The Listening Place

Face-to-face support for those who no longer feel life is worth living

The Listening Place is a London based charity who provide face to face support for those who feel life is no longer worth living. I do not believe that I would be alive if it hadn’t been for the support of The Listening Place.

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My initial contact was a self referral over the telephone, followed by a face to face assessment at Meade Mews. It felt more like an informal chat about my current difficulties.

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The next step was recieving a phone call to confirm that I was being offered support, and a date for the first session. Sessions are once a fortnight, same day, same time and with the same volunteer. After six sessions there is a review to see whether support is still required.

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It’s OK to arrive early and sit in the small but beautiful gardens, and I’ve needed time after a session to sit in the peace and collect my thoughts before getting on with the rest of the day.

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Thankyou to you all at The Listening Place.

The Listening Place 0203 906 7676

referrals@listeningplace.org.uk

listeningplace.org.uk

Coping With A Mental Health Crisis

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My mental health has taken a nose dive recently. I’m coming out of it now, but it’s been unbearable. If it wasn’t for the support of The Listening Place then I would have ended my life, I had plans to.

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This relapse has built up slowly over a few months, and it began with an increase in anxiety and paranoid thinking. Whenever I heard sounds or talking from nearby buildings I believed that the people in those homes were talking about me, and planning to kill me.

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It’s been so intense that I have been too afraid to stay in my home during the day, and I would go to bed and wake up full of anxiety. When I wasn’t experiencing paranoid thoughts I was thinking of how I could kill myself.

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I’ve been so exhausted by the anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, and this rose to a crescendo at the beggining of last week. I’m grateful that my friends, The Listening Place and the mental health crisis team have been there to support me.

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One of the most positive aspects is that I have been able to nurture myself. Not perhaps in the traditional sense, but it’s worked. I accepted that I could not stay in during the day, so I took myself out. I’ve been to so many places, Wood Green, Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Tottenham Hale, Walthamstow Wetlands, Stave Hill Eco Park, London Wetlands, Clapham, Hammersmith, Trafalgar Square. I also visited my cousin, and I’m going to stay with a friend shortly. My favourite trip was to Heathrow Airport. There’s an area of grassland near the south runway which is used by many to watch the aircraft come and go. I feel guilty for liking aircraft when I know how much damage they do to the environment, but I do like them, and the day relaxed me. I’ve also been meeting my daily calorific need and I’ve cut out caffeine.

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It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself, to be honest about how much I was struggling, and to seek support, but I’ve done it. I’ve also found that if I feel unsafe at home then I put wax earplugs in. They block the surrounding noise and that helps a lot. I’ve felt such an urgent need to leave home that I’ve barely done any washing, and no housework at all.

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But things are easing now. I’m still experiencing some paranoia, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but the intensity has lessened. Life has been so painful, but I’ve created peace and calmness by going out to these places. Photography has been my bearer of peace. Thank goddess that it provides me with such an escape. I’m feeling very grateful, and you know what – I’m proud of how much effort I have put in to survive.

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The Listening Place is a London based charity which provides face to face support for people who feel that life is no longer worth living.

Reflections Upon Improving Suicidal Ideation, Anorexia And Paranoia

The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me, with intense paranoia, suicidality and relapse with my eating disorder. It’s been a very painful time to be honest, and I’ve needed to delve into the pain in order to survive.

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Diving into the pain means to stop resisting it, to lean into it and to allow it to be, just as it is. It’s had me curled up on my bed in tears and too scared to move, and it’s taken me into leaving my home upon awakening and returning in the evening because I’ve been to scared to be at home. Paranoia is a fucker, I hate it, it’s been overwhelming, but it’s eased somewhat.

The shift happened last Thursday when it hit me that despite feeling unsafe, I’ve actually been safe. I’ve used the rationalisation for a while, but it finally dropped into place.

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Going to Brighton last Sunday and Monday was a decision to go out because I wanted to, not because I felt that I had to. I have spent most of the last week out as well, as an act of protecting my mental health. There’s a workman decorating the communal space and having him around triggers my experience of paranoia, so I’ve been out every day, and I will be for the next week too. Sometimes it’s knowing which fight to battle and which to accept. The good news is that I’ve stayed at home this weekend. I’ve felt anxious, I’ve experienced paranoid thinking, but it’s been at a level that I can cope with.

