Category: Addiction


… As Miranda’s mother says. (For those who don’t know, this refers to an uncomfortably comedic British comedienne’s show, ‘Miranda’)

I’ve taken a bit of time away from the blogsphere. Mainly because being an inpatient isn’t particularly conducive to writing. Then again, having an illness like Anorexia seems to make it nigh on impossible so, either way, I hope it explains the rather large gap between posts.

I’m out of hospital now. Not “better” in the stand-alone sense…. but “better than”…2013-08-12 08.34.49

Recovery is hard work. When I was in hospital, I longed for freedom.

Now I’m out, I realise that I’m still imprisoned.

BUT

I still have hope perched in my soul.

I can take up arms again now my arms are strong enough to carry them.

I want to thank readers who have been kind enough to message me and mail me. I have been so touched by your concern. Many thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. They have helped me stand when I have been all but bent double.

Every so often, I come across a poem or a quotation or a song that holds such a deep, weighty resonance, that I almost feel it in the very bowels of my being. Incredibly, a string of words can have the power to somehow infiltrate me; to bypass the sentry who guards my reason, and speak directly to my soul.

I believe that every human being has had this experience, to a greater or lesser extent. And although it’s a little hard to define, and sometimes difficult to see in some people, I think that human beings have an innate desire to be understood by something outside of themselves. This need is fleetingly and powerfully met when they stumble upon something that, on some level, speaks the words of their muted soul / heart. Sometimes a poem or a song can understand you and make sense of a part of you that, by it’s spiritual nature, cannot be voiced, but is silently woven into the very essence of your being.

Phew! This is deep, perhaps TOO deep!

All this verbosity is really an introduction to a beautiful poem I read recently by American poet Mary Oliver.

Simple in language and in form, “The Journey” spoke to me in the way that I describe above. It is an apt description of where I am on my journey towards recovery.

We all have ‘voices’ / things that try to drag us back, to hold us captive as we trudge along the ‘road full of fallen branches and stone’. For me, the Anorexia screams at me to turn back. For you, perhaps it’s something else. No matter, it is a struggle that many of us experience, particularly as we attempt to shake off ‘the old tug’ at our ankles.

It is my hope that, in posting this poem here, it will somehow encourage you and speak some of your unspoken words.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.Image

The other day I woke up with the word ‘VIM’ in my head.

Quite why this was the case, I have no idea, but there it was, pinging round as I showered, dressed and ate my customary bowl of Branflakes.

It’s not really a word that you hear nowadays: vim. Like the Lemon Syllabub, once the darling of the dinner party, it has fallen from fashion and is possibly only really used in a strike of linguistic sadism by an evil cruciverbalist (to most of us, that’s ‘Crossword Complier’)  I had to look it up. Learn something new everyday.

Image

Anyway. Point is, this ‘vim’ is exactly what I’m lacking at the moment, hence the long gaps between posts here.

I lack the energy that writing demands, let alone the immense effort needed for continued recovery. How can I possibly encourage others when I myself am failing to practice what I preach.

Recovery takes VIM. It takes a robust energy, something I believe that comes from within, which is a good thing because Eating Disorders very often result in a weak or fragile body.

When we lack the spirit required to spur us on, instead of just stumbling on with our eyes shut and our fingers in our ears, we need to take time to CONSCIOUSLY (some say ‘mindfully’) focus our efforts, remember our goals and recall the reasons why life without an ED or addiction is worth aiming for, suffering for.

If you have experienced anything like this, please take a moment to share your thoughts here.

Politician Frank Field says of Christmas;

“It is my favourite festival because it reminds us that we can always begin again”…

…A sentiment I like because it’s rooted in hope. Now, perhaps you are one of those enviable types whose boundless optimism shines forth, making you a beacon for desperate souls like me (who experiences hope in a short rush

Sand-Hand-1309326

which passes the mind through like sand from a loosely clasped fist).

Perhaps you are a glass half full sitting on the sunny side of the table.

