This time a year ago...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I'm sorry, I'm a musical theatre student these days and couldn't resist...

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” Questionable from Marilyn Monroe

It's a funny thing to consider where I was this time last year. Not really funny haha, because, well, I was bloody miserable, but more…funny, bizarre. I suspect it's even more bizarre for those I am currently lucky enough to be surrounded by here at Drama School in Cambridge, especially when I make the rather odd jokes about anorexia that have become part of my daily norm and that most who know me very well and have had to deal with my peculiar ways for years, are used to. Referring to 'Gone Girl' recently, I quipped "although I did read it when I was in the crazy house and slightly preoccupied with doing star jumps and step ups in my room, so maybe that why I didn't get all the hype, I wasn't really able to focus. The girl I was speaking to looked to me in slight horror and then sort of…patter me. I looked at her hand confused, then, suddenly understanding why she was feeling sorry for me, was overcome with embarrassment. This was not what I had intended in the slightest, but I could not hold her pity against her, because, I guess that it all sounds pretty extreme if you're hearing about it for the first time. I forget about how my openness is not typical. It was probably one of the biggest initial struggles I had when starting at Drama School, how to handle anorexia, to tell or not to tell….that was the question. I 'came out'. It became kinda necessary. My teachers all knew and had been marvellous about it from the beginning, and when it became apparent that with all the dancing and general energy output was becoming a little tough for me, as was the short amount of time allotted for meals (it still takes me a long time to eat and digestion is slow, so I often feel a bit ill or in pain after food), we came to an agreement to manage things better, with a slightly reduced timetable. Now, Maya who wants to push herself to the limit finds this very difficult to tolerate, especially as I'm now not meant to do the vigorous morning workouts that everyone else does. (Crazy part of brain has very strong views about this, but I just have to keep the part telling me I'm lazy/slobbish/fat in it's corner). I also don't do all the dance lessons, which makes even the sanest corner of my brain sad, as dancing again was incredibly fun and made me smile. The understanding from my teachers though and a practical solution quickly being reached was a God send. I'm just determined to show them that i'm worth the effort. Anorexia is still definitely my roommate here at uni and this definitely holds me back, but I had a wonderful realisation a few days ago (hence the wicked reference above)…I am the happiest I can remember being. At this point, I considered my mood last year, as well as where I was. All of these epiphanies happened around halloween, which was handy, as I could really chart what I was doing…
Last year I was carving pumpkins at Vincent Square, I had no leave. I remember going into pumpkin carving and really struggling with being in the group. I'd promised that i'd try and go to groups and I actually quite liked the idea of pumpkin carving, but the fact that it meant I was not exercising really messed with my head. I remember squatting on the ground, not sitting, sitting was NOT ok. If I sat, I really would be lazy. I had to squat so as to reach the pumpkin. I stayed for most of the group, but rushed my pumpkin towards the end and then left, so as to get back to my room and return to my rigorous regime. But before leaving, in homage to my natural love of glitter…I made my pumpkin pretty.
Although it was fun, I do remember feeling like a toddler again, doing arts and crafts. Later that night we decided to watch a whole load of horror films. We had a few to choose from. This was probably the only reason I don't totally regret the illness…the friends I made during my hospitalisations, as well as the loyalty all of my friends showed. Anyway, I said id come back to watch the films a bit later. I went back to my room to resume my exercises. Upon returning to everyone else, like a little baby, I fell asleep on 'my beanbag' in the corner. I'd truly exhausted myself.

This year was different. I felt far closer to 'Maya' and my activities were more what one would expect. Namely…we got dressed up, got very drunk and went out. This has been a regular routine of our weekends here. The weeks are pretty intense, all day, everyday. Unlike similar rigour exhorted during a school day though, I find myself looking forward to Monday mornings (I cannot believe I just said that). I actually enjoy my classes and that's a bloody fantastic feeling. Im in the right place, right now, for me. Anyway, because of all the work we put in during the week, by the time the weekend rocks up, many of us are ready and raring to get out of our black 'work clothes', into something hotter, and get on the tequila shots. Then dance A LOT. Not in the way we are being trained (although we are plotting to at some point break out our 'Saturdays-Disco Love number as a flash mob), but in a far less structured way. Halloween had been planned for a long old time. Sometimes I do feel a little old, being only 22 this is a novel, yet not fun experience. I got this impression a little on halloween, the vast majority of people in the club we all began at seemed to be 18 (or at least their fake IDs claimed them to be…). I was already feeling a little self conscious and fat, and considered leaving and going home as soon as we got to the club from pre-drinks. Instead, I met a friend who is a third year at Cambridge and went to a club round the corner, then, met up with the rest of the uni lot that night and went home together, filling each other in on aspects of our nights. This, for me, was a pretty good solution and I had a great night. I just really don't wanna be that kid thats like "omg, I'm too old and mature for this stuff", because, thats really not how I feel. I think it was more a case of "omg, I'm older than everyone here", and the knowledge that the same would not be true in all clubs was too tempting for me! 
So, that's where I am. I'm doing my best. I'm still receiving treatment. I'm feeling far more positive. It's still really hard lots of the time and my brain is still sadly riddled with anorexia, but having the distraction of something I love is, thus far, the best combat method i've come across. I love the discipline required, as well as the creativity, and although I cannot quite do it all at the moment, what I can do is amazing. Hopefully soon I will be strong enough to dance again.

