Struggling a bit……..

I don’t know whether it’s the time of year but I seem to be struggling again with my depression. It’s nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past but it’s definitely there. My brain feels very slow and I’m starting to feel cut off from the world again. I feel like I’m dangling from a cliff holding on to some very slippery ropes. I keep trying to look ahead to try and mitigate anything that I think that might cause me anxiety before it happens but it’s exhausting.

The first thing to go when I feel like this is my motivation to partake in my hobbies. I haven’t done anything for over a month which is not like me. I’m still able to stick to my healthy eating plan which is a good thing as I shudder to think how bad I’d feel if I started putting on weight again. I think my brain has finally shifted into seeing my way of eating as normal.

I often have a low period from the beginning of the year until my birthday in February so this episode is a bit early. I wish I knew the reason why. It’s at times like this when I fully understand the type of depression I have. There are two types; reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression is caused by external events such as a bereavement. Endogenous depression, as the name suggests, comes from within and this is the type I have. It is thought that endogenous depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry, particularly the neurotransmitter serotonin. Almost all modern antidepressants inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin thereby raising its level in the brain.

I could go and see my doctor and ask to have my dosage increased but I really don’t want to have to take even more medication. I think the only thing I can do is just ride the storm and hope for calmer waters soon.



Today’s modern living often leads to people feeling tired a lot of the time. Before I fell ill in 2007 I was no exception. My excess weight and poor eating habits didn’t help the situation. In the autumn of 2005 I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia. Further investigations didn’t show the reason for why my iron levels were so low. It wasn’t until my gastric banding operation in February 2007 that the cause was discovered. I had a giant hiatus hernia that was inflamed and bleeding. Once this was repaired I did start to feel a bit better.

When I started to feel unwell in July 2007 the level of fatigue I experienced was so extreme that I had trouble supporting my head. There are some rheumatologists that believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are the same condition. If the predominant symptom is widespread pain a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is given, if it is fatigue then CFS is diagnosed.

Unfortunately for me I had severe symptoms across the spectrum. I could have spent my entire time in bed but I made a point of getting up everyday even if it was just to spend the day on the couch watching TV. We had to employ cleaners because I could no longer do it myself. David had to take on the rest. I hated being so dependent.

Over the past 3 months I have been able to do a little more but I think I’ve overdone it. All week I’ve been really struggling to get up before 11am and on the days that I’ve had to get up earlier I’ve been wiped out all day. Finding the balance of activity and rest is so difficult. In my head I want to do it all but my body won’t cooperate. This is the hand I’ve been dealt and I just have to make the best of it.


Social Anxiety……..

For as long as I can remember I have found interacting with people difficult. When I was little I was very shy and quiet and wouldn’t speak to anyone I didn’t know. At school I would try to interact with my peers but from the blank stares I received I knew I was missing something vital. I used to really hate it when people would look at each other after I’d said something as if to confirm to each other that what I’d said was weird.

As an adolescent I made a real effort to talk to people I didn’t know. This didn’t work either as most people just wanted to get on with their day without responding to the weird girl trying to engage them in conversation. I just couldn’t win. I will still talk to anyone and just don’t care about how they respond to me.

I try to avoid social situations as much as possible as I find them overwhelming. I’ve never been one for going out drinking and clubbing; I just don’t like it. As a child I loved family get togethers because everyone accepted me as I was. Now I avoid parties altogether as I find them too much.

The main problem I have with socialising is that I find it exhausting. It takes so much effort to appear ‘normal’ that I can only do it for a few hours at a time. This exhaustion is compounded by sensory overload. I find it almost impossible to separate out conversations from the background noise and it’s even worse if there is music playing. As a sufferer of CFS I have little energy spare for socialising.

The only people contact I have outside of the family is my Slimming World group. They are a lovely group of people and because the groups image therapy is so structured I do not feel pressured. Apart from this my interaction with other people is through the internet. This is ideal for me as I do as much or as little as I want depending on how I feel. I find writing so much easier than talking. I guess this is why I enjoy writing this blog so much.


