Over-Analysis and New-Sky Thinking

I have a long-standing relationship with negative over-analysisWe've outlasted 90% of Hollywood marriages, 82% of my University degree and 2016. 

TWENTY SIXTEEN.

The only person with that kind of sticking power is Jeremy Corbyn.

Yet despite this longevity, our marriage is anything but functional. Clearly NOA didn't get the memo about "love and cherish", because the idea of equal paternership is quite lost on him. Contrary to his name twin, NOA isn't the biggest fan of fluffy animals or staying dry. Conversely, he seems to quite enjoy a flood; each day brings a fresh storm of anxieties, doubts and "what-ifs?", and I don't even have an Ark for respite.

THE NERVE. 

In the world according to NOA, nothing is ever 'just right'. Imagine you were choosing between 200 varieties of apple in your local supermarket, or picking a paint colour from 51 shades of 'off-white'. Now, imagine that this applies to every single decision you make

It's a marriage made in re-tell; a dejavu list of everything that could go wrong; a prediction of failure. Before I even face those 200 apples, I am second-guessing the number itself. Why didn't I pick 100, or 300? What if my choice of '200' apples alienates 50% of readers? 

This has now gone up to 60%, because I picked 50%... Wow, I could really do with an Ark. 

For as long as I can remember, every decision has a context; a prequel, an extra line, another chapter... Maybe, if I'm lucky, one sentence could become a three-part blockbuster. Just call me Peter Jackson. Yet while I'd happily watch Tolkien till the Hobbits come home, NOA's story is getting a bit old.

It''s the same script again and again. It's The same relentless, critical, questioning antagonist. So why have I stuck to NOA like Mr Wormwood and super-super-glue? It doesn't exactly make me feel super about myself. I don't have numbers racing around my head because I want to be the next Einstein. If I accidentally knock my right knee, I don't merrily knock the left one for the fun of it; conversely, to quote Ross Gellar "I bruise like a peach". I don't get happy hormones by telling myself that I'm not good enough/a bad person/a burden to others.
Trust me, 101 dalmatians sound infinitely merrier than 101 doubts and fears. Yet that's the thing about mental illnesses; you don't choose to think this way. It becomes your normal, It is why recovery is so very difficult, despite seeming the most logical thing in the world.

If we revisit our Friend Mr Tolkien - because LOTR is always a good idea - he provides a rather brilliant case study on the subject: Gollum. So pop you metaphorical cap on and bear with me! Firstly, imagine that you are Gollum (feel free to scream "my precious" in the middle of the street." Now, imagine that NOA as the one ring. You love and hate it, but you cannot imagine a life beyond it.

The ring, like a mental illness, is the ultimate paradox; it runs on emptiness, feeds off starvation and functions through dysfunction. Over the years, mental paralysis has driven my physical life to a standstill, yet NOA mercilessly conceals the path forward.

"Gollum hates and loves the Ring, as he hates and loves himself. He will never be rid of his need for it" - Gandalf

Gandalf has a point on the first sentence; however, I will have to disagree with the second part.   A wizard is never late, but he can be wrong. We CAN be rid of it. *cue Samwise voice*

     NEW-SKY THINKING    

Since starting Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) last month, however, I may finally be able to glimpse a road beyond this. For so many years, I would have believed this to be impossible; Moreover, I think I've already established that there is no surefire answer for mental health recovery. Yet I do feel that CBT could be the fresh approach I need.
Over the years, I have tried private "talking" therapy, two NHS Outpatient groups and self-help strategies; however, they have been a sticking plaster, covering the cracks but not reaching the core issues. Consequently, I have been in a recovery-relapse cycle that has only become more entrenched. Prior to my admission in October, despite the incredible support of my family, I felt more lost than ever.

Cognitive Behavioural therapy is a treatment that I have looked at numerous times in the past; however, I've either been too unwell to engage, or have come face-to-face with an 18 month waiting list (True story. I was toward the end of IP treatment in Bristol, by the time the Exeter referral came through...)  So when the inpatient nursing staff told me I could start CBT, upon discharge, I couldn't quite believe it. What's more, I already knew the therapist I would be working with, as she ran a "self-compassion" group for the Unit.

