Where Did The Peace Come From? And Two Successful Food Challenges

Having an eating disorder is hard work, and these early stages of recovery have been frightening, difficult, shameful and incredibly rewarding. My history has been to come out of long periods of anorexic restriction, only to flip into bulimia or compulsive over-eating.

This time is different, it hasn’t been plain sailing, and I have flipped between the three states. But I have made significant progress and can see stability coming through. So much so that I’ve had a lot of peace around food over the past week. I put that down to my supportive peers, my online community, attending mutual aid, and a reconnection with my spiritual pathway.

This week’s success have been:- Asking a friend to cook me a meal of his choice and allowing him to sort out my portion, and eating 1 slice of Jam Roly Poly, a food which I have previously binged on. I can’t afford to play the game of safe/unsafe foods – that will only take me back down the road of only eating 1 ciabatta a day. I’m not going there.

I have one more challenge this week, to go to a cafe and eat a fried vegetarian breakfast.

Keep smiling

oznorMy afternoon snack – 2 scones with butter and jam.

IMG_20181205_175418.jpgBeef stroganoff – cooked for me by a friend.

 

A Surprise In The Mirror – Anorexia Recovery And A Huge Step Forward

My journal entry for December the first, 2018

Today I looked myself in the eye, I paused and looked at my face, and I looked well.

Breathe – I look well.

This was a very special experience for me. When my eating disorder ruled my life I loved feeling my bones. Rightly or wrongly I got joy from doing so, it was as if I was touching my essence. But to do so I was killing me, harming me, putting my life at risk of serious injury, illness and death. I wasn’t in denial. I knew that I was doing so, and I didn’t care.

Today I had a sober day in my eating practice. I had three meals and three snacks. Other than the occasional over-eating I have followed my meal plan for three months now.

And today, I looked myself in the eye and I looked well. I CAN lovingly nurture my body and look and feel well – even if I’m not happy with my weight gain.

This morning I dropped off my 30 inch waist jeans at a charity collection point. I would love to keep them. I still want to fit into them again, but not as much as I want photography, travel and study. I cannot keep one foot in anorexia and one in recovery. I am not willing to let go of my passion, photography is of more value to me than chasing the impossible, unobtainable anorexic goal post of the ever decreasing number.

Anorexia Recovery? Update

My recovery from anorexia and bulimia is sometimes frustrating. With the aid of my nutritionist I am now eating. I’m eating healthier than I ever have done, and I enjoy it. But I’ve put on weight and I have that voice in my head calling me fat and disgusting. Despite this I binged last night.

I won’t compensate, I won’t purge, I’ll follow what I’m meant to eat today.

My eating disorder is not about food. It’s a symptom of my desire and need for control because I find life scary, intolerable at times. I want to change how I feel. Recovery is scary because my feelings come back, because my powerlessness over life comes back.

I will keep plodding on despite being scared. Despite my ups and downs. Two steps forwards and one step back is still a step forward.

Anorexia: It Costs More Than An Arm And A Leg

This is my story, which has been published today in The Sociological Mail.  If you like to read about current affairs, lifestyle, psychology and sociology, and to hear diverse viewpoints, then its worth popping over and becoming a follower. Shenaka has published all of my photo-essays, which I am very grateful for, and she welcomes new contributors.

Disclaimer: This article covers sensitive subjects which may not be suitable for certain audiences.

For just over a year I have been producing photography about anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders. This is the beginning of a photographic body of work which I intend to exhibit. I have had an eating disorder since I was 17 years old, which for me has predominantly been anorexia. Shaneka from The Sociological Mail has given me the opportunity to tie these projects together and to share about my history with an eating disorder.

I can only speak from my own experience. I am not an expert in the field, and I am not medically trained, but I have a lot of knowledge about eating disorders. I think that it’s common for people with eating disorders to arm themselves with information, I most certainly have. The anorexic brain becomes distorted and narrowly focused. It does this because the brain isn’t getting the nourishment which it requires to function, and hormone production increases around hunger and appetite cues. Thoughts about food increase to the point of obsession, and for me this also includes a focus upon my eating disorder. I have spent hours of my life reading about anorexia from all sources, I do particularly enjoy peer reviewed research. There have been a few occasions when I have had to correct professionals who don’t know the correct information, or when they have tried to coerce me into doing things their way. The knowledge that I have gained has become a barrier to accepting treatment, and hand on heart, that’s why I spent those hours reading. It has been a brick wall that has kept anorexia and I within, defending ourselves against those who were assaulting us by trying to cajole, manipulate or compel me to eat. Ultimately the justifications that I have used have harmed me, because I have been compelled to have treatment under the Mental Health Act, against my wishes. My refusal to have treatment has damaged my body and my mind. The consideration of treatment, having to eat and recovery have filled me with fear.

