Latest Entries »
There can’t be many instances where your loved ones raise a glass to toast your mental torment but then again. there probably aren’t that many cases where eating a beef sandwich is an achievement worthy of celebration.
Perhaps those in the loop will actually understand the bizarre situation I’m writing about, but if you’re a ‘normal’ person, you might struggle.
Wait..! Did I just use the term ‘normal’?
I can hear some of the cries of protest. “…But there’s NO SUCH THING AS NORMAL…” Protestations jet from all corners of the philosophical, semantic and *wince* pedantic realm. No such thing. Everyone’s weird. Everyone’s normal. There IS no normal.
But there IS. There IS in the tangled, screwed up world of we Eating Disorder folk. If you disagree, you might want to read on because I’m going to tell you about what normal is, often by arguing the case for what it’s not. (If that goes over your head, don’t waste mental energy on it. Reading on will give you a clearer idea.)
“Normal” is our friends who happily pick a sandwich in a deli without an onslaught of mathematical conundrums running riot in their brain. “Normal” can actually have ANY kind of drink they like without even a whisper of a ‘value for calories’ haunting their thoughts.
Normal can choose food to satisfy their taste buds and not to keep them as light as possible. Normal doesn’t even think twice about adding one extra raspberry to their (carefully weighed) bowl of lowest calorie cereal.
Normal doesn’t consider black coffee a ‘snack’ or stir-fry an indulgent meal. It wouldn’t cast a suspicious eye over the size of a tangerine, or swear that an apple has the potential to be fattening. Nor would it question the amount of calories / fat / carbohydrate in a carrot. It wouldn’t distrust the carefully stated amounts of these ‘anorexic-life-threatening’ printed on each product, or regard cauliflower as an enemy to be avoided at all costs.
Normal doesn’t experience eating as a trigger for a sort of inexplicably acute mental pain. It doesn’t really begin to understand that ‘food’ is merely an assortment of numbers. (Despite our health conscious Food Standards people’s best efforts!) It doesn’t ‘get’ that a carrot is 35, a berry, 2 and if you throw in a spoonful of yoghurt you’ve exceeded the limit. (Scrape half away, then share some with the sink…)
Normal might be conscious of the numbers, but it’s not ruled by them. It doesn’t carefully bite each Malteser in half to ensure it has exactly half the stated amount. It doesn’t have to ignore the body’s cries for rest in order to complete the requisite amount of high intensive ‘burn off’ exercises before or after a calculated amount of food.
Normal doesn’t FEEL fat growing ON them if they eat something frightening. It doesn’t feel the rush of shame and disgust if they slip up and allow too much food to enter the forbidding mouth. It won’t suffer an onslaught of blind fear, the compulsion to induce vomiting or crapping or even the wild urge to cut fat OFF any given part of themselves.
I realise there are degrees of ‘normal’; a continuum even. This illness, any Eating Disorder, defies all concept of normality and in doing so, isolates sufferers in a sadistic and divisive way.
As someone who, for almost thirty years, was pretty ‘normal’ about food, I feel somewhat justified, perhaps even qualified, to attempt to explain that there really IS such a thing as ‘normal’ in the world I, and so many others, inhabit.
The next nine years of my life have literally been stolen from me.
I find it incomprehensible that for almost three decades, I could actually EAT a meal without attaching any feelings or significance to the food at all. Nor can I recall how I might have RELISHED the chance to actually SIT DOWN and watch a whole film without the raging impulse to burn off calories, the torture of that insane edict.
It’s too hard to properly explain how Anorexia has unpicked and rewoven my ‘normality’, but I hope, in some small way, I’ve conveyed the havoc it wrecks upon its victims, some too young to ever have experienced the luxury and freedom of normality
I hope these descriptions may bring some small solace to those who don’t feel understood and information for those who want to understand.
There’s no such thing as normal, but there is ‘abnormal’, and this illness is one example of that.
Someday, I hope to eat again, with the freedom of that first part of my life.
So it’s got to that point where it’s been so long, it’s embarrassing.
The multi-pack stack of Cola just can’t be tall enough as you dodge that friend you’ve been meaning to text for months.
This is me breaking the silence.
And here are two penguins (because I love them).
October 10th 2016: a day designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of those awareness type days where everyone is meant to have their mind jogged about the existence of mental health and the kind of struggles people can have.
I had no intention of writing, but the surge of mental health promotion that hit me when I turned on my laptop was so ‘full frontal’ that I almost feel I have a sort of obligation to this little gathering of mental moaning and metaphor that is my blog.
