Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Hi Guys. I'm sorry I was unable to comment on your blogs yesterday. I slipped into a severe depression and although I read everyone's blogs I didn't feel able to formulate any responses. Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I hope to be able to leave some comments later today.

Thank you for all the long comments you left to the last post. I love long comments! The longer the better - because that is how this thing works. The more feedback I get the more I have to think about and the more I can learn - about myself and about life in general. I really appreciate the time people take to to respond to my issues.

The most striking thing from the last post was the fact that everyone else thinks I have a personality! I have to tell you that whenever I have said to anyone who has been treating me that I feel I have no personality, they have assured me that they don't see me in that way at all.

The difference here is between looking at someone from the outside and feeling how it is to be a person on the inside.

Once, when I was doing a group session with a load of other women a few years ago I said to them that I knew it would sound weird, but that I was not a person to myself. I didn't expect anyone to understand what the hell I was talking about because no-one had ever seemed to up to that point. I was surprised when one of the other women said that she knew what I meant because she felt she was "a nobody" as well; that she had no personality, was no-one.

Had I realised this person felt the same? No.

In my head I had put together a picture of this person based on the way she presented herself, the clothes she wore, everything she said and how she said it - how she had brought up her children, her relationships with men, the way she described her life. To me she was a fully formed being who seemed consistent within herself.

We all formulate a schemata for every person we meet, build up a picture of them based on their interactions with us and how they present themselves generally. Our assumption when doing this is that the person does have a particular personality, that they are consistent in their thinking and behaviour, and that their outward behaviour very much reflects their inner personality.

These are very big assumptions to make, but also of course necessary for us to function effectively and safely in the world - they are cognitive shortcuts for summing up and assessing other people. And generally they are correct.

However, research does show that we view other people as being more consistent than we are ourselves. This is just because we have far more data to go on when considering ourselves. For example, with ourselves, we may see we are extrovert in some situations - ie situations where we are more confident, and introverted in other situations. Whereas we are more likely to view other people as extrovert or introverted.

So, even though you have only my written words to go on, it's not surprising that you have formulated some sort of consistent schemata for me.

I'm talking a lot about consistency here. But I don't feel inconsistent within myself on a day to day basis.

What I mainly feel is that I do not have an integrated personality. My psyche is in pieces, is fragmented, and my brain has to work very hard trying to hold the pieces together. This is why I find it so difficult to do anything very much. Because my brain doesn't have very much energy left over to spare. It takes so much energy to hold together a shattered psyche. It now occurs to me that what other people see (or read) is the result of the pieces being held together - the brain's desperate attempt to present to itself (let alone the rest of the world) a fully functioning being.

The most frustrating thing is that every so often I feel my self becoming "whole" again but it never lasts very long. The status quo always falls apart again. It never "works" somehow. And every time it does fall apart, I'm devastated. And very frightened.

Being in pieces, especially newly fragmented after a period of apparent wholeness, is very frightening. It's like living with no solid ground beneath you. The whole shebang can just fall apart at any moment.

Now, looking back over your comments and the emails I've exchanged with people, I see there is some sort of "backstop" there. In large part this is the body of knowledge I've built up from all my experiences as a mentally ill person. All the pain I've felt, the lack of security, the instability (which no-one else ever seems to perceive annoyingly!), the humiliation and shame of mental illness - a lot of which comes from knowing I can't cope with life as other people can, that my brain can't concentrate on anything else other than trying to hold myself together, all the coping mechanisms I've developed at different times for different problems and scenarios, all the conversations I've had with other mentally ill people on how they view things and how they cope, all the therapy I've been through - may have been useless at solving the problem, but it was interesting to get different perspectives.

I've learnt a lot being ill - through my own illness and other people's. About the dynamics of how people are f*cked up by others. The apparently small interactions with others which can have a huge impact. How psyches are developed and melded, and fall apart. How the mind can travel through endless cycles of rising and falling mood, comprehending and non-comprehending one's life, periods of time where a person is coping alternating with periods where the person is struggling.

