Friday, 18 June 2010

Walking Back to Happiness...

"Walking back to happiness.....woop-pah, oh yeah yeah."

Anyone else old enough (or sad enough!) to remember that Helen Shapiro song? I like to think I am walking back to happiness. Isn't it great that when you decide to take a proper interest in yourself the days seem that bit lighter and lots of little chinks of positivity seem to hit home? Have you experienced that? I suppose it comes from moving a bit more, doesn't it? I know that both my body and my brain become really sluggish when I trudge through a day, spending more time on the sofa than I do on my feet...spending more time mulling over deep and often depressing thoughts. That's the way to depression, isn't it? And then the vicious circle takes over. The mind tells you "I am fat therefore I am down. Everything is such an effort and I don't like myself much, therefore I'll eat another biscuit, because after all, who really cares if I am fat? I am in a fat prison of my own making"....and then you can move on to all the "I am fat and unattractive" thoughts which in turn take you to the "I am pretty useless, this is the way it will always be" thoughts. Sound familiar? It's easy to go there, isn't it?

It's movement I think (or at least I am finding) that shifts me into a higher gear. I used to be busy, busy, busy (for all of my adult life) and I had little time to dwell on me and what was happening in my life. I worked hard after graduation, taking on lots of challenges, going for promotions at work, paying all the bills and raising my children alone..and I think I thrived on the pressure, strange as it seems. Then, bang - after thirty years of that life I became ill and was no longer working and pretty much incapacitated so life changed...drastically. The pressures of work were removed, and that has to be a good thing, but then I had days, weeks, months and years on a 'sick bed' of sorts and the days became long, worrying and dreary. I had no structure to my days and I had to sit around popping pills until I healed properly...and I grew fat and as I grew fat that light inside me dimmed..and when the light dims, all the world looks murky and every single thing we have to do becomes a huge, uncomfortable challenge. I know sometimes I didn't take on those challenges. They seemed too great. I couldn't find the motivation or interest and of course as I ducked out of living I began to despise myself and feel that I was completely hopeless. (Some days I wonder how my man stuck with me as I went from one debilitating illness to another..what a treasure he has been.) I grew fatter and fatter and I liked myself and my circumstances less and less as every day passed. It was like the plug on my world was pulled...everything went out.

I am reminded of that fantastic Hamlet soliloquy. I think Shakespeare was a fantastic, insightful man/ philosopher. He gave Hamlet the lines:

"How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely."

I am smiling here. I went to seed, and so did my lovely garden. I couldn't tend to it properly and as the weeds grew in the garden, weeds of depression also grew in me, strangling me, taking over, weakening the good in me, and eventually hiding it completely. That's what I am coming out of. In talking to others and reading so many interesting blogs I appreciate that so many people on this weight-loss journey were in a dark place too. We might not have had full-blown depression but life seemed difficult and unpleasant and we didn't like ourselves much.

I decided to claw back my life. I didn't want to be a fat 'pensioner' at fifty, although I took early retirement and my occupational pension. My income was severely reduced. That was another huge worry yet I was incapacitated and couldn't work. It could have been all downhill to the grave - working life over, income low, purchases and outings restricted because of lack of funds - no wonder I found myself fat and in a very dark place.

I whiled away my days on the computer whilst my arse and stomach spread. I moved very little, partly because it was painful and partly because all the drugs I had to take made me sleepy and lethargic. I had no life in me. I'd been reading the blogs of Pasta Queen...and then Diet Girl (years ago when they were determined to lose weight) and I marvelled at their determination and the way they fought back from all sorts of difficulties. They just kept going. That determination got to me, a little. (Aren't weight-loss bloggers just wonderful? I hope they know just how much their words and thoughts can help and 'move' people.) I got bigger and bigger and couldn't bear to look at myself in the mirror. Self-hatred eats away at confidence, doesn't it? Then I became rather reclusive. I didn't want to see my friends...I pretended not to be home if they called, and I made excuses to get out of social events. I did a Greta Garbo. "I vaaant to be alohhnn..."

