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Sick to my stomach

Sinking to the depths again
the ones you never quite reach
heart in my hands and head on the floor
wishing I was anyone but me.

Falling for my weakness again
and welcoming it like a friend
crushing my heart between my fingers
- that heart you tried to mend.

Sad, tired eyes searching for you
but my hands can’t seem to grip
aching head and swollen fingers
and the shame because I slipped.

sick in my skin and dead to the world
it’s cold on the bathroom floor
smash all the mirrors and hide the pieces
I don’t want them anymore.

(c) 2006

Sick

Bulimia, unlike many of the things I’ve experienced, is strangely easy to write about. The reason for this is most likely because when I think of myself as being “bulimic”, it’s like stepping into somebody else and watching myself from the outside; almost like a movie. It isn’t real. Even after fifteen years of binging and purging, something inside me still refuses to accept that I could possibly have an eating disorder. 

ED’s happen to other people, you see. Not me. I simply… have a little trouble with food. Since I first made myself sick at eleven years old it’s all been a sort of blur to me. I know it happened, but it may as well be somebody else’s story because I can’t ever quite accept it’s not all a big lie I concocted to get attention. 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Crazy English Summer, Part Three

 

crazyenglishsummerPart One / Part Two

I don’t know how long I stayed in the unit the second time. Days turned into weeks, and my brain slowly became mush from the boring daily routines and therapy. Twice a week, we would all be taken into a big hall and be made to do trust exercises – catching each other, that sort of thing – and I hated every moment. I was crazy, not five years old. I didn’t see how running under a big plastic sheet would magically cure my bulimia and general madness. One time, I found myself talking to an empty chair, like the plastic ones we used in school; the patients were encouraged to sit opposite a chair and pretend somebody who’d hurt us was sitting in it. We were supposed to tell them why they’d caused us pain, but all I achieved from the exercise was feeling like an utter twat. I chose to ‘speak’ to a girl who’d been one of my best friends all through primary school and into secondary, who’d done a runner as soon as I started losing my marbles. I told her that she shouldn’t have given up on me, and that I needed friends. The member of staff overseeing it all said I’d done a good job. Again, I didn’t see how it could possibly help. It didn’t. My heart wasn’t in it.

In fact, I had absolutely no desire to get better; I didn’t think there was much wrong with me or my behaviour. The horse had been led to water, but there was no way I was going to drink; I felt a great injustice at being locked away in some sort of crazy place when all I was doing was struggling a bit with teenage angst.

Evenings were the worst times. The staff gave all the patients a rota for making tea, toast and cereal. I felt enormously guilty when it was my turn; Victoria would chew silently on a piece of buttered toast, tears running down her face, threatened with hospital if she didn’t eat it. Sometimes it took her two hours. We were also expected to do our own laundry, which soon became my nemesis. I avoided it, terrified of breaking the machine or somehow doing it wrong. I wasn’t domestic in the least, and had never used the machine at home. The staff assumed I’d know how to work a washing machine. I never asked; I was too shy.

Oe night, after midnight observation, we heard shouting and door slamming. We peeked our heads out of the door to see Rachel being dragged out. The staff told us to go back to bed, and that she had ‘hurt herself’; we knew what they meant, and so when she came back the next day with a massive bandage on her arm, we weren’t surprised. Again, she’d used a hook to gouge at herself.

It was easy to self-harm, binge and vomit in PL. Although there were regular observations and checks, there were plenty of hiding places. I kept a package of broken razors in the cheap MDF drawers next to my cheap, MDF bed. Carla broke a mirror to cut herself with. We took it in turns to throw up, one listening out for staff while the other tried to get it over with as quickly as possible. We’d troop to the Safeway down the road once a week and stock up on binge-foods, Although it was supposed to be a closed unit (apart from short trips in groups once we were considered ‘safe’ enough. It only took me a couple of weeks to be allowed outside) the door was often left unlocked and staff rarely checked the signing in/out board in the cramped hallway.

One night, one of the patients (Richard; ADHD) went missing. He was soon brought back, and spent the night in an isolation room.

