment to make myself a sandwich filled with the goodness of peanut butter and crisps. I also helped myself to all the leftovers from the night before.

I had another drink, a stronger mix, a second sandwich and a plate of chicken. By lunch time I had consumed a fair share of alcohol and had eaten more than I could stomach. I had a sense of utter disappointment, and that all familiar voice repeated telling me you are worthless. You can’t control what you eat. You need me. You can’t life without me. Just look at you, you are ugly, fate and don’t deserve to eat. In that moment I had what I can only describe as a blank, a feeling of nothingness and I didn’t want to feel anymore. I didn’t want to wake up the following morning knowing that I can’t change how I feel and what I think. I wanted out.

The next hour in this state of nothingness seemed unreal. I went to my parents’ bathroom were I found my dad’s blood pressure and mom’s kidney medication. I also found a box of pain killers. I leaned in a crouching position against the cold wall tiles and consumed as many of the pills as I could. The motion was automated, no thinking was involved. A daze of uncertainty dawned on me and I felt sudden panic. I crawled to my dad’s bedside table and found a pen. I felt a sharp pain on my wrist and realised that I was trying to scratch the words HELP and GOD into my lower arm. My pain was silent yet visible. Shivering and feeling cold and numb, I lost consciousness.

Darkness, emptiness and a sense of freedom engulfed me.

to be continued