The battle continues

Even at the best of times it can be really hard to remain focused on one’s goals (regardless of how important they are) and in this case mine is to remain in target for the whole of February.

I weighed in earlier than usual (or later, depending on how you look at it) on Monday and managed to maintain my weight – coming in at exactly 13st 7lbs.

Honestly I went a bit off plan after that (don’t we all after weighing in?) and ever since I’ve been trying to slot myself back into ‘the zone‘.

When it comes to maintaining weight this is a difficult place to be because mentally you’re ‘already there’.

Often you feel like you’ve ‘done it’ – and all too easily this can translate into relaxing way too much.

In my case I did a bit – and it’s meant that I’ve eaten more than I normally would, walked a bit less, and occasionally stayed in bed listening to the wind and rain outside when I really should have gotten up and walked to the leisure centre for a swim.

It’s not been a completely ‘shut in’ week mind you. I’ve still been exercising.

For instance the other day I spent quite a while walking to, around and from Coombe Abbey.

This place always looks lovely.

It seems to also have intriguing little micro climates too – because whilst the duck pond was completely frozen over just metres away in the woods spring appeared to be in full effect!

I adore these little flashes of new life poking through the undergrowth – and it’s not just aesthetics that they’re good for.

I need to get outside in order to maintain a positive mindset – and regardless of how grey the skies are when I do (and see things like this) I’m always reminded that there’s something lovely to be found nearby.

It makes me feel connected to the world – and that I’m also alive and continually growing.

On other brighter days this week (when I’ve been out of bed early enough to see the sun come up) I’ve also been treated to some absolutely fabulous skies.

Being outside never fails to give me a sense of well-being and positivity.

There are other reasons to feel good too.

At the very least if I get up, go for a walk and have a swim then these activities offset at least some of my bad behaviour, and if I’m in a grump about over eating this causes my mood to lift.

However I have to be careful about thinking that exercise fixes everything because this is a potentially self defeating mindset to get into.

Ultimately no amount of it (at least in my experience) will make up for continually not sticking to plan.

Ultimately you’ll get sick of swimming back and forth or walking ever larger distances way before you ever get bored of eating nice food.

So this morning represents something of a line in the sand.

I really don’t like ‘drawing lines’ – because if I’m honest (for no good reason) the phrase irritates me intensely.

However today it seems appropriate. If I don’t rein in my overeating then when the end of the month rolls around I’ll be scuppered.

I decided therefore to make a stand against my own bad behaviour, get up early and go for it at the swimming pool.

Despite almost stopping and calling it a day after 60 lengths (I felt really tired!) today I pushed on and finally managed to do 100 continuous lengths at St Nicholas.

Thats 2.5km and it accounts for nearly 2000kcal burned before 9am!

I’m not chasing any records though.

I’ve stopped trying to beat previous times because I’ve pretty much plateau’d in that respect – and without significantly improving my technique (I still don’t put my head under water during the breaststroke) I doubt anything will change.

At least for the moment I’m happy to remain very much an amateur swimmer. It hasn’t hindered my ability to exercise one little bit and my average speed is still quite respectable.

There are several people doing front crawl in the ‘fast’ lane that I’m regularly keeping pace with – and so far I’ve noticed no-one at all swimming for as long or as continuously as I tend to do.

At the moment I have immense pride that when I swim in the morning I’m usually in the pool well before the usual regulars and get out well after them.

Furthermore, unlike many of them I don’t stop at all now.

The entirety of my time in the water is spent swimming, rather than pausing and nattering or taking a breather.

Whilst many people I see each day swim much faster than me almost none swim so continuously.

For those who haven’t been following my blog for a long time I only recently started swimming again (November the 16th – link) and the very first time I tried my arms simply weren’t up to the job.

I had to pause at each end of the pool for a minute or so to let the aching subside before going again.

It’s amazing how quickly this improved however – and within a couple of weeks things were quite different.

Not only am I chuffed to bits with my overall fitness and stamina gains but I’ve been really pleased with the visual and physical improvements over the last three months in my arms, chest, shoulders and back.

At times though it’s mildly disheartening – because whilst from a muscular perspective I am stronger than I’ve ever been, from a skin perspective I still have way more than I need.

However – when I embarked upon this path in life I never set out to look like a catalogue model.

I’ve always known that this will never be my reality.

My body has a history. For better or for worse I have to live with it and accept it, because there will never come a day when I decide to cut bits off for vanity.

The truth is I have learned to love some parts of myself and simply accept the bits that I currently can’t.

Then unexpectedly proof positive arrived not so long ago to remind me that this kind of thing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

My new partner in crime has proved to me that I can still be loved regardless of my imperfections.

When someone you adore can look at you and not notice (or care about) all of the faults that you think are so huge it’s a timely reminder that there’s only one real competitor in any race.

Yourself.

Only you stand between where you begin and the finish line.

Your faults, failures, flaws and shortcomings are never as big as you think they are – and even if some of these seem larger than life it really only ever comes down to your personal opinion.

If self belief and self perception are aligned then you can accomplish amazing things – and it never hurts for me to remind yourself of this.

I continue to do this with comparison shots.

Whilst I still have an uneasy relationship with pictures of myself from the past and present nothing makes me prouder than contrasting a practically immobile man that I no longer recognise in an 8XL shirt and 66in waist trousers with a guy wearing a medium jacket and 34in jeans.

It’s also worthwhile remembering when I look at these that I’ve effectively lost more than an entire overweight father (sitting to the right of me) who told me when I started in April 2016 that I had to lose more than his (at the time) 19st frame to get to where I needed to be.

It’s also something of a personal triumph to know that his confessed irritation with seeing me drop from almost 35st to below his weight proved to be a catalyst for him to take action.

Consequently he lost pretty much all of his excess too – and my father (who is not far away from his 80th annual increment) now weighs in at a lower weight than I do – having lost somewhere between 6-7 stone.

So – the (endless) battle continues.

For all of us.

Just like my dad I’m still working towards my goals, still trying to get better, and still challenging myself to do new things.

Hopefully by the end of February internet this attitude will pay dividends and I’ll get my diamond target member badge.

You’ll have to come back and see if I do closer to the time!

Davey

Health outcomes and why you should try

It’s that time of year again. Around about now I’m reminded of the past as well as who I used to be – and for a number of reasons this can prove to be a mentally tricky period.

Firstly it’s time for my semi annual diabetes checks and I always get a bit nervous when these roll around.

This morning I headed off to the first of two appointments that I’ve got to attend over the next week with a nice warm urine sample tucked away discreetly in my bag.

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

In some ways the checks are always a bit amusing – because each time I go there seems to be a new(ish) nurse. Typically this means that I have to plod through broadly the same suite of queries as they look me up and down and then do a double take on my medical history.

Firstly they think they’re looking at the notes for the wrong person – because lately my test results show no evidence of diabetes whatsoever. Secondly they do a double take when they see the history of my weight.

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

Today it wasn’t so bad, and before the nurse started asking me questions I quickly explained how much weight I’d lost, how much exercise I do, and why my resting heart rate is so low (40 bpm).

She seemed surprised – but also very interested and as she took my blood pressure we chatted about how I viewed the whole process of weight loss – and in particular my opinion of Slimming World vs hers.

She wasn’t so keen on the plan because (she said) it ‘promoted large portions’ and ‘had a lot of carbs in it’ – which (to her) meant that people would inevitably regain the weight that they had originally lost.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this argument.

I told her that I both agreed and disagreed with some of her points – because in my view whether you regain any weight depends firstly on your mindset and secondly on what you eat in terms of processed food.

I told her that the majority of my syns came from unprocessed natural food (olives or avocado etc) as opposed to things like chocolate.

I then said that I feel though (and always have) that it’s folly to have a diet plan that doesn’t allow for processed food like chocolate to be eaten (who these days would embark upon any plan if it completely denied them?) and occasionally I too eat these things – but in serious moderation.

The vast majority of the time I only have one item of processed food per day – and for around three days out of seven there’s often none at all. However (I told her) I’ve always felt that you can lose weight having processed food as part of your daily intake.

But did I think this was the right approach?

No I didn’t – because I personally feel that if you want a healthier life it’s not as simple as just counting ‘syns’.

Although it works for some people you will never catch me with a ‘syn bag’ full of crisps and chocolate in front of the TV in the evening.

Sure this can still see people lose weight – because ultimately it’s (at least partially but not exclusively) about being mindful of calorie intakes.

But what happens if you fall from grace and you still have a taste for these foods?

This is also why I don’t do ‘fakeaways’. I don’t want to crave these tastes any more and it often irritates the hell out of me that I still have a ‘need’ for cereal or hi-fi bars – which I’d much rather was completely replaced by fruit as a regular craving.

In my view you should aim to take as much processed food out of your life as possible.

At the very least you should diminish it to the point where your fridge is almost exclusively full of raw vegetables and (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) a small amount of meat and fish (particularly oily ones).

The nattering about the merits (or otherwise) of my approach to SW soon stopped however, because the first of the two appointments is only a short twenty minute one to gather data.

It’s not until next week that I get the HbA1c (average sugar levels fr the last 2/3 months based on my blood sample) results – which I’m most interested in.

They have recently been so low as to not register even as pre-diabetic, and I’m keen to keep them that way. I see diabetes as a beast waiting to pounce rather than something thats been cured. In my mind it’s always chasing me in the rear view mirror – and if I take my foot off the gas then it could come back at any time.

The one result I could get immediately though is my blood pressure – which irritatingly appears to be somewhat elevated since the last time it was checked – although I did arrive at the appointment after a rather brisk walk.

The last time I looked it was 116/68 – but today it was different.

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Since blood pressure isn’t something that’s typically on my radar I always end up having to google what these readings mean – and according to the NHS website I appear (at least today) to be annoyingly on the cusp of pre-hypertension.

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Their advice states:

Your blood pressure is described as being high-normal and ideally, it should be below 120/80mmHg. Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, it can be brought under control through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight (if overweight)
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
  • You may also need medication

There’s not really an awful lot left on this list to change other than caffeine which is my one remaining vice.

Truthfully it’s a big one – and I’ve often felt that my willingness to remove other more harmful things from my life has been at the expense of a significant increase in coffee consumption.

It’s my go to drink of choice – and as I type at 11.15 I’m already on my fourth one of the day.

Maybe I’ll have to change this aspect of my lifestyle, because heaven knows I can’t easily lose any more weight, reduce any more salt or do any more exercise (I’m currently burning a total of around 4500-5000 kcal a day).

Sigh.

How annoying.

This brings me to my second reason for remembering the past – because in just over a week’s time I will have been sober for three years.

This (now comfortingly regular) annual milestone is a double edged sword, because whilst it makes me feel no small amount of pride it also carries with it a deep sense of regret.

This is related partially to my inability to control myself in the past – but primarily to the death of my mother, which happened two days after I gave up drinking on the 26th of January 2016.

Although many may view the latter as the more significant of the two anniversaries I only tend remember it because of the former.

This subject came up today when talking to my nurse – because she asked me (as many people do) why it was I suddenly decided to change.

It came up in conversation earlier in the week when I was visiting a friend in Lichfield.

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As we walked around the town and explored the cathedral I chatted about this upcoming event (it’s been on my mind for a while if I’m honest) and how I can never seem to manage to separate my personal triumphs from their associated emotions of guilt and regret.

I feel guilt because (despite the fact that my mother was a continually detrimental influence in my life) I don’t miss my her at all – and I never feel sadness because someone that I loved is gone forever.

Typically I don’t think about my mom at all day to day. The anniversary of her passing (as significant as it should probably be) only provides an overwhelming sense of relief that the abuse I endured at her hands is over.

As well as guilt I also feel regret – because ultimately although she proved to be the catalyst for most of the positive changes that I made I wish I’d been able to do it for more positive reasons.

I ultimately chose to change because I didn’t want to be anything like my mother. I suddenly needed to move away from any possible correlation between me and her at a million miles an hour.

It’s because of that impulse that I am now an infinitely better man than I ever was before.

The annoying thing is though I didn’t do it for love of myself or anyone else.

I did it because I had no love at all for her and I couldn’t stand seeing any element of my mother when I looked in the mirror.

If anything I hated myself way more than I disliked her and it was this personal revulsion that fuelled my actions.

I regret my reasons because I would have been delighted to have suddenly decided without any prompting that I needed to be a better man who deserved a future filled with love and happiness – but I didn’t. Instead it took other (far more negative) emotions to begin the process of becoming the man that I am today.

For some reason I don’t ever seem to let myself escape that fact.

The truth is that it makes it really really hard when people ask me for advice on how to change because I can’t suggest they wait until a parent who has mentally abused them for most of their childhood and adult life passes away before they change.

The truth is I don’t know if I would have ever become a different person without this event – and I might be the one that would have been dead now if she hadn’t beaten me to it.

However – what I do know is that although the even that created the man I am now was predominantly negative, the results were almost exclusively positive – because when the ball started rolling my mindset changed to a fundamentally better one.

I can now see many of the ‘truths’ I subscribed to back then as nothing more than self delusion. My approach to life these days is rooted making choices because they are the right ones – not despite the fact that they are.

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

I choose to share my failures and successes so that they will help others.

So maybe (just maybe) I will give up caffeine too. Maybe it’s one of the final crutches I’ve been clinging on to, in the mistaken belief that I still need something that’s a ‘vice’ so that I won’t go quietly crazy.

The truth is that I don’t really need any substance to make me feel good any more. All I need is the security of knowing that my choices are the right ones, that I have people in my life that I care deeply about, and that I feel loved.