I was never isolated; I was nearly always on my best behaviour. I was still in thrall of authority and was afraid to truly freak out in front of the staff, which proves I wasn’t sick enough to be there. To me, at least. Having my freedom removed was killing me; I’d dream of being at home and cry at night when Carla and Victoria were asleep. I hated showing any form of weakness – the other patients called me mum – and I felt I needed to be strong for everybody else. They seem to be suffering far more than I was.

The psychiatric staff were struggling with my diagnosis. When I was admitted, it was with the belief that I had schizophrenia. I had been hearing voices and had become increasingly paranoid, suspicious of everyone and convinced that they could hear all my thoughts. I’d turn photographs around because I believed they could see me, and dressed under the covers in case there were hidden cameras in my bedroom. At the time, those thoughts seemed perfectly rational, and I’ve never spoken of those delusions before. I’ve been ashamed of them; they’re embarassing.

However, I was believed to be “too rational” to have schizophrenia, and too able to control my temper when I was in company. In fact, by the time I left PL I had been given an entirely clean bill of mental health; I was sane. Nothing wrong with me but the fact that I was fourteen and shy.

Most days were pretty quiet in PL; nothing like mental health units in films. There was the occasional outburst or brief spell of violence, but most of us were too drugged to kick up a fuss. There was only one violent patient – Chris – a tall, wide-shouldered, acne-ridden nose-picking guy with a tendancy to stare at my tits and shout “FUCK!” whenever he thought he could get away with it. He smoked in the courtyard when staff allowed him to, and once I passed him in the hallway. He grabbed my chest and laughed. I never said anything, but refused to sit near him in therapy. Chris would wander into the girl’s rooms, but staff soon shooed him out. I don’t think he’d have done anything; despite his obvious problems he didn’t seem like a rapist. Heck, maybe I should have mentioned it. I just didn’t think anyone would care. One thing I learned in life is that nobody believes crazy teenage girls.

Despite feeling more comfortable being in PL than I did the first time around, I still contested my need to stay there. Needing control has always been my biggest coping mechanism, and you have no control in a mental illness unit. You’re watched; eating, showering, when you’re sitting in front of the TV. You’re forced to play childish games to ‘build trust’ and swallow the pills they give you. If a member of staff says jump, you ask “how high?”, because these people, these so-called professionals, have complete control over your life. We had to sit through a talk on safe sex and, god forbid, how babies were made. Carla managed a sardonic laugh at this. Having been abused by her father since she was six months old, she didn’t feel she needed the biological side of sex explaining to her. I was still a virgin (that would change the next year) but I knew how babies were made, and I didn’t need to be sitting in a cold room, under stark flourescent lights, putting a condom on a banana. I wasn’t a child. If fourteen year olds know anything, they know how babies are made. It’s all they think about, after all.

Then again, Chris sometimes masturbated in the day room, so perhaps it was required listening for some of us.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in The Past

 

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30 days of truth – day 10 – letting go of myself.

A letter to my twelve-year-old-self.

As you sit in your incense-scented bedroom, leaning against strategically-placed cushions on your bed and picking at the moon and stars duvet cover you begged for, consider this. Consider that one day, you will be twenty-six. You will be in that same room, typing these words on your laptop, surrounded by the things you collected during life; Guinness bottles, eye creams, cheap jewellery, a pink and white Laura Ashley bedspread marked by gel pens and cigarette burns. Empty pill packets and lighters. Crystals you once believed had healing power. You no longer believe, but will never throw them away.

You will type these words, thinking back to the Hanson posters you no longer own, the Sony Walkman which broke years ago, the candlesticks which never looked right on your window ledge. You will remember.

It all sounds so far away to you. Life for you is a slow-moving mash-up of books, poetry, the X-Files and listening to The Middle Of Nowhere over and over, until the tape starts to break. Fears you feel are school-related. The challenges you face are all-consuming, and you suspect you will never be this confused; that puberty will somehow save you from the feelings you keep inside. The diaries you write now… you will throw them away. They don’t have meaning to you, after all; so much of what you write is lies, made up to convince yourself that your life is more interesting than it is. So much of what you say is lies, woven from a need to fit in, to impress, to be somebody else. You will convince yourself, eventually, that these lies are nothing but the absolute truth, and that’s okay; years later, you will find out why you did this. It was never your fault.

