Sunday, July 7, 2013

Three easy positive changes anyone can make to help themselves (especially me!)

The last two months have been some of the most challenging times for me since The Assault, since I hit Rock Bottom, and since I became a new sole parent with undiagnosed acute postpartum thyroid disease.

I had no idea what was wrong with me when things started to go awry in May earlier this year, and I still don't, but my psychiatrist, who has been trying to label me as having Bipolar II disorder since I started seeing him in early 2012, thinks this recent episode is more evidence of that diagnosis.

As my mood swung from the extremes of happiness to aggressive irritation; high anxiety to full blown tears, everyone around me knew something was very wrong. Sometimes these changes would happen within a day, sometimes within an hour and as each day passed without any emotional stability I began to trust myself less and fear everything more.

I've had nine doctors' appointments and seven different medications to try and sort out my topsy turvy mood. Now, touch wood, I think I can confidently say I'm coming through to the other side of this current episode. It has now been a week since any massive swings have occurred and I really feel like I can see clearly for the first time in two months, possibly longer.

While I was in the grips of the episode doing anything positive to help myself seemed impossible or just didn't come to mind at all. I reached for the easy options like chocolate cake and Valium. Now, as the fog begins to clear, I can see there are some easy changes I can make to my everyday routine to really help make myself feel more in control of my life.

These are the No Shit Sherlock life changes anyone can make to help themselves feel better:

1. Eat well

Never easy for me, being the lover of all things sweet and chocolatey, but if I could just cut down on the sugar and increase the fruit, veggies and protein, I'm sure there would be some impact to my mood. I know there would! When I quit sugar last year I felt on top of the world. Getting started is the hardest part. Letting go of the yummy treats sometimes seems almost unfathomable!

My recent blood tests also show I have Hashimoto's Disease (the autoimmune disease Sarah Wilson has that inspired her quit sugar campaign) as a result of the postpartum thyroid disease I suffered so badly with after Noo was born. I didn't realise this before my recent tests. I knew I had to watch my thyroid levels should I ever plan to have another baby, but I didn't realise that I was living with this condition and will forever. Quitting sugar, if only I could do it, could probably make a big difference to my life.

2. Exercise, even just a tiny bit

Shrink ordered me to walk as fast as I could for half an hour a day no matter what. He said to take the order like a prescription, a tablet that I mustn't miss, but of course I've been slack on this one. Everyone knows that exercise helps with depression. This is a scientific fact! The endorphins exercise produce stimulate the reward centre in the brain which, as a recovering drug and alcohol addict, my brain loves!

I don't know why I can't get off my butt and just do it. What is holding me back? What do I fear? My knees and hips are aching from the massive 8kgs I've put on this year since the depression started and I'm feeling old and weary.

I've got to get moving!

3. See my friends more

I've been avoiding my friends a little lately because I don't want to bore them with my continuous tales of woe. They can come here to read about that shit. I feel like I've had nothing positive to contribute to light conversation and my weight gain has made me feel more self conscious about going out, even though I've spent a small fortune on clothes lately (I blame the impulsivity that comes with my mood swings for this!). But I should see my friends because I have some great mates who make me feel good and who I love being with. For all I know, they might be going through shit and need a shoulder to cry on!

One event that has buoyed my feeling of self worth was my recent naming as a finalist in the Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards in the Positive Life Change category. There are so many amazing blogs in the finalist lists including Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar, Carly Findlay, Easy Peasy KidsRandom Ramblings of a Stay at Home Mum and so many more! I congratulate all the finalists and wish them luck.

It is hard to believe that "positive life change" is something I should be recognised for right now, when I struggle so much with the day to day, when the thought of having a 'real job' still terrifies me, and that looking after kids is something that can cause me enough anxiety to run from the room crying. But I have to remember what I was like six years ago, reread my posts From Rock Bottom to Parenthood and give myself credit for what I have done, not for what I'm still trying to achieve.

