Archive for September, 2013


6 years ago I was a valued colleague.
I had a good career, bright prospects and a good wage.
I had a pension. Good holidays.
I was contributing to society.
I was teaching English and social skills to young, disaffected teenagers who were so often in need of firm boundaries; steady, fair reliable adults who could help to rebuild some of the trust and respect that they lacked.
I was passionate, respected, consulted.

How is it then, that 6 years on, this same young woman sits with her support worker, filling in a form for Disability Living Allowance?
How did she go from the shiny, high gloss teacher to the redundant, matt -finish patient?

The change was staged, steady. I was stripped, planed, sanded and my identity fell away… disintegrated, replaced by the illness…
Suddenly, I’m not ‘a Teacher’ anymore. (“Hi! I’m a teacher too! What do you teach? Me? Oh I do Key Stage 3 and 4 English…”).
Not anymore.
Now I’m: ‘an Anorexic’.

I don’t have an income. I’ve lost my career. I don’t have holidays.
Days slip past me. I am overwhelmed by small things. Most days end without ceremony. I have achieved nothing. Thousands of hours and nothing to show.

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Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what this section of the form seemed to

demand, I left it blank.
And so my Support Worker wrote a few clinical / medical comments.

My claim for benefit will be submitted today.

But really…

…benefits..?

I’m trying so hard to see anything that would justify the use that word.

Hamlet_

Perhaps it is the sheer weight of Hamlet’s question, the blunt , blatant daring of it, that has made it the most famous line in the history of Shakespeare.  The phrase, often coined as being an expression of ‘existential despair’, or in less literary terms, a ‘question of life, or death’, has become widely quoted (very often comically) by students and adults in all manner of situations. Rarely however, is it used to describe the slightly darker context within which Shakespeare penned it.

It’s been in my head.

I write in an attempt to somehow pin down the darting shards of unfledged thoughts and feelings that fleck the walls of my brain every time this quotation smashes against them. This question of living or dying is particularly potent for those whose legs dangle over the sea wall of contemplation; eyes alternating between the storm tossed ocean of addiction and disorder, and the dark, unending tunnel of recovery.

Neither side is alluring,

sea stormThe ocean is cold and squally. It’s so very tiring just trying to stay afloat. Your life jacket is failing and you’ve swallowed water enough to poison you. The horizon is nothing but pitch black, unknown, perpetual  and when you’re washed into a cave, you have nothing to keep your feet steady on the  slippery algae and the rats that litter and skitter the black rock floor.

In some ways, it makes no difference what your sea of troubles is. For me, it’s severe Anorexia Nervosa, for you, it may be Alcoholism, Bulimia, Gambling, Drug addiction, Perfectionism, Depression, I could go on…

At some point, no matter what we’re suffering with, we have to decide whether to slip under the life jacket, under the

devil_may_cry_4___drowning_by_amoralisch-d5l34px tumult and into the cold, grey peace of the damage; breathing in, suffused with fatal calm as our sickness becomes us.

OR whether we choose to sum up courage and force frozen arms to propel us one more time into the darkness, in the teeth chattering, tiny hope that somehow, at some point, we will be washed onto an unknown shore which MAY, MAY look less bleak than the land we once swam from.

There is, always, a point where we have to face the options. I’ve dressed it up, made a fuss. But it comes down to this.

Sink or swim.

Be, or not be.

One thing is certain, to remain passive, is to choose death. 

Okay.

So I believe in the things I say. I believe in recovery. I believe in the possibility of turning things around. I believe that love triumphs over all. I believe that hope is the key to recovering and conquering our enemy. I believe in miracles, occasionally. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that mindfulness is important and can help relieve the agony we can go through as sufferers of addiction and mental illness.

ImageHowever, that doesn’t mean that I’m in the best place to be dishing out advice.

Anorexia Nervosa has ruled my life for the past seven years and continues to do so.

I have relapsed. I am waiting to go back into treatment. This is imminent and will involve the indescribable mental torture of refeeding in a day unit setting.

I feel that I need to be honest in order to keep writing this blog.

I want to offer hope to others through my own determination to recover. I know that there will be times when I waver, stumble and fall. I know I will cry out in pain. I have been here before.

This time I want it to be the last.

I consider myself blessed to have the chance to recover as I recall those who have not survived the harsh and abusive regime of denial that leads to this extreme of malnutrition. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illness and those of us who battle this illness, and so often give in to its cruel demands, forget just how easily our bodies could fail to keep running on empty.

If you’re thinking about recovery, I encourage you to take the scariest step and go for it,

Your body is not an inexhaustible resource.

This illness will make you dice with death in ways your rational self will not react to until it is allowed to surface.

Don’t Look Back II

Don't Look Back II

But Lot was so afraid he couldn’t move. So the angels grabbed him by the hand, and they grabbed the hands of his wife and of his two daughters, and they led them out of the city. As soon as they were safely out of the city, one of the angels said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”  And then God rained fire onto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thick, black smoke filled the air like smoke from a fiery furnace. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

(Paraphrased Old Testament story – Taken from Genesis 19:25 ff )

Sometimes in life, you have to grit your teeth, set your face like flint and let the hot tears run cold down your cheeks.

running woman

You have to put blinkers on and RUN, ignoring every twinge of agony and crashing through every brittle hurdle of despair.

