This post has been a long time coming.
A very, very long time coming.
It’s been almost exactly 11 months since my last post. And then it had been 7 months between posts before that. So, please, let me explain.
I’ve been unwell. Quite unwell actually. I’ve spent the last two and a half years in and out of hospitals, struggling to manage my mental health. For those two and a half years, life stopped.
I stopped working.
I stopped writing.
I stopped existing basically, and things got bad. Rather than go into detail about what happened with all of you, I’ve put an account of my experience that I recently wrote for chef Pete Evans to share on his site at the end of this post.
The most important thing to acknowledge is that I pulled through and that I’m here. And I’m good. Better. Still healing, but much, much better. And you know how I know that? I’m writing… and yes, blogging. As much as I tried to keep my blog and my personal, unrelated to writing issues separate, I just couldn’t. I can’t. Writing is my personal life.
I’m really looking forward to the process of resuscitating my life… and my blog. But things need to change. They have to. Because I’m not the same person that I was two and a half years ago – I can’t possibly be after everything that I’ve gone through. So, in the spirit of growth and maturity and new beginnings, expect to see a few changes around here in the near future.
Watch this space.
So This is My Story…
Since my early teenage years I have suffered from mental illness and late 2012 saw me reach rock bottom. I was severely depressed to the point where I had to be hospitalised, and had absolutely no will to live. I had already attempted suicide twice and still, my every waking moment was spent either planning how I would end things, or continuing to attempt to. Between my family and the staff across the three hospitals that I ended up spending months in, I was on 24 hour watch and, to be honest, not much more than a breathing, yet paradoxically, lifeless body. I’d lost my hope; my faith in life; that creativity that used to sustain me; my ability to write. I’d lost all the things that made me, me.
Over the course of approximately 7 months I was subjected to every treatment and medication that you can think of. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, Lithium, Xanax, Valium, Seroquel, Temazepan, Stilnox – you name it, the ‘medical professionals’ in charge of my care tried everything on me, to no avail. By the end of the 7 months, things were so dire, I was advised that my only option was Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT). I had two courses of it. Each course was 4 – 6 weeks in duration with three ECT treatments every week. Aside from the usual side effects that come with having an anaesthetic three times a week (!) I suffered severe memory loss and, more significantly for me, became unable to reason for myself and perform simple tasks like driving to my local shops. My husband would visit me one day in hospital and the following I’d have no recollection of his visit. With time, and lots of support, I eventually did become safe enough to be discharged, and have since been piecing my life back together. And what a journey it’s been. On top of the re-learning of basic tasks and everyday routines that I never used to have to think about, re-entering the workforce and learning to love myself, I also had over 20kgs to lose that I had gained over those few months.
Looking back, I believe my journey to wellness began a few months after being discharged, when I was introduced to a most amazing Chinese Medicine practitioner – Rafaelle Vavalla. It’s with him that my healing really began. After a trip to France where I was perpetually miserable with myself, my weight gain, my lack of creativity and ability to piece even basic sentences together (I’m a writer), and my foggy head (imagine trying to navigate your day on barely two hours sleep, with a hang over, wearing glasses coated in vaseline), I promised myself (and my husband who could see that the conventional western approach wasn’t working) that I’d find another way to deal with my depression. And I did. I returned from my holiday, quit “the sweet stuff” (aka sugar) and started having regular acupuncture consultations with Rafaelle, who also gave me herbal supplements. And, yep, I started improving. My mood started shifting – ever so slightly – and everyday living began to be less of an effort.
It wasn’t until early last year though that things really started coming together for me, and it was around that time that I started looking into this ‘paleo’ diet that I had been hearing about. I figured I had nothing to lose so I gave it a go. At first I made small changes cutting out processed food, and increasing my protein and fat intake. And what a difference I felt. Almost instantly. My energy levels increased, my motivation returned, with the help of an incredibly patient, gentle and supportive personal trainer I was able to start exercising again and, finally, I was able to write. To put pen to paper and do what brings me the utmost joy – with clarity; with complexity; with passion. I was starting to feel like me again.
Towards the end of last year I decided to give up grains and am now, slowly, limiting my dairy intake and, I feel so well. I’ve lost over 22kgs, it feels, effortlessly, am the fittest I’ve ever been and, finally, had my psychiatrist admit that actually, yes, I probably would be able to come off my anti-depressant in the near future and no, I would not be on it for life – as she had previously told me. She even went as far as saying that she didn’t believe my mental health issues were ‘medical’, after seeing how far I’d come and how well I’d responded to diet and lifestyle changes and to regular Chinese Medicine.
In no way do I believe that I am ‘cured’ but I am most definitely ‘healing’; through food, self love and self nourishment. And, most importantly, I have my quality of life back. I now ferment my own veggies, I make my own good, real food (JERF!), I take the time to meditate daily and do what I love (write) and, most importantly, I honour my body and what I choose to fuel it with. Food is my medicine.