(TW: Mental illness, medication, weight loss, food.)
My body is slightly dysfunctional.
Everybody, and every body, is different. Despite being part of one species we all have idiosyncrasies, deviations, and general weirdness going on. We all have different ideas of how a human body should function when it's in perfect health, but for most of us that's an ideal that we'll probably never reach. And that's ok. Some people have narrower self-imposed ideal weight and fitness ranges, some battle with self-destructive tendencies. For some of us, it's just enough to be able to make it out of bed in the morning. Whatever your goals and ideals, we all have answers to the question: What's wrong with you?
I certainly have an idea of how I'd like my own body to function and look. I have ideals that I look up to, traits I admire and challenges I wish to overcome. And, really, that's what this blog is about: documenting my struggles and how I'm attempting to deal with them, whether I'm successful or not.
The main issues I face are my mental health, sleep issues, lung problems and thyroid dysfunction. While I'll be discussing any other health issues as and when they arise, these are the problems which have the most impact on my daily life. For this first post, I figured I'd give you a brief history of how each of these factors have affected me in the past, how they affect me now, and how I expect them to affect me for the rest of my life, as well as any lifestyle changes I've made, or medications I take to accommodate them.
Mental HealthFrom about the age of eight I started having hallucinations, periods of depression, delusions, impulsive behaviours and destructive tendencies. Early on I tried to speak to doctors about it, but in their defence it's fairly uncommon for children to be successfully diagnosed with mental illnesses and it's difficult for doctors to discern whether it's mental illness or just attention seeking/hormones/imagination. About a year or so, after quite a stressful process, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, and I started taking Quetiapine. Having started on 50mg a year ago, I am now taking 250mg nightly. Recently my mental health worker has mooted the idea that I also have borderline personality disorder, because my symptoms don't fit completely neatly within either diagnosis individually. For now we're continuing with treatment of Bipolar and we're going to see how successful it is before we start worrying about Borderline Personality Disorder.
I have suffered with bouts of insomnia and sleepwalking intermittently for most of my life. Through looking at old diaries and blogs I've noticed a pattern; my periods of extreme sleeplessness occur at three-year intervals, usually starting at the beginning of summer and coinciding with hypomanic phases. I had one at 15, one at 18, one at 21 and I'm currently going through one at age 24. My doctor has given me Zopiclone to take ad-hoc when the sleep-inducing effects of Quetiapine really aren't cutting the mustard. I've actually been documenting my Zopiclone adventures on Snapchat, believe it or not, so feel free to follow me (username ElenaBella).
I've been treated for asthme on and off throughout my life, starting from very early infancy. I haven't had to use my inhaler for over a year though, so that's great. Instead I have to contend with recurring viral pleurisy (where my lung lining becomes inflamed and makes breathing difficult and painful) and pulmonary adhesions to my left lung (where the lung tissue sticks together and scars, causing diminished lung capacity). I've been quite lucky and not had pleurisy for over a year, which is lovely because it's pretty dreadful, especially when it causes pleural effusions, where the lung and chest cavity fill with fluid. Keeping fit and active are both key for me, as prevention is several miles better than cure. When I DO get pleurisy I am generally treated with Naproxen and Tramadol.
I was very recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which means that my metabolism is hindered. This means that I gain weight very easily, feel tired, weak and groggy for much of the time and struggle with myriad little niggly symptoms. I'm still getting to grips with the finer points of this new diagnosis, and I'm taking 50 micrograms of Levothyroxine every morning. Additionally I'm avoiding gluten, raw cruciferous vegetables and high-oestrogen foods (like strawberries, sweet potatoes, soy) as these are thought to affect thyroid function. I'll be using this blog to review gluten-free foods, as well as talking about whether I feel these diet changes make a difference.
Accuracy:My health is constantly changing and my diagnoses evolve accordingly, so though the above is accurate at time of posting, there is every chance that this information will become out of date! I'm in regular discussions with my healthcare providers, and I'll do my best to keep you all up to date. If you have any questions, or want a to-the-minute update then please feel free to contact me through Twitter.
I am a huge, huge supporter of body positivity, whatever size or shape a person is in and I firmly believe that you can't tell a person's overall health by looking at their size. I strongly believe that a person has the right to dress how they like, regardless of their body type, eat what they want and that all bodies are good bodies. Body police make me very angry. However, this doesn't mean that I shouldn't express a desire to change my own body shape or gain/lose weight as I see fit. I promise to try and talk about weight loss, food, body image and fitness as sensitively as I can, and if you ever think I'm speaking out of turn or being offensive please, please let me know.
I'm a big fan of appropriately-used trigger warnings. I completely understand that certain topics and themes can be distressing reading for some people, and while I want this blog to be a place to lay myself bare and talk about my issues in an open and honest way I also don't want to upset anyone. As such, I'll always include trigger warnings at the beginning of any post that needs one.