Archive for the ‘eating disorders’ Category

Old Novel

July 29, 2018

A Day on an Eating Disorders Unit:

First page of an old novel

(Warning it’s pretty terrible but nonetheless…)

Images of the Edible

She was dreaming of food.

It was all that Gemma could dream about.  It filled up most of the space in her head. Sleeping and waking, her mind was stuffed with images of the edible.  Chips- hot and salty.  Apples- cool and crisp, straight from the fridge.  Corn flakes, covered in sugar and immersed in milk.

At every mealtime Gemma heard the footsteps of her fellow patients pounding past her door, heading for the dining room.  They seemed to live for food.  The dining room was one room Gemma was determined never to enter again.

They brought her a tray laden with food three times a day.  Breakfast.  Dinner.  Supper.  Every day.  The food they brought her always remained uneaten.  She didn’t even bother to remove the covers to see what culinary delights they had brought her.  The aroma was enough.

She wanted it.  But she could not have it.  It was desirable but forbidden.  It was poison.  Sugar-coated cyanide.

Instead she was sustained by memories of epic binges.

Three times a day, every day, the nurses came to remove the tray with barely suppressed sighs of disappointment and looks that said, ‘Eat.  It’s not so hard.  Just pick up a fork.  Spear a broccoli floret and raise it to your lips.  Then chew and Swallow.  Simple.’

But they didn’t know Gemma.  They didn’t know that if she were to start eating again she would never stop.  She felt like she could consume the entire world.  She pictured herself as some obese God, grabbing planets and stuffing them into her mouth, their juices running down her chin. She felt as though she could have munched her way through the entire universe.  But she still would not have been satisfied. Her appetite was insatiable.

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Books…

November 20, 2012

…that deal with eating disorders.

I was asked by a friend to compile a list of books that deal with the subject of eating disorders. This is just a preliminary version:

Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery by Peter J Cooper.
Fed Up and Hungry_ a series of essays on EDs edited by Marilyn Lawrence
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Woolf
Womansize by Kim Chernin and The Hungry Self by the same author which may be out of print.
Fabulous Figures by Rachel Swift – a humorous, critique of society’s obsession with aesthetic perfection.
Getting Better Bit(e) By Bit(e)_ (A Survival Kit for sufferers of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorders by Ulrike Schmidt and Janet Treasure
Some novels that deal with EDs:

The Passion of Alice by Stephanie Grant
Eve’s Apple by Jonathan Rosen
LifeSize by Jenefer Shute

About BED:
Sweet Death by Claude Tardat
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

And of course:
Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig
The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron (a tad too didactic IMHO)

Catherine by Maureen Dunbar

Oh, and OT: I now have a copy of Steven Levenkron’s The Luckiest Girl in the World. It is out of print but Amazon found a copy of it for me.  it arrived a couple of months ago all the way from some second hand bookshop in the good old US of A!  They are now scouring the continent on my behalf for a copy of  Kessa so, fingers crossed!

Oh, and a book I have just finished reading called  The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey (which I mentioned in another post) has an anorexia sub-plot. (more…)

The Body Betrayed

October 19, 2010

I wonder which way round it was: did I betray my body or did my body betray me?  Have years of abusing my body, be it bingeing, purging, starving and occasionally (very occasionally) over-exercising ruined me beyond repair.  That’s the hardest thing to deal with: that I did all this to myself.  And that I’ve left it too late to do anything about it.  I took a fully functioning body and tried to destroy it.  That’s sick, stupid and selfish.  And now the body I’ve systematically abused for nearly the whole of my adult life is having its long, slow, excruciating revenge.  Sometimes I think I am useful only as a cautionary tale.

Damned if You Do…

September 2, 2010

In my family there was an Acknowledged Family Tradition:  The Sunday Picnic or The Sunday Pigout as I called it during the first throes of my eating disorder.   Every Sunday afternoon my mother, my father, Peter  and I would have a picnic on the lawn on top of a Mr Men tarpaulin.  So we would sit on top of Mr Happy and Mr Bounce and Mr Bump and eat all the food we were forbidden during the week: cakes, crisps, chocolates, ice cream

Later, when I developed anorexia I read that some parents could precipitate eating disorders by using food as a reward.  ‘Oh, wonderful,’ my mother muttered.  ‘Next time I have a child I’ll lock her up on a coal shed and feed her on bread and water.’

