Tutor Feedback For Assignment 5 – Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia And Strengths Of Recovery

Defiance/self preservation

Firstly, I would like to say that I am going to stick with the title “Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia And Strengths Of Recovery”. Initially I had some reservations about the length of the title, but I find that its appropriate as an anchor to the work which I have produced.

I would like to thank my tutor Jayne Taylor for the level and quality of feedback and interaction that I have received from her throughout the course. I would also like to thank the Open College of the Arts for the standard of the coursework, and for their excellent support and kindness with regards to the difficulties that I have experienced with my health, and the impact which this has had on my ability to study. If you are considering studying any of the creative arts, at foundation or undergraduate level then I would highly recommend the Open College of the Arts. You will not be disappointed. Although the OCA is based in the UK, they also accept international student. All of the courses are open/distance learning. Please check out their website here for further information.

Here is the link to the full tutor feedback

Defiance/self preservation
Defiance/self preservation

There a few points that I would like to comment upon

“It was very significant that you allowed the strong autobiographical themes to emerge through your work, and the leap forward can be seen through your assignment output across the course. You’ve worked incredibly hard and have put a lot of time and energy into your work, and this is all very evident here – well done indeed.”

The coursework leading up to assignment three was a turning point for me. It was during this section that I began to explore how I could use photography to explore and express my experience of life. The course material gave me the opportunity to try the exercises in the style of different photographers, and I was able to create a mini photobook called A Hermits Journey, and a sequence called Sick of Bulimia. I gave of myself in both of these pieces of work, and A Hermits Journey was featured in WordPress Discover and received over 1,000 hits.

There were many bullet points relating to Jaynes perspective of the of my assignment in which she draws out my methodology and how thorough I have been with my preparation and progress. But I would like to comment upon this

“The use of your own self-portraits in the work shows immense growth in your confidence, both personally and as an artist, and this is heartening to see.”

For me to use self-portraits is a scary experience. I have been working up to this over the past two years, gradually taking more steps from using my shadow, the use of face masks, and now revealing my face. My reticence to present and exhibit this piece of work, but I do aim to exhibit my work, I have a gallery in mind, and I am going to need Jaynes advice on how to approach them. I believe in the quality of the expression and technique, and this work deserves exhibition. I am worth it, despite my fears of showing my face.

“You had some reservations about how to make the embroidered snake have the same visual impact as the other works – hopefully the Google image search we did has helped you see how a stronger silhouette might be all that’s needed to make this work. The important thing is to keep looking until you find an image you feel enthusiastic about working with. The snake image seems to have special significance, being linked to medicine and alluding to the transition from sickness into health – so take your time and enjoy it! (Might a gold thread work here, as a kind of alchemical effect, maybe?)”

In Native American Shamanism, the rattlesnake, called Utsonati, symbolises medicine, which I interoperate as turning poison into medicine. It would have made an excellent finale to the series. However, all of the embroidered animals so far have been flying animals, and I think it’s important to provide visual consistency, and the snake would offset this. So, I am considering embroidering a stalk onto the final portrait, with the stalk symbolising new life, and recovery from an eating disorder is in many ways developing a new life.

“Good documentation of your process all the way through.  Nothing to add, except to say that the process is as important as the end result, especially while studying, so this is an excellent practice to maintain.”

The process is the most important part for me, and I love how an idea can change, alter and develop given time and space. During this assignment I have rarely embroidered for more than two hours per day, and I have had a break after the first hour, often a few hours before returning to the embroidery. When I begin to sew in the morning, I spend time looking at the developing artwork before stitching, and looking at the guide photo. I thoroughly look and see what I am producing. Without the seeing the quality of what I am producing would be diminished. Working more than a couple of hours per day would be unwise for the same reasons, because the level of focus upon the embroidery becomes too narrow and fixed.

The research was also important to me, and I have tried this exercise using three different styles, two of which have been a permitted collaboration which makes use of Laura Letinsky’s series Ill Form and Void Full. Although I have decided not to use them for this assignment, I will show them here at some point in the future. My research was thorough for this assignment and included exploring other photographers who work with hand stitching on photography, shamanism and the use of masks.