On an exciting end note…guess who has a logo:

Annoyingly, none of the theatres we contacted about tickets for patients have come back. Im really disappointed and let down by the lack of response, especially coming from the industry I hope to work in someday. Instead, we are currently examining other possibilities for trips for patients around Christmas. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (something: warm, safe for fragile people, that won't burn many calories, that isn't food focused…not asking much?!) We're also planning pampering presents to deliver to our old ward for the patients in this christmas, as a couple of us know how rubbish being in over the holidays is. More news to come, i'm exhausted, but was awoken by the fire alarm in my building and decided to finish this post when I couldn't get back to sleep (I'm a real student…see!) Anyway, I should try to get back to sleep, but I couldn't wait to share the pretty logo!
Much love, 
Maya xxxxx


Dragonfly taking flight

Friday, 26 September 2014

A little update: I'm terribly sorry to all those wonderful people who have supported the birth of dragonfly. I wanted to just send a little message out to say FEAR NOT. It's still happening. I've been rather neglectful of updating (to my shame) as I've actually just started at drama school in cambridge so am busy acting, singing and dancing my little socks off. So, I'm assuming you'd like to know the plans for dragonfly? Well, at present things stand as such: I've been asked to speak at a conference of all the gdst schools, during which heads can also sign up for the dragnfly talk (hopefully). It's a pretty terrifying prospect, but it's something I'm incredibly proud of having been asked to do and is pretty much the perfect gig to explain to heads of some of the uk's best independent schools what dragonfly is about and how we can help educate about the dangers of eating disorders and teach young women to stop body bashing themselves. So that is one thing that the money that has been donated will be going towards-the educational resources we will need to provide a genuinely beneficial service to schools. Our second plan, which I must say we are really excited about is the hope to provide an edu inpatient unit (hopefully the one that has helped myself, Annie, chan and Beth- all of us dragonfly ambassadors) with some tickets for an uplifting show as a Christmas treat for patients. All of us have experienced inpatient admissions and both Beth and I were waiting on tender hooks last year to find out whether we would be home for Christmas. It's a tricky time on any ward, and the units staff do there damnedest to make sure people have fun, but resources are limited, so there isn't always loads that is actually possible. We hope to use your kind donations for a wonderful outing for those patients able to leave the ward. I suspect I'm slightly biased (considering the path I've gone down), but I really do advocate the power of theatre and music to lift the spirits and take you out of your world and into another! So guys, watch this space, I've been emailing and phoning to try and get my hands on a discounted bunch of tickets, and will update you on any more progress.

So, what about me? How am I doing? Well, in all honesty, it's a pretty mixed bag. I'm absolutely loving my course, and I actually go much of the day without anorexia sitting on my shoulder shouting. Don't get me wrong, she still hisses regularly, but with all the Shakespeare, singing and dancing, it's quite easy to block out the mean words. It's a little scary living away from home, sometimes I get home in the evening, shattered, and suddenly feel im alone with anorexia, but I guess it's just another challenge. And then there is the problem of making sure I eat enough to fuel the intense and full on days. Now, that is probably my biggest worry ATM, as I'm very aware of all the activity I'm doing. This in some ways is a good thing, but probably not as great at your think, as anorexia can get very over excited over exercise and then grip on and rationalise that you've done so well working so hard, lunch would ruin things. I'm trying very hard to ignore this though. It's great being involved for an entire day, as it leaves my head very little time to abuse me, so I can go for lunch, then go straight into an intense acting class (for example) and I've got no space to be beating myself up over the extra 5 calories that tomato ketchup sachet may be! I do have to work very hard to eat enough though, which is a worry. I suppose I just have to keep trying, keep going, ask for the support when I need it and remember that if I wanna keep on this road, I've gotta eat. The staff are all aware and all very supportive, which is fantastic, and I feel like I'm in the right place. Doing the that thing.