Bupa have asked all the finalists to answer a few questions about themselves and one of them was what our favourite quote is. I have a lot of favourite quotes but the one I found and gave them, I thought was particularly apt:

The will to change has to come from the heart, your heart, my heart. Whoever it is that wants to make a big change in their life has to really, really want it. Like Andy Warhol is quoted above, no one can make you do it. Sure you can get all the help in the world if you can afford it, but really it is up to you, me, whoever to turn up everyday and give it our best. It takes audacity and determination and sometimes it even takes the threat of death, like when I was at Rock Bottom, to really find what it takes to make consistent lifestyle changes that stick.

Yes, there are factors in my situation that are beyond my control, or that I am actually helping myself with already (eg medication and therapy) but I believe the above three lifestyle changes could also really assist in giving me a better, more satisfying life.

All I have to do now is decide if I'm ready.

Have you made any major changes in your life recently so you can live a happier,
more satisfying existence?


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Jeanie said...

Not yet, but I am looking forward to the end of a rather arduous long-term temp role and taking a bit of time to review and reinvent. Great tips, by the way....

Kylie Purtell said...

This a fantastic post V and oh so true. I find exercise and eating the well the ones I struggle with the most yet I know how good they can make me feel. I've vowed to make a real effort to continue to eat well once this bubs has arrived and get out of the house and walking at least once a week (small steps) to help with my mood (and also losing some of the baby weight!).

I love that Woody Allen quote too, its so true! I feel like with this second baby its time to make some changes in my life, and part of that is to take control of the work situation and do something that I want to do. I am hoping that next year I will be able to study photography and figure out some way to make a living doing that, and in the meantime look for ways that I may be able to make a bit of money from my blog to help fund my educations (and also get the off haircut!).

Deb said...

Congrats on making the finals of the comp. I'm sure you're being acknowledged for the massive changes you've made in your life so far and it's very much deserved.


Katyberry said...

I really agree with this - the hard part is if you're not in a good place, finding the "energy" to start. I hope that you do start with these changes, because I know that they will feel so good for you.
I am enjoying a good exercise routine at the moment (I'm becoming a Crossfit Junkie!) and eating pretty-OK. I don't think that I could ever quit sugar, but I have taken big steps towards cutting it down throughout the working week, and then letting go a bit on weekends only.
Wishing you all the best.

Seana Smith said...

Hello there, I love that quote, it's been so very true in my life experience. Had a terrible mental health day yesterday and it doesn't have blunt my confidence. BUT you are so right about the three things and I can proudly say that I've got the food going well. These days I genuinely want and prefer to eat healthily - mainly... not saying I never eat choccie cos I do and love it, but it's dark choc and good for me!

I love making the coconut/nut balls or fudge that Sarah W has in her books and I've adapted. The dates make them sweet and they are totally yummy and zinging with nutrition. Slurp.

Exercise, that doc of yours is so right... and having read that I'll get on my exercise gear and make myself get on that treadmill whether I like it or not.

Friends - yes, vital and quite hard to organise to see them... I'm in sole parenting mode at the moment, but school is back tomorrow so there's much more chance. Really enjoyed this - ta. said...

I know that feeling regarding temp jobs! Don't quite a few in my life. Enjoy the time off. V. said...

Wow Kylie! That is awesome regarding the photography stuff. You take great photos and when we talked about it at DPCon you spoke with such passion about you love for it.

How hard is it to eat well and exercise? I envy those who do it by nature. Getting started is so hard. To me I think giving up alcohol was easier!

V. said...

I've heard Crossfit is really full on! Good on you. The same old excuses are hounding me at the moment but I did make it through today without any added sugar. Day 1 down... the rest of my life to go. V. said...

Andy did have it down pat. You've got to really want it badly in order to make those major changes in life. Doctors, friends, family, etc can speak at you til they are blue in the face but it has to come from the heart of the person who needs to change. As a recovering addict I know that all too well. Thanks for stopping by! V.

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