The Butterfly Effect: The Thyroid and Mental Health

butterfly

It’s been a while since I have written. And that’s mainly because I just haven’t had the energy; which, it turns out, happens to be the point of this post!

I’ve mentioned before (see previous post “OCD, medicated and fat”) that I have, for some time, been struggling with my weight. The truth is, I have always struggled with accepting my body, but over the past couple of years it has become increasingly difficult to look at myself in the mirror without wanting to cry. The main reason for this is because I have gained so much weight – I am talking a serious amount of weight, I’m talking being the biggest I have ever been in my life, shopping in plus size clothes shops and still not finding stuff that fits properly. I’m huge. When I take a shower I avoid looking down, I don’t want to see what it all looks like. I wear clothes that are as baggy as possible and try my best to avoid taking pictures that show anything below my neck. It’s out of control. Aside from the weight itself, the thing that has upset me the most is the feeling of not being in control of my own body because, no matter what I do, the weight just won’t budge. I have even started working with a personal trainer to try and get this mess under control.

Over the past year or so, there have been a number of other symptoms that have started to surface; symptoms which, on their own, don’t mean a great deal but, when pieced together, paint a picture of someone who is far from healthy:

Steady and consistent weight gain

Depression

Irregular and heavy periods

Extreme fatigue

Oversleeping

Dermatitis

Pains in my ankles and in my legs (so much so that, sometimes, I struggle to walk)

An extremely slow digestive system

Dry/brittle hair

Difficulty concentrating/remembering simple things

Swollen hands/feet (I recently had to cut a ring off my finger)

The list goes on.

It is because of this combination of symptoms that my partner has, for some time now, been trying to convince me to go and get my blood tested, to check that there wasn’t an underlying cause for all of this. It took me 6 months or so to pluck up the courage to go because, shockingly enough, as someone whose OCD centres around a blood-borne illness, I wasn’t exactly skipping to get my blood tested. Generally, I try my hardest to avoid those situations that might prompt an OCD freakout – which means that a doctors’ surgery (and, specifically, the room of a phlebotomist) is never going to be up there on my list of Places I’d Most Like to Visit. Also, after being on medication for 5 and a half years now, I certainly wasn’t relishing the prospect of potentially being put on yet more medication. My medicine cocktail seems to get bigger every time I pay a visit to the GP these days…

It all came to a head in recent weeks, when I have generally just been feeling very down and have found myself getting more and more frustrated with the way my body is behaving. It would be fair to say that, sometimes, it has felt like my body has been betraying me; and not just because of the weight, but because of all of it – the constantly wanting to sleep; the horrendous periods that just leave me exhausted, drained and in so much pain; the depression; the digestive system that seemed to not be working. All of it. I think I just got fed up of feeling so shit.

So I went to the doctor and he arranged for a full blood screening, which really wasn’t fun. Watching the nurse just casually handle the vials of blood; wondering how sterile that arm strap is (the one that they use to get at veins, at least I think that’s what it’s for); feeling embarrassed as I asked her why she wasn’t wearing gloves. My body was rigid as an ironing board when she stuck that thing in my vein, so much so that I ended up with a nice juicy bruise where the needle had been. One vial, two vials, three vials, four vials, five vials of my own blood. I wanted to be sick. The results came back a week or so later and it turned out that I was showing signs of hypothyroidism, a form of thyroid disease. So I would have to go back for more blood tests. Hurrah.