So there we go, a speedy date. Watch this space for dragonfly news and once again, thank you so so much. Maya xx

Find Alice Gross

Saturday, 6 September 2014

I have been very saddened and moved by the plight of a family reasonably local to me whose daughter has gone missing. From the beginning, after seeing the photos of 'Alice Gross' on posters around Ealing and on Facebook, I had a feeling that she was suffering from anorexia. I could not see her body, but, as silly as it may sound, the look in her eyes was one I recognised and could relate too. Three times since her disappearance, I have been stopped by police cars in the evening and asked for my details, each time they have explained they are looking for a missing girl and just need to confirm who I am. We are not the same race, age, I don't think we look anything alike, but maybe they too could recognise the troubled look. It has been confirmed that Alice is suffering from anorexia. She is still missing. Her families response in my opinion is admirable, they truly have put everything in to finding Alice and she is clearly missed greatly. I'm sure she will not read this, but I know that if you type 'Anorexia' and a few other things into search engines, my blog comes up. I also know people with eating disorders often read about others experiences. For this reason I wanted to send a message to Alice, just in case there is the slightest little chance she has ever looked at my blog, seeking comfort that others minds are as haunted as hers, if you are able Alice, go home and let people look after you. Anorexia can make you feel very guilty and as if everyone would be better off without you. It can make you feel like you cause more trouble than you are worth. It can be very frustrating for those who love you and sometimes that can cause you lots of guilt. I have no idea whether Alice ran away or whether she is away from her family involuntarily, but I do want to say that if she can go home or if anyone knows where she is, please please let her be reunited with her family. She needs the love of them to help her battle her daemons. However much it may feel that anorexia is just causing your loved ones too much anguish and they would be better off if you ran away, it's not the case. They love you. They may hate the anorexia, but that doesn't mean they hate you. It is quite clear from the determination of the Gross family that Alice is very loved. I hope that she gets home and that she battles her daemons. Please share the poster below on twitter/facebook/anywhere you can.


Something beautiful is coming...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

For the past few months I have been working on something really very exciting, (for me and a few others so far at least). I’ve banged on about it before, mentioned it a few times, but I think that FINALLY, it’s actually happening. Myself, along with a group of loyal and determined very close friends, namely: Thea, Jessie, Grace and Beth (for now, but we would always love to hear from anyone else who would like to get involved), are starting a charity, which we hope will work to bring workshops to schools and other organizations that educate people about eating disorders and promote positive body image. You only have to have a look through my archive to see my opinion on the importance of positive body image and the effect ‘body bashing’ has on us all. Enough ranting, we want to make things change. The second stage of our plan (for world domination etc), is to have the means to provide alternative therapies and treats for those who are being treated for eating disorders in hospital. To some, the idea of sending a manicurist on to a ward may seem a bit extravagant, but I can personally sing from the hills the benefits of such ‘treats’. When you are in hospital, feeling pretty trapped, being abused by your brain and forced to eat and eat and eat (which then results in more abuse from your brain), it can be pretty miserable. It’s likely you feel crap about yourself, I know I did. Eating disorders both physically and mentally diminish those with whom they infest. I really ‘let myself go’ at first. I’d just wander around the ward in my Pajamas, hair messy and no make up. It can seem to some that my apparent disinterest in my appearance showed progress, but it was quite the opposite. It wasn’t that I had no interest in my appearance, and I did not develop anorexia because I’m an egotistical, image obsessed young woman, it was simply that I didn’t feel worth anything at that point. I definitely didn’t feel worth pampering and looking after. This is quite common during treatment and the therapists and nurses on the ward often try to help us look after ourselves a bit, because they see the value of each person. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you think about it. You have an Eating Disorder and eating makes you feel disgusting=you stop taking care of yourself, so you actually are not at your best! Anorexia is one crafty character. So, in comes our phase 2. Little treats provided for those on the ward to make a person feel a little better (we hope) and give something to look forward to that breaks up the repetitive eating. We’d also hope that it would bring patients together, doing something totally unrelated to their illness, which I firmly believe is healthy. I mentioned my friend Beth earlier in the post.