I am careful to pin all my hopes on this; from the first session, she has stressed that this isn't a 'cure' and setbacks are part of recovery. However, four weeks into CBT and I feel NOA may finally meet his match

"CBT is based on the idea that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and act. Unlike other talking treatments, CBT deals primarily with your current situation, rather than issues from your past." 
CBT doesn't try to analyse when or why; instead, it looks at how things can be different. I think this was my issue with 'talking therapy'. While it can work for some people, for me it only fuels the over-analysis paralysis. Although I get the thoughts out - it is certainly 'therapeutic' in that sense - I end up running in circles. NOA doesn't need a listener. He needs a divorce lawyer! I need a plan of action.
I think the key to this is compartmentalisation. I need to approach a situation in the HERE and NOW. Forget blue skies, this is about a new sky - a clean slate - where past decisions and future predictions are put to one side. Quite simply, you can't go through life with the weight of the world in your suitcase, so I need to give each decision a baggage limit. I wouldn't' pack snow boots for the Zahara Desert, so why should I predict 'failure' for a single word choice.

In the time I've spent over-analysing this post alone, I could have bought an Ark from Ebay - I'll be the first to admit that I talk better than walking! Nevertheless, it's a process and processes take time. Through my first 4 weeks of CBT, I've been reminded that recovery is not about that great 'leap of faith' - goals and grand plans - but small, consistent steps in the present. 

So in the name of new-sky thinking and future Ark-bidding, I am going to take one right now. It's taken me two weeks to reach the "publish" button of this post, but I am going to hit it today. NOA wants to re-edit the photos, re-take the photos, re-draw the designs in the photo... oh, and change those 3 synonyms at the start of the post. 

So how will I act? By leaving the photos as they are and the synonyms as they stand. I'm also going to share my latest calligraphy project, which NOA has been toying with for over a week now. It has been restarted no less than 16 times; yes, 16. However, yesterday I rode out the anxiety with a little faith, trust and (metallic marker) dust. I actually acted on the words I was writing. I thought outside the box to complete it...
...and breathe.

T1 Diabetes does not look like....

     A DONUT OR DR PEPPER     

It is a disease. One that requires millions of people to see real doctors multiple times a year, routine blood tests, blood sugar yoyos and daily number games. So if you're wanting to call your Krispy Kreme "diabetes", I DONUT WANT TO KNOW. 

     A TABLOID HEADLLINE     

You will probably be familiar with the delightfully sensationalist "Diabetes will Bankrupt the NHS" headlines, along with the "crash diet that can cure diabetes" and the stock image of an obese person - probably eating a burger for good measure. Journos love a good society shame, but sensationalism is not the truth. Diabetes does not look like the Daily Mail!

Newspapers also rarely differentiate between T1 or T2 diabetes in their headlines. T1 diabetes is not caused by diet; it is an autoimmune condition, usually triggered in childhood, that is no fault of the individual. Moreover, not all cases of type 2 are linked to lifestyle; people are diagnosed with the condition at a healthy weight! Just as it is completely wrong to believe that certain cancers are always linked to smoking, many type 2s did leave a healthy lifestyle prior to diagnosis. Diabetes does not look like one individual. 

     A TWITTER HASHTAG      


When it comes to the award for #MostTrivialised, Diabetes is up there with OCD. I've talked about the latter before, but for every #SoOCD sock drawer there is also a #diabetes donut to be found. In the world of social media, both illnesses are continually misrepresented and stereotyped. As someone who has both diabetes and OCD, it is a continual source of frustration and something we need to challenge. Diabetes does not look like your dessert.

     A FOOTNOTE     


With the rising cost of T2 diabetes, I can understand why the media has latched onto the story. Nonetheless, it does mean that T1 diabetes is often restricted to a brief paragraph - it is rarely the focus of diabetes media coverage and is consequently grouped under the diabetes = donuts" stigma. I was really glad to see Teresa May called for greater diabetes awareness today; I hope this is a sign that our new PM can move T1D advocacy to the front page. Type One diabetes does not look like Type Two diabetes.

