Sorry that I haven’t been around so much lately, things have been rather difficult in Natasha-land.
I know that I write about my health a lot, but I always struggle to write about my mental health. It just goes to show that there’s such a massive stigma attached to being open about mental health difficulties, even though it affects so many people. So today I’d like to share with you a little bit about what has been happening over the last few weeks, my recent trip to Paris, and the realisation that living with flexibility (ha, totes an EDS joke in there for those who know) is more important than what anyone thinks about you.
It’s one of those weird things. When the weather changes and my health declines, I get extremely frustrated. Frustrated that I’ve been in pain my entire life. Frustrated that even when I’m doing everything right my health can just hit a wall. Frustrated that at 25 I still feel dependant on others and that I can’t live the life I want to lead.
That then leads to depression. There’s a history of mood disorders in my family and so I know that I’m more prone to problems than most. I’m lucky in the sense that I generally have reactive depression – we know what’s at the root of my problems, my health (or lack thereof), pain, sickness, and anger at the life that I feel has been taken away from me. I know that I’m more privileged than many people and have had some of the most ridiculous experiences (being a guest at the royal wedding in Bhutan? Check! Being flown to India to meet Richard Branson because I show potential as an entrepreneur? Check!) But throughout those amazing experiences, I spent most of my time crying in a hotel room (or wanting to anyway) because I was in too much pain to properly enjoy the experiences.
I couldn’t eat anything at that meal either, but that was because I don’t like Indian food rather than my weird dietary requirements!
A few years ago I went to see a pain management therapist for CBT because my EDS-induced pain was becoming unbearable. CBT is NOT for me. The CBT made me even more depressed (because being in pain is hella fun) and my GP put me on anti-depressants. Three pills later I was tripping balls. I had to go to the hospital because I started hallucinating. I have been dealing with the aftermath of that ever since. I think the pills triggered something in my brain (another attempt at anti-depressants exactly a year ago elicited the same effect) & the docs don’t really understand why I’m so sensitive to medications. But I am.
All of this combined has led to me heading pretty deep into my dark place. And the fireworks for Diwali/Guy Fawkes are massive triggers for what those meds have done to my brain since taking them. I get really on edge, paranoid, jumpy.
Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve guessed it, but I’m totally mental.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m super lucky that I have an amazingly supportive boss who knows and understands my health problems. We have weekly meetings to make sure that my job isn’t negatively affecting my health. While I can force myself to push through physical health problems, when the mental problems become more intense, it’s almost impossible. A half hour Skype call with my colleague left me drained and even more miserable.
I have never wanted to stop working or take time off. In my life I have had to leave jobs that I have liked a lot (and those I haven’t!) because health problems have come up and meant I’ve been useless for a while. At nearly 26 years old this is something I still struggle with. There’s this unbelievable and overwhelming desire to be independent, but more often than not, I’m fighting a battle with my body that sometimes I’m just not equipped to win without taking some time for myself to rest and recover so I can come back with a vengeance. Because vengeance is awesome.
My boss and the head of HR basically had to convince me to take some time off of work. And I’m really glad that they did, because switching off my email and taking some time to try and get my head together without that extra stress is definitely helping.
Because I’ve been struggling so much with suicidal thoughts, ridiculous mood swings (yay for smashing shit up), misery and all that fun stuff (and my parents were super worried), I went to see my psychiatrist on Friday. Funnily enough, it was one year minus one day since I had seen him last. I’m definitely not so good this time of year. It just made me think how little had changed. Even though everything had.
I like him a lot and we chatted. I also saw a celebrity (but I won’t name names) coming out of his office, so it made me feel totally fabulous.
He told me that since I wouldn’t take any drugs (no surprise there) or go to therapy (there’s no point, I know what my problems are and there’s only so much I can say about it), I could try acupuncture or a new magnetic coil type therapy thing. So, that’s something I guess.
