Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Closed For Business

Just a note to close this blog and redirect to the site I am now using.

I think I have felt (for a long time now) that some of the stuff in this blog is just so far behind me that it is time to kick up the dust and move to a slightly different landscape.

But I miss some of the visitors I had here, and so I leave a trail behind me!

If you are at all interested, my newer blog is called LastThingOutTheBox
and it can be located here

Thank you for sharing some of the aspects of my journey.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Anorexia Kills

For whatever reason, I feel the need to preface this post with a declaration that I do not buy the Daily Mail. Finding it, all too often, a thinly veiled excuse to propound nationalistic views, I frequently have to remind readers that the world is not really that bad a place unless they believe all they read in this trussed up tabloid.

I was, however, drawn to the full page article about a long suffering mother, who, five years after her daughter’s tragic death, has made the decision to release the girl’s diaries. Diaries that record the tortured journey of Loredana Verta, a bright, talented sixteen year old, who was dead within three years. Heart attack.

Rightly or wrongly, some of  this young sufferer’s innermost thoughts and feelings are laid bare in newsprint for all to see.

The workings of this girl’s mind are utterly consumed by the illness. Her writing is littered with scribbled self loathing, capitalised screams of  “I HATE ME… I HATE MY BODY”.   Most teenagers feels like this at some point. Hormones, skin, peer pressure, perfection culture, fashion… It’s all there to taunt the aspiring, spot laden, hormone raging teen.

Except Loredana’s thoughts are all centred on weight loss and weight gain and wrongly perceived fat.
To my mind, what is more haunting than the poisonous self hatred, the desperation, the pleas to God and the cries for help, are the words of a grieving mother, who says,

“Lorry thought she could live with the condition – that as long as she was thin, she would be OK. She didn’t realise that anorexia is a deadly disease. It is a killer”.*

For long term sufferers, ‘old hands’,
 Anorexia can be so ingrained, so deeply habitual, that we forget that it is something UNnatural… an invasion. It becomes like Stockholm Syndrome… It’s is our natural fall back position.

Let’s get real.
It is deadly.

We think it won’t ever happen to us, and yet, why wouldn’t it? It killed Loredana in just THREE years.

Of all psychiatric disorders, Anorexia is the biggest killer. TWENTY PERCENT of sufferers die prematurely.^

I hear my wake up call.

Can you hear yours?

* Emphasis is mine
^ Statistics according to B-EAT

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Monday, 24 March 2014

Hole In The Wall God

Although I rarely mention it in my writing here, my faith is one aspect of my life which I think would fundamentally change the very essence of my being were it to completely disappear. In truth, my spiritual journey, much like my therapy journey, has been a challenging mixture of blindness and revelations; of soaring and stumbling; and of denials and acceptances.

Proud of this shot! 

I've been in places of unshakeable certainty, unable to understand how anyone could ever question such a tangible God. In later life, there have been times when I've swallowed bitterly as depression and the weary despair and fatigue that accompanies it, flecked inky pools of indifference and doubt across any conviction that I once had.

At this point on the journey, I stand on a different mountain, overlooking a very different landscape.
A part of me draws some strength from the inner sense that God stands with me.
This acknowledgement of 'a higher power' seems to play a crucial role in recovery. AA refer to the 'higher power', as do a range of other successful addiction recovery programs; the theory being that as human beings, we are often weak willed and for all our good intentions, cannot free ourselves from the power of ingrained behaviours and habits. We need to draw on a strength that is not 'from' us, but is outside of us.

A part of me worries as I consider how God is referred to in the 12 step programs.
Does it not all sound a little bit 'God-as-hole-in-the-wall' ish?
I'm not sure.

What I do know is that right now, I find myself knocking on heaven's door morning, noon and night, asking for supernatural strength with which to fight the Anorexic howling which coarses through my mind interminably.
I pray as I sit down to eat my snacks, my meals  and as I battle the urges to spit my food out after chewing it.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Groundhog: Eat My Heart Out

The cycle of change seems perpetual and impossible to break out of.. The whispering of the Anorexia is so much louder than the voice of reason and recovery. The stupidest thing is that I fall for it time and time again. After years of the same tiresome thoughts and feelings; years of the illness telling me that I am piling on the pounds; that I am 'out of control' and that I look 'normal', I am STILL shocked when the scales disprove it. I am STILL more surprised by the hard facts, figures that plainly contradict the lies. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Anorexia: Disease or Lifestyle?