Sticking to an eating regime long term……..

Losing weight is hard for everyone. The human body does not like to draw on its fat stores when calorific intake is insufficient for its needs. The physical sign of this is the feeling of hunger but there is also a profound effect on the brain. When hungry the desire for food can be all consuming and the feeling of satiating this hunger can be very comforting. This can lead to people seeking that feeling of comfort even when they’re not hungry. I am a comfort eater and it is for this reason that I became morbidly obese when suffering from clinical depression.

When faced with having to lose a massive amount of weight it can be very daunting. I knew that if I was to reach a healthy weight I would have to put my body in calorie deficit for more than a year; maybe even two. The thought of having to bear my brain screaming for food for that length of time was enough to keep me procrastinating for years.

I have discussed my weight journey in detail in a previous post so I won’t repeat it here. I have successfully been losing weight since early August last year. It would be easy for people looking at me now to think that I’ve found it easy but that is not true. I stick to my healthy eating plan rigidly but this doesn’t stop the internal struggle. I walked into a supermarket this week and was faced with huge displays of Christmas food; boxes of mince pies, boxes of chocolate biscuits and tins of chocolates. I felt a tremendous sense of loss that I could no longer eat the way I used to. It’s almost like I was grieving for my old eating habits. I managed to resist the temptation and later at the doctors surgery I saw two ladies who were the same size as I used to be and it made me realise that the sacrifice is worth it.

Today my BMI dropped out of the obese category, so medically I am just merely overweight now. The improvement in my health is huge and I’m hoping with more time, I will stop longing for my old way of eating. I know I will never be able to eat that way again because I will just regain the weight; my healthy diet has to be for life.


We need to give ourselves and each other more credit……..

One of the most insidious aspects of religion -and I speak here of Christianity in particular- is that we are all labelled as helpless sinners who need to be reconciled with God. The ever popular hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ contains the line ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me’. The fact that Christians see themselves as wretches really bothers me. There is nothing more pure than a newborn baby. At birth a baby has the potential to do wonderful things for humankind and to label them as a ‘wretch’ is so wrong.

I have been told that some people aren’t as strong as I am and ‘need a crutch’ to live. I don’t consider myself to be a strong person. I have crumbled many times under stress and even had a total breakdown in 2003; there is nothing special about me. I understand that a lot of people derive solace and comfort in their faith and I don’t have the right to take this away from them. However this perceived need for comfort comes from the religion itself. Matt Dillahunty (a host on ‘The Atheist Experience’) has often said that ‘religion breaks your legs so it can give you a crutch’. If people didn’t rely on a God to sort their life out they would realise that the only person who can change their situation is them.

When my Dad was terminally ill with cancer I didn’t spend my time praying to God for healing, I spent my time doing everything I could to make his last months meaningful. I spent time with him, told him that I loved him. I’m not to going lie to you, it was a bloody hard time but when he died I knew I had done my utmost for him.

Twelve step programs help people who have addictions but one of these steps is often acknowledging that you ‘come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity’ (taken from Alcoholics Anonymous). I think the first step to recovery in any situation should be acknowledging that we are totally responsible for our own actions and consequently it is up to us and us alone to get ourselves out of our current situations.

Earlier this year 12 boys in Thailand got stuck in cave with rising water. The whole world banded together for the rescue. One diver lost their life in the rescue and was heralded, quite rightly, as a hero. Over a period of days all the boys were rescued. Social media was full of people praising God for their safety. This made me really angry, everyone of those rescuers risked their lives for those children and people were giving God the credit. It is the same when people come through difficult surgeries; the surgeon is often not given his dues.

I have achieved a lot this year. I have lost a substantial amount of weight, got my body moving again after a decade of illness and totally changed my thought processes. I’ve only managed to do this through sheer hard work and I am unashamedly proud of myself. This has had a knock on effect on my whole life; everyone around me has benefited from the ‘new me’.

Imagine what humankind could achieve if we all took credit for are own actions!


The final fibromyalgia barrier…….

