All manner of whatnot

Firstly, here’s something that you or your loved ones might find helpful:

http://www.bulimiahelp.org/course/kickstart-your-bulimia-treatment-these-useful-guides

There are two guides there – one to help a sufferer prepare for telling a loved one that they have bulimia and one to help a loved one deal with the news.

I do think it’s important to admit to it, to talk about it.  If people don’t know, they can sense you’re keeping something from them.  They’re not stupid.  They appreciate honesty.  Those few that turn tail and run, well, frankly, who needs people like that in your life?  As for talking about it, of course there are many people with whom you don’t feel able to go into detail; but that’s why there are therapists (if you don’t get on with one, try another), support groups (not just O.A. if that sort of thing doesn’t suit you), message boards (decent ones, i mean, that are properly moderated, like Something Fishy – beware of pro-E.D. boards) and so on, where you can tell it like it is.

Denial never got us anywhere, right?  So try something else, just to see how it goes.

So, Amy Winehouse, R.I.P.  It does hit me, a little bit, despite my lack of emotions and ‘normal’ feelings, when a fellow addict bites the dust.  I’m lucky, i think, to have not seen any of the ill-informed and judgemental bolloques that some people have been spouting about her.  About how it was her ‘choice’ and that she ‘deserved all she got’ and the usual sort of thing you get when a famous person shuffles off this mortal coil.

To be fair to those people, i think, to be honest, that it’s a defence mechanism.  It’s scary when a 27-year-old carks it, so long before their time.  And yes, i think people are afraid to admit that, there but for the grace of ‘god’* go i.  So they trivialise it.  I know i trivialise my own problems and am embarrassed to admit the seriousness of it, even to myself.  I know it’s not an exaggeration to say that bulimia is going to kill me.  Yet to my ears (or eyes, when i type it) it looks like some kind of teenage melodrama, so i make a darkly humorous comment or slightly off-colour joke and change the subject.

But lately i have been thinking about it a bit more, about how deadly this illness is and that i could very easily die.  Not just because of Amy Winehouse, with her alcoholism, drug addiction and bulimia; not just the shock, unsurprising though it was, of her dying so young so recently.  It’s because i know all the dangers and sometimes, especially late at night after a whole day of nothing else, i actually feel like this might be it.  I feel ready to give up, physically as well as mentally.

Sometimes i forget (perhaps conveniently) that part of my problem is anorexia.  I’ve hardly been eating lately, other than the binges and purges, so of course i feel weak and worn out, despondent and even slightly paranoid.  Have you read about Ancel Keys and his Minnesota experiment?  Malnutrition does that to people.  Anyway, i didn’t think much of it (and to be honest, i kind of still don’t) but a mate commented on my appearance lately; in fact a few people have said i look ill.  Cheers, you look a bit shit yourself, eh?

Anyway, where was i?  Anorexic tendencies – now there’s a good name for a band, ha ha.  It certainly doesn’t feel like i have these, when i’m stuffing my face with all manner of crap all day and most of the night… but life’s not so simple, is it?  There are so many myths around it all… look at this excellent article by the excellent Ilona Catherine:

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/08/01/daily-fail-strikes-again/

You may notice my own comment beneath.  I never comment on articles!  Well, never that is, except for this once, clearly.  A sneaky bit of self-promotion was included, i’ll admit, but the point i wanted to raise was that it’s (a) not all about anorexia, as if that’s the only eating disorder out there – and there’s more than one type of anorexia, y’know?  I’ve been anorexic myself for long periods of time, but often i’d still binge-eat and purge in some way or another.  And (b) that it’s not just the tabloids or the sensationalist programmes on the telly that spout a lot of ill-informed bullshit about this sort of subject: even supposedly reputable sources like BBC radio 4 and the Guardian and, yes, the Independent itself, contribute to the perpetuation of these stereotypes and myths and untruths that just make it harder for a person to seek and receive help.