Fear has been a recurring theme throughout my life, and I think that there is a link between my eating disorder and fear. I experienced a lot of trauma during my childhood, repeatedly and in many forms. I had a violent alcoholic step-father, and a mother that didn’t protect me or my siblings from his violence. Sadly Mum was also violent and emotionally abusive, and she was inconsistent, giving and withholding love. As a young child, I had to learn to read people, it was self-protection – “what do I need to do to stay safe today”. This hasn’t left me, and my body and mind are always alert to potential risk. Unfortunately, this even impacts upon my closest friendships. I was also abused sexually, and when I informed my mother and (the latest) step-father I was ignored. From early on I knew that it didn’t matter whether I did well or failed, I would be in trouble anyway.

I took an overdose when I was 17. I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. As soon as I had taken it I went to hospital because I hadn’t intended to do it. However, it was a turning point that led to the onset of my anorexia. My mum threw me out because I had overdosed and I couldn’t tell her why I had done so. I moved into a friends caravan and I started to unravel.

I had never heard of anorexia, bulimia or self-harm, but I started cutting myself and restricting calories. I would eat two slices of toast with mustard each day, and vomit as soon as I had eaten it. Surprisingly, I had no support from the mental health services for a couple of years, and it took until my early twenties to get diagnosed with anorexia – binge/purge subtype. By this point, I had so many difficulties that we didn’t get anywhere with my eating disorder, nor my other mental health issues. I had several hospital admissions because of suicidality and depression, and my eating disorder continued. There were short periods of rapid weight gain due to binging, which were then followed by rapid weight loss because of restricting.

When the opportunity came along for me to use amphetamine I did. By this point, I was aware that it speeds up the metabolism and reduces the desire to eat. It was successful on that level, but my mental health worsened with the development of intense paranoia. I started to distrust my friends and became so scared of them that I walked out of my flat, got a train halfway across the country, and ended up in a homeless hostel. Paranoia is a feature of my poor mental health, and I am sure that the amphetamine contributed towards its development.

I progressed from using amphetamine to heroin, which precipitated a further crisis, but one which meant I became ready and willing to take responsibility for, and the necessary action to change my life. When I got clean I knew that I had to eat because if I didn’t then I was unlikely to stay away from substances. So I started eating three meals a day. Gradually my portions increased, and I put on more weight than I needed to. I was fully aware that missing a meal was risk-taking behaviour, and I stuck solidly with the plan for 6 years. Although by now I had progressed to over-eating with regular binges. Then every now and again I would miss a meal. It really wasn’t a regular thing, to begin with, but over time those missed meals increased. I liked the sense of power, being able to overcome hunger by not eating. I experienced a strong feeling of being in control, so the number of meals that I missed increased. The period from when I started missing meals and back to intense anorexic behaviour took several years. But once I had started missing meals and experiencing the feeling of power and control that came with it, then it was inevitable that fully restrictive behaviour would ensue.

My wife and I separated, and I moved and found new employment. The work was intense, and I stopped having lunch. I didn’t eat breakfast by this point, and my evening meal consisted of a bread roll sliced in two, with half a tin of tuna on top of each piece, and sometimes with cheese on top (if I had the cheese it was toasted and lots of black pepper). I lost weight very quickly.

One meal a day went down to not eating at all. I mean nothing. I went 52 days with only fluids – I have to say I was fu)*i:g nuts at this point. I couldn’t think properly, my memory went, I couldn’t answer peoples questions because my brain had shut down. I guess it was preserving the essentials for survival and switching everything else off. Not eating for these kinds of long periods is both easy and hard. The obsession and compulsion to resist food is overwhelming and coupled with an obsession to buy and hide food, to write out recipes, watch all the tv cookery shows, and to cook for friends. I loved to smell food. At that point, just smelling food felt like it was filling me up.

The compulsion to not eat was what made not eating easy, I can’t explain what that’s like. Perhaps it’s similar to determination, but 100 times stronger. It’s a fixation, it doesn’t matter what you say to me, I will not eat. It doesn’t matter what I say to me, what I think, rationalisation – I WILL NOT EAT. My self-hatred increased over this period of “fasting” I didn’t try to fight it, just accepted that it was linked to not eating, and my self harm returned, but that’s OK because I’m not eating. With hindsight I can say that the more people tried to get me to eat, or put pressure on me too, the firmer my determination to not eat became. Again it’s that sense of control. My whole life felt out of control, except for the will that I had to not eat and to control the size of my body, and no matter how hard you tried, you could not take that away from me.

