Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Rharian Fields foreverrrrr (to be sang to 'Strawberry Fields')

It's almost time for me to move on to my next unit. And by almost time, I mean it's 11.45 as I'm starting this and they're coming at half 12 to get me. The fuss I feel like kicking up about going is almost as great as the fuss I caused over coming here. And my God, did I kick up a fuss- a trashed room and literally carried screaming to the car to drive me over. I'm determined not to enter this next phase in the same way; I wasn't even dressed when I came here, I was in pyjamas with dirty, matted hair. I dyed and washed my hair yesterday, I'm dressed and I have perfume on, but mentally I'm the same screaming little girl I was coming into here.

I honestly didn't know it was possible to actually get so close to people on a unit, both patients and staff. I didn't know you could actually be on a unit and like a few people, never mind all. I didn't know it was possible to get kicks that didn't involve fighting against the staff, but rather laughing with the staff. I didn't know it was possible to have a genuine laugh, to sit and cry on another and have others cry on you, to let down your guard, and to really get to know people to the point where you can see who they'd be without their illness. I've been on so many units, and I've never had an experience like this one; such an amazing group of patients and staff and just always someone with a bit of sunshine. I wish so much that I could have got better here and could be leaving on a high, ready for home and life and love. I'd still miss my girls, but I'd know I'd only be half an hour away and be able to visit, and that on their discharges we could all get together.

As it is, I'm starting again. I don't know whether having a good experience here will make it easier or harder to settle and get close to people. I came here on the back of so many negative experiences and so bloody angry that it took me a few days even to speak to anybody- I'm determined this time that I won't waste that time. But in the past I've gone in with positive attitudes, especially to my first few units, and ended up having a terrible time. I suppose really there's only so much you can put down to your personal attitude, a lot does depend on those around you. I was just incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to stand on the frontline of the battle with such an inspirational group alongside me, in ROARRRRIAN.

So my ROARRRRRIAN Fields girls. Remember the 'fuck you, Anorexia' piece of food, to always have when you think you've arrived at your absolute limit. Remember, when in doubt, make a dirty joke. Remember, remember, remember how gloriously beautiful you all are and what a gift your friendship and solidarity has been to me. So much love, always <3 nbsp="">

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Eating Disorder Awareness Week, 2013.

It's that time of year, kids- Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I'll let you off for not knowing; I didn't even know it was a time of year myself, until my first year of college, where the place covered its walls in photos that were, ironically,  photoshopped of Ana Carolina Reston, making her look even more emaciated than she was before her Anorexic death. There were a fair few of the pro-Ana faves also dotted about, Kate Moss and Posh and a million other underweight but not necessarily eating disordered starlets. It was really aware and not at all triggering, pahaha. I'm obviously not at all secretive about my battle, it's not something I'm proud of but it's not at all something I think I ought to be ashamed of. Rather, it is what is and I'm doing what I can. Being on an eating disorder ward during this though, I feel like I ought to give a more, I don't know, real time portrait of life on this sort of ward.

In that spirit, I started to blog earlier. But what I feel in between food times (and there are a few times when we're not eating, even on this ward) is a million miles from what I feel when faced with food and in its aftermath. I stopped my earlier effort, and decided instead that I'd be open in a way that writing when I'm feeling positive because I'm away from food doesn't allow me to be. Not that I lie when I write during those times, not at all, its more than the strength of the disease, the volume of its screams, are less the further I feel from food. Coupled with the fact that I'm not usually in a writing mood immediately after eating, you don't get the same kind of imagery. So this might be different from my other writings, or maybe it'll be the same. Maybe the relative power of the voice of the disorder also affects my writing, or maybe I'm the same writer, the same person, when it's at its height as when it seems more distant.

OK, after that long explanation, picture the scene now. It's about half an hour since we stopped eating, bit less since the post-food fag time that we smokers share. Our unit is very small for what it is; there are five of us in-patients and one day-patient, and all but one of us are sat together. The lights are dimmed because one girl isn't feeling well, and a film is on the tele because we agreed, in our smokers corner, that this time of day drags. Two of the girls are asleep, curled on either side of the sofa opposite me, like cats. Alex is asleep on one end of the sofa to the right of me, and another girl is on her laptop on the other end of it. I'm sitting in an armchair similar to the ones in the Big Brother diary room, paying little attention to the DVD that I requested. This is rest, an hour following each meal where we, well, rest. We tend to take that idea of rest a touch further, most of us, by seeking solace in sleep, a ritual as central to escapism from the kitchen as having the post-food fag.

