Vol 2, episode 2: The results are in...
In which our protagonist is guilt-strapped and wondering who sped up time
Substack sent me a little prompt last week: “Your new subscribers are waiting for a new post from you.” Apparently it’s been three months since I last poked my head above the parapet. Where the heck are the weeks going? Who sped up time?
I find this happens to me when I’m in recovery: I get so insular, so self-focussed - dare I say self-absorbed? - that I lose track of everything else. And then I get stressed, guilty, overwhelmed by all that I’m missing and all the people I’m forgetting. I’ve had a few light slaps on the wrist from people I care about, and who care about me, trying to remind me they exist and asking if I still want them around. I’m honestly sorry I went into no-contact mode. It wasn’t deliberate; I just lost track of time.
Hence the message from Substack.
And this new missive.
To catch you up: after a super, super dark new year, I’ve been out here being self(ish), putting myself first and focusing on what I need and want. There have been movements on the health front, on the work front, and on the head front, so I’ll go into those below to catch you up. And I promise to be more regular on these missives from here on in - and less me-focused, too! Let’s get back to sharing the experiments and learning together.
Physical health: Ooooh boy, where do I start?
Here I am, a living example of what happens when you totally ignore your body’s essential needs for 20 years.
I love the NHS, I really do. I am a big believer in universal healthcare, and I know our system is in distress after years of neglect. But honestly, the GP blaming my weight for every little thing I went to them about really felt like a way to get rid of me and move on. I didn’t feel listened to, and so I ignored the issues assuming they were in my head or I was being a hypochondriac.
Here’s the thing: sometimes fat people get stuck in vicious cycles, and you can’t just tell them to move more and eat better - sometimes they actually can’t. That was me: I kept trying, and I couldn’t keep it up, partially because of my depression keeping me down, but also partly because of chronic back pain making it difficult to do even a short walk around the block, let alone bend over.
Yes, my back. Those who have known me for a while will no doubt have heard complaints about it, but after years of going to the GP and being dismissed, I started to shut it out. Ignore it. Not mention it, not acknowledge it. OK, so my back is sore but it’s just age. It’s weight. It’s lack of movement.
It is, yes, but I still needed help beyond the GP telling me to “take some painkillers” and get over it. Over the last decade I’ve had physiotherapists give me exercises to improve my mobility in the lower back, I’ve had osteopaths with various theories and treatments that worked for a bit before I slipped backwards again, I’ve had massages end up being more painful than helpful. And then I gave up, figuring I just had to learn to live with it.
But as I started waking up from my depression fog a couple of months ago, I started making appointments to take better care of myself. Alongside revisiting the dentist and getting a haircut for the first time in 2.5 years, I took two massive leaps: I booked in with a nutritional therapist to find out if there was a reason behind my constant exhaustion, headaches, nausea, digestion issues and abdomen pain, and I booked a spinal assessment with a chiropractor. Both were life-changing.
I guess it can only go up from here?
Humans of this Substack, here is what I learned from the scans and xrays of the spinal assessment: my neck is 3cm out of alignment, and my left pelvic bone is lowered and twisted. Hallelujah, there is a reason for the constant pain. For your horror, I’ve included below one of the scans that shows how far I’m leaning to the left. The red lines are the super bad ones.
Unfortunately, just like that, the blindfold was removed and my mind realised it could finally acknowledge there was a major issue. I started feeling the pain for real. Oh, the pain. Dear reader, I am in agony as I sit here writing this to you. It is not fun. The good news is I start treatment this week. I do not need surgery and I will get better. And as the inflammation lessens and we move into the manual manipulation phase, I will be able to move better and move more, and I will be able to start addressing my fitness in earnest.
That neck misalignment is also one of the reasons for my constant headaches. The other? My gut. Hey, it also turns out that my body is so lacking in nutrients that my organs are competing with each other for what little energy there is banging around in my system. That’s why I’m so f*cking exhausted all the time: I literally have no energy, and my gut is super inflamed as a result.
Over the last few days I’ve been conducting experiments. If I eat [insert bad thing], what happens? And I write down all the symptoms. My nutritionist has told me I must now be officially gluten and dairy free because my gut can’t break down those big proteins, and I need to take a stack of supplements to just feed my system and get it back to regular functioning.
So, yeah. Turns out my body actually is super f*cked up, and it wasn’t in my head after all. Nor was it only about my weight, thanks, Mr GP.
Please, if you’re reading this and you have an instinct that something is wrong, push the health professionals. Become a pain in their behind. If you have the means to, seek help outside the NHS and don’t just rely on the overworked local GP. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if I kept ignoring all of this, what state I would’ve ended up in considering how ridiculously unwell and unable to function I had already become.
Work: A new plan emerges triumphant
And amongst all of this, I’ve been struggling to let go of the old and embrace the future of my work life. This year has been A LOT.
First up, I let go of my content clients. Coming back to work after my sabbatical and falling straight back into old patterns is one of the reasons my mental health took a massive dive again. Something was trying to tell me that I was on the wrong path, and I wasn’t listening because, well, money is important and bills are rising.
But I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t do all of that self-reflection and reconsidering in 2021 just to go back to my old ways.
I’m not 100% through to the other side of the work thing yet - I’m still trying to figure out if I close down the old biz totally, or just morph and rebrand (if you have thoughts, let me know!) - but I’m now officially focusing on just the community management work with Minds@Work (join us here), and finally putting in the time to finish my coaching qualification by getting more practice clients and building my offering.
