Street Harrassment

Now, in case anyone’s in any doubt, it is not a compliment when a stranger comments or catcalls.  Even if it’s meant as one, it’s not: it’s insulting, rude and downright intimidating and women do not need the approval of strange men to walk down a public highway.

Thank god it’s not as bad over here in the U.K. as it is for our sisters over the pond, but it ain’t perfect here neither.

Of course, i’m sure anyone actually reading this already knows better and in a way i’m preaching to the choir.  But maybe you could challenge a mate’s behaviour if he acts in such a disrespectful, degrading, stupid manner or tells you about a time when he did.

Yeah, all right, some women get drunk and lairy and shout at men too.  It’s far less common and, frankly, not the same sort of threatening; but nonetheless, that doesn’t make it all right.  I’m sure it’s pretty horrible for the men concerned when that happens.  From/towards any gender, harrassment is harrassment (or however you spell it), so i say “shut the fuck up” because frankly, who asked you and what makes you think your opinion is so very important that you’re entitled to shout it across the street?  And really, what response do you expect??

“But some women do find it flattering!”

Do they really?  Or are they just smiling and acting like they do, in order to avoid confrontation?  Or do they think they ought to enjoy the attention, because that’s what society expects of men and women?  Are they of a basically insecure disposition whereby they feel they do need the approval of complete strangers with little sense of what is and isn’t socially acceptable to validate them?  Or have they been brought up to believe that men’s approval is all that really matters?  And  Isn’t that perhaps the sign of a fucking sick society?

What do you think about this?

One of the (very few) advantages of being anorexic and very underweight was that i became invisible to men – if you can call these childish little arseholes men – and  all the bloody comments stopped.  Maybe i looked like a boy myself.  Who knows.  Who cares.  It shouldn’t happen to anyone, regardless of shape, attire, location, time of day or night, anything.

And now the old anger i used to feel about this topic is seeping back into me.  It’s something i’m not used to feeling and i know that going off and doing that thing i do with food will follow shortly.  I’m still not sure i “do” bulimia as a reaction to things on a day-to-day basis – but maybe it is to pre-empt them, because i used to get so angry about so many things i could barely cope.  I often forget how angry and how intensely i used to feel things.  I’ve lost relationships and huge swathes of my life to anger.  This is an interesting and relatively (sort of) new concept to me: that maybe my ‘triggers’ occur, not daily, but stretch far back and act almost (but not quite) like PTSD – without flashbacks because they’re blocked out with these all-consuming ‘behaviours’.  Does that make sense?  Am i wrong to compare it with PTSD?

One of the ladies (from that telly programme) and i, had a few chats about this sort of thing whilst waiting around on filming days.  She certainly hated the fact that boys had gone after her because of her figure, the way she looked.  I wonder how many people do become anorexic, bulimic, turn to bingeing or compulsive eating, in part as a way to disappear (become “too” thin or fat to attract unwanted attention) and lose their strong emotions, like anger, which you just don’t feel when you’re so ill.

In my case, it was (and is), of course, a lot more than purely getting a bit of unwanted attention and disrespectful comments – and i’m sure it is just one of many factors for anyone affected.  But i have often said, half-jokingly, “well, i’m a very angry person”, with this big grin on my face, making out like it’s all a big joke, or “oh, i don’t have feelings – i’m British”.  Hahahahaha, eh what?  And yeah, i used to be a very angry person, both outwardly (vocally) and inwardly (self harm), but then i retreated into the dubious ‘comfort’ of first anorexia then bulimia and, well, it all went away, sort of, y’know?

But you know what?  It’s no better.  Every time i’m there, crouching over the lavvy with my stomach so full i worry i might rupture the bastard, forcing that crap that passes for food back up again, i tell myself: “remember this.  Remember how much it hurts, physically and mentally.”  And yet it seems i forget every time and go right back to it, hours, even minutes later, like an abusive relationship.

And it’s the longest relationship i’ve ever been in.

