It has been an interesting three months for me. For the first time in my life I have been forced to step away from work, and the way of life I am accustomed to, in order to get myself healthy again. Never in my life have I experienced the extreme emotional toll of hormonal ‘intolerances’ (for lack of a better word), and the way it can completely derail your life. I have always related to my body as strong, capable of withstanding many years of undernourishment and over exercise. I always had good stamina for life with a high baseline of happiness, and, provided I was eating correctly, I could handle pretty much anything. To go from this level of self-assurance to losing any connection to the Bridget I knew was terrifying. For a while I tried to push on through, tried to keep doing jobs whilst keeping up appearances. But, shortly after my last blog post, I hit a wall so hard that I completely crumbled.
I started modeling at the age of 14. I moved to NYC at the age of 17. My life from that point on changed completely; suffice it to say that the past decade has been beyond intense. And the last year has been by far the most mentally challenging of my life. I have been moving away from the mindset of constant weight loss and body struggle, a mindset that had always been a form of self-containment. The world around me was uncertain, and if I could not control it, at least I could control what I ate. Walking away from a behavior that - damaging as it was - provided a real sense of purpose and self, is fucking hard. I would have moments of extreme happiness realizing the freedom I had gained, coupled with stretches of anxiety and terror. To cut away a part of your identity leaves a vacuum waiting to be filled. That is life, but man that was a tough thing to shake. And then ironically, once I maintained a healthy weight for the longest time of my adult life, my hormones (freshly awakened) began to have their say.
To give you all a little context/refresher, earlier this year I was diagnosed with pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. And whilst it was a huge relief to give my symptoms a face and a name, learning to live with an invisible, unknown illness has been an adjustment. The loss of my self-containment through under eating, combined with the body dysmorphia and anxiety attack-laden PMDD left me overly porous to the world around me. Things that normally would never faze me suddenly stuck with me for far too long. I couldn’t trust my body like I had been able to my entire life. And suddenly it all became too much. I had to make some very real changes because obviously what I had been doing was not working.
I am not sure what constitutes a nervous breakdown. I am no doctor and will never pretend to be. But what followed was a period where I was completely unable to function as I had before. I began sleeping 13 hours a night, was terrified to leave the house and socialize, and began to negatively reassess the role I had previously played in the world. I cried daily, and wanted to run far away. Suddenly everything was very distorted, and writing was about the last thing I wanted to do. I write with full disclosure here, and most days left me too numb to be coherent. At the time it was all too close to the bone to share with you all. It was hard enough just living it.
I am so incredibly grateful for my doctors help in this process. She sat down with me for over an hour, going over all my symptoms and just talking about what life had been to me for the past year. She gave me her contact details, so that I could reach out any time to get the exact amounts of medications perfect for me. She even did genetic testing to ensure I would not have a bad reaction to the drugs. This meant the world to me. I had been trying to deal with a specialist previously who put me on hormonal birth control (even though I said I have never had a good reaction to them) then proceeded to not answer my calls when I desperately needed to talk to her about the suicidal ideations the BC had given me.
(Just to be clear – I am not suicidal. I never have been, and I really hope never to be. The second I got off that medication, I felt better. Always talk to someone if you find yourself in that place – the second I started to feel off I spoke to my husband, therapist and friends, and I got it sorted ASAP. I did not want to deal with this alone, and no one should ever keep quiet if they are going to that place.)
What worked was finally getting on medication. I had previously taken Xanax for anxiety attacks, and hated the hangover effects. I had a ‘hard no’ attitude about taking anti depressants – surely I could deal with the symptoms myself. But finally, I was forced to approach this from an angle of complete dismantling. I had nowhere else to turn, nothing left to try.
And, they worked. It was astounding the difference a low dose made. At around 6 hours after my first dose I suddenly found myself laughing and having more energy. I stopped feeling the need to drop out of school and run away. They gave me the mental space to begin to put my life back together, and to see what the rest of my life is going to look like. I have been working with an amazing therapist, and the breathing room that the medications gave me enabled me to begin to set up my strength again. I wonder what could have been prevented if I had gotten on them earlier.
I have never had three months off modeling. When I took holidays, they were usually fraught with familial tensions and obligations, and I would return to work more burned out than when I had arrived. I have never in my life had the chance to just stop, look around me and consider how I got here. It is quite a profound experience – one that has been a serious game changer for me. I have never not done anything at all. I have never not been keeping an eye on a job on the horizon. And I have never not had a lot of emails with options each morning.
Taking time out is so incredibly important. If you do not take it, then it will be forced upon you in an extremely unpleasant way. We can run from our body and instincts for only so long – eventually they grab you by the arms and force you to pay attention. And out of these times comes enforced growth. It was incredibly painful, and terrifying. My sense of self was taken apart, shaken around, and then put back together like a Picasso painting. Nothing was right, and I had no idea how I got there or who I was anymore. When things get to be too much, and nothing is getting you free from the shifty shadow, medication can help hugely. The stigma surrounding anti-depressants is fading (I hope). If I had gotten onto them earlier, I wonder how differently my past two years would have gone. Now I am forced to deal with getting back into my old life, with quite intensely traumatic memories haunting me at every corner. This is still a work in progress, but it is amazing to look back and see how far I have come. At the end of the day, complete destruction of yourself forces growth and change. Nothing like a good rebirth to leave you feeling brave.
I’m back to writing. I have really missed the interaction with you all, and shall be back to my regular posting. Please reach out – I love to hear from you! And I have a huge amount to share with you all - had plenty of time to think during my break 😀
Much love always,