Off I went for more blood tests. Again, so much fun. Particularly as this nurse had left the vials of SOMEONE ELSE’S FUCKING BLOOD on the desk. Again, another bruised arm. I really hate blood tests. This time the tests confirmed what the doctor had suspected – I have a form of thyroid disease. The doctor was very nice (I have recently switched GPs) and explained the whole thing to me, he even drew me a diagram to illustrate exactly what my mischievous little thyroid has been up to. So, as far as I understand it, my thyroid has become oh so confused by its own existence and has resorted to basically attacking itself. Now, as a result of this chemical self abuse, it is failing to make enough of some special hormone that is the key to eternal health (okay, slight exaggeration, but it turns out that your thyroid is pretty fricking important, and kind of acts like a mini brain that controls the goings on of the body’s hormones. Pretty big stuff for a little butterfly-sized piece of tissue that sits in your throat). So my thyroid is broken, which means I will be on a replacement treatment for the rest of my life, literally for the rest of my life. Gutted. I am beyond gutted. And really sad. First, my brain is broken because I’m crazy and I have to take pills for that, and now my thyroid is packing up which means yet more pills (on top of that I have also learned that I have insufficient levels of both vitamin D and iron, which means supplements for the foreseeable future – but at least that is only temporary).

When I initially learned that it was suspected hypothyroidism I sent a text to my friend (who herself has been to hell and back as a result of a hyperactive thyroid, which is a different form of thyroid disease) who promptly reminded me of the positive of the situation – i.e. at least I now know what has been the cause of all of these things and I can move forward with the treatment. I won’t lie, there was a part of me that almost felt vindicated; all this time I have been feeling so ashamed of my weight, so embarrassed by my lack of energy to do anything, so baffled by the permanent brain fog that has just been suffocating my mind. Not being able to concentrate on the easiest of tasks, not being able to remember the simplest of things, hobbling like an old lady down the stairs whenever I got the pains in my legs; all of it had just made me feel so worthless and so pathetic. Now, all of a sudden, it made some sense. And it was kind of liberating to know that I wasn’t doing this to myself, that it was something beyond my control. My partner, who is a doctor, also said that there was a possibility that the thyroid disease had contributed to my falling into depression in the summer of last year. Apparently, the issue with the thyroid could have been building up to this point for years, which would certainly explain the weight gain at least. Either way, I hope that the treatment with help.

I am currently on day 3 of my new meds (thyroxine). My GP said that I should start to notice a slight difference in my tiredness levels after a week or so which is definitely good news and I am looking forward to that! The other day I felt so exhausted after I had taken a shower that I had to lie down; I ended up falling asleep for five hours. So, as far as I’m concerned, the prospect of having more energy is definitely one I can get on board with. As my Dad put it, hopefully I will start moving again soon – I really hope so. In a couple of months I will have to go back for more blood tests to see how my thyroid is reacting to the treatment so far; if necessary, the docs will adjust the dose. So it looks like blood tests are going to be a feature in my life from now on. But I’m trying to hold on to the positive – my friend is now referring to us as the ‘T Birds’, owing to our shared thyroid related issues. Well, I always did love Grease.

So, what’s the point of this post? Basically, I wanted to post this to encourage anyone with any of the symptoms that I have mentioned above, to go and get your thyroid checked. It’s so important to be aware of what your thyroid is up to, especially for those of us that live with one of the many forms of mental illness, of depression, of anxiety. To think that this little piece of tissue has the power to do so much to our bodies and to our minds; to think that it has the power to plunge a person into a deep depression – this is a powerful little butterfly-machine, and if it’s not working properly, the effects can be horrible and they can be debilitating. I am not saying that the thyroid has caused my own depression, I can never know that, but I am so glad that I am now aware of the connection between thyroid health and mental health.

So, if you do one thing this week, book an appointment with your GP and go and get your thyroid checked!

You can find more info about thyroid disease here: http://www.thyroiduk.org.uk/tuk/index.html

Advertisements

Guest Blog: “Dear Jack…” – One Mum’s open letter to her son with severe depression

Teenager-Depression-fine-art-26095177-1171-885

Dear Jack” is one Mum’s open letter to her son as he battles with severe depression. Thank you to the author of this letter for sharing such a beautifully written and inspiring post. You can read the post here:

https://diaryofanocd.wordpress.com/guest-blogging/dear-jack-one-mums-letter-to-her-son-with-severe-depression/

 

