Friday, 1 April 2016

Balance

I have, my entire adult life, struggled to find balance.  No matter how many times I try to tell myself to take it easy, see how you get on, don’t overcommit, I always start something full pelt, fail to stick with it and then feel dreadful about yet another failure.

I make to do lists and then feel upset and anxious about my failure to tick everything (or anything!) off it.  In reality I shouldn’t be surprised by this, I talked at great length in my last post about the paralysis caused by my anxiety and depression.  But that doesn’t stop me beating myself up over it all, causing even greater levels of anxiety…. and on it goes.

I’m all or nothing.

I’m either Whole30 or I’m eating my own body weight in crisps, cake, scones, bread, washing it down with a small lake of Pepsi Max.  I’ll try to be sensible with my food, but then I’ll eat something unhealthy and I’ll think FUCK IT, I might as well just eat ALL OF THINGS now and for the rest of the week because I have already RUINED IT.

I’ll exercise every day for a week and then I’ll miss a day and then a second day and then a third and then I’ll think FUCK IT, I can’t stick to ANYTHING, what is WRONG with me, it is all so POINTLESS, I don’t know why I BOTHER WITH ANYTHING.

It has to stop.  There must be a balance to be found.  And I’ve made a start.  You remember those monthly goals that I’ve been working on?  I’ve decided that having a pass / fail attitude towards them is only exacerbating my all or nothing outlook.  After all, if your goal is to walk 7k steps every day for a month, what’s the point of carrying on if you fail to hit that count on day two, right?  Because you have failed already. Why bother? Not a very helpful thought process at all.  

So instead, I’m giving myself a grading system, with grades A+ → F based on how much progress I made towards completing each monthly goal (in percentage terms).  For March, I found this worked really well.  It’s helped me to see that even though I might not do all of the things, all of the time, the effect is cumulative.  For example, I didn’t complete my channel swim distance goal, but I completed 17% of the remaining distance.  I may not have completed the 7k steps every day, but I did do it on 27 out of 31 days.  I did at least two NTC workouts on three weeks out of the five.  

Because I’m such a nerd, I have a little spreadsheet to log all of this and I found it helpful to update my progress on the goals throughout the month.  I used this information to persuade myself to go for a walk around the block to get my step count up, because at the moment, you’ve only got a C. No one wants March to go out with a C, kid.  Get out there and do some walking.  I could also see which activity would help me to increase my overall monthly percentage the most, helping me to prioritise that activity, when I knew that I didn’t have capacity to do everything.  Wow.  That’s a little bit of balance, right there.

March went out with a B grade.  I’m happy with that.  And I’ve set my new goals for April too: 

Goal 1: Finish channel swim goal
Goal 2: Don't buy food or drink in London
Goal 3: No sleeping during the day

I'm rolling over that channel swim goal, I'm determined to try to get that finished this month. I've got 894 lengths to go!

The second goal is to try and focus on more healthy choices, forcing me to plan and make choices ahead of time, rather than just throwing stuff in a basket and eating enough food for three people (which happens a LOT).


The third goal may seem a little........odd.  But I sleep a lot.  I mean really A LOT.  Sleep is my escape from the world.  It passes the time without my brain having to do much of anything.  Often I spend an entire weekend sleeping.  Sometimes, on my work from home days, I'll have a nap at lunchtime and then another when I finish work, before I make dinner.  I love sleep.  But I recognise that what started as another symptom of the depression has become a habit that is stealing my life away and I'm going to try and break it this month.

Stay tuned to see how I get on!

PS, in other news........

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

Friday, 11 March 2016

Paralysis

I don't tend to write very much about my depression. I don't want that to be what this blog is about. Quick, let me distract you with a picture of Murdoch.

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

Look at that gorgeous little bastard.

Mostly, I'd rather use this space to tell you about the things that I am doing rather than the things that I'm not doing. There are a million things that I'm not doing.

I'm not washing my hair every day, because every single day starts with me having to negotiate with myself get out of bed and face the world and sometimes the only way to do that is to tell myself that I don't have to wash and dry my hair, just get in the shower and you can tie it back in a pony tail.

