Building a bridge

I don’t know when my mind changed. I can tell you the day I decided to reach out but I can’t pin point when that switch was turned on in my head.

I have written about my family problems before but I feel I need to recap for myself.

I am 28. My dad started having an affair whilst working away from home when I was 7. My dad continued this affair and when I was 15 a half-brother was born. My dad continued to continue this affair and built his new second family, moving them to the UK all whilst still married to my mum, but it all went south with my half-brother’s mum when I was 25.

I found out shortly after my half-brother was born. My mum couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and she needed to offload, which she did, onto me. However, she told me I couldn’t tell anyone. That I would ruin things. So I kept the secret. My dad didn’t even know that I knew.

My dad didn’t treat me right as a child but he’s tried to make amends the last few years. However, back then, I had so much anger and hurt and betrayal that I had to hold inside me. I couldn’t tell anyone. The only person I could speak to was my mum and, even then, only when she wanted to talk/rant to me about it.

A lot of things at home started to make sense. Especially my mum’s depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. I know my mum needed someone and I have always wanted to help, but I now know it was wrong for her to place that type of secret and burden on a child. She told me but then wouldn’t let me express my hurt and anger because “I had to smile and pretend I was fine”.

I was so hurt and confused back then and I wasn’t allowed to process anything. I had to act like we were a big happy family. No one could know and I couldn’t understand. Dad didn’t treat me right so why would you stay with him once he gave you a ticket to leave? Why would you continue to put me through the pain he always caused me? Of course, I was told she stayed for me and my brother, but that’s not true. She stayed because she cannot leave. She cannot emotionally pull that trigger, rip that band aid off and walk.

My brother eventually found out maybe 7-8 years after I did. I was heartbroken to think I had lied to my brother for so long. But Once he found out, an unwritten rule was created – we don’t talk about it.

Dad has always wanted me to have a relationship with my half-brother. I never wanted one. I always said no. I have met him twice, once I reluctantly agreed to and once I was completely blindsided with. The child was stubborn, spoilt, and very demanding. It was hard to watch my dad fawn over this child and spoil him rotten when he had never done that for me. When I raised this point, my dad told me I was an adult now and it was ridiculous for me to be jealous of a 9 year old kid.

It wasn’t ridiculous. My feelings were and are valid.

Anyway, a couple of years have passed and around 3 weeks ago I told my Dad I wanted to speak to Jason and asked if he could give him my number and let him know he could reach out if he wanted to.

I don’t know what caused that switch but there are a few things that come to mind.

  • One of the times I met him, my half-brother told me he had no friends. I know how that feels. I know how lonely that is and I wouldn’t wish for a child to feel lonely.
  • I know what it’s like to have a dad like mine and, just as much as I’ve been hurt by my dad’s affair, so has my half-brother.
  • I grew up feeling unloved and unwanted. Even though no one actually said those words explicitly to me, it was a combination of words and actions that led me to feel two of the three major emotions that trigger my mental health. My half-brother might really feel unwanted if I reject him.
  • He’s a child. None of this is his fault.
  • I believe my mental health is strong enough to handle this.

So, I reached out. I text and I told him I’d like to get to know him better but that he also had a choice in the matter too and that if he needed more time then to take it.

He text me back instantly and we talked for quite a while. I had to remember at times I was talking to a 12 year old! But it felt nice and because my dad was not involved, there was no spoilt bratty stubborn child in front of me but a half-brother I was getting to know.

I told my mum that I wanted to explore a relationship with him. I don’t think she was happy. She’s become far more needy since I told her and I’ve spent so many years looking after her and others that now, in trying to look after myself, I tend to run away from people needing me. That’s a story for another day.

Reaching out or not. There’s no right decision. Not really. But something feels a little different. Like a switch went from “never” to “maybe” in the space of 3 seconds a few weekends ago and I guess we’ve just got to see where it goes from here.

Len x

@umbrella_adventures_

Routine

I seem to be a bit low and preoccupied with my weight these past two weeks. I’ve come back from qualification leave and have started work as a qualified solicitor in the department/area I was desperate to work in and I’m so so so happy to be there. Everyone seems happy to have me back too and it just feels like I’m home with family.

Good right?

Sort of…

I’m a bit “off” and I’m trying to work out why.

I’m struggling to wake up in the mornings to go to the gym before work. I’m struggling to get plan weekly meal plans – something I didn’t/couldn’t do whilst away on leave. I’m struggling to find the balance with my life and my bf’s life now that I’ve just moved in (how much time is too much time to hang out?!).

I spent the past week feeling slightly low and I couldn’t work out why. I was so happy to be back, happy to be living with my boyfriend, happy to be picking up new work so why was I sad?

I think I’ve realised this morning that it’s because I don’t have routine.

It all culminated with me really struggling on the day of my bf’s birthday party (the day after he didn’t really tell me when he was coming home and I got all sorts of stressed out). I wanted to be so happy for his birthday but I was low, couldn’t find anything to wear and all I wanted to do was cry. He ended up telling me not to go to his party, which made everything flare even more, but I did go and it was all fine in the end.

I’m waking up some mornings for the gym but not even half of what I used to. I kinda fancy a run but then mentally aren’t up for it and stop after 1 Mile. I’m trying to make meal plans but then not fully committing to them.

I’ve not always worked out to lose weight or for other ED reasons but sometimes I do work out to keep myself in shape. I don’t always stick 100% to my meal plan but I always make sure I balance it out. However, this current situation all feels a bit different.

I know recovery includes becoming comfortably flexible with my choices but I think I need to enforce some structure into my life again.

I damn well know I’m a creature who thrives off structure.Who loves to wake up with purpose and goals for the day. Who really enjoys proper commitments (even if it is a specific gym class I’m trying to get better at).

