14. Joining a Gym!

Lordy-be! I’ve joined a gym …. more specifically, a tennis club with a gym attached.

Having played a bit of tennis at school (only the B team I hasten to add), I figured that this was one sport that I would

  • a) enjoy and therefore be more likely to stick at – good idea,
  • b) be a bit social and introduce me to some new people – very good idea,
  • c) might get me a teensy bit fit in time for the summer bikini season – excellent idea, and finally
  • d) I might, with time, practice and a huge amount of effort, be able to take just one game off The Colonel (aka my husband). Flippin’ brilliant idea – pass me the forms, where do I sign?

I’ve known for ages that exercise is the absolute key to recovery. I’ve read enough blurb on the subject of anxiety and depression to know that this is the way forward. So, with great excitement I told The Colonel of my plan. He looked at me from over his glasses and raised an eyebrow. I swear I saw his mouth twitch. I think I know that look …. I bet he thinks I won’t do it, or stick to it for longer than, ooooh let’s say a week.

“Pah!” says I, “Just you wait til the summer when I’m as fit as a flea, looking like a very young and very beautiful Claudia Schiffer and am running you round the court with my newly-found tennis skills!”

“Excellent.” He says. “I look forward to it.” Another twitch of the lips and he returned to his breakfast. Fine!

So with this sense of a challenge in mind, I took a deep breath, parted with huge sums of money, was given a locker key in exchange (how generous) and jumped headfirst into the world of gym bunnies.

After a physical assessment with the Scottish version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I have to admit I couldn’t understand a word of what he said (very strong on the Scottish accent front … and how many times does one say “What?” before they have you down as either completely brain-dead or worse still, taking the piss), anyway, I digress, I was then set free to join in the tennis club session.

This involved three indoor courts of mixed doubles which after one set everyone would switch around so as to change partners. Oh help me God!

I felt like the new girl at school. Hideous … anxiety hitting me like a ton of bricks. Want to run …. want to escape. Starting to sweat. Panic attack on its way ….

A smiling face bounds over, welcomes me and introduces himself as The Coach. “Thank God, you’re here!” He whispers, “It means I don’t have to play …. I slightly overdid it last night!” He roars with laughter. At least I think that’s what he said …. Another strong accent. Panic is subsiding – and before I know quite what has happened, he has sent me off to join three others.

And so I played.

My hands shook, my legs shook. I missed most balls and the rest seemed to end up either in the net, or in the net of the neighbouring court. I apologised profusely each and every time. And the reaction from the players ….. Laughter, hilarity and huge congratulations when I did something good. Quite extraordinary! What a completely unexpected delight.

Afterwards it was coffee all round. No getting out of that one and slinking away …. yet more laughter and chatter. A few questions, but nothing too taxing. It appeared that they didn’t want anything from me, they were just welcoming and happy to have another player.

I left on a high …. a complete high. I didn’t care what hormones or chemicals were flying around my body. Endorphins, dopamine – don’t care. I wasn’t trying to analyse anything at all – all I knew is that this was flippin’ marvellous and I felt fan-bloody-tastic!

I bounced around the house for the rest of the day, booking myself into every tennis session available and reported back to The Colonel.

“I played!” I grinned. “Very, very badly, but I played …. and they were lovely. Everyone was lovely to me!”

“Of course they were.” He said. “They were always going to be lovely to you, because you are lovely.” A gentle smile from The Colonel and I throw my arms around him with a teensy tear threatening to roll down my cheek. He understands. He understands everything.

Kx

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13. The Commitment of Exercise!

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Everything I read, everywhere I look, the advice is to exercise …. Not sadly just for the first 3 days in January (which is usually my attempt at a New Year’s resolution of being a new healthy version of me), but as part of the structure and routine of one’s life.

Structure and routine are not, and have not, ever been a part of my life. I’m an all or nothing person. When I drink, it’s to excess. When I exercise, it’s until I pass out with low blood sugar issues. If I’m happy, I’m just a tad too frenetically ecstatic and when I’m feeling down, I start googling the best places to die in Europe. (A slightly extreme example, but that’s my point).

I friend recently, and very kindly, gave me a pot plant. An Amaryllis to be specific. Now, I’m a pretty good gardener with RHS qualifications coming out of every known orifice, and yet, give me an indoor plant and frankly you can give it a fortnight. It’s the routine and commitment of remembering to water it, feed it and generally look after it that I struggle with … quite how my children have survived I’m not entirely sure.