A lot of things will turn out to be not your fault. However much you blame yourself, I wish you’d know this, so you wouldn’t punish yourself. It may seem strange writing like this; after all, I’m writing to myself, and until they invent time-travel, this is purely for the grown-up me. You and I are different people. We have the same genes, the same blood group, the same eyes. We are the same, but so different. As you grow older, you will learn so many lessons; most harsh and uncaring, but all useful. You need to bear these lessons to become who I am now. You need to remember that you change drastically, and that your life will be a series of learning curves. Change doesn’t come easily; you have to fight for it. As much as you don’t see it, you can, do, and will fight. You’re more able and stronger than you give yourself credit for.

The nightmares will always be there, but you will learn to bear them. You will even discover, one day, why you have them. It won’t be an easy discovery, and you’ll break before you mend, but you need to discover those things.

For you, now, school is the be-all and end-all. I remember all too well how it feels to even hear that word. ‘School’ – such an innocent word, yet I know how sick you feel when you hear or read it. I remember those stomach cramps and tears. I remember the utter terror. I want to be honest with you, so I’m afraid it doesn’t get easier. If I could go back and be you again, I would find my voice; because you do have one. I would stand up for myself, because the ability is there. You can’t see it now, and it saddens me that you can’t find a way out. If I could tell you one thing, it would be this; it was never as bad as you imagined it. You naturally punish yourself and assume you’re guilty. Years later, you will find out why, you will discover that it’s a fault in your brain, something you can’t help. When someone raises their voice, I know you believe it’s you they’re angry with. When something goes wrong, I know you automatically blame yourself. What happened at school will stay with you for a long time, well into your early twenties, but one day, the fear lessens. One day, the tangles and confusions begin to make sense. One day, you stop blaming everyone else, and, most importantly, you stop blaming yourself. You will see school for what it actually was; a place where you simply never fit in. Not through lack of trying, but because you tried too much. You were simply never going to be one of the popular kids, but remember this; popularity at your age may seem like everything, but really, it’s nothing. Most of the popular kids were just as insecure as you. They had troubles at home too. They struggled with work, even though you felt like the only one.

 

 

At the age of thirteen, in November, you will refuse to go to school. You will leave. The year before that will be a painful one; a long, hard road of misery and upset. You entered puberty much earlier than your peers, and so much of this is down to hormones, even though you won’t realise it at the time. Hormones and mental illness. In that year, you will leave childhood behind. You will become even more introverted, shying away from physical contact. You will push away your friends. I can’t tell you not to do this; without it, you wouldn’t be where I am now. I just wish you could understand how damaging it will be to you, and how easy it would have been to just reach out. One day, you will find yourself sitting in the headmaster’s office, having to explain the scars and cuts on your arms. You will make a vital mistake at this point; you will choose to confide in your two best friends. They won’t understand, and it will scare them. Eventually, you will lose these friends, but I can tell you now that it was the best thing in the situation. They weren’t emotionally mature enough to deal with their friend self-harming. The next mistake you will make it forgetting to hide the bloodstains on your shirt sleeves. The girls who sit opposite you in science will see it, and will pretend to scratch themselves with compasses in front of you. When you start the unexplained crying bouts in lessons, you will lie, you will make up a story to explain away the tears. I wish you hadn’t done this; everyone knew you were lying. In fact, everyone knew that most of what you said was a lie, all along. This is why they never believed you. When one of the popular girls asks you if you’re alright in the PE changing room, she wasn’t trying to be cruel, to taunt you. I wish you could see that, because I know that, at the time, you believed it was just another way of getting to you, rather than the rare kind gesture it actually was.

You always suspected you were different, didn’t you? Well, you are. Not a freak; not in the popular sense of the word. The truth is, you’re ill. The illness is in your head, and, contrary to what you may suspect, you’re not making it up to gain attention and status. You’re not inventing problems for yourself, regardless of what that voice in your head may tell you. Yes, you do make it worse for yourself at times, you do over-analyse situations and get yourself into emotional states you can’t control, but that doesn’t make you any less of a person.

Now, look at this photo.