The mood is slow and lazy. Mealtimes are dramatic, albeit in an outwardly quiet way. We don't shout and scream, if we cry then we cry quietly, but we're all fighting a loud inner battle and each slow mouthful is evidence of this, each pause whilst we square up to our plate showing the shell shock the war has left us with. After the stress and drama of meals, rest comes like the falling off of the mountain that is each meal and we all retreat back into ourselves. During meals, we are one. We're all fighting slightly different battles- no two eating disorders are the same, as much as similar BMIs might make two Anorexics look- but we mutter encouragement at our neighbours, words that we could never say to ourselves, and have more empathy for the battle we just can't understand in the girl next to us, than for the battle we know too well, of our own lives. How can Alex struggle so much when she's so obviously brilliant and beautiful? Why can't she see herself- the hilarious songwriter; the talented musician; the one who will hold you tight when you feel like, and even hope that, the war will count you as one of its fallen, even when she's got through a meal she never thought she could herself; the girl who you know you'll be friends with even when you're not living together, and who you're constantly damn grateful for- as she so clearly is?

We know the others don't hate us as we hate ourselves, or we'd have been beaten physically by them as we do mentally to ourselves, and we all pour all of our love outwards, maybe partly as a thanks for that. We're one, in that our love is collective around the table. That's not to say that in rest we're not also there for each other, you'll usually find at least somebody laying on somebody else and somebody else being massaged by another. It's more that during rest we shut off to a point, meals make us vulnerable and in rest the front must come back up; we have to, to protect ourselves. Kitchen escapism.

Rest has just finished and we've all dispersed. How are we between meals and snacks and rest periods? We're like everybody else. We have Anorexia. We are not Anorexia. We laugh at bad jokes, we do stupid stuff. I seem to spend at least an hour a day dancing madly to Alex's hilarious song writing talents mentioned previously. To quote Mr. Magorium, 'We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest.' Maybe that's where awareness this year should fall.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Luck.

I don't believe in luck, I think the idea is a way for people to avoid responsibility or the facing up to the reality of their situation. But I don't know how else to express the way I'm feeling, but to say that I really am very lucky. I'm lucky to be British, to have been brought up in a country where healthcare is a right so fundamental that even if you don't believe you need it, you can be forced to accept it. It's not often that you'll hear me say I'm lucky, thankful even, to be forced to accept the help I don't think I deserve. In fact, before today I don't think I've ever considered the way my life could have turned out, if I'd even been born in the same circumstances that I was- to a single mother already with a toddler, who had little money and so had to turn to council housing, available due to Britain's safety net- had I been, say, American. I know there are far worse places in the world to be born into; I studied African politics for a year at university, and I've worked for minimum wage in a warehouse alongside eastern Europeans with PhDs who were earning a real wage worth more than their distinguished position in the east would have allowed. The reason I pick America as a comparison is due to the fact that most Brits see in America a Britain with a president and no queen, my thoughts triggered by a friend linking to this series of pictures, on Facebook.

I'm extremely knowledgable of the American domestic situation. I know that sounds somewhat arrogant, but I've done a lot of studying and socialising to be able to say this to you. I first studied the American political system when I was 18, in my second year of college. Right at the beginning of the year, my teacher told us that the thing we had to remember was that America is a foreign country. We all scoffed because we were 18 and thought we knew everything, we thought this was an obvious fact. We Brits have a tendency to watch Friends, Sex and the City, Big Bang, How I Met Your Mother et al, whilst constantly being bombarded with Hollywood's glamour and the big voices of America on the television and radio, and to think that because we share a common language, we must also share common ideals, values and culture. It's so untrue though. If you clicked on the link I posted, you'll see rows and columns of tiny photos. Click on one and you'll see the horrors of addiction. Read the story of a woman, click on another and another and read the same story repeated by most of the women- they almost all come from a history of poverty, addiction, abuse. They turn to needles like I have turned to pills, vomitting and starvation. But while my history, apart from when my physical or mental health has been so bad I've required hospitalisation, like now, has not stood in my way, their common background has pushed them to whoring and a lifetime on the streets.

They are not me and I am not them. I'm not saying that being born an American citizen would have led me down that path, that every American from that background is destined to end up that way, or that there isn't poverty, addiction and prostitution in this country. What I am saying is that the financial situation of my mother has not prevented me getting treatment, it hasn't prevented me getting a good education and should I find myself in the same situation she was 22 year ago, there is no reason why my children can't grow up to be anything. You'll always see America portrayed as a vast land of opportunity, where anyone with drive can become a millionaire or president, with only the lazy living life on the fringes. When you see America portrayed in that way, remember the forgotten faces of addiction, of how it could have been us. Think of where Paris Hilton would be without her rich surname. You'll know I've had years in and out of hospital and take a vast array of medications to keep me stable, with therapy in between times, enabled because they've not cost, nor will they cost, me or my family a thing. I'm about to go to another treatment centre, my third in a row with no time at home, one that my mental health team believe could be a turning point, against my will and without costing my mum a penny for the 12-18 month, on average, programme, because healthcare is a right undisputed in this country. 

