27. Normal is Good

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On social media, everyone is seemingly very, very happy. All of them (apparently) enjoying a blissful existence of beautiful, laughing children on sun drenched beaches with parents exclaiming how they are having a ‘Proud Mummy moment’ (urghh!) as their daughter number one, two or three (or perhaps all) have been accepted to Oxford University, meanwhile their gorgeous hubby has just swept them away on an eye-wateringly expensive safari trip as pictures of distant lions are thrust into our inbox. Similarly in the press, flawless models and celebrities pose outside the popular London nightlife haunts, with glowing perfect skin, no cellulite (God forbid), spots or a muffin-top to be seen. Everything looks so darn perfect and so darn predictable.

However, we also know, that this a totally air-brushed version of what the truth is. And yet, when it’s constantly thrust down our throats, we do start to believe it.

It’s human nature and it goes without saying that it makes us look at our lives slightly negatively. Jealously creeps in, slipping and sliding its way into our minds until the green-eyed monster makes us just a teensy bit dissatisfied and disappointed with our own lives. Our ordinary trips to the supermarket, our jobs, our daily mind-numbingly dull and endless chores of housework and whinging children frankly all seem just a little bit … meh!

Is it however to be expected and the norm to be wandering around in a state of euphoria? Of course not.  I don’t see the average person going around the supermarket or at work with a constant grin on their faces. In London they would be avoided like the plague. Up here in Glasgow they would probably be sectioned.

How many times do we say, “Everyone else is happy, why can’t I be happy? Why can’t my life be like that? I would be happy if my life was like that? Depression and anxiety suck!”

And yet, these people, these apparent friends of ours are simply wanting us to believe that their life is a constant holiday in the Caribbean.

However ….. What is the truth? The truth is that the husband has been having an affair, they both have a drink problem and child number three has just been expelled for selling weed. The safari holiday was a last ditch attempt to save the marriage, escape the mistress (who has now turned into a bunny-boiler) and in actual fact, those were the only two lions that they saw after seven hours confined in a 4-by-4 with three bellyaching kids, no WiFi and two of the three missed it anyway.

So now we know the truth. Now we can choose to either accept what is being thrust daily in our faces and believe it, or take it all with a little pinch of salt, give a smile, move away and instead, start concentrating on our own lives.

So now, instead of wishing for a perpetual smile and asking myself every day if I am happy, I shall ask myself, “Am I ok?”.  If the answer is yes, then that is good.  That is normal, and normal is good.

I will ride out the inevitable storms in the knowledge, that they will end.

I will relish and delight in those fleeting moments of total joy and happiness.

And for the rest, for the average day-to-day life of simply living, I will enjoy the feeling of peace and of normality. Because normal, is good.

Kx

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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

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

 

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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