The public frequently hear the term ‘mental health’ and, despite the best efforts of organisations like WHO and MIND, there are still a variety of stigmas (what’s the plural of stigma? – Clumsy phraseology, I apologise) attached and often, that stigma either shrinks from it, or tuts at it dismissively, cos who hasn’t had a mental health problem nowadays? Who hasn’t seen someone exonerated on the grounds of ‘ mental health’.
Where am I going with this you ask? (I’m not entirely sure myself)
Thing is folks, we all ‘HAVE’ mental health. It’s true! The term is used imprecisely (a fine one to talk!) because we often use it to refer to a person’s POOR mental health, their mental ILL health, I suppose.
Many people I know think ‘mental health’ is something they don’t have, because it’s Anorexia or Schizophrenia or any of those crazy things.. Actually though, I’d argue that there isn’t this clear line dividing mental health and mental illness.
Mental health is a continuum. It’s a gauge which can be set higher or lower in particular individuals; higher or lower at certain times in each and ever one of us.
I think what I’m saying, in the most convoluted way possible, is that I sometimes sigh and roll my eyes at all these awareness days… I sometimes tire of hearing ardent advocates shouting and waving banners about one thing and another… (I am hanging my head, a contrite cynic – if you’ve ever heard of such a thing!) BUT, this mental health awareness stuff IS something worth stopping and thinking about. It’s worth it because it is something which affects us all, no matter the extent. Mental HEALTH is something we all possess and something we need to nurture in ourselves and in those around us.
Looking after a person’s mental health isn’t something that comes naturally to all of us. Days like today give us the opportunity to have a quick look at ways we can make it possible to reduce the rising percentage of people struggling with mental illness.
If I were a squirrel, I’d never make it through the winter.
I’ve written some notes for a post in a notebook, but I’ve hidden the book so well that I can’t find it. (This is despite ransacking my room which, as a direct result, now looks like I’ve been burgled).
I wanted to continue my thoughts on ‘being normal’, not an easy concept due to its being riddled with both semantic and philosophical potholes.
So this little snippet – post is like a trailer:
‘ Coming Soon To a Blog Near You’
Meanwhile, I’ll continue my search for the missing script!
It would be so easy for my little blogpost boat to sink in the murky waters of semantics, and without getting too punctured by the range of philosophical angles that one could discuss, i really just want to vent my (ever present) irritation at the language used by the advertising industry; in this case ‘The Weetabix Company’.
In my usual post dinner position at the end of the sofa, I was half watching an action thriller (questionable use of the word ‘thriller’), crocheting a monkey’s arm and sipping a small decaf coffee. The ads came on and I half listened to the voiceover on an advert for Weetabix. Not just ANY old Weetabix though… a NEW and exciting product marketed as ‘Breakfast On The Go’.
Okay so they’ve cashed in on the whole blended drinks craze that seems to have swept over the ever increasing ‘clean – eating- Ella- loving – nutri – bullet – blending’ demographic in our nation. Not a problem. People are busy, time is unfair in the mornings and breakfast on the go is, at least, still breaking a fast.
My problem began when the advert reached its finale and the slightly Cockney, ‘bit of a lad that everyone loves’ male voice declared, “New Weetabix High Protein On the Go…”
and…. wait for it…
“A PROPER BREAKFAST…
I know it sounds like I’m splitting sematic hairs here, but honestly, SERIOUSLY, it’s a kind of oxymoronic advertising disaster…
I don’t really want to get into a long debate around the definition of ‘a proper breakfast’ but surely, SURELY if it IS a proper breakfast, it wouldn’t be on a BOTTLE! Not unless it’s for a baby…
An audience of non-eating-disordered folk will probably just shrug at this notion and possibly view it as a somewhat petty quibble, but for someone whose world has been hijacked by a vicious food related illness this kind of bizarre advertising can be a powerful (and potentially dangerous) way of reshaping and redefining what is ‘proper’ and ‘normal’. Although I’m not confident in defining ‘a proper breakfast’, I sure as hell know what is NOT. And a bottle of Weetabix doesn’t cut it.
Apologies to all who remain unconvinced and to The Weetabix Company who, no doubt, worked very hard at perfecting their script. Next time though, try marketing it as baby food.
I’ve been in an Eating Disorders unit for the past month or so… part of the reason for my silence here.
I got out a week ago and so I’m dipping my toe back into the Blogsphere….
Watch this space!