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

People not motivated by wanting to live longer arguably don’t fully appreciate the life that they have. Maybe this is because it’s never hung in the balance or because nothing has threatened to take it away prematurely.

In my case I nearly threw all of it away on a casual whim because I didn’t care about myself.

Now I do – and I want to do anything and everything that I can to keep feeling the way that I do because I love each and every day of my life. It’s why each morning I get up and start walking, swimming, hiking or making other healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s why YOU should too.

Whatever your reason to do so – choose to be better.

Davey

Alive

Although I’ve been in a positive place this week I’ve also been quite reflective as well.

I’ve found myself (unexpectedly) considering ‘what it all means’ and what my place in the world is – and I’ve also been considering how feelings regarding bereavement change over time.

When my mother passed away a couple of years ago I really didn’t want a funeral. She’d been objectionable enough in life to leave me with a rather blunt and bullish approach to what I should do with her body after death.

I’m quite matter of fact about some things and not overly sentimental where perhaps I should be.

At the time I didn’t want a funeral. I really didn’t see the point.  As far as I was concerned the person I knew (who had been almost universally horrible to me for many years) was dead and gone. Wasting money on a coffin and service seemed like something society expected rather than an event I needed.

It was a racket and I didn’t want to get involved.

The decision wasn’t mine alone though – and it was this fact that led me to modify my original stance and lean toward a more accommodating solution.

The truth of it is that whether you realise it or not when someone dies you’re grieving.

That may sound obvious to many – but I don’t think to me at the time it was – because the emotions that I felt were not the ones I’d typically associate with grief or a sense of loss.

I know now that grief is a very flexible concept. For me (regarding my mother) it had no form that I could quantifiably define – and instead of being the stereotypical sadness that I expected was associated with the loss of a significant other (particularly a parent) it was far more complex.

Grief in my case turned out to be a mixture of many emotions I’d have never normally have linked with death. In no particular order these included:

  • Relief
  • Happiness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

The funeral we eventually agreed upon was a cremation. It was to be a simple affair with a eulogy read by an non-denominational speaker and a coffin that disappeared after a few songs and empty words into the embrace of a furnace.

At least that’s how I saw it in my mind before I was part of it.

Sitting there I was struck that we were all in the same place remembering the same person for the different reasons. Most of the feelings in the room I suspect were quite negative – but mixed amongst them were also tears – and unexpectedly some of them were my own.

Once the day had passed I didn’t dwell on it too much (at least I don’t think I did) and instead busied myself with other mountains that I had to climb. I had been (up until two days before her death) a highly functioning alcoholic and I was around 35 stone. Real personal change was needed if the next funeral wasn’t going to be my own.

I focused all of my attention on ‘moving on’ and ‘getting better’.

This was worth it – because I definitely achieved what I set out to do. I smashed my goals and successfully turned my life around.

I’m still sober after almost two and a half years) and I’m over twenty stone lighter

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However, while this has been undeniably beneficial from a health perspective maybe it came with a cost in other respects – because now I’ve achieved my target I’ve been left thinking (not all the time – but in more reflective periods) ‘what does it all mean and who am I now?’

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this at such a time – because with any kind of radical life change it’s impossible to not consider who you’ve become in relation to the world around you.

How do I fit in with the people and conventions that surround me now?

Things were one way for so long that they defined me as a person.

For all the insights that I can tangibly and quantifiably say I have gained into myself over the last two and a half years there are still certain areas of my life that are frightening when I consider them and because of that I’ve avoided dealing with them.

To a greater or lesser extent I tend to bypass them completely and maybe because of that from time to time rather more acute feelings surface.

That there are definitely elements of me that I consciously or subconsciously put on hold so that I could focus on what I needed to do.

Through necessity I placed them in hibernation whilst I marshalled other more useful aspects of myself and brought them to the forefront.

Maybe now then it’s natural for thoughts regarding love and loss to come back into my mind – because it’s no longer clouded with an obsessive need to lose weight. This week therefore I find myself (both in my dreams and waking thoughts) back at a graveside – faced yet again with the loss of a parent – and quite out of the blue I feel sad.

The complexity of grief is such that I don’t feel this way because I miss her (that’s probably never something that will come to pass) but because it took so much pain and so much heartache over so much time for so much good to happen in my life.

I’m drawn back to her funeral and I think that I now realise its purpose.

It’s a day that can never be undone. It’s a moment that will never fade and it served as a full stop. It was the ultimate punctuation mark that life provides to enable a carriage return and a new paragraph.

Without it I think I would be a poorer person because I’d be left with a gap where an end point should be and I now know how crucial it was to make sure it took place.

A funeral may not offer closure at that moment in time. It may not even do it in the medium term – but feelings are funny things and many of our emotions are complex tapestries woven from years of ever changing memories.

Now, in the warm light of a sunny morning a couple of years later I feel blessed that I attended that day and happy that I congregated with others to remember her.

It doesn’t matter any more how we felt about each other in life – and it doesn’t matter how anyone else there felt about her either.

It was an end point and it had to occur so that the healing could begin and people could start to move on. The truth of it is that we are all linear beings and we define ourselves based on the passage of time and events along the way to the inevitable.

If we choose to hide from or ignore them it doesn’t mean to say that the feelings associated with the event go away – it just means that you don’t deal with them.

So, yes I’ve felt a bit sad this week – and yes I’m sorry that things ended the way that they did – but that’s a good thing because this signposts growth and moving on. It means that my mind is busy spring cleaning itself and continually re-formatting what it needs to be for the tasks ahead.

It means I’m alive internet.

Davey

Loud shirts are back baby!

Sadly I still feel rough as hell but on a day like today I’d be a complete muppet to stay in bed and be ill.

It’s absolutely flipping gorgeous outside at the moment and I’ve been up early (armed with tissues) walking around in the sunshine and feeling generally pretty good about life.

It doesn’t take much convincing for me to wear a loud shirt – and today is no exception, because ever since I received a really generous gift for my birthday (given to me by a kind extended family member who posted it all the way from Indonesia) I’ve been dying for the right weather to break this bad boy out – and TODAY WAS THE DAY!!!

Let the summer commence!!!

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I’m meeting my brother and sister in law for a coffee and whilst I’ve been idling away the hour prior to our scheduled appointment I’ve been walking around the parks of Leamington – which are currently a riot of colour.

With flowers like this everywhere it’s next to impossible to not feel super positive about life.

It did help that the day started pretty well in socialmedialand too – and quite out of the blue I was tagged in a post relating to a photo I made a while back for a Slimming World award that didn’t exist – and had to be created.

The Club 50.

Just like most things on the internet it’s next to impossible to create something that no-one has thought of before and this is no exception.

If you head over to Instagram here (link) you’ll see what I mean.

They’re a bunch of people who’ve totally turned their lives around by doing this (and often quite a lot more too) – and it’s genuinely a wonderful feeling to unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of a bunch of positivity that strikes such a resonant chord.

People can do so much when they put their mind to it – and they can also be pretty generous and awesome at the same time too. For all the downsides to social media (Donald Trump I’m looking at you…) things like this just make me feel like part of a much bigger community of like minded people that otherwise would probably never get to hear of each other or ever connect.

Ain’t life cool?

(Goes for coffee, does a bit of shopping, comes home and finishes the gardening postponed from yesterday)

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After a really good nattery catch up (and some pretty flipping nice coffee at Corleone’s in Leamington) I decided that I’d go and see if I could find some bargains – and I did.

I got a superb pair of 36in waisted long leg shorts for a fiver (which replaced the cargo ones that were too big for me and had to be taken to charity a month ago) and a really cool pair of lightweight cotton pyjama/lounge trousers for the summer.

What’s more, by the time I’d walked home the grass at the front of my house was nice and dry so I spent a while completing its first haircut of the year.

Unbelievably when I stepped out to retrieve the mower from my shed the back lawn (trimmed yesterday) had some fully grown dandelions in the middle of it already!!!! How flipping fast do those things grow?! They’re the flower equivalent of bluebottles! It’s astounding how quickly they spring up (no pun intended)…

Anyway – the next order of the day is food. At the moment there’s a chicken & chorizo chilli stew bubbling away in my slow cooker – and frankly I’m Hank Marvin.

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I’m not gonna lie.

I’m gonna eat all of it  and since I put way too much chilli in it this morning I’m also probably going to regret it dearly. However I also have some nice cold natural yogurt and some frozen berries on standby for dessert, so there’s going to be a remedy close to hand.

Whilst I eat this I’m also going to be watching (through chilli tears) the new ‘Lost in Space’ series on Netflix (It’s pretty good so far!) and basically just loving every last minute of my Sunday afternoon – which I plan to make as chilled as it can possibly be internet!

Davey

Part Five: The road not yet walked

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) Part Three (here) and Part Four (here). By now you know the drill. This time it’s gonna be a really long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

By the way – if you’re still reading after all those other episodes then kudos to you for your staying power. You rock.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

We start this time in 2014.

At this point I’m sick. Really sick – way more than I want to admit to myself. As I look back now I have no idea how I was still functioning in any capacity.

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I’ve already been referred to the obesity unit of Covetry hospital and they want to perform gastric sleeve surgery on me. This entails cutting 4/5ths of my stomach out of my body and throwing it in the bin.

I can’t face the horror of it and I’ve retreated even further into my self destructive drinking and eating habits.

I’m only a shade over 40 years old and my medicated and incidental conditions are:

  • Blood pressure shows signs of hyper-tension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea so bad that I could only breathe lying on my left side or sitting upright in my armchair, but still woke up almost every hour in the night terrified I was suffocating
  • Odemas (water retention) in both ankles
  • The beginnings of gout
  • Cellulitis
  • Eczema everywhere (particularly on my hands and face)
  • Wrecked (and very painful) knees that couldn’t support my weight and constant lower back pain – meaning I was barely able to stand after a few minutes unless I was resting on a supporting surface
  • Type 2 diabetes

I’ve become a burden to the NHS and have been given a card entitling me to free prescriptions because I’m likely to need so many things as time goes on. When I return from the chemist this is the typical content of my (rather large) paper bag.

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Walking is agonising.

My feet and ankles are constantly alternating between a sensation of itching, burning or freezing. They almost never stop tingling and I keep getting breakouts of cellulitis (requiring lots of antibiotics) which are so bad that they confine me to bed for at least a week at a time.

The swelling in my feet only reduces when I lie down – which I can’t accomplish easily because if I do then I cant breathe properly. I can also only lie down on my bed because I don’t fit on my sofa.

If I sit in my armchair with my feet up then my huge stomach presses on the tops of my legs and my ankles steadily grow until I have to lie on the floor.

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I can barely get out of my armchair to stand up so that I can relieve the pressure on my legs. If I do I then I soon need to kneel or crouch down to relieve the pressure on my lower back.

I can no longer do this and stand back up because of my knees so I often find myself face down on the sofa with my knees on the floor which is sometimes the only position left to me where nothing hurts. Eventually it too becomes uncomfortable and I can’t breathe because I can’t rest for too long on my stomach.

I have my shopping delivered because I can’t walk the entire way around the supermarket without sitting down and it’s been years since I’ve been able to fit in my bath.

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I can only go places in my car but I’m so heavy that when trying to steady myself I have already managed to snap my steering wheel almost completely in half.

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I rarely go to new places because I’ve become scared that I won’t physically fit into the seats they have. Even if I can I worry that I won’t be able to park close enough to the location and find myself unable to walk there and back or trapped without a place to rest.

This worry starts weeks in advance of any appointment and I continually obsess over the potential problems until the stress is too much and I cancel.

I’ve even missed my brother’s wedding because of this.

However – out of all of these huge problems my diabetes is the thing that’s worrying me the most.

I’ve started obsessing over losing my eyesight (the diabetes hasn’t helped this at all and I need glasses to read) losing the sensation in my extremeties, becoming type one, needing to inject Insulin and eventually having to have things amputated.

When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 I was wetting the bed because I couldnt get to the toilet in time. I hadn’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time for over six months, was absolutely at my wits end and completely shattered.

When the results finally came back from my HbA1c test it showed a level of 94. If it was just a little higher it wouldnt have even been on my doctor’s wall chart any more.

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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As I’ve mentioned in the linked posts above that even as a young man I was fully expecting to die.

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

My life had become so agonising, restricted and small that I actually wanted it to happen.

At this point in time I start to admit to myself when I’m drunk (I never tell anyone else this secret) that this is because I am too much of a coward to kill myself. I just want to finally bring an end to the misery of every single increasingly impossible day.

(Autor’s note – I’ve been extensive and frank here because I want everyone to understand how bad things had become. I want them to know this because then I want them to recognise that they too can start to change.)

Now I’ve set the rather grim scene let’s jump forward a little to September 2015.

In order to ease the pain of dealing with my dying mother I engage in retail therapy and buy an Apple Watch.

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It only just fits with the longest of the two supplied straps on the last notch. I momentarily fiddle with it and then largely ignore it even though it sits on my wrist every day.

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

I’m around 35 stone, my blood HbA1c is now reading 74 and it’s been just over two weeks since I had any alcohol. I’m still in denial about what its going to take to fix my many problems. However long held opinions about what I can or can’t do are starting to change in my head and my perspective is gradually shifting.

I try to walk to the end of my street (link). I barely make it but establish that my radius is around 400 metres if I take a break in the middle. A week later I try to walk around the block.

I tear both of my calf musles, pull the plantar tendon in my right foot and develop plantar faciitis – these injuries ultimately result in shin splints affecting both legs.

I realise later that the tendons in my legs have stortened because I spent years sitting down with my feet up.

I persist however and on the 29th of February 2016 I try my exercise bike instead. I can only pedal for five minutes before I have to stop (link).