I'm not showering every day, because sometimes that negotiation doesn't work and I have to get up and go as I am, because life doesn't stop and you can't call in sick to work and tell them that it's because your brain can't comprehend how to make your limbs move. That your brain refuses to make them move because the world is out there and it's too much. So you make your limbs move and you go out there and you face it. Every day.

I don't do the washing up every day, I do it about once or twice a week.  I sit on the sofa feeling anxious about the fact that there is washing up in the sink.  Worrying that it's been there for days.  Thinking about what I can cook for dinner that doesn't involve using the stuff that needs washing up. But I don't do the washing up. It's beyond me.

I sit on the sofa, not sorting and putting away the pile of clean underwear that has been sat next to me for weeks. Instead I just take a pair of knickers and a bra from the pile each morning and add more clean stuff when I can find it within myself to put a wash on..... to put a wash on?! Seriously?! I'm not going down to the river to beat it with a rock. I'm popping it in the washing machine in the kitchen and waiting for it to finish. But then, you see, I'll have to hang it up to dry, which will inevitably lead to it needing to be put away, or GOD FORBID ironed.

I don't see my friends and family as much as I would like.  I have to talk myself into it, every time.  I know that I'll enjoy time with them once I'm there. But GOD, the effort of it. Because I'll have to shower and wash my hair and style it and put on some make up and find something to wear and oh no, the laundry hasn't been done and nothing fits and OH! there's something that fits screwed up at the back of the cupboard, but CRAP I'm going to have to fucking iron it for FUCK'S SAKE. And that's before I've even got the other side of the front door.  And I'll have to think of stuff to say that makes it sound as though my life is busy and fun and full, because you can't tell your friends that you've spent most of the week sitting on the sofa in a Mexican standoff with a pile of underwear. They'd probably understand, because they're good people, these friends and family of mine. But nonetheless, you don't say it, because you don't want to sound like a crazy person. Or almost worse, a lazy person.

I've become pretty bad at looking after myself. It's difficult to comprehend how you're going to make it to the swimming pool, when your own pants are mocking you from the next seat. It recently took me four weeks to get around to making a dentist appointment, even though my gums were bleeding. I was bleeding from my mouth, sitting on the sofa, wondering what to do about my socks and the pile of washing up and dear god I haven't cleaned the bathroom for weeks and it's been three days since I washed my hair.

My very wise friend B said that one of the things about depression is that it takes the word "just" out of your vocabulary.  You are incapable of thinking "I'll just pop to the shops" or "I'll just put this pile of pants away" or "I'll just go for a quick swim".  There is no just.  There is no lightness of feeling that these are small daily tasks that you're more than capable of doing in a jiffy. Everything has weight.  It's hard. It all feels so hard. And so you get paralysed because your brain has turned you into a lump of rock and you can't imagine being able to make the effort it takes to get enough momentum to get moving.  Ironically, the big stuff is a bit easier, because the need to do big things (such as going to LA) is a giant shove that gets the momentum started and you just try and keep it rolling. 

SO. In amongst all of that stuff, I'm going to take a moment to think about the things that I have been able to do.

I did eventually go to the dentist and it was just a build up of tartar. I get the washing up done, once or twice a week.  I get the laundry done, even if it never quite makes it to the drawers.  I get the dog walked every day.  I go to work and do the best job that I can.  I see my friends and family and try to keep in contact with them via text or whatsapp when I can't find the oomph to go out and see them. I am (and will continue) doing the best I can.  What else is there? 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Rituals

This is going to be brief, in order to make up for the excessively lengthy post I published yesterday, which probably took about 10 minutes of your life to read.  You're never going to get that back, y'know.

When I was a kid, we always used to go on a long summer holiday to France each year.  Dad would hitch the caravan onto the back of the car and Mum would get some maps out of the library so that we could find our way about; this was a simpler time, before satnavs came into use.  The journey through France had a number of rituals and landmarks that would have to be met.

1. The ceremonial first spotting of a Norbert Dentressangle lorry*.  We were not officially on holiday until the first of these (known to us as Norbert Dextrasol) had been spotted, with HUGE kudos going to the person who made the spot.  On some very exciting occasions, this would happen at the ferry port before we'd even left the UK.  

