Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Deathly Hallows



I am no Harry Potter fan.
Truly, I am the furthest thing from it.
What I do know is that Rowling herself suffered with depression, and the "Dementors" who represent a Dark creature who feeds off human happiness, thus causing depression and despair, were the inspiration (if this is the appropriate word!) for her characters.

It isn't unknown that often creative genius and madness run along the same line.
"Touched With Fire" is a stunning and beautifully articulated book on manic-depression and the artistic temperament.
It is no wonder that someone such as Rowling herself has attained such success in her novels.

I know that this blog has a focus primarily on eating disorder recovery, education, and awareness.
It is also a place to which I have shared my story with such recovery from the illness.
What I perhaps have neglected to discuss are my struggles with other mental health issues.

I have shared a great deal of myself on this blog.
I have allowed the ups and downs to pass through my words on the pages.
I have edited certain posts according to what I feel is reasonable to share here.
I think I need to remain mindful of allowing this blog to be my free space to create, explore, let go.
I also need to understand and remind myself of the direction in which I want my life to take, and to continue to use my creativity in a way that enhances my healing, rather then hindering.

Since last year, writing has most definitely saved my life.
I don't say that in a light way or with exaggeration.
If  I had not written,  I don't believe the quality of life I currently live, would exist.
However, writing can be destructive too.

In her book "Writing As Healing,"  DeSalvo guides the reader through written exercises that help heal the writer and sufferer.
She also offers essential and important advice on where writing can be detrimental.

I used that book like a bible through the Autumn, and although not all of that writing is contained within these pages, it does exist.

As always, I am digressing....

My first experiences of depression, or mood disorders, was possibly as a teenager.
At 14, I struggled.
I had a close group of friends at school, but as they grew through adolescence, as did the choices they made on how the lived their lives.
Many, at even the tender age of 13, were taking drugs on a regular basis, having sex, participating in drinking binges and such forth.
I wasn't that girl.
I did the usual... drank too much on occasion, saw my friends, went to house parties, experimented in relationships...
But something was lacking within me.
That lacking, was a loss.
It was a disconnection from those around me.
And as a result, I struggled.

To this day, I don't know how much this was a 'childhood depression' as some have suggested, or it was merely a period in my life of great change that many experience.
I had also given up a career in gymnastics, and I was on my way to becoming an incredibly talented tennis player.

By the time I turned 16, I had left all of that behind, and I was far more concerned with friends, boys and clubbing.
I was very happy through those years and have very fond memories.
My best friends were my world, and I had some amazing times.

Depression wouldn't find me again until 2002.
I developed Anorexia at 19.
By the end of that year I was in treatment.
I wasn't particularly depressed at that point. I had my illness, I had little, if any insight into it, and those around me, and myself, knew very little about it and how to manage and treat it.

Soon before my 21st birthday, I started to recognise patterns in my mood.
I have always oscillated between very high highs, and terrible lows.
I didn't see the highs, because as a child I was incredibly enthusiastic, elevated, energetic and some what demanding, to say the least.
But did I notice the lows.

In April of 2002, I started to see just how dire the lows were.
They came in patches, and then passed.
And I would curl up in bed, refusing to leave my room, let alone the house.
And then, usually because of my Anorexia and it 'forcing' me out, out of 'laziness' or restlessness, I would pick up and get on...
I also suffered terribly all the time I was Anorexic with insomnia, which only worsened the mood struggles.

Medication?
Well, the Prozac seemed, and I say 'seemed' because who knows, to make me angry.
It reduced my already non-existent appetite, and I started to self-harm not long after.
The self-harm came a few years into the Anorexia, as did the purging, as a way of "ridding" myself of the pain of eating, or being put in situations (such as family meals) to eat.

It worked, for a time.
It took me even further out of myself.

I worked, I studied, I tried to live...
Medication, was used, stopped, forgotten, then used again...

But all through it, I was deteriorating.
My weight was hitting all time lows and like a smack in the face...
'BAMMMMM!'
By July of 2002, I was damn near comatosed in bed.
My depression had become catatonic and I saw no end.