Ultimately we are all put together and formed in the same way, by the same means. We all have better and worse times in our lives. So this knowledge can be applied to anyone - because the mentally ill are like everyone else, only more so.

The only instability that other people do perceive of course is my weight going up and down. Some people I know will be able to make the connection between my weight rising and increased depression. But I guess that to most people I am simply a yo-yo dieter or failed dieter. They don't know that I am a binge eater/ compulsive eater with a history of eating disorders - it's not something I would tell very many people. But as Jack Sh*t said to one of Diane's posts, "secret" eating - the world's worst kept secret.

I see my weight fluctuations as a visible sign of the state of my mind, and as a sign that I am incapable of coping with life. A far greater sign of failure in life than simply a failure of willpower or failure to stick to a diet plan, or failure to make good choices. I see it as a fundamental failure of personality.

This makes my weight a hugely loaded issue for me. I just have to keep reminding myself that most people in the street do not perceive any of this. But in my own head I cannot separate my mental illness from my weight because they are indeed intimately connected.

To a certain extent most people view their personality as being tied up with their appearance. Which is why weight loss can have such a profound effect on a person's view of themselves and consequently on their life. It's no wonder then that issues surrounding a person's weight are so ... er, weighty. It's always about far more than carrying around some excess poundage.


  1. It is amazing, how well we all hide our own insecurities from each other, isn't it? I hardly even realised it was happening until I read a novel a few years ago (I think it was a Marion Keyes - light stuff I know, but I can be shallow!) in which a character mentions that she 'compared my insides to everybody else's outsides' and therefore felt hideously inadequate and incompetent. Until then it never occurred to me that other people probably couldn't tell how low I was feeling, or that they might be feeling just as bad beneath the surface - or worse.
    I guess I'm just repeating what you said, but in a less articulate way - but that is one of the gifts you have that you don't appreciate, the ability to put into words thoughts and feelings that I barely even know I have until I read your posts!
    I do also agree that our perception of ourselves is hugely tied to our appearance and weight - but that doesn't mean you should feel like a failure only because controlling your weight is one facet of your health issues that you have a problem with focusing on right now. I know that hearing / reading that changes nothing for you, but its still true!
    Have you given any more thought to continuing your studies into Counselling? It sounds like you have benefitted from your past studies as well as your own experiences, and I think that it could help you to carry on.

  2. My instinct would be to disconnect the overweight issue from the mental issues, giving the overweight issues less weight (pardon the unintended pun). I am a bit overweight, but I'm not going to for one moment tie that to any inadequacies in my psyche that I may or may not have at the moment. It would make the overweight way too important and turn it into something that it's not, namely a big problem that I would have to deal with, because supposedly it is a symptom of something wrong in my psyche, and the more overweight a person is, the more messed up they must be, right? So, I'm slightly overweight, so I must be slightly screwed up and the overweight is a symptom of it and not a nice comfortable result of my nice comfortable love affair with food. I know I am slightly screwed up, but I don't let the state of my body determine how badly screwed up I am. I am only not severely not overweight now because of my gastric band. I'm still the same person I was before, I just feel better about my body and the physical health issues that go with it. My psychological health is obtained through much different methods and had never anything to do with my overweight or my love for food. I got it through the right medication and the right therapies and the right counseling and making some big life decisions. I think it would be best if you stopped focusing on food and your weight and focused on the real issues that concern you. Getting the right help consistently is very important.

  3. Friend,

    This was beautiful, haunting, and poetic in a way that grips my heart. You have such an articulate way of phrasing things. I could have written this post. For me, it feels like I have a mask that I present to the outside world of how I've got everything together, and that I'm poised and confident and happy, and inside I am rotting from putrid anxiety and depression ... like housing a small animal in my stomach cavity which gnaws away at my very being from the inside-out. And I have come to realize that many times I turn to food to fill that gaping hole within myself, to make sense of things (or distract me from the pain of it). I feel for you.

    But know this: acknowledgement is key, because once there is acknowledgement, there can be change. I am trying to learn to embrace my fear and insecurities, trying to figure out the root of this evil so that I can be cured -- finally be cured -- and be done with the process, and begin living my life. I'm glad we can help each other out through this time.