Dear Mr Prime Minister

78052-425x282-Person_writing_a_letter

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Today, for the first time in my adult life, I voted in a UK General Election. I walked into that polling station seething from yet another pointless session at my local mental health centre. Neither I nor the consulting psychiatrist quite knew why I was there. She was replacing my previous consultant and this was an appointment scheduled by him some time ago; I was under the impression that today I would be beginning a much awaited course of OCD focused psychotherapy. Turns out that it was just a brief review session to see if I was getting on okay with my latest medication combo. The psychotherapy is, apparently, still pending. You see, despite being referred formally for specialised psychotherapy in March, I am yet to receive any confirmation from the designated psychotherapy team. Apparently they were supposed to have sent me a questionnaire weeks ago to kick things off. Nope. So I’m told to book another appointment for three months’ time, hopefully by then we will have heard back from the psych team. Yay.

To put this into a little bit of perspective.

I was first diagnosed with OCD over five years ago – shortly before we saw the dawn of the most recent incarnation of what one might call a government back in 2010. I was diagnosed in early spring, put on medication a week later and then, one month after beginning the meds, underwent a brief telephone assessment which, as far as I could tell, was designed to assess the likelihood of my committing suicide. With the suicide risk formally assessed, I was told I would be put on the waiting list to see a CBT therapist; I might have to wait a few months as there was a bit of a backlog, but I was on the list. A few months seemed liked a forever at that point in time but, I understood that when demand is high and funds are tight, waiting lists are inevitable. To be on the list, any list, was a relief.

It took eighteen months, and much chasing, before I was finally sitting in front of a CBT therapist. Turns out, my therapist didn’t really have what I would call a good grasp of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Or maybe he did, and I just didn’t get it. Either way, with his broader ‘let’s just try and make you less anxious’ approach, it wasn’t long before my confidence in the process started to wean. It evaporated completely the day that he said this:

“An HIV positive person could spit in your mouth and you would not catch HIV”.

Not helpful. At all. Firstly, I know this, this is not brand new information. Secondly, this does not ease the anxiety of an OCD freakout. Thirdly, how the hell is this supposed to help me walk to work without obsessing about every speck of reddish brown that happens to be on the floor? To be fair, he thought he was helping, but he wasn’t. In that single sentence I knew that he just did not understand and could not help me in the long term. The trust was gone. After a particularly emotive session which ended with my walking out long before my hour was up, we decided that I should see a different therapist.

After a year or so of yet more chasing, in July 2012 I was introduced to the next therapist. This person was fantastic, she had a clear treatment plan and set clear objectives that I would be expected to meet throughout the 12 weeks of treatment (one hour per week for 12 weeks was the standard at the time). There were a number of strategies that my therapist used that proved to be quite useful and, surprisingly, very good at challenging both the obsessions and the compulsions (Exposure Response Prevention, or ERP was particularly helpful). It was a difficult and emotional process but, by the time week 12 came around, I felt more positive about my life and my mind. OCD was still very much there but the sting of the freakouts did not cut quite as deep, and did not last as long. For me, this was amazing. Still, as I walked out of the final session there was a pang of sadness, a shadow of fear that somehow the OCD monster would creep back into the room. Unfortunately, without going to see someone privately (which I could not afford), I was pretty much out of options, nothing left but to go it alone, and hope for the best.

Two or so years later (June 2014) and I found myself at my local GP surgery, sobbing, terrified and begging for help. I didn’t want to be on the earth anymore, I couldn’t face the waking hours, I hated the thought of living with this thing for the rest of my life. I was making myself, and the people around me, miserable. My GP upped my OCD meds back up to the maximum dose (we had agreed that I was ready to move to a lower dose six months earlier) and signed me off work. She referred me to a local talk therapy service for CBT therapy and also fired off a request for advice from a consulting psychiatric team. They told the GP to put me on a new type of medication, in addition to the one I was on, a medication that was so strong that it would first require a kidney function test. This, without having even met me. They tell my GP that, if the new medication doesn’t work, she should write back and they’ll reconsider my options. I researched the drug online and also wrote to an expert in the area of OCD. Nothing I read suggested that this was a standard medication of choice for OCD, but rather a drug for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The expert himself expressed surprise that I would be prescribed this drug. After much thought I decided against the blind prescription. My GP wrote back to the mental health team.