On April the 16th I decide to join Slimming World and as the weight comes off I begin to feel a bit more sprightly – so on the 29th May I decide to get up and go to the park to see how far I can now walk (link).

The answer is ‘not very’.

It’s about 150 metres in my case – but there are a lot of benches so I start going to St Nicholas regularly. I like the swans there and name the cygnets swanlings. They keep me going back because I want to see how they progress. In a way I feel my own gradual growth mirrors the only survivor from a group of five babies.

I’ve been inspired by a man who mentioned in my group that he walks four miles in the morning before coming to weigh in.

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

In contrast I cant yet walk a mile without sitting every 200 metres or so. It takes me well over an hour to accomplish that and my plantar fasciitis is a constant issue – but slowly I start to get better.

Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to walk. I’ve been told at work I’m being made redundant so I won’t be able to afford a gym membership and walking is free. I also want to feel a part of the world again – and not scared to step out of my front door.

So I make a decision to make this ‘my thing’.

In order to try and track this I use an app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’. It’s crap and crashes all the time – however Apple watch has been gathering a total of the distance I walk and it’s slowly adding up.

Walking also has another benefit.

I’ve lived in such a small world for so long where I just endlessly moved between work and home that I’ve become terrified that I’ll find myself trapped out in the open and unable to get back to my house if my car breaks down.

I very consciously start to try and walk the distances to places that I would regularly drive to by making half of the journey in my car and the rest on foot.

I park further and further away each time and bit by bit I extend my range and reduce my fear.

It’s now late August.

Around this time I realise that I no longer wear my glasses. I can’t remember the last time I put them on.

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

My friend points out that I’ve almost walked the length of the channel tunnel in a week and I’m amazed when I add it up that she’s right (link). A while later I mention this in my group and another friend suggests that I plot my progress over a virtual route – and although I’m initially resistant (I never used to say yes to a lot) I decide to take the challenge on – and decide to calculate how far I’ve walked and compare it to Lands end to John o Groats (link).

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

  1. The whole time I’ve been walking I had a workout app on my watch and I never used it. I’ve now started and it’s really good. It’s saving not only my distance – but an accurate representation of my split times per mile.
  2. The green exercise ring on my watch is set at an un-modifiable 30 minutes because of a massive body of evidence suggesting that 30 minutes exercise a day has incredible health benefits.
  3. Point two is correct

I visit the doctor (link) and I’m told that the results for my HbA1c are now 30. All of a sudden I’m no longer on their chart and I’m told to discontinue one of the two medications I’m taking. My cholesterol levels have plummeted and I’m told my blood pressure is excellent.

I’m amazed.

Over the coming months I continue to up my walking. My increased level of exercise and radically improved diet has enabled something wonderful.

I’m feeling connected to people in a way that I never have before. Everyone seems to be swept along with my newfound enthusiasm to go twalking.

I make sure every time I go for a walk with someone that I’m proactive and try to organise the next walk at the end.

This means that my exercise is never a burden. I’m just meeting people I like to catch up with them about how they are.

I’m finding that is not only cementing good habits into my life but it’s quietly promoting little changes with other people too. I begin to see evidence that people are going for their own ‘twalks‘ and that I seem to be unconsciously promoting good behaviour elsewhere just by regularly doing something in public and showing how it affects me and my health.

By late October I’ve lost an entire fridge freezer in weight (link).

Things like this just motivate me even more and are a huge factor in me pushing myself to average almost five miles a day.

I still suffer from dark moods though – and even though the weight keeps falling off my mind can be my own worst enemy. I’m terrified that I’ll ‘plateau’ and get to a point where I give up.

Although I doubt she realised its significance a lady at my group (who loves the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’) picks up on the moods in my blog and in person – and every time she sees me downbeat tells me to ‘just keep swimming’ (link).

Sometimes little things like this make all the difference. Over time this has stuck in my head and I find that I’m saying to myself and others over and over again ‘just keep walking’ or ‘ just keep putting one foot in front of the other ‘.

This means that whenever I encounter a problem or an emotional rut I no longer retreat to a sedentary pursuit for answers and I instead try to think things through with a walk.

Even if I can’t find an answer it makes me feel better – and often realise that there is no answer needed. It’s just my mind playing games and building catastrophes out of nothing.

So I just keep walking.

The cumulatively increasing effort and distance means that by the end of December I’ve actually managed to do it.

I’ve walked the whole distance I wanted to and more besides.

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I’ve also begun to grasp how powerful the data is that my Apple Watch has been collecting on me since I put it on my wrist. It prompts me to work out how much I used to consume.

I’m stunned to read that I needed 7500kcal a day just to sit in my armchair (link).

Without understanding what I was doing when I put Apple Watch on my wrist I enabled myself to see an end to end view of my fitness. Even when I didnt care it still kept a tally and as time went on I was able to see the gradual progress I was making in almost every area of life.

The more I did the more it made me realise I could do.

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

I’ve started a new job in an office. I have to drive there and spend all day long sitting there.

It drives me instantly insane, and although through a combination of my exercise bike and walking during my lunch hour and after work I maintain my exercise levels I know instantly deep down that something has changed.

I can’t just drive to an office every day any more – so I leave after three weeks, feeling like a total failure – but I want a different life now.

Unable to resolve the problem in my mind I resolve to temporarily ignore it and ‘just keep walking’.

Since I started twalking with friends I’d been saying to them (often not fully believing that I would do it) that I’d climb Mt Snowdon, and I start training with little hills (there aren’t many in Warwick) to try and build my stamina.

I do this firstly with Burton Dassett (link) then the more challenging Malvern hills (link).

The latter absolutely kills my knees and I’m completely knackered by the end of the day – but I can do it! I can finally climb really challenging gradients!

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It’s now April 2017 and I have a HbA1c reading of 29 (link).

I’ve already discontinued my diabetes medication by this point and I’m managing my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Furthermore – by the time that my one year anniversary at Slimming World arrives (link) I realise that I’ve not only cumulatively walked from Lands end to John o Groats I’ve walked back again too!!!

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By June I’m regularly tackling gradients and working towards my goal. I spend more and more time in places like Burton Dasset and Ilmington downs (link).

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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When the big day arrives in July I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

I take the first day off Slimming World that I’ve had since I started and on Saturday the 22nd July (weighing around 19.5st) I climb Snowdon with my friend (link).

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Words simply can’t do it justice. It’s a truly fantastic moment. I’ve gone from a man who could hardly get out of his armchair to standing on top of a mountain. I’m quite literally on top of the world.

It’s now August.

I can’t stop now. I love walking so much that I’m incapable of not putting one foot in front of the other.

I use it for everything in life. It’s become part of my DNA and everyone I know asks if I want to go for a walk when they suggest meeting up. I mention it so often that twalking appears to have entered the vocabulary of everyone I know, and many that I don’t.

Furthermore I’ve found another job – and this time it’s local (link). I can walk to work every day and fit my exercise invisibly into what I do.

Once again the job turns out to be something that’s not for me – but during the time I’m there I realise that all the exercise I’m doing appears to have altered my mental capabilities.

I always considered myself to be someone that struggled in classrooms to pick things up and that information didn’t get retained quickly. I always felt that I wasn’t agile enough when others around me grasped new concepts or processes at work.

Whilst in this job I’m the top of the class. I pick everything up way quicker than I ever would have before and for the very first time I realise that my mind has benefited from all of the exercise too.

Not only am I more positive but I can think on my feet and adapt in discussions and meetings like never before. I feel instantly more capable.

I leave the job and with it I leave behind a fear of change that I’ve had my entire adult life.

If I can adapt to anything then there’s no longer a need to be frightened – so I trust that things will just work themselves out and keep walking.

I do it so much that now I’ve walked the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York (link).

By this time I’m regularly forgetting that I ever had diabetes in the first place – but I’m still going for tests (link). When I do they report that my HbA1c readings have now dropped even further and are at a stupendous 28. My blood pressure is also excellent – but I’m still taking Statins.

If in doubt I just keep walking. Whatever the weather.

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It’s now January 2018

Thanks to Apple Watch keeping a dilligent eye on me since I put it on I can see how much I’ve improved over time. I’ve gradually moved from doing less than 5 minutes exercise a day in 2016 to an average of over two hours a day.

Furthermore, after 21 months of trying on the way to work one morning I finally mange to crack the fifteen minute mile (link).

I can now walk four miles in an hour – just like the man in group told me he could back when I started Slimming World.

I’ve never been so fit in my life and I feel wonderful.

February 2018.

I’ve finally found a use for my old clothes.

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I hit my target weight of 14 stone 7lbs (link) and when I do (after I stop crying and find a way out of my old trouser leg) the way I celebrate is with a walk around the park (link).

In a surprise move my friend marks the occasion by secretly arranging for almost everyone I’ve walked with along my journey to join us.

The exercise (twalking) that I have done over the last two years has meant that I spend more quality time with people that matter to me than I have at any other point in my life. My friendships have strengthened immesurably and I feel loved.

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A few days later In what may be my last but one HbA1c test (link) my results now show a reading of 25. My blood pressure resembles that of a much younger man, my resting heart rate is around 40bpm and I’m also told that my cholesterol medication can be discontinued.

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It’s not the only thing I can get rid of. My much hated pill dispenser can finally go in the bin along with my unused pills. It looks very different on its last day of employment compared to when I first started using it.

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So – what’s transpired here?

Well – these I feel are the lessons I’ve learned through gradually increasing and then learning to love my activity.

  • If you can’t go far it doesnt matter. Just try to go a little bit further either day. Start small.
  • Try to do it with friends if you can
  • Do something that’s free if at all possible. Gyms require willpower – but walking the dog or getting a pint of milk doesn’t.
  • Try and build it into your daily routine – then it won’t involve willpower. If you want to go for a coffee make a deal with yourself that you wont use the car when you do.
  • You can lose weight without exercise – but with it you’ll lose it faster, stand a better chance of keeping it off and feel positive and alive, meaning you won’t lose focus.
  • Get a fitness wearable if you can. Mine changed my life.
  • Track your progress and document everything that you can from the beginning even if you hate doing it. You’ll be glad you did afterwards.
  • Don’t lose hope. Not everything can be completely fixed but almost everything can be immesurably improved.
  • You can do more than you ever thought you could. It’s all about trying rather than doing nothing
  • Things might cumulatively creep up on you – and eventually you might suddenly realise that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. But paint eventually dries. You can gently step on it and make your way back from a place that seems hopeless.
  • Don’t end your life. You’re worth so much more.

Finally – this is my complete list of non-scale victories. I couldnt have done it without exercise.

Go HERE.

Davey

Part three: Suppression

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) and Part Two (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

Part two: The beginnings of honesty

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here).

If you’ve already done that (and you have a cup of tea or coffee ready to go) then let me continue…

(note – bits highlighted in red are things I feel are important. In this ongoing little series they’re the lessons I think I’ve learned along the way.)

In early February 2016 I was just beginning to lift my head above water. I felt like I’d been drowning for the longest time and (by then sober for around two short weeks) I was also trying to deal with the mountains of stuff left behind when my mother died.

It was frankly more than enough to drive a man to drink.

Everywhere I turned there were hidden things squirrelled away. As well as piles of soap, detergent and hundreds of drawings or paintings in the most unexpected of places I was also discovering other, more disturbing things.

There were orderly manuals for how to interact with people (written by her many years before she became ill) and hair in little bags (collected for decades both from her and her children) that were chronologically labelled as DNA samples for testing.

Occasionally I also found more valuable items such as photos, correspondence, bills, stamps or money which meant that I couldn’t just throw it all in a skip. I had to wade through every single box and bag of it.

The process was both upsetting and unsettling, I was looking inside the chaotic mind of a woman that I had never understood. As well as as being a task that was mentally difficult to deal with it was a physical challenge too.

I wasn’t a fit man and it was wearing me out just looking at the scale of the problem in her bungalow.

 

Everything was in disarray – and as I was trying to withdraw from alcohol I realised that I’d probably chosen one of the most stressful times of my life to do it.

I didn’t feel like I was getting better.

I felt as far from ‘better’ as it was possible to be in fact – and it seemed that absolutely everything was wrong with my life. It was completely out of balance and even when faced with the death of a parent I was preoccupied with trying to understand the cause of a deep emotional numbness that had been with me as long as I could remember.

For many years I hadn’t even been able to ask why I felt it – because I couldn’t vocalise what it was. Frustratingly, even when I finally managed to put it into words I found that I was still no closer to an answer.

The question that I couldn’t resolve was ‘what do I love?

Sure – I could say that people fitted into this category – because I genuinely loved my friends and family – but I didn’t mean the love that came from a relationship.

No matter how many times I asked myself this there was no response. There was just a blank space – a placeholder for where the answer should be. An empty podium with no medal winner.

Then one day I accepted the truth and it was horrible. I felt like screaming because deep down I had always known the answer. It was way worse than not knowing what I loved because I hadn’t faced up to the bleak reality of what this really said about me.

I loved nothing. I had a passion for nothing. I existed to do nothing. My total contribution to the world if I had died immediately would have been nothing.

What I’d begun to recognise is that I was nothing more than a consumer. I had voraciously consumed everything around me for my entire adult life.

Throughout it I’d had an endless appetite for food, alcohol, cigarettes, ‘stronger substances’, video games, box sets, music, DVD’s, magazines, books, trash television – the list went on and on.

I spent my spare money on ‘things’ because I ‘loved’ the ‘things’ that I bought. I thought the ‘things’ gave me pleasure.

I didn’t really love them though, and they certainly didn’t make me truly happy. Buying a huge television and a games console with the latest game and a Blu-ray made me ‘feel’ for moments – and then I once again became just as empty as my wallet.

