I have noticed something new about myself lately. It is something I remember noticing as a teenager during a good patch and had since forgotten about. When at 17 I sat in my sunken sponge chair opposite my therapist I shared my revelation, “I have started thinking?” She was the only constant figure during my teen years that I could rely on to make me feel secure, safe and validated, “what do you mean?””I have thoughts. I have realised I’ve started thinking, having time and having energy to think about stuff other than food, calories, weight, bingeing and purging. I think again. I can think”
It was new territory for me. I had forgotten about this and the significance of it until just the other day when I realised again, that for the first time in a long time I’ve been thinking. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking for the past decade, it means that I have been less pre-occupied with trying to function, trying to organise my self whilst navigating the disarray of my mind, my symptoms and mood swings. Dare I say it but I think my current dosage of medication may be working. I am able to get up each morning, shower, dress, eat and move without it occupying too much thought or energy. I am more able than I have been in a long time.
No longer am I a puzzle to be solved, a life that needs immense management in order to get anything done or maintenance semblance of control. I am by no means solved, my illness by no means cured. I am just more functional than I have been. With this saved energy from just barely functioning and surviving I have time, energy and room in my mind to actually think on a broader spectrum than before. I am now capable of thinking beyond my anxieties and hinderences. I can think beyond myself and managing myself in my immediate existence.
I have noticed a curiosity to know beyond me and solving the complex puzzle my mind presents to me. I have lists of goals, activities, questions I want to research the answers to. I am not exhausted by just breathing and existing. I have energy, concentration and an urge to know more than I do. I want to learn the ukelele more and the saxophone. I want to read through a list of books I’ve been meaning to read for years. I want to develop my german beyond my age old GCSE and I want to know about the stars and galaxies. I want to research about nutrition, science and medicine beyond the bare minimum that my degree necessitates: what are the effects of dietary supplements on epilepsy? How does the ketone diet work for epilepsy? How exactly and why do psychiatric medications affect metabolism? How exactly does diet affect mental health? Which components affect what? What are the different star constellations? How is food used as medicine? Does a higher concentration of salt in sea water make me float more? And so on.
I wonder. The curiosity of my mind has returned and once again, for the first time since I can remember I am thinking, asking questions and have a thirst for knowledge. This is me. I feel like I am becoming more me. Not the crazy long term mental health patient me. Not the bulimic me or the anorexic me. Not the over the top me or the distant dissociated me. Not the emotionally unstable me consumed by moodiness/euphoria or that sadness that people may think of when they think of me, depending on at which stage of mood swing that we met.
The real me. The striving for something with a purpose me. The passion to know and share what I know me. The sometimes creative and always curious me. The me of ideas to write about for hours at a time and the concentration and thought organisation to do so. This is the real me. This is the me I know, knew before, the me that very few others know. This is the me I lost and forgot to being unwell and at mercy to my symptoms and their toll on my life.
I had lost myself so much that I no longer noticed that I wasn’t me. I have had identity disturbance whacked on my list of symptoms in assessments. Is it really any surprise? I had forgotten that it was possible to think beyond myself in this way. It seems terribly self obsessed but being tyrannized to such violent symptoms of mental illness and mood swings that you’re entirely disabled in living any form of life resembling almost normal even is absorbing. Getting up and doing shit on a daily basis can be overwhelming and for a while you know it’s not normal, it is easy to forget normal. People say there is no ‘normal’ but there definitely is ‘abnormal’.
Feeling abnormal in every aspect of your life and being incapable as a result leads to either a loss of hope in surrendering to it, or an all absorbing fight to at least stop being quite as abnormal. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in an attempt to get better and I still haven’t felt ‘right’ for a very long time. I started exercising and returned to studying during this attempt to fit back into society in some way. I wasn’t convinced I could find a place to slot into the world so I started to chisel and carve a way to make myself fit into the world in a space I made for myself. I achieved a few things during this time but achieving them and managing still felt like a ridiculous amount of mental effort.
I had even forgotten that my normal was considered abnormal until visitors on the ward I was on last month were looking around wide eyed at this environment they had never witnessed before. I remembered the first time I stepped on to the same ward – it hasn’t changed in 7 years – and realised that my normal was still abnormal, and not in a good way. I’ve been confronted about normalising my illness and experience, of downplaying it as being normal when really some of my experiences are very abnormal and stressful for others. I forget. I haven’t known anything much else for a long time.
The difference is that I am technically not doing anything different. I havent made any drastic changes to my approach and techniques for getting through the day. The difference I am experiencing feels beyond behaviour change; I think it is the medication increase. I think for as many issues the medication can and does cause – I am willing to pay a hefty price for the ability to think, do and function better than I have done in years, if not ever.
I am starting to re-realise who and what I am. I am getting to know myself again, the real me: the me who thinks, the me who writes and reads, the curious me. I am not sure exactly how long I’ve been gone for but I know it’s felt like an absolute age and definitely too long. I think I might be back and I like what it feels like to be me again, the real me.