If so, great! You can probably look over your shoulder and give a grateful nod to those who brought you up (controversial point, I know).

If like me, you struggle to keep a faint ember glowing, this post is for you!

When I started writing this blog, I wanted it to be about HOPE. I wanted it to be a small ray of hope streaking through the darkness of cyberspace.

Candle-calendar

If ever there was a time where we see the little lights of hope, “Advent” is it.  And I want to say that Christmastide, although an incredibly tough time for people like myself and perhaps, you, is also a time where there is a sense of something new… and not just the ipad or the SatNav in your stocking, but in the way that we can live our lives and make small changes in the ways we react and respond to people or situations.

Hope is intrinsically linked with change: something I’ve never really thought about before, but seems so relevant to those of us who struggle with eating disorders or addictions. It’s so easy to give up. Sometimes it’s easier to say; “I’ll never make it”; “I can’t change”; “my ED is stronger”;”my problems run too deep”.  But the painful truth is, believing these ‘despair-mongerous’ statements (okay, so I made up a word), is putting a jamjar over a flame.

And we’ve all done it. We all give in to the nagging despair. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can fight for the life we want, or to be the person we want to be. Where there is hope, there is light and life. Christmastime can be full of angst and grief and despair. It can be a time of immense loneliness and suffering. But, as in the real Christmas story, there can be moments where hope is born.

The hope that we can make it… that we haven’t blown it.

snowLooking at snow falling is one of those lovely, dizzying experiences that simple nature affords to man.

We have an outside light on the side of our house and if I’m lucky enough to catch it snowing at night, I love to turn it on and look up at the illuminated whirl of silent flakes, highlighted in the blackness. It reminds me of the trance-like screen savers, or virtual reality cinemas, where everything flies towards you. This though, rather than something invasive, is different: a bombardment of gentle beauty.  I

I’m writing about snowflakes because, as we well  know, each of them is entirely unique. No two constructs are exactly the same and yet, unless we examine them with microscopic care, we would never know this.

You’ve probably already cottoned on to the fact that I’m using this as a metaphor for Anorexia. And it’s not too bad a  comparison as they go, because Anorexia often presents in the same way, and yet, like the snowflakes, each individual case is very different. Despite outward appearances and behaviours, no two people have exactly the same strain of the illness, to the same degree, or with the same rate of development and recovery.

My personal belief, is that Anorexia Nervosa falls into three (very) broad categories. The first type (Anorexia A) is a ‘strain’ more commonly found in teenagers who tend to be very concerned with how they look, how they fit in amongst their peers, and how others perceive them. The media have received huge criticism for their role in the alarming growth in figures of those suffering with eating disorders. Young people are highly impressionable and a society which emphasises a relationship between popularity and thinness, a diet industry worth billions and a fashion industry parading waif-ish  models across the pages of every magazine and paper have a huge influence on kids who are busy trying to establish their sense of identity.  A recent trend I observed (again perpetrated by the fashion industry)  concentrates on the blurring of gender characteristics, promoting an androgynous look (and thus, I suppose, drawing in the gay demographic). In recent years, the sharp increase in cases of male Anorexia makes for worrying reading. The rise of the ’emo’ / indie folk scene produces a whole following of longer haired young men,, their rake thin legs in skin tight jeans. At one point this year, a popular hangout for indie teens  looked more like an inpatient ED unit than a skateboard park in the town centre.

I want to point out that Anorexia Type A, despite often being passed off as ‘a phase’, and despite having its beginnings associated with social trends or self esteem, can be just as severe as any other strain of the illness. The ’causes’ of Anorexia are never that simple and the illness has the power to morph into a monster, something completely unrecognisable from the form it took at the start.