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Flying Visit

Hello, dear readers (yes, both of you!  Hi Mum, hi Dad!) and how are you?

Firstly, please accept some of these apologies – i’m afraid they’re a bit chocolatey – for my apparent inaction lately.  Yes, i’ve been too self-absorbed and crap to update this blog in, like, a couple of weeks.  Sorry about that, but i’m sure you coped.

Indeed, now i’ve only time for a quick update.  I think i’ll employ our good mate Ms. Bullet Points, then elaborate later, as i have to get my knickers on and fuck off – to a job interview, at long bloody last.

Things that remain the same:

  • When people ask how i am, i still say, “oh, same as ever”
  • Yes, that means i’m still ill – in that way – though the diarrhoea seems to have abated at last (to be replaced by the usual state of semi-constipation and what i like to call “glue poo”)
  • I’m still jobless and even more skint/in debt than ever
  • Still struggling with my dissertation proposal for uni
  • School’s out for summer though – just got to finish the above so i can do my placement and dissertation which, in theory, starts NEXT WEEK.  Oh my god, where does the time go?  Oh, yeah…
  • Public sector workers are still getting the crap end of the stick so i’ve been posting the following on arsebook since midnight: “Remember when firefighters, teachers, nurses, doctors and lollipop ladies crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No, me neither. Please copy and paste to your status for 24 hours to show your support for the strikes against the government.”
  • Still having trouble shortening that sufficiently for Twitter…

Things that are new:

  • I’ve started going back to O.A.
  • I’ve been and come back from visiting “the ex” – yeah, i’m definitely dumped
  • I got recognised in the street the other day, by someone who (very tactfully) said, “excuse me… were you on a documentary?”  Fame!  Or, er… not.
  • Job ninterview today!  If you think of it, between about 12:30 and 2, please feel free to send luck and success my way (central London).  Am currently trying to figure out how to mask the smell of desperation…
  • London Pride 2011 on Saturday!
I’m sure i’ll elaborate and remember loads more things when i get back later.  Bet you can hardly wait, eh?  Oh go on, be nice and pretend, eh?

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

Time flies when you’re… oh. Yeah.

At the moment i’m out of work again.  I’ve been temping whilst studying for my MA but the last one finished about a month ago.  I still miss my old (permanent) job in the library.  I worked there for six years.  But i was in a rut and i wanted to go back to university, to become A Proper Librarian, so i know it was for the best that i left.  But i do miss it.  And now’s not a good time to be looking for work, is it?  Then again, is it ever?

At home, with no structure to my day, only my rather vague resolve to work on my research proposal, and with no-one else around, my eating’s worse than ever.  No surprise there, eh?  So i’ve been looking for work, half-arsedly, in this strange state between life and death.

But i know that having a job won’t magically change my life.  Now, having a real job, a proper one where my skills are fully utilised, where i’m interested and engaged and busy with both my mind and my hands – that, i think, will make a big difference.  It’d be knackering at first, but that’s what i need.

Of course, the sort of work i can get, with a sickness record like mine and constraints on my time for studying and endless doctor’s appointments, well… i know from experience that it’s not great.  It’s mindless drudgery.  I can just work with one hand and binge with the other, sloping off every so often to the toilets.  And that’s just what i do.  Perhaps it’s a way of getting through the day, in order to ‘survive’ doing a job for which i can barely drag myself out of bed.

When the “trolley dolly”, at my last temp. job, came around to our floor one morning with her usual array of slightly battered fruit, unpleasant snacks and sugary drinks, as ever she spotted me stuffing my face with my usual bags of confectionery.

The previous time she’d been in, she’d joked, “Hide it under the desk, eh?” as i performed an unimpressive attempt at subtlety, chowing down on yet another bargain box of chocolates in a strategically-placed carrier bag.

This time, she said, loudly enough for the whole office to hear, “What are you munching?  You’re always munching something, aren’t you?”

I smiled, nodded mock-ruefully.  I did my little polite laugh and turned back to my computer, pretending to work.

Undeterred, she continued, “I seen you on the telly,” still too loudly.  “I know.”

