I’d like to write about something else today. I feel more of a normalcy surrounding my anorexia recovery by writing about it on my blog, which helps me feel better and I hope it makes others feel like they can talk about their struggles too. It’s not such a big, scary, taboo creature (sorry An, that’s what you are!) to me anymore – most of the time – so I want to do the same for a couple of other things I feel. By doing this, I hope you won’t be afraid or ashamed if you feel the same things.
So, here is it: depression. Not just the short-term depression one may feel after a tragic happening, and definitely not the throwaway term I hear a lot of people use when they’re just feeling sad for a day. I mean the honest to goodness depression that utterly cripples you, the kind defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as something that “causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”
In high school, I noticed these patterns: I’d feel “sad,” I thought, for about 2 weeks, then “really happy” for about the next two weeks. I thought my higher moods were my good old pre-ED self again, so I just always found it strange to oscillate consistently between periods of sadness and happiness. Anyway, when I was sad, it was a little more than just sadness: I’d dread dance, I felt I would spill my tears at any minute, I felt tired and lethargic, I definitely avoided anything social unless it was work, I had a hard time falling asleep, and so on. Then, I’d feel great again, where I’d willingly hang out with my friends, write a lot, and just feel back on my game.
These swings continued, until university, and during those four years at UNB, although I really enjoyed studying and learning, I think about 70% of the time, I was depressed. This, mixed with my brewing eating disorder and social anxiety that made me avoid absolutely everything social put on at UNB, was a messed up little concoction. Besides one quite long and intense depressive episode at the end of my fourth year, I can also pinpoint times when I was feeling happier than usual. I’m still not sure if these were normal, happy Nikki thoughts and behaviours, but I found some of them kind of out of character or out of touch with reality, including believing without a doubt that I would become a top-notch helicopter pilot within a few years of graduating with my lit. degree. I find that I willingly and readily spend money when I’m feeling good (because I’m such a miser and hold on to my dough when I’m sad), and I have these impulses to do kind of crazy things. I don’t actually do the things I think of, duh, because I’m so darn anxious and inhibited all the time (and some of them just aren’t right), but I still think about those things and create this whole fantasy around it, which I’d dare not think about when I’m depressed.
I suppose that for a long time I attributed my mood to my eating habits: in recovery, I’d notice how much more “stable” my mood would be when I actually ate what/how much I was supposed to, because it’s definitely true (I can vouch for that!) that malnutrition may cause people to be hostile, cranky, tired, and sad. But I always ask myself, what came first? And why do I still experience these highs and lows even though I’m eating really well and my weight is starting to stabilize? At first, I thought feeling everything this deeply, sadness and happiness, was a result of just feeling anything again, since anorexia made me so placid and unfeeling – but then again, I’ve always felt deeply, I think since I was little, so I don’t know if my eating disorder worked independently of that, or worsened it.
I’m still exploring these and trying to figure these mood swings out, so it’s a work in progress. It could be nothing, but I’ve been tracking my mood on these apps for the last few months, using Daylio and eMoods, and it makes me feel at peace to know what I’m feeling when. I wanted more than the apps, so I’ve recently devised my own mood chart, which you can see here. I’ve made a fairly complete list of the things I think and feel during my high and low periods, then I made a rating system ranging from nothing to 4 (being “severe”) so that I can visually see how long I spend in each mood, and how I transition. Sometimes my period brings on an episode, sometimes a nap does, and sometimes how many hours of sleep dictates how I’ll feel the next day. But not all the time! I guess that confuses me most: that no matter what, either an event will trigger a little episode, or it will just happen regardless. And that’s what sucks: it just happens, and as much as I try (and I’ve tried, for years!), I can’t shake myself out of a bout of depression or a happy mood. (It sounds silly to want to snap out of a “happy episode,” right? Right, which is why I don’t do anything and just let it happen because it makes me feel so darn good and ecstatic! But I guess sometimes, I feel really hyper, fidgety, irritated, full of energy I don’t always know what to do with, and I get these big, unwavering ideas I’m sure I can accomplish in a short time – as you can imagine, I feel pretty embarrassed about these somewhat crazy ideas when I’m depressed, and I shoot them right down. But then I just try to take them up again when I feel good.) So, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster!
During my last episode, I wanted to take a picture conveying my feelings, and covering my face was the best way, as you see on the picture on the left. When I’m depressed, I’d take virtually no pictures, not of my face, not of what’s around me… And the idea of taking a picture of my face (and keeping it) would guilt and embarrass me. So, as you can tell, I was feeling really good when I took the picture on the right, and I still feel good because I don’t feel weird posting it!
Anyway, I just wanted to give a little update since I haven’t posted in a while. I am glad to report that I’ve had a really great past week, and not for any particular reason: it just happened. I woke up last Monday, feeling exuberant, and I was a bit startled with my energy levels and free-flowing ideas, so I decided not to write or post anything because I was afraid it would be a bit wacky or declaration-y… like, I’d say “1794 will be done in two weeks!” This is far from true.
So, on 1794, I know some of you are eager to know what happens, and I want to write it out! I’m not depressed at the moment, so I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t come up with any new content since Part 7, but I know that when it comes over me next time, I’ll feel so bad that I’m “failing” as a writer. Dramatic, but it’s okay, I’ll find a way to calm myself.
Other than that, I’ve just been living. Going to work, exploring places with Jack, shopping and cooking, and trying to keep doing the things I enjoy, while managing my feelings, thoughts, and moods, since my eating habits are much better. My nutritionist is really proud and impressed at how well I’ve been doing, so yay me, and with my therapist, I’m still working on the social side of life.
Well, that’s about it for now. I just wanted to give you all a little update (and pictures!), and assure you that whatever you’re feeling, if you’re feeling anything like I am, it’s all okay and can helped, and most importantly, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I know, I still can’t bring myself to let the people I meet know that I suffer from a few things, which is why I write about it here, but I want you to know that it makes it much easier to tell people about whatever disorder you have (or even feelings, because I find that even talking about negative ones with people I’m friends with is awkward beyond measure), because it takes it down a notch from this scary, unspoken thing that we keep in the attic of our minds.
Love you all, see you whenever I feel like writing next!