In August 2014 I started my second round of CBT therapy. In the first session I answered some questions about my general mental health and levels of anxiety and I also completed an OCD ‘test’ (i.e. to determine the severity of my own particular brand). After completing said test, the therapist confessed that he didn’t think he would be able to do much about my OCD as it was too severe and he didn’t think himself entirely qualified. So instead he suggested that we work on helping me feel less depressed. Needless to say, I wasn’t much impressed, given that the main reason I feel depressed is because of the OCD. But hey, the dude’s a pro, I will trust his professional judgement. Some weeks later and the words ‘bulimia’ and ‘body dysmorphia’ are peppering the air like tickertape; I must admit that I began to forget that the whole purpose of this treatment course was to help me deal with the OCD. Somehow, this had been swept to one side, in favour of discussions about food addiction and fat. By the end of the treatment (8 weeks initially, then increased to 10 for good behaviour – no, seriously), once again I found myself wondering why it was so difficult for me to speak to someone who actually had experience of treating someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Was this why I paid my taxes? To play musical chairs around the broken infrastructures of the NHS?

Early September 2014 and I go back to my GP to see about the referral to the psych team. She asked me again if I would consider taking the medication. I said no. She said she would see what was happening with the referral. I finally get a letter telling me that I would have an appointment in nine weeks’ time. Just nine weeks! Because, you know, nine weeks just fly the fuck by when you feel like you’re going crazy and you just want someone to help you. I attend the appointment and complete yet another anxiety themed questionnaire to assess my suicide risk. I am told that medication is the way forward at this point in time, but they’ll have to check with my doctor. Okay. They tell me that I will probably need to be referred for psychotherapy, but that they will have to talk to my CBT therapist first to get the okay from him to refer me; you know, the same CBT therapist who said he couldn’t help my OCD because it was too severe. Makes sense, right?

Long story short, it’s 7th May 2015 and I am STILL waiting to see a psychotherapist. Five years after my initial diagnosis. In that time I have been on the highest dose of medication for OCD; have swallowed approximately 6,000+ pills in a bid to stay this illness; I have completed Christ knows how many anxiety/suicide questionnaires; I have seen three CBT counsellors; I have been told off by a GP for wasting her time because I wasn’t suicidal; I have been signed off work for a total of five months; I have been told that I don’t understand my own illness by a mental health professional; I have been fobbed off time and time again; I have wanted to die.

I have wanted to die.

And I am in no way the only one. There are millions of us who are forced to live in this universe called Anxiety. Living in fear, all day, every damn day. Afraid to get out of bed, afraid to go to school, afraid to go to work, afraid to live their lives. Their fears are all-consuming, terrifying and real. They live in a world that stigmatises their reality, a world that struggles to comprehend mental illness for what it is – a 24 hr prison cell, a 24 hr tip-toe around the sleeping monster within. No breaks, no sleep, terror is hiding everywhere. For so many people in this country, it seems like there is no way out.

And that’s the kicker. That’s the thing that Cameron & Co. just don’t seem to have understood. Ever. The worst outcome of untreated mental illness is not ‘x number of hours lost in sickness absence per year’; or ‘sum x of UK taxpayers’ money spent on Statutory Sick Pay’ – or however else they choose to measure it. The worst outcome of an untreated mental illness is death. People die every day from a mental illness, from a disease of the mind. Is that really so difficult to understand? Hearts stop every day because their owners cannot live with their own minds. Life wasted, because somehow they got lost in a system that is itself the bloated product of profound mismanagement and a serious lack of organisation at the most local levels.