Saturday morning I woke up and felt that if I didn’t leave now, I didn’t know what I would do. It also doesn’t help that my hormones are totally crazy at the moment! So, after a massive argument with my parents about how leaving isn’t going to help me (they took my passport away a few weeks ago because I’d tried to do the same then), I booked a ticket and headed straight to the Eurostar to go to Paris.
Paris is my happy place, and I knew that I just needed to get out of my environment and take some time alone to think and refocus. And you know what? It helped more that I thought it would. It’s so amazing what small things can make the biggest difference to your life.
I used to live there, so I know my way around the city well. I got off the Eurostar (seriously, I wish I could get the train everywhere, it’s so much better than flying), and headed to the RER. The RER is a funny thing. They’re the double decker trains that cross Paris into the suburbs. Most of them are horridly dirty and busy. And Gare du Nord is probably one of the most unpleasant stations I know. I always remembered how frequently people used to push behind you when you put your ticket in the machine so they wouldn’t have to pay. And guess what? It happened just then.
“I’m back!”, I thought with a smile. That, and the smell of pee in the station for some reason is very Paris to me.
I dropped my suitcase off at my hotel in the Latin Quarter, and walked down to Notre Dame and then along the Seine. Music in, not really thinking about anything, but just taking in the beauty that was everywhere.
I then remembered I was two minutes away from my FAVOURITE BOOKSHOP IN THE WORLD.
Shakespeare & Co is an English language bookshop in the heart of Paris. And it’s one of those cavernous places where books crawl all the way up to the ceiling, there are secret nooks and crannies and you can just lose yourself for hours.
For the last 4 or 5 months I’ve really struggled to read for pleasure. This has been particularly difficult for me because I’m such a book lover and voracious reader. When I was stuck at home (even when my fingers were constantly dislocating and I couldn’t hold a book) I would try and get through at least one book a day. But my piles of books have remained untouched.
But just spending hours late at night in Shakespeare and Co. rekindled something for me. I finally picked some books, had them stamped (oh the memories) and walked the side streets back to my hotel.
The next day I met the lovely Noemie, aka mille1000x in Le Marais. I love meeting Instagram friends in real life, and going on foodie adventures. Unfortunately, Paris is still far behind London when it comes to the wellness revolution, but after three miles of walking (I literally didn’t know my legs were up to it) and several hours, we managed to find Bob’s Kitchen. Seriously, finding a bunch place in Paris on a Sunday without a reservation is miraculous, no matter what your diet is. We had gluten free vegan pancakes, although they hadn’t quite grasped the importance of beautiful food for Instagram, so I went snap-free for that one.
I was feeling like I was about to collapse, so I headed back to the hotel to watch a film in bed (Paris, je t’aime, naturally) and rest for a few hours. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to do anything else, but I forced myself back up and headed to Montmartre to go and take in my favourite view from the top of Sacre Coeur.
Montmartre has special memories for me. When I was a teenager I spent my first summer there on the New York Film Academy acting for film course. It was life changing. For the first time I was around people that I felt shared similar interests (I never felt comfortable in the North-West London Jewish scene) and met some people that I’m honoured to say are still some of my closest friends. So whenever I’m in the city I have to go.
Unfortunately, the tourists and the abundance of people selling cheap crap to tourists somewhat ruined the vibe, but I still took in the view as best as I could.
But I forgot about the stairs.
Bloody hell, the stairs.
But I made it back to my hotel in one piece and went almost straight to sleep. A rarity. Trust me.
But I was woken up at 8 by the cleaners. What le fudge, cleaners?!
I showered, packed, got dressed, checked out, and went to go and say hello to my friends at my old school! Which has totally moved building (WITH THE BIGGEST EFFING KITCHEN EVER) and a dangerously close proximity to les grands magasins!
I then went for my treat. Ladurée. And this is where I want to talk 80/20 with you.
I’m not perfect.
Well, that’s clear.
But even though I post plant-based food on Instagram, I do occasionally eat things that I know aren’t the best for me.