The worst experience was the self-hatred, shouting at myself, calling myself names, and the self-harm. I’ve self-harmed before, as a coping mechanism, and it’s been (for want of a better word) gentle. However, during this period I cut aggressively out of anger, rage, and hatred. I cut names into my legs and chunks out of my arms. When I look back on that time I have empathy for myself, I actually feel sorry for myself. How I treated and spoke to myself at that point was tragic, it brings a tear to my eye to think of it.

I was referred to a community mental health team and could attend their day centre. It was a safe space, daily occupation and it provided me with a connection with other people. I used the centre to help me get back into a pattern of eating, it was a slow process, and I was allowed to go at my own pace. They had no eating disorder training so they observed and encouraged but ultimately left me to sort out and manage my own recovery.

After not eating for so long the brain produces hormones to make you feel hungry, which is why there is often an obsession with food for many people with anorexia. For some of us, it also means that when you begin to eat again there can be an overwhelming urgency to do so, it certainly did for me. My food slowly increased and developed into compulsive overeating, and I put all the weight that I had lost back on, and more. It took six months to do so, and then I stopped eating again. Without effective treatment, the cycle continues.

My anorexia is extreme. I don’t restrict food like many, I completely stop eating. I still drink coffee with skimmed milk, herbal tea, and juice, but I won’t have any food at all. My mind becomes so rigid, fixated on not eating, I am either thinking about not eating, researching anorexia, or hoarding food. I spent so much money on food with absolutely no intention of eating it. It got so bad that a friend had to come around and clear my flat out. It’s such a strange compulsion, to starve and be obsessed with food. I wish there was a way that I could put into words just how strong both obsessions are. There is just nothing that I can compare it too. Hoarding is a common symptom of starvation and anorexia, which was also demonstrated by the Minnesota experiment (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/hunger.aspx).

This period of not eating lead to me, once again, being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I had stopped eating for 56 days at this point, and I had refused all of their offers of help, including meal replacement. I really did not believe that there was anything wrong with me at all. Thing is, I have other mental health problems as well as an eating disorder, and these include anxiety, paranoia and suicidal ideation. There are times when not eating reduces or stops these symptoms. Not always, but this was a time in which my I became symptom free, and that makes me feel well. Who would want to change if they were free from other overwhelming and disabling symptoms?

I was given the option of having meal replacement drinks and building up my calories or going into the medical hospital for nasogastric feeding. I chose the meal replacement. It really wasn’t easy, and in that hospital, I only got up to 900 calories a day. I then went to an eating disorders unit as an inpatient, which I found challenging, stressful and intrusive. I tried to want to be there, but having other people in control of the food which was going into my body was too difficult. I would argue with the dietician every time that we met up, was very hostile and resistant to treatment. They got my calories up, but I then asked if I could leave. I really don’t do well when others have control over me or my food, and I don’t do well as an inpatient in hospital. I never have. It makes it so hard for the professionals to work with me. I guess that’s why I am mid-forties and still sick and suffering from an eating disorder. Perhaps control is the issue rather than the food. Feeling out of control or that others are in charge of me induces intense fear, which leads me to feel like I have to escape.

Once they had discharged me I reduced my calories and started to purge every day. There was a community eating disorder therapist whom I was referred to. She was patient with me, and we developed a plan between us. I agreed to get to a minimum of 1200 calories per day. This was to be an initial target and is based upon the fact that with 1200 calories our organs can function. It’s the level that a patient would be given if they were in a coma. The other thing that she was very clear about was that I needed to have blood pressure, blood tests, and an ECG each week. If any of these indicated that I needed medical care, either as an inpatient or outpatient then I had to have it. It was made clear that if I didn’t comply then I would be detained under the Mental Health Act. She let me go at my own pace, and I slowly introduced solid foods to replace the drinks that I was on. I have to say that she was the best therapist that I have had for my eating disorder. She had boundaries and limits, explained these to me, and then worked with me as an individual. She understood how strong my control issues with regard to food were, and helped me to make progress. I got to 1500 calories per day, was eating solid food most of the time, and my physical health was improving.

Unfortunately, I got a sudden bout of depression and tried to kill myself. Whilst in the psychiatric hospital I started to binge. The staff on general psychiatric wards in the UK are generally not eating disorder trained, and they do not help a patient with anorexia to either eat or build up eating slowly. Having so much access to food after a long period of starvation sent those hormones wild again. The hunger was intense, and the amount of food that I would eat left me in pain all of the time. After eating the hospital dinner I would call up a take away, order a meal deal for two or three people, and sit and eat all of it. There was no real enjoyment of the food, just an insatiable appetite and an inability to stop eating once I had begun.

I find it so sad that I have been through all of this, and the harm that my poor body has had to cope with. Getting the right treatment for eating disorders in the UK does not always happen. I have no specialised eating disorder support at the moment, and this is a common issue for many sufferers. Part of it is the area that I live. In the UK each individual health authority decides how it is going to spend its budget, and which services it will commission. Here they funded one community eating disorder therapist to cover the whole county. She has changed role recently and hasn’t been replaced, and neither has the dietician who left last year.

