Within a few weeks of taking my anti-psychotic medication, I begin to eat like an Olympic body builder. The ravenous never ending hunger I talked about - well it is a monster! I find myself quite regularly, buying family packs of Wispa bars, and pretending to myself that I'll eat one now and save the rest for later. Yeah right. Alcoholics try this behaviour with booze. I'll have a little bit now, then tomorrow I'll finish off the bottle. An hour later, they're back down the "offie" pretending they dropped the bottle on the concrete and need a new one.
Its not just chocolate either. I keep having 2 breakfasts - one when I get up, and then another one about 9am. Then I'm eating a huge lunch, snacking in between and feeling guilty as I know its going to land on my midriff and expose me. My body doesn't lie. But whilst I'm still depressed eating is the only thing I seem to enjoy. The trouble is, becoming Mrs Tiggiewinkle doesn't do much for my self esteem. Its a rotten cycle to be in - eating because you are depressed and hungry because of the medication - then getting fat and feeling rubbish so you eat for comfort. And on it goes.
So when I was told about the healthy living group, I assumed it would be a bit like the CBT group, a large group of people and someone helping us with new techniques. When I arrive there are only 5 of us around a very small table, 2 mental health workers and a set of scales. Thankfully I am the slim Jim of the group - I know that sounds awful, but its a ray of hope for me as I feel that I am actually enormous. We all have to take our shoes off and stand on the scales. I want to cry as I experience yet another rock bottom. No-one really speaks and no-one discloses their illness. There is shame even amongst fellow sufferers. One person has been on the course before and is back for more inspiration. Lord knows how big he was before poor love.
After the weigh in we talk about food groups and portion sizes. I know its all common sense, but to own in within a group stops the denial and engages you with a desire to look after yourself a bit better. Staving off depression comes in many forms and diet is a great place to start. Resentfully I take a food diary sheet to fill in during the week. What this does is stops me eating crap and brings me up short. I really need to get to grips with it and nurture my body as well as my mind. We're going to be doing this for 6 weeks and then we'll see how we've all got on. The facilitator states very clearly that "This is not a diet group." We don't stop eating and starve, but we eat more intelligently, and learn what foods will give us energy, vitamins and won't damage our bodies. Apparently, it turns out, I've been eating about twice the sensible amount of calories every day. No wonder I'm chubby mummy.
I've met other depression sufferers and they can't eat at all when they are ill. They cannot swallow and everything tastes like cardboard. This is just as damaging for the body and mind. I wonder if there is a group for these people too?
On top of the healthy living group, I've been signed up to do exercise on GP referral. It means I pay a lot less but still run around like a mouse on a wheel, amongst svelte and tanned lovelies. In this environment I am the walrus. A lovely lady inducts me in to the hall of pain, and I hate the fact that after 3 minutes on a cross trainer, I think I'm going to throw up and my legs have gone wobbly. I'm glad that I didn't have to go to the gym on my own steam and sign up. I don't want to have the whole discussion of do you cater for mentally ill fat people? I get my own little program to do, and its suggested I go 2 or 3 times per week. This is really going to take huge effort. I detest the gym. I feel awkward, self conscious, old and fat. If my self esteem was low before, its now under the floor by ten feet. I'm surrounded by huffing weight lifters, and stick thin women sweating profusely. I am so far out of my comfort zone its not funny. This is where I realise that I am willing to go to any lengths to get well. I am doing so many things that go against the grain, I must want to recover.
I tell you this, if I do all of this and still feel rubbish, I may have to reassess my life in a totally different way. And Lord only knows what that might involve.