I know that by posting this, I’m giving a lot away about myself; where I come from, where I went to school. I wanted to remain entirely anonymous on this blog, but perhaps honesty is more important sometimes. I know that, if you saw this photo, you would begin to sweat and shake. You would probably cry. Your heart would race, and you would have the urge to harm yourself in some way. I remember how it felt every time you heard the lyric “go to school” in that Sheryl Crow song, how you had to fast-forward past that bit. I promise that one day, it won’t hurt. I promise that one day you will be walking past the school, and feel nothing.

 

When you look in the mirror, you see somebody who will never be loved. You will never quite understand what exactly makes this fact; whether it’s the mass of curly, unruly, tangled ginger hair, or the rolls of fat which make sitting down so uncomfortable, or simply your face, which you never felt comfortable with. You were never one of the pretty girls. Your body shape meant you would never have delicate shoulders or slim hips. You know you will never be a tall, skinny blonde.

I chose to write to you when you were twelve years old because I know that’s when everything started. Not the bullying; that came earlier. The reactions and the overreactions though; that starts now, doesn’t it? It’s the age you realise just how little you have in common with your peers, the age when you start kicking back against the world in the only way you know how; by harming yourself, and, to an extent, harming those around you so nobody can get close enough to cause pain. The age where you become aware of yourself and your impact on the world. You’ve already been suffering from depression for a few years now; they call it juvenile depression, at least that’s what you were told. It sounded so trivial, didn’t it? ‘Juvenile’, as though it was childish. For a long time you didn’t believe that diagnosis. To you, it was all fantasy, all attention-seeking, it was all your fault.

My clearest memory of you is when you used to sneak out of the house in the early hours of the morning, just after dawn, to sit on the embankment near the water treatment plant down by the marshes. A short walk; but at the time, it felt like miles. Even in the middle of winter you would wear just a t-shirt and jeans, because the cold didn’t affect you the way it seemed to affect others. I suppose it was the extra weight you were carrying around; cold simply couldn’t penetrate your body. I remember you running down the slopes of the embankment, feeling the wind in your hair and on your face, running from everything and nothing, with nobody around to see you. It was the only time you felt free. Then, you would creep back into the house, flushed from the exercise and nervous about being caught. You left the door on the latch, so you could get back in; anybody could’ve walked into the house and it would’ve been all your fault. At the time, you simply didn’t care. You needed space, fresh air, solitude in the outdoors. You never did like being indoors for too long, and that hasn’t changed. You’re still prone to cabin fever.

Do you remember when the binge-eating started? I don’t; as much as I try, I can’t remember. I can only assume that because you started puberty early, it must have been around that time, as that’s when you started becoming aware of your body and, for the first time, was unhappy with what you saw. I can still remember the first time you realised you had body hair; the disgust you felt at discovering the soft, downy hair under your arms. Then came breasts, and the inevitable teasing because nobody else in school had them. After that came the first pale red spots in your underwear, followed by sudden cramps and what felt, at the time, like haemorrhaging. You didn’t tell anybody for a long time, you were too ashamed. Things are different now; the health problems you encountered over the years ensured that pretty much everybody ended up knowing every detail about your period. You even got to see your ovaries on a camera, which appealed to your sense of the grotesque (which we still share). But more about that later.

I remember your frustration when, at the age of five, you couldn’t eat what your friends ate. Being born with a severe lactose allergy felt like a curse. In primary school, you ate chocolate substitutes and endured gentle teasing for being different. It didn’t bother you much, but I think, deep down, it began rooting issues for you; food became a chore, rather than a pleasure. So when you were finally declared ‘cured’ at the age of seven, you indulged. I think any child would, but I know now that you have an incredibly addictive nature, and that food, for you, is the ultimate pleasure-giver. I know what it looks like down the side and underneath your bed; empty chocolate and sweet wrappers, whole multipacks of crisps secreted away, old yoghurt pots, bottles of Pepsi and milkshake. I know you feel ashamed by it, and that’s why you hide it, that’s why you can’t simply take those wrappers downstairs and put them in the bin, instead creating a mountain of past binges. I remember it all too well.