It can be so, so damaging to be told that your problem is not valid, that you aren’t entitled to help and that frankly, you can go and fuck yourself.  If that’s happened to you, or someone you know, please please please, go to a different GP, try O.A. or another support group, try online support communities, you know – whatever it takes, don’t give up.  I know you’re not in a position to fight.  It’s awful that we have to fight when we’re at our weakest.  But if there’s someone who can fight on your behalf, or if you can find people to listen and support you, or if you can just take it a little at a time and do what you have to do, then please, do it – for all of us.

Do you really want to die young, before you’ve really lived?  Do you really want your gravestone to say, “(S)he was desperately unhappy, but (s)he stayed under X kilos”?  Fuck that.  You’re worth more than that.  We all are.


*Yep, still having trouble with “the G word”, as i like to put it.  Although someone said something to me recently that may have helped me take a small step closer towards being OK with it… i think.  We’ll see, though.  It’s early days, innit.

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Blitzkrieg Bop

O, hai.  How iz you?

Yeah, everyone starts their blog entries, or zine introduction, or whatever else, with “sorry i haven’t posted in such a long time, but i’ve had all this stuff on…”  So i’m not going to, because it goes without saying, right?

Here are some things i’ve been meaning to write about, here in my blog, recently:

  • Going back to Overeaters Anonymous
  • Having a nasty incident and going teetotal
  • Money money money
  • My dissertation/placement
I think there may well have been more, but, well… i’ve forgotten what else.  Anyway, that’s quite  enough to be going on with, isn’t it?  It’s not like i’m an especially prestigious blogger who Must Tell The World Everything.  Even though i am a bit of a bigmouth and can’t seem to shut the fuck up, i’ll admit – part of the point of this blog is so i can Talk About That Shit here and not in my daily life where, quite frankly, i imagine most people i know are sick of me referencing it in every other sentence.  Let’s do ’em one at a time, then.

Twelve-step Fellowships

Yeah, i’ve started going to Overeaters Anonymous (O.A) again.  I’d been meaning to for ages – years in fact – but for some reason never got round to it.

(There’s also A.B.A – that is, Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous – but to be honest i prefer O.A because all sorts go, including anorexics, bulimics, binge-eaters and compulsive eaters; plus there are a lot of similarities between all eating disorders.  You can learn a lot from someone who might, upon first glance, appear to be very different from yourself.  I prefer the variety and i just prefer the style.  Seems many people do.)

So i went back, finally, after what, three years of intending to, perhaps?  Ha ha… never let it be said that i faff about or procrastinate, eh?  And to my surprise, it was very good to be back.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite having been before; i wasn’t sure if it’d be any good or if i’d feel weird or uncomfortable or anything.  But no, absolutely not: i was reminded how kind, accepting, welcoming and non-judgemental people can be.  They all have their own stories and real lives and experiences.  They’re all pretty amazing if i’m honest.

Now, i am still having reservations about the whole Twelve Step / spiritual approach.  I mean, what a load of freaky-cult pseudo-religious bollocks, eh?  To be fair, i don’t really think that – i’m just voicing (well all right, typing) what a lot of people think and, to a certain extent, what i did and still do think.  People who dismiss it like that, let’s face it, are the people who’ve never been.  But anyway, i certainly don’t think it’s bollocks, but i do kind of think, well, that’s not going to work for me.  I’ll just go along to listen and talk – you can see how that’d help.  But how do i explain my thoughts on this?  All this God and Higher Power stuff, well i can’t see how i’d do that – i can’t just switch faith on and off – nor, for that matter, can i see why i’d want to.  Meditating and saying i’m powerless and praying to some non-existent deity to ‘cure’ me?  How’s that going to stop me bingeing and puking?

