My 2022. I needed to write this blog, firstly to give an honest account of what has been happening with me. Secondly, to apologise. I don’t really know where to start but I’m just going to write the truth and write from the heart and I hope it makes sense.
I have been struggling a little bit. 2022 has felt like an incredibly hard year. Not in terms of my eating disorder, thankfully I’ve been maintaining my recovery well. However, what I have been struggling with is my mood. I was diagnosed with depression well over 10 years ago and it has been managed pretty well since then with the help of medication. But 2022 has been different.
At the start of 2022 I noticed that I felt quite flat. I had no motivation of enthusiasm to do the things I would normally enjoy and spend my time doing. I tried. Believe me, I tried. I kept trying to make myself do the things that I used to, but I found I just couldn’t. Whatever it was I was trying to do, I would end up just sitting there, staring. I would go to bed every night telling myself that the next day would be better. But it never was.
So in March 2022, I told myself to stop trying. Stop trying to force myself to do stuff that I clearly just couldn’t face. It was making me feel rubbish with myself. So I thought that maybe if I stopped putting pressure on myself and just took a break, then I’d get my motivation back to start up my hobbies and passions again.
I started reading. I have never been someone who reads much. At a push, I might read one book a year. But that would be a big push. In the past decade, I could count the number of books I have read on one hand. But in March 2022, when I literally couldn’t get myself to do anything else with my time, I started reading. Book after book.
Now, from the outside, this might seem like a good thing. Reading is often thought of as a good thing to do and I would probably be praised for starting to read more. But it isn’t me. It is so unlike me to read and enjoy reading. It was totally out of character. I was aware of this, and I knew that actually, it was a sign that something wasn’t right. Yes, I did enjoy reading the books, but I desperately wanted to be able to do things that I had been doing previously.
You see, the thing is, depression doesn’t always present how people expect it to. Many people think that to be depressed is to be very sad. It can be like that. In the past, the depression I have experienced has been linked with my eating disorder and has generally left me feeling quite low, suicidal even. But in 2022, the way I was experiencing depression was different. It was new to me.
I wasn’t desperately sad. Instead, I was overwhelmingly flat. So flat that my mind, my life, the world, felt suffocating and oppressive. I didn’t have any energy, enthusiasm or motivation to do anything. And it was so incredibly frustrating. I wanted to do things. There were so many things that I thought would be good or would want to do. I would go to do them and then feel that I simply couldn’t face it. I just couldn’t do it.
It seeped into every area of my life. I couldn’t face meeting up with friends, or even sending them a message. My email inbox grew longer and longer as I just didn’t have the energy to reply to emails. All I had to do was open an email, say thanks for your email, that would be great (or whatever it was I was replying) and that would be it. I would sit at my laptop with my inbox open trying to get myself to just start replying to an email. But, I just couldn’t face it. I would shut my laptop down and get angry with myself. “What the f**k is wrong with me? I can’t even reply to emails!”
I hated feeling this way. It was horrid. I so, so desperately wanted to have my enthusiasm and motivation back. I kept waiting, thinking that one day it would all click back into place. But unfortunately it never did. Even my book publication in August did nothing for me. I felt nothing. Years and years of writing it and trying to get it published, the day it happened should have been a celebration. But inside me, it felt like I couldn’t care less. I had no energy for it.
In the summer of 2022, I explained to my care team how I had been feeling. They wanted to increase the dose of my anti-depressant. I agreed as I felt I didn’t really have anything to lose. I hoped and I prayed that it would work. But, eight weeks later, I didn’t feel any different. I was just as flat and just as lost with life. Only by this point, it was now nearly October. The year was passing me by and I wasn’t feeling any better. Yes, I was functioning like normal and I don’t want to give the impression that I spent the whole of 2022 unable to do anything. I still got up, got dressed, went to work, trained. From the outside, no one would know there was anything wrong. But I felt completely dead inside.
I still cared about people and things, but I just couldn’t do anything. It wasn’t really a tiredness or exhaustion, but I just literally could not face doing things. It made me feel really lazy, and so incredibly frustrated. Trying to do stuff, I just felt that I couldn’t be bothered. It would seriously wind me up. Even watching the TV. I might be sat on the sofa just sitting down doing nothing, and my mum comes into the room and suggests watching something on TV. My response would be – I can’t be bothered. But how could I not be bothered to watch the TV?! It is not as if it takes any effort. But it took something that I just didn’t seem to have.