    If I was there with you, I'd give ya a big ole hug ... and that's pretty big cuz I'm not a hugging person. :)

    You can do this. I have faith in you. We have faith in you. And your personality is sweet and strong ... I sense it even now. :)

  4. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog - much appreciated!

    Also, another person from the UK who knows what I'm talking about when I say 'courgette', 'aubergine' 'spring onions' and 'coriander'! ;o)

    I haven't had a chance to read your blog in its entirety, but I will have a good look tomorrow.

    I'm sorry you've been through so much - both with depression and eating disorders, although I'm sure they're intriniscally linked... I am SO grateful that I've never suffered from depression and my heart goes out to those who do...

    Will be back tomorrow...

    Patsy x

  5. Hi Bearfriend,
    As always, your thoughts are cohesive, eloquently and concisely articulated. I think I understand a lot of what you've said here, and much of it makes great sense. Our sense of who we are and how we put ourselves forth to others is definitely impacted by how we feel on any given day. And how we feel has way too much to do with our appearance, rather our perception of our appearance. I have always had a fairly bad opinion of my looks - not necessarily weight, but my face. When I was 3, I asked my mom if I'd ever be pretty, and she told me no. (What 3 y/o would even ask such a question unless she'd been given the clear message that she wasn't pretty as is??) That information took hold; installed in my psyche and I have forever had a belief that I'm mostly unattractive, even ugly. As I've healed from some of the bullsh*t heaped on me by dear mom, I realize that I'm not ugly, but I still feel that way sometimes. And on days I feel ugly (or fat), I am much less outgoing and friendly because I'm ashamed of my looks. I almost feel it's wrong subjecting other people to having to look at me. Intellectually I see that others don't react differently to me on those days, but it's a visceral sense that I can't wish away. Invariably, the next day my hair will look decent, I wake up with a fresh outlook, and feel acceptable for others to view, better about myself, and much more outgoing. Sounds crazy, but it goes on in my essentially sane mind.

    I think that's part of what you're talking your personality is a manifestation of your inner sense of self. And that changes from day to day. What I want to point out is that it changes day to day for most people, I think. Not just someone with mental illness. It's the perception and self-judgment that shift around, not the reality of the person or the personality.
    Remember I said that sometimes maybe your judgment is impaired about your self appraisal, like mine is. This is exactly what I was talking about, and why I like what Green Stone Woman said about stopping focusing on food and weight and concentrating on the more pressing issues facing you...depression, agoraphobia and working on laying down some new pathways in the brain that circumvent the ones that tell you you have no personality. I pray for your "inner integration". You are an amazing woman, clearly, and a great friend! Hugs and my best to you!

  6. I do not know how to respond to your post and the comments. I know nothing about mental illness, or depression. I remember my mother suffered from depression and was on various meds and my mother told me never be afraid to seek help or counseling. I've taken her advice.

    I believe that we perceive ourselves differently than those around us. This is why an objective viewpoint is always so welcoming. As I read your post... I really tried to emphathize with you and try to understand what and how you suffer. As always your eloquent use of the English languages helps place me there so I can relate. It seems as though the volume is turned up more so in a person who suffers from mental illness than say a person who does not. That's the way I comprehend it.

    I can now understand (thanks to the way you explained how your brain feels so fragmented the reel that goes on inside you each day as you set about doing those things some of us take for granted.

    I wish you good health each day friend. I wish I had your gift of writing. Have you considered writing a book? I'm serious. Maybe put together a draft/outline of what you would cover and maybe writing could be some sort of outlet for you.

    Maybe your suffering and writing about it would shed some understanding on the matter. I don't know... I see Oprah in your future. Sorry, I'm joking here but I appreciate your candor and honesty and I thank you for opening up to us all.


  7. Very well put and a pleasure to read, even though it is not exactly happy material! You have such insight. I'll say it again - you write damn well. I'd love to sit down and have a heart to heart, you would be really interesting to talk to. I hope you get through this because I think you would make a very fine counsellor.