This is an organisation that has the very best of staff having to make do with the worst of foresight from one government after another. They are overworked and underpaid, underfunded and yet, somehow, also under resourced. Tell me again how this most recent government has given a damn about mental health? Tell me again how they’re going to do things differently next time? Only don’t tell me that the answer is in cutting funds, because anyone can see that any cut to funds at this point in time will result in more people like me, depressed, isolated and waiting five years (and counting) for help. The answer lies in changing outdated attitudes to mental health. It lies in seeing the NHS for what it once was and what it could be: our most vital asset. Save it, reform it, do not abandon it. To abandon it would be to abandon millions.

So, Mr Prime Minister, it’s up to you. Will you help me? Will you help the millions like me?

The Dread

Sands of Time

The Dread is a feeling that sits, like a piping hot pool of thick tar, just above your belly button, smack bang between your ribs. It sits there all day, pulsing, contracting, expanding, brewing. It makes me afraid to move, afraid to think, it makes me fear the day ahead. Something, or everything, or nothing at all.

It will begin from the moment I wake up, The Dread. And it will stay with me all day, just lounging around at the base of my ribcage, not really doing much except making me feel afraid. It transforms my belly into an engine-room of panic. Everything feels like an effort, everything feels like a threat. I find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything, on anything but The Dread. Each breath is limp and shallow, I feel lightheaded and slightly drunk, drugged. Tea doesn’t taste the same, it tastes of Dread. Food doesn’t taste the same, my mouth has gone numb, and the sensation of semi-chewed sludge as it lands on my stomach makes me feel sick. I wish my body would tell me what my mind does not seem to know.

The Dread is like radiation. You can feel its undulation sweeping aggressively through your torso, rhythmical waves of fizzy alarm. The air that surrounds me begins to condense, shrinks and compresses against my chest, soft but firm, gentle but unrelenting, a pressure pad, with flesh of steel. My lungs shrivel up, like dried fruit, they are evaporating in the heat, for they too are afraid of the feeling.  Breathing is strained, my chest is so tight that, with each inhalation, air only goes so far before stops at the base of my neck, there in the little pool that marks the cross-roads of the collar bones, that suprasternal notch. There is a thick and dense plug there and, despite my efforts, I can’t seem to swallow it away. And when I do swallow, it is a short-lived relief, because my mouth soon turns back to sand, drying out almost instantly. My lips are cracking and are sore to the touch.

I begin to wonder if the blood has stopped pumping around my body altogether, because every single extremity feels disconnected, so much so that my hands tingle. I wonder if the blood is just floating, aimlessly, not really on its way anywhere, just hanging around in a lull, waiting for The Dread to go. Like children, taking care to tip-toe around the house so as not to wake their sleeping parents upstairs, softly softly it goes. It daren’t disturb the sleeping beast. My eyes are heavy and they want to shut down for a while. But, even if I could lie down, I wouldn’t sleep. The Dread throbs like it is its own heart, its own life, existing in its space, independent of me.

Sometimes, I feel like my body and my mind hate each other. They don’t seem to work together, they seem to work against one another, constantly keeping little secrets from one another. Each one seems to work so hard to make the other feel afraid. My mind tricks my body, my body tricks my mind. It’s one big game of terror chess. I convince myself that my body can sense something that my mind cannot, although I know this is not the case. There is no sixth sense. And yet, my body knows something. Death or disease, or some almighty fall that is waiting. I will fail today, my body already knows.

Grief is one of the hardest things.

Even when it’s over a decade old. Even when you no longer resemble the person you were when they left. Even when you have to fight sometimes; fight to remember her voice, fight to recall the intonation of her accent: would she have said it like this? Or like that? I never heard her say that word, so how would she say it? Exactly how would she have said ‘Barack Obama’? When I hear people with her accent, it shakes my heart. Bizarrely, it makes me feel lost and home at the same time.