“Ah, busted,” i said, feeling maybe the tiniest bit of shame, 99.9% indifference.

“No, is OK.  You keep munching,” she said.  Magnanimous.

And i did.  No-one around me said a thing.  Used to it, i suppose.  Like me.

“Ah,” i kind of felt like saying, but didn’t, “what can i do?  I’ve been doing this for over twenty years.  Maybe it’s all i know.  It gets me through, these days.”

I don’t fight it, like i used to.  Maybe i don’t even hate it like i used to.  I used to scream at myself, inwardly, stop, stop!  Put the food down!  I can just stop now!  Fucking stop it!  Walk away!  But something went on auto-pilot and my body carried on, despite my mind.

But now?  Resigned, accustomed.  This is what i do.  We all have vices.  We’ll all die one day.  Happiness is fleeting; who needs it anyway?


I don’t really believe that.  About not needing happiness.  Everyone needs – and deserves – a happy, decent life.

I’ve had a few messages since going on the telly.  Some are sad and desperate, wanting to recover but not knowing if they ever will.  Some of them are from partners of eating disorder sufferers, worried sick, wondering how they can cope.  A few of them are so young.  If i had a normally-functioning heart, i think it would break a little, each time.

A few are from well-wishers, telling me, oh, you’re so brave; or oh, you’re doing so well.

Thanks.  I’m not, you know.  Neither brave, nor doing well.  I’m as ill as ever – maybe slightly worse at the moment.  Binge-purge wise, i’m approximately as bad now as i was a few years ago, at my worst.  Then, of course, i was frighteningly under-weight, whereas now i’m at a normal, healthy weight.  Which doesn’t make me healthy, by any stretch of the imagination; but of course, that’s what people see.

So perhaps going on the telly hasn’t made the difference i’d hoped for, as regards raising awareness of “the invisible disorder”.  And although it’s helped the other two as regards further  medical treatment, i’ve stayed the same as i ever was – just as i expected.  Nothing really changes much, for me, so my old optimism that used to astonish people with its unceasing buoyancy, has dipped and waned into the reflection of a new moon.

Was it all a big fat waste of time, then?  Well, i don’t know.  I don’t regret doing it, but for my own objectives (which didn’t include my own recovery, because a few meals and shopping trips aren’t going to “fix” anyone), maybe it wasn’t so successful.  So little material was used, so much was over-simplified or simply mis-represented, that i’m left thinking we may as well not have bothered.

I wanted to tell people that, look, i’m an apparently normal person, with a very debilitating disorder.  This is what it’s like.  I don’t do it on purpose, or to piss anyone off.  I’m not a white, middle-class, heterosexual, teenaged girl.  I carry on, stoically most of the time, coping with life as best i can.  I’m not in A&E every week.  I’m not trying to kill myself: i’m trying to survive.  I may well be like this for the rest of my life.  There are loads of other people out there, of all ages and all sorts, who are very ill.  And you can’t tell by looking.

There are dog-knows how many people out there with eating disorders.  Old, young, middle-aged, queer, straight, asexual, transexual, intersex, male, female, neither, tall, short, fat, thin, medium-sized, black, white, brown, blue with yellow spots… there are people who overeat compulsively, people who binge, people who purge, people who binge and purge, people who over-exercise, people who chew and spit, people who only eat certain things and cut out entire food groups… and yes, there are white, middle-class, heterosexual teenage girls with anorexia.  There are as many different kinds of eating disorders as there are eating disorder sufferers.

Say what you like about this illness; but it does not discriminate.

But people do discriminate.  Even if they don’t realise, they have pre-conceived ideas about eating disorders.  Strangers, acquaintances, even healthcare professionals.  “Aren’t you a bit old for this?”  Or, “you’re not thin, so you don’t need help.”

There are so many people with eating disorders who are at a normal weight, or who are overweight, but although there is some (and it’s by no means enough) treatment for anorexia, there is almost nothing for bulimia, binge-eating, or compulsive over-eating.  If you look normal, if you’re (oh god forbid) FAT, if you act normal or put on a brave face and appear to be coping as best you can… you can fuck off.