Now, Beth is a lovely lady that I actually met on the ward when we were both ‘inmates’. Sometimes, cultivating relationships with those you meet whilst a patient isn’t that helpful, as other’s struggling can trigger your own. However, as you can tell from the fact that I asked Beth if she’d be involved (and when we are actually registered, a trustee), with the charity, you can tell this is not how I feel about her. Whilst ‘locked up’, I managed to make a connection with Beth about things other than not-eating. We are both out now, and although neither is healthy (yet) and each day is still a struggle, the fact that we have been able to maintain a relationship that is not unhealthy is largely due to our perseverance of un-anorexia related activities in hospital. The evenings quite often became pretty fun, especially after ‘night-snack’ (yes laugh, you regress to primary school), when the day of eating was over and we only had tomorrow to worry about. In fact, an outsider might even mistake, if shown the scenes, us crazies for a normal girly (and Finnbee) sleepover (granted, a sleepover of the emaciated). We’d stay up, watch films, do each others nails. Now Beth and I meet up and go clubbing. It was Beth, Finn, Chiara, Chan, Ruth, Rae and Kay (to name just a few, there were so many pretty fantastic patients when I was in), and our perseverance of sticking on a movie, or painting each others nails, or talking about boys (and all the other stereotypical things associated with being a girl) that got me through. Setting up activities within the wards, especially at the weekends, which can be far more quiet and depressing will help build healthy bonds and help people find commonalities other than anorexia. I honestly believe that will help people to keep persevering, and remind them that there is a lot more outside and life should be lived. I feel an incredible bond with those whom I became friends with in hospital, in a way that I suspect you only really can develop when you meet people in such a circumstance. They have all seen me at my worst, being totally irrational, hysterical, hiding bloody sausage hot pot in slippers (not naming any names ehum ehum, but more importantly, even after all the tears had been shed and the meal had been eaten, we’d come together as people, not as anorexics. The unity of the ‘real people’ underneath anorexia is a very strong thing indeed and can massively motivate a healthier attitude. I hope that our treats and therapies can help other people find a Beth, Finn etc etc.

So, they are our 2 goals, but before we can do any of that we need to have the means to get this show on the road. We need to become a registered charity and we need to set up a website. Once we’ve done that, then we can start properly developing our workshops to offer to groups and then, a bit further down the line, liaising with wards and offering the odd mood-booster. We are currently in the process of planning our launch event, a charity ball (watch this space), but want to get going with our web design and registry. I did not realize that registering a charity takes cold hard cash if you don’t happen to know someone who knows about charity law (I don’t, but if you do PLEASE CONTACT US). Building a website is also no easy task. I tried. I failed. It made me mad. So we also need to raise the funds to help us to do that. So, here is where the awkward bit appears…will you please help by donating some money to our rockethub page? We have a couple of offerings in return, plus you will get that golden glow of goodness! It’s in dollars, as I’m slightly technically challenged (why did I think I may be able to design a website?!), so bare that in mind when choosing how you will help us, as the dollar is pretty weak at the moment. ($10 is £5.84 at this minute).

Thank you so so much in advance. It really means the World, plus having this to work on is really great to settle my mind a little. I hope that we can do some good things that might help prevent others falling as far down the rabbit hole as I have, because it’s a bloody nightmare scrambling out. And for those who have already fallen, aid them in their mountainous journey.

Much Love,

Maya xxxx

The day I ran away...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

As promised, here is an update of what has been going on in the strange old life that I inhabit. So, as many of you will know, I am no longer an inpatient at Vincent Square. I am also no longer under section. In fact, I am an outpatient, back home, and the closest to happy I can remember being. It’s how this all came about that is the interesting part to my tale. I suppose I better start where I last left off. I’d like to apologise in advance for a rather ‘to the point’ account of this particular event, it’s quite long winded, but I wanted to get the facts down so I can finally write again as I enjoy, without causing too much confusion with any odd references. Also, please bare in mind it is about 1:30am and I am on a flight back from Ibiza!