2. The ceremonial falling out between me and my sister.  My poor parents.  It was a long car journey down through France and there was a lot of squabbling.  I remember on one memorable occasion when I was still very little, when we were arguing so strenuously that my dad screeched to a halt, kicked us out of the car and drove off, leaving us by the side of the road.  For about 10 seconds probably, but it scared the shit out of us, as we stood there, comparing how many sweeties we had and wondering how long they'd last us.

3.  The ceremonial falling out between my parents. My mother is an intelligent woman, with a quite frankly phenomenal sense of direction, which I (to a certain extent) have been lucky enough to inherit (together with a butt that just won't quit). However, she is also unfortunately directionally dyslexic, leading to many situations like this:

Mum: *ascertaining need to turn left* "You need to turn right here"
Dad: *starts to turn right*
Mum *gesticulating wildly with left hand* "RIGHT! TURN RIGHT! NO! RIGHT!" 

I wish my dad had learned to always follow the hand, rather than the words.  There is no disconnect between the brain and the hand. The hand does not get it wrong.  I strongly believe that the chances of my parents getting divorced decreased by around 37% with the invention of the satnav.

4. The ceremonial first spotting of that year's new number plate.  At that time, the new vehicle registrations only came out once a year, in August.  So we'd also be keeping an eye out for the first spot of some fancy pants going on holiday with their brand new car. Again, enormous kudos to the person who made the first spot.

All of which is a hugely long winded way of saying, OMG, you guys, I spotted my first 16 plate on Sunday woohoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

* [sidebar - distressing news on the Norbert front]

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Serendipity


Sometimes events just seem to unfold in a manner that works out beautifully for everyone. Isn't that lovely? I was lucky enough to benefit from a nice little moment of serendipity just a couple of weeks ago. 

One of my bigger goals for 2016 is to visit two new places.  This is because I am a territourist, a creature of habit that tends to go back to the same place, marking my metaphorical territory over and over again. As a result, after my May 2016 holiday, I will have been to Ibiza five times in the last two years. Territorial? I may as well cock my leg and piss up the wall at Pacha and be done with it.  And there's a whole world out there. A whole great big beautiful world, most of which I haven't visited.  

So it was a very good thing when, as a result of a proposal that my boss and I had submitted, my company was shortlisted to pitch our services to a potential new client.

In Los Angeles.

It was also quite fortunate that, when I looked at flights, it was quite significantly cheaper to fly home on the Sunday evening, rather than straight after the Friday morning pitch.

So I found myself in a situation where it was beneficial, both to me and the company that I work for, to spend the weekend by myself in LA. Hoorah!

I will be totally honest. LA was not on my shortlist of places to visit.  I'm not a movie buff and LA has always struck me as a place that is so film-centric that there is probably very little else going on.  Which could make it a little..... superficial?

Well, I was right, but I was also wrong.  It all very much depends on where you go.

I stayed in Venice, in a lovely little Airbnb place [side note, one of my other big goals for 2016 is to TRY NEW THINGS and staying in an Airbnb is a big tick in that box] that was located down a little walk street.

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

As you can see this is a lovely little path to walk down..... unless you're doing it for the first time in the dark, having got off the bus manhandling a gigantic suitcase, thinking "Is this safe?  I have no idea if this area is safe" while pondering the fact that if I were watching someone go down this poorly lit alley on TV, I'd be shouting "Don't go down there! Oh for heaven's sake, she's just asking to be murdered, the idiot".  As it turned out, it was all fine and I soon found myself installed in a cute little guesthouse that sat at the end of my host's garden.  I was pretty tired by this point and so with a brief chomp on some Cheetos for dinner, I crashed to sleep on the very comfortable and snuggly bed.

Thankfully, I had a pretty good night's sleep and woke up feeling pretty bright, which was good as it was time to go and pitch!  I put my professional face on and headed out.  I had assumed that the public transport would be like London, with a bus every couple of minutes.  Not the case.  So I ended up walking about two miles to the office in Santa Monica, as my connecting bus just didn't come along.  Thankfully I had allowed plenty of time and was still early for the pitch, which went very well.  And then at about 11am, I was free as a bird in Los Angeles!

