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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Firstly, I must say that although I’ve now completed Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, I have not finished the 5th Assignment. However, I had my final tutorial last week, and the assignment continues as part of a body of work on eating disorders. I intend to continue with “My Emotional States of Anorexia and Strengths in Recovery”, of which I am still embroidering on the photography. Once completed I will write an artists statement and an exhibition proposal.
Sounds big to me, and what’s amazing is that exhibiting my photographs is a possibility, a possibility which I would never have imagined when I started Foundations in Photography.
One year prior to enrolling on the course I was desperate, scared and unable to leave my home for more than a five minute trip to the chemist to pick up my medication. A good friend said that I needed to do something different to rebuild my mental health, and so I bought a camera. My camera gave me a life. With a camera in front of my face I was able to gradually build up the time I spent outside. On top of this I discovered the peace and mindfulness of photography.
I set myself small projects to try and develop technique and style. Photography became a passion, it set fire to my soul. That spark is the reason that I enrolled on Foundations in Photography.
Being on a low income meant that I was worried that I couldn’t afford to apply for the course, so I applied for the Open College of the Arts bursary. I put together a written statement which was accompanied by 10 photos, with explanations of why I had taken them. I recieved the full bursary, which is half of the course fee’s. Looking back on those photos I can see that they were pretty poor, but I had a good understanding of why I had made them.
Beggining Foundations in Photography was a daunting experience, but I found the course material to be clear. My approach was to follow it to the letter as I was afraid of getting it wrong. I had no idea of how to use my camera in manual mode, but I soon got used to it by following the guidance in the course handbook.
The first assignment was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise. It was the first serious attempt that I made on researching and planning a photo shoot. I managed to produce three or four strong photo’s.
Assignment One (2017)
However, I really came to life during the third section of the coursework, specifically exercises 3.3. I broke away from the brief, I tried a few different styles of photography, and developed my own interpretation of the exercise.
My best photo’s come from a place of authenticity and exploration of self. That’s not the only Photography that I do though. I’ve explored portrait, and I am improving in this area, and I love macro and events photography. Going out and making developers my photographic eye, and keeps my enthusiasm going. The OCA encourages that we continue shooting for our own enjoyment outside of study.
My favourite assignment was the fourth one, Responding to a Theme. I produced a hard hitting piece of work on the themes of self hatred and self love.
Self Hatred – Self Love (2018)
Although I’ve now completed the course, I am continuing with assignment Five, which is part of a body of work exploring which I’m producing about eating disorders. This is a mixed media art project in which I’m embroidering on photography. I wouldn’t have had the idea or confidence to attempt to learn an additional skill if I hadn’t studied Foundations in Photography.
One of the most important aspects of my development has come from the Foundations group email. It developed into an opportunity to critique each others work. It’s been such a helpful practice. It’s not easy to have my work critiqued and to analyse others photography, but it’s developed the way in which I view photo’s, and consequently, the planning and production of my own work.
The written aspects of the course have been enjoyable as well. I like to think and write, I find studying to be rewardingso I’ve put a lot of effort into it. My use of Photoshop and Lightroom were poor at the start of the course, I still have a long way to go in this regard, but I have developed some useful skills and techniques as well.
My tutor has been invaluable. Not only have I been given guidance and feedback on the assignments, I’ve also recieved ideas and information for further development, and suggestions on which photographers to research and review. This feedback has been tailored to the work that I am producing and my personal developmental needs. Thank you Jayne.
The student support services have been on hand as well. I became ill during the course, and needed to seek an extension. They took my difficulties into account and they checked up on my health and well being every few weeks. The level of care and compassion was wonderful. Thank you Lia.
My goal now is to complete my current project about anorexia and then sign up for the BA in Photography, and I’m going to study again with the Open College of the Arts. Open learning suits me very well and the OCA coursework and support has been top notch. Studying this way suits my life style and keeps the pressure off of me. I’m feeling very grateful this morning. Thank you OCA
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I’m taking an unplanned study break. I move to London at the end of next week, which is incredibly exciting. I’m also finding the pressure of moving to be exhausting. I’m learning to listen to my body, and just now I’m needing to rest.
I am experiencing moments of anxiety, not a huge amount, and I think the exhaustion and need for additional sleep, is the way my body and mind need to do things in order for me to cope. The anxiety had triggered my neuro-muscular condition quite severely, which will also have an impact upon the tiredness. I’m going with what my body needs at the moment, and that feels so healthy.
I’m still waiting for my self portraits to arrive. My next steps will be to review Cindy Sherman’s use of masks, and then to begin embroidering over my portraits. But that’s for once I’ve moved.
Looking after myself is not a natural experience, but it’s happening. It’s a change that I put down to working the 12 step programme. It’s a relief to pace myself, focus on one thing at a time, and rest. Rest includes play, which right now is about watching comedy and the occasional movie.
I’m on track with my eating, and working closely with my nutritionist. I can’t believe that I’m coping with change without restricting my diet or bingeing and purging. I feel very grateful.
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.