The squeaky hinge gets the grease.

It’s another thing i’ve accepted.  I may be ill for the rest of my life.  People like me slip through the cracks for decades.  The illness gets so ingrained, it becomes part of us, harder and harder to beat as the years drain away.


Now… i often wonder, as i swing by my usual confectionery stops: do the shopkeepers recognise me?  Do they notice what i’m buying and guess what i’m going to do?

Back in The Old Days, i’d assume they were too busy and disinterested to notice, had so many customers there was no way my face would stand out.  But of course, that was Back Then, before i was on the telly, announcing my madness for the nation to gawp at.  Now it’s far more likely people will recognise my face.

And when i buy £50 worth of confectionery, eny fule can put two and two together.

Changes

Some time between the start of filming the programme and the end, i realised my eating ‘behaviour’ had changed.

I always used to feel like i lost control whilst eating what was supposed to be a small or sensible amount (planned snack or meal), like gradually realising the brakes on your bike aren’t working well enough and you’re careering down a hill and, in my case, charging off headlong into a binge-hedge… leading, invariably, to half an hour examining the inside of the toilet bowl.  Or… it’s like when you’re falling and you still think you can regain your balance, but there comes a point where you know that, no, that’s it – you’re going to fall.  And you do.  That’s the feeling i have; that’s when the actual bingeing, as opposed to just eating too much, begins.  And it’s when i know i’m going to throw up afterwards.

Or, at times, it’d feel like the Bulimia Monster would swoop down on its scabbéd wings when i wasn’t expecting it (which is daft, really – after 15 or 20 years of disordered eating / eating disorder, i should certainly have learnt to expect it constantly.  I suppose that unrealistic sense of optimism may have kept me ill, as well as kept me getting up in the morning and trying again) and take over my actions.  Either way, it never felt like i was the one in control, ridiculous though that sounds.

However, more recently i have actually felt i like i have chosen to do ‘it’ – to binge and purge.  I don’t know why i do choose it though.  It’s a false choice, y’know?  As if there isn’t really another option.  I’m not sure i could actually choose to not do it.  I don’t know how.  I do try – at least, i think i do, but maybe i don’t anymore.  Maybe i’m worn out from all the fighting and i don’t fight anymore.  Is that it?  And yet i still feel like i choose to do it.

Why the hell would i choose to do something like that?  Something i hate, something that wastes my time and money, that ruins my life and that of my loved ones?  Good question.  One i ask of myself all the bloody time.  So how can it be a real choice?

But i’ll say it again: it now feels like i choose to do it, not that it happens ‘by accident’.  I’ll go and buy the stuff, check the time i start bingeing – and it’ll be bingeing right from the start – and after a designated amount of time i’ll calmly go into the bathroom to do the usual.  It’s not right.  I mean, i’m not actually calm while this is happening – not inside, although i can appear so to everyone else.  Even as i do it i think, i hate this, i’ll never do it again.  But it’s not over yet.

My question – to myself, more than anyone – is this: how do i choose to not do it?

Published in: on 07/04/2011 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Awooga! Awooga!

Blimey.  So the programme’s actually on the telly.  I suppose i never quite believed it would get to this point because, really, how bonkers is it that i’m on the telly?  When i don’t even own one or watch the bloody thing?

Of course, this is why god invented 4od – i have been watching the series, of course, on the web site.  Two episodes so far, both of which provoked a flurry of discussions.  Got questions, comments?  Ask, my pretties, ask away.

Since it started, i’ve been back to see Dr. Helena Fox, the consultant involved, who’s going to write a letter and make recommendations for referral and all that sort of thing, now that i have a new GP.

I’ve got to do my placement and dissertation this summer, so the healthier i am the better.  I don’t want to defer again, not least because now you have to pay through the nose to get to university.  As opposed to just through the arse, which i’ve already done but, well, bulimia’s effing expensive so there’s no way i can afford to pay any more.