So how did I get to this point on this occasion? My compulsive overeating following the last hospital admission led to me developing diabetes. I am terrified of the doctors and the hospital, so I looked into the research results from Newcastle University into reversing type two diabetes. They put their patients onto a very low calorie diet, which is medically supervised at all stages. The diet lasts for eight weeks, and then other foods are slowly introduced. The results are astounding. Type two diabetes can be reversed. Having reviewed the research results I decided that I would create my own very low calorie diet so that I could reverse my diabetes, which I have managed to do. However, the reduction in calories soon triggered the anorexic thoughts and behaviour, and I lost control.

Something was different this time though – my photography studies. I love photography and I love studying with the Open College of the Arts. My photography has developed considerably, and so has my contact with people. I can walk up to strangers on the street and ask if I can photograph them, and I have photographed at many events and around large groups of people. I feel safe with a camera in front of my face, and the whole experience is mindfulness in action. Its like I slow down, real slow, I look and see all that is around me, completely focused, present and in the moment. In January I returned to not eating anything at all. This time I went for 18 days. During that time my motivation to study disappeared and I became depressed. I couldn’t live with the impact it had on my photography so I began to eat again. Not a lot at all, but it was enough to make a difference. This has also been a time where not eating/severe restriction has had a positive impact on the reduction of other mental health symptoms. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for some time, my anxiety has reduced, and so has the paranoia to a degree. I still get PTSD symptoms, but these are more manageable when my other symptoms are low. My energy increased significantly as well. Lack of food intake can mean that the body produces more adrenaline and cortisol, and this increases energy. To be honest it has been an absolutely amazing time that I have really enjoyed.

I haven’t really worked with my psychiatric team, and I have done the absolute minimum that I could get away with in order to stay out of hospital. I think that I have made it look like I am working with them and want to get well, but that hasn’t been my truth on the inside, until….

I went on holiday to London. It was to be a three week holiday so that I could be a tourist, make the most of the sights and scenes in London, go to galleries, museums, gardens and theatres. It was also an opportunity for me to meet up with my fellow students. Sadly, after just a week I became really ill. I felt dizzy, sick, and thought that I was going to pass out. I got to the point of not being able to function. My motivation to study and for photography went. Then a couple of weeks afterwards I was with a close friend, we had been out in his car for about an hour and we went for a coffee. My blood pressure dropped and I was unable to walk. These incidents frightened me into realising that I need recovery and I need it now.

Recently I have been making progress, and my photography has been an important part of that process, the enjoyment of photography is my motivation for change in a way that fear of dying from anorexia is not. I now know that if I do not make a drastic attempt to recover then I will suffer more serious health problems, be unable to take photos, and risk dying. Anorexia has the highest death rate as a proportion of sufferers than any other psychiatric disorder.

People can and do recover from eating disorders and anorexia. I was aware of the statistics about partial and full recovery, as well as those who never recover, but now I have started to attend an online peer support group for people with anorexia and bulimia I have met people, who I relate to, and who are in recovery. Meeting others who are no longer affected by the symptoms of their eating disorder gives me so much hope. Peer support isn’t the only thing that I need. Although I have a psychiatric and medical team, they are not eating disorder trained, and they have not replaced their dietitian or therapist. However, I have managed to find an experienced eating disorders therapist, who is also experienced in nutrition and diet. I grew up in a family of chefs, I know what a nutritious and balanced diet is, so why can’t I just do it? I am afraid of food, there are very few foods which I eat, I am obsessed with calories. I need help to overcome these difficulties, and I also need someone whom I can build up trust with so that they can manage my meal plan until I am able to put things into practice. I need to trust them to manage the calories for me. It’s a big part of letting go of controlling behaviour.

Eating disorders are not about food, even though the symptoms suggest that they are. Eating disorders are about control. By controlling my food intake, weight and body shape, I can  avoid or suppress fear, feelings, circumstances and the uncertainties of life.

Yesterday was a very big step for me. I consider it to be the first day of my recovery. Most people with anorexia go through intense obsessions with foods, watching TV shows about foods, reading recipe books, cooking for others and not eating, and some of us hoard food. Over months I spent hundreds of pounds buying food that I had no intention of eating, and hiding around the house, even though I live alone. Before I could have friends visit I informed them that they were not to touch the hoarded food. Yesterday I sorted through it, binned what was out of date, and have bagged the rest for the local food-bank. A momentous step for me, and I promise you it wasn’t easy. I cried, I felt angry, and I needed to reach out for support. But I did it. I am proud of myself for doing so, so proud that I bought myself some flowers. I earned them (written three weeks ago).