Scream if you have to, but whatever you do… DON’T LOOK BACK.

Don’t look at what you were, where you’ve come from or how you felt.

Just keep running like nobody has ever run before.

There’s a point in recovery, be it recovery from an addiction or recovery from an Eating Disorder, when to look back is fatal. Just like Lot’s wife, to look at what you’ve left behind will destroy you.
In the case of Anorexia, to stop pushing through the pain barriers, to allow yourself a tiny backward glance, is to begin to slow down. Casting that quick over-the-shoulder peek, may not feel like it, but it’s going to make your feet like lead, your path like treacle. And all of a sudden, it’s got you. Again.

You were going through hell and you should have kept on going.

Why go through halfway through hell and turn back?
That’s what looking behind you will do.

Coffee Critique…

image

This post was supposed to have text underneath saying:

“Sorry SOHO. It’s a no no..!”

…but somehow it got lost and you got the coffee without the critique!  This is the corrected version.

In my last post, I borrowed the words from an old hymn to use in a metaphor for ‘the will to recover’.

I wanted to highlight(no pun intended) the importance of keeping that will alive, making it flare up and then harnessing it to use as a source of power and light as we progress on the dark journey towards recovery.

Not easy when the illness or addiction is playing King in your mind and all will and all incentive is laid prostrate before it, bent and unable to muster so much as a whisper of it’s own volition.

GasGaugeEmpty

Anyway, as I thought about my last post, I was nagged by the thought that it’s all well and good writing about keeping our oil topped up; keeping our willpower alive; maintaining the hope for recovery and keeping that spark that drives us clear and strong…

but

what IS the oil…  and WHERE do we GET it from?

I started to question how I fuel the drive towards recovery, and wondered what I needed to use more of.

And I came up with these:

  • Prayer

  • Mindfulness exercises I was taught in hospitallight-tunnel-01-220x130

  • my family

  • friends who are ahead of me on the journey back to a future that looks something near normal

  • allowing myself to risk dreaming of what ‘could’ be…

  • Music – Particularly songs with lyrics which inspire me

It might (or might not) be useful to think of things to turn to as sources of power when you feel like your will to make it is running dry…

I wondered, if it’s not too personal,  if anyone had any that they would share?

You never know, your oil could help to fuel someone else.

Oil in my Lamp

“To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it ” 

said Mother Theresa.  And assuming that the lamp to which she refers isn’t a £6.99, stretch neck, mains powered Argos job, which relies on an E14 Edison Golf Ball Light Bulb (in Cool White), then it (frequently) occurs to me, that she’s right.

Joking aside, although an obvious metaphor, it’s one of those things which is much easier to know and dismiss, than to know and apply. Especially where recovery is concerned.

Image

To keep the will to recover alive and at the fore, is one of the things I find toughest. Today, for instance, although I am determined that my weight will not go down, I’m not really intent on making it go up. It’s what I call, ‘living the half life’.

To be in recovery, we can’t afford to just sit around waiting for ‘it’ to happen. We can’t afford to submit to lethargy, apathy, ambivalence. We have to keep fighting, keep the oil topped up. No room for our will to ‘glow’. Nope. It has to shine bright.  

It’s only when the will to recover burns fiercely, that we can really fight hard. 

As my will feels as though it’s barely glowing,  I will remember Mother Theresa’s words together with the words of a hymn from my childhood, which pray, “Give Me Oil in my Lamp, Keep me Burning’ and repeat them as mindfully as I can. 

Are you in?

We Will Be Okay  - *but please read small print.

Delinquents defacing ugly walls may sometimes be the unheard prophets and poets of our time.
I snapped this in a quiet alleyway whilst walking a backstreet of ever-so-respectable Cheltenham town.

I needed to re-visit this picture today and know that this wall speaks a truth that only I can bring into being.

I’m not a fatalist. (Apologies to all those who I’ve disappointed) but I think it’s too easy to sit back and say that I have no control over what happens to me.

Truth is, fatalists make fatalism true. (No… I’ve not had a glass of wine, honest!)
What I mean is, if I don’t take the wheel, things will ‘just happen’; whereas if I choose to sit up, grab the tangled reigns and pull with all my might, I CAN change direction.
I’m not saying that I have the ultimate power… and I understand that those fighting addiction must admit that they can’t go it alone… BUT, as far as recovery is concerned, I must CHOOSE to turn around and fight the sickness that so cruelly creeps and seeps through my mind, rather than let it coat me in its treacle blanket until I melt away.

We WILL be okay. We WILL.
(small print below)
But we have to show some mettle. We have to CHOOSE to fight. We have to believe we will be okay because we’ll make damn sure of it.

Recovery doesn’t come to those in the passenger seat.

It’s a driving position.