Those 3 months were the worst months of my ENTIRE life.
I barely ate. Weighed myself every hour. Cut or burnt myself every 15 minutes.
Without too much information...it was hell on earth.

I didn't shower or leave my bed, or room.
I occasionally ventured out from blades and laxatives...
And on the odd request, I yanked up my miles too big jeans over my pajama's and threw on some trainers (yes, exactly!) and went to see my therapist or psychiatrist.
I looked like hell, felt like hell, and all I wanted was to die.

To the point, that even my own, amazing mother, understood my desire to die.
And, appreciated why I would want to die.
I used to beg her to put me to sleep.

How dire that time was, is in most respect, inarticulate.
How do you find words for such an experience?

What I will say, is that after a lot of therapy, a lot of medication shifts, and along with that weight restoration and maintenance, as well as developing a healthy attitude to food and my body, and stopping self-harming, I am no longer depressed.

That is not to say I don't have my moments.
My mood, for the most part, is incredibly consistent and stable.
I have suffered terribly with mania and depression and I think a combination of the right medication, healthy living, and an acceptance that I have to live my life in a way that reduces, on a daily basis, my vulnerabilities to such shifts, I remain well.

I don't know why I became so depressed, or why I damn near starved myself to death, or why I hurt myself, or tried to kill myself.
I know that events, triggers and circumstances can explain some of it.

A tripartite of issues can cause eating disorders...
These include a complex interweave of biological, psychological and social factors.
I think it was Criminal Minds that said something about the biology being the gun (predisposition, tolerance, genes, serotonin receptors, hereditary, obsessiveness and perfectionism), psychology being the bullets in the gun (personality, behaviour, emotion, motivation, low self esteem), and society being the pulling of the trigger (literally the "trigger") and these social triggers being vast - invalidating environments, troubled family life, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, bullying, cultural norms, societal pressures to be "thin," definitions of beauty.

So what came first, the depression or the Anorexia?
I think it is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg?
Was I depressed, and that lead to my eating disorder?
Or did the lack of nutrients, the starvation, isolation, lead to depression?

For me, I think it is the latter.
I strongly believe, that although I had issues as a child, and perhaps struggled during those years with not fitting in, I don't think it was clinical depression.
I believe I developed the Anorexia having endured an abusive relationship (emotional, psychical and sexual) and that as the time passed, and I deteriorated physically, I became more and more depressed.

Ever since I have restored my weight and eaten healthy meals, and cared for myself I have NEVER experienced depression like I did that summer of 2002.
BUT, this is now 9 years later.

I am STILL on medication.
It is far less than usual; I take Seroquel, Diazepam, Lamotrigine, and Duloxetine.
Do the medications work?
Hell, yes.
I live with perhaps a mixture of diagnoses, including possibly Bipolar.
And I know many are opposed to medication, but for me, I say take it.
If all else is only doing something; then medication can not only ameliorate life, but ease issues such as obsessive compulsive behaviours, and even, perfectionism.
I no longer use ANY behaviours - self-harm, Anorexia, over-dosing, isolation, drinking...

I do the basics; I sleep enough, eat enough, take my medication, rest enough, work enough, play enough...

Enough.
And as boring as enough is.
As boring as middle of the road; not too high or too manic, or too busy, or too hectic, is.
It is good enough.
It is balance.

And in that, I find joy, love, compassion, drive, motivation, hope, healing and I, on a daily basis, experience the ever so precious and wonderfully beautiful nature, of life.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Can Someone Please Take The Visa Card Away!!!!

Away from the stress and frustration, to the more delightful topic of clothes!!
I NEED this skirt; the printed paperbag waist skirt from Topshop...

Printed Papaerbag Waist Skirt

And tonight, I bought myself ANOTHER pair of jeans.
These gorgeous Jack Wills skinny purple jeans.

Warning: This Picture Can Damage Your Health


I am really pissed off.
I don't often get angry or swear on my blog but tonight I am really pissed off.
I am not going to name said show, although I know most reading this, will know the show, because I feel like I am promoting the one thing, I am trying to argue against tonight.