I accept that this is not going to be an easy process and that it will take time. There will be times when my emotions feel too intense and overwhelming, and the regime of three meals and snacks is frightening. With help, I have introduced a couple of new foods, cereal, and jacket potato with tuna or chili. The rest are a few select foods that I feel safe with. There are times when I feel so out of control, which isn’t surprising. Change does mean letting go of the old control measures and trying the unfamiliar. The amount of emotion that I experience around the times that I am eating now has been surprising, and often very intense. But I want to study, I want to walk around and take photos, and I cannot have that without recovery. Recovery is possible, which I now know because I have found a community of recovering people.

If you have an eating disorder or think that you may do, and are not currently receiving support then please seek help. Your doctor is important because there are so many health complications with eating disorders. Perhaps you can talk to someone who you trust and ask them to go to the doctors with you. There are also eating disorders charities in many countries around the world. They can answer questions that you may have and provide you with information and support. There are also many peer support groups around the world as well. We all have to find our own way, but we never have to do this alone.

Thank You for reading and best wishes, Richard.

 

UK Based Eating Disorder Charities

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Men and Boys Get Eating And Exercise Disorders Scotland

International Eating Disorder Charities

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

Peer Support groups

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous

Smart Recovery

Over-Eaters Anonymous

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Two vlogersI have found useful who are in recovery or recovered

Megsy recovery

Tabitha Farrar

Change And Growth – Grateful For The Generosity And Love Which Means That I Now Have Professional Support

This week I felt so frustrated with not finding a dietician who could work with me over Skype at a price that I could afford. I didn’t quite give up though. I had the inspiration to contact Lynn Crilly. I discovered her on Twitter two or three years back, and followed her posts. Lynn, set up an organisation called Hope With Eating Disorders, which is now called Hope With Mental Health. As well as being a counsellor working with people with eating disorders, she has a daughter who is now in recovery/recovered (they have different meanings, and individuals use their preferred term in a positivistic way). When I was admitted into an inpatient unit for the treatment of anorexia two years ago Lynn sent me a copy of Hope With Eating Disorders. I  was stunned by her kindness, especially because we had only exchanged a couple of messages on Twitter. Hope With Eating Disorders is a book which Lynn wrote for families who have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. The book is an honest, but deeply loving account of her family’s experience of living with a child who is really sick with anorexia. It discusses the  difficulties, tension and struggles which the family lived through, as well as her daughters progress as she gradually began to change, get well and recover.

sdrFig tree

I felt overwhelmed with gratitude because somebody whom I barely knew had been kind enough to send me a book which they had written. But what really touched my soul was the love which is apparent in Lynn’s style of writing.

cofFruit bearing fig tree

So I emailed Lynn this week and explained my situation. She called me back and said that she had spoken with a few people that she knows from other organisations, and gave me a couple of numbers that I could try. The first one I called is willing to work me, so I now have professional support. She also put me onto her Hope With Mental Health YouTube channel. Her family are the vloggers, and the love that shines through was beautiful to see.

cofOrange

Yesterday whilst walking into town, I was crying with gratitude. I felt in awe at the love and kindness which I have received from Lynn, and witnessed within her family.

I am aware that I am growing and changing with regards to my anorexia and all of the behaviours associated with it.

cofApple

Today is the sixth day that I have followed the style of meal plan which the eating disorders unit followed when I was there two years ago. Ok the three meals and snacks are just eating more of the same things I have eaten for months. But my calories are far higher, and although I have a rough idea of what they are I am no longer counting them. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, I have introduced two new foods, porridge and jacket potato with tuna-mayo. I’ve got rid of the food I had hoarded, and my kitchen is now one which is condusive with developing a healthy relationship with food.

Reaching out to members of the 12 step recovery group hasn’t been easy. But I have called two or three of them, and a couple of us speech message each other on WhatsApp. I really value the meetings, the identification with other anorexics and bulimics means that I no longer feel shameful about, or alone with my eating disorder

cofMelon

I have hope that I can recover, but I also remain aware that I’ve had hope before. I’ve made progress for a while and then fell back into anorexia. I am trying to focus upon today, this day is all that I have, and today I am ok.

The photos of my plants are included because they are growing with me. I especially like the apple and melon which I planted as seeds.

The following two links are for Lynn’s website and the Hope With Mental Health YouTube channel.

Lynn Crilly

Hope With Mental Health YouTube channel

If you think or know that you have an eating disorder and you are not  receiving help or support, please be aware that help is available and recovery is possible. Please speak to your doctor or talk to a trusted friend. There are also eating disorders charities around the world which provide help, guidance and information.