Monday’s Telegraph newspaper marked the beginning of Eating Disorders Awareness week with an article about ED websites: More specifically, ‘Pro Ana’ sites.  (For the uninitiated, these sites are sites set up to encourage those who want to starve themselves. They share tips and tricks about hiding food, fighting hunger, effective purging, dealing with interfering parents / loved ones and often sporting photographs of skeletal bodies to give ‘thinspiration’ to followers).I skimmed Sarah Rainey’s article , too tired of the topic to want to engage with the politics and the emotion held between the lines of the pro ana blogger, the parent of a (nother) very bright, talented ‘whole life ahead of her’ dead Anorexic and ED organisations. One thing however, leapt out at me.This:“Anorexia is a lifestyle, not a disease”.It’s something I’ve heard many times in various forms and generally from sources who, clearly, have no understanding of the pathological nature of Anorexia. Without wishing to state the obvious, I find the implications of the statement upsetting because it embodies the attitude that somehow, Anorexia is a choice one makes. For me, this is an absurd idea. However, as I have previously tried to explain (here), I think there are different types of Anorexia and it is possible that, for some people, devoting their time and energy to becoming extraordinarily thin, is a lifestyle choice, in much the same way that a total devotion to anything may lead to radical lifestyle choices. All well and good (excuse the irony), and perhaps in this instance, starvation is a choice… just another way of living. But, can a disease be a lifestyle? Unfortunately, what the article I read didn’t point out, was that if this is a choice, it can’t be Anorexia or Bulimia or EDNOS. A disease, by its very definition and nature, isn’t a choice… Nobody CHOOSES to suffer with a disease. True, it can appear that way with some mental illness’, but nobody makes a choice to become sick. People don’t choose to die from malnutrition any more than they don’t choose to develop leukaemia. And this is where it all becomes very complex… because CHOICE plays a large part in the distortions that characterise this illness so vividly. A person suffering with Anorexia, believes that they have CONTROL of their weight and their body. They believe in the choice element. They believe that they are IN CONTROL. In fact, the extreme opposite is true. It is the disease that controls them and the disease which distorts their thinking. The disease ROBS the Anorexic of choice. It STEALS their capacity for logical thought about their weight. It DILUTES the ability to rationalise their fear of weight gain and to recognise that they are no longer in control of their mind. I understand the Pro-Ana blogger’s statement in the light of those who wish to diet, but “choosing an Anorexic lifestyle” is an oxymoron. One last point, and perhaps the most important: Luckily, there IS some element of choice.It is reserved for those who are in the grip of an Eating Disorder (or addiction, I think) and it is this: The sufferer may choose to remain in the half life that it forces on them. They may CHOOSE to give up the fight for wellness. Just as somebody who is diseased with cancer may choose to stop treatment, an Anorexic or Bulimic can CHOOSE not to fight the illness. RECOVERY or NOT is the choice. A lifestyle of recovery is agony, but a lifestyle led by the choice NOT TO recover, is to submit to the power wielded by this dreadful disease. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

On The Way To Recovery

As I drive to my place of cold
Morning sun streams
Over frosted fields

Recovery is a wing
Pierced by blades
Of winter grass.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Needle Returns to the Start of the Song...

... 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 cost effective and the insurance you'd take out is ridiculous.
No way around it but to play enough music to flush this one out of the system.
This particular musical ghosting 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.

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 it all began. Back to the beginning.
March 2011, the agonies of which, I captured on this very blog.
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. 

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)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Going... Down?

Okay...Title only meaningful to those who are familiar with the old Aerosmith track, 'Love in An Elevator', a good but vastly overplayed track (at one time). My frustration with my one time favourite band has increased as the teenage, rock-chick-love has lessened; all because they sold out to the soft rock market with dribbly anthems like 'Don't Wanna Miss A Thing'.
Apologies. My intentions to write about 'recovery' have been twisted into a rant about my old musical idols.

(Aside) It occurs to me as I apologise, that actually, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry are a long way from being completely irrelevant links to the subject in hand. Both singers have grappled and battled with serious alcohol and heroin addictions. Both know the agonies that come with fighting to be free from that which has possession of your mind.