It hurts to know that I won’t see her again. It hurts to know that I saw her for such a short time to begin with. I wasn’t even a proper person when she went, I was barely getting started. When she left, I knew nothing, had lived nothing. The last time she saw me I looked and sounded so different, my voice was shriller and my eyes were manic with everything that I did not yet know. I had never had my heart broken by a death. I had never sat and cried so much, the kind of cry that is so utterly helpless and broken. The kind of cry that has no resolution, because it just aches. There is a truth to the term heartache. It aches the whole body to know that you can’t see her face, how it would be now, if she were still here. I can see all of the colours that are fused together in her eyes, all the shades of blue. Where her eyes are bright, mine are murky and dull. She was an electric woman, and I found safety behind her. I was a poor consolation prize for the ones who loved her.

I hate myself for not realising at the time, that I had so little time, that we all have such little time. I should have spent every one of those remaining days telling her everything she needed to know – that she was the most loved of mothers, and I loved her so completely, and that, for all of the times I had been mad at her, I would never stop loving her. She was the first voice I had ever heard, her heart was the first sound my body had registered outside of itself. I had a space in her belly, and that belly is gone. I will never get to use the word ‘Mum’ in the same way ever again. And to know that is something that can take my breath away, every single time. I hear people say ‘Mum’ and I wish I could do that too.

Grief catches you in your days, and in your nights. In the days, it catches you when you find yourself wanting to share something with her, however small or insignificant it might seem. In the nights, you dream that she is still alive so that, when you wake, you have those few seconds of wonder: “Is she really alive? She didn’t die?” But she always dies again. I couldn’t save her in real life, with my prayers and my begging to the Almighty. She went anyway. She goes anyway.

The other day I sat with her for a while, and there was a part of me that wanted to lie there in that spot and fall asleep forever. Hug a headstone, it’s all that’s left. Cut back the branches that are creeping around her name, they are blocking her light, she can’t see. I feel grateful that I can’t hear a peep out of civilisation here. We are alone.

The love you feel for your parents, it never changes, you will always love them without thinking, without contemplation. You love your parents before you know yourself. So when one leaves, you feel like a part of you has gone. Like there is a part of you that has shut down, no one else has the access code to it, so it will die from lack of use. There is a you that they knew and you forget.

I will never see her again, and that hurts my heart. My parents, by raising me, made my heart together – half is gone, but the other half is here, is my friend, and loves me even when I don’t love myself.  I hope he knows how much he is loved by me.

It’s about eggs.

eggs

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and, the truth is, I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write. As 2014 drew to a close and the prospect of 2015 loomed ever closer, I felt less inclined to write, and more inclined to try and forget. To be frank, I haven’t been in the mood to contemplate this illness, haven’t been remotely interested in sitting at my laptop and trying to explain how I feel. It has sapped so much of my energy in recent months and years that I think I was in need of a break, a break from consciously contemplating it. A break from thinking and reflecting on it. Living with it can be tiring enough. Then, yesterday, when I was making dinner, something happened that made me want to write.

Often, when people think about OCD, they think about cleaning. They imagine people obsessively cleaning their hands, scrubbing their bodies, disinfecting their homes. And there is some truth in that. But that is not everything, not at all.

It’s also about eggs.