Films and television were providing my emotions for me – serving them up endlessly to be consumed. Conveniently I could also turn them on and off at will. If I wanted to feel happy I watched something funny. If I was angry I played a violent video game. If I wanted to numb myself I got drunk.

I managed everything with external inputs and nothing came from inside.

Living like I had for so long, being anaesthetised to the reality of what it meant to be part of the world around me made me question whether I could love anything anymore.

I’d been hiding how I felt about this and and other things about myself for so long that I felt like I was about to burst. Back then It seemed that for my entire time on earth I’d been trying to pretend that everything was ok when really it was as far from OK as it’s possible to be.

In public I was controlled, ordered, dependable and a known quantity. I was a reliable and safe pair of hands in the workplace where I was a team leader and tried to be outgoing, cheerful and gregarious as soon as I walked through the door.

In my personal life I made sure that I supported my friends and family whenever I could and wanted them to feel that if they needed me they knew they could call at any time of day or night.

I almost never asked for help though. Not because I thought they wouldn’t give it – because they would have, but because if I did then it meant not only that I was admitting I couldn’t cope – but because doing so would force me to deal with the causes – and that I was never ready to do. 

So I did two things.

One was a bad idea, and the other was one of the best decisions of my life.

Firstly I handed in my notice at work. This was the bad idea. Being unemployed whilst also a recovering alcoholic dealing with a bereavement and suddenly faced with endless free time on my hands wouldn’t have helped.

Secondly came the good idea – and after handing in my notice I wrote my first ever blog post (link).

Despite what people might think I didn’t start doing this in public because I wanted attention. The exact opposite is true actually – because most of the time I really dislike the focus being on me.

I did it because if I started airing my dirty laundry in a public forum then everyone knew. I didn’t have to painstakingly tell each and every person my darkest secrets and I didn’t have to sugar coat or change what I was saying depending on who would see it.

A post was a post. If people didn’t like it then they didn’t have to read it. If they didn’t like me then au revoir.

There were plenty more fish in the sea.

It also meant that it was now harder to change my mind. If I said I was going to do something in public then I also felt that I either had to follow through with it or come up with a very good reason why I couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter whether people liked me or my blog though – because I wasn’t writing it for them. I was writing it for me – and what I’d started doing was engaging in on my own very public private therapy. 

I decided very quickly upon some ground rules.

Above all else I wanted to be sure that my blog would do no harm. I wouldn’t talk about anyone else unless they explicitly agreed and I wouldn’t use photos of anyone but myself with the same criteria.

It was primarily about fixing myself – and learning to live life.

I would also cunningly hide my true name by adding a ‘Y’ at the end of it (for the first time I can reveal that my real name is actually Dave) and when I talked as Davey I wouldn’t talk to myself or to a person – but to ‘the internet’ – because the internet wouldn’t stare back at me disapprovingly.

Its job was simply to listen – regardless of what I had to say – and mine was to talk to it with absolute and unflinching honesty.

The first post was the hardest – not because I couldn’t write down how I felt – but because I knew the next thing that I had to do was send a link to it to absolutely everyone that I knew or worked with – including my family.

I had to ‘out’ myself and step outside of my own personal closet.

In it I admitted that I wasn’t coping. I admitted that I was a drinker. I told everyone about my health problems. I told them I had to discover what it was that I loved – but above all else I was truly honest and open for the first time.

Then thing that I really didn’t expect happened.

Firstly – no-one (not one single person) told me I was a total loser or a waste of space. Instead they actually applauded my fragility and my attempt to be open about what I was going through

Secondly – almost immediately (literally within minutes) the human traffic started come toward me in torrents. People I thought I’d known for years started telling me their deepest and darkest secrets. They began to open up (sometimes for the first time too) about their family issues, their own alcoholism, their cancers, their struggles with Autism, their unhappiness, their loneliness, their abusive relationships…

The list went on and on.

All of a sudden, standing naked in front of everyone for the very first time and expecting my honesty to be the defining moment of my life I was faced with a stark realisation.

Everyone else was broken too.

It wasn’t just me.

As I continued to write this became a theme. Without realising the power of what I’d enabled by clicking ‘post’ on that very first entry in my blog I’d started an honest two way conversation between myself and unlimited numbers of people which is still going on.

Plus – through it I found both a focus and an unexpected paradox.

I eventually realised that the very tool I’d employed to answer my question (writing) was something that I absolutely loved doing.

I now understand that the unexplainable feeling that had made me want to scream was an understanding deep down that I wasn’t giving anything back to the world. I was just taking from it all the time – and because of that I had begun to feel that I was a parasite.

With writing came honesty and through honesty I discovered that I could not only help myself but others too. 

At this point though I still had a long way to go – and in many ways I was still in denial. Although I’d stopped drinking I still thought that this alone was the answer and that everything would just naturally fall into place.

Back then I still didn’t really understand why I’d drank so much – just that I’d stopped and didn’t plan to start again.

I was still 35 stone, still slowly dying and I hadn’t accepted what the problem would truly take to fix.

Join me next time to find out what I mean…

Dave(y)

Yay for maintenance

I slept like a log last night.

I wasn’t stressed or worried about losing weight at all – which I’m honestly not sure how I feel about. I already miss the anticipation a little bit of getting a new, lower number in my book – because now I have a range to adapt to rather than a target.

There’s a magical 6lb bracket (3lbs either side of 14st 7lbs) that I have to stay within as a Slimming World Target Member and so far this week I think I’ve remained comfortably within this ‘goldilocks zone’.

Although (from a SW perspective ) I suppose really shouldn’t talk about them I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with my decision to buy the Weight Watchers Scales of Ultimate Accuracy the other day. They do exactly what they claim to and it’s been a huge help to finally be able to see the ebb and flow of body weight – rather than avoiding the scales altogether all week long and then nervously rolling my dice on a Saturday with absolutely no idea of what to expect.

You could argue that this takes the point out of going to a group – but honestly the scales alone are no longer my motivation to attend mine.

It’s the people that I go for -and the fact that they keep me focused.

Honestly as far as that focus goes today I really needed it to attend anything because it’s bitterly cold outside.

I’ve kept the heating on in my house pretty much continuously at a low level this week (which is unheard of) mostly because I don’t want any pipes to freeze – but also because I simply cannot take feeling like i’m on the brink of hypothermia anymore.

Thankfully I’m no longer unemployed so I guess I can treat myself to warmth.

(Author goes to group)

Well – if there was ever a confirmation that the scales I bought tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth today reiterated it.

Whilst in nothing but my pants the scales showed the following…

In my weigh in clothes they said…

And at Slimming World the result was…

So – it looks like I have a really useful tool that can enable me (hopefully without getting too obsessed) to make adjustments during the week to my food intake and land at a pre-determined point on the scales at the weekend.

In theory this will result in me getting less stressed overall and losing less sleep – and I’m cautiously optimistic that I can do what’s required to make this a reality.

Honestly I’m still not sure that this is my end weight because there’s still a problem area around my waist that I’m really unhappy with – but I’m not obsessing over it.

My body is now far from perfect and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m left with an awful lot of excess bits and bobs and because of these I can’t imagine ever being able to look in the mirror and be truly satisfied with who I am – but for the most part I’m good with that.

I’m fit and healthy and that’s what I focus on.

The things that I’m NOT so good with relate to how (or not) I ever manage to disrobe in front of someone ever again – and that part of the future (should it ever come to pass) fills me with dread.

However I’m not alone in this and that gives me comfort.

Through my writing I’ve come to know a lot of people with their own private battles that are fought (often on a daily basis) over hidden scars (self inflicted or otherwise) that have dogged them on an emotional level throughout their entire lives.

I draw strength from the fact that they’ve been able to work through this and find love when it arrives.

I hope one day I’ll work through this just as they have (and still do).

This is on my mind partially because I’ve been asked by a couple of people to go speed dating with them recently – but honestly I can’t face it. I don’t know how to even begin to mentally approach the subject of romance and for the time being I’d rather not face up that particular demon.

In the meantime there’s lunch to be had.

(Author joins his family for some food at the Fat Bird’s Cafe in Leamington Spa)

Well if nothing else I’ve learned to admire the iron clad digestive tract that one member of my family possesses today. I tried a tiny bit of this frankly apocalyptic sauce on some salad leaves and I have to say that Davey isn’t Ghost Chilli compatible.

I’ve no idea how people eat food with this kind of thing on any more. I used to like it when I was younger, but somewhere along the line I completely lost my tolerance for it. Now it just represents pain and burning rather than nice tasting food.

In contrast my lunch was far more sedate and came with a minted yogurt sauce – which I was quite happy to smother my food with.

I found myself bargaining internally about whether I should have the bread and butter that came on the side of the plate – and ultimately chose to leave it where it was.

I also passed the croutons onto someone else that wanted them.

Although I’m not against carbs (free foods like rice and potatoes are a big part of my meals) the refined nature of white bread and my previous brush with diabetes makes me (possibly very over) cautious about it.

I’ve zero need any more to introduce needless fat or highly processed food like that back into my diet.

Besides – there’s more to it than that. I also have no wish to be bloated by bread – especially when a ridiculously funky and superb quality shirt presents itself in a charity shop.

Who in their right mind would choose a lump of crappy bread over the truly wonderful feeling that picking a LARGE shirt off a rack and knowing that it will fit gives them?

Not me that’s for sure.

If you need me I’ll be looking loud and proud in my new pink check item of clothing.

Yay for maintenance internet. I think I rather like it!

Davey

Not my usual kind of post…

I can easily be accused of over thinking things at the best of times. Whilst this manifests itself as a benefit when it comes to writing it sometimes comes at a cost to myself, because I often have to get quite low before I come back up again.

There are days like today where I awake with a mind that’s filled with a crippling lack of self worth.

It doesn’t matter that I know logically that this is just a passing moment in time because deep down today I feel overwhelmed by fears and insecurities that have followed me around for years.

As much as I always hope they’re gone – and that they’ve been replaced by positivity or wiped away with my new lease of life they’re not really.

I’m always crestfallen when I find them still hidden in the background and I’m reminded again that my mother really did a number on me.

She left me with so much numbness in the place in my heart where there should be familial love and warmth that sometimes (on days like today) it feels like there’s a physical lump in my mind.

I try whenever I consciously think about her to will love into my heart and re-format everything about her memory.

I don’t want to feel anger or bitterness towards her because it’s unresolvable and it just diminishes me. I can’t open a door and ask her why she treated me like a possession or made me feel so worthless.

I’ll never be able to make her understand how hard it’s been to clamber out from under the weight of guilt that I feel for not missing her and instead feeling relief that she’s no longer alive.

I can’t get her to put her arms around me and hug me like she meant it any more in death than I could in life – and today – at this moment I just feel sad and angry.

I don’t feel any sadness that she’s been dead for two years now – I just feel angry that I was cheated out of the nurturing support that I should have had in life. I feel resentment that I turned to all manner of bad habits to expunge the pain that she directly or indirectly caused and I feel cheated out of the life that I deserved.

I see other people grieving when they lose a parent and although I understand loss (I’ve experienced the pain of someone that’s close to me dying) I can’t relate to what it must feel like to lose someone that shaped your childhood and youth into a positive and productive life.

I can only understand the final, guilty relief associated with a burden that’s been too heavy for too long being lifted from my shoulders.

Maybe I’ll never get over feeling like I don’t measure up to my own expectations or that I’m not good enough.

I hope not.

I hope that one day the memory of her voice (that seems indelibly burned into my brain) as she called me ‘sick, wicked and evil’ and the familiar look of disgust in her eyes will finally be forgotten.

I hope that one day in darker moments I won’t look back and think that she was right and that there’s something wrong with me.

Again – logically I know this is nonsense. She said these things whilst simultaneously telling me that she was being bitten by fleas irradiated by the Chernobyl disaster – which is not the product of a mind on an even keel.

All of this makes rational sense to me – but on an emotional level there are days like today when all I feel is crippling pain inside and when I could (if I chose to) obliterate myself in any number of ways.

I could eat to excess. I have a fridge full of food.

I could drink myself to oblivion. There’s a shop full of cider just over the road.

I could pick up a pouch of tobacco and roll myself a cigarette and keep smoking until all of the wonderfully scented 25g of Golden Virgina was gone along with my health.

Today it’s hard not to do all three – but I refuse.

I refuse not because I don’t want to – but because I do.

I’m thankfully also very very stubborn and I will not under any circumstances be diminished any more by her either in life or death.

Her power to make me less of a man than I should be is something that she’s no longer able to wield and whilst her memory may make me occasionally weak I’ve come further than she ever expected or told me I could.

Furthermore I did it all despite her.

For the time being I’m going to allow myself the luxury of not trying to think fondly of her. I’m also going to try and focus on my continuing gradual weight loss and the newspaper cutting that a kind member of my slimming world group brought in today to show everyone.

There are things to be thankful for – and the kindness of others makes feeling like I do at this exact moment bearable.

I have good friends and that’s a comfort.

Today though I’m just going to open the floodgates and let it all go before getting on with life.

She may have been troubled, she may have been mentally ill. She may have had a hard life and had good reason to have problems. There may be mitigating circumstances that surrounded her childhood that can explain or give cause for her behaviour.

I don’t care though today.

Today I’m remembering her the way she was in life.

She was bitter, resentful, hateful, unforgiving, deceitful, abusive and I should have no reason to feel guilt for not missing her.

Davey.

Anniversaries on the horizon

After the euphoria of adrenaline that my short attempts to run produced on Sunday (link) I’ve been dealing with the after effect – which is raging cramp in my quads.

