Today I began filling in a food diary.
It isn't the sort of diary that proponents of the CSIRO or the GI diets advocate, although that certainly wouldn't be a bad reason for me to keep one. (Yes, you must cast aside any vision you may have of me as a tall, glamorous, svelte being and replace it with a considerably more padded and homely type).
No, I've started to keep a food diary because I'm required to, for three days, as part of a medical study for which I volunteered.
Yes, I'm surprised that I signed up for such a thing too.
Normally, I just cast my eye over the weekly update and news emails that I receive from the University. Towards the end of each email there's always a list of calls for volunteers. They tend to ask for people within fairly narrow age groups who've never experienced back or shoulder pain, or who are hikers who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a week from the left side of their mouths; strange little subcategories of people that immediately allow me to dismiss, 'Oh well, I wouldn't have volunteered anyway'.
On the occasion that prompted me to volunteer for the study I'm participating in, however, the age range was from 18-80. Lots of room there. The second requirement was related to waist measurement; it had to be over what doctors and public health campaigners deem to be healthy (Remember, you adjusted your vision of me to the roundish sort).
Alas, I fulfilled the final requirement for diagnosed depression too.
I suppose if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already knew this information. Or perhaps if you're sensitive to these things, you've picked it up. Either way, writing that, saying it out loud, as it were, still feels like a revelation, like I've just trusted you with my vulnerable underbelly.
Usually I just admit to a thyroid condition--which I do have. But in public I tend to blame any wayward behaviour on a thyroid that was zapped into hypo-activity by radio-active iodine. It's easier, a whole lot less awkward in polite company, to admit to a physical deficiency rather than a mental one. It's obvious I couldn't do anything about my thyroid going haywire, but well, admitting to long-term depression, that's quite possibly just me wallowing in self-pity and not getting on with it.
Anyway, I volunteered for this study being run by researchers in the medical school, not only because I matched all the inclusion variables, but because they're seeking to evaluate the effects of a specially designed Tai Chi program for people with depression who are at risk of developing cardio-vascular disease.
It's the Tai Chi that hooked me--I've done it before and liked it--but it was the prospect that the exercise regime I'd be required to undertake might help me wrest control over my depression that rendered me so willing to sign up.
I have remarked before about the truth, for me, of this quote from Sophie Cunningham's Geography. I think I could probably write an entire essay on the depth of meaning there is in this short sentence, but I'll be a whole lot briefer and just focus on the frustration of living with 'madness' that it imparts.
The tediousness of depression that I experience is related to the limitations it places on my ability to achieve what I would like. I've been feeling this a lot lately. I haven't finished my thesis and I still have a lot of work to do. I hate that I have spent days incapable of getting out of bed or feeling dizzy because I let my prescription lapse while my scholarship has drifted by. My scholarship has come to an end and I need to find a job but I feel utterly incapable of getting a job. I feel qualified for nothing. My education is an albatross of over-qualification on the one hand and a lack of 'real-world' experience on the other. I don't think anyone will want to employ me even though I feel I have a range of valuable, if not directly vocational, skills. Although I think I could tell anyone how I could apply my skills, I'm convinced they won't admit any merit in my abilities.
You see how boring this all is? I wish I could get over it.
So that's what participating in this study is all about really. I want to feel capable, and this is a tiny step towards achieving that. In this instance, my depression and my risk factor for cardio-vascular disease are like assets for me to trade with. In return I'll get Tai Chi lessons three times per week and, potentially, better mental and physical well-being.