Eggs? Yes, eggs. On my way home from work yesterday evening, I made a plan to have a (fairly) square meal, a meal that I would prepare myself (something that I have not been doing much of lately) and enjoy, warm in front of the TV. I had a particular craving for eggs. I really love eggs: little protein bombs, versatile and delicious. I opted for scrambled eggs on toast; quick, easy and nutritious. Having purchased a pack of ten fresh eggs on the way home, I loaded up the toaster and got to work. I cracked the first egg, and into the pan it went. I cracked the second, into the pan it plopped. Before firing up the hob, I nervously scanned the contents of the pan, hoping that I wouldn’t find anything disturbing swilling around with all of the protein and goo. Unfortunately, my eye was caught by a small brownish-red speck floating in the cold, clear, egg-white. I am not sure what the brownish-red substance was, but to me, in that moment, it was blood. Animal blood. And even animals can contract HIV, I’m sure of it. I throw the eggs in the bin, and get a clean pan. I repeat this entire process and, once again, I spy a tiny fleck of something sinister, lurking around the perfect dome of raw yolk. In a depressing moment of déjà vu, it results in my throwing away the eggs. I get another clean pan from the drawer (if this carries on, I’m going to run out of pans) and try again. Fortunately, this third time round I cannot see any brownish-red flecks anywhere in the pan; relieved, I get on with cooking my set of lovely clean eggs. I clear away the offending shells and disinfect the kitchen worktop, washing my hands countless times, just in case. I’m sad, because this entire fiasco has all but ruined a meal that I was so looking forward to, the first meal I have cooked from scratch in ages. I’m irritated because it has tainted what was otherwise going to be a quiet evening in front of the TV, but now I’m tired and on edge. I’m pissed off because I’ve thrown away four perfectly good eggs, because I thought they might give me HIV.

Food can be a minefield if you have contamination OCD. Pre-packaged food brings with it images of strangers in factories handling your food with hands covered in cuts, grazes and loose plasters. Images of blood getting into the food, plasters coming into contact with what I am about to eat. Fresh fruit and vegetables leads you to imagine fruit-pickers with dirty hands, perhaps cutting their hands on shrubbery, branches and fruit-picking tools (whatever they are!) as they work themselves to the bone. And who’s to say that there isn’t blood on my fruit? If I didn’t pick it, how do I know? It’s at times like these, when my mind wanders to blood, that I wish I had the patience to grow my own fruit; at least then I would know for certain – well, almost – that no one else had been able to bleed into my food. For me, the truly ‘safe’ fruits are the ones that have skins on – at least that way you can reduce the risk of contamination by cleaning, and then removing, the contaminated cover.

If I go into Starbucks for a coffee, or even into the local deli for a quick sandwich, I have to fight with myself not to examine the hands of the person behind the counter, scanning her skin for any signs of cuts or splits in the surface. I will also, if I am feeling particularly anxious, search her neck and face for any signs of scratches or particularly sore spots. If I can see any sign of blood or trauma to the skin, I will instantly want to leave. I won’t want them to touch anything that I am about to eat or drink. I will pray that I am served by the employee who has no signs of any wounds or dry blood whatsoever – her skin is so intact she could be made of plastic, yes she will do. I will feel particularly relieved if those employees charged with preparing all of the food are sporting disposable gloves. It might look clinical and – let’s face it – more than a little bit odd to see that the person loading up your sandwich is wearing latex gloves, but it really does take some of the underlying anxiety away, if just for a moment. It’s like the moment when you realise that the public toilets have a no-touch flushing sensor, or that most wonderful of bathroom devices – the hands-free tap system. One less thing to get myself into a state about, thank you universe!

A lot of my days can end up like my eggs – seemingly okay at first, on the surface everything is just fine. But then something so small will happen – a speck of something on the pavement; someone at work will get a tiny microscopic paper-cut and then later offer to make me a cup of tea; they’ll go and touch all of the doors and surfaces near me, rendering everything a danger zone; my shoelaces will scrape the floor which means I am making a conscious effort all day not so sit with my leg tucked under (as I normally do), which means I am uncomfortable at work all day; someone will send a well-intentioned e mail to the office talking about how, at this time of year, we need to be more hygienic as an office, and be wary of coughing, sneezing and spreading our bodily fluids (!) everywhere; she’ll then promptly distribute anti-bacterial wipes/sprays/gels – which is just an invitation for me to obsess. So, you see, the egg is tainted; there is always something that can ruin my eggs. I can be working my way through on a run of perfectly good eggs, but somewhere, in that batch, there’ll be a bad one. And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to know that, to anticipate a fall. I think that’s why sometimes, when I am having a really good day, I can get so excited and hyper – because I just know that I’m on a clock and, before long, I will be ruminating and obsessing about some fleck of nothing in the corner on the carpet. And it’s so draining, and so sad, to spend days hiding in my own mind like that.

