Have you ever walked up the spiral staircase of a lighthouse? Often lighthouses or other towers have windows. You can look out and see the view. Then, once you do another circle on the stairs there is another window. And it seems like you're looking at the same view. But you're not. You're looking out another window ABOVE the first window. You're still looking in the same direction, and can probably see the same landmarks, but you're higher up; you have a different angle on it. Can you see where I'm going with this?
Although my body image issues started when I was much younger, my eating disorder started when I was in high school. And it continued into my university years and beyond.
I had my first episode of depression in my third year of university and again during my second degree.
Once I was working full time in a corporate environment in my twenties, I ended up going off work on "stress leave" and started getting psychotherapy as well as treatment for my eating disorder. In returning to work I changed careers and went back to work as a personal trainer, fitness educator, and college professor.
I got pregnant when I was 36 and was able to get off antidepressants and was very happy - tired with twins of course, but happy. Unfortunately, after the first few years I started to have anxiety creep back and had a panic attack - and went back on meds.
For the next few years I was living the life of the "sandwich generation." I was caring for young twins and an ailing mother. It was difficult, but I survived. I got help from a social worker: help with what I needed to do and help with grieving the slow loss of my mom to Alzheimer's. And I did Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
And then my mom passed away. I got depressed. And I had some serious health illnesses that had me practically bed-ridden, worsening my isolation, and fuelling the depression.
And now, after almost three years of recovery from my eating disorder, I am getting help for depression, anxiety and panic attacks. When I met with the intake nurse for the Day Hospital program, she told me I was a "good candidate." I really wasn't happy about it! I don't want to be a "good candidate." I don't want to need this. I don't want to have depression. Or anxiety. Or panic attacks.
But I do.
I don't want my kids to have issues because of my mental health. I don't want my kids to have a mom that battles these issues.
The tough thing for me is that it feels like I'm starting over again! I've done psychotherapy for years! I've done group therapy for eating disorders and body image. I've had cognitive behavioural therapy. We've had couples counselling. But I need to recognize that the research and therapy techniques have changed in twenty years. And I'm a different person than I was twenty years ago! I've aged - although maybe not matured! I'm married. I have kids. I've been coaching and training clients, and teaching fitness instructors.
I don't want to have to deal with depression. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. But "I am further up the lighthouse." And when I need to be reminded of that, I will look at this lighthouse charm and know that I am looking out of a higher window. I have a different perspective from up here.