The current medical advice for fibromyalgia patients is to engage in some gentle exercise combined with regular stretching to avoid the muscles becoming tight and causing more pain. For the past couple of months I have finally managed to achieve the former. The latter is another story.

I did a coping skills program approximately 10 years ago which provided a guide to which stretches I should be doing everyday; I found them excruciating. This was at a time when I had initially had to give up work and I was in a bad place mentally. I just didn’t see the point of causing myself anymore pain. Fast forward to today and I still haven’t done anything about it.

Since introducing my short daily walks I have started to feel so much better in myself. It still hurts to walk and it does tire me out but I feel I have more energy over all. I’ve been able to do a few things around the house which I haven’t felt able to do for 10 years. What more would I be able to do if added the stretching into my daily routine?

Unfortunately I have lost my notes from the coping skills program so I am searching the internet for something similar. I don’t want to overdo it and end up not doing it at all. I have considered trying yoga and have even found a beginners class I could attend. I think my muscles maybe too tight at the moment to even attempt it. There is also the hurdle of going to a group and not knowing the people there. My lack of normal social skills is always at the back of my mind and I just don’t feel that I have it in me to try at the moment.

So where does this leave me? I think for now I will try to get a hold of the proper stretching exercises from the hospital where I did the coping skills program. Hopefully I will feel able to start doing yoga at a later date.


Where I stand on the big questions……..

When I was a small child I attended Sunday school at a local church. I don’t remember when I was first told about God and Jesus. I do remember thinking that I wasn’t good enough to go to heaven when I died but as it was in the distant future it didn’t bother me that much. At primary school we sang hymns and said prayers but I never thought deeply about God. Even when I was a junior soldier in the Salvation Army I was there for the music and not for God. I always thought that everyone believed in God so I was a bit perturbed when I found out that David didn’t.

Apart from the story of Moses and Jesus I hadn’t read much of the Bible. This was to change in 2003 when I started attending church properly. This was at a time when I felt that something was missing and thought that going to church might help. I not only read the Bible but also other Christian literature. I loved the ‘Left Behind’ series which introduced me to the concept of the rapture and end times. Had I lived in the US I would have attended a church that had adopted this doctrine. The minister at the church was a very kind man and I took to him immediately. He was able to answer the questions I had when they were fairly basic but would always deflect them when he found them challenging.

The more of the Bible I read the more disillusioned I became. The God of the Old Testament is jealous, angry, vengeful God who condones slavery. I know Christians say that Jesus brought with him a new covenant but Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to change the law but to fulfil it. When I tried to pray, deep down I knew there was no one listening. It finally took reading Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ for me to finally admit to myself that I was an atheist. It is very difficult to let go of a belief that you’ve held since childhood and it took some time.

Earlier this year I found the ACA (The Atheist Community of Austin) on the internet and I have found a group of people that I really identify with. I have watched countless debates and documentaries and have learned so much. I have seen how the arguments for God’s existence do not stand up to scrutiny and are full of logical fallacies.

I am so fortunate not to live in the US where atheists are one of the most distrusted groups of people in society. For a nation founded on secular principles I find it very disturbing how much religion is integrated into their society. The ACA is campaigning for separation of church and state but they’re facing an uphill struggle. Religious groups are trying to legislate that creationism should be taught in schools as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution in science lessons. I have nothing against religion being taught in schools but I think all of the world’s religion should be taught.

I have many online friends in the reborn community that come from the US and it has taken me years to let them know that I don’t share their beliefs. The most common response I’ve had is that they’re ok with my atheism as long I still ‘respect’ their beliefs. I can’t respect their beliefs but I do respect their right to have them which I think is an important distinction.

I love science. I have studied biology and chemistry at university and have tried to bring my physics knowledge up to the same level over the years. Over the past 300 years the scientific discoveries that have been made have proven that there are natural explanations for phenomenon that were previously thought to be down to a supreme being. There is no reason to think that the questions that remain in the world of science won’t be answered in this way.

Personally I find the natural universe around me far more awe inspiring than any universe that could be created by an omniscient being.