B-eat published a report, in February of 2011, during Eating Disorder Awareness Week, on the damaging nature of eating disordered pictures being used in the media.
Basically, half-naked, emaciated women/men being used to show "just how sick they were."

I know of a person who was rejected, yes, her story was rejected from being published because she refused to send an image of her half-naked and emaciated.
She had actually given an awful image to the media of when she was sick.
Said image was used in a modelling campaign, which in itself is just infuriating, but that battle isn't for tonight.

The programme in reference, is educational. I think a lot of people know very little about nutrition and diet and shows such as this do help people to understand their bodies and how to care effectively for them.

BUT, and of course there is a but...
The show also tends to follow a group of people with eating disorders.
Men and women.
The other day they showed images of a young male, when he was emaciated (he was on the show anyway) and I felt angry at that.
I let it go because... I don't know. The guy on the show was so fucking sick, that I just felt for him and actually was left in tears because I not only understand his battle, but also his mothers (as my girlfriend is a recovering Anorexic)
So, he was on the show, and I don't feel he was exploited.
I feel he had a story to tell, and it was about his recovery attempts.

Tonight, said show, was doing its usual thing...
And then it brought in Dr Fox, psychiatrist, and Ursula the dietician (she treated me at The Retreat!)
Yes, all of this I went along with, and I felt the accounts from the sufferers were very well expressed.
So yes, all of this seemed to be doing what we are always trying to do, educate.
But educate those with little if any knowledge.

And then of course, the three women had to do the compulsory, "here I am emaciated!"
All three had to show these images.
My question is; were they only allowed to share their story if they showed these pictures?
How many are rejected -because like me - they would refuse to use emaciated images?
And, how, can after the B-eat report 2011, the media STILL do this.

Does B-eat not deserve recognition for the work it carries out?
The money it spends on education and awareness?

Pissed.
Off.

LOVE Fashion



Okay, so I was cruising THE OUTNET which has been going since 2009, and is a sister company to Net-a Porter and offers design fashions at a lesser price.

It also is the perfect place to discover new fashion talent, and a look at designers that are not so familiar to some.

The above dress is a Peter Pilotto creation, and far from being affordable, I cannot help but love some of their designs.
They won best emerging talent award at the British Fashion Awards in 2009.
And the Pilotto woman; "“She is beyond pure classification of age or style, just like the clothes themselves.”


And, a totally OMG moment is these Louboutin's from the Spring/Summer 2011 collection.
How perfect would they be with the dress!
Can I please stamp my size 6 Louboutin un-clad feet!
Let me delightfully introduce...
The daffodile-glitter platform pump...




And because I can...
The Balota Louboutin...
**nom**

Monday, 28 March 2011

Don't Ever Feel Less Than Perfect...



Made a wrong turn, once or twice. 
Dug my way out, blood and fire. 
Bad decisions, that's alright. 
Welcome to my silly life. 
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood. 
Miss 'No way, it's all good', it didn't slow me down. 
Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated. 
Look i'm still around. 





Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel. 
Like you're less than fuckin' perfect. 
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel, like you're nothing. 
You're fuckin' perfect to me! 





You're so mean, when you talk, about yourself you were wrong. 
Change the voices, in your head, make them like you instead. 
So complicated, look happy, you'll make it! 
Filled with so much hatred, such a tired game. 
It's enough! I've done all I can think of. 
Chased down all my demons, i've seen you do the same...








Marc Jacobs...

Marc Jacobs - Robert Waylon oversized leather bag...
I think I might be able to kill for this!!!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

"And The Day Came, When The Risk To Remain Tight In A Bud...

...Was More Painful Than The Risk It Took To Blossom..."
-Anaïs Nin-




Today, again, was beautiful.
The weather here has been so stunning, and warm, and for March, that is so amazing.
I adore the spring anyway, and with the temperature being even warmer, it has felt a little like summer over again.

I have really fond memories of the summer in Surrey.
I lived with the girl through 2009 and I was here for periods of time last year.
And all the memories are content, and healing.
And spending time with Natalie has been awesome too.
I love that girl.