 

You haven’t yet been told by the blonde PE teacher that you’re fat. She hasn’t yet held up your skirt for the whole class to see, mocking your weight. It will happen soon, and when it does, I wish you would simply take it on the (double) chin and pass it off as a thoughtless comment, rather than let it torment you for years. I know I can’t change what happens to you, or your reactions to events, but if I could travel back and change one thing for you, it would be this. I wish I could tell you to laugh in her face or shout at her; anything but your real reaction of staring at your shoes on the hard gym floor, swallowing what little pride you had left and casting it down in the hope that the earth will open and let you fall; fall away from the comments and taunting, fall away from the word ‘fat’, so you never have to hear it. This, more than anything, broke you. I wish I could stop it, because I know just how much pain and misery it caused for years to come.

I also wish I could tell you not to listen when your sister (E) stands up from the dinner table at Christmas and announces she’s going to make herself sick because she’s eaten too much. I want to be able to crawl back through those years, hold you tight and block your ears against what she said. You took it to heart; you saw it as a cure for the fat which seems to destroy every part of your life. She didn’t mean it, and even if she did… it’s not the answer. Regardless of what you think, you won’t be one of the lucky ones who loses weight and stops.  You won’t be the one who gets away with no damage to your health. I know you feel invincible right now, but you’re not. Leaning over the toilet, running the taps on the sink to hide the noise of retching… it didn’t solve anything. It didn’t stop the bad feelings; it just magnified them. If you’d have known that, years later, you’d still be fighting the urge to vomit, would you still do it? If you knew how disgusted you’d end up feeling with yourself, yet unable to stop because it had become an addiction, the only crutch you could reliably lean on… would you find a better way of coping?

You wouldn’t, would you? Because you’re headstrong, stubborn, and desperate. In that sense, we’re still exactly the same.

You may be asking yourself why I’m writing this letter from the same bedroom you sit in right now. You may wonder if your worst fears have come true, and you’ve never managed to move on from your insulated, bubble-wrap life. I feel I should apologise at this point, because I let you down. I should have been a stronger adult, I should have gained control over my life instead of spending my late teens and twenties punishing myself and hiding from the world. I should have stayed awake instead of falling so easily into sleep as a method of coping, I should have lived my life for you.

When I began writing this, it was the result of a half-asleep talk I had with myself. Yes, I still do that. I’ve been cruel to myself lately; allowing myself to wallow in self-created misery and sinking back into the old ways of coping. Right now, I have an infected burn, just above my navel. I tried not to; I know it’s the wrong way of doing things and solves nothing, but sometimes the temptation is too difficult to avoid. I used a lighter to heat up a pair of nail scissors, and chose to scar myself there because, apart from S (my boyfriend), nobody will see it. Again, I let you down. I know that you don’t currently see any reason to stop harming yourself, but that feeling doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you will want to get better, you will want to kick that demon aside and find healthier ways of coping, but it’s so, so difficult. I can’t help but think that I’m too old for this behaviour now, but if it were easy to stop, I would’ve long ago.
That talk I had with myself… I started speaking to you. Just in my head; I’m not entirely crazy, at least I don’t think so. Perhaps I am; perhaps I’m so off my box that I don’t make any sense, perhaps I’m writing this from a padded cell somewhere and I’m just convincing myself I’m living this half-life I’m stuck in

.

When I spoke to you (obviously, you didn’t answer back, that would just be silly), I realised just how different we are, and I began to wonder how I would’ve felt if my twenty-something self could go back and tell you these things. It was supposed to be a short letter, but the more I thought and wrote, the more I realised that I owe you everything. I could turn this into a novel, and I suspect we still wouldn’t cover all the ground between us, but I want to try.

Why?

For my own peace of mind. For therapy. For all the ways I failed you.

 

You dream of romance; of being loved and loving somebody back. Only, you don’t speak of this desire because it seems ridiculous. Who would ever love you? A recluse with bad skin and bad social skills; how could anybody give up their time to be with you? How could anybody bear to touch you, when all you see in the mirror is an overweight, pale, galumphing teacher’s pet with frizzy ginger hair and bad teeth? Of course nobody could love you, you reason with yourself. And so, you swear – almost unconsciously – to never let anybody close enough.

