[Image: Bruno Domingues Photography]
In light of recent events, I figured it was time to start letting you all in. This is just part of the journey that has brought me to create TILCo. There will be plenty more to come, as we all know, paths aren’t always linear.
I was taught, and am continuously learning that we all have an internal story, be it about an event, or how we’ve moved through this life. And being able to remove ourselves from the story is by far, the hardest fucking thing to do [I concur].
I hope you’ve made a cup of tea/coffee/smoothie/buchi/etc etc (too many to choose from) or have a snack – that would be my choice – because it’s a bit of read.
So, as a preface, I don’t mean to wallow, or need sympathy, neither does this “story” govern my life – well, maybe a few physical things keep me in ‘management’ level but that’s all part of doing #wellbeingmyway. But I write these to finally explain to many who think they know me or don’t and hope to open conversations for anyone reading, about the journey to Wellbeing, and doing it your own way.
I was born late, no biggie some say, but I don’t think I’ve ever been on time since. It could be why I’m coming to the ‘blogging’ party a little late, but it’s more likely that I’m utterly overwhelmed with technology and the internet; my brain already has 347 tabs open, I don’t need extra stimulation. It can also be part of the reason my body works the way it does, there is research and some evidence around post-due date babies never really being able to catch up, but I think I’m just a bite-sized version of others.
Growing up as a creative, performing artist, with a soft soul, over-active schedule, gifted mind, and a supportive family I saw things differently, absorbed things differently, felt things differently, and of course thought differently.
Through school, and beyond I learned (with heavy hands from peers) to harden up, to block, to hurt back, manipulate, hate, to defend, build your walls…you get the point. I pushed through. Through bullying, emotional and verbal betrayal, peer pressure, first love and heartbreak, sexual and physical assault swept under the rug, connections shrouded in self-hate, and all the usual suspects and experiences of ‘growing up’.
As I was looking down the tunnel of finally getting out of the hellhole of school, I also lost my best friend. Looking back, this was not the first significant emotional event in my life, but it certainly shaped me and I still deal with issues from the subsequent bullying and lack of support, surrounding her death, from my peers.
In order to cope with the opposing though-patterns and learning to ‘survive’ in the world. I found ‘friends’ who understood me; my closest and longest-standing ally was named ‘alcohol’, but ‘drugs’ (eventually made their way in around university), ‘frivolous eating habits’ (what else do you do when you can eat what you want and never gain weight?), self-depreciating sexual encounters (#metoo anyone?), and ‘first-world contempt’ (pretty sure this one is still a buddy of mine), I abused my mind and talents, took my metabolism and body for granted.
During my first years at university, I lived alone (hasn’t changed much in 10 yrs) and became an alcoholic (definitely has). Laugh if you will, because that’s what I did when they told me I was a high-functioning alcoholic. I said, “Ahh no, it’s called having a social life at Uni”. Since I didn’t listen to anyone else (again not much has changed), and no-one would see my drinking, my body tried it’s hardest to stop me. I got really thin, slightly yellow/grey skin, endured painful Cystitis and UTI’s, constantly on and off antibiotics for a cold here, a niggle there, another issue there, and battled thrush almost weekly.
Then, I got a stomach infection. It sounds so minute, but I now see, this was the beginning of the end for my digestive health – not that I knew then.
The only way out of this ‘health setback’ was to stop drinking and go back home to ‘recoup’ and take the prescribed medication. This medication was rough on my body, I experienced 70% of the symptoms including tunnel vision and fainting which cost me my job at the time. With all the knowledge and experience I have in holistic and alternative medicine, I wish I had never taken them, but I was blind to the options and impatient as hell.
I can’t recall what I did to replenish and nourish my body at this time. Not just because I have lost so many memories from my time of being under the influence, [emotionally and physically stressed, overworked and adrenaline-fuelled], but because it wasn’t a worry for me. My exterior looked ok, according to everyone else this was what defined me – being slim, having nice hair, dressing well, getting amazing grades but being ‘fun’ and putting on a smile.
The invisible, much more dangerous issues were pushed into my filing cabinet labelled “requires effort”. I was more interested in trying to keep my brain occupied with fast-filling stimulation – be it information, new people, places, travel, experiences, etceteraaaa
My GUT wasn’t of any interest to me – I regret that decision.
That’s where drugs, psychology study and singledom took centre stage. I justified my partying and dabbling in drugs (something which I was strongly against previously) by keeping myself ‘clean, sober and healthy’ for the weeks or months leading up to a festival. Then binge and ‘let myself go’ on the day of.
This transferred into the social aspect of my life. I now understand I am an addict. Not to substances (you’ll notice I barely drink or include sugar/processed foods in my diet), but to adrenaline.
Not like an adrenaline junkie who loves to jump out of planes and make their heart race by climbing heights etc.
No, the kind we don’t even think exists within us, often labelled ‘crazy/psycho/mental/chaotic’.
The adrenaline rush of my own emotive state.
The physical response that comes from flooding myself with the hormonal concoction associated with an adrenal rush. Chaos. I’m basically a chaos addict. Or at least… I was and can often step into this role again.
It’s the high of feeling SOMETHING. Feeling anything beyond the high or lows of ‘regular’ life…(I told you ‘first-world contempt’ is still around)
The rollercoaster dive/climb of emotion… you know that tingle you get? Sometimes a deep, gnawing pain, sometimes numb arms or shortness of breath, maybe it’s fear, nausea….Some people call them butterflies – not sure why? Surely butterflies couldn’t be that cruel – I think I have dragons! Every story needs more dragons… plus, I know this was getting a bit boring right? You’re welcome.
