Mummy Diaries: Tribe of Support

All of us know what it’s like to be sad, but not all of us understand what it’s like to be so sad that you want to give up.

Everyone has an opinion about extreme sadness. I am going to call it that because I loathe the term “depression” – there is nothing more limiting to complex human beings than labels. “Why is everyone so depressed here? It’s ridiculous!” a friend once exclaimed to me in New Zealand and I guess it’s true. Did people even have time to be so down in the old days, what with all the washing and chicken plucking and trips to the dunny outside?

I’m actually not depressed. There’s nothing wrong with my seratonin levels or my hormones.  What I have is overwhelming anxiety but the line between the two is fine, and I have been depressed before. What is it like? Imagine waking up every day sad that you did, or looking at the most beautiful things in creation and thinking … nothing. Imagine dreams filled with murky doom and worry causing you to wake up constantly, or sleeping your life away because you just cannot bear it. Smiles would stretch too thin across my teeth and my body would be tense like a violin – this, coupled with being anxious, would make me seem to the onlooker like a crackhead flying higher than some of my neighbours.

Why am I so anxious? If you’ve been reading then you will know I’ve been suffering with my health since November. This is all nothing to new to me – since I was a girl I’ve been suffering in my body, mind racing to a thousand and one planets when it should be in the moment. I’ve always been unsteady on my feet as if my thoughts were weighing my head down to cause me to be lopsided. Doctors can’t help – my ear drums are just the wrong shape – and so I have to push through the Annapurna Circuit just to achieve the simple things.

Depression sneaks up … but with force. Life throws curveballs and unless your steady it can be hard to catch them. My pregnancy came at one of the most awful periods of my life, the details of which I won’t bore you with. If you remember my blog about drawing strength from my son, then you will understand it was the same principal that kept me hanging on when I was pregnant: my swollen belly.  That always-the-wrong-size pregnant ball on my front that kept me awake all night long (hello for the 8th time this hour, toilet!), and that gave me a purpose even when I felt as though I was all alone in the world. I lived way out in the bush – in the middle of nowhere – and with one friend a good hour away. I faded into myself and when Emilio was born I no longer even remembered that I had a personality. I was a mummy drone, changing nappies and breastfeeding day and night, through sickness and sadness. I don’t even remember much of those first 9 months with Emilio but I do remember that I struggled, and that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

But something really helped me during the 18 months of unbearably conflicting emotions.  I can’t believe I’m going to write this but it was … Facebook. It actually pains me to admit that given all that it represents, but when I was all alone and struggling to process overwhelming family drama with the pressure of being a new solo mother, and I have to admit that it really helped me. So when I was holed up in my cave, still horizontal from all the breastfeeding, the connections I made with people known and unknown gave me a sense of normalcy.  They were a band of mummies reaching out across the distance to form a tribe of support.

When I finally reconnected with Luis again it felt like a punch in the gut.  I couldn’t figure out how to pull myself out of the mummy role to be a seperate person. I had forgotten things like sexual attraction or what it meant to laugh at a joke. We faced some hurdles falling back in love and learning to live together as a family. We are getting married in March – how far I have come since moving back to Chile more than a year and a half ago.

Now I am struggling to find the confidence to be alone again after the last few months leaning on Luis entirely. I am anxious and I am still struggling to look people in the eye but I am not sad. I have a wonderful support network in Chile (and I get lots of Emilio cuddles) and I still have my Facebook tribe, which has grown immensely since I started this blog, but it’s a delicate situation, especially when money rears its ugly head (made worse by my difficulty working). So I am baring all today because the connection between your health and your actions is so tight – they must be in balance. When the balance is off life can become really, really difficult, and unfortunately people cannot help what they don’t understand. So I wrote this to draw attention to all the people who struggle to do the everyday things (I am so jealous of people who can walk up stairs properly), or the people who look normal but who are actually fighting a battle inside. Or the people who are really, really sad and who need our kindess, not our cruelty.  Instead of pulling apart, band together. Make a tribe of support – even if all you can offer is through Facebook.

It sure helped me.

If you are suffering with Meniere’s Disease, anxiety or depression and need a friend, please send me an email. Do not be afraid to ask for help and seek medical assistence.

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Our family in 2016

This blog is dedicated to my friends who reached out when I needed it most, Amanda and Melissa.

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Nation of the Overweight?

It was a bit of a squeeze the other night on the metro – as it is always is on the red line – when a family hopped on. Mama was rotund, Papa was large, oldest daughter was fat (and about 12 and dressed like a stripper), middle daughter was very large and there was a boy of about four who was extremely obese. You could argue that maybe their size was a genetic thing, but when I watched them all sit down and stuff their faces with McDonald’s I think we can safely say that perhaps their diet just isn’t flash hot. The boy than had an extreme tantrum for some lollies, which his mother embarrasingly gave to him. I sympathised with her in this moment – the whole train was watching and the easiest way to make him be quiet was to give in to his demands. I felt very sad because I could see the parents loved their children, with the father guarding them all protectively. They got off when I did to change to the yellow line, and they took the lift instead of the escalator.

I know people eat for different reasons. Nearly all of us have beccome accustomed to feeling too full, and we eat more than we need to – when we don’t need to. Our eating habits have changed so drastically over the last hundred years that its almost unrecognizeable (must read: The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry). Chile today is one of the most at-risk countries in Latin America, with the national Ministry of Health stating that 22.4 percent of children overweight and 22 percent of adults obese. Dr. Juan Carlos Prieto, from the Clinical Hospital at University of Chile, blames the ridiculous amount of bread that Chileans have become accustomed to eating – some six to eight servings a day – and one of the highest rates in the world.

Bread certainly is a staple item here. Everyone I know consumes it for both breakfast and dinner, usually with eggs, avocado or tomato. It’s delivered fresh to our local corner stores twice a day and it’s preservative-free so if you don’t eat it when you buy it goes all crusty and stringy.

In my opinion the cause of the dietary shift is the stratopheric rise of the supermarket. I trace the changing diet of Chile here an academic essay for Massey University, in which I detail how these hypermarkets have replaced shopping in local markets, or ferias, for the majority. I can see the appeal of supermarkets – your not forced to cook around seasonal ingredients, you can buy ready-made foods, you can buy cheaper in bulk, you can buy everything you need in one go … When you don’t have much money (or time) the supermarket is an excellent place to stock up on what you need to feel full, especially when buying pasta is sometimes alot cheaper than buying fresh vegetables.  Note: the bread is not preservative free!

I have spent alot of time introducing readers to the people that I know in Recoleta. All of them are overweight. I’ve also talked time and again about the issue of education. The connection is obvious: 35.5% of low-income earners are overweight compared to 18.5% in Chile’s highest income bracket, with obesity twice as high for those with little education (Chile National Population Health Survey 2004).

In 2010, President Sebastián Piñera began a national programme to target the weight epidemic by increasing physical education in schools and a programme to refer obese children to nutritionists. However, given my own experience with a nutritionist in a reputable public hospital here, this is obviously not enough. Education is the root of the issue – people are just not being exposed to new information in the lower-income brackets, and they then do not have the means or tools to implement any changes.