After heading back to my Airbnb to get the heck out of my suit, I hit the streets of Venice, CA.  My first port of call was Abbot Kinney Blvd, which is an super hipster street of cute little independent shops.  I wasn't really in the mood for shopping, but I enjoyed strolling along in the warm sunshine.  Very welcome after the cold February weather that we were having in the UK.  I hit the end of the boulevard and found my way to Venice Beach, which was every bit as lively as I thought it would be, with stalls, buskers, and a great group of street dancers.

A video posted by @readyamefire on

By the end of the street dance show, I was pretty hungry, as I hadn't eaten anything yet that day. Thankfully the Sidewalk CafĂ© was able to provide me with an enormous lunch before I headed on up the boardwalk.  After walking northwards up the beach for a while, Venice starts to fade away and becomes Santa Monica, which is like the classy older sister to Venice's raucous young boy.  The beach here is lovely, just like walking onto the set of Baywatch.

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

After a wander around the shops of Santa Monica, I was tired and decided to catch the bus back to Venice, collapsing in bed almost as soon as I got back there early evening. Looking at the health app on my phone, it looks like I walked about 10 miles that day, so no wonder the jetlag caught up with me!

The next day it was time to head to Hollywood.  I got the bus again, which took longer than I thought again.  That's the thing about LA, it's huge and sprawling and nothing is very close to anything else.  I wandered up and down the Walk of Fame until I found Angela Lansbury, then stopped for some lunch.

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

After more public transport related fun, I arrived at the Griffith Observatory, a beautiful art deco style building pearched on top of a hill, where you get the best views of the Hollywood sign.

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

The observatory is sat at the edge of a park that has a load of trails just begging to be walked.  I walked up quite a way, but there was much more I could've walked, if I'd had the energy.  But this point, tiredness was setting in again (DAMN YOU JETLAG!!!) and I grabbed the bus back to my guesthouse for the evening.




On my last day, I spent the morning wandering up and down the Venice Canals, such a beautiful and peaceful place.  Don't go there unless you want to spend quite a bit of time wondering how your life has managed to unfold in a way that has not led to you living there. After the canals, I had just enough time for a wander about (including an extended walk up Main Street to Santa Monica in search of stamps to send out postcards, which I then couldn't find a postbox for GAH!).  It was then time to head back to my Airbnb, grab my suitcase and head back to the airport for the long flight home.

Looking back on this trip, I can definitely say that I enjoyed my time in LA, but don't really feel like there is a lot more there that I would like to see.  I preferred Venice and Santa Monica to Hollywood, as there is a much more relaxed atmosphere in those places, although one point to note about everywhere I went is that there are huge numbers of homeless people, more than I've ever seen anywhere else, which is a really sad thing, with no simple solution. 

Monday, 29 February 2016

Whole30: Reintroduction (pt ii)

When I last checked in with you guys, I was halfway through the Whole30 reintroduction protocol, with frankly mixed results. 

I still had a couple of food groups to reintroduce and next on the list was dairy.  I was very worried about this.  The longest and most meaningful relationship in my life has been with cheese, so the thought that it might send me scurrying to the lav clutching my nether regions was a real concern. Thankfully I needn't have worried.  Dairy was all fine.  Please note that there is no cheese in the picture below.  Some things are private, like the joyful reunion that cheese and I enjoyed together*


* OK, fine. I ate all the cheese before I could take a picture, OK? Happy now? Jeeeeeeez.

The last thing to reintroduce was gluten grains.  Cue a giant scone for breakfast, followed by my mince concoction served with pasta for lunch.  All of which (delicious though it was) was a mere prelude to the coming excitement.


PANCAKES! Woo hoo! PANCAKES! Oh the joy of wheat reintroduction day falling on the only day of the year that the UK gives half a crap about pancakes.  Also to note the joy of having loving parents who are willing to cook the pancakes for you. Woo hoo!

