Archive for January, 2010

Binge Eating Disorder

January 30, 2010

Some of you may not be terribly sympathetic to the person I am about to write about. If not, then turn the page.

I saw her today in the town standing staring at the window of a boutique designed for size six women with money to burn. They most certainly did not cater for people like her. They don’t make clothes for the morbidly obese. I walked over to her and tapped he on the shoulder. She turned and seemed genuinely delighted to see me. On the surface she hadn’t changed a bit. We decided to go for a coffee and a chat.

My friend Marjorie attracts a lot of attention. She is what some might call ‘generously proportioned. Others would call her morbidly obese and lots more besides. To those who don’t know Marjorie she is greedy, self-indulgent, lazy and lacking in willpower. I see none of these things. All I can focus upon is her bright, white smile.

Marjorie is bright, vivacious, holds down a highly stressful job and has a large circle of friends. So what exactly is wrong with her? She has Binge Eating Disorder. I first encountered Marjorie at a meeting of organising called ‘Overeaters Anonymous. I, a former anorectic, had metamorphosed into a slightly overweight bulimic and I was desperate to rid myself of those extra pounds. Marjorie was already there when I arrived, every inch the stereotypical fat woman, the star of the show, entertaining everyone. ‘I know its a stereotype – all fat people are jolly, the life and soul of the party. My entertaining people is like a camouflage It distracts others from my physical appearance. And I’m appeasing them I’m doing it so they won’t turn on me.’

Compared to some Marjorie is fortunate in that she has an inner strength that enable her to deal with the taunts hurled at her from passers by. What her tormentors couldn’t possibly know is that Marjorie suffers from binge eating disorder. It is the least recognised eating disorder and yet more people suffer from it than either anorexia or bulimia. Some doctors dispute its very existence.. Marjory’s old GP was one of them. ‘Human nature is what it is. We’re self-indulgent. Accept that either succumb to your weaknesses or do your utmost to suppress them.’

Binge eating disorder is neglected by the medical profession and often mocked by the media. It is the invisible eating disorder. In the public mind it is often confused with bulimia. Although the two disorders share some traits they are very different illnesses. Bulimia is characterised not by the binge eating itself but by the steps taken by the sufferers to ‘purge’ their body of the food that have just consumed using laxatives, vomiting, fasting and they use these measure consistently.

Marjorie tells me that she can’t remember a time when she hasn’t used food as a source of comfort. ‘Food is my best friend. It never lets me down. I live alone and often after a bad day at work it’s the only thing there waiting for me.

‘I was obsessed with food. It became the centre of my life. I used to dream about and go downstairs in the middle of the night when I was sure everyone else was in bed and binge. I’d raid my parents’ fridge. I’d eat everything I could get my hands on . Then I’d stuff the food into my mouth and eat until my stomach was distended and I was feeling nauseated.

‘I was so secretive. Everyone around me wondered why I was gaining so much weight. Although I was bingeing I rarely ate in front of my family. My mother took me aside to ask if I might be pregnant. And even when they did find out they found it impossible to accept that my actions were the result of an illness.’

Marjorie was hoping that when she moved away to go to university the change of environment would give her the chance to start again. ‘It actually got worse because there was nobody looking over my shoulder saying, ‘You can’t eat that.’ She claims that the urge to binge was so intense that she stole food from other students’ cupboards. She even admits having resorted to shoplifting.

‘Once agauin food became my life,’ she tells me ‘I lived to eat. Food is both my friend and my enemy and I’ve faced the that it may well destroy me. I ate to suppress every negative emotion I experience.  It’s got to the point at which I cannot tellb if I’m hungry or not.  I have lost touch with my own body, with my own feelifngs. After a binge I feel this intense self-loathing which only serves to perpetuate the cycle..  I am overwhelmed by shame.’

Marjorie describes how she plans for a binge: ‘If I’m having a bad time at work I’ll think about it all day, planning the menu in my head.  The I’ll drive home, stopping off at supermarkets on the way to buy basketfuls of food.   I’ll eat in the car as I am driving.  The bags will be piles up on the passenger seat.  I’ll grab food at random and swallow without chewing.  All the forbidden foods: ice cream, chocolate, cakes, cerial.  It is initially pleasurable but that pleasure fades when my stomach starts expanding.  Then I become agitated.  Sometimes I’ll return to finish leftovers in the middle of the night.’ This loss of control occurs at least three times a week.

Despite fulfilling all the diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating Disorder Marjorie receives little help from her doctor or her local health authority. She sees a private counsellor who specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy which is based on the premise that behaviour can determine emotion. The counsellor has helped Marjorie identify several key events in her life that put her at risk of developing Binge Eating Disorder.  Her childhood seemed idyllic until her parents’ business collapsed and they went bankrupt.  A new and less appealing life lay ahead. Marjorie was taken out of her small private school and thrust into the chaotic envirnment of the local comprehensive.She endured years of bullying as a result of her middle class background.

In spite of all she has been through Marjorie has retained the generosity of spirit. She is as concerned about my progress as she is about her own. She is optimistic about the future. ‘I know it’s going to be a long, hard road but I’ll get there.’ She makes a fist and bangs the table, ‘I’ll get there.’

A Helpful Linky.

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Orphan Made Good

January 29, 2010

This capacity for courage
Born out of the terror
Honesty can be brutal
So I go on pretending
To be deluged by love
You took away my name
For I am an inspiration

It was a kind of violation
The fashion for compassion
I am bereft yet somehow brave
Could this be the love I crave
I am your project
I am your creation
I have been enslaved
I am the one you saved

When Did it All Begin?