Consistency is not part of my genetic make up or perhaps more likely, not one of my life skills.

So, what exactly is it that is so valuable about taking exercise?

Some of the best information I’ve found comes from HG (Helpguide.org) who have a collaboration with Harvard Medical School and their findings are pretty conclusive. Do go to their website if you have time – it’s brilliant. In short …..

  • It releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
  • It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being
  • Exercise can serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
  • Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood
  • People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
  • Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
  • Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
  • As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body.
  • Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels
  • Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma.

Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

If you’ve managed to read through that lot, then your levels of commitment aren’t too bad …. I think that’s enough information even for me!

I’m feeling inspired …. and now just have to dig out the trainers and do it …..

As for the Amaryllis, it’s looking a little flaccid. The children are alive and kicking however ….

Happy Monday!

Kx

 

11. Finding The Good …

In the book, ‘Managing Depression with CBT’ (Brian Thomson and Matt Broadway-Horner) the authors say that when you’re depressed you usually believe that the world is a harsh, disappointing place, full of selfish people stepping over each other to get to the top, and that you can find a lot of evidence to support this view.

If, however, you believe that the world is a wonderful place full of interesting people and exciting opportunities, you can similarly find plenty of evidence to support this view too.

The fact is that both these views are true. Although it may sound strange, the world you live in is the world you imagine that you live in.

They go on with a story which for me was a bit of a lightbulb moment …. it is, as follows:

The Wisdom of Socrates

The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was walking one day when a stranger approached him and asked for advice. The man said that he was a blacksmith from a neighbouring village and was considering relocating to Athens. He asked Socrates whether he thought a move would be a good idea.

Socrates asked the man what it was like in the village he currently lived in. The man responded that he’d been very happy in his village, that everyone was friendly and looked out for each other, and that they lent a hand when necessary.

Socrates then confidently advised the man that he’d find the people in Athens exactly the same and that he’d be happy in Athens.

A few days later, another man approached Socrates as he walked through the marketplace. This man asked the same question, telling Socrates that he was a baker from a neighbouring village and was thinking of relocating to Athens.

Again Socrates asked what it was like in the man’s village. This man replied that he hated the village, that everyone poked their noses into everyone else’s business just looking for things to criticise or moan about.

Socrates confidently advised the man that he’d find the people of Athens exactly the same and there’d be little point in moving.

Socrates was wise enough to realise that, in a very real sense, we see the world that we expect to see.

To me, this truly resonates. In moving to Scotland I made a concerted effort to be open minded and wear my rose-tinted glasses and as a result have made some truly wonderful friends which was so completely unexpected.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has had this experience!

Happy Friday! It’s almost the weekend!

☀️☀️Kx☀️☀️

9. Have You Tried Yoga?

Today I enrolled in my first yoga session. Dear God. I’ve just become one of the yummy mummies, but by walking into the mirror-clad room, not so yummy I notice. (I’ve read that Yoga is very good at increasing your GABA levels, but more on that later …)

Quite what happens after two children and hitting forty I really don’t know but frankly everything seems to have dropped further south than Antarctica since I last put on my gym kit (actually that was school so perhaps hardly surprising). Soon I’m going to be needing some sort of a bra-like contraption to lift my buttocks off my calves …. particularly in comparison to our yoga teacher.

To age her is nigh on impossible as the lights in the room are low and therefore apparently soothing. She’s all hoopy earrings, long bouncy hair and wears what appears to be a leatherette thong over her leotard. I feel a little over-dressed and overwhelmed. I’m also rather glad that I’ve not brought the husband (aka The Colonel) with me for moral support. He’d be both giggling and drooling simultaneously. I also hope we don’t have to listen to whale music …. ah, yes clearly we do.

Her body bends in ways that bodies frankly shouldn’t and yet somehow watching her grace and elegance as she moves from one position to another in fluid motions is quite mesmerising.

Everyone is concentrating and calm with only the sound of (supposedly) soothing water and whale music. The water is making me need the loo and the more I think about it the more I need it.

“Focus your mind” she says in a soothing way … I’m trying not to think about what I’m going to cook for supper rather than the loo. Concentrate! “Breathe” she says. You try bloody breathing when your legs are behind your ears. “Find your inner wisdom” she purrs. Inner bloody wisdom – it’s all I can do to clench my buttocks to prevent an involuntary escape of air from my bottom.