Addiction comes in so many forms and is something so closely related to the topic of Eating Disorders that it is worthy of some careful thought.
Now however, my mind is too tired to begin debating the fine lines and the overlaps. I regularly feel the urge to write some more informative pieces about Anorexia and Mental Health here but every time I sit down to write, the words sort of ebb away from my (cognitively impaired) mind. 

That's right. 
"Cognitively Impaired". 
The term, used by the experts, to explain the condition of a mind weakened by the effects of malnutrition. 
It makes me wince to accept that this is my current state and yet, all my Anorexic protestations, the frantic scrabbling to deny truth, dwindle in the face of plain, starkly real figures. 
The scales don't lie, although, typically, in the mind of someone suffering with an Eating Disorder, they are incorrect. Not day upon day upon day they're not. 
I'm following that bloody line of decline, and I KNOW it... It's as though I am rendered completely helpless by the power of the Anorexia. 
My daylight head says, 'C'mon! Get a grip! You have to find the strength, the power, to beat this';  In the lonely darkness of the restless night, the more sinsiter voice, 'You'll be lucky if you wake up to see a new day. Your internal organs are tired. Your heart is weak'. 

A young lady who I was an inpatient with for six months, died last week. 
Multiple Organ Failure caused by a long term Eating Disorder.
She was strong, lively, witty, intelligent. 
Her death rocked the ED community I 'served time' with. 


At the same time, my best friend here in ___________  gave birth to a little girl. 
And so, the cycle of life and death continues. Everywhere today and tomorrow and for the rest of time, the mortality drum will continue, beating out it's rhythm on the lives it chooses. I get that. 
What I struggle to accept, is the slow suicide that this illness contributes to this pattern. It's so... horribly pointless. 
Life is to be lived, to the fullest. Jesus said that. And he is not to be argued with. 
Why then, am I, and so many beautiful, talented, young lives, subscribed and obligated to serve this hideous monster?

All answers on a postcard...

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A World Beyond Our Imaginations

…Maybe there IS. Maybe there isn’t.
Either way, if we don’t allow ourselves to entertain the possibility that there COULD be a different way of living life, and there MIGHT be a different way of thinking about things, we will never know.

I’m not the hippy type. I promise.

I don’t hug trees, I don’t take herbal hayfever tablets, I ‘m not a vegetarian, I’m not a member of Greenpeace, I don’t do yoga, I don’t wear clothing woven in South America and I’ve never tried Arnica.

But (there had to be, right?) BUT, I do believe that we get into certain patterns of thinking. Even scientists report that there are certain ‘neural pathways’ in the brain, which is a technical way of saying that our thoughts get used to travelling along particular alleyways, leading to familiar places, default settings, if you like. Humans are creatures of habit, brains follow suit.

What are the implications of all this for those of us in recovery?

A friend recently told me that, although they’d like to believe in something bigger, they just COULDN’T and I sympathised because I, of all people, understand doubt, cynicism and unbelief. I battle it everyday in order to keep the faith I DO have, alive. Later, I returned to our conversation in my mind and came to the realisation that the word ‘couldn’t’ would probably act as a barrier in her mind.

To be truly open to something, like the possibility of recovery, is to allow it to rattle round our minds without any thing as concrete as ‘words’ attached to it. Just as if you are rolling a ball round a clean floor; no mud, no dust, nothing to stick to it…

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s in this act of ‘allowing’, that hope filters in… unseen… unheard and then… suddenly:  there.

Opening up old wardrobe doors. No thoughts. No can’ts, cans, couldn’t, wouldn’t, must, should or shouldn’ts.  Just opening something up.

It has to be worth a try.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

To Blog Anew or Not To Blog Anew...?

That is my question. Well... I've already started a new blog... It's different. Less personal. More hopeful. Not about me... about encouraging others who are recovering... I don't know where that leaves me here. I feel ashamed of my self-centred ramblings here. And yet... It seems like such a lot to just walk away from. 
 My weight is dropping and my mind is hurtling into the no man's land that sits between life and death. It is achingly desperate that my words can fly the banner of freedom, but my mouth won't be filled with the nourishment it needs. I am afraid that in a few months, my voice will be all there is. An empty echo. 
Heard but not seen.