Anorexia Type B is a different animal. It can strike at any age and is often more reactionary. This type often hits a person who feels that they lack control over their lives. It becomes a mechanism to help soothe the sense that they are out of control because it affords the sufferer some power over his or her weight. the irony here is startling because as the Anorexia worsens, the power an individual has to fight it, diminishes.  Many Anorexics suffering with this strain have suffered trauma, cumulative or sudden, and can pinpoint when the illness began because it usually follows a time of extreme distress or a combination of changes in their life. However, although some Anorexics have suffered abuse and severe trauma,  the trigger doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is obviously traumatic. A combination of life changes, perhaps a lack of resilience, may all be contributory factors.

 

Anorexia Type C is, I believe, the least common form of the illness, and the most fatal. According to BEATs statistics, 20% of those suffering from this illness will die of resulting complications. I submit that the majority of this percentage suffer with Type C.

Although I haven’t really heard anyone else propound this theory, I think that some people have this illness in a more ‘pure’ form, a form which may or may not take the shape of something being chemically or structurally different within the brain.  Either way, there do appear to be instances where Anorexia is almost inherent in the individual’s genetic make up. My younger sister for instance, has memories of thinking she was ‘fat’ at an incredibly (and, unnaturally) early age. She had no idea what she was suffering from, just that the ‘thoughts’ were there and then the uncomprehending instincts to deny her body its most basic need. Type C is not a reaction to fashion magazines, social trends, trauma or stressful life changes. It isn’t a passing fad, a rebellion or a manipulative weapon in complex family relations. It is etched into the fibres of someone’s being. It is by far the hardest to treat; and to cure..? Well… that is questionable.

I apologise for the fact that much of what I have said here may seem sweeping and generalised. It IS general… I’ve put an incredibly simplistic slant on a stupidly complicated illness in order to try to make some sense of it. As I reach a muddled end, I realise that I haven’t really managed to explain my original point, which was that no case of Anorexia is ever the same, despite seeming to be.

Perhaps in another post, I’ll be more successful. For now, I leave it in the somewhat mysterious and chaotic cloud that describes it best!

…And we’ll all sing along like before…”

Goes the song.

Irritating when your internal MP3 is stuck on the same track and no matter how hard you shake it, it won’t stop. Trying to get away from it is just about as effective as trying to go on holiday without your head. And don’t we all wish we could do that at certain times in our life. Take enough hallucinogens and it’s possible, but they’re not exactly pleasant or cost effective and the holiday insurance you’d have to take out would be ridiculous.

No.

No way around it but to play enough music to flush this one out of the system.
The particular musical ghosting I’m referring to is a song by… (I pause, not for literary impact, but because my memory function is compromised by malnutrition; although, it could just be that my powers of recollection are as shite as they ever were)…
Where was I? Okay. (Breathe) The music…
It’s a song by Del Amitri (who for some unknown reason, I always confuse with Dire Straits). An especially depressing number, aptly named, ‘Nothing Ever Happens’. For those who like to listen, go ahead.
Indulge.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeVOzaDBEmc

I guess it’s the theme of repetition that lends the song to my worn out inner ears; and for good reason.
On Monday, I retrace my tracks to the unit where my first attempt at recovery began.

March 2011.
Yep.
That’s right.
Monday will see me standing outside the gates of hell itself.

And to be clear, it’s not that nothing will have changed, because I have. My illness has. My way of thinking has. Three years of various treatments, including seven months as an inpatient, and rather a lot of medication, have put me on a markedly different rung of the ladder.
What is hard, is that it’s the same hole. The same darkness. And, pretty much the same distance to the light.
Hence, ‘we all sing along like before’.

I want this to work… which means that I will have to work. Very hard.

It will be bearable, though it won’t feel it.
It won’t kill me, though the process of recovery will involve the slow death of the illness, so it will feel like it.

In all the darkness, I must somehow manage to fix my eyes on a light I will not always see.

In order for recovery to take place, you have to believe that, just as there is always a sun and a moon, there is a new life beyond, and there is a different person behind, the illness / addiction.
The courage it takes to make this leap of faith is immense and for me personally, I don’t know if I can sustain it.

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. 

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.

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.

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.