UK Based Eating Disorder Charities

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Men and Boys Get Eating And Exercise Disorders Scotland

International Eating Disorder Charities

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

Peer Support groups

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous

Smart Recovery

Over-Eaters Anonymous

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Making My Kitchen More Condusive To Having A Healthy Relationship With Food

As well as getting rid of the foods I had hoarded, I have been cleaning my kitchen. On Tuesday I cleaned my cooker.

IMG_20181003_103129.jpg

Then yesterday I cleared out and cleaned the fridge and freezer. I hadn’t done so for over a year.

IMG_20181003_193233.jpg

Today I have cleared and cleaned the surfaces, draws and all crockery and utensils. Everything now has a place.

sdr

Tomorrow I will be cleaning the floor and hoovering the rest of the house. Despite living in it, I cannot believe what a shit tip I had left the kitchen in.

I have a very poor relationship with food, and I know that in order to recover my eating will change over the next few months. That’s going to be a whole lot easier to reinforce if my kitchen promotes a positive attitude towards food. I’m also going to wash my cup and plates up each time that I use them.

Bulimia

 

This is a photo about bulimia, an eating disorder and serious mental illness. It is a sociology photo and is in the category of sociology photos.
(please click on the photo for a full size image) Bulimia is an eating disorder and a serious mental illness. In between 10 and 20% of people with bulimia will die from this illness. It depletes electrolytes and this can induce a heart attack or organ failure. If you think that you, or someone you care about may have an eating disorder then please seek help from your doctor. There are many eating disorder charities throughout the world. In the UK please see BEAT eating disorders for advice and support. Help is available and recovery is possible.

Bulimia

This is a photo about bulimia, an eating disorder and serious mental illness. It is a sociology photo and is in the category of sociology photos.
(please click on the photo for a full size image) Bulimia is an eating disorder and a serious mental illness. In between 10 and 20% of people with bulimia will die from this illness. It depletes electrolytes and this can induce a heart attack or organ failure. If you think that you, or someone you care about may have an eating disorder then please seek help from your doctor. There are many eating disorder charities throughout the world. In the UK please see BEAT eating disorders for advice and support. Help is available and recovery is possible.

Liebster Award

liebster1

Feeling a touch embarrassed because I have just been nominated for a Liebster Award by She from This Door Is Alarmed. She, writes poetry, prose and fiction, in such a manner that there are times that I think I’m reading a short story and it turns out to be a memoire, and other times She combines fiction and prose in the same blog. One of the most enjoyable and fascinating posts by She is called The Shorthand anomaly, is it a memoire? Is it a short story? Either way it’s incredibly well written, and to go a way from a blog, and still be thinking about it, ensures that I will keep returning.

The GUIDELINES for the 2018 award are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
    • Display the award on your post
    • Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blogging
    • Provide 10 random facts about yourself
    • Answer the questions given to you
    • Nominate 5-11 other blogs for this award
    • Ask them creative and unique questions of your own
    • List the rules and inform your nominees of the award

 

What makes me passionate about blogging?

This is where my embarrassment comes in for being nominated for awards. I study photography because it has changed my life. It’s given me an ability to have some management of my mental health by igniting a fire within me, a spark of creativity and the joy that has come from that. Life through a lens is a way that I can live in a world that I find frightening, and my blog, which is essentially a requirement for my studies with the Open College of the Arts, has given me a community. I am happy to not spend time with others, and enjoy being with myself, but I still have a need to feel valued and have the opportunity to give back, and that’s what my blog, and my WordPress community has given me. That’s why I feel embarrassed. Yes my blog has developed beyond being a student blog (which it still is), but I’m nothing special, I’m a student, I like this form of connection with my fellow students, and the other blogs that I follow and who follow me. That’s it, nothing special. Just a human with a camera, learning how to live.

10 Random Facts

I do not live alone, I live with myself.

Spirituality is about three relationships, my relationship with the universe, my relationship with you, my relationship with me.

I am not my circumstances, I AM.

I had no odea that I was creative, and now I am so grateful to have discovered an aspect of me that was hidden.

Meditation is vital for me to cope with life.

I have an eating disorder, men get eating disorders too, and help is available for anyone with an eating disorder (see below).

I worship the sun, not a get down on my hands and knees and prostrate myself kind of way, but I will sit in it until I burn and then stay in it for as long as I can.

I collect crystal and gemstones.

Clothes have to have the right texture for me to be happy with them. Fashion isn’t important but how clothes feel against my skin is. I get quite agitated with the wrong texture.

Sleep doesn’t matter to me. I can, and do, function quite happily with between 0 and 5 hours sleep.

oh and one more thing… I still have not worked out how to get rid of this damned double spacing, however, WordPress for Dummies arrived yesterday.

 

She’s questions for me

How straight is straight?