My ideas and research can be viewed here as well as here.

Throughout this assignment I have recorded how my ideas have been refined as well as reporting on my progress and the processes. When I view fellow students work, I love to see the process of how they make photography, from the initial idea to the end result, which is often reworked. I have also had the opportunity to receive feedback on my progress from fellow students at the OCA London Regional group.

I have to be honest and say that I am proud of how much effort I have put into this assignment, and amazed at what I am producing. I did not expect this when I began this assignment. My sole aim was to see if I could develop a new technique to carry forward into the undergraduate degree in photography, and I was willing for this assignment to be a failure. It has been entirely the opposite.

I’m Struggling With Anorexia, Paranoia And Suicidal Thoughts, But….

Fuck, life is hard at this moment in time. I’m experiencing intense paranoia, suicidal thoughts and severe relapse with anorexia.

Yesterday I struggled so much that I went back to bed, which is something that I never do. Today the paranoia and fear were so intense that I couldn’t stay in. I’m paranoid that my neighbours are going to attack me, so I packed my camera and went out. Thank god for photography, it’s saved me on many an occasion.

Suicidal thoughts are building up, which is linked to the paranoia. I was in a building today which had a viewing gallery on the tenth floor, which is open and has an easily climbable fence. I looked down, imagining jumping, which sent shock waves of fear along my legs. I didn’t do it, I can’t do it, but it’s a venue logged in my mind.

As for the anorexia, I had two weeks of eating a ciabatta with either peanut butter or marmite per day, and since then I’ve not eaten anything for eight days. I know that not eating anything at all makes it harder for the paranoia and suicidal thoughts to dissipate, which I don’t want, but I can’t eat. I’m obsessed with food but I can’t eat, can’t do it.

I feel completely fucked.

However, I am doing things to cope.

  • I’m still attending 12 step eating disorder recovery meetings
  • I’m being honest with people about the state of my mind
  • I’m attending therapy
  • Yesterday I went back to bed
  • Today I went out
  • I have been out with my camera
  • I’m making plans for future study
  • I’m visiting a friend next week
  • I’m planning things with the OCA London Regional Group
  • I’m continuing with my embroidered photography
  • I’ve kept my spiritual life up
  • I’m exploring ways to fund living costs so I can study BA hons photography
  • I developed some photos in Lightroom this evening, which are found below

I’m doing what I can right now, I’m doing my best, and this too shall pass.

London (3 of 6)

London (1 of 6)

London (4 of 6)

London (5 of 6)

London (2 of 6)

London (6 of 6)

Anorexia Relapse

Anorexia is such an insidious illness. I relapsed a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still in it.

The weight gain in my recovery simply got too much for me to bare. I’ve tried so hard, and I’ve stuck to my nutritionist plan. However, I’m on 4 psychiatric medications and these slow the metabolism down and their side effects include weight gain.

I’m restricting my food intake again, down to 1 ciabatta per day, and now I haven’t eaten anything since Wednesday afternoon. I know the risks of malnutrition and starvation but I have become assessed with target weights and becoming thin again. I don’t want to eat and no one can make me. Encouragement will only increase my sense of defiance.

qrf

I believe that I’m so sensible and intelligent in many ways, but not when it comes to my eating disorder. Initially I asked my mental health team for an eating disorders dietician, but now I don’t want to engage with one. If I had a dietician and they agreed for me to lose weight, they would only sanction a 2lb per week weight loss. I’ve lost 14lb in two weeks so there is no weigh I’m going to slow the weight loss down.

What a bizzare illness.

Assignment Five Update

This piece of embroidery has not been easy. Once I had pricked the photo I was overwhelmed with the amount of holes and the complexity. It’s necessary to make all of the holes before trying to work out where the hell to embroider and which threads to use. This photo has been demanding in terms of energy and focus.

The process is enjoyable though. I’m seeing the commitment as running parallel to the effort I have to put into recovery from my eating disorder.

My working title remains as “emotional States of my anorexia”, however the embroidery is about recovery, change and growth, and this needs to be reflected in the title.