Well, the answer is, firstly it’s not that simplistic.  There are all manner of things going on in the programme and within the meetings themselves.  People who ‘get it’ are there to support each other.  It’s all very well, me half-saying bah, what do i need them for when i’ve got loads of lovely mates who know about my shit?  I’m not isolated or lonely.  It might be a good thing for people who are, but i’m not like that.  Right?

Thing is, i do feel lonely.  I isolate myself, choosing the eating disorder over real life.  And there’s only so much you can talk about with your mates and your family, isn’t there?  They can be caring and patient and supportive – and yes, mine certainly are and i’m incredibly grateful and glad to have such amazing people around – but it’s hard for them to understand what we do and why we do it.  I mean, it’s hard for us to understand!  And let’s face it, it’s a horrible subject and we don’t really want to overburden anyone with it.

As for being so resistant to the twelve step approach itself, well i think i’m just being an arsehole, really.  What makes me so special, so different, that a programme that’s worked for who knows how many other people, won’t work for me?  And when did i get so wise and clever that i can know this before even giving it a proper go?  And finally: what i’m doing now certainly ain’t working, so maybe it’s time to try Something Else.

“Fuck-ups of the world, unite!  You have nothing to lose but your eating disorder!”

What’s next?  Oh yeah…

Having a Nasty Incident

A couple of weeks ago i got really drunk and things went badly.  I’ll point out here that i don’t have a drink problem, as such – but when i drink, i have problems.  I was stupid: i know i can’t take a lot of booze, but still i over-do it.

This time i seriously over-did it.  I woke up in hospital on Monday morning, still drunk, concussed, gash on my head, all my possessions gone.  Bruises everywhere that still haven’t gone.  Seems i slept on the street and maybe got robbed whilst unconscious.  Then i think i tried to walk home across London early in the morning, caught the bus with a complete stranger who paid my fare (perhaps altruistically, perhaps not), went into my local police station to shake the fella off then passed out as i left.

What i am certain about is that they then called an ambulance and my sister and later my Mum turned up to sort me out.  I spent the morning, a few days later, writing thank-you notes to the paramedics and everyone.  Thank fuck i wasn’t raped and murdered – it means i have another chance to live properly and take better care of myself.

So that’s it for me as regards alcohol.  I know people often say that, myself included, but i’ve never ended up quite this bad before.  Drinking just doesn’t appeal now.  I’ve never enjoyed getting even slightly drunk and i can live without it, thanks, especially if that’s what happens.

Some of my mates have said stuff like, oh, how awful – you must’ve been so scared.  That struck me somewhat.  Fear is not something i experience much, if at all.  No, i wasn’t scared, though perhaps i should’ve been.  If i felt anything much, it was more along the lines of mortified – that i could be so fucking stupid, act like such a cunt, upset and worry other people, piss them off with whatever drunken behaviour i, perhaps mercifully, couldn’t remember.

And all my stuff had gone and had to be reported missing or possibly nicked, bank card cancelled, new phone chosen and figured out (a particularly baffling subject for me), new this and that and the other.  It’s all too much to cope with and just served to remind me what a useless sod i am, no clue how to manage my life or look after myself.  At 33, that’s just shameful.

So it’s time for change.

My dissertation

Oh it’s all go.  Well, it would be, if i could do more than sit around in my pants staring into space with my mouth open.

Obviously i put on a few extra clothes before going off to where i’m doing my placement.  I don’t actually want to get arrested.

But it’s bonkers, how hard it is to fit all that work in around being unemployed.  Yeah, unemployed.  It’s bad enough feeling like a pointless waste of space, when not earning a living; self-confidence wanes and vanishes but time also loses its value.  I end up doing even less now, despite having more time than ever.  I sleep far too much and of course i Do That Thing i Do all the more when my time’s unstructured.

