I wrote this blog post long before I joined the fat activism and social justice community. I have learned a lot since then. For example, talking about suicidal thoughts can be helpful but sharing details can turn it harmful. I also refer to myself as a woman (that was how I identified at the time) and use the wrong pronouns.
To begin with, I wanted to go through it and edit out the bits I no longer approved of. But another part of me wanted it to remain as authentic as possible. Not the polished, edited, wiser version of me. But the raw, unfiltered, inexperienced version of me. Because that version of me is part of my story and I don’t want to erase it.
That being said, this post is not suitable for ANYONE who is triggered by references to mental illness, suicide, childhood abuse, weight shaming, or diet talk. Please take a moment to check in with yourself before you go any further. I no longer agree with or endorse everything contained in this post, and it contains details that some people may find upsetting.
I know it’s been a while. I went from writing a couple of blogs a week to radio silence for over 2 months. Some of you have reached out and asked me about it, and I gave each and every one of you the same old excuse.
I’m really busy, see.
And in part, that’s true. I’m a GP working at the frontline of this pandemic. We are 9 months in and it seems to be getting worse, not better. I have three kids and a 7 month old puppy (who is more exhausting than a newborn and I knew that going in, so I have no excuse). I’ve also been unwell for the last few weeks with a virus I just can’t seem to shake (and before you ask, no it’s not the dreaded).
So, you see, I really have been busy. But that’s not the reason that I stopped blogging. I stopped blogging because I ran out of things to say. And I ran out of things to say because I am in the midst of a depressive episode the likes of which I have not experienced for a number of years.
The real me
Yesterday I was speaking to a very good friend of mine who told me that it was time to come clean and write a blog about it. He said in no uncertain terms that there is no point in waiting until I start to feel better and have something useful to contribute. Apparently people want to read about the real, authentic version of me.
I personally think he’s nuts but this is kind of his field of expertise so I figured there was nothing to lose so I would give it a go.
So here it goes, folks. This is the fatdoctor, unplugged.
Live and Unplugged
I know I’ve shared a bit about my mental health in the past, and those of you that have read the letter I wrote to my mother know that I have my fair share of issues (who hasn’t?!) But it’s not something I have ever felt very comfortable sharing and I have always felt the need to hold back.
Not because I am ashamed of my mental health. But because I feel like I’m supposed to have my s*** together by now, and clearly I don’t. In fact, I’m kind of a mess. I’m either working or lying on my sofa. There’s an empty fun-size bag of peanut M&M’s on my bedside table that tells you all you need to know about my eating habits at the moment.
I’ve bitten my nails down to the quick. I haven’t been responding to my texts. There are a bunch of deadlines looming that I am choosing to ignore in the hope that they will somehow disappear (because we all know that burying your head in the sand is the best way to deal with that sort of thing).
There’s also a pile of laundry that has been sitting in my bedroom for the last 6 weeks, and I would honestly rather forego underwear every day than pull my finger out and fold it all. So yes, that’s where I am at guys. Those of you who have seen me over the past couple of weeks had no clue that I was walking around sans knickers, but that’s the cold hard truth.
Right from the beginning I told you that I don’t have the any answers, but I am good at asking the right questions. Turns out, I’m not that good at either. I finally had the guts to weight myself today and let’s just say that it could be worse but it could be a whole lot better.
Depression sucks. A lot of people seem to think that depressed people feel sad and cry all the time. But that has certainly not been my experience. I don’t feel sad. In fact, I don’t feel anything. I feel numb.
The days begin to blur in to one another and I find it hard to smile or cry. When things are really bad, I don’t even get angry or lose my temper (and anyone who knows me knows that I am partial to en emotional outburst from time-to-time). Instead, I react to most things with casual indifference or worse, resignation.
It is what it is, and I don’t have it in me to fight anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have not given up on life altogether. I have no plans to harm myself or end my life. Not that this has always been the case. My mother died when my daughter was 3 months old which lead to a nasty bout of post-partum depression (possible mild psychosis?) and there were days I found myself wondering to the train station in search of a fast train to end it all.
I didn’t, of course. I had my baby with me and I had to pick my children up from school. My husband was expecting me at home that evening. And whilst I believed with my whole heart that they would be so much better off without me ruining their lives, I also couldn’t bring myself to let them deal with the aftermath of it all.
So I steered clear of the train station and my husband eventually sensed that things really weren’t OK and marched me down to the GP surgery. And that was quite the humiliating experience, let me tell you. Being on the other end of that table, telling a friend and colleague that I was having suicidal thoughts and wasn’t coping, wasn’t the proudest moment of my life.
But he was amazing and he got me the help I needed. Believe it or not, it was the first time I ever admitted to a health professional that I was feeling depressed. I was 33 years old at the time, and that in itself isn’t particularly unusual. Except I have suffered from depression in some form or other since I was a teenager.
It started when I was young
Life at home was pretty challenging. My mother and I had a very complex relationship. I loved her and she loved me but she was also physically and emotionally abusive towards me and she told me on a number of occasions that she wished she didn’t have to deal with me anymore. That she regretted having me and she wished she could give me away.
She used to tell me that she loved me but she didn’t like me. And if I’m honest, that one hurt the most. Suffice it to say, I didn’t like myself much either. On top of that, I wasn’t particularly liked at school. I was too unattractive to be popular, too outspoken to be accepted, and too rebellious to fit in.
Don’t get me wrong, I had my friends. Some of them have stuck by me all these years (including the one that encouraged me to write this blog post). I definitely wasn’t alone in life. I lived in a good neighborhood and went to a good school. Most importantly, I had the best sister a person could ask for, even though I treated her like crap for most of my teenage years.