It’s not apocalyptically awful if I’m honest (I can still move) but it is surprising because it took a couple of days for the full effects to be apparent.When I climbed out of bed this morning it definitely wasn’t with my usual zesty spring and I’m sure I heard a creaking noise that sounded like a tree about to fall over in a haunted Disney forest.

Unsurprisingly this didnt dissapear with a couple of stabs at the ‘snooze’ button and after geriatrially pottering around for half an hour I headed off to the office. My walk to work was waaaaaaaay more of a chore than it usually is.

I felt sluggish throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.

In a way this is good mind you – rather masochistically I like cramp. It means things are improving. I’m still not sure what to do with all this though. I’m cautious about what it means, and I’m still reluctant to give myself any goals that I potentially won’t keep. In the past doing that has proved to be both self defeating and demoralising – so I’m just going to see how I feel when I recover and decide what I want to do based on how I feel.

In the meantime I still seem to be subject to a rather insatiable appetite in the evenings – and whilst I’m eating good food I’m still eating too much of it.

21st Jan
Tub of cottage cheese
4 apples
Chilli con carne made with pork mince, kidney beans, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, red pepper
Yogurt and frozen berries

22nd Jan
Chilli leftovers + couscous
4 apples + tub of cottage cheese + 200g ham
Two bowls of slow cooker beef stew
Yogurt and frozen berries

23rd Jan
Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
500g carrots and 6 tomatoes
Chilli con carne + half a pouch of microwave basmati rice
Yogurt and frozen berries

I know that this doesn’t seem like a bad day on the page but I’m hyper aware these days that if I want to lose weight I have to do a lot more and eat a lot less, because I’m no longer benefiting (if you can call it that) from carrying around all that extra timber.

It’s way easier for the weight to fly off when you’re carrying lots of baggage on your person everywhere you go – and in many ways I’ve not significantly modified my eating habits for at least a year.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself though. I’m suddenly aware that I’m being critical of my successes and looking down on what I’ve done…

I’m probably eating a bit less overall than I used to – but I feel that things (broadly speaking) have remained the same. This is almost certainly because every time I consider how I feel about reducing my portion sizes a tiny (yet uncontrollable) part of my brain begins to panic somewhere in a corner.

On the plus side (even though I’m judging myself harshly when I shouldn’t) I seem to have found a rough ‘maintenance’ amount of food for when I get to target…

However I still need to get to target!

Today it’s been all that’s on my mind – and to try and stop myself overeating in the evening I’ve been munching carrots and tomatoes at my desk and had some lovely healthy leftover slowcooked beef stew for lunch.

(author pauses)

Oh screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m preoccupied by more than food – and I’m feeling self critical and a little maudlin because two anniversaries are on the horizon.

Although I didnt join Slimming World until April 2016 the turning point in my life that started all this was the death of my mother on the 28th of January, and my decision to finally stop drinking myself to death two days before she died on the 26th of that month.

 

IMG_20160308_0014 (1)

For all of the water that went under the bridge between us it’s sometimes easy to forget that when I was born she was a young woman of 28. Although I know a lot of her troubled history now at that moment in time she was just a young mother with a newborn infant in her arms and there was nothing was written in stone for the future.

For all she knew the bond that she had with me would be unbreakable and we would be inseperable forever.

Time changes many things though and that potential relationship never came to pass. At the end we were barely on speaking terms and communicating with her (at least from my perspective) felt agonisingly painful.

Even close to the end I counted the moments until I could leave her company and get blind drunk.

Maybe somewhat paradoxically today I found myself, sitting alone in my lunch break looking at a photo of her death certificate.

20160203_081021

It says ‘exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ as the cause of her death – and in the other significant conditions section the words ‘breast cancer’ in black biro sit there staring back at me from otherwise empty dotted lines.

I’ve not looked at this picture since the day it was taken – and it occurs to me that it was around this time that I began to accumulate documents, photos and paintings that I never really wanted to be in posession of or to own.

Like this piece of paper they’re all just scribbled words on a page but they hold a power.

Even now though for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them, despite how they make me feel. They remain buried in drawers for another day filled with greater fortitude.

(sigh)

I’m not sure why anniversaries are so important.

It really shouldn’t matter that another year is about to pass by without her in my life – and I probably by now should have shaken off the ever present nagging sense of guilt that it’s not her death that I remember the most about those awful days, but my decision to stop drowning my problems in alcohol and to reach out for help.

It’s been 727 days since I put down my glass after finishing that evening’s third bottle of wine and never picked one up again.

26th Jan.jpg

I’m still struck by the paradox that such an awful event caused so many positive things to happen in my life – and despite it not really being the true anniversary of either big moment I dedicate the rest of this post to her memory and what’s changed about my life since she died.

It’s all been seen here before – but I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I like. I’m proud of it all, and also more than a little sad that things ended the way that they did before I made what sits below this paragraph happen.

Despite knowing that if she was still alive she’d probably find some way of undermining these achievements the fact is is that I owe every single one of them to her passing.

 

  • I was unable to sleep in any position other than my left side or sitting upright at 34st 8.5 lbs. Now I can sleep on whichever side I choose (including my back) and no longer wake up in a panic because I think I’m suffocating
  • I’ve walked the cumulative 3000 mile distance from San Fransisco to New York (and almost 1000 miles more) since joining Slimming World
  • I overcame Plantar Fasciitis, two torn calf muscles, ligament problems in my left thigh and shin splints caused by my weight and persisted with my walking and exercise
  • I’m no longer taking medication to control my (type 2) diabetes – and have a HbA1c reading of 28 compared to 94 when first diagnosed
  • My blood pressure is down from borderline hyper-tension to that of someone 20 years younger than myself
  • The usual resting heart rate of an adult male in his mid 40’s is around 70bpm. Thanks to all the exercise I do now mine is currently around 40bpm.
  • I’ve dropped from the 8xl shirt and 66in waisted trousers I was wearing to XL shirts/large coats and waist size of 34-36in (depending on the retailer)
  • I can put my socks on
  • I haven’t broken any furniture by sitting or lying on it for over a year and a half
  • I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost approximately 75% less than they used to at specialist retailers
  • I can now fit into cars and taxis, including the smallest ones available in all my local dealerships AND get the seatbelts on (I tried them ALL!!!)
  • I can take the train or the bus because I fit into public transport and can walk to and from where it stops
  • I can fit in my bath
  • I don’t get out of breath walking up hills unless they’re really steep
  • I can mow my lawns without being in agony – and maintain my gardens
  • I can stand up without grunting or straining from pretty much any position
  • My skin no longer burns instantly when exposed to the sun (often it doesn’t burn at all now) and I don’t have dry eczema all the time like I used to
  • I no longer wear glasses for reading and have dramatically improved eyesight due to my diabetes being under control
  • I can sit in restaurant or cafe booths – in fact ANY kind of fixed bench or table seating is accessible – as well as garden picnic tables and plastic chairs.
  • I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because I don’t fit in the standard seat or am worried that they will break
  • I can walk up to 17.5 miles a day and average 20,000 steps daily and 70+ miles every week. Previously I couldn’t walk to the end of my street 200 metres away
  • I can concentrate for much longer periods and take in (and retain) information a lot faster
  • I need less sleep – usually 5-6 hours is enough now. I used to need at least 10 because it was so hard to get rest with sleep apnea
  • I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and 51 seconds. When I first tried to do a mile it took well over an hour to an hour and a half with continual rest stops. I usually have to stop every 7-8 miles now.
  • I can jog up stairs
  • I can jog back down stairs
  • I’ve taken large amounts of outsized clothes to charity and by donating with gift aid have helped other people by doing so.
  • I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since January 26th 2016
  • I’m now able to buy clothes from charity shops as well as deposit them and when I do they cost around 1/8th of what I previously was forced to buy
  • I can take a selfie without hating myself
  • I have climbed Snowdon
  • I no longer have constant oedemas (fluid retention) in my ankles
  • I can go outside wearing shorts without feeling self conscious
  • I don’t need to get my shopping delivered and I often walk two miles to the supermarket and carry it miles back home in a rucksack
  • I can stand for long periods without crippling back, knee and tendon pain
  • My knees no longer hurt all the time. They used to be painful even when I was seated
  • I can’t hear my own laboured breathing when I sit and relax
  • I no longer sweat all the time regardless of the temperature and I need to wear thick socks, gloves a coat and a hat to go outside in the cold
  • I regularly meet lots of new people through my efforts, Slimming World and my blog
  • I’m now confident enough with my appearance and fit enough to stand and speak in front of groups about my weight loss. Previously this would have been impossible because I quickly became breathless and physically shook from the effort of standing upright
  • I no longer get publicly bullied and called names related to my weight by youths (and adults) on the street
  • I’ve gone from eating (and burning) 7,500 calories per day to around 2000 and because of this my shopping costs around 2/5ths of what it used to.
  • I can ride a bicycle again
  • I can sit in an IKEA Poang armchair without fear of breaking it
  • I can do press-ups
  • I can do sit-ups
  • I can climb ladders and use stepladders (none held my weight before) to get into my loft
  • People I know frequently fail to recognise me in the street until I speak
  • I’ve never spent more quality time with friends, family and people that I care about in my entire life – and when I do we’re usually exercising so I seem to be promoting positive behaviour in those that mean something to me
  • I no longer make excuses not to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or don’t see them at all) because I feel embarrassed about putting lots of weight on since they last saw me
  • My friends and family can hug me and put their arms all the way around me
  • I’ve appeared in the Leamington observer (link)
  • I’ve appeared on BBC local radio to tell my story
  • I can run (although not very well yet)

Davey

Stay creative

I’m easily pleased.

Silly silly little things make me really really happy – and I’m thankfully not alone in this.

Today I was at the recycling centre in Leamington. I always pop in as I pass – and whilst browsing at the Age UK shop I saw a young girl. She was around 10-12 years old, wearing a fluffy pink parka with a warm looking fur collar and some matching woolly ear muffs. Both she and her mother were checking out the used bikes near the entrance.

One by one they went through the frames, colours and conditions. The quality of the bikes there often varies wildly – but there are usually diamonds to be found amongst the rough.

After a while of earnestly considering her options the girl had selected one that she liked. It looked sturdy and had purple handlebar grips which she clearly approved of. There was also plenty of tread on the tyres, and she had tested them over and over by pressing her tiny thumbs repeatedly into the back and the front.

No punctures. It looked like the one.

Her mother agreed with the choice and paid for the bike at the till.

Afterwards the small family (two little brothers were also in tow) left together, walking in the same direction as me.

As they made their way past Morrisons the girl (who had been trying unsuccessfully for around 200 metres to lift herself up into the high saddle) finally managed to get upright and pedal a few metres in front of her mom and past her (clearly impressed) siblings.

Her mother and she had smiles from ear to ear, and both were giggling. As I peeled off in a different direction I realised that I too had a big grin on my face.

Something that the last two years has shown me is that it’s possible to reset your life, to change your viewpoint, to want less and enjoy the smaller things in life.

Whereas in the past I thought nothing of buying a £1000 TV to take my mind off my problems I now find happiness in my 99p beanie – purchased from globalcare yesterday.

It keeps my head warm, saves me money and benefits charity too – just like the little girl’s bike.

My blog happened for a similar reason believe it or not.

I don’t do it for profit and instead I began to write it purely because I needed to feel like I create something rather then endlessly devour the output of others.

Maybe by being less of a consumer in my every day life, and putting something (anything) back into the society in which I live I’m making the world a bit of a better place in my own small way.

I remember that as a child my first bike was a collection of parts put together in secret in the loft that eventually became my Christmas present. To me it didn’t matter that my family couldn’t afford a new one.

It was the bike I wanted – and for the time I had it I loved it.

Over the years I learned to want new things – mostly because I saw other children with them, and unconsciously I began (in almost every aspect of my life) to become a consumer instead of a creator.

I forgot about the drawings I used to do all the time (mostly because my mother became jealous – and angrily said again and again that art was her thing not mine – that my creativity served purely to undermine her) and I stopped writing poems and stories.

I used to create a lot to excise negative feelings – but (partially because this seemed to antagonise my mom) I found it was easier to drink – and so bit by bit one activity replaced the other.

Instead I retreated and the more I consumed the less I created. Without realising what I was doing I ate and drank away the pain of many aspects of my childhood.

I did it for so long I ceased to realise that I was doing it any more.

Today though, watching the cheerful little girl, I remembered that little boy with his recycled bike for Christmas and the happy feeling it gave him to ride it back and forth outside his house.

If you want a new year’s resolution internet then maybe you can’t go far wrong with ‘want less and give more’.

It’s what I’m going to do – along with constantly trying to be a better version of myself.

Happy New Year’s Eve everybody. Have fun and stay creative x

Davey

Not a single moment wasted

Despite me originally intending to do a new walk today I changed my plans late last night when I was unexpectedly invited out for a bank holiday lunch at the George in the Tree at Balsall Common.

I’ve been here a few times in the past – but not often for good reasons.

Most recently this perfectly nice pub has somehow become completely associated in my mind with meeting relatives after my mom died in January last year – and a sense of personal failure surrounding this already grim event.

Not only did I have to agree funeral details with relatives that I hardly knew – but also I was hovering around 35 stone and visibly not coping very well at all in life.

This was me around three weeks after those events, having not long given up drinking, but still three months away from joining Slimming World.

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It occurred to me when a friend suggested I join them there today that not only I could start to attach more positive memories to this place but that I could kill two birds with one stone and also get my exercise in for the day.

I could probably now walk all the way there from my house –  but then making my way back would probably have been a step too far.

It’s a round trip of 20 miles.