Embroidering onto my self portraits has started to feel like an act of self love, whereas initially I felt neutral towards the process of pricking and sewing upon myself.

My tutor and I will be discussing my progress next week, and I look forward to her guidance, especially in relation to one of the remaining animals (I’m not happy with the snake) and with regards to mounting them. The electrical tape which I use to secure threads is bulky in the areas where I’ve taped several loose ends.

qrf

 

Some Consequences Of A Failed Suicide Attempt

A Photographic Documentary

Back in March I tried to end my life, although on this occasion I didn’t want to die. I have long term mental health problems, and one of my symptoms is suicidal ideation. When the thoughts became so bad that I was scared that I was going to act upon them, I asked for help. The support that I recieved was OK, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

This wasn’t the first time that I had tried to commit suicide, but it was the first time that I hadn’t wanted to die whilst the intensity of suicidal thoughts built up. I’ve been in a coma before, my next of kin has, on previous occasions, been told to prepare for my death, that I would not make it through the night. However, this attempt to end my life has had some serious physical and mental consequences. I’ve added some suicide helplines at the foot of this post.

IMG_20190614_090027The ambulance took me to the Whittington. I was stabilised in A and E and then transfered to the critical care unit. The doctors informed my friends not to expect me to make it through the night.

rhdrMy photo’s of my time in the Whittington are limited, and from when I was well enough to be sent from the critical care unit to a general ward.

fznorI had no intention of creating a photo documentary at this point. I took the photos because I loved the views of London.

IMG_20190513_124829My overdose left me with pneumonia on my lung, which turned into a septic abscess. This needed to be removed so I was transfered to the Heart hospital.

The surgery which I needed to undergo was complicated. The abscess released the poison into my blood stream and this lead to a cardiac arrest. My heart stopped for three minutes, again it was believed that I wouldn’t pull through. My cousin took this photograph when I had begun to awaken out of the sedation.

qrfI needed to have a central line as part of the operation. Central lines enable the delivery of IV fluids during and after an operation. The catheter goes into the superior vena cava.

qrfTo perform a thoracotomy an incision needs to be made from underneath the arm pit, around the side of the body and under the breast. The surgeon can then access the lung.

qrfThe chest drain was painful and uncomfortable, but a necessity to drain fluids from the chest. I also required five pints of blood to replace what I had lost.

hdrplI don’t have the large veins in the arm that most people do. It’s so difficult to put a cannula into me because they need to go into tiny superficial veins. They also dislodge very quickly with me, so I needed them replacing often. There were occasions which cannulisation required an anaesthetist to use an ultrasound to find a vein.

qrfThe quality of care was incredible and I found the whole staffing team to be amazing, supportive and empathetic.

hdrplPost-op it took me over a week to get on my feet. Physically I was very weak, but having the chest drains and a urine pot from catheterisation meant that movement was limited anyway. Once they were removed I was filled with relief to be able to move.

qrf

Other injuries that I have as a result of my overdose are pressure ulcers. I developed four of these whilst I was unconscious in the time between trying to take my life and the police being called. I developed the one above whilst under sedation. I’ll write more about these below as well as show a couple of photos of the ulcers.

qrfI lived in this chair, it was my refuge and the beginning of my recovery. But the chair was also a place of vulnerability. Ward round was a necessary daily occurrence, but I also felt trapped and cornered with up to seven people surrounding me.

qrfLooking at this photo now I feel some fondness towards the bed. I slept in it at all hours throughout the day and night. I was so exhausted that during visits from family and friends I would still go to bed and sleep. I could only lay on my left hand side and I was scared of falling out of bed. It was difficult to get into a comfortable position because I didn’t have the strength to pull myself with just my left arm. I could use my right arm at the time.