The fear has reduced significantly, and I believe this has had a positive impact upon my eating disorder. I’ve increased my food intake to around 3/4 of my bodies daily requirement. My body is larger than I want it to be, heavier than what I feel comfortable with, but I’m eating more and I feel better for it.

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Life is still a challenge, I don’t find living easy, but this week has been more enjoyable. Getting out with my camera on my trip to Brighton was very enjoyable, and shooting whilst being down on my knees has been a learning experience and I’m going to post about that over the next couple of days.

A friend sent me a link to an artists call for submission for a health related exhibition. Submitting was such an invigorating thing to do. I felt alive with enthusiasm and passion. I haven’t had the motivation to continue with embroidering on photography as yet, but it will return. I’m sleeping for longer and up later in the day, my most creative time, but the motivation will return.

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Further Consequences Of A Failed Suicide Attempt

My original post about my suicide attempt expressed how the consequences had affected my life. It can be viewed here.

However, I have on-going consequences that are not going to clear up in the short term, and could still have life altering consequences.

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On one side of the equation, the pressure ulcer is beggining to granulate and heal. Fab. However, I recently had an MRI scan, and the calcaneus (heel bone) has an infection.

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I now walk on a crutch to ease the pressure on my foot, and I’m taking two types of anti-biotics.

There is a possibility that the infection will not be cleared with the anti-biotics and I may then need a partial calcanectomy. A partial calcanectomy is a partial amputation which removes some of the heel bone, along with the pressure ulcer. This procedure is preferred to a below the knee amputation which has more serious consequences. Fingers crossed that the anti-biotics do their job.

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I’m feeling vulnerable just now. I’m experiencing intense anxiety. My childhood experiences have left me with the need to be alert and able to escape if I need to, and now my ability to move quickly is limited. I often feel scared, particularly when I’m indoors. I’m struggling to stay at home and I feel safer in open spaces.

On a positive note, people are wonderful. Im on a train to Brighton and someone gave me their seat. This happens quite regularly, and people offer to help in so many ways. I feel grateful for those experiences, especially that I can now allow people to help. I’m fiercely independant and usually shun support. I can’t always do what I need to at the moment, and it’s a nice experience to be cared for in so many ways.

Anorexia Update 2

Relapse is an all consuming and powerful force. I feel like I’m a surfer on a giant wave, with no ability to either stop or slow down. At some point I will reach the beach and be thrown off of my board, but that’s such a long a way in the future.

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I’m currently eating one ciabatta or panini per day. I’ve been prescribed fortisip, but I cannot face the additional 300 calories that a bottle would give me. I know that may sound stupid, but I can’t do it. I’ve stood at the open fridge staring at the bottles, but I can’t do it.

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My weight loss has slowed down, which will be for two reasons, one) initial weight loss is mostly water, two) my metabolism will have already slowed down. I find this stage demoralising, I know the speed of weight loss will increase again and I’m holding out for that.

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Severe restriction of food intake creates a voracious interest and obsession with food. This isn’t just for people with anorexia, it happens to non eating disordered people who are forced to starve. (see the Minnesota starvation experiment). I fantasise about eating meat and I can’t help but compulsively buy carbohydrate rich foods, despite knowing that I won’t eat them.

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I’m horrified by how much weight I have put on in recovery. I want my bones back.

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There are times that I feel painfully out of control, and others where I feel so deeply in control of my restrictive behaviour, it’s an intensely enriching buzz. But I have a long way to go before I lose enough weight so as to be underweight again. Sometimes I want to recover, and I still attend 12 step recovery groups, but the desire to get thin is paramount.

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I’m not sure whether blogging about my relapse helps me or not, I’m undecided. But my blog is an honest account of my experiences, it’s one of the things that I do, and I enjoy doing. I certainly have enjoyed adding some recent photos into the text.

Maybe one day I will be as light as a bird again.

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Until then, be strong and prosper.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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