But I relished it. Sometimes still do.
And it’s here the main event starts to take shape: I connected with lots of people, the more people I knew, the better, the rush was to spend time with them, feel their highs and lows, their emotional influence was delicious. Then I found one, who somehow was able to give me a bigger rush than anyone or any emotion I had ever experienced before.
Such a grand antithesis right?
I still LOVE reading it. I sometimes still miss it. The sheer depth and rawness of it.
I don’t care.
I’m aware of it now and can see it was the most expensive, coercive, and destructive addiction I had, that no-one had a label or a remedy for, and nobody could see. It cost me 7 years of my life, friendships, family relationships, food and physical health, but worst of all the one with myself and my mental health.
I craved the rush from someone else’s influence and presence,. Craved the effect this state imposed on me so badly; that I forgot who I was.
I stopped looking at myself in the mirror- stopped looking at my own eyes in the mirror.
Stopped believing I was worth anything without it.
I was completely hollow, numb, bored and useless without it.
On and off for years… I never quite got enough…
Of course ‘The breakup’ came (oh how cliché and inevitable!- you have permission to roll your eyes). One of those really painful, betrayal-ridden, excruciatingly-messy breakups. The kind that destroyed you less than the actual relationship, but destroyed you anyway, kind of ones.
Next came the failure of the business I thought I was building (what a joke!)
and the cherry on top – the LLETZ procedure to remove pre-cancerous cells (CIN3) from my cervix – We will get to this later because it’s a theme that has resurged.
By mid 2015 I had lost my day-job, most of my friends, connection with my family, the love of my life, too many kilos for my tiny frame, and had been bleeding for 7 weeks straight. Too much? Gross hey? Well fuck you, it felt like shit too… I warned you it was indulgent.
What followed was what I can only describe as being slowly drowned in my own body.
I’m talking, indigestion, inability or unwillingness to eat, inflammation and pain in all my joints, tunnel vision, blackouts, loss of cognitive focus, hallucinations, involuntary weight loss, vomiting, chronic anxiety attacks, never-ending tears, mind-racing, insomnia and ultimately the decline in self-awareness and self-belief…
The whole ‘collection’ was turning to shit: My body, my mind, my personality, and my humanity. I couldn’t escape.
I spoke to psychologists, doctors, hypnotists, you name it in orthodox medicine and most of them would make me worse, or I would talk rings around them, or they would be unavailable when I ACTUALLY needed to talk out some type of issue [I have never been good at technology and didn’t know of the apps, the blogs, the fb groups that may help people]. Half of them wanted me to admit I had chronic depression, anxiety and likely bipolar – I refused the testing and told them to shove the drugs up their arses… No one was listening to my real cries for help! FIND WHAT IS ACTUALLY GOING ON!!!
Eventually, I collapsed. Not the type where you fall to the ground sometimes crying, sometimes in agony, sometimes fainting etc. (I did them too. A+ for effort right?)
No, I was so burnt out, and depressed I called my folks to say I was finished with life. Dramatic hey? Nina has never failed to make an entrance (or exit here)…
I was just below rock bottom, and everything looked like shit from there.
In hindsight – I had a ‘system shut down’ (if only I saw the irony of ctrl+alt+delete then).Psst – fuck-givers: There isn’t long to go, and it has a bit of a happy ending… well I’m still here aren’t I? Maybe not Disney worthy but…
I decided to keep going.
Maybe it was my parents’ faces, the reality that my cat would have to be looked after by someone else (shock horror!), or that incredible thing we call soul/passion/spirit/the will to survive. It flickered inside me and pushed me through those hours.
After a bumpy few days, I gave up pretending, went back to live in the care of my parents, erased myself from ‘society’ and after 6 weeks of tests and pre-treatment, I went to a live-in health retreat program.
It took a month, to detox (remember the addiction I mentioned above?), and kick start my mind, body and soul again. To strengthen my body, bring down my cortisol levels, stabilise my adrenaline, gain weight, to reconnect and find healthy things to fill my ’emotional addictions’ and begin to regain self-worth. I was finally open to learning about the delicate balance involved in the physical/psychological functioning of my system and how to nourish that.
Now, two years on, I don’t say I am ‘fixed’ or ‘better’ or ‘happy’ or whatever other words people try to use. Every day, I learn more about the ripple effect the collection of dis-ease caused my Wellbeing.
What I can see, by finally committing to writing this blog is that I am ‘learned’, ‘stronger’ and ‘capable’ of continually finding ‘stuff’ that might help inspire me on shitty days, to create a new meaning for life, wake the next day, build new friendships, relationships, connections, gain new information, and learn more about the Wellbeing of this bite-sized body I own.
This little cluster of energy and atoms that vibrates and causes waves of influence around me I don’t even realise occur. Oh and I am clearly not giving anywhere near as many fucks to what people may think… *self-high-five*
I have so far to go, but I am finally proud of how much of the road I can see behind me. And I am wholeheartedly grateful for those who have entered my life as I trudged along, and even those who left me in the darkest hours, you taught me I am enough without you. Those of you who allowed me to be ‘alone’ but loved me nonetheless, the few who gave me extremely tough love, and my parents who showed me true, undying and unwavering love, that almost killed them too, when nobody else knew how.
If you made it to the end of this, I really need to give you a high five… you gave a lot of fucks just then; time and energy fucks, that I really appreciate. But what I hope to give you most of all, is a feeling. Something that opens up a tiny little window in your soul, or your mind that allows air to flow through. The air of thought.