Just to give you an idea: quite aside from what went on earlier in the day, i’ve binged and purged four times just while writing this blog entry so far.  That’s almost eighty quid down the bog today alone – and this is budget bingeing.  Yeah, it seems a bit unbelievable and unreal to me, too; but unfortunately it’s only too real.  This is why everything hurts and why i’m in such a dire financial situation.  As my Mum says, it’s like being a drug addict – and she’d know because she used to work for the needle exchange.

It’s funny, or interesting, though, isn’t it – how ‘addiction’ appears to combine ‘a-‘ (not, or lack of) with ‘diction’ (speech).  I’m not sure it does actually mean that, because ‘diction’ comes from the Latin ‘dicere’ (to speak) whereas ‘addiction’, according to the dictionary, comes from ‘addictio’ which seems to be something to do with… deciding on and awarding property of uncertain ownership.  No, me neither.  I prefer the thing about not having a voice.

My dissertation, anyway – i don’t ‘alf go off on some bloody tangents, eh? – is underway this summer.  I’m on the final leg of my journey to being a qualified librarian.  Of course, there’ll be no library jobs – no fucking libraries, in fact – by the time i graduate.  Bah.  So i’ve been thinking about a move into the wacky world of I.T.  I know, right?  Nerd alert, nerd alert!  Still, it’s quite sobering to think, i’ll be qualified for something; assuming i pass of course.  And i’m nearly middle-aged.  Time to grow the fuck up, innit.

For my dissertation i’m looking at poetry in relation to health and wellbeing.  It’s amazing there, where i’m working.  People keep bringing me cups of tea and i’m surrounded by lovely books.  I keep getting distracted by all the lovely books though and have to make a supreme effort not to just read poems all day.  I’ve already half-wasted three weeks and i really, really don’t want to end up in that situation AGAIN where i’ve got two days left to do three months’ worth of work.

I’d like to write more about librarianship and politics in this blog.  I’d like to write about things that matter to me, those other things that factor enormously in my life.  It shouldn’t be all about bulimia and how miserable and crap i am.  There are other aspects to me, other things that define me.  I have hopes, ambitions, a dark sense of humour.  Libraries are my passion.  I’m a feminist and an anarchist.  I’m a veg*n.  (I mean, i’m vegetarian at the moment, but when i sort my stupidhead out, i’ll go vegan again.)  I used to feel so strongly, get enraged or excited; i used to really care about stuff.  I find it really difficult, these days, to muster more than slight irritation or despair.  I keep telling myself i won’t be this way forever, but then i wonder, is it because i’m getting old and i’m just too tired?  I’m writing a novel (ohmigod, aren’t we all?) although it’s on hold till i’ve finished my Masters.  I love zines (i write one myself) and comics (or comix, as i like to call them).  And my dream is to be on radio four one day.

What about you, dear reader?  What makes you, well, you?  Even if it’s buried under the misery and overgrown with weeds and you’re not sure how to dig it out again, what can you think of or even just remember being really into?  What about now – can you see a way to get back into those things?  Or, if you’ve been through and out the other side, how did you re-discover, well, life?

Part of the Problem

You know what really doesn’t help?  Apparently, for us eating disorder sufferers to recover, we have to come to terms with the fact that life is not about weight and shape.  But when it comes to treatment, we’re given the message, loud and clear, that it is ALL about your weight.  This is precisely one of the problems i wanted to raise on That Telly Programme i was on; indeed, they even asked me about it and i replied, but of course, that ended up on the Cutting Room Floor along with 99.9% of everything else.

This is part of what i’m talking about: eligibility criteria.  This from the biggest and, arguably, best Eating Disorders unit in the country.

http://www.national.slam.nhs.uk/services/adult-services/eatingdisorders/eligibility-criteria/

So, basically, it comes down to this.  If you’re severely anorexic – actually at Death’s Door – then, and only then, will you get ‘timely’ (!) help.  You know, timely in the sense that it’s got to the point where you’re so ill, you can’t read, finish a sentence or even look your parents in the eye; so ill you can’t climb the stairs unless you crawl; so ill you start to feel euphoric because that’s your body’s way of making impending death less of an ordeal.