Happiness is most certainly finding its way back into my life.
I don't particularly feel that I ever "lose" happiness, I just sometimes think that it gets hidden behind all of the obstacles life can throw our way.
So much occurred last year, and it wasn't so much that I lost my way, it was more I lost touch with the world I was walking my way through.

I kept going, believing things would become better, and yet felt completely unable to facilitate change for myself.
I don't like that I often have to hit rock bottom for things to change, I like to think I can and have, learnt to know when things become jaded again.
And yet, perhaps my nature is such...
That I am incredibly black and white, and although I fight to see the shades of grey, I can only change myself so much.

Bottom was a different place last year and one I don't believe particularly needs discussing on these pages.
What I will say, is that I have found life.
And joy.
A a literal spring in my step.

I am happy.
And right now, I wouldn't change a thing.

---

The pictures are from today's 'shoot.'
The girl is working on some others.

And, here is a shot of the beautiful ring I bought from H&M yesterday!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

She Lives The Poetry, She Cannot Write...

"A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, 
joy accompanied me as I walked."
-Anais Nin-








Friday, 25 March 2011

Summer Daze


Today was warm.
The sun came out and it was remarkably beautiful outside.
There is something in the days which are longer and brighter.
It does something...
It is like a hug, a warm embrace from someone who loves you.
It is love and light.
And joy and life.
Happiness and freedom.
It is all I have known outside of my illness.

It is a breath a fresh air.
Bringing me back to life.
To a memory of life lived.
To what lies ahead, and what world is available to us all.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

London!!

I am in London!! Which means I am with the girl.
And it also means I get to see her niece tomorrow too!
Which generally means make-up, outfits, and pictures.
The blossom is out in all the trees and it looks so beautiful.
So I am hoping we get some cute pictures in the gorgeous weather we are having.

I found this picture:


It is from Christmas (and can I note I have also gained weight since this! After ill health last year)
The tights are Holland, the shoes faux Chanel from New Look, the skirt was ten pounds from H&M!
Bargain.
Top is Topshop, and the little jacket is H&M too.
And the best news is H&M now have this jacket back in, and re-styled with a bow at the front which I will be buying for the girl as it looks so amazing on her with her maxi dresses.

So, yes, more shopping.

Even better news! It has been like 18degrees C here in the UK.
Which is wonderful for us peeps over here. especially as it is March!!!
Which also meant Starbucks Fraps!!

---

In other news...
There is not really any news!!

Happy girl today :)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Thursday-24/03/11-Thankful Thursday-Rachel-Self-Help and Group Support

LOVE



So, you may have seen the cutesy diet coke cans!
And being a total nightmare when it comes to anything like this, and being the type of person who just buys it because it is...
Like, I bought a packet of peanut M&M's, which I never buy, just because the M&M's were dressed as bunnies on the front!! And then almost cried when I opened the packet because I ruined the totally cute packet!
So, all in all, I am a marketers dream!
I will buy anything!
Above is said can :)

Then I raided H&M!!!
I restrained myself, I really did! Although they didn't have my jumpsuit in my size, so the girl got me one from her store in London.
And in return I bought these cute cute white flairs....which are ten squid cheaper on line!!!!!!! Annoyance!!



Given, I am trying to not spend so much on clothes, I did manage to pick up the cutest rings from there.
A one which is a rabbit, and one that has a large oval with a bird in the middle.
Gorgeous.
And to make the rings seem loved, I let the diet coke can kiss them ;)




And how beautiful and absolutely stunning does Ms Gisele look in my jumpsuit :)


She looks so stunning in H&M's 2011 campaign and I am totally in love with her bohemian beauty!

---

In other news, I met with my best friend today for shopping and lunch.
She is also recovered from Anorexia and she struggled with Bulimia too.
I saw her at her very worst, and she is a totally different girl.
She is literally twice the weight she was at her sickest and I adore her so much.
She is the best friend I could ask for, and we always have so much fun.
She is also the person I always escape to France with, as we have this ability to spend so much time together and still never argue!
So we had lunch out, a lovely glass of chilled Sauvignon, and sat in the warm sun!