I was at Vincent Square and pretty goddamn miserable. I was struggling massively and the most exhausted I can remember ever having been due to relentless upset and the ridiculous regime I was putting my body through with the exercise. Then I had a ward round and to me, it seemed as though it was pretty hopeless. The word ‘chronic’ was used and although everyone agreed things were not working, there was no plan of how to try and help me make them work, just that I needed to change my behavior’s. Obviously, I was aware of this, just as you are aware that you ‘should’ get up now, you ‘should’ get a better job, you ‘should’ do your homework. To me, however, it felt like every time I got up, I fell. Every time I went for a job interview, I failed and every sum and question in my homework was unanswerable. I don’t really know how else to explain it, but I honestly didn’t feel I could do anymore. I was so incredibly angry I cannot describe. I was angry that it felt like no one was listening to me. I was angry I was under section and I felt as if I was being held prisoner, tortured, but failing to have my jail time cut at all and that I was being wholly blamed. I pointed out that I was there for help to get better and if I could just stop my behaviour’s, well, I’d be at home. This did not seem to be the right thing to say and it felt horribly like being called to the headteacher’s office with all your teacher’s around the table telling you basically you’re dumb, failing every subject and not making progress. Even when you asked for extra tuition, more help, you were told that nothing more could be done. I left feeling like a piece of shit. As you can imagine, I’m quite sure, feeling, once again, like a failure, was not at all conducive to recovery or even determination in my case. Slowly but surely I could feel all sense of hope and vigor ebbing out of every single pore of my body. I felt disconnected from me, as if I were watching all of these horrible things being done to another. I was despondent, yet livid. Constantly arguing with the staff and regime. I felt like a nuisance all the time, as if I was in the way, as if all of the senior management hated me, I was too much to handle, I was worried they thought I was the gobby posh girl. The nurses, on the actual ward all the time, seemed to have much more of a grasp of me, but I was convinced that the powers that were all loathed me. This, for me, was a bloody nightmare. And it was with all this in mind and my head in absolute turmoil that I did the most spontaneous and certifiably insane (baring in mind I actually was certified nuts at this point, that is saying something) thing I have ever done. I booked a flight, secretly, to Barcelona the next day. I had 3.5 hours leave for a dentist appointment. I packed a small bag, wrote a letter for my fellow patients, telling them not to worry and I would contact them upon arrival at my destination, and prepared myself for the event. I was absolutely terrified. The prospect of doing something quite so against the rules, about the reactions of all those I love and care for, hell, the reactions of all those people who I don’t like, the prospect of all the trouble I was going to cause, the idea of my parents being angry. The police being called. All of that, but my desperation over came that all. I knew that I had to get out of the country. Within the UK, the police would find me and just bring me straight back, potentially in handcuffs. I’d seen this happen to others before and I have to say that the prospect of being dragged back to a mental hospital in handcuffs and a police van was just too much for my pride to handle. I wanted time, on ground where I was not bound by law to do anything, not trapped by the dictation of those whom I did not trust. I also knew I didn’t want to go anywhere too cold (so Paris was out of the equation) and that I needed as short-er flight time as possible. By my calculations, no one would be any the wiser for the time it would take me to get to the airport, check in, get on my plane, even take off. It would be around this time that my 3.5 hours leave would be over and alarm bells would start ringing. In order to limit the stress on all those wondering where the hell I was, I wanted to limit the time I was out of contact. I also factored in that I needed to be somewhere I could make sure I had access to things I could eat, I speak a bit of Spanish (we are talking GCSE level, however, I have found that key phrases such as ‘skinny milk’ and ‘without sugar’ have tattooed onto my mind over the past few years.) For this reason, I booked accommodation with a kitchenette in a city I knew there would be familiar food and shops and I could communicate to some degree. So, I would like to think there was ‘method to my madness’. My best friend, Thea, now says, whenever the story is regaled ‘May, if you were trying to prove to them you’re not insane…that wasn’t your smartest move’. I still contradict her by saying that I’m clearly competent and have some sense of self preservation, or I’d have absconded to a mountain somewhere and not contacted anyone. Starting a new life as a little Peruvian girl with a pet donkey. I even took the little red cup that I had been taught to use to measure cereal and milk in self-catering, so as to ensure I was equipped to eat. The only draw back to this whole self-catering, breakfast plan was that, well…id only been taught how to do breakfast myself. You do self-catering in careful slow stages in hospital, learning to eat again is not a quick process, and learning to feed yourself is even harder. If you think about the journey that lots of us had taken, from being tube fed, to put on a yogurt diet, to softs etc, and before all of that, rejecting food all together, teaching us to eat again was kind of like teaching astro-physics to a load of novices with a serious aversion to science. The lovely Occupational therapists spent a lot of time helping us in groups of 2 or 3 learn to give our bodies what we needed. So, I had breakfast down-pat. I bloody loved breakfast. I’d have got a bloody first class degree in my ‘re-feeding breakfast skills’. But…I couldn’t actually do anything else yet. I knew that this adventure was going to feature a lot of cereal and toast. But you know what, I was cool with that. In my opinion, it was better than previous holidays that had featured a whole lot of nothing, or, me trying to communicate with an Egyptian man in our lovely hotel that I wanted only an egg white omelet and that he could not use oil to cook it and then freaking out as he made it in front of me, convinced there was oil left in the pan from the previous person’s normal omelet. (How much do you all want to go on holiday with me right now?!) Just before the plane took off, literally, as we were trundling down the runway and all electronics should’ve been off (don’t be angry Easy Jet), I hit send on an email I had prepared for my parents and another I had prepared for my fellow patients. In both, I explained I was fine, but that I had run away, my reasons for doing so, and the assurance I would be in contact when I got where I was going. Apparently, upon getting the message, Finlay (a fellow crazy who I love a lot) voiced his conviction to the others that I would definitely have left the country. Everyone told him not to be ridiculous. However, Finlay knows me well enough to know I don’t do things by halves. He also knew I was at breaking point and how bloody desperate I was. If only they’d listened to Finlay….