When I wasn’t working if I overdid things then I could just rest up the day after for a bit. However now I don’t have that luxury. I need to be match fit every day to walk back and forth to my job.

I opted instead for the shorter Kenilworth Greenway (about 11 miles round trip), and leaving my car at Crackley Wood – which means I didn’t have to walk along any busy roads and that I also got some nice views too.

The woods looked great just before 10am today, and a wonderful dappled light was playing on the ground everywhere as the canopy above me gently swayed in the breeze.

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Initially this morning was a little overcast, despite being quite warm – but as I moved through the woods and onto the greenway it was clear that any clouds were not going to last long, and they were swiftly clearing to make way for blue skies.

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I didn’t really know exactly how long it would take me to walk to my destination, so I tried to keep exploration and the impulse to photograph everything to a minimum and just keep moving forward.

Although the Greenway is pretty easy going on the way to Balsall Common it has a continuous incline. When I first did this walk (link) back in April I forgot to set a workout programme – but when I checked Apple watch I remember it showed my heart rate as above 100 bpm. My workout today shows an average of 88 on the outward journey, and on the greenway I didn’t once see it go above 95 – which is really cool progress!

I’m definitely getting a lot fitter!

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One of the things that I really love about this particular walk is the bridges.

This is for two reasons.

Firstly (and quite without warning) I’ve become a huge fan of red brick construction. It really boggles my mind that these days we just set steel rods in hundreds of tons of concrete, bolt it all together, and voila!

A bridge!

Sure – they’re strong, light, flexible, resilient and safe – but boy oh boy is concrete UGLY. In contrast railway bridges pieced together, brick by individual brick – now THOSE are things of beauty.

Secondly this Greenway and its bridges are slowly being eaten by nature – and that too is jaw droppingly lovely at times.

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When I finally arrived at the Beefeater I was a lot earlier than expected. The whole walk (almost exactly five miles) had taken around 90 minutes, so I sat outside in the shade and changed my (slightly sweaty) teeshirt for a long sleeved one I’d brought along to look a little more presentable.

Shortly before midday I went in and was led to the table my friends had booked.

It was a booth.

There’s still a part of me that has a complete meltdown when I see fixed seating.

I can’t seem to get it through to my panic subroutines that I fit into them now – but I guess thats because it’s really only been a few months since that’s been the case. Partially because of this I’m still taking evidential pictures to prove to myself that I can do it – which I’m starting to think may be a little daft.

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However I still find it almost as much of a novelty as seatbelts that actually go around me and click into place in other people’s cars.

I may stop taking these kind of pictures one day… but not today!

I’d already decided waaaaay before arriving that I wasn’t going to get into an ‘I’ve done lots of exercise so I can eat what I like’ mentality, and that I was going to avoid things like mixed grills (what I used to choose when I came here previously) and instead have a salad and a baked potato on the side.

I ordered the chicken Caesar.

What arrived was not Caesar salad (not in my eyes anyway) and was clearly deep fried breaded chicken. Normally I wouldn’t go near anything fried in breadcrumbs – but I reasoned that at the very worst this would just use up my syns for the day and negate some of my exercise I’d already done, so I tucked in.

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Honestly – I’m glad I did, because with the (butter free) baked potato I’d ordered on the side this ended up being quite filling and tasty – which was a complete win.

As it’s been a while since I’d seen my friends we sat chatting over drinks for a while after the meal ended. They’re absolutely loving their National Trust memberships at the moment and are using it regularly to go and explore some of the local National Trust estates.

I’d not considered joining before – but they may well have sold the whole thing to me! However – that’s for another day when I have some spare money. In the meantime I’m strictly a cheap walk kinda guy…

A twalker can dream though!

After we said our goodbyes I headed back (a slightly longer way) toward my car. It was now getting a LOT hotter and I’d changed back into my short sleeved top. In retrospect (as I sit scratching my sunburnt upper arms while I type) this may have been a tactical error – but you live and learn.

The way back was at a slightly slower pace, and it gave me the opportunity to look a little closer at the hedgerows and bushes, which were full of butterflies!

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I also just missed a shot of a bird of prey hanging on the breeze over the fields surrounding the walk. As I readied my camera it swooped towards its target and disappeared from view. I can’t say for sure what it was but I think it was a Kestrel.

Since getting any pictures of things in the sky seemed impossible I busied myself instead with the floor, which I ‘d realised was covered with hidden mushroom colonies!

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By the time I arrived home I felt well exercised, satisfied, and like I’d made full use of my Bank Holiday weekend.

There was a time when I’d have bought myself a new video game and many litres of wine for such an occasion – but I think the way I use my free time now is a far better use of my health and happiness.

I’ve managed 35 miles and around 70,000 steps in the last three days.

I feel content, pleasantly tired and I know that when I get back to work tomorrow internet I’ll have a sense of pride that not a single moment has been wasted.

Davey

 

Au Revoir Supercoat!

As regular visitors (and subscribers) to this blog have probably noticed there has been a higher volume of posting than usual this week, and I heartily apologise if you’re getting sick of hearing from me. A few more introspective posts have left my drafts folder than normally would primarily because the last seven days have been quite emotional ones.

Today’s is a little introspective too, just so you know.

There’s been a lot of time spent with this week with close and extended family – and quite a few associated good (or bad) memories and feelings explored and talked about that all of us have maybe waited a bit too long to express, or possibly felt we couldn’t.

One of the nice things about my time spent with my Dad while he’s been staying has been chatting about his childhood, alongside memories of his father and mother and how they met. Often you can forget that your parents are themselves someone’s children and they too inherited their own fair share of blessings and difficulties from their upbringings.

As I mentally compose this post he’s telling me about why he has his name – and I find out for the first time that it was the middle name of a man that his mother greatly respected who owned a brewery. I doubt he remembered this himself until he looked into the bag of letters from her that he’s been avoiding since she died nearly two decades ago.

As I watch him reminisce about his school years and I look down at the yellowed 10 length swimming certificate in my hands bearing his name (which he’s kept since 1952) I drift away from the words and find myself thinking how much I love the old fart.

I’ve hugged him several times while he’s been here – but probably not enough.

As he readied himself to leave today I looked at Supercoat, which was hanging in the hall. It represented (and still does) a lot to me when I purchased it from Debenhams – as it was the first item of mainstream clothing I’d been able to buy since I started my blog – but I haven’t worn it for a while.

I first tried it on in February (link) and it was a big day (in terms of both my diabetes and my clothing).

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Initially worried about whether I could afford it I didn’t buy it in that post – and instead tried a cheaper, less waterproof alternative. I discovered quickly that we were incompatible when it rained…

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I eventually threw caution to the winds a couple of weeks later (link) and went back to treat myself – this time trying to smile for the camera after multiple reader complaints about looking like a miserable sod the first time around!

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I’ve worn Supercoat a lot in the (almost) six months since I purchased it.

Whilst wearing it (or the detachable inner fleece) I’ve been completely soaked by arrogant t**t Porsche drivers, climbed the Malvern Hills (link), navigated large portions of the Grand Union Canal, got lost near a windmill, explored several greenways, walked along the Thames Path, sneaked lots of flasks of coffee into the cinema in its spacious pockets and (literally) walked hundreds of miles with it keeping me warm and dry.

 

If I’m honest I’ve kind of bonded with it and I really didn’t want to give it to charity or sell it – so today instead I gave it to my Dad. It fits him quite well – and winter’s coming, so it makes me happy to know he’ll also be warm and dry inside it. I hope he enjoys the walks it takes him on as much as I enjoyed mine, and as he wears it I hope it also reminds him of his visit this week and the conversations we’ve shared.

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In my case I’m cosy enough in my old/new charity shop jacket (link) and at some point when the cold weather hits I’m going to try and find another all weather alternative (it’s not water proof but water resistant as I discovered in the picture above!) that’s suitable for strenuous exercise and good for mountains and hills – which I plan to spend a lot more time exploring in my future.

I have an adventure already lined up for next week – but more of that will come in another blog…

In the meantime I’m just thankful.

I’m thankful that my Dad is in my life to give my coat to, and I’m thankful that he’s shared his memories with me. I’m thankful that I’ve not run from the difficult ones and I’m thankful that we can talk about such things. I’m also thankful that maybe I can bring some of the lessons that I’ve learned in life recently back to him and that he too can benefit from them.

I also realise now that it’s Friday evening and unusually I don’t care what the scales say tomorrow. Today numbers are immaterial and any progress in life is being measured with a different yardstick.

Instead all I can think about is that I just want him to be well, happy, and pestering me for many many years to come.

Davey

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Boris is getting fitter.

The poor little mite’s suffered quite a bit of late with some spinal pain and has been seeing a doggy therapist. With some physio he’s managed to progress from yelps of pain when moving to a noticeably more bouncy gait as he trotted around the park and today, as I walked sedately with my friend in the rain he seemed really rather happy.

Well – as cheerful as a dog with a largely expressionless face and permanent frown can look.

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It’s all contained in the eyes and ears with Boris.

He can’t wag (he has no tail) and he doesn’t pant or open his mouth much – but after a while you can definitely tell when he’s in a good mood. His ears swivel slightly, his eyelids lift a little and when he likes you he sits on your foot to keep his bottom warm and dry.

I do rather like the little guy.

I also like walking in the rain – which is fortuitous because the only way we were going to get any exercise in Memorial Park today was under the cover of umbrellas.

The absolutely best thing about weather like this is that the world looks truly lovely. It’s all fresh, green, and you have it to yourself.

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I really felt like I had to do more than normal today.

I needed to somehow be faster, go further – or to climb something. This is mostly because currently my appetite seems to be swinging back and forth like a pendulum and exercise appears to be the only way to suppress or control it. I appear to be alternating between moments where I’m ravenously hungry and days where I don’t think of food at all.

In both instances I’ve been trying to make good choices – because I’m increasingly aware that in a couple of days I weigh in for the first time in two weeks and I’m more than a little nervous about what the result will be.

So much so that as soon as I got home I immediately hopped on my exercise bike whilst chatting to my dad who sat nearby. He’s staying with me for a few days at the moment and I’ve been trying to gently persuade him that he should get bike of his own.

I (much to my surprise) managed to convince him to hop on my own after I’d finished and showed him via the wonders of a heart rate monitor and the readout on the bike what kind of activity he would need to do to burn 100kcal.

In my Dad’s case, freewheeling on the bike with no resistance for 15-20 minutes or so did that.

I then showed him the kcal values on the food he’d just been eating and together we began to join the mysterious dots between energy consumed, energy burned – and finally energy stored. It sounds really obvious – but until you realise exactly what it takes to burn off a bag of tasty crispbreads you’re unlikely to think twice about putting them in your mouth.

It worked for me – although it took quite a while to face up to the painful reality of this – but when you do it’s a great way to motivate yourself to eat more filling foods with a lower salt, fat or sugar content.

In my own case nevertheless I’m still unsure what will happen on Saturday.

On paper the results should be good. I’ve done a lot of exercise (I burned 5500 kcal climbing Snowdon alone) but that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that my weight will go down. Sometimes the opposite has been true – and radically increased workouts have occasionally resulted in static figures on the scales.

Needless to say at the moment (because I’m preoccupied with this) vegetables are very popular in my house. I’ve been having lots of salads, stir fry vegetables, fish, lean chicken, fresh fruit and basically anything that’s speedy or free on Slimming World’s plan.

There are some days though where the cooking is out of your control – and you are at the mercy of an unknown chef in an unknown place. All you can do then is make educated guesses and hope for the best.

Unusually I texted my Slimming World consultant tonight because of this and asked for help. There was a family meal planned at a nearby Peking and Cantonese restaurant (The Emperors in Leamington Spa) and I’ve hardly eaten out at all in place like this since I started my plan last April.

She was (as always) very helpful – and as well as a few personal tips directed me to a members only part of the Slimming World site (which I’d missed by not logging in) that gave some low syn suggestions for eating out:

  • Chinese cuisine provides loads of meaty choices! Tuck into a 160g serving of barbecue spare ribs (about 4 ribs) for 8½ Syns, or for just 8½ Syns* enjoy beef with mushrooms. There are chicken dishes galore with chicken in oyster sauce at 6½ Syns*, chicken and black bean sauce (7½ Syns*) chicken and mushrooms (9½ Syns*). If you fancy rice with your dishes, boiled rice is Free!
  • Rice and noodle dishes make excellent options. A serving of chicken chop suey with noodles is 9½ Syns*. For a veggie option, stir-fried mixed vegetables are 10½ Syns*. Top up with loads of Free boiled rice for a Chinese banquet.

Armed with this info I ordered a ‘sizzling chicken and black bean sauce‘ from the menu when I got there, along with some steamed rice.

Frankly it looked lovely when it arrived with all of the other food, and thankfully tasted just as delicious.

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Everyone seemed to agree that whatever they’d decided to order was cooked to perfection, and apart from some rice being left on the table (there was a massive bowl to share) everyone’s plate was clean by the end of the night.

The only thing left was to indulge in something naughty – so we called for the drinks list.

When it arrived I scanned quickly up and down. My favourite wasn’t listed!

I looked again. Baileys, Cointreau, Sambuca….

Nope – it’s not there!

I asked the waitress.

She nodded knowingly and scribbled on her little notepad.

I needn’t have worried. They were prepared for my one remaining vice!

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Everything is right with the world when you add coffee.

It’s also right internet when you manage remain on plan – even when you feel like eating the furniture in an unfamiliar setting. It’s even righter-er when the evil little chocolate mint that they’ve given you remains on side of the saucer as you walk away with a self satisfied smile on your face.