A photo posted by @readyamefire on

And as it's the end of February, it's time to check in and see how I did on those monthly goals, which to remind you, were as follows:

PRIDE: Complete the full Whole30 reintroduction, properly, without titting about.
STRETCH: Complete at least three NTC workouts per week and swim at least twice a week
WILDEST DREAMS: Get down to 14 stone

Hmmmm. Not quite so good as January.  I completed the Whole30 reintroduction without issue, but the other two were a complete blowout.  So I'm giving myself a pass grade of C and looking forward to some new goals for March.

PRIDE: Complete the Speedo app English Channel swim goal 
STRETCH: Complete at least two NTC workouts per week 
WILDEST DREAMS: Complete at least 7,000 steps every day in March, even on working from home days where I sit on my butt all day not going anywhere.

COMING UP: Reporting back on a couple of my bigger goals for the year, including a review of my trip to Los Angeles.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Whole30: Reintroduction

In my last post, I mentioned that my first goal for February 2016 is to complete the Whole30 reintroduction properly, something that I've never done before.  So how does that work?  And why is it important?

Well, for the duration of the Whole30, you're essentially clearing down your digestive system, eliminating all food groups that are widely acknowledged to cause issues for a number of people.  These are sugar, dairy, grains (gluten and non-gluten) and legumes.  So when the 30 days are up, your system is well clear of these foods and their effects, and you're essentially a real, live, walking, talking test environment.  You are your own control group.  Pretty cool, huh?

So on day 31, you reintroduce one food group in isolation. Just one.  And you need to go to town on it a bit, really dose yourself so you can make sure that you've eaten enough of it to measure any effects. Then you go back to eating Whole30 for the next two days, so that you can be reasonably sure that any effects you experience are as a result of eating that food group. And those effects could be on your body, your digestive system, your energy levels, your mood, anything at all.  You then repeat this for each of the food groups, with the exception of sugar, because really, it's probably best not to reintroduce that at all if you can bear not to, except things like a little added sugar in shop bought ketchup, bacon or smoked salmon that has sugar used in the curing process, that sort of thing.

Now the Whole30 website recommends that you introduce the food groups in order from the least likely to affect you (legumes) to the most likely to affect you (gluten grains).  I decided that I would use one of my Whole30 staples, a beef mince chilli, as the carrier for my reintroduction, so on Sunday I ate some with a metric fucktonne of peas and beans. Oh and some peanuts, but not with the chilli, just by themselves as a snack.


Doesn't that look delicious?  Peas and runner beans and edamame. Nom.  Given that legumes are listed as the food group that affects the smallest number of people, I was not prepared for what happened the next day.

Which was when my digestive system emphatically and indeed explosively demonstrated that it does not like being filled up by that amount of legumes. BAD TIMES. Aside from the suddenness with which I went from feeling slightly queasy (not that unusual for me first thing in morning) to legging it to the loo, I was really surprised by this, as I don't recall ever having had this issue before.  But I did eat more beans than any normal human being would eat in one sitting, so I think that once I'm done with the rest of the reintroduction, I'll do a bit more experimentation with (less) beans to see if it was just the quantity that I ate.  Please note that this experiment will be done on a day when I know I'll be spending all of the following day within ten metres of my toilet.

The good news was that in one giant incident all of those legumes were *ahem* out of my system, so I soon felt normal and ready to proceed to the next reintroduction on day 34, which was non-gluten grains.  I was very excited by this as I really missed rice during my Whole30.


Oh look at that lovely fluffy rice. Delicious fluffy white rice.  Lovely lovely rice that my stomach had no issue with at all.  I also ate some lovely sweetcorn and my stomach doesn't mind a bit.  Hooray!

So I'm halfway through the reintroduction process and at the moment the score is non-gluten grains 1 - 0 legumes.  Dairy will be reintroduced on Saturday (OMG CHEESE) and then gluten grains on Tuesday (OMG gluten grain reintroduction day is on Shrove Tuesday PANCAKES PANCAKES PANCAKES!!!!).

