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.

 

 

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.

My Anorexia Recovery And Self Care

My recovery has developed very quickly since August. Initially I was on a weight gain regime, then onto maintenance, and now I’m learning some flexibility.

My nutritionist agreed that I could try a new food this week. We didn’t specify what that should be, but that I could choose it on the day.

rhdr

Yesterday I ate at East Street in Rathborne Place, just off of Oxford Street in London. East Street has a menu of many Asian foods. I chose a hot and spicy Thai chicken dish with Jasmine rice. Now that’s the kind of food I want to eat more off. It was delicious. The service was quick, friendly and accommodating (I changed tables because I felt a draft where I initially sat), the food was tasty, and the restaurant was stylish.

I needed some new clothes, and purchased a fab pink jumper and matching pink shirt, pink really suits me, but my real self-care was buying a bath bomb and soap from Lush.

fznor

This was a reward for me having the courage to follow my heart and move to London. The photo of the bath bomb isn’t good, but the bath was. I smell like a fizzy lemon. Truly lush.

It was cold and wet in London yesterday. Not my favourite conditions to be outside in, but there’s always a photographic opportunity if we seek it out.

ozedf

 

The Pain Of Making Self Portraits

Firstly – I know have a working title for my assignment… “The Emotional States Of Anorexia”. The emotions that I’m photographing all relate to different emotions that I have experienced that relate to my anorexia.

Defiance (fuck you! I won’t eat and you can’t make me)

Pride (Yes – another target weight hit)

Rage (I fucking hate my self)

Joy (I can wear those new skinny jeans now I’ve hit that weight)

Fear (I’m so fucking scared of eating, l will have to kill myself if I do)

Grief (I hurt so much I can’t cope anymore)

Now I know that you know that I hate my photo being taken. I hate seeing photos of myself. It’s taken me sometime to build up the willingness to photograph myself. Tomorrow and Thursday I have the pain of seeing my face when I develop them. Fuck sake. Why am I doing this. I could have used someone else as the model.

Thing is I can’t. I know that these emotions are extreme and trying to work with a model and talking them into these states is gonna be challenging and time-consuming. I know these emotions and the thoughts that go with them. They’ve been a second skin that I’ve lived in. Consequently it’s taken me an hour to make these photos.

I’ve not liked doing it at all, but, I’ve got the photos that I need. I’ve captured the emotions. Am I putting them up on here? Not bloody likely. Once I’ve embroidered over them then I will publish them, but they, of themselves, are not the final piece of work. They are just part of a still life audio, visual installation that will be juxtaposed with the Laura Letinsky photography.

If I put my displeasure about the photos of myself to the side, I feel excited. This is coming together. My creative vision is clear, I can see the outcome.

Will I exhibit the six pieces I am creating? Damn right if I can get the right curator and the right space. It’s weird how I can feel so confident of that when I can’t stand seeing my photo. Perhaps it’s because my portrait is just a part of a larger piece of work, that my face will be sewn over? Perhaps it’s just a dichotomy of the human experience.

Anorexia And Moving Towards Intuitive Eating

If you have an eating disorder, the chances are that you’ve shut out your body’s desires for so long that you don’t know how to recognise cues for hunger or fullness.

I am having to practice mindfulness whilst I eat to try to relearn awareness of these cues. There is improvement, and I now sometimes feel hungry or full.

qrf

My nutritionist is helping me with this process, and I know have a new goal. I still have a meal plan, but rather than having a set menu of meals and snacks every day of the week, I can now choose what I want from that plan at each meal.

hdrpl

My fridge freezer and cupboards are now full, it feels so grown up. Some days it’s easy for me to choose, and at others I can only stick with what I would have previously had for that meal, on that day. Progress not perfection.

Chicken with walnuts, fried with peppers and soy sauce is still one of my favourites.

hdrpl

I’m pleased with the progress I’m making

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