She’s moving around the room, adjusting everyones legs and arms. She’s coming to me …. oh right … not so gentle and calm now is she, as she pulls my arm higher towards the ceiling and moves my leg further out – my balance is going … I start to wobble, and in the process grab something – it just happens to be her.

Her hoopy earrings have now attached themselves to my hair and it takes a few seconds to restore order. My muttering apologies are snappishly hushed amid the whale music and, red-faced for the remainder of the class, I leave, sharpish. There’s a class later in the week with someone called George. I think I might give his class a go instead.

* * * * * * * * *

Just in case you’re interested, I’ve been doing some research on GABA from The Boston University School of Medicine and University Health News and masses of other articles and they all come up with pretty much the same conclusions ….

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter to prevent overstimulation and therefore promote calm.

Researchers have found that three sessions of the exercise a week can help fight off depression as it boosts levels of a chemical in the brain which is essential for a sound and relaxed mind.

Scientists found that the levels of the amino acid GABA are much higher in those that carry out yoga than those who do the equivalent of a similarly strenuous exercise such as walking.

The chemical, GABA, is essential to the function of brain and central nervous system and which helps promote a state of calm within the body. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The Top 4 GABA Deficiency Symptoms

1. Depression

2. Anxiety, panic and PTSD

3. Insomnia

4. Drug and Alcohol Dependence

8. Getting Some Order!

A new 40 something friend of mine recently confessed that many years ago she had suffered from post natal depression. Her own mother (who is a no-nonsense, tough old bird and one of the kindest and wisest women I know) gave her daughter some very simple advice. She told her that if she could do nothing else that day, then she should simply clean a cupboard.

And whilst this is a very simplistic suggestion, she nailed it. For that is what her daughter then did. She could do very little, but she did clean cupboards. And it was the start of her recovery.

That simply, easy task which involved nobody else, could be done in her own time, in her own space and gave her the tiniest lift of achievement and satisfaction. Her body was active, she listened to the radio, her mind was calm.

Every day was a battle from the off, but that task when completed meant that she had beaten her own “Betty the Demon Depressive” just for that day. She had won a round with Mike Tyson. And that is what it’s about, it’s about fighting Betty every, single day and not giving in to her, for that simply ‘feeds the beast’ and makes Betty stronger.

So, if all else fails …. turn on the radio, empty a kitchen cupboard and get cleaning! It’s therapy!

Happy cleaning!

Kx

1. The Beginning

I think I should be clear from the outset, that despite the rather odd title “How I Killed Betty”, this is no crime story.  This is not a thriller, something akin to an Agatha Christie novel set in 1930’s England with beautiful women and dashing young men drinking champagne for breakfast whilst a festering body lies behind the rhododendron bushes ….. My apologies if you’re looking for a ‘who dunnit’ with Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick. I am not Miss Marple or indeed Poirot because ‘Betty’ is not in fact a person.

Betty is a part of a person; indeed, a part of me. She is the devil that sits on my shoulder, the voice in my head, the co-joined twin that you can never be rid of. She is the person who controls me, my thoughts, my entire mind and as a consequence of this, my actions.

Several months ago Betty slowly began a painfully long and slow death. A death which was something akin to a horror movie where the baddie again and again rears up with the knife ready to inflict more damage despite 46 bullet wounds pouring blood from their victims torso with various limbs hanging off. Yes, a long, slow and definitely painful death.

Betty is Churchill’s ‘black dog’ and hundreds of thousands of men and women’s depression and anxiety from all over the world which hinders their every day enjoyment of living, or indeed, the ability of just being able to live.

Betty was my personal demon who had to be killed and shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of The East in The Wizard of Oz who is flattened by the house and all that is left is a pair of red, glittery Jimmy Choo style shoes.  Frankly it was either that, or I would have ended up in a small fermented cocoon-like sub-existence under my bed with my laptop googling ‘how best to kill yourself with minimum pain’. Needs must.

In this blog, I’m including parts of my diary from the early days and tips and suggestions and, well quite frankly every single thing that helped me become transported from the utter depths of despair and self-loathing onto the wonderful road of sunshine, warmth and sheer happiness.  Yippedy doo dah! Enjoy!

☀️ Kx ☀️

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