If you protect yourself, you won’t get hurt. If you make sure nobody ever gets close to you, you will never have to feel that rejection, you’ll never have to relive the humiliation of the day a boy from school asked you out and stood you up. You’ll never have to face the laughter from others when they ask, incredulously, why you ever thought it was anything other than a joke on your behalf.

Yet, for all your attempts, boys and, later, men… they did love you. Or something like love.

It’s hard to imagine now, but you’ll lose your virginity much younger than some of your peers. You will find yourself in a council house at the age of fifteen, watching an older man move on top of you, and you will feel nothing. You will note the absence of pain. Afterwards, you will stand in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to look for a sign of maturity on your face, but all you will see is smudged eyeliner and a scared look staring back at you. You felt the condom break, you heard his muffled swearing as he threw it aside and carried on regardless. It doesn’t bother you as much as you thought it might; you don’t feel real.

As you travel to the women’s hospital at 11pm (way past your curfew, and in a city more than twenty miles away from home), you try to feel like an adult. You attempt to convince yourself that this is it; your childhood is over, and you’re a grown-up now. Yet, you still feel like a girl. A scared, unimpressed girl, more worried about the argument you’ll undoubtedly face when you finally get home than any chance of pregnancy, infection or what you’ve just allowed a prematurely balding twenty-three year old to do to you.

In the hospital, you sit in the toilet as your boyfriend asks for the morning after pill. Again, you look in the mirror, and still nothing has changed. The Tia Maria you drank earlier is making you nostalgic, and you look down at your legs, at the ripped stockings (seriously, who were you trying to impress?) and black painted toenails, and all you want is to curl up and go to sleep. It’s not that you didn’t want it to happen, because you did. You’re just disappointed that it wasn’t like it is in the movies. The earth didn’t move. You loved him (or so you thought) but nothing seemed to change once you were no longer a virgin. It simply wasn’t the big deal it’s always been made out to be.

 

 

I know this will come as a disappointment to you. You’re just discovering sex, really. You haven’t kissed anybody yet, let alone let them touch you. You haven’t had a boyfriend unless you count the boy in primary school who gave you a jelly sweet ring, asked to marry you and who you dumped a few weeks later because he wiped his nose on his sleeve in front of you. Sex and the opposite sex are a mystery to you, and you know what? I wish you could’ve held onto that innocence a little longer. Once you discover the reality, that storybook romance you dream about seems childish and overly hopeful. It simply doesn’t work that way. Not for a long time, anyway.

But let’s go back to the beginning, when you decided that nobody would be able to touch you.

It started as a diet. Just a normal, everyday low-calorie diet. After all, you could stand to lose some weight, even I can acknowledge that. I can’t remember what prompted it; whether you made the choice to lose weight or if a comment pushed you over the edge. I do remember how pleased you were when you stepped on the scales and found you had lost a couple of pounds. It seemed easy, easier than you imagined. Everybody seemed to be doing it; weight loss was the in-thing. You’d left school by this point, and so sat at home flicking through your mother’s magazines, picking up diet tips and learning the best way to get a flat stomach. After a few more months, people were starting to comment on how much better you looked, and it fuelled a compulsion to gain approval. You soon learned that losing weight gained you respect, gave you something to talk about, and, in your mind, gave you a reason to exist. Self-harming wasn’t gaining you any fans; you needed a new way of showing the world you were worth something.

And so weight loss became your obsession.

It probably sounds funny now. That the world’s best binge-eater would become a master dieter. Only, it stopped being funny after a while. It stopped being a diet.

I’ll never be able to tell you when the diet became anorexia.

In fact it’s difficult for me to piece events together during this time because you experienced memory loss from the age of thirteen to fifteen. You didn’t lose everything, and there was never any real explanation for it other than some form of post-traumatic stress, but you lost a few key details, and a lot of minor memories. I still struggle to picture those years with any real clarity, although things are starting to slowly come back as I get older.

All I know is that anorexia came first, then, when you weren’t losing enough weight, bulimia tagged along. Bulimia was never as attractive to you; it didn’t have the same sense of control as starving did, it was messy and difficult to hide. Curiously, it seemed to almost cure your phobia of vomiting though; forced purges felt far less terrifying than being so totally out of control, and you quickly discovered that, if you felt nauseous, sticking two fingers down your throat solved the worry of whether you’d actually be sick or not.