More to me than bulimia

So i started up this blog partly to show that there’s more to me than bingeing and puking.  I am a normal person – er, other than that bit.  Now that i’m here, however, i’ve no idea what to say.  Stop staring at me like that!

Oh, hold on, there is one obvious thing: i’m in a band.  We’re called Candy Panic Attack.  We’re crap but hey, it’s all part of our shoddy appeal.  Maybe i can give you a link to one of our songs, just to start, then go on to say other (i hope interesting) stuff in future posts.  What do you reckon?  Ah go on then.  No idea whether they’ll show the bit they filmed or not, but here’s a little bit of us on Youtube:

Published in: on 06/04/2011 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why oh why oh why?

Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, highly esteemed non-gender-specific others.  Hello and welcome, as they say, to my all-new blog.  I haven’t blogged in ages so please pardon the rust and creaks while normal service is resumed.

I recently took part in a telly programme about the way we view food and our bodies and the drama that goes on beneath.  (By which i mean the emotional connection with food and eating, not trapped wind.)  It’s mostly about overweight and underweight people doing a diet swap to show them how bonkers their eating behaviour is, but the strand running through in which i’m taking part is about eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

My reasons for becoming involved with this are numerous.  One factor is pretty selfish really: i’ve been bulimic for years and years and want to get better (a semi-treatment programme is involved in the making of the series) and i feel that there is a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of myths surrounding eating disorders, especially normal-weight bulimia, as well as insufficient help for the latter.

Why the hell would i want to go on the telly and say to the nation, “Hello!  I’m bulimic!”?  Well, in my view, people need to know about this disorder; yeah, the telly programme’s for entertainment, but it’s also about giving the information and the brutal facts… and the more understanding there is developed around anything, the less discrimination and more help there will be.  This is an illness that thrives on secrecy and shame.  Chip away at the need for secrecy and shame and, i hope, more people who have an eating disorder will be able to step forward and ask for the help they so badly need.

It’ll potentially be advantageous for many, if people come to understand eating disorders a little better.

Unlike anorexia and binge-eating, bulimia is pretty much invisible.  To look at me on the street you wouldn’t think anything was wrong.  You’d see the cheerful, friendly, apparently capable exterior of a thirty-something woman with a full-time job and a partner and several very good mates, doing a postgraduate degree, into music, reading, writing, art, politics, small press and plenty more… and apparently coping with it all.

But actually, there’s nothing beneath, no “down time”, no Real Life.  I merely exist.  When it comes to something very ordinary and every day for most people – food and eating – there are some seriously disordered thoughts, behaviours and quite frankly misery that have been there for as long as i can remember, taking up ALL my time and energy, taking over my life, wearing me down… and, let’s be honest, killing me.

Why don’t i “just stop”?  A good question.  It’s a compulsion, i suppose; it’s something that honestly feels out of my control.  I realise how ridiculous this sounds: i’m the one putting the food in my face and then throwing it up.  But when it happens, it feels like i’m on auto-pilot, just a passenger or observer and not in control of my actions.  That’s honestly just how it feels.  Afterwards the shame, misery, hopelessness and self-disgust are overwhelming.  Why do i do this?  How do i stop? Will i ever be ‘normal’?

I’ve had years and years of treatment, both in-patient and out-patient, a brief stint in daycare which didn’t help, yet nothing has brought it to an end.  What’s wrong with me?  What am i doing wrong or not doing right?  I blame myself, because you do, don’t you?  It must be because i’m stupid, weak, pathetic.  So i’m back to living this way and because i’m no longer underweight i’m cast aside, no doubt due to the lack of money put into the NHS, slung out as a lost cause.  I mean, maybe i am.  That’s what it feels like.

There are days, i’ll admit, when i just want to be locked up again, because at least then i wouldn’t be able to do the mad things i do.  But what i REALLY want is to get better and live my life fully; not to merely exist.

Published in: on 30/10/2010 at 12:16 pm  Comments (3)