Now I have a headache from hell, and The Model Agency to watch!
Adieu xxxxx

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I Am Lily, Hear Me Roar!


I have been watching Lily and Sarah's venture into fashion over the past couple of weeks and I have loved every second of it.
I have always adored her, and appreciated the fact that she has shown no fear in using her voice.
And you know me, and the whole topic of "finding a voice."
And for that I have very much respected her.

The show "From Riches to Rags" is a really raw and open account of her relationship with herself, her sister and the world that confronts her and attacks her on a daily basis.
And yes, it is only a show, I hear you cry, but maybe just maybe, we need to applaud someone for allowing such a frank account of their lives to be shown.

I love Lily because most of what comes out of her mouth, is the kind of thing I would say.
She perhaps articulates the things I struggle to find words for.
Words I struggle to say, because like her, I may cry.
And there is the respect. The fact that she can talk so openly about the struggles she has had in relationships, or with an eating disorder (because yes, although awkwardly said, she clearly did have some form of an eating disorder if at in a point in her life she was purging due to unhappiness).
I respect the fact that she isn't ashamed to say; I don't understand this.
Why should she have to know everything?

And so maybe I am blogging in an attempt to defend her.
Instead I am blogging out of respect for her.

On that, I must say that a comment on my Facebook read along the lines of,  "I am fighteningly like Lily! She is me. But with more personality, more money and more Chanel handbags!"
Whoop! I own one! And that wasn't even bought by me, but given to me by my beautiful girlfriend!

On the note of fashion...
Pretty please can I have Sarah's wardrobe!
I love every item of clothing she wears!

Twenty8Twelve and then some...

Cameron Diaz:

Okay, so I never seem to ramble here about fashion, and given I currently have re-aquainted myself with what is a long standing shopping addiction, I thought I would share with you some of my most recent purchases!!!

I bought these jeans the other week!!
I had been hunting a bare of low rise skinny jeans in a gorgeous pastel colour and then these came along.
I will note that the sizes are SMALL as all hell, but given I couldn't care less about that, I have happily purchased myself these beautiful ones.
They are to.die.for and they make me very happy!!

My wonderful girlfriend also purchased this gorgeous tutu for me.


So that is awaiting me for when I get to London on Thursday.

And I couldn't resist this tee from Topshop! It is my most favourite catchphrase of present and I wear it with a really cute Topshop graffiti skirt i bought a couple of years ago!



I have also gone mad for HOUSE OF HOLLAND tights!!
And have these in BLUE!!


My next purchase is this super cute jumpsuit from H&M


Crisis of Confidence...


This happens, often, not always.

I burst into tears for no reason.
The tears that fell yesterday, still clearly need hearing.
They need words.
They need words when I don't have them, and so they fall.
At first soft and gently, later, hard and fast.

In my head I hear a scream; over and over..
'Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.'

I sometimes glance over my shoulder because I am not too sure where it is coming from.
Last time I checked I thought I was good enough.
I felt good enough too.

And these are the remnants.
The pieces I have picked up, rebuilt, made steady, crumble away as the place I have built, the home I have made for myself, is fiercely attacked.
It is like war.
Civil war because it is all within.
It isn't between.
It is within my own four walls.

I sob and I don't even know what doesn't feel good enough.
I just know that what ever I am in that moment, isn't sufficient.

I fall into the familiar self-flagellation...
"I have nothing, I am nothing, I achieve nothing, I, I, I ...."
I tired myself out.
My make-up smears across my face.

I then remember there is a familiar face in the room.
A smile.
A scent.
A warm embrace.

My mother is my rock.
She is the place I turn when everything else falls to shit.
She has picked me up more times than I could ever possibly try to count.
She has never given up on me, always believed on me.

In my recovery, and recovered life, I have worked exceedingly hard at achieving what i would describe quite simply, self-acceptance.
I am happy in how I look (mostly).
I am happy in this skin, this body....this mind, this place.
I am happy with my life.
With the amazing people in it, the direction it is going in.
I am (mostly) happy and secure.