The entire flight I felt sick. I was shaking, so so worried about everyone at home and how much trouble I’d be in. I was also concerned that upon arrival, I’d get barred from entering Spain and forced back onto a flight with a police escort. Thank God, this was not the case and upon arrival in Barcelona, I breezed through boarder control. I felt in a bit of a daze really. I had done it. I’d actually bloody done it. This was by far the most rebellious thing I had ever done. It was at the same time exhilarating and petrifying and the prospect of picking up any of the calls or replying to the rapidly building messages on my phone was not a pleasant one. I picked up to my mum though. I couldn’t leave her in the dark any longer. We had ridden the anorexic dragon together all the way, we had fought over porridge oats and laughed about my ridiculous convictions. It wasn’t fair to leave her panicking when I knew how much she had battled along with me. It was pretty dreadful telling her, she was shocked, to say the least. But in true maternal style and instinct, she knew not to yell, or even berate me. She simply said she was booking a flight for the next morning. Next, I picked up Beth and Finn’s call. I told them where I was. Again, the reaction was more shocked than anything. I told them I had somewhere to stay and food to eat and that my mum was coming. I told them we were going to talk and try to work out what to do on neutral grounds. I should’ve run to Switzerland. The next few days were actually quite good, my mum was not convinced of this really, but I, for the first time in months, felt like a proper person again, with rights and the ability to make choices other than whether to have one stodgy meal or another. We saw the sights, we went shopping, and through it all, we talked. A lot. Finally, I felt listened to and that I was being taken seriously, as oppose to being a prisoner fobbed off by the ‘but you’re mad, so we will just nod and smile’ look. I knew I still had to go back though and this felt dreadful. Upon arriving back to Heathrow I felt sick, this was only worsened by the message that was delivered over the planes tannoy upon toughing down at Heathrow “Can Miss Pillay please make herself known to the crew on board”. Bloody bloody hell. It was about to kick off. I freaked out and burst into tears. My mum went to deal with it, and as everyone got off the plane I saw it…2 big police men, guns, handcuffs and all and bloody bullet proof vests. They seemed just as shocked as we were when my mother ‘made us known’ and they were faced with 2 women, one crying, neither over 5”3 and both with BBC English accents. Apparently, it just comes up on the polices screen, a sort of red flag, that someone is coming into the country who has done something illegal and that they need to be met. Not exactly the hard criminal types. The police men were lovely about it all once my mum had explained the situation. They called the station, who called the hospital, to be assured that it was not necessary for them to drag me back, that I’d come willingly and that my mum was escorting me. So, what did they do? They asked us how we were getting back and offered their services for a lift and to speed us through security. They told me to put my sunglasses on and it would just look like a celebrity or wealthy person returning to the UK with appropriate security. Bloody fantastic they were. They even carried my luggage and, once through passport control, they popped to M&S to get themselves sandwiches for the journey back. I was still quite mortified to hop into the police van for the journey back, but, hey ho, the men were lovely and it saved the money we would’ve spent on a taxi. It was whilst in the van that we all discovered over the police radio and amidst a lot of confusion that I was no longer under section. No one knew why and we were very muddled. I was convinced I had been expelled from Vincent Square due to my ineptitude and general hopelessness. This was not the case. Apparently, if you leave the country whilst under the section, it is null and void. Who knew?! Everyone thought this was my plan all along, but quite honestly, I had no idea. It was just a happy coincidence I suppose. I was still expected back at the hospital that evening though, and was not relishing the prospect, I can tell you. So, for now, that is where I will leave the story. I am sorry it’s been so long. My blog came under scrutiny by the units senior staff and I was asked to just ‘write my feelings in a diary’, I really felt I was yet again being misinterpreted, as it was suggested my writing was lots of slagging off the hospital, it’s staff, the medication, everything really. I later found out, those ‘telling me off’ had not actually read it. Anyway, the telling off really battered my confidence and I was concerned about the effect the blog was having. I was told it was upsetting others. For me, writing is one of the most cathartic exercises, as well as giving me a bit of a confidence boost due to it’s reception. This negative feedback was my first and I concluded that I had to stop to make life easier. It did feel as if I were losing much more than just a silly blog though, I felt, once again, like a talentless failure. It is only now that I’ve really felt able to write again, and it’s been so long, that I’ve got a lot to update. For now though, we will pause, and I will write the next part of this rather odd tale soon. 