Who cares? How true to yourself are you?

What would you think I was referring to if I told you to ‘put it down’?

My paranoid think or over analysing, I can be like a dog with a bone.

Why are swans graceful?

They are beautiful, protective, loyal, nurturing, fierce and aggressive. Their beauty is what I most connect with rather than grace. The purity of their white feathers, and the subtle definition, the shape of those feathers and the contours when they have their wings arched behind their backs. Those thin fine lines upon their necks where their have much smaller feathers. They are stunning, who cares if they are graceful, there is so much more to a swan than its cliched grace.

Would you be a superhero or a sidekick, and what would your name be?

I’d be called Leigh Me’Alone, and would be running and hiding to get the hell away from people – neither superhero, anti-hero or sidekick. Preferably I wouldn’t even be thought of to be included in the story or film.

If you could remove one letter from the English alphabet, what would it be, and what consequences do you see coming from it?

My gosh – what a question. I shall cheat and remove two (I just can’t conform can I). I will remove ME. The consequences – I would no longer exist, I would cease to exist – I can live with that (ironic), lol.

What was the last thing you lost and never found? What do you imagine has happened to it?

My Sanity – Not sure if I lost it, it was taken from me or never had it to begin with. It’s been hidden behind a wall so deep and so strong, but it is starting to get cracks now. Little bits of sanity are beginning to seep through as the wall ages. I think photography is a little chisel that’s slowly scraping away the cement between the bricks.

What significance does the number seven have to you? What memories do you associate with it?

A threat that my birthday would be cancelled and the fear of that, the joy of receiving a football and remote control bike, deciding there is no point trying because I would be in trouble no matter what I did, the mental decision to give up on life.

Young and completely broke or old and disgustingly rich?

If richness equates with diversity, passion, inclusion, justice, friendship, a sense of belonging, being able to give back, with equality, with living an authentic life, then I’ll go for old and disgustingly rich.

If a giant squirrel had commandeered your mode of transportation, whether car, moped, bike etc., and seemed to know how to make it work, what would you do to stop him?

Well that could be quite tricky. My mode of transport is legs and feet. If a squirrel commandeered those then I imaging it could be almost impossible to do anything. Maybe I should start to carry peanuts and a long club around with me?

If you had your own coat of arms, what would I expect to find on them to describe you/ your family?

A coffin, a camera, birds and flowers on one side, a lightening strike down the middle, and nothing on the other side.

(I am aware that at times I may come across as over serious or too honest – kinda can’t help it, sorry)

 

My Questions for my nominees

(My time is limited so I’m gonna cheat and re-feed you She’s questions)

  1. How straight is straight?
  2. What would you think I was referring to if I told you to ‘put it down’?
  3. Why are swans graceful?
  4. Would you be a superhero or a sidekick, and what would your name be?
  5. If you could remove one letter from the English alphabet, what would it be, and what consequences do you see coming from it?
  6. What was the last thing you lost and never found? What do you imagine has happened to it?
  7. What significance does the number seven have to you? What memories do you associate with it?
  8. Young and completely broke or old and disgustingly rich?
  9. If a giant squirrel had commandeered your mode of transportation, whether car, moped, bike etc., and seemed to know how to make it work, what would you do to stop him?
  10. If you had your own coat of arms, what would I expect to find on them to describe you/ your family?

 

My Nominees

Dd AL from happiness between tails

MwsR from MwsR writings

Rising Strong

Robert from Robert Loves Pi

Songa from Songa Stories

Ulrika from instaology

Fred from Fred Gardner Blog

Indigo Turtle’s Musings

The Vaping Life

Mua from As Told By Mua

Eating Disorder Support

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

 

Sick Of Bulimia – Conceptual – Exercise 3.3 – Sequence

Reflections upon Sick of Bulimia.

I have published Sick of Bulimia as a separate blog post, because I believe that it warrants being presented as a stand alone project. It can be seen here.

Bulimia-Grid-Presentation

Exercise 3.3 is about photography as sequence, and I have now explored many of the options, based upon the ideas and learning about the photographers that we have been asked to review. Keith Arnatt’s Self Burial is a conceptual sequence, which I reviewed as part of the coursework (seen here).

It helped that I have had an idea that I wanted to explore about bulimia, and created some test photos around 6-9 months ago. Two of the photos in my final sequence have come from those, and the rest I have taken over the past couple of weeks. The opportunity to build upon my previous photography and to do so for exercise 3.3 was influenced by reviewing Self Burial.

Background

I have an eating disorder, and was first diagnosed with Anorexia – binge-purge subtype in my late teens. I was actually a restrict-pirge but that’s not a separate diagnosis. My eating disorder has changed its shape over the years and I haven’t purged for many years. Having a personal investment has meant that I could explore bulimia from my own perspective, the experience of others, and from additional research.