Davey

Snowdon epilogue

There are lots of after effects when you do something negative in life – and over the years I’ve carried around more than my fair share of regret about lots of things I’ve done – or (more often) not done.

Right up until the day she died my mother was trapped inside memories of her past, and consumed by bitterness about people she believed had somehow slighted her or opportunities that she felt had been denied. 

I always viewed her as someone very different to myself – as unlike me she regretted nothing and everything bad that had happened in her life was simply someone else’s fault – until one day, when the universe held a mirror up to my face and I unexpectedly saw a reflection of her looking back at me.

I realise once again as I type that 18 months after she died I’m still coming to terms with what her passing means to me and the ways that she affected me both in life and death. 

Although I blamed no one but myself just like her I’d become trapped by inaction and my own addictions. She smoked – whereas I ate and drank. 

However I had instead become stuck in the present rather than the past. I lived my life a day at a time with no promise of a different future and little hope for change.

Today (I write this on Monday 24th in the early afternoon) I feel invigorated by the after effects of cumulatively positive choices. I’m crackling with energy and a sense of personal renewal. 

Although my muscles ache from my activities over the last few days I barely notice the pain at the moment because I’m looking at a brighter horizon than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

One of the things that I never mentioned in my Snowdon posts was the different emotional tones of the ascent and descent. On the way up we were surrounded by energetic and predominantly youthful climbers who (mostly) were powering up the slopes and leaving us in their dust. 

There were also lots of ‘hello’s’ with people and little chats about which way was the best route to make swift progress.

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On the way down we saw group after group walking with purpose, wearing bright tee shirts proclaiming that they were climbing the mountain because of the loss of a loved one – or for a charity. We overheard snapshots of tale after tale as we passed people during our descent – but almost all were along the lines of ‘if you feel tired then think of (…) he would have loved the view and been so happy today’.

I walked by one woman on her way up as she was describing the tumour in a loved one’s head and how it was growing uncontrollably. One of her companions put a hand briefly on her shoulder as I passed.

Another child shortly after, holding her mom’s hand clambered by me enthusiastically rattling a small pink plastic bucket full of change with a picture of someone sellotaped to the side.

One man was making his way slowly up in silence on crutches.

They were all walking to remember lost loved ones, those still fighting to stay alive or trying to make sense of tragedy by doing something good that might prevent it happening again in the future.

When I got to the bottom of the mountain at the time I could only think about how much my muscles hurt – and the day after I was just overwhelmingly happy about having finally climbed Snowdon after a year of saying I would.

Now I’m home and reflecting on my time away I can’t help but notice how alive I feel – and how precious life is. It’s meant to be lived and I intend to take advantage of it every day that I can until I die.

I think that I partially feel this way so acutely because in many respects I feel like I’ve had my own near death experience.

I don’t mean to be over dramatic or attention grabbing. I’ve not stepped out of the path of a speeding train or fallen from a great height and survived – but when I break my past down those examples are kind of what’s happened to me – but in slow motion.

Not so long ago I was hastening my death – and without realising it I was doing it by becoming just like the last person in the world that I wanted to be compared to.

Then it hits me. 

Just like the little child with the pink bucket I was walking up that mountain because of a loss. Although I didn’t realise it at the time every step was taken in my mother’s memory because the moment of change that made it possible came to me when I was looking into her eyes. 

She never meant to give it – but it was her final parting gift to me. 

I’m not sure why that transformative spark arrived when it did. I’m not even sure that if I was faced with the same circumstances again on a different day that I’d have come to the same conclusion. I don’t know how to fix anyone else and generally I don’t always know how to fix myself – but I’m glad that a random selection of electrical impulses and memories collided in my brain at just the right moment and conspired to give me my life back.

The only thing that I know for sure about myself these days as everything about me changes physically and mentally is that I want to continue to be better.

Today someone contacted me privately and showed me their half a stone slimming world certificate. ‘I just wanted to show you this…’ they said ‘… I finally did it!’

It made me smile from ear to ear. That person had found their own moment in time to move forward and taken the crucial first few steps to begin. 

A week ago another person messaged me to say they’d made a significant change in their life that would dramatically improve their health. On and off we’d been talking about this for some time and a few days ago they found the strength and courage to be who they wanted to be in life – and to cast off their self imposed burdens.

I realise now that I’ve heard a lot of stories like this over the last year and a half – and the greatest gift I’ve received from sharing my progress (or occasional lack of it) hasn’t just been the generous (and often humbling) personal support that people have given me – but the energising and empowering shared tales of personal battles with their own demons.

Each and every single one of us is free to be the absolute best versions of ourselves that it’s possible to be. All it takes is one little moment where enough is enough and you decide to do something different. 

So internet – I can’t tell you how to spark change because I don’t know – but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you can climb your own personal mountain.

Whatever it is.

However long it takes you to get there.

Regardless of how you feel now.

Life can be better than you can possibly imagine if you want it to be.

Davey

Pegs

When my mother died there were many many things left behind. I hated pretty much all of the time that I spent with my brother sifting through what I viewed at the time as the rubbish and wreckage of a decaying life.

For those who didn’t arrive at the start of my blogging career (which started not coincidentally shortly after her death) there was little love between us towards the end – and even my sense of duty to someone supposedly so close had long since faded. 

My mother was like a magpie – constantly collecting shiny rubbish and nik-naks with little or no value and always seemed supremely adept at burying herself in meaningless trinkets from pound shops. 

From an inheritance perspective (which I didn’t want) she left behind little more than a small sum of money and continual headache that seemed to last for months. 

In some ways it never left me. 

There was no real closure between us except that which I endeavoured to construct in my own mind after the event. However for all the pain it caused the act of emptying her bungalow was in some respects a huge cathartic release. 

My brother and I threw much of its contents away – apart from the dolls, crockery and ornaments that seemed relatively new. They went to charity. 

Most of what I ended up taking home with me I kept because I was too tired to decide what to do with anything any more. It sat filling my spare room for a long time before I eventually gave almost all of it away – in the hope that one day someone else would get some positive use out of it. 

Some small things however I kept. 

Photos for instance are obvious – memories like this are rarely discarded. Those didn’t require much thought. I don’t really want to look at them yet but they’re still in a drawer for a day when I might change my mind. 

The things that meant the least to me at the time – but were silly to throw away were usable items like clothes pegs, washing powder, garden tools, and door hanging tidy pockets. 

It used to endlessly irritate me that she wasted her money on things like this (there were multiples of everything and she didn’t need them) but as I sit in the garden today my clothes are drying on a washing line secured by her pegs. 


On the back of my utility cupboard door there are boot laces, batteries, dusters and light bulbs all neatly arranged in her hanging pockets. 

On the inside handle of my back door is a foam knee pad for weeding. I’ve used that too. It’s useful. 

Below the pad is usually a heavy red pair of suede gardening gloves, which I’ve used over and over again lately to pull nettles and thorny brambles out of my garden. They’ve saved me many an injury. 


I’m struck by the fact (as I watch my washing dry with her pegs in the warm afternoon sunshine) that these items unexpectedly represent something that I loved about her and I feel a little sad. 

She was a practical woman from a working class background who valued tools and items that helped get a job done. When I put my hands into her old gloves I realise that quite unexpectedly they have begun to mean something to me

Her hands used to fit inside them too, and she also used them to weed her garden like I do. All of a sudden we’re connected by such a trivial item and I’m taken aback by the rush of poignancy this brings. 

It’s like I’m somehow holding her hand…

Oddly I’ve realised that this practical side of her – divorced from the emotional closeness that one expects from a mother (but that we never achieved between us in life) is what helps to make my thoughts of her fonder than they otherwise would have been. 


I still can’t understand the complex nature of this troubled lady but I can attempt (every time I fall into the trap of anger about past events) to forgive her and try to remember the good things instead. 

There’s no mileage in bitterness internet. 

All I have to do is put her gloves on to feel some warmth. 

Davey

In the teens!

Well my week’s experiment has concluded. After a somewhat disappointing 1/2 a pound loss last week I had been looking at what I’d been eating and also what I’d been doing for exercise.

Since the 22nd May I’ve been gardening in earnest – and because of the time involved there has been less walking in my life – but according to Apple Watch this wasn’t an issue. It was telling me I was doing the same (if not more) in the garden as I was out of the house walking from A to B.

However during the period where I’ve pulled the garden round from a complete jungle to a rather usable space I’ve lost roughly half the weight that I have on average in prior weeks. Of course – there’s no rush and I’m not saying a two pound average is a bad thing – but it is a little irritating to feel that you’ve put in the same effort that you used to and for no apparent reason only get back half of the reward you expected.

This week I’ve knocked the gardening on the head (apart from a bit of mowing and weeding) and instead walked around 63 miles. What’s more (unlike the phantom ones reported in the garden from my watch’s pedometer) they’ve been genuine miles counted with GPS and requiring plenty of heavy breathing and sweat.

By the way – when I say sweat I mean LOTS OF SWEAT (it’s been a hot week!)

And this is the result.


I’ve only gone and smashed the target this week!!!

This actually makes me a bit emotional to be honest as I’m finally under the 20 stone barrier. I have to say this again quietly and slowly to myself because I still don’t really believe it.

I am now nineteen stone and twelve pounds.

I’m in the teens!!!

The last time I was anywhere near this weight (I don’t have the specific date sadly) Blur were fighting Oasis for the top spot in the charts, Charles and Diana were newly divorced and Nelson Mandella had become the president of South Africa!

You might imagine that this makes me feel rather sentimental – and that there’s a sense within me that I’m recapturing some sort of youthful spirit – but nothing is further from the truth.

When I look back there are few happy memories.

I was an idiot back then.

Mostly I was covering up one kind of pain or another or running from the wrong partner to the wrong partner again and and again just to prove I was normal and not some emotionally damaged fat kid with an abusive home life.

I had no idea about the enormity of the mistakes I was making and what I was doing to myself physically and emotionally. I papered over almost every crack in my life with cigarettes, alcohol, food – and other things too numerous to detail.

Although there was no digital photography back then I can see this in almost all of the photos that remain. I see someone persistently running away from truly feeling things, being the ‘life and soul of the party’ and burying problem after problem under layer after layer of fat – and ultimately retreating to near isolation.

I don’t miss the mid 90s.

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With this in mind the fact I now also have a fourteen and a half stone certificate barely seems to register in comparison – but I have to admit when I stop and say it to myself slowly and look at my progress from 34st 8.5lbs that’s pretty nice too!

So – what does the week ahead hold for me? Relaxation? Partying? Treating myself? Absolutely none of the above. I’m going to have a go at being a (bit of a) vegetarian this week.

Ok – well – maybe not a complete vegetarian – but I bought lots of Quorn!!!

Ok Ok Ok – maybe I’ll have half meat and half Quorn?!

Oooorrrr possibly some veggie days and maybe the rest as meat days?…

Either way internet –  it’s hopefully going to be another week of walking and healthy eating – so watch this space! The next stop on my route is my (mildly unbelievable) fifteen stone certificate!!!

Davey

Spring

I think my mood is being affected by my cold as I’ve no other reason to wake up feeling glum. However for some reason I did.

Oddly today everything seemed grey when I opened my eyes and my enthusiasm for anything and everything was at rock bottom.

Although… now that I think about it – maybe there is something on my mind.

I know I started to deal with my clutter the other day – but I’ve not finished. Doing so has unearthed items I’ve avoided for a quite a while – and some ‘scabs’ are still sitting in drawers and cupboards waiting to be picked.

It’s been over a year since my mother’s death and I’m still seeing things around my house that came from her bungalow or that belonged to her and remind me of times and places I don’t really want to remember.

There was so much of it that it seemed impossible to deal with it at the time. However – now I’m feeling like I want a new start for so many aspects of my life it seems appropriate to try and face up to this.

I’ve not buried any of the feelings I experience about her. It’s quite the opposite actually. I’ve lived them in public as I’ve written them down here – and it’s helped.

There are some things that I ‘inherited’ that are tougher to mentally process and physically deal with though.

I’ve given a lot of the generic stuff away rather than sell it. There were things that could help friends and that I had no need for. Practical stuff – like incontinence pads, cleaning supplies, garden tools, and cans of food.

It made me feel good to see her possessions helping people and re-wrote much of the negative narrative in my mind about the items I was left with. The things she obsessively hoarded could now be used as they were intended to be – in a positive way. 

But then there are her paintings and masses of scribbled (and repetitively duplicated and muddled) notes about the family. All of these are individually wrapped – as if a squirrel inhabited her mind instead of a human being.

It makes pulling the mental puzzles apart that are contained within exhausting.

However the information they hold is useful and relates to the history of my family. I can’t just throw them away – but I also can’t easily order or make sense of them. Up till now it’s been easier to leave them in a cupboard and come back to them at a later date.

‘Later’ is now a year on though and I still haven’t tackled those or the paintings – of which there are a lot – all painted by her.

Although this may sound callous none of them have any emotional attachment for me. With very few exceptions I dislike every single one of them both in style and for what they represent.

The frames and the oil paint she used is discoloured and yellowed by the same cigarettes that killed her and every one of them has lived in the house of a heavy smoker – in some cases for 40+ years.

They smell – and every time I catch a whiff of the odour it brings back a memory of her, attached to oxygen and struggling to breath – but still smoking.

By the same token though they’re paintings and getting rid of them seems almost akin to burning or defacing books in my mind.

On top of that they’re by my mother. She created them. They’re the legacy of her mind and one of the few things she really loved in life.

They’re also one of the few things (now that I reflect upon it) that seemed to make her happy.

It makes me feel nothing but bad that I want to discard them – and I fear that if I do so then later on I’ll regret my decision.