  8. Wow. I feel as though I've held my breath the entire time I've been reading your blog.

    You are so brave. Putting yourself out there, being so open. Honesty I dream of, but cannot let go of my inhibitions enough to fully vent.

    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog, the boy is slightly perkier now his Daddy is home :)

    I will check in each time you post, and sincerely hope that life becomes less taxing as time goes by.

    Carly xx

  9. You really do have a strong way of expressing yourself through your writing. Even though none of us knows you personally, I for one feel as though you have given us a peek inside who you are.

    I hope that you are able to see from the loving, carefully constructed comments that you are appreciated and valued in this community.

    I'm sorry that you have gone through so much in your life. It grieves me.

    Take care of yourself,

  10. This was so beautiful and indeed haunting. I loved it and said "yes!" to myself several times as I read it, and I also felt as if I were holding my breath as I read through it. Wow!

    I sometimes go into these deep funks that really have no sensible explanation. It's hard to pull out of the dark and step back into the light sometimes.

    The whole thing about the mask we put on for the outside world.....yes, yes, and yes!!!! And I'm not sure whether this scares me even more or reassures me, but the more I look into myself and start to truly pay attention to others around me, the more I realize we ALL have a mask. No matter how together we seem to the outside world, we each in our own way have "something" that we're screwed up about.

    When I started my blog I decided I was going to address the emotional issues once and for all, finally get to the bottom of things as it were. Because I realized at some point, with a jolt I might add, that I was not going to be happy no matter how thin I was until I did deal with the emotional turmoil first.

    I LOVE, LOVE your blog. You write with clarity and deep emotion that we can all relate to. Very powerful stuff. Thank you for this look inside of myself that I may not have been brave enough to do on my own.


  11. Wow Friend!! You've received from really amazing, insightful comments on this post, and as usual...I'm late to the party!!! Sorry about that...I haven't been keeping up well on blog commenting lately.

    This is an excellent post, as they all are, and I agree with Paula's comment about writing a book. I made a comment on your last post about how we all get to benefit from your "free" therapy. That's because I believe that you have so much to offer. I learn from you all the time. I think it's a great idea to share your knowledge and your gift for writing with the entire world. Give it some thought. Seriously. :)

  12. Hello Bear Friend

    I hope you are doing well today. Just checking in to see how things are going and to also present you with a BEST BLOG AWARD. This award was recently given to me and I wanted to carefully choose those blogs that have been so helpful to me during my short time blogging and I chose you as your posts and comments are so helpful.

    Please stop by to pickup your award when you have a moment. I hope your day is going well.

  13. My sweet Bear friend,
    Sorry I have been away, but I thought of you several times during my vacation. I think we all re-define ourselves daily, we are works in progress - no IS this way, or that way... only they WERE this way, or that way. We change every moment, never the same, always evolving.

    My little sister said to me once, "I wish I was a soccer player" to which I replied " then be one". She went on to tell me how hard it was to just become this thing. I listened and then, I asked her "what does a soccer player do that you don't?"

    She listed several things that 'makes' a soccer player. I said to her "ok, then do those things and you will be a soccer player."

    we often get so caught up with what we think we are, that we assume the other people around us have something figured out that we don't. That somehow I can't be 'this' or 'that' because 'they' are different than me.

    I'm going to let you in on a secret, we are ALL imposters. The reason why so many people feel the way you feel is simply because we have ALL felt that way. You alone get to define your personality regardless of natural tendencies you could choose tomorrow what you wan to be. Define what that means and then start acting like that 'traight'. MY DEAR FRIEND YOU HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO OFFER THAN YOU GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT. I KNOW THAT WHEN YOU MAKE THE TRANSFORMATION FROM THIS 'VICTIM' MENTALITY OVER TO THE LIFESTYLE OF 'CHOOSING' - YOU'LL BE SUPRISED AT YOUR OWN STRENGTH, COURAGE AND ...YES, PERSONALITY

    lots of love - natalie


All comments gratefully appreciated!