I am now rebranded as an editorial specialist, a writing coach for both books and business/marketing, and a writer who pursues only what she is interested in pursuing. I set that intention and put it out into the universe via a resume website I put together a few weeks ago. It feels good. It feels right.
But how to build this new thing? That is the question. I clearly have the experience when it comes to coaching for editorial or business/marketing writing - 20+ years of working and I’m finally accepting that means I have experience to share - but on the book/fiction writing front, the cupboard is a bit bare. That’s why I was so excited to be offered a role as co-editor at Trembling With Fear, the fiction zine attached to the Horror Tree website, one of dark fiction’s biggest and most-visited sites. This week is my first official week in the chair, and I am here to slowly build my fiction credentials to add credibility to my business.
And I recognise and am grateful for Mr Lauren’s support and help. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to take the time off to investigate and reflect on any of this. He is a true gem.
Mental health: I’m working on it, I promise
It feels weird for me to say, but it kinda feels like everything’s going in the right direction. Or a good direction, at least. But I’m still waiting for the fall. I’m still sure that the Jenga tower will be knocked over easily, and I’ll be right back to where I was and that place is way too scary to go back.
I’m on the edge of something, though. I know because my subconscious knows. I don’t tend to dream (my sleep issues are also on the fix-it list!), but I had the most horrible dream last week - so horrible that I was actually crying out and the other half had to check on me. I woke up scared shitless, heart racing like an F1 car, breathing fast, totally panicked. And all I can really remember is there was something oozing out of the walls, and I knew it was coming for me. I couldn’t tell you what the room looked like, where I was, when I was - nothing - but I knew I was about to be smothered.
Dr Google tells me that dreaming of something being after you relates to an inner conflict you are unable to face that remains unconscious. An unrecognisable entity connects the dreamer to their shadow self, the part of the unconscious mind composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts or shortcomings. While I haven’t had a recurrence of this dream, thank goodness, the interpretation makes sense: I’m working on myself, my negativity bias, my depression and anxiety. I’m working on self-improvement, and it makes sense that the protective part of myself, that part that tries to keep myself small, to protect me from the world, starts to panic. It’s reaching out subconsciously because it’s getting less traction consciously.
Because the fact is that I do feel much better. My therapist has noted my “Hope” necklace is getting a lot of outings, and she could tell that I was starting to have hope for the future. Six months ago I didn’t believe I had a future, and now things suddenly seem to be turning a corner.
It’s not sudden, of course. It’s been years in the making. By giving myself the space to breathe, I’m finally figuring out my sh*t. I’m cleansing the toxicity. I’m listening to what I need. I’m trying to tune into my own frequency and get rid of the feedback and disturbance on the line, and now the crackles are quieting. I’m not yet at HD stereo, but I’m getting there.
I am grateful to my protective self for all it has done for me, but it’s time to step aside and let me explore. To let me be me. I am heading in the right direction, and I’m doing the work.
I am emerging from the cocoon, and I’m excited for what comes next.
I hope you’re doing OK, dear reader. Until next time, be good to yourself.
The month ahead 🗓
Writing: I’ve been stuck in a research rabbit hole and I need to stop or I’ll never write anything. So this month my goal is to figure out some beats, some essential scenes, a timeline, and get stuck into some draft scenes. Not a whole draft book, just a few scenes is all I need right now.
Work: Continuing to be community manager for the Minds@Work virtual community, running virtual events and generating discussions through posts and articles. I’m also officially in the co-editor seat at Trembling With Fear and excited for what’s to come.
Health: I start my chiropractic treatment plan this week; the first six weeks will be about tackling inflammation. I’m also tackling inflammation in my gut by going gluten and dairy free. I’ve even been prescribed baths! Yes, I must soak in Epsom Salts a few times a week. What a chore…
Routine: With no client content work, I need to be careful that I don’t fill that work void with other things. That extra time, those couple of days a week, are for me to write and to be healthy.
On the stereo 🎧
We’ve been back on the big f*ck-off outdoor concert trail recently and it feels so good. In early June it was The Killers with Sam Fender - many an anthem there. This week it’s Pearl Jam & Pixies in Hyde Park and Midnight Oil at The Roundhouse - so a weekend staying in Camden it is. But last week? Oh, last week all my emo goth punk dreams came true at the old Olympic Stadium: Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, together at last. I haven’t shouted much about it because that was also the day the US rolled back the clocks on women’s rights, but it was so damn good. I’ve had them all on repeat all week. So, for your listening delight, let’s remind ourselves that American Idiot is almost 20 years old and nothing has changed.
Off the shelf 📚
I haven’t been doing much reading, to be honest, because my exhaustion and my headaches have been taking over. The days of zipping through a couple of books a week are on hold. I will, however, put a shout-out for Gabrielle Bernstein’s Happy Days, which really opened my eyes. It’s subtitled “the guided path from trauma to profound freedom and inner peace”, and I never would have picked it up (have I really been impacted by trauma?) if I hadn’t seen her talking about it on Instagram. Some of the things she was saying just hit a nerve, and I found the book itself really enlightening. I am put off when people talk about spiritual practice because I don’t see myself as religious, but I pushed through and understand myself a lot more now.
Get an eyeful 👀
Stranger Things, season 4, volume 2. My heart sings, it breaks, it cries, it’s in disarray. And that’s all I’ll say. (Also check out Chelsey Pippins’ Stranger Things characters as Tarot cards post because it is just perfect.)
Visual confirmation 📷
My loves, my best supporters.