I’m willing to bet my life savings that the phrase, ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t ‘ pounded through her head.

Not Just For Teens

August 29, 2010

There is a widespread belief that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are confined solely to women in their teens.  In the popular imagination once the sufferer had left his or her teens behind his or her symptoms miraculously disappear.  Sadly, this is not always the case.

A very good friends of mine, Liza O’Neil, is a twenty five year old example of someone whose eating disorder did not cease when she reached her left her teenagers years.  After a brief period of anorexia when she was in her early teens, Liza developed bulimia.  Liza says, ‘My problems with my body began when I was about twelve and people made comments about the extra weight I was carrying.  In hindsight I realized that I was never clinically overweight just carrying a little puppy fat but I was made, as a result of the insensitivity of others, to feel as though I was elephantine.’

Liza has oscillated between anorexia and bulimia for most of her adult life. She is now on the borderline between anorexia and bulimia and is clearly deteriorating rapidly.  And there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Just stand on the sidelines and watch her decline.  And the hand with which she reached out to the medical profession for help was simply brushed aside.

I Am Not Equal to this Challenge

February 24, 2010

Even life on the periphery can be complicated. I am still living in Nobby’s flat. I had a disturbed night’s sleep. I awoke, suddenly afraid but unable to identify the source of the fear. Upon fully waking up I felt empty. The world seemed cloudless, desolate. A watercolour in the drabbest colours you can find.

A voice in my head whispers, ‘Some thing’s going to happen today.’ A sense of vague dread had metamorphosed into stomach churning terror. And later that day his daughter died.

I turned to Nobby. ‘Will you stay with me? I mean, forever. Even when you know….’
‘Vacate my body? I’ll always be beside you. Even if its not in this form.’

I was sobbing. I felt like my heart was being squeezed by some giant fist. I needed to keep telling myself that it would subside and,finally, it did but a tiny shred of fear remained.

I went to the doctor’s to collect my prescription. When I returned to Nobby’s flat I was confronted by an entanglement of aunts, sisters, brothers, granddaughters and great granddaughters.

‘Granddad,’ the oldest grandchild said. ‘We’ve some really bad news for you.’ Then they all turned to me. I mentally slap my forehead : it’s a family conference and I am not ‘family’.

I gathered up my belongings said a brief goodbye and walked out the door. I walked across the green to my own flat. It was so cold and unfamiliar. Dust motes danced in a sunlit window. I didn’t feel at home. I hugged the walls, wondering what could be happening to Nobby., head in hands, saying ‘Don’t leave me, don’t leave me. Then I scolded myself ‘You stupid, stupid, stupid girl.’

I am so afraid
I am not to be depended upon
I am an untermensch
Someone of no consequence

Hidden Twin

June 19, 2009

twnetytwoface4

I have a hidden twin.

Embedded somewhere

Deep within

And even the night,

Even sleep offers no respite.

She comes alive at dusk

And does not rest

‘Til the break of day

She invades my dreams

In a multitude of guises.

She is a hawk with talons of steel,

Savage and merciless and ravenous.

She is the evil spirit sucking me dry.

A pallid bluish green ghost.

A malevolent spiritual being,

A Roman deity.  A rainbow.  A butterfly

A fluttering moth, plain and brown

A flamboyant flake of crimson flame.

Sometimes she is an enchantress, an angel

Swelling as I shrink into myself

A swarm of black beetles.

Obscuring the moon

She pursues me through the dark forest

In which my nightmares dwell.

She whispers into my ear,

‘You are like the farmer’s prize heifer

Destined only to be sold at the cattle market

And milked for the rest of your life.’

Vacuous Bimbo Extraordinaire…

June 15, 2009

Liz Jones of The Daily Mail strikes again in this article.  Ms Jones expresses her sympathy for women with anorexia but asserts that: ‘I have never been bulimic, thinking that particular illness too messy and self-indulgent… ‘, implying that both bulimia and anorexia are chosen by the sufferer.  ‘Which eating disorder would you like today, Ms Jones?’  No one ever asked me that question.  I wonder if she is aware of the existence of a subtype of anorexia called ‘purging anorexia’. I also wonder if she is aware that many women who become bulimic have a history of anorexia. Having suffered, at various times in my life, from both illnesses I found this article less than helpful. Making anorexia sound like a lifestyle choice further trivializes and simplifies an illness that both society and the medical profession have trouble taking seriously enough in the first place. Well done, Liz!  You’re about as helpful as the Maginot Line.