I still struggle with exhaustion today. I’m having to really listen to what my body needs. Listening to my body is one of the many silver linings from my experience.

qrfWith five pressure ulcers I’m unable to take a shower. A sit down strip wash was all that I could, and can manage.

fznorMoving from one hospital to another and being on four different wards meant that my family and I gave up on trying to put clothes and belongings into drawers and the wardrobe.

qrfI hate feeling trapped, it scares me and leaves me panicky. I was unable to leave the ward for around two weeks post surgery. It was impossible because I was so unwell. But as I got my strength back I was aloud to go out for 20 minutes at a time. This helped to reduce my anxiety.

hdrplOnce I left hospital I was so weak as to be incapable of doing anything other than basic functioning. I had a friend stay with me for the first week, and then I want and stayed with my cousin. I’m still recovering, but I’m most grateful for P and L for making life easier. L’s art and craft room became my home during my recuperation.

Asking for help/accepting help is not something that I do. I’m a hermit, I live alone and I do everything for myself. Being so unwell has meant that I’ve had to ask for help from P and from L. The thing is that my belief is that it’s not acceptable to impose myself upon others. However, I’ve found out that people want to help and that they are pleased that I have let them in. I have a lot to learn about human relationships.

hdrplThe right hand side of my body was so tender following surgery. In order to open my chest the surgeon had to cut through skin and muscle. Although it hasn’t hurt it has felt very uncomfortable. The only relief from the discomfort has been cuddling a pillow. It’s bliss when the discomfort goes away.

hdrplThe team at the Heart hospital wanted me to have plastic surgery to debrided the dead skin, and then a skin graft to replace it. I felt so traumatised that I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The trauma which I experienced was related to having surgery and then cardiac arrest. I’ve felt terrified of having another procedure.

rhdrThe same has been true about this ulcer on my heel. I couldn’t allow them to cut the skin away. The thought of it has brought me to tears. However, this week has been a turning point. I agreed that plastics could debrided the skin by using tweezers to turn the edges back, and then a scalpel to remove the dead skin. I’ve also had the dead skin removed from my arm this week in the same way. The healing process will last for many months, but it will be quicker now that the dead skin has been removed.

fznorI am grateful to be alive, but at the same time I’m frustrated at the amount of medical appointments I have. To assess and dress my injuries I see plastics at the Royal Free, podiatry at St Pancras, and three visits per week to my doctors surgery to have the dressings changed by a nurse.

qrfRecovery also means getting back into normal living. I have been able to finish the third embroidered photo for my final Foundations in Photography assignment. This is the start of the fourth photo. I use a black and white photo, taped onto a self portrait, in order to prick the holes into the self portrait. It’s a slow process, but it’s mindfulness and rest. I look forward to the embroidery. It’s such a rewarding process.

fznorI haven’t felt able to get out with my camera, I’ve been exhausted. But while I’ve been out I have been making potography with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I love how this guy is so loving towards the pigeons.

I had no intention of documenting my time in hospital, nor my recovery. However, a friend suggested that I document the progress of the wound on my arm, and I then figured I could piece together a photo documentary of my experiences.

Attempting to end my life was as an experience of intense suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to die on this occasion, and I’m very grateful to be alive. Many people attempt suicide and sadly, a lot of people succeed and die. Help is available and we do not need to be alone with our thoughts or experiences.

If you are feeling suicidal then know that it is OK to ask for help. You can speak with one of your trusted friends or your Gp, or call a suicide helpline.

Grassroots is a charity in the UK that has a focus on preventing suicide. They have a Men’s Suicide Prevention Campaign which encourages men to talk with their mates about mental health and suicide, “This campaign focuses on encouraging male friends to look out for each other. The aim is to foster open and direct conversations about any concerns, including thoughts of suicide and mental health issues.”

Suicide Charities and Telephone Lines.