I stopped taking the higher dose of anti-depressant after 10 weeks. I couldn’t see the point in more medication if it didn’t help. Over the course of 2022, I stopped vlogging, I wrote very few blogs, I lost interest in virtually everything. It had been so long now since I had been in touch or seen my closest friends. I hadn’t had the energy to send them a WhatsApp, let alone see them in person. Sometimes, even the thought of having to speak felt like too much effort.
It made me sad. Anorexia had made me lose friends in the past and now it feel like I had lost them again (albeit not because of anorexia). I wanted to WANT to see my friends, but it was just too much. There was the odd occasion when I would get myself out to meet a friend. But it took so much effort and an hour with someone was really enough and I felt the need to get back home.
Before the pandemic, rarely a week went by when I was wasn’t meeting up with a friend or going out for dinner. I went out for dinner once in 2022 and met up with friends a handful of times. I worried they would think I was ignoring them, or didn’t care about them. This could not have been further from the truth but I was stuck in this hole.
It is such a suffocating experience. It is like there is this incredible weight crushing down on me and I am dragging it round continuously. I want to shake it away but I can’t. It can be overwhelming. So much of my year has been spent feeling – what’s the point. Just. Completely. Flat.
I know that the covid pandemic has caused a surge in mental health problems. So many people are now struggling as a result of the lockdowns and years we have lived with covid. I kept trying to tell myself that how I was feeling was very common. Maybe I was feeling like this because of the covid pandemic and the past three years. And because lots of other people are feeling like it too then it’s not really that bad an issue. But for every single person experiencing poor mental health in any form, it is an issue. Just because a lot of other people are going through the same thing, it doesn’t make it any easier for the individual experiencing it.
I’m not meaning or wanting to seek sympathy or attention or anything like that. I am fully aware that a lot of people have it a lot harder than I do. But I felt the need to explain myself, although it is very difficult to explain because I don’t really understand it myself, or know how to describe it accurately. But it is the sort of feeling where you want to do stuff, but you haven’t got the focus or energy to do them. So you feel frustrated with yourself for not doing it. And the cycle continues.
I am genuinely not trying to make out that my “struggles” have been severe, it is just living with this constant flatness for the past year has been a bit wearing. My dad asks what I am doing this afternoon. My response is that I am just trying to waste time until the day finishes. Previously, there wasn’t enough time in the day for me to do things that I wanted. So you see, for me, there has been this change in 2022 and I am simply trying to explain/make sense of it (although I don’t think I have done it very clearly).
And to other people experiencing similar things, you are not alone. I also want to apologise to my friends who I have barely contacted all year. I also receive many messages and DMs from people, particularly within the eating disorder community. General comments, questions, seeking support – all these messages I have received and 95% of them I never replied to. I am sorry. It isn’t because I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t. Literally, replying to a message required something from me that I didn’t seem to have.
I go into 2023 still waiting. The heavy, overbearing weight is still there. But I keep on waiting and hold onto the hope that it has to get better. Waiting for the day to come when I have my motivation and enthusiasm back. Some days are better than others now which is good. There can be a day where I spend five minutes replying to emails. It is hard work, but sometimes I can do it. This time last year, I couldn’t do it all. I have written the odd blog, although it has taken me weeks to write it because I can only do it in small chunks of time. And I am still reading lots of books.
I am also very lucky that my experience of depression over the last year has not caused a relapse with anorexia. For that, I am so incredibly grateful (although as anyone with anorexia will know, anorexia is making me feel very guilty that I haven’t used this as an opportunity to lose weight).
I am sorry if this blog is overwhelming negative and not a good read. It is not my intention to depress people or for people to feel sorry for me. As I said earlier, I have not been affected to the point where I can’t live a life or do fundamental things. I can, and I can get by. I’ve just lost that energy, motivation and focus for the things I used to enjoy doing.
So I just wanted to explain, apologise, and speak the truth of my current reality. A reality that many others will also be experiencing. I do hope that 2023 will better. Better for everyone that needs it to be. For me, things are seeming that they are improving sometimes. I am now taking encouragement from the positive moments, no matter how small or short they are. Every sunflower starts off as a seed.