But I don’t want them in my life. 

It’s a conundrum that I don’t have an answer to. Every time I look at them I then immediately look at the loft hatch, which leads to the last totally empty space in my house.

Do I move the problem to yet another location and ‘store’ them there – or is this just avoidance? If I put them in my loft am I deferring the decision or am I sensibly preserving the past? 

I honestly don’t know.

I do know that the only things that make all this go away (at least temporarily) are exercise and going outside.

Doing so gives me a sense of purpose that blows away the cobwebs of the past and reminds me that even if I feel a little low today that tomorrow is a totally new day.

Walking fast and getting out of breath makes me remember that regardless of what’s in my cupboard at home I’m continually moving forward. Even though I’ve yet to deal with this aspect of the past I’m making progress. 

Plus it’s the right time of year to confront the reality of bereavement because the world is suddenly walking up. Nothing truly dies. It’s all just a process of continual rebirth.

As I walked briskly toward my customary coffee shop this morning I noticed that (during the last 48 hours that have passed since I last walked here) spring had arrived.

Hiding in the grass by the path were the first crocus shoots of the year, pushing upwards into the warmth of the Sunday morning sun as it peeked through the cloud cover above.


They look lovely and really cheered me up.

So – after my coffee I’m going to go home and start again.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I don’t think that grief (or whatever I was left with when she died) needs to be experienced in any particular way or in any particular timeframe.

I do know one thing though.

It’s important to come out the other side feeling like more than you were and not like you’ve been somehow diminished. A person may be gone but they left a legacy – and I don’t mean in terms of property.

Each and every life that ultimately leaves us lives on in the changes that they prompted or the thoughts they left in our minds – be they good or bad.

Every day is a conscious choice for me about what to do with the memories of her. Each time I think about my mother I consciously choose to be inspired by her failings in life and not buried by the weight of her problems.

Plus she liked crocuses Internet. She’d be happy to see them right about now.

If she was alive she would probably be contentedly watching her own grow from a seat in her back garden. She’d be wearing her well worn and faded slippers and thoughtfully smoking a fag – all the time sipping from a hot, milky, sugary mug of tea with a picture of the queen’s jubilee on it.

Davey

Anniversaries

The 26th and 28th of January are a big days for me – but for very different reasons. Whilst one is cause for celebration the other is not, and both have been playing on my mind for weeks.

I need to get my thoughts about these out of my head and onto the page, despite their anniversary still being a few days away.

Firstly – the 28th. The bad one. The day my mom died a year ago. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago since it happened.

My thoughts on this subject are complex. I wasn’t alone in thinking that she was a damaging and often abusive lady who struggled to connect with anyone on a level other than passive aggressive hostility. Until the day she died she created nothing but conflict with those that found themselves in her orbit.

But she was still my mother…

Because of this I am left with a sense of loss for what should have been rather than fond memories of what was. Over the last year (with varying degrees of success) I’ve had to learn to forgive the person that I knew and try to love her regardless.

I’ll be very honest. Sometimes this means that I have to consciously ‘re-touch’ reminiscences of her so that I can retrospectively experience them in a warmer light – because in reality there are so few good ones that I’m left with.

I don’t do this with anything or anyone else in my life. I have consciously chosen this approach to her memory because there’s no milage in bitterness – especially when it’s directed at someone who’s gone.

All it does is harm those that remain and that’s no way to live.

So I instead remember the (often partially fictional) moments when she smiled and hid special presents at Christmas when I was a little boy, or walks that we went on in the park, and a pirate costume she made for me when I was at infant school.

I jealously guard these memories when I find them. They’re insanely precious. Over the last year I’ve tried to grow and propagate them like flowers in a garden that’s otherwise barren.

For the most part I’ve succeeded. I’m not angry when I think about her and I don’t have animosity in my heart. After a lot of effort I can now see images of her in my mind where she’s happy and smiling.

However I can’t find it within myself to miss or mourn her in the way I think people might expect me to. As much as it would salve my conscience to know that I feel the appropriate and socially acceptable grief one normally associates with the death of a parent, I don’t.

I have a lot of guilt because of this and I often wonder if it makes me abnormal or a bad son.

This is compounded by the fact that (if I’m brutally honest with myself) the 26th of January is a far more significant date to me than the 28th because it represents a massive and positive change in my life.

It’s the day I gave up drinking.

For newer readers who haven’t been following my blog for the last year I don’t consider myself to be an alcoholic – and never did when I was drinking either – although toward the end I had begun to accept that I was probably ‘alcohol dependant’.

This (probably wafer thin) distinction between the two terms meant (to me at least) that while I wasn’t physically in need of alcohol I had learned to emotionally rely upon it to manage almost every aspect of my life. The truth was that instead of helping me it was damaging me almost every conceivable way.

It helped me excuse my eating behaviour over and over again and made it much easier to ignore the reality of my situation – which was that I was committing suicide with food and drink as surely as I would have if I’d taken a bubble bath with my electric toaster.

In a darkly comic moment I realised afterwards that even if I had wanted to take it – this domestic appliance related demise was no longer an option. Although I had the toaster (and the electric) I could no longer fit in the bath.

I had told many close friends I didn’t expect to live to see 50 and that I had accepted that I would probably have a very early death.

Things hadn’t always been this way though. Although my eating and drinking issues started early in life the more pernicious consequences of my habits (such as diabetes, mobility problems, breathing difficulties etc etc) only became problems over time.

Initially alcohol and food were just convenient (and enjoyable) ways to deal with unresolvable and painful emotions. In the early years these were mostly related to my mother but by the time I left home for the second time the patterns that would begin to control me were firmly embedded and I used both substances to deal with the bad times and celebrate the good ones.

I blocked my mom out for years – but in the last stages of her life (through a convergence of circumstances rather than a conscious choice) I finally allowed her back in again. In many ways I was convinced at the time that this was a mistake. In the months following our reacquaintance (up until just before she died) I upped my alcohol intake dramatically to counteract the stress that dealing with her brought.

Then during a particularly disagreeable visit to see her (just after she had left hospital for the final time) my brother stormed out of her bungalow. He exited in a fit of frustration and anger with her (mostly) because she had lasted less than two days without a cigarette after not smoking for almost six weeks in a high dependency COPD ward.

As my mother and I sat alone in her house, and the silence following their argument slowly descended, she turned to me and after a moment said ‘I’m so misunderstood.’

I laughed.

Not because it was funny. It was an exasperated laugh, born primarily out of incredulity. Everyone was trying to help her and she was continually pushing all of them away, making each one in turn regret that they had tried to care.

I didn’t know why she so often did or said so many things to hurt people but in that moment I definitely understood her capacity for self delusion. I knew what it was like to give in to seductive but self destructive impulses. I also knew what it was like to eventually feel consumed by them – and to decide that there was no way out.

I realised the reason why I was still sitting with her was that unlike my brother I felt no anger or disappointment that she had started smoking again.

I didn’t feel that way because I expected it. I knew deep down that I was looking in a mirror when I looked at my mom. She knew she was dying – and she had known for years that what she was doing would eventually kill her but she did it anyway.

And there it was.

I drank and ate the same way that she smoked. There was no reason to worry about the consequences because (like her) I’d convinced myself that nothing mattered any more. The end was inevitable and I couldn’t change it.

Until that moment I was so sure that I was nothing like her.

I often couldn’t bear her company. It was impossibly hard to avoid arguments and I found it completely exhausting playing the games of mental hopscotch that were required to do so. She was full of anger and bitterness and could never move past anything that she considered was a personal slight or injustice.

And yet I was doing exactly the same thing that she was to herself but with a different substance.

So two days before she died on the 26th Jan I had my last drink. It was one of the most difficult mental transitions of my life – but now as I sit here a year later I know that it was also the most important.

So – it’s complex. I feel happiness that I finally found my current impetus for change – but I also feel guilt because of the reasons behind it. My shift didn’t start because of a nurturing, loving mother. It came as the cumulative result of years of pain, frustration, anger and sadness and because I wanted to be nothing like her.

I feel very conflicted because of this.

In an ideal world over the years she would have led me by the hand toward being the man I am now with support and love. She’d have been here with me as I type to celebrate my successes and commiserate my failures in life. We’d share a cup of tea while we talked about the good old days, and the happy memories that we had made together as mother and son.

That’s not what happened however – and every day that I get better and recover from years of self abuse I have to construct my own, better reality. In this new world I continue to choose a healthy life, and not live in the past or give in to anger or bitterness.

As I sit here nearly a year later I think the best that I can do is say that in her memory I’ve done something good with the last year, and that wherever she is now I hope she’s content and that she too has finally found happiness.

mom

Davey

Dream meanings

It was a grey, damp, rainy day yesterday, and the light levels barely rose above ‘early evening’ all day long. It’s slightly brighter today – but not by much.

It’s easy to feel glum on a day like this – especially when you’re faced with a bewildering array of job sites (every time I follow a link to apply for a job I end up signing up to yet another one I’ve never heard of), an inbox full of mails from recruiters with roles that aren’t even vaguely suitable for you, and a bank account that’s reliant on you doing very little that costs money to remain in the black.

However I really don’t feel glum today. I didn’t yesterday either. I feel quite good actually. One might even say liberated.

I woke up the other day having had a rather unsettling dream about staying at a hotel. The plumbing and bathroom in this hotel (one that I was sharing with several friends) was awful. The toilet didn’t work and there was no privacy. By the end of my time in this horrible 70’s decorated environment with green deep polyester carpets the facilities were overflowing and I was desperately trying to clean up an impossible mess of effluence.

It all eventually overflowed in a raging torrent and I was surrounded by a disgusting mess.

I woke up at this point – but realised it wasn’t the first time I’d had this dream and Googled it to see whether there was an explanation that might make sense of why this would recur.

I found this (edited) explanation:

As in waking life, when in the bathroom in a dream you are often dealing with the unpleasant, intimate aspects of life: relieving yourself, elimination of wastes, cleansing yourself, etc. In dreams, additional obstacles or unfortunate circumstances are usually a factor. These might include: being unable to find the bathroom, a lack of privacy, having no toilet paper available, a dirty bathroom or a clogged or overflowing toilet.

Basically, bathroom dreams may be addressing your need to relieve yourself emotionally and/or psychologically. You may be dealing with a dirty, messy, toxic or crappy situation in waking life or are under a lot of stress. A public bathroom or restroom may suggest the dream is dealing with your social or professional life or relationships while the bathroom in a home suggests the issue may be internal or related to your home life or relationships.

The toilet itself may be dealing with your ability or inability to eliminate problems, relationships, emotions, etc. If the toilet won’t flush or is clogged, you may be unwilling or unable to release your emotions or express yourself. An overflowing toilet may represent an emotional outburst or you may be feeling overwhelmed by your emotions and the stresses in life.

The night before I’d told someone something about my relationship with my mother that I’d never mentioned to anyone before. I hadn’t been purposefully hiding it, and had good reason to keep it to myself – as it was something that was profoundly intimate and embarrassing.

It just came out in conversation.

I realised as my friend and I were talking that for a number of reasons I’d been hiding and pushing the thought to the back of my mind every time it came up. I’d hidden it from myself for years – motivated mostly by a sense of personal shame. Each time I’d wanted to vocalise it I’d stopped and pushed it back down – moving on instead to other topics.

For some reason I chose not to this time and instead relayed the story to my friend and then how it made me feel. I was close to tears after letting it go – and realised (based on the look on my friend’s face) that what I was describing was a form of abuse by my mother that designed to maintain control and manipulate me.

Honestly – this kind of thing isn’t anything new to me with regards to her memory, but this particular thing is something I hadn’t openly admitted to anyone before. Unburdening came with a sense of relief and no small degree of fear, but it was extremely liberating – and as I drove home in the dark rainy night afterwards I felt somehow lighter.

My mind was clearly still turning over the consequences of my tale being told however, and the whole night was characterised by restless sleep – and finally this dream.

Sharing this memory (which happened randomly in a very normal conversation) reminded me of a couple of things however – and they’re the root of why I feel so good at the moment.

Firstly, when you hide your true self the only person that you ultimately hurt is yourself.

Sure, you may temporarily save yourself some embarrassment and shame – but you’re only constructing a prison for that part of you in your own mind. It’s as real as any physical cell in a real jail, and the longer that you leave it closed the less likely you are to be able to easily find the key.

Being open and honest is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others – and although if anyone asks me for my pin numbers they can get stuffed, when they ask me how I feel I’ll always do my very best to tell them.

Secondly, people are inherently good.

Some may see this as a naive attitude – but I’m not a stupid man and I like to think I’m a good judge of character. I’ll have alarm bells if someone looks shifty just as much as the next guy.

Often if someone looks insane and you cant quite figure out why that’s evolution whispering in your ear and reminding you of primal reasons why you avoid certain things and move towards others. It’s a good thing to trust your instincts.

What I mean is that when I meet someone (that seems ok) for the first time I prefer my default position to be trust and openness – and I can only think of a few instances in my life where this has been betrayed. In the vast majority of cases people are worth the time you invest in them and they ALL have something to give.

So – my inbox is overflowing with stuff thats misdirecting me left and right, my bank account looks worse than ever, but I’m continually reminded that the yardsticks that I used to judge my old life are no longer as relevant as they once were.

Eventually something good will happen and when it does I’ll be standing there with a smile on my face waiting to shake its hand and say hello.

Finally internet – my soppy side came out whilst writing this – and I was reminded of the song that most parents must have been battered to death with in recent years – ‘Let it go’ from the Disney film Frozen.

It may be corny but people love it for a reason – you should listen to the lyrics and just let it go.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Davey