There is a sequence, a ritual that is often associated with eating disorders, and I have tried to express the mental urgency around going out, buying food, bingeing and vomiting by using blurred photos, movement,  the use of bright colours. Some of the photos are taken from the perspective of the person engaged in the depicted activities rather than going with the golden rules of photography. Bulimia is personal, deeply emotional, and both thrilling and devastating. The excitement and the rush of buying and bingeing is short lived, and is quickly replaced by overwhelming shame and distress.

The central portrait is the signifier of shame, and I think the sequence would have worked better if I made this image larger and more dominant.

Research

Reviewing eating disorder charities and websites from around the globe has evidenced that death is a very possible outcome for people with an eating disorder. Up to twenty percent of individuals with an eating disorder will die from either heart failure, organ failure or suicide. This made second photo important for me to include. The symbolic references by including the memorial and the shop where the food was purchased has a deep significance.

Bulimia is secretive, as are other eating disorders initially. Overtime it becomes obvious to family, friends and healthcare workers that a person is severely underweight and may have anorexia. People with bulimia may be underweight, of a healthy weight or overweight, and this poses many problems because it is less obvious to loved ones.

Purging depletes the body of the vitamins and minerals that it needs for electrical conduction (we are electro-chemical beings) and death can come from disturbances to the hearts electrical conduction as well as organ failure. Of those who die from bulimia, heart failure is the biggest cause of death.

However recovery is possible if help is asked for, so I included a link to eating disorder charities from a few countries.

Technical

Self Burial (Arnatt) helped me to formulate how I could build upon my original photos and create a sequence. The urgency of HAVING to go out and buy food, knowing that you were going to binge and then purge was a starting point, and lead onto re-creating the journey to do so, and things flowed from there. I made use of two cameras, Olympus OMD EM10 MKii and Mzuiko 25mm (50mm equivalent) prime,, and Huawei P10 smart phone with dual Leica lens, 27mm, 20mp raw. The Huawei gave me the opportunity to create good bokeh, if slightly unusual, which can be evidenced in photo 5 where the shopping is on the floor.

Fully aware that it is important to take lots of photos of each scene and from different angles, using different lighting (building upon 100 photos, soft light landscape, smash – part one of FiP coursework (seen here)), I set to work and took many photos.

Creating the vomit was a simple process of blending dog food, baked beans, carrots and eggs together. It’s visually effective. I have made the toothbrush the focus of that photo because the photos of just the vomit were too graphic. A tooth-brush may often be used by people with bulimia to make themselves sick.

The selection process also built upon previous coursework in relation to evaluating and selction, as well as the skills that I have learned from reading The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers, 2015 by Scott Kelby.

Through following the blog of an OCA degree student (can’t remember who) I picked up the idea of writing upon contact sheets as a method of aiding the evaluation process, and this was indeed very helpful.

Lightroom (Bulimia 1.png and 33 others)

The weakest two photos are the first – the trainers, however they are symbolic of the urgency to get food, and the third photos of the shopping basket and trolley. Nine Photos make for an aesthetically pleasing grid, so I have included these. I had not planned to use a combination of portrait and landscape orientation, but the final photos were important to me because they carried the message that I wanted to express.

Reworking from Feedback

Sick of Bulimia has received a lot of welcome feedback, which has included using photo two, the memorial with its symbolism od death as the central photo, keeping the same background, and changing the background to white. Having tried these options and also a white background and a grey border, I feel very strongly that my original presentation is the strongest, along with the grey background, which I was originally unsure of. The restructured grid to have death as the central photo doesn’t work because it significantly changes the grid layout. The shame of having an eating disorder is also the strongest emotion that I have in relation to my own experience of bulimia (I have no shame about anorexia), so the portrait of me crying has to be the central photo. The white background with the grey border is presentable, however the focus is taken towards the colours rather than the content. Having the grey background draws me deeply into the photos, and that’s what I would like for the viewers.

Here is the original presentation, and the other forms of presentation that I have tried.

Original

Bulimia-Grid-Presentation

Re-worked

Grid-Symbolic-without-layers

Grid-crying-without-layers

Grid-crying-without-layers-White-background

Grid-crying-with-LAYERS-White-background-grey-border

The Individual Photos

Bulimia

Bulimia

 

Bulimia

 

Bulimia

 

Bulimia

 

Bulimia

Bulimia

Bulimia

 

Bulimia

I am deeply grateful for the feedback that I have recieved.

References

Kelby, S; 2015; The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers; New Riders; Pages 47-54

Keys, R; 2018; Review – Keith Arnatt – Self-Burial; Online AT: https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/review-keith-arnatt-self-burial/ (accessed on 09/03/2018)