5 reasons to date a girl with an eating disorder….did I seriously just read that?!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

‘5 reasons to date a girl with an eating disorder’- are you serious?

An article that opens with a graphic photo of a young woman with her head down a toilet and her fingers plunged into her throat was never likely to be high class journalism, however, as I continued to read the article published on ‘return of kings’ and then went on to read some of their other ‘posts’, I truly believed it was some idiots attempt at tasteless satire. Alas, apparently it is not, and the guy that wrote this really, truly thinks his points are legitimate. All I can say is, he has clearly never dated a girl with an eating disorder.  To be fair, neither have I, but I have been the girl who quickly deteriorated into severe anorexia nervosa during a serious relationship with one of the most loyal and patient men I believe to be out there. Sadly, it all became too much for both of us, but I can quite definitely say, that no part of his list is correct. In fact, even before he starts the Goddamn catalogue he gets his facts wrong.

Nothing screams white-girl problems louder than a good old-fashioned eating disorder.*”

Yes, you read that correctly, he quite honestly began his ‘article’ with that statement. I find this offensive on so many levels. There is a stereotypical image surrounding eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa. That of a privileged Caucasian female with nothing better to do with her time than starve herself. I thought society had moved on from such generalizations, but clearly, there are still some trolls out there who are still living in a World where labels and discrimination are ok. I am writing this response from an inpatient Eating Disorder Unit. I can quite honestly say that the only blanket statement that can be made about all the patients under this roof is that we all have an abnormal relationship with food. Obvious-right? We have both men and women among us. We have patients ranging from 18 (we are an adult unit) to over 60. We have patients of many races and nationality’s; different accents bounce around the dining hall, expressing terror and hilarity in equal measures. We have people of hugely different socioeconomic backgrounds, This all matters. Eating disorders are by no means a lifestyle choice, similar to where you choose to holiday or what car you drive, they are slow torture, not only for the patient, but for all those who have to watch a loved one commit slow suicide. Suggesting otherwise belittles the issue and makes it farcical, well, you know what ‘Tuthmosis’, spend a week battling continuously with yourself, having to force your mind to allow you to eat, even if it’s just enough to keep you alive. At that point, you can tell me if it is still a problem to be ridiculed. Wow-what a rant, and I’ve only covered the first sentence. Don’t worry, I wont go on in this manner, I do plan for this all to have an ending.

His first point, that if your girlfriend has an eating disorder, her preoccupation with her looks will improve her overall looks. It is this statement, which suggests to me that that the author is either deranged, perverted, or does not actually realize what severe anorexia looks like. I have a strong group of loyal friends, many of whom are male, and every single one of them has told me, in a variety of ways, that since I developed anorexia, well, I kinda look like shit. None of  them have actually been quite that brutal, they’re nice young men, but I have been continuously reminded that I have lost all sex appeal. And they are most definitely right. I do not starve myself to achieve an attractive physique, nor to get more male attention. The suggestion that an anorexic body does either of these is offensive to both men and women. It suggests that all men are depraved ass holes who expect their partner to abuse her body and slowly commit suicide to please them. It also, once again, trivializes and belittles what is, a serious illness. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all mental health illnesses. If what men truly want is an emaciated, miserable, bag of bones, then I’m stopping the search for love now. My loyal ex had to suffer having a girlfriend who became less and less interested in how she dressed, making herself attractive, became progressively more frail, withdrawn, and quite genuinely a husk of her former self. I can recognize this, even now, whilst I am still stranded in the talons of anorexia, yet I cannot get away. Surely, if it were an illness of vanity and appearing attractive to men, I’d have started eating the damn cake when my wonderful boyfriend expressed his distress over my fragility. I couldn’t though, because it is an illness. An illness I fervently wish I did have the ability to just  ‘switch off’.