Monday, 1 February 2016

January 2016

It’s February already, if you can believe it.  Actually, having just typed that, I’m now pondering the point, as January seems to have simultaneously zipped by and lasted FOREVER.  It’s been a month of sadness, as we lost icon after icon. Bowie, Rickman and yesterday, in the dying embers of the month, Wogan.  But January is also a month of newness, rebirth, optimism and goal setting.  And on that front, I’m really happy with how the month went.

This year, as well as setting big annual goals, I’ve set smaller monthly goals to achieve.  I’ve never been very good at sticking to things for a long time, so I think the smaller goals are a better idea for me.  Further, I have set myself three achievement levels for each month. 

PRIDE: This is the minimum that I want to achieve to finish the month with my head held high
STRETCH: Taking it to the next level, pushing it just a little further
WILDEST DREAMS: Superstretch! Go on, dream big

So what did this look like for January, and how did I do?  Let’s find out……


PRIDE: Complete a January Whole30.  A big tick against this one, although midway through the month, this result felt entirely uncertain.  I had got to around day 14 and I was ready to give up.  However, I was not ready to give up before I’d been to the first ever UK Whole30 seminar that Melissa Hartwig was hosting on the 16th. Imagine turning up there with the knowledge that you’d fallen off the wagon the day before. Mortifying.  And it was a good choice to hang in there, as I left the room full of motivation, with a picture of myself with Melissa and her signature in my copy of It Starts with Food.  Gigantic win.  



This was not my first Whole30.  I’ve done a few before and certainly haven’t finished all of them…
  1. September 2014. Finished 30 days, but epic fail at the reintroduction phase.  I chose to reintroduce dairy first and fell face first into a cheese induced coma. With icecream. And more cheese.
  2. January 2015.  Quit partway through.  A friend of mine died at the beginning of January last year and his wake was held at the restaurant where he had been head chef.  The food served was from his menu, and honouring him felt significantly more important than sticking to the Whole30 plan.  It was a definite, mindful choice and I have no regrets about it.
  3. April 2015. Epic fail. Woeful.  I went and gave blood and afterwards dove into the crisps and chocolate bars in a face stuffing frenzy of monumental proportions. Oops.
  4. September 2015. Success! (ish).  Finished the 30 days, just didn’t bother with the reintroduction.  I think I was so ready to be done with it and desperate for some of the foods I’d been craving that I just stopped.

So this was my fifth attempt at a Whole30 and I think it’s the one that has affected me most (so far!).  A lot of that is to do with listening to Melissa speak, so I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to do that.

STRETCH: Get under 15 stone.  15 stone! FIFTEEN STONE?!?!?! Deary me, where did things go so wrong?  Last year was a really difficult one.  I found myself in a really difficult and emotional situation with a member of my team at work, which really affected me.  Aside from that, we relocated to the London office, meaning a significant lifestyle change, all with the ever present, looming threat of redundancy.  Fun times.  When I’m in a bad place, food is my go to place for comfort.  There is not a single emotion that isn’t made better by smothering it in a soothing layer of cheese.  Then a layer of crisps. Then some chocolate. And then some more crisps.  And why not make it fizzylicious by pouring some Pepsi Max with cherry over it?  Go on, you’re worth it.  So I ended the year about 2.5 stone heavier than I started it and frankly, I wasn't in tiptop shape to begin with.  WOE.  So although Whole30 is much more than a quick fix weight loss plan, there’s no denying that it’s a great kickstart to healthy eating and therefore weight loss is a cheery side effect.  Again, I can put a big tick next to this goal, as I lost a total of 11lb in the last 30 days.  WHOOP.

WILDEST DREAMS: Fit back into walking trousers. Due to being such a gigantic fatso last year, I spent the second half of the year walking Murdoch wearing tracksuit bottoms in all weathers, finding myself completely unable to fit into my walking trousers.  EXTREME WOE. The good news is that I tried on the walking trousers yesterday and although they are still quite snug, I can put them on and do them up.  WINNING.

So all in all, I’m counting January as quite a success.  And I’ve already got my goals together for February too.

PRIDE: Complete the full Whole30 reintroduction, properly, without titting about.
STRETCH: Complete at least three NTC workouts per week and swim at least twice a week
WILDEST DREAMS: Get down to 14 stone

Watch this space............