I don't mean to lecture, just to admit my faults in never realising my advantage. Do I want this treatment, or that treatment, or any treatment at all? Could I afford even one session of one of the therapies I've had over the years, or an hour even in a unit? The answers are irrelevant, because what I want or what I could afford is viewed as different from what I need. If- when- if I come through this, it will be because of having treatment forced on me to begin with, stopping a decline that would certainly end, or have ended long before now as a matter of fact, with death. Heroin shouldn't be cheaper and more readily available than healthcare. Addiction in any form- drug, eating disorder, alcohol, whatever- is a disease, a parasite to the person, and I'm so fucking lucky that my addictions have not and will not kill me or lead me down further into the depths of hell. I'm lucky that healthcare in my country isn't a commodity to be purchased by the rich, but a right given to every citizen, including those of us with no money and a mental condition preventing us from accepting freely the help available. I'm lucky that the government of my country provide me with money, despite me not being able to work. Poverty and abuse have held me back greatly in triggering my current condition, but leading me to a hospital room is a damn sight different to leading me to working the streets or shooting up because heroin, not healthcare, is the cheaper, easier, option.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Monday, bloody Monday.

U2 got it wrong, it's Mondays that are so bloody. Yes, yes I know they were talking about The Troubles, but I'm updating it for a post Good Friday Agreement world (hello, readers who don't know much about Northern Ireland. I'll get back to you all now). Monday brings the big weekly weigh in, which went about as well as it can do; I've gained a tiny bit and my BMI has gone up point 2. It almost seems like an accidental compromise between the Anorexic part of me- which is starting to seem like a separate, conflicted, entity in its own right- that is screaming ever fucking louder inside, desperately trying to mentally scrape the flesh from my bones, and the rational, sensible side that wants my tits back. Tits, tits, tits. It's amazing considering I ate a whole pack of Cadbury's eclairs on Saturday night, 'cause I couldn't sleep and when I pull accidental all nighters, and deliberate ones too for that matter, I get the biggest sugar cravings- the cookie monster has NOWT on sleep deprived Condron. Oh, and a whole bag of Maoams last night for the same, knackered, reason. I'm still under all the different BMI criteria that the potential next units are after, only just under for one of the units and still quite a bit under for the others.

Mondays, you'll know if you've read my usual Monday rants, also include The Review. That gets capitalised 'cause I think that's how we all see the weekly meeting to discuss progress with the psychiatrist, dietitian and a member of the nursing staff. Mine are always dead short 'cause I really, genuinely, have nowt to say. Same shit, different day syndrome, type of thing. I demand back what was taken from me on admission, which includes such items of mass destruction as saline for my contact lenses, hair grips and dry bloody shampoo, although I do have a bottle of nail varnish remover in here, that is all well and good... I tell you, and I'm meant to be the crazy one. Anyway, for the first time since I started demanding in December, they've said I can have it back, so that's iiiiite. My other demand was for a night at home, but apparently that is dependent on how my assessments go tomorrow. Oh aye, I have people from two of the next potential units (there are three in the pipeline), coming to assess me tomorrow, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. That can only go well, since one seems and sounds like a home for people with special needs, and the other is for Borderline Personality Disorder, which seems to be a heap of shit flung at everybody with an eating disorder. I don't even really believe in it, much less that I have it. But that's another rant for another day, I think.

Summat interesting did come up in my review though. Well, not massively interesting to you, I'm sure, but summat that confirmed exactly what I think of my community psychiatric nurse...
Psychiatrist- Do you have a good relationship with your care coordinator, has he been in touch?
Me- No he ant, and not overly. I think he's unreliable as shit.
Psychiatrist- But he has done all the referrals...
Me- Oh aye, he's brilliant at getting me locked up. Just when he says he'll 'be in touch' I've learnt that that's a crock of bullshit, akin to telling someone you're fiiiiine when you pass them in the street.
Nurse- He's leaving though, isn't he? And you're being passed to somebody else?
Me- HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, exactly my point. He hadn't even told me that.
Nurse- Sorry, I thought it was common knowledge.
Me- Apparently not to his patients. Unreliable. As. Shit.

I love that I have someone who doesn't even deem it necessary to tell their patients that they're leaving, basically dictating what I'll be doing and where I'll be for the next year, maybe longer. Utter brilliance.