I know how living a regimented life can be dangerous for someone in recovery/with an ED but I think that reintroducing the structure I had before my leave will help me leaps and bounds.

So, after this brief rant about feeling low lately I genuinely do think it’s because I don’t have routine and, ironically, falling out of that routine, especially with exercise, is making it harder to get back into that routine…so I guess I have to jump back in…

Here goes nothing

A better week

Well, if I’ve got all this time at the hospital to kill, I might as well spend some time writing.

I’m coping with this new course of treatment better now. I know I am because I’m not crying as much before, during or after each hospital visit. I still hate the way I look, the way they send me off to work, but I’m halfway through the course now so I’m sure it’ll all be over in no time.

One of the nurses thought I was crying over the treatment because I’m vain. Oh that set me off even more.

Crying over my looks is vain in a way, I get that. But beneath the red skin and greasy scalp from the treatment is…well…it’s a child, if I’m honest. It’s 6-year-old me being ridiculed by schoolchildren due to my claw hand, my wonky walk and my psoriasis-clad skin. It’s an 8-year-old me being carted to and from the hospital for various treatments – most of which either hurt or smelled bad but none of them worked.

It’s 9-year-old me after years of comfort eating or boredom eating (during appointments and the like) gaining loads of weight and simply giving the kids something else to make fun of me for. And then we reach 10-year-old me, being told by family that they wanted me to be skinny because no one would ever love a fat girl.

And I’m not going to even attempt to approach my teenage years.

Beneath this 25-year-old girl typing this post is simply a child who has spent 25 years of being diagnosed with disability after illness and disability. 25 years of non-stop hospital appointments and treatments.

And there are times I feel that child within me. I feel how much a simple hug would have made everything better. I feel the ache for a little more compassion back then.

A little extra love.

I am surrounded by love every single day. I know that now but throughout every diagnosis and every treatment it still surprises me that no one asks you how you feel. They ask what’s wrong (physically) and how the treatment might be going but no one asks you how you’re coping mentally.

Perhaps they’re too nervous too. Let’s be honest, mental health is a tricky subject to navigate at the best of times, especially by those who don’t understand it.

Another diagnosis. Another thing wrong with me. Another course of treatment.

But I’m feeling better than last week. I’m coping better than last week. And at the end of the day, that’s all I can ask for.

Support, love and a little bit of self-compassion – a recipe for a better week. Oh! And don’t forget pillow forts on balconies either…

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Restless Rest

I had a week off work last week for no reason other than I had holiday to use and figured that back in March, a random week off in June would work well.

I struggled that week more than I ever thought I would. Between all the hospital appointments I had scheduled and the inevitable ‘house hunt’ starting I struggled to fit in an ample amount of time to simply rest. I simultaneously struggled due to the lack of structure and routine I have settled into with work.

When I could fit in that much-needed-rest, I was just exhausted. I would sit in the park with my books and my laptop, ready to enjoy the sun when, in reality, I just sat there staring into the distance completely drained.

The fact I’d also gone through a period of work where I was finishing between 11pm and 2am every single night and having to work through the occasional weekend probably didn’t help either. It just meant I was exhausted before my week off, during my week off and now? Well,  I’m exhausted after my week off.

I started a new course of treatment at the hospital. They are trying to ‘de-scale’ my head as my psoriasis is getting out of control. They call the process ‘tarring’ and yes, that’s right. I sit there in my beautiful hospital gown whilst they put tar and various other concoctions all over my head. I’m then wrapped up in cling film, a shower cap is placed onto my head and I sit there for a length of time whilst I ‘bake’. Following this, they sit with an incredibly fine comb and ‘de-scale’ my head. They literally dig and scrape at the psoriasis in the hopes of peeling it off my head whilst removing as little hair as possible.

They want to do this 2-3 times a week and I hate it already.

I hate the psoriasis on my head. It’s itchy and it hurts. It gets infected and it makes my hair fall out. I’m also constantly leaving a trail of dandruff looking flakes everywhere I go. But the thing is, it’s also the least of my worries.

Along with psoriasis I have, psoriatic arthritis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, a Volkmann’s Ischemic Contracture, nerve damage and ruptured muscles, kidney problems, endometriosis and the list of illnesses I’ve had over the years feels endless.

Oh yeah, don’t forget the bulimia now.

I’m almost half-way through my training contract and the department I am working in now is where I want to qualify. It’s where I want to work for the rest of my life following my training which means I’m so incredibly conscious of the time these treatments are going to take up. I’m terrified of not being allowed to qualify here for whatever reason and so I’m equally desperate to not give them any stick to beat me with, so to speak.

What’s worse is the way I look after these treatments. I have bits of scale that haven’t quite made their way down my hair strands literally just sat there and my hair is the most greasiest smelliest mess you can imagine.

It is oh so easy for them or anyone reading to tell me to put up with incredibly greasy hair for a short while but when I’m already so caught up with my body image I can’t shake this feeling of ‘ugly’ that’s seething through my body lately.

Even today people have been looking at and some have even commented on my hair and I actually cried over it. I cried because I’m tired. I am tired of frequently having to go to the hospital for something or other. I am sick of all these different appointments, treatments and medications that I have. I am just sick and tired of being sick.

All my illnesses and disabilities drain me completely.

Forever wishing I could know what it felt like to be normal because I just feel broken.

I feel so damaged and that makes me feel unworthy. Unworthy of my job, unworthy of my friends….unworthy of love.

And it’s those feelings that the ED clings to. It’s those emotions that the ED thrives off. That’s when it’s at its worst but just because I know that doesn’t make fighting it off any easier.