And then I get my arse kicked and I literally fall off my happy horse, right into the shit and rubble.

In those moments I cannot feel proud of myself for anything.
I cannot feel like I achieved anything.
I don't feel I am anything.
I feel worthless.
And that feeling is so overwhelming at times that I can feel despairing.
But despair at the fact, the beautiful young woman, I can often feel like, feels like the polar opposite.
And I struggle to know how the two co-exist.
In me.
In this head.

One is far weaker.
The down trodden scarred and restless self, is nothing in comparison to the strong, confident, fearless young woman who often greets me in the mirror each morning.
But that weakness is still there.
And it exists.
And in existing, for only a few mere seconds, can make me cry for hours.

I pick up.
I re-assess.
I need gentle reassurance and reminding that I am in fact okay.
That I am something.
That I have achieved things.
That the fact I am well, and was told I never would be, is a good enough achievement in itself.

Daily Wisdom - LIFE

“What if she doesn’t worry about her body and eats enough for all the growing she has to do? She might rip her stockings and slam-dance on a forged ID to the Pogues, and walk home bare foot, holding her shoes alone at dawn; she might baby-sit at a battered womens’s shelter once a month, she might skateboard down Lompard Street with its seven hairpin turns, or fall in love with her best friend and do something about it, or lose herself for hours gazing into test tubes with her hair a mess, or clime a promontory with the girls and get drunk at the top, or sit down when the Pledge of Alliance says stand, or hop a freight train, or take lovers without telling her last name, or run away to sea. She might revel in all the freedoms that seem so trivial to those who could take them for granted; she might dream seriously the dreams that seem so obvious to those who grew up with them really available. Who knows what she would do? Who knows what it would feel like?”

-Naomi Wolf, “The Beauty Myth”-

Monday, 21 March 2011

Daily Wisdom - HEALING


"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.
It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy.
You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."
-Ray Bradbury-

WRITING AS HEALING:

I love to write. I have piles of journals tucked away in wardrobes and cupboards. One thing that did emerge, through all the tears and trauma, was an ability to write, or should I say I fearlessness to write. As Bradbury notes, thinking is self-conscious and that can only limit and stint our inner flow of words. Virginia Woolf is famous for her works on streams of consciousness. 'Stream of consciousness' has its origins in the late 19th century with the birth of psychology. The American psychologist, William James first used the phrase in his Principles of Psychology of 1890 to describe the flow of conscious experience in the brain. It is used to express in words the flow of a character's thoughts and feelings. Our as Woolf believes; thoughts spoken aloud are not always the same as those “on the floor of the mind.”

Julia Cameron, an American poet and author, first introduced me to the healing properties of writing. Her novel, “The Artist’ Way,” was a beautiful reminder of how to connect with the creative energies of the universe. When recovering from the struggles in my past, I would sit each day for ten minutes and write my “morning papers.” Allowing myself to write, without self-consciousness and without limit, allowed some of the most important aspects of my self be realised. Virginia Woolf believes that the moments of profound insights that come from writing about our soulful, thoughtful examination of our psychic wounds should be called “shocks.” These “shocks” force us into awareness about ourselves and our relationships to others and our place in the world that we wouldn’t otherwise have had.

Writing sets me free. It takes the dead weight that exists in my soul into some kind of perspective. As I write, words flow from my consciousness straight to my pen. I have transformed feelings that are inarticulate in language, to the pen, and therefore giving me voice. Writing about trauma can be painful and difficult. Although writing cannot technically “cure” us, it can certainly help us to heal. It can enable us to accomplish that shift in perspective marked by acceptance, authenticity, depth, serenity and wisdom, all of which are the hallmarks of genuine healing. Pennebaker (1989) examined brain wave activity in people confronting trauma and found that when exploring feelings as they wrote, there was congruence in brain wave activity between the left and right hemispheres, indicating that both emotional and linguistic information was being processed and integrated simultaneously, and achieving integration in brain function of both hemispheres.