     DIABULIMIA     


Diabetes UK estimates that 1 in 3 T1Ds will struggle with some form of an eating disorder; however, the little coverage it has received focuses on diabulmia; this is where a diabetic patient deliberately restricts insulin and is a potentially life-threatening condition. It does need far more recognition, yet I am also passionate about raising awareness that not all ED-DMT1 cases involve insulin restriction

Conversely, one of the initial catalysts for my eating disorder was an extreme fear of high blood sugars. To some degree, the absence of the  hyperglaecemia 'red card' helped me conceal my own struggles for so long, so it concerns me how many other people may be suffering in silence. 

Thankfully, I now have complete transparency with my current diabetes team, who are desperate to increase my chronically low HBA1C and convinced me to reenter inpatient treatment last Thursday.  The past week has been terrifying, as the refeeding process causes short-term spikes in diabetes and I am eating so many of the 'forbidden' foods in the Higher blood sugars are a short-term necessity for  recovery, but the process is prettifying. 

Charities such as DWED are invaluable for covering all cases of ED-DMT1, including anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia and binge-eating disorder. Nevertheless, we need more voices to be heard. Only last month, I received an email from someone with diabetes and an ED; like me, she has never omitted insulin, yet she thought she was entirely alone  until she read my blog. Her email reaffirmed exactly why I chose to speak up; if my story can help just one other person, it overrides any fear of judgement. Your words could reach someone too. 

     A NUMBER ON A SCALE      


Diabetics can be overweight, underweight or a healthy weight. In the media thesaurus, diabetes = obesity, gluttony, unhealthy... donut. *cue fast food emojis*. You get the picture; The image  splashed across social and professional media alike. 

 So you may want to brace yourself for this home truth... diabetes does not look like a body type.

     A NUMBER ON A BLOOD SUGAR METRE     


It is a snapshot; a moment on time. Diabetes is not linear and blood sugars can be affected by the slightest thing. You are not defined by any reading, high or low. I struggle so much with attaching my self-worth to those numbers.
For me, T1D is tainted by numbers and the pursuit of 'perfect' control. But I am fighting to be free of that. Diabetes does not look like a number

     AVOIDING CARBOYHDRATES     


No seven year old should have to think she can never eat pizza again. No ten year old should be turning over the back of the desserts in the chilled section of a supermarket, to check if the carb count is "acceptable". No twenty two year old should do that, either. 

We need carbohydrates to live. Simple. It is our body's most preferred source of energy, and is integral to survival. Yet for as long as I can remember, carbohydrates for me have been viewed in terms of "good" and "bad", similar to the traffic light system on food packaging. Interestingly enough, carbohydrates never feature there… but they do in the mind of the diabetic.  

From the age of seven, a plate of food is an equation. Only an hour ago I cried over apple sponge and custard. It may as well have been laced with poison, so fearful was my head of the 'repercussions'. I vividly recall going to the school dining hall in Year Two - seven years old - and having exactly 10 chips counted out on my plate. Never one less, but never one more. 

Carbs were by no means 'banned'. As a diabetic, I have eaten cake, pizza, pasta, the works. For many years, I was far less rigid in my views then I am now; however, if a food has a carb count it has to be counted. The key to mental freedom? Carbs may always have to be counted, but they don't need to count for anything. Diabetes does not need to look like carb restriction. 


     99% OF WHAT YOU READ     

So read it with a pinch of salt, pepper, or sweet 'n low if you're feeling bitter... because sugar is the root of ALL EVIL guys! In case you missed the Daily Mail's memo. 

Diabetes looks like diabetes. No stigma or judgement. No one-size-fits-all. What does diabetes look like for you? 


The Acorn and the Ivy

Of all my New England photos, this one may be my favourite; who can resist that bokeh backdrop? Even using the word 'bokeh' makes me feel like a very savvy-snapper... we'll just brush over those #behindthefilter shots, where the red flowers looked more like the red dot on Jupiter - or those really creepy eye photos at a retinal screening. 

I do love to a good detour, don't I? Perhaps I am trying to delay the inevitable - the grande finale of my New England blog series. Yes, nearly 3 months after my East Coast adventure, this is the end. *hold your breath and count to 10* As cliche as this sounds, I really have saved the best 'till last. 

Ft. bookshop bakeries, Elle Woods' alma mater and the most-photographed street in the States, I may also have retraced the steps of a certain Ms Rowling... 

    JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS PEANUT BUTTER       
Trident is the hidden gem of Boston; it was one of my dad's "pre-holiday" discoveries, when he set himself the task of finding "the Sophiest coffee shop of all". With books, berries, PB and all things puppy-love, it's safe to say Trident exceeded all expectations was an OWL Outstanding! 

We had breakfast here on both days in Boston, and it's safe to say it was the best of our trip.  My food anxieties had slowly built over the holiday, yet the PB and berry combo felt familiar and comforting; life is always peanut better, while there were enough strawberries to see out 2016! Not that I was complaining... 
You may have seen my "cup of happy" in earlier blog photos; it was a Trident buy and possibly my favourite souvenir of the trip! I did spend a good 15 minutes deciding which mug to buy, as the dog below was very tempting. 
I very nearly got one of the beautiful hardbacks above, but instead picked a copy of Emily Dickinson poetry; at this point she was the subject of dissertation, but I';ve since done a complete U-Turn... I should be a politician! 



    WHAT, LIKES ITS HARVARD?     

I couldn't resist a little nod to Ms Elle Woods, who hails from Harvard Law. Compared to Yale, it didn't quite have the same Hogwarts feeling. That being said, Cambridge (yes, Harvard is based in Cambridge Massachusetts) is a world away from New Haven. It was its own little haven of cute coffee shops, red brick and all the trees. Is it obvious I treeally love them?  

Speaking of Hogwarts, Harvard had something Yale can't claim: JK Rowling's footprints. Yes, below I am standing on the spot where my heroine stood, when she made her commencement speech to graduates. I have a copy of her speech, "very good lives", which is a book you need in your life! 

"We don't need magic to change the world, we have all the magic inside ourselves. We have the power to imagine better." My Queen. 



     SMALL ACORNS AND MIGHTY ELMS      
Mirror mirror on the wall, which street is the most instagrammable of all? Beacon Hill, without a doubt. I mean just look at it: can I move here please? For some random reason it reminded me of the house in Two of a Kind, with 19th century redbrick and roadside trees. Now there's a throwback to a forgotten age, when TV still had integrity...

...a bit like the dreamy cobblestones, gas lamps and treescapes of Beacon Hill! Concrete monstrosities can move over, because this colonial time capsule was right up my *acorn* street. Literally, for nestled behind the hill is the magical and mighty Acorn: 'the most photographed street in the US', according to a reliable source Wikipedia.  Let's get that macro setting on, 
It's official, we need a national renaming of Streets in the UK; anything with a joyful or woodland theme will be accepted.

    TWINKLE AND PERIWINKLE LITLE STAR          

Oh Boston. My beautiful Boston. I thought our daytime wanders were serene as can be, then I saw you at sunset... oh Boston, you've put me on the mother of all nostalgia trips right now! It would be the perfect City to own a dog, with the Public Garden on your doorstep. To be honest though, you don't need a dog as reason to re-root! Imagine walking through this each day? Central Park eat your heart out...
Metallic pleat midi skirt, £68, Topshop     Ruffle cami top, £9.99, Mango     Large push-lock, £100, Cambridge Satchel Company     Patent ballet heels, £25, Debenhams
It took a good three months of WonderListing/trying it four separate times, before this Topshop midi skirt found my wardrobe. I was worried it was too flouncy and made me look even more like a hobbit, but the Petites section saved the day! Plus, it was simply made to match my periwinkle satchel - the bag of my dreams, in case you missed this from my earlier posts... 

So that concludes my New England adventure. I've quite liked revisiting it later on to be honest #perksofprocrastination - makes me all the more determined to go back! Yet I've made a promise to myself that, when I return, I will be properly healthy; there will be no room for anxiety and anorexia in my suitcase. I never want my mental health to overshadow things, but I think it's important to acknowledge that it did impact my trip. 

Only then can I also reflect on what I did achieve. Plans changing, eating out 2/3 times a day, bare legs, plane turbulence... I survived. That's the thing with "exposure therapy", you live to tell the tale and you learn from it. Moreover, some things can't ever be tarnished, whether it be FairyYale, Star Ducks, Newport sails or the the beauty of a Boston skyline.... 



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