As eerily sensible as you could seem, some attitudes you displayed were so far beyond your personality, it was as though you became a totally different person through eating disorders. You began to prize the appearance of hip bones and admired the protruding collar bones of other women. You learned how to angle your shoulders to best display the bone structure you created, you learned how to use makeup to angle your cheekbones further, creating a hollow-faced look you were so, so proud of. As the weight continued to drop, you learned tricks to stop the feeling of hunger; cotton wool balls soaked in water, when swallowed, would make you feel full. You chewed gum constantly to fool your body into thinking you were eating. Fizzy water was more filling than still water, but the bloating it created made you uncomfortable. Without access to the internet, you had to pick these tricks up from overheard conversations, television programmes (you learned the cotton wool trick from Eastenders), and pure guesswork. Twice-weekly trips to the electronic scales in Boots showed that you were losing on average 5 to 7lbs a week at the height of anorexia, yet you still felt it wasn’t enough, and you always felt like a faker. You suspected you were just pretending; trying to be anorexic. You were still a fat girl; you couldn’t see the extremes you were taking yourself to, was entirely deaf to the worries of others and endless speeches on sensible eating. The threats of being sent to hospital went entirely over your head because, to you, it wasn’t a real problem. If anything, it was a solution.

You went from being a shy, probably quite sweet child to an angry, sniping teenager without a good word to say about anybody or anything. Hunger made you irritable and tired, and the slightest thing would set you off into an uncontrollable rage. Once, you screamed at your mother in Marks and Spencer because she caught you checking the calories in a ready-meal. She was only trying to curb your behaviour, make you see sense, but you shouted, screamed, kicked and, eventually, ran.

You did a lot of running away.

You’re still running away.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Nine Years

Nine years of sleep-starved nights
And a restless hunger, which I can’t shake
Nine years, which have lead to this weakness
And the filthy habit I can’t break

Nine years of bittersweet clarity
Of my body and mind detached
Of these empty promises I feed myself
Of this itch I cannot scratch

Nine years since I admitted defeat
And found a friend in abuse
A companion in a twisted world
A perfect lie, a perfect excuse

To be this empty person
To exist within a shell
To keep my feelings to myself
To perfect my private hell

Nine years of binging and purging
Of starvation to purity
Of the blade, the lighter, the uncried tears
Of the distorted images of me

And still you don’t see through this
You see the smile but not the pain
Which is thinly hidden behind these eyes
Along with the years of shame

Nine years of guilt surrounds me
As I pull my hair back off my face
Run the tap and kneel on the floor
And fall back into disgrace

Nine years have passed since the first time
Yet I may as well be back there
12 years old, purging my soul
On the floor, exposed, shaking, bare

Nakedness still frightens me
My body is still not my own
The skin on my hands doesn’t belong to me
In my chest, my heart is a stone

The images of myself betray me
The mirrors tell lies through the glass
I feel as though I am still that 12 year old girl
But in reality, nine years have passed.

21, on the bathroom floor
The smell of vomit hangs in the air
Fingers aching and throat sore
And the shame, because this time I care

Nine years ago, on the same floor
Kneeling down as though to pray
Tears in my eyes and acid on my teeth
With no idea what I’d started that day.

Nine years of doctors, of hospitals, of pills
Of weight charts and targets and scales
Nine years of blood pressure and laxatives and aching
All mean nothing now that I’ve failed

Nine years of endless nights
Of silent tears, abuse and heartache
Of bathroom lights and kitchen-spent nights
Of this filthy habit, I just can’t break.

(c)  2006.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Poetry

 

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Friday 13th – Appetite Suppressants, Diet Coke and a Food Festival

  I truly hate, loathe and hugely despise being unwell. Having spent most of my life succumbing to one illness or another, the whole thing has become tedious and incredibly repetitive. This time, I couldn’t begin to describe what I’ve fallen victim to: it could be a cold, but it feels worse, it’s not flu because I can (just about) walk, and it’s not food poisoning because the need to camp out in the bathroom only lasted two days, yet I still feel like shit. It could be a virus. I could just be run down. All I know is that I feel exhausted, achey, nauseous and dizzy.