He then goes on to assert that a girlfriend with anorexia costs less money. Again, I’m going to be difficult and disregard his belief as foolish. Yes, when it comes to eating out or ordering a takeaway, one may think that a girlfriend with an eating disorder may be cost effective, but for me, the reality was, although the amounts I would eat were miniscule, my food and drink costs weren’t that minute. Why? Well, there were only a very small amount of select food and drinks that I would allow to pass my lips. Each of these were completely non-negotiable and could not be substituted for even a different brand. And the thing is, when you are so absolutely desperate for someone you care about to eat, you will go to any length to make sure that the right produce was purchased. For example, I went through quite a long phase of only really eating raisins. This was even before I had been officially diagnosed. Although, some may argue that this goes with the idea that I was ‘cheap to keep’ in comparison to a girlfriend who loved going out for expensive meals of sushi, the time and effort that went into ensuring that my correct brand of raisins were always available definitely did not make me a cost effective girlfriend. On top of this, the equipment needed for me to eat, food scales, measuring jugs, certain cutlery etc was again, not cheap. And when you are tearing your hair out watching someone slowly waste away, you will get anything if it helps them eat. The amount of money spent on coffee alone (black with candarel tablets) at certain extortionate coffee establishments more than made up for any money saved on dining out. When things were going through more manageable stages and I did feel able to go out for dinner, we usually ended up ordering numerous dishes, so I could examine them upon their arrival at the table and choose which seemed to be the most manageable. I needed to see the food before I ate it to ensure that there didn’t appear to be oil permeating the dish or, God forbid, any butter or cream involved in the mix.

If you are not yet convinced that dating someone wrapped up in an eating disorder is not an attractive option, then I ask you to question the next point. ‘She’s fragile and vulnerable’. Yes, this is true. It is not uncommon for people to feel protective over their loved ones, however, there is a huge difference between defending your partners honor and the worry that comes when dating someone with an eating disorder. When was the last time you dreamed of sitting by a hospital bed, holding the hand of a shadow of your former love as they lie, delirious, starving and dehydrated, attached to a drip and a heart monitor with a slowly dropping pulse? When did you last hope to be hoping to feel it necessary to wake up through the night to check the person lying next to you was still breathing and still had a pulse? Yes, I am a fragile and vulnerable young woman, but no way should this be seen as one of my attributes when it comes to me being a potential girlfriend. Any man who saw it as a benefit is sure not one I would ever like to become involved with.

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with the next generalization, so I will not draw out the point, as I have covered it earlier. ‘She probably has money of her own’. Yes, I am lucky enough to come from a privileged background but this is not a blanket criteria for anyone effected by an eating disorder. The socio-economic background cannot be restricted to any group. Eating disorders are not just an illness of the privileged, they effect people all over the World, even those in severe poverty, just like any other mental health illness. Yes, there does seem to be a prevalence among those who are labeled ‘high achievers’, but surely this cannot be limited to only those with moneyed backgrounds? We should not be so snobbish as to assume that only those over a certain income bracket push themselves beyond their limits and expect ridiculous things of themselves. Even if it were the case that only the wealthy got eating disorders, who the hell really wants to be with someone who loves them for their money?

So, the final point, the pinnacle of a foolish piece….’she’s better in bed’. Right, I’m not getting into personal or graphic details, but to me, this clearly demonstrates that Tuthmosis sure has never dated a girl with an eating disorder, because you know what? No food equals no libido. As anorexia dug it claws more deeply into my brain, any interest in normal teenage sexual desire left me completely and, even if it hadn’t, who the hell wants to jump into bed with a bag of bones? My boobs have gone and my pelvis juts out unattractively. I find it difficult to be naked by myself, let alone in front of another. His generalization that ‘crazy girls are better in the sack’ is just, well, sick. I look about my current surroundings as I write this. I am in a room of both men and women following a meal on my inpatient unit. Most are asleep, or look so wired and agitated they seem to be barely present in the room. Many, you can tell, were once exquisitely beautiful, however, anorexia has robbed them of this. I can quite confidently say that I doubt any one of the 14 emaciated patients in this room are dreaming of their next adventurous sexual endeavor. We are all too preoccupied with worry over the breakfast we are currently digesting.

With this, I end this ramble, objecting to the ever sick argument for dating a girl with an eating disorder. No man, or women should encourage their loved one to develop an eating disorder and in my opinion, if they do, they deserved to be locked up with any perverted person whom yearns for minors. The body of an anorexic is that of a child. Hormones stop, and with it, any signs of puberty ever having occurred disappear. So, by all means, if your type is a man or woman with no self confidence, no energy, an abundance of neurosis, a skeletal figure that is not dissimilar to that of a holocaust victim and absolutely no sex drive, then go for it, search for that special someone with an eating disorder. I will say now though, if that is you, then you yourself are probably more disturbed than the skeleton you so desperately seek. Just ask my ex, who fell in love of a vivacious, sexual young woman, and had to let go, after 2 years of fighting along side me, of an emaciated and exhausted skeleton, because the girl he once loved was no where to be seen.
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