I’ve been here before – but never quite this bad.
The bathroom is getting cloudier with the steam from the shower. My skin is wet and my long hair is clean but dripping, and my fingertips start to wrinkle with that feeling when you’ve been in the water that little bit too long.
I’d been washing off the game of netball that night, but somehow the shower morphed into something else entirely. Alone in the flat, I let loose the internal anguish and sadness I’d been holding in throughout the week into loud, heaving sobs, resting my head against the cold white tiles.
Staring down at the bloated belly that is undoubtedly me but yet feels like someone else’s skin, it all becomes too much. Holding it together becomes too much. Faking a smile and telling people I’m fine is just a step too far and I feel myself tipping over the edge on which I permanently reside.
Managing to get out the shower, I try to wrap myself in the slightly damp smelling, slightly too small towel and sit on the bed. The cries keep coming and now I don’t think I can stop.
I’m desperately running through a list in my head – who can I talk to right now? Is there anyone who can make me feel better? I don’t want to be a burden, one that I know weighs so heavily on those around me. My best friend is probably asleep by now but she’s one of the people who best understands how I’m feeling, so I reluctantly message her. She replies instantly, worried already. I think she could tell this time was different.
How can life be this hard?
Through shame and guilt and deep, deep sadness, I looked up how many sleeping pills it takes to kill you that night. I even looked up the best way to take them to make sure it works.
She talks me down, calms me down. The warmth that comes when you step out of a hot shower fades and I’m left shivering, frozen to that spot on the bed for over an hour. I pull myself together enough to get dressed – very slowly – and use the last energy I have left to contort my face into a smile when James gets home.
‘I just had a rough night.’
I couldn’t bring myself to be completely honest. He gave me the kind of hug he knows I need when I’m feeling down, and it helps.
Numbness took over in the days that followed – I binged and binged to try and block out the pain, to avoid facing my feelings.
But then, two days later, I realised I had two choices. I can either carry on as I am, hating myself and feeling down and giving in to binging on food, continuing to live some kind of half life – or, I can find the power to end the cycle and make a change. I chose the latter.
Now? I’m on my 36th day completely binge free. I’m still nowhere near a picture of ‘healthy’ – I’m eating takeaways, I have bits of chocolate just about every day – but the important thing is I’m not battering my brain by putting it through the anguish of binging and I’m not forcing the pain of massively overeating on my body either. I’m learning to build a positive relationship with food, to actually listen to my body and feed it accordingly.
Some call depression the black dog – to me it’s more of a black cloud, following me around and raining down drops of sadness and isolation and hopelessness. It’s returned since that day…but I haven’t coped with it through eating and instead got through it by focusing on looking after myself and giving my mind the self-care it needs.
I haven’t lost any weight yet – but it can’t be about that, not at first anyway. It has to be about getting myself in a more positive place mentally, and hopefully the weight loss will follow.
I’ve also been chronicling my days binge-free on my Instagram and Twitter, and it’s received an incredible response from other people going through recovery too. It’s weird, how uploading a post to an online platform can be so cathartic and therapeutic and help you feel more accountable, but it’s truly working for me.
They do say it takes hitting your rock bottom before you can start to move onwards and upwards, and I think that Wednesday April 5th 2017 was mine.
This post is published as part of sharing my story for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please do not feel alone. Talk to a friend, family member, doctor, or you can call the Samaritans for free any time on 116 123.