UK

The Samaritans Call 116123

CALM 0800 58 58 58

The Listening Space (London)  020 3906 7676

Papyrus (young people) 0800 068 4141

USA

National suicide and crisis hotlines

India

AASRA 91 22 2754 6669

Australia

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

 

Mental Health – Health Update

rhdr

The photos in this post were taken on the day that I tried to end my life. These were all shot near the Barbican in London on an overcast and wet day. It had been a wonderful and enjoyable day. I had no intention of trying to commit suicide, I was just overwhelmed by the suicidal ideation which had been building up in intensity over the previous 10 days. Although it may be hard to get your head around, I wanted to live, I was happy and I had been seeking support to try and fight off this aspect of mental illness.

fznor

The consequences have been severe and challenging, and I’m putting together a documentary photo series to chart my experiences.

rhdr

My mental health has been unstable since leaving hospital. I’ve had intrusive thoughts about being shot and being followed. Sometimes the intrusive thoughts are visual and scary. I get images of my throat being cut and of people shooting me. This has increased my paranoia and I’ve sometimes been unable to move off of my sofa if a car pulls up outside. I believe that if I move then the people in the car will notice me and then attack me.

rhdr

For some reason I stopped meditating a while back, when I was really ill with my anorexia, but I have now returned to my practice. Twice daily meditation has helped reduce the paranoia, and my doctor has increased one of my meditations. Things are beginning to ease off now, such a relief.

hdrpl

My attempt to end my life resulted in physical complications. I developed pneumonia and a septic abscess on my lung. I required surgery to have it removed, along with part of my lung which had died. On the operating table I had a cardiac arrest.

rhdr

As my lung has started to heal I have been able to work at a better pace, and I’m no longer scared of people walking into my right hand side, the side of my body where my chest was opened.

fznor

My memory and ability to communicate is improving. There are occasions in which I get lost in a conversation, or cannot find the right words, but this is happening less than previously. qrf

Fatigue is still a problem. If I have a busy day then I need to have a nap, sometimes I need to have a complete day of rest the following day. I also find that my fatigue gets the better of me, which means that I’m going to bed around 9.30pm, but I’m sleeping for longer and sleeping through the night which is fab.

rhdr

The biggest challenge at the moment is that I have five pressure sores, some of which need dressing three times per week. On top of this I also have weekly podiatry appointments for the pressure sores on my feet, and fortnightly appointments for my arm. Worse still is that I’m scared of knives. The dead skin on the pressure sores on my feet needs to be debrided with a scalpel, and i cant cope with that. My fore arm is covered with a large pressure sore, and I have now come to terms with that being debrided using tweezers and scissors. The same can’t be done on my foot because the skin is different there.

rhdr

The great news is that I’ve got my mojo back now. You can probably tell because I’m following blogs and blogging myself. Such a relief. Most importantly though is that I’ve returned to my final assignment in Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts . The embroidery is going well and I’m more than pleased with my progress. The embroidery is slow progress but it is progress.

 

 

A Good Day For My Mental Health

It feels like my mental health has been quite challenging recently. The paranoid thoughts and feelings have been a struggle, although shifting from intense paranoia, which is terror and panic, down to self obsession, which is accompanied by anxiety, has been a blessing.

Today has been better still. A day of relative comfort, peace and some joy, with a bit of anxiety in the mix.

I followed my morning routine, which includes my embroidery (the butterfly is beggining to pull together), and then I went to St James Park.

IMG_20190602_142451.jpg

The amazing thing is that I have to wear these hideous hospital boots to protect the pressure sores on my feet, and the park was packed, and I was fine.

I took my Olympus OMD EM10 MK iii, with the Mzuiko 60mm f2.8 macro. I’ve come away with 3 photos that I like of a pochard, a red crested pochard, and my favourite was of the female red crested pochard. Very sublime and no red crest. I can’t post those as yet as my computers not up and running.

The wind was blowing petals and other bits of plants and trees, sorry I don’t know the name of these “other bits”. They kept getting stuck in my throat and causing me to cough. Here’s one of the little blighters.

ptr

It’s nice to have good days.

Wishing you all peace and joy.

Update On My Photography And Art – The Value Of Documentary Photography

Hi all.

My recovery from my overdose and consequent surgery is going well, which is good for my photography and art.

I’m so grateful that I have the energy and desire to continue with my final assignment. I’ve managed a few hours of embroidery over the past few days. By making use of the research I conducted, and adapting the input from others, I now have a very good technique for embroidering on top of photography. Result!

I have several pressure sores. Some of these were acquired whilst unconscious following my overdose, and one which I acquired in hospital whilst under sedation. A good friend suggested that I photograph the one on my arm, the one acquired in hospital, and create some documentary photography.