Despite this, my mother made it very clear that shopping needed to be done. I’ve always accompanied her on shopping trips; it just feels like the right thing to do. I’m not convinced she’d cope by herself these days anyway – her arthritis is terrible and she seems to become panicked a lot more than she used to. By the time we eventually got to town (via taxi, as we always have done), I was feeling a little anxious about being out and about in such a weak state. I was by no means dying, but navigating the high street with a head full of cotton wool was a daunting task when I’d almost constantly been indoors for the past few days.

A few things of note happened.

1. I bought appetite suppressants. Appesat, to be exact. Yes, I spent almost £30 on seaweed extract in a pill, in the hope that it’ll stop me binging. Earlier, I’d dug out some leftover Lipobind, thinking if I combined the two and cut down a lot, I could probably be skinny again within a few months. I suspect my weight has a lot to do with my recent low mood… looking in the mirror and seeing a chubby face staring back at me never results in a good day. I haven’t started taking them yet; I suppose the diet starts tomorrow.

2. I panicked. Not once, but over and over, until I could barely breathe. I’d had no idea that town would be full of stalls and people, there for the food festival. How I made it through, I’ll never know. Less than two hours became a lifetime as I tried to avoid making eye-contact with anybody in case they somehow knew how uncomfortable I was. Luckily, the excuse of being unwell hid the panic from mum; drawing her attention to my anxiety never ends well.

3. Sainsbury’s had an offer on fridge packs of Diet Coke. Sod the aspartame; it’s low calorie.

After getting home, I celebrated surviving the trip with a well-packed joint (extra bonus points added for new Rizlas; there’s nothing like opening a new packet) and a hummus vegetable wrap. Before drifting off for a nap, I thought about a conversation I’d had with mum earlier.

I’d told her about the Appesat. I figured that if she found the pack without knowing I’d bought them, she’d suspect I was up to my old weight-loss tricks. Spun her a line about it being good for ex-bulimics who get the urge to binge, and she seemed to accept that and not push the issue (which is rare, for her). Still, she wasn’t going to drop the issue entirely.

“You’ve been eating a lot, T. Every night I come down to crumbs in the kitchen, and last night there was rice pudding everywhere”.

“Yeah, I know” (really not wanting to discuss any of this).

“I just wish I knew what was pushing your buttons”

Ah. So that’s what she thought – no wonder she was being extra nice to me. She thought someone was winding me up, making me dislike myself, pushing me to grasp at control. So I told her, truthfully, that nothing was pushing my buttons. I’ll be damned if I understand it myself.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Every day life

 

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Sick To My Stomach

I rarely like my own poetry, and it’s even less likely that I will think rhyming poems are what I should be writing. They never sound right to me: they just don’t scan, and can often seem twee without meaning to. Still, given my last entry touched on the subject of eating disorders, it seemed appropriate to post this.

Sinking to the depths again
the ones you never quite reach
heart in my hands and head on the floor
wishing I was anyone but me.

Falling for my weakness again
and welcoming it like a friend
crushing my heart between my fingers
- that heart you tried to mend.

Sad, tired eyes searching for you
but my hands can’t seem to grip
aching head and swollen fingers
and the shame because I slipped.

Sick in my skin and dead to the world
it’s cold on the bathroom floor
smash all the mirrors and hide the pieces
I don’t want them anymore.

(c) 2006

I still don’t like it, but I’m my harshest critic, and I don’t think skill mattered to me at the time.

If I remember correctly (2006 was a very strange year for me, and much has been lost from when my brain went into meltdown), it was written sitting on the bathroom floor, next to the toilet. I had abstained from making myself sick for a long time – well over a year – when I finally caved in and went on a few weeks of binge/purge before I pulled myself out of it. Despite the help and support 0 was offering me, and despite regular visits to a counsellor, the stress of the miscarriage, dropping out of college, and my growing irrationality around O led me to taking relief in the only way I knew aside from harming myself. I couldn’t hide the cuts or burns from O, but if I was careful and didn’t make it obvious and gave my knuckles time to unswell, I could purge without him ever knowing. Of course, he found out; people always do.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Poetry, Uncategorized

 

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