Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mill Hill East

In the back
I shook
As you took
the road home
and She, alone
left screaming.

We drove
tight eyes weeping
and weaving
through grey smudged streets
of Mill Hill East.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Benefits - As IF.

      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. 

      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...


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

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Pillars of Salt. Square One.

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.
(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.
You have to put blinkers on and RUN. Ignore every twinge of agony and crash through every 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, 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 is going to destroy you. 
In the case of Anorexia, to stop pushing through the pain barriers, to allow yourself a 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. 
You were going through hell, you should have kept on going. 
Why go through halfway through hell and turn back?
That's what looking behind you will do.

Suddenly, you're so much bigger. 
You can't feel your bones. 
You can't see the ribs, the dip in the sternum, the ridge of the clavicle, the tailbone, the prominent metacarpals, the pits alongside your knees... 

And you turn
into a pillar
standing in the tunnel
you never saw through.
And there, you stay
grain by grain
bone by bone

'Lot's Wife'
are back
to the place you glanced at
when you get there,
it's only 


Monday, 2 September 2013

Counting Calories

You can spot them in a supermarket if you know what you're looking for.

Most obvious, are the tiny ones, well wrapped but with tell tale stork legs rooting them to the floor.
They stand close to the shelf, elbows tucked in, head down, clutching a tin.
They are looking at the nutritional information, specifically at how many kcals per 100g. They pick another tin and do the same. If there was a way of x-raying their mind, you'd see vast amounts of data being computed. Complex comparison tables charting an array of brands, computing calories, converting kilojoules, weight for weight, fat content, fibre.
If they weren't already, most anorexics get good at maths at some point in the descent into hell.

Less recognisable, are the less skinny ones, but don't be fooled... They may have just come out of a treatment facility (goodness, that sounds American!). They may have an Eating Disorder which falls into the mysterious EDNOS category. Not all ED patients are obvious, but an informed eye can spot them a mile off.

One of the

very difficult things about trying to recover from an Eating Disorder, be it Anorexia, Bulimia or something less definable, is that once you know the calorific content of a foodstuff, you can't just 'unknow' it. It's an unfortunate byproduct of many people's illness that they have a head filled with numbers which will, presumably, stay with them forever. After all, knowing the amount of calories in a slice of Warburtons Wholemeal Bread, being able to add up a total when including a medium sized egg, and knowing the amount you're ingesting when you scrape out half a pot of Ski Strawberry Yoghurt, is just as essential as knowing your pin number.

You are not going to forget.
Which, in fairness, just adds to the agony of attempting recovery. 
This morning, deciding on a mid morning snack, was ridiculous. Almost laughable.


I'm hungry. My weight has dropped a lot. I know I must try to up my game.

Snack. Hmm...

 I want chocolate with my coffee, but I know the yoghurt coated fruit snack has 70 less calories than the packet of chocolate... and, it's healthier..!(probably not , but hey... everyone falls for the gimmicky health advertising, right?)

At this stage, the inside workings of my mind look a little like a fantastical fight from a Harry Potter film. Numbers are darting about; variously sized and coloured digits streaking through darkness, pressing their shapes into the soft blackness of your retina. 

"What if I halved that, added that..? Had 2 of those for the 1 of those? This is the equivalent to that... Hmmm... It's still over a 100 calories.

What do I end up with?
A half packet of salted popcorn.

I know I've had 40 calories.
(And before you feel compelled to tell me, I KNOW the info on these things is only approximate and there may be a 70% margin either way... but something is better than nothing.) Which is a mantra I need to double up on... 
(Irony noted)