I hope that will change soon.

Insanity – aka Shaun T is my kick!

shaun t

So, I have decided, after months of being fat, and being the biggest that I have been in my entire life, I need to start moving. One thing that has been an absolute constant this year has been the feeling of helplessness, of not being in control of anything. I have spent so long waiting for referrals, for appointments, for change to happen with the OCD that I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer in charge of my own existence. It’s really scary, and I feel like my ever increasing weight symbolises this more than anything. The less in control I have felt, the more I have locked myself away; the fatter I have become, the less I have moved; the more isolated I have become, the less I have felt able to face the gym. I tried attending a kickboxing class for a few weeks, but I felt so huge and self conscious that, after a while, I couldn’t face going. I tried going to the gym, and I was beginning to remember how much I used to love it, but – again – I just feel like such a fat fraud, I couldn’t lift my own body weight, I was just a mess. I am a mess. I miss being physically strong, fit and just okay with my body. It’s not solely about the weight, I miss being able to push my body to limits, to push my fitness and my strength; I miss the tightness of my body holding itself up with confidence, I miss being able to walk a little taller.

A few years ago I started Shaun T’s Insanity programme. I kept on it for about six or seven weeks but then, owing to recurring back problems at the time, I had to stop doing it. Whilst I never completed the full 9 week schedule, I have to say that the Insanity programme is by far the best thing I have ever done for my body. Before I started, even though I was quite fit, I had never been able to do a full push up – by the end of week 7 I was doing full push ups whilst travelling across the floor. Such is the power of Insanity – it pushes you to the absolute max and, hand on heart, I don’t think that there could possibly be, on this entire planet, a personal trainer as fantastic as Mr Shaun T. I remember when I first saw the infomercial, I was excited and afraid at the same time – Shaun T reminded me of an army drill sergeant that you see in the movies, he expected nothing short of hard work and litres of sweat. Inspired by the fact that the people in the video were actually sweating, I ordered my programme and waited with fear/excitement.

Once I started, I realised that Shaun T is actually incredibly motivating and inspiring. He really makes you believe you can do everything that he and his fitness friends are doing – “YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING WITH YOUR BODY!!” – it’s amazing stuff. Besides, he also seems to be just an all round awesome guy who ends up being your on screen training partner throughout the whole process. Even when I’m yelling at the TV screen, “YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND, SHAUN T!!”, I am still pushing myself to do it. Plus, I never tire of the many Shaun T –isms that I know are coming: “THAT SHIT IS BANANAS!”, “I’M NOT TRYING TO HURT YOU, I’M TRYING TO MAKE YOU BETTER!”

 So, that was then, and this is now. And now I am fat. Very fat. And unfit. And about as flexible as a plank of wood. I am out of shape and in need of a kick up the butt. So Shaun T is going to be my kick. I am starting today, and I am going to be updating week by week as I go along. The main purpose of my doing this is to feel better about myself, to not feel so ashamed of my body, and to not feel quite so helpless about the way things are right now. I may not have any control over the OCD, or the Depression, but I can do something small to help my body, even when I can’t help my mind. I know from experience that fitness and health certainly helps when it comes to seeing things more clearly, so I am working towards that too. I don’t doubt this is going to be so hard, but I also know that there is a reward at the end of it. If I can stand tall, look at myself and think, “hey, I may not be perfect, but I’m doing my best” then that will be enough. The programme is nine weeks long, and this is my first week.

 I’m off to do workout number one – Plyometric Cardio Circuit – wish me luck!

 Ps. If you want to join me, you can get Insanity here:

Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Insanity-Ultimate-Workout-Fitness-Programme/dp/B002QZ1RS6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416317281&sr=8-1&keywords=insanity

Beachbody (with an option to pay in instalments) – http://www.beachbody.co.uk/product/fitness-training/insanity-workout.do