How do you get back from that? I think I capitalised on the days when I felt a little better. I tried not to think dark thoughts...and I wrote, lots and lots in private online journals, unloading so much that was inside me. I then read somewhere the thoughts of a doctor who had to treat depressed people. His theory was that if only such people would go outside and spend some time in the fresh air, then perhaps take a walk, their depression would lift. He said fresh air and exercise would cure the depressed far more quickly than a cocktail of drugs could. Of course he recognised the chemical imbalances in the brain and of course he knew that depressed people just didn't want to venture out - that was the nature of the illness - but he said, a daily walk could work wonders and was more effective than happy pills. I suspect he is right.

I have been moving more. Not always walking but I have been consciously trying to get out more, or to ensure that every day I exercise this body of mine, even if it's only deliberately going up and down the stairs more often than I used to. Some days having to move seems a drag, but don't we always feel better when we have done it? I also know that getting out of the house is good for us too. I almost became a prisoner in my own home...a recluse. In many ways I wish I were still working. It's hard to create a structure for myself every single day. It's so easy to while away time, doing nothing much, achieving nothing much. Again, that can bring me down. I have volunteered for a few things..and because I am feeling better physically I am able to bend and stretch again, and lift things so once again my garden is looking good.

On Wednesday my man and I went to the BBC's Gardener's World show at the NEC - a huge area in the Midlands given over to exhibitions and conferences etc. From the train station we walked MILES through corridors and hallways to get to the exhibition..and we walked quickly, over-taking the dawdlers, the slower people, the chatterers and of course the elderly and infirm. We also had the same long (and fast) walk back. I was quietly rejoicing that I was fit enough to do this. Strangely, (and perhaps because of Lyn's recent post - on Escape from Obesity) I noticed SO many people in motorised scooters. SO many! I was so grateful that my legs worked and that I had the strength and energy to get walk, and walk and walk - which is what we did.

Anyway, I have sat here writing for long enough. I am going to get up and move this body. I am trying to walk my way back to happiness...I might not be losing weight at a very fast pace, but already I feel so much better about myself and so much more positive. Walking or just moving and keeping busy, one way and another, is very therapeutic. When we feel good about ourselves, we can move mountains, can't we? I need to move a mountain of flesh from this frame, but I believe now that I can do it.

I hope you are walking back to happiness too. If not, start today :)


  1. Grump: Depression is a dark, heavy blanket. Sometimes it feels good to snuggle in and hide from the world--and more often than not it feels good to toss that blanket aside and step into the light. In Washington State we don't have a lot of light for 3/4 of the year due to the gloom and rain. I love summer when the sun shines and the days are long and warm. It has been hard having surgery on both feet, because I too have been sitting on my ass way too long. I'm gonna get moving too. Jo

  2. Moving is key - it really, really helps!

    Walking keeps me sane, and is the one exercise 'thing' I never give up on. Just lately I've had such little energy that most other things have taken a back seat (blood test later this week, so we'll maybe see why). A step counter shows me just how much/little I've managed to fit into a day - very revealing it is too.

    By the way, since I read this, my walks have been skipping along to the great Shapiro. I just can't get it out of my head!

  3. Hey Jo - Washington State - (I get my Washingtons mixed up)- that's up in the north-west corner isn't it? (I am going to get the atlas out in a minute.) Frasier land? Seattle's up there too? (If I am wrong just ignore me waffling on...) I LOVE Frasier. Of all the imported sit-coms, Frasier is still my favourite. My kids are really into it too..the wit, the pretentious way they carry on, the family. Just love it. Have seen every episode, several times. Anyway, it's always raining in Seattle isn't it? (Thinking 'Sleepless' I never tire of that film. ) Manchester is known for being glooomy, weather-wise. It always seems to rain when I am there, and yes, too much bad weather can be depressing.I think bad weather gives me an excuse to stay in and do nothing - so I quite like it! I tend to hide from the sun a bit. I think that's when I feel quite self-conscious. However, fresh air is beneficial too, as well as walking, so my garden calls me. I promised myself I'd tackle it today. I have so much to do, and here we are, mid afternoon and I have achieved um...not a lot. Another blog post counts? I am hitting myself. I am.

    Deniz, hope the tests reveal why you're lacking in energy. I have both the anaemias....iron deficiency and pernicious. I am on medication for both but I can't say it's made me very active! I also have an under-active thyroid gland. I am big in the auto-immune disorders field! I hope you're feeling better soon because until I was diagnosed I felt I was wading through treacle every day. Fingers crossed it's something easily treatable x

    I am glad you remember the song too. (It dates us!) Must admit, I have been humming it to myself a lot as well!