January 27, 2010

When did it all begin? When I went crazy for the first time? Or when I decided to stop resisting? When I decided to absorb and implement all the advice the medical profession had to offer?

They made me take their poison. They made me take a drug that is no longer in widespread use: Chlorpromazine (aka: largactil and, in the good old US of A Thorazine) I was made to endure the humiliation of being forcibly medicated. They drag you to your bedspace and close the curtains. Then they push you down onto your bed and four nurses hold you down. One of them kneels on your shoulders. They press you down into the bed. They lift your skirt and then you feel the needle go in and chemicals mingle with blood. An alien substance courses through your veins and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You are in a room on your own. As soon as the nurses have done their work they leave.

No one remains with you to help you make sense of what just happened.

Rage, Rage, Rage

January 27, 2010

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night, Dylan Thomas

Nobby is stoical.  He is stubborn and he can sometimes be downright awkward but he is my friend, my companion.  An unusual friendship perhaps for he his ninety two and I am in my early thirties.  I am not friends with Nobby because he is old and frail and dependent upon me for everyday care.  I am not his carer.  I am his friend. And I am not his friend because I pity him.  He is still lucid and fully in control. Some might say he is too independent for his own good.  Nobby is endlessly fascinating.  He has a bottomless pit of stories to tell.   His boyhood in the ‘thirties. His wartime experiences.  The hardship he experienced after the war.

The elderly have something to offer too.  They are living, breathing, walking history. In a society obsessed with youth it is easy to forget this. People make assumptions about the elderly.  They are ‘past it’. They have lived their lives and have no more to give.  We are wasting what could be a valuable resource and we may one day come to regret it.  Because the way in which we treat the elderly now sets a precedent for the way we will be treated in the future.  And if the way the elderly are treated now is anything to go by we should be afraid. Very afraid.  And there are two certainties in life: you either die or you grow old.  Remember that.

Topical too. Who woulda thunk it?

Irreproachable Afternoon

January 23, 2010

On this irreproachable afternoon
Sunlight brings sleep
Eyelashes rest on cheek bones
and for a moment I do not weep
Though the china doll still lies
Broken on the floor.

Sensation suspended
A moment of muted
Awareness passes
In which I forget
that I too have fallen,
shrivelling up ceaselessly

After half a century,
pendulous and swaying
While she springs
from humble beginnings
Fresh, pink, sandblasted.
Like something newborn

Emotional Atom Bomb

January 21, 2010

I feel as though I am a fictional character being swept along by a plot devised by some omnipotent author.

An Excerpt from Real Life Diary:

Sitting here in the dayroom.  The atmosphere is so agonisingly oppressive.  There is a debate going on amongst a group of women about whether they should make ‘their men’ participate in the housework.  I feel alienated due to lack of experience.  So I have nothing to contribute.  I don’t belong here and they know it.  Hideous flesh hangs from my bones.  I feel like getting a knife and paring it off.

A multitude of personae live within me.  Some of them haven’t been introduced to the rest of the world.  I need a way to annihilate these superfluous personalities but they seemed to be prisoners inside me and I do not have the key to unlock the door.  And a part of me doesn’t want to hurt them because they are me.  How much of my true self would survive the annihilation I plan – the emotional atom bomb I intend to drop deep inside myself?


The Snow = My Mother

January 20, 2010

The snow we have had recently is like my mother.  When they are here I want them gone but when they are gone I miss them terribly.  I remember waiting for it.  I remember being told ‘The snow is coming, the snow is coming’ and looking to the sky expectantly, hopefully.  Days passed and it never came.  Then one day I awoke and looked out of my bedroom window and there it was like icing on a wedding cake.  I almost felt like I could go out and eat it.  This is how I feel when my mother visits: a lurch of joy and then the novelty wears off.

Both are deceptively appealing.  Both give the illusion of warmth, of comfort of solidity, of comfort, of peace.  Until you touch them.  One of the cliches used to describe snow is ‘blanket’ and that’s what it looks like: a big, old white duvet that you feel like you can crawl beneath and sleep forever.  I’m told that sheep borrow into snow-covered hillsides, seeking solace from the cold. The snow becomes their womb.  Their warm breath creates air holes so they can breathe.  They gnaw at their own wool for protein.  But the snow defeats them eventually.  The ice presses in on them and it becomes their tomb.  Just like my mother.  After a few days she becomes my jailer.  I love both my mother and the snow but sometimes they outstay their welcome.

Unfathomable Topography

January 19, 2010

This unfathomable topography
Alien to me. Captured between
Parallel lines and we wonder
How we came to be here
Where is the slipstream
That dragged us into this dream?
No tidal wave and yet
We did not resist. A princess
who had never been kissed
And who never will be
Not in this bleak country
For nourishment we lick the walls
They are made of honey
We turn away from the stench of money
For we are brides of Christ, you see,
And we have taken vows of poverty

Brief Interlude

January 14, 2010

I am composed of a collection of imperfections like a car constructed out of discarded spare parts.  I pull my sweater up and look at my distended stomach.  A birthmark stretches across the pale pink flesh like the map of some small country.  I am a prisoner in my own skin and I long to escape.

This is January though.  The month of fresh new dawns and bright beginnings.

I hope.


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