But my mum didn’t like me. She told me all the time. And my Dad took absolutely no interest in me whatsoever. He was just as emotionally abusive as my mum, but he was much more cruel and clever about it. She was like a T-Rex and he was like a Velociraptor (for years my son used to love Jurassic Park and made me watch it over and over, so the dinosaur metaphor makes sense to me).
The spiral of self-destruction
By the age of 14, the self-destructive behavior started. I took up smoking even though I knew it was bad for me. I started sniffing glue in my bedroom (that one is particularly mortifying to admit). And then I discovered the magic of cutting.
That is a story for another day, I think. But cutting is how I survived high school. Sad but true. That being said, it could have gone very differently. I was 17 years old the first time I tried to take my own life. I was alone at home (I’m pretty sure the family left me there after a horrible argument) and I was out of my mind. I’d had enough, and I was kind of hysterical.
So I swallowed a full packet of paracetamol and went to bed. I didn’t understand why I woke up the next day. I didn’t realise at the time that people don’t die from paracetamol overdoses straight away. In fact, if they are unlucky, they develop liver failure and die several weeks or months later.
It’s not the quickest or most effective way to end things. And fortunately for me, I didn’t take enough to do any permanent damage. My liver survived, and I didn’t tell a single soul about it until over a decade later.
The second time I used a razor blade. But I didn’t cut deep enough or in the right direction. We didn’t have access to the internet, you see, so it was a lot harder to plan your own suicide! Sorry, I shouldn’t joke. It’s not a laughing matter.
In the end, all I was left with was a bloody towel and a sore wrist. I threw that towel away (my mum would have killed me if she found out I ruined one of her towels) and I wore long sleeves for a couple of weeks. People were so used to seeing marks on my arms that they probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid anyway.
Books and covers
Pathetic, isn’t it? I am filled with self loathing right now, but we’re almost at the end and I am determined to keep going. I promised myself I would be the real, authentic version of myself. The Fatdoctor, Unplugged. So I can’t quit now.
Ever heard that saying, ‘never judge a book by its cover’? In spite of all the crap that was going on behind closed doors, I managed to get three A-levels and somehow got accepted in to medical school. For all intents and purposes, I looked like I had it all. I went out with friends. I partied, I partook in some underage drinking, and I got high enough times to make some pretty decent memories.
Then I spent the first two years of university either in the library studying or in the bar drinking. As all good medical students should. But inside I was a mess. My life was out of control and things were not looking good.
Here comes the meet cute
And then, ladies and gentleman, I met my best friend. And whilst he didn’t fix me, by god did he make things better. Right from the beginning he accepted me and loved every part of me. He was the first person to ever choose me, and I was engaged to him by the age of 21, married at the age of 23 and pregnant at the age of 25.
Years later, I came to realise that it is quite common for people who come from abusive homes and have been rejected by their parents to get married and have families at a young age. I just thought I was being a rebel. When I met him, I was dating a beautiful older woman whose name I can no longer remember and I had absolutely no desire to settle down in to a life of domesticity.
My parents made it clear that I was not welcome back home once I turned 18 and went to univeristy. They would financially support me (enough that I wouldn’t starve but not enough to prevent me from graduating under a mountain of debt). But I no longer felt like part of my family, so I made my own family instead.
And they all lived happily ever after
So you see, the second half of my life has gone a hell of a let better than the first. I was too young to have kids, but I did an OK job raising them. In fact, I have really enjoyed motherhood. I even love them now that they are teenagers and barely acknowledge me unless they are grunting at me from the top of the stairs.
My best friend turned out to be a keeper. He has stuck by me through thick and thin and he has never really let me down. I am so very very lucky to have him. My amazing sister found it in her heart to forgive me for being such a bitch throughout our teenage years, and she is now happily settled in a flat just down the road from me.
Over the last two decades, I have managed to hold on to the really important friends that mattered and have picked up a few more incredible ones along the way. I’m still not the most popular person out there, but I have some real good people in my life and I know enough to know that this is rare.
It was ingrained in me from a very early age that I wanted to be a doctor and I never really considered anything else. But it turns out that I kind of like it. it suits me. I enjoy my work and I still consider it a privilege that I don’t take for granted.
All in all, life is pretty great. Which begs the question, why am I depressed?
What on earth have I got to be depressed about?
I know it isn’t that simple. I’ve read the books and I’ve done the research. Hell, I even wrote a couple of blogs about it. But that doesn’t make me feel less ashamed of myself. I figure I should have learned by now. I should be better than this.
Why don’t I feel more like the person I spend most of my life pretending to be? The one that writes blogs and counsels dozens of people a day. The one that offers words of wisdom to all her friends and spent every day of the last fifteen years trying to parent three human beings?
I feel like such a fraud. A fake. A phony. So there you go guys. My apologies to those of you who have been reading my blogs and looking to me for answers. I’m kind of a mess right now and I don’t really have any. I’m not sure I ever will either.
Who needs answers, anyway?
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe people aren’t actually looking for answers. Maybe we are all just wondering through life waiting for someone to admit that they are just as messed up as the next person. Because let’s face it, none of us actually really knows that we are talking about.
But instead all we get is ‘Welcome to my YouTube channel, don’t forget to like and subscribe’. If social media were real, then 95% of the population are actually living a dream life and totally have their s*** together. People like me are the odd ones out.
But lets face it, social media isn’t real. The fact is that we are 9 months in to a worldwide pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century. I figure pretty much all of us are worn out, broken down, fed up and ready to quit.
So I’m going to start this blog up again. And I am going to be as real and authentic as I possibly can. If you’re looking for weight loss tips and a pep talk from a seasoned doctor who is going to help you achieve the perfect body then you are definitely in the wrong place.
But if you want to watch a fat, middle-aged, depressed GP find a way to pick herself up off the floor (again), then stick around. There’s plenty more to come.