Addendum:  And I’m just a tad pissed off that Liz Jones, someone who uses her profession ‘journalism’ as a form of therapy and who is one of the most self-indulgent people I have ever encountered (irl or online) has the audacity to castigate an entire group of people who suffer from a genuine psychiatric disorder as ‘self indulgent’.  Look in the mirror, Ms Jones, and you’ll see the very personification of ‘self indulgence’.  And she hasn’t even bothered to research the illness she so casually dismisses.  The paragraph I quoted above concludes with this: ‘But the truth is I saw my three-week experiment of eating ‘normally’ as a bout of bulimia.’  The word ‘bulimia’ is a Greek word roughly translated as ‘ox hunger’.  It is a widely acknowledged misnomer.  Just like ‘anorexia’ when, roughly translated means ‘loss of appetite’.  To be officially diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa the patient has to fulfill several diagnostic criteria one of which is ‘Bulimia nervosa is harder to spot than anorexia because many with bulimia have a relatively normal appearance. Those with bulimia always purge, but they don’t always do it by vomiting.’  Eating three thousand calories a day is not bulimia, Ms Jones, unless you regularly purge.  Something a proper journalist should have researched.  I do not know whether Ms Jones sees herself as a ‘journalist’, a ‘diarist’, an ‘editor’, or a ‘columnist’ and frankly I do not particularly care.  All I know is that calling sufferers of a very real, distressing illness ‘self indulgent’ is hideously irresponsible and someone who writes for a newspaper that regularly castigates female celebrities for failing to be ‘good role models’ for their ‘fans’ should be painfully aware of this.

Binge…

April 24, 2008

Ate:

2 packets Sunbites (260cals)
Wrap (440 cals)
Chocolates (300)
Oatcakes (300)
4 slices toast w. peanut butter (thinly spread: 300)
Chocolate Muffin (300)
 1900 cals.*
And I couldn’t purge.  I am fat, fat, fat.  
It appears that John Prescott and I share an illness: Bulimia.  The difference between us is that he is entitled to treatment and I am not.  I suffered from anorexia as a teenager and have been bulimic ever since.  I relapsed into anorexia in 1998.  I read an article in the Cambridge Evening News in which a Dr Jane Shapleske, who is part of Addenbrookes Eating disorders team, expressed sympathy with Mr. Prescott and rightly so but does she really expect us to believe that if  ‘Joe Bloggs’ came in off the street and presented himself to her that she would have recommended treatment?  I know she wouldn’t because I did exactly** that and she refused to accept me on her program.  We know why you express sympathy for Mr Prescott, Dr. Shapleske, it’s because he is powerful, high profile and you are not obliged to treat him.  Words are cheap, aren’t they, Dr. Shapleske? Maybe now we know that men too suffer from this condition the ‘powers-that-be’ will be more willing to invest real money into the treatment of this illness but, frankly, I’m not holding my breath.
I deviate from the norm but not quite dramatically enough to hold any interest for Dr Shapleske.
*That and 26 valium and I am still paralysed by anxiety.  Sorry, make that 46.  I am not in the habit of looking gift horses in mouthes.  I am invincible.  Invincible.
**Actually, I was referred to her by my GP.
I keep taking pics of myself. Not because I’m vain but because, at the moment,  I am not my usual fat, moocow self and I don’t know how long it will last.  I don’t know when my body will start rebelling again.  
And I know it shouldn’t matter.  I know that we should be more than just our bodies.  But it does.  And I don’t know why.  I don’t know why I am capitulating to body fascism but I am and I wish that I could detach myself from it.  But it’s all around me.  It permeates every part of society and, by succumbing to it, I am helping to perpetuate it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine.

Pollyanna? Moi?

December 8, 2007

During one of my admissions to the EDU (that’s Eating Disorders Unit for those unfamiliar with the jargon) one of the nurses told me that, in her oh so humble opinion, that I was adopting the role of the ‘Pollyanna of the ward’.  She asked me why I insisted upon focusing on other people’s issues at the expense of my own issues.  I hated her at the time but maybe she was more astute than I gave her credit for.  Denial?  Isn’t that a river running through Egypt?  This is the closest I’ll get to a mea culpa.


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