I liked the idea but felt it was not particularly practical. So instead I decided to photograph the consequences of a failed suicide attempt. During my stay at the Heart hospital (they saved my life) I was in a single room, which gave me the freedom to make Photography of my experience. The Heart hospital is where I had surgery to remove a septic abcess and part of my right lung, and where I had a cardiac arrest.

The critical care unit at the Whittington Hospital was the first ward that I was on. They somehow managed to bring me around from my overdose. It wasn’t expected. They informed friends and family that I wasn’t expected to pull through. However, I survived. I was in no fit state to take photos in the Whittington until just before I left, so I have very few photos from there.

During my recuperation with friends and my cousin I’ve taken some photos of my recovery. I shall evaluate and collate all of these and put together a documentary series.

Of note:- during my coursework I reviewed a documentary series called “Ray’s a Laugh” by Richard Billingham, (see here). I feel that documenting my failed suicide attempt is similar to the style of Billingham, and has opened my mind to the value of documenting the everyday. Many people try to commit suicide, and considerably more survive than die (over 15 successful suicide attempts per day in the UK). This is why I use the term “everyday”, I’m not dismissing the tragedy of suicide or attempted suicide. There is good work being done to prevent suicide and I hope more will be done in the future.

Documentary photography in the style of Billingham, and my own series, creates a space for reflection and discourse, and this can create connection and change.

Here are a couple of photos from my series. Not quite sure when I will get the time to put my series together as I have so many medical appointments.

qrf

qrf

Slowly Getting Better

I have really been through it recently, but I am on the mend.

Last Tuesday I had surgery on my lung, it was a success, but surgery had complications and I had a heart attack immediately after. I’m out of intensive care, and I’ve had one chest drain removed. Every day I ask for the other one to be removed, and their response is always “maybe tomorrow”.

qrf

Mental health relapse has been scary this time. I wasn’t depressed, in fact far from it. Life is good and I have so much potential, but the suicidal thoughts were overwhelming. I wasn’t found for three days and had aspirated vomit, and that settled in my right lung. The immediate priority was a stay in intensive care to bring me back from the overdose. This was followed by time on a general ward being treated with anti-biotics as preparation for surgery.

One change of hospital later (to a thoracic hospital) and it was surgery last week. My stay on intensive care was a further 6 days, and 5 days back on the ward.

qrf

I’ve complained about the NHS before, and with very good reason. However, this time I have nothing but praise for the excellent quality of care in both hospitals. Excellent doesn’t sum it up well enough.

I’m grateful to be alive. Very much so, and for that I’m very grateful to people whose names it would be inappropriate to mention. Thankyou all whoever you are.

fznor

I have a hospital acquired skin infection now, which is quite serious. There is a plan in place to deal with it, which will mean being transfered to another hospital. I don’t want to go. I’m tired of hospital, I don’t want a skin graft. Treat the infection – yes. Take away the dead skin – yes. Plastic surgery – no. The wound can be treated with an anti-bacterial/anti-microbial dressing. I don’t care about having a scar.

Any how, life is surprisingly OK in hospital, but I do look forward to getting home.

qrf

I’ve added this into the digital sketchbook side of my blog. I can see that this mini series has potential to be built upon.

Intuitive Eating – My Anorexia Recovery

Things are going very well for me, and on the whole my eating is now intuitive. I am able to select foods that I want to eat. Sometimes I have the foods that I want to eat, and other times I eat something that I fancy. I may eat out or I may cook at home, depending upon my other plans.

Here’s a salt and chilli beef which I cooked at home.

hdrpl

Many places in London have Street vendors who sell a variety of foods. I’ve seen bubble waffles for a while, but I haven’t dared to have one until Saturday.

IMG_20190303_093533.jpg

It was delicious. Hot Nutella on the waffle, with chopped snickers, strawberry, cream, and more Nutella drizzled over the top.

I had this at snack time, but because the calories were so high I considered it to be lunch and had a snack at lunch time. My nutritionist was impressed that I was able to do so.