But if you’re bulimic, a binge-eater, or a compulsive eater, malnourished, physically and mentally fucked, but your BMI’s not low enough, you can fuck off and hang around on waiting lists, in limbo, for eventual outpatient treatment if that, till such a time as you get so ill there’s no option but to sling you in a hospital bed, because you would actually die if you tried to carry on as normal.

That’s precisely what’s been happening to me for the past ten or twenty years; and to dog knows how many others.  I’ve no idea what the statistics are as regards people dying, at a normal weight, of eating disorder related complications; but anyone can find out from a quick internet search or a flick through the literature, that bulimia* can lead to tooth decay, malnutrition, osteoporosis, electrolyte imbalance (blood salts are fucked up), irregular heartbeat, heart failure / cardiac arrest and all manner of other things… not to mention the psychological damage and massive financial debt.

Don’t, as i seem to say far too often, get me wrong: i do not blame the NHS.  Andrew Lansley, Tosser, says we “can’t afford” the NHS: http://s.coop/1oia; and yet apparently we can afford to continue subsidising the fucked up banking system with £100bn/year of taxpayers’ money.  Plus who knows how much on some Diamond Jubilee shit next year.

But, as i attempted to point out on That Telly Programme, there is a dearth of help out there for normal-weight and overweight people with eating disorders, however severe.  It bothers me that things like that got cut out: that was the whole point of going on the telly – to raise awareness, not re-inforce or gloss over the problems and assumptions bulimics face all day every day.

Seriously, now.  Is someone like me, who binges and purges 6-12 times a day and is now over £20,000 in debt but “looks normal” or “acts normal” not worthy or in need of help?  Or what about someone who has no social support at all and quite possibly can’t even manage to go to the doctor, let alone get the help they actually need to live a free and happy life?  Are people like this less worthy and less in need, than a visible (by which i mean visibly anorexic) person, who lives with their parents and has other people to fight on their behalf for treatment for which they can’t fight, themselves, and for which no-one should have to fight?

Oh yeah, i have a lot of issues and yeah, i shout about them from the relative safety of my soapbox, chocolate in one hand, bog brush in the other.  But it’ll take a lot more than one mouthy bulimic thirty-something out-of-work librarian with a blog and a penchant for Writing Stern Letters to change anything for the better.  ‘Something’ needs to be done – and by everyone.  But what is that elusive something?

Just look at this, for example, if you haven’t already:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/31/incapacity-benefit-cuts-mental-health

So people who really need financial help are denied the paltry sum they get in benefits, while bankers and people like Andrew Lansley, Tosser, have more moolah than they can sensibly use?  Because, what, they’ve earned it?  By doing what, pray?  The distribution of wealth in the world makes me spit bile, if you’ll pardon my somewhat inappropriate (well, wholly appropriate, let’s be honest) figure of speech.  The fact that people are driven to suicide, too… i can just imagine some snooty fuckers rubbing their hands in glee, saying, well, that’s one less scrounger to support!  All helps to meet those targets of getting the lazy sods off benefits!

Here’s part of a message i recently got from the Eating Disorder service:

“I confirm you are on our waiting list and we will be in touch once we have a date available – probably not until August/September due to long waiting list”

So what happens, then, if you can’t afford private healthcare, but the NHS unit leaves you to continue bingeing and purging your way through the next four (or, in my experience usually considerably more) months?  And even if you can afford private healthcare – is that the answer?  Help the rich, fuck the poor?

Oh, don’t mind me.  I’m at a loss as to what to do about the world, that’s all.


* Don’t believe for an instant that binge-eating and compulsive-eating aren’t ‘real’ eating disorders, with their own set of dangers. Malnutrition, lethargy, osteoporosis, depression, inability to concentrate…  Again, plenty of information can be found on the internet and in books.

** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl1jPqqTdNo