And when I do I feel guilty. Guilty that I can’t be as strong or as awesome as some of the people I followed when I first started. And also I don’t want to get hassled by people on Instagram who feel like they have an opinion about what I should or should not be eating.
But that’s kind of bollocks.
I changed my diet out of necessity but not really choice, and so as much as I credit this diet for changing my life, I still miss the foods that I grew up with. And when I’m not feeling well, my default is to go back to comfort foods. Real bread will never be replaced by a bloody gluten free, vegan superfood alternative. It’s not the same. It’s really not.
I eat so well most of the time, that every now and then I want (and deserve) a treat.
And so I had one.
Because f*** da food police.
Finding a balance in your diet and lifestyle is so important. There is food for the body and food for the soul. And I have found that every single time I have made a conscious decision to eat a beautiful dish of food that contains refined sugar or dairy or gluten (or all of the above) as a treat, I don’t have a negative physical reaction to the extent that I can’t function.
That in itself is miraculous, considering how even the healthiest foods made me feel last year.
Even if you know that changing your diet is doing wonders for your health, it can sometimes be hard not to feel restricted. And restriction sucks big time.
And I think I’ve finally realised that I don’t need to feel guilty about these treats. I was probably feeling more guilty about hiding them from my followers than anyone else….see how Instagram has taken over my life! Thank you to the beautiful Alexandra of Punch Foods for our lovely text conversation and cementing what I knew to be right. Balance and doing what is right for you at the time is more important than anything. Just so long as I’m good most of the time and am giving my body what it needs to heal, I can occasionally give my soul (not that I’m into souls, but you know what I mean) what it needs to heal too. And most of the time that’s bread.
I really hope that reading this helps people realise that it’s ok not to be ‘perfect’ all the time, and that we all make mistakes, no matter what you may see on Instagram. We’re all doing the best we can at that particular moment in time, and that’s all that matters. Ok? Good.
I left Ladurèe after a gorgeous (vegan) salad (because I’m not totally naughty), some baguette, a passionfruit and raspberry tart and some macarons. Because I’m totally naughty.
And I felt so much better for it. I felt satisfied and happy.
I walked around looking at clothes and then headed up to the top of Galleries Lafayette to their amazing terrace which has the most gorgeous view of Paris. It’s the picture right at the top. It was super warm out and I just sat there and read for hours, getting lost in the beauty of the rooftops above my favourite city and my book.
I finally forced myself up, went back to my hotel to grab my suitcase and then grab tea with Eleanore, my host mum from when I was studying here. Which was awesome. It made me realise my French isn’t as bad as I thought it was, even though I haven’t spoken it properly in about seven years. Damn, I’m old now.
After saying goodbye at the Eurostar platform, I headed up to wait for the train. Sitting in the accessible seating area (disabled, ftw…although I was asked to give up my seat along with a number of other ‘normals’ because they were reserved for people who needed them…the curse of ‘but you don’t look sick’…but I told them and didn’t have to move). There was a large family of very loud, very obnoxious Londoners who were giving me a massive headache. I overheard them (well, they shouted) that they were going to be sitting super close to me so I upgraded my ticket.
I was initially told by the train manager that there were no first class seats available because carriage 12 was closed due to problems with the air conditioning. But if I wanted I could totally sit in carriage 12.
So I got to travel home in total silence, alone, draped out with my book.
The perfect end to the trip that I needed more than anything.
The trip lifted the worst of the fog, which is the most important thing.
I’m still finding things difficult, but I think with a bit more time I will get through this bad patch. I feel a lot more content and a lot more in control, and I’m glad that for the first time I really took the time to do what I needed. No matter what anyone else said.
Here’s to better days, y’all.
Oh, and I’m finally moving into my new flat this week so that’s definitely got to help, right? Especially since I’m spending an obscene amount of money on the cutest kitchen stuff ever. I MEAN LOOK AT THESE CUPS!