Aberbach (1989) in his study on survivors of PTSD found writing as a significant way to master trauma. He believes creativity is often spurred by painful loss and unresolved or thwarted grief. In mastering trauma and all its horror, writing provides a way of overcoming it, and to complete the work of mourning. Trauma and loss are both the subject of the writing and the motive behind doing the work. Writing about trauma helps suffers integrate the experience of rape and sexual assault into our lives. Mental illness and suicidal despair are not caused by trauma itself, but an inability to verbalise what has happened. A story has not been told, and the feelings linked to that story have not been expressed. Feelings such as rage, anger, humiliation, helplessness and sadness, can find the possibility to be expressed through writing. (DeSalvo, 1999:167). I wish to end with what DeSalvo,1999:216) believes.

She states; “that writing to heal, then, and making it public, as I see it, is the most important emotional, psychological, artistic, and political project of our time.”

ART AS HEALING:

"The destructive urge, is also a creative one."
-Recover Your Life-

The impulse to create usually comes from some early damage to the self. Doubt, pain, trauma, insecurity, and uncertainty are the fuel, which drive the creative process. Alberach (1989) supports this view and believes that creativity is often spurred by painful loss, and unresolved or thwarted grief. Alice Walker in her novel “To Hell with Dying” rejected self – annihilation and embraced creativity. She understood that harming herself would only re-enact the harm and hurt done to her in the past. What touched me about Walker’s writing is when she spoke of Native American cultures. In these cultures when you feel sick at heart, in the soul, you do sand paintings. Or, you make a basket. And whilst you are doing this there’s a type of spiritual alchemy that happens and you turn that bad feeling into something that becomes a “Golden Light.” It is all because you are intensely creating something that is beautiful. The understanding is, that by the time you’ve finished the sand painting, you’re well. The point is to heal yourself. (DeSalvo, 1999:160). 

Jamison (1989) carried out an interesting study on the percentage of artists, poets and writers of whom had endured some form of mental illness. She found that as many as 89% of creative writers and artists had experienced intense, highly productive and creative episodes. 63% of playwrights had endured depression and 33% of poets had required medication for their depression and in need of hospitalisation.(Jamison (1994). It was Lord Byron who once wrote; we of the craft are all crazy…Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more than less touched.”(Jamison, 1994:2).

Art as healing is something that not only I have come across, but also my fellow co-researches. Often when no words are present, their art work has spoken of their pain, suffering and secret worlds inside them. Creativity unleashes another word to the sufferer of melancholy.

(the above is an extract from my dissertation, 2008, © The Human Stain)



Sunday, 20 March 2011

Progress, not, Perfection


"I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits."
-Anaïs Nin-

So, one would have thought it was the end of the world this afternoon.
As I sat with my head in my lap, tears falling down my face.

I am in my final year of my post-graduate studies.
It is hard, enduring, and at times, I must be honest, mind numbing.
However, I am more determined than ever, to complete this and to then apply for my Clinical Psychology training.
Because I studied a degree in media and culture, I never completed my GBR (Graduate Basis for Registration, which is basically what I need to be part of The British Psychological Society, and if I had done Psychology as an undergraduate I would have that, however, given I studied something totally different, I have to complete a post-graduate qualification in psychology and then apply for my clinical training).

My clinical training, I will apply for this winter.
You are usually rejected at least once, and it will take me three years to complete that training.

Last year, I "should" have completed my training.
"Should," I despise that word... my training.
But, due to ill health, I had to pull out.
I was studying full time, and two qualifications at once - Cognitive Psychology and Social Psychology.
I am studying with The Open University, so it is not only self-taught, but I chose it so I had flexibility with when and how and where I studied.

The structure of the course is such; each module, you have six assignments - the course runs from February until October, and you complete a mixture of essay questions, personal experiments, research and report writing. You also attend Residential School. Finally, an exam at the end.
Last year, I had only completed four assignments for Social Psychology. However, because I completed a type of "mini dissertation" which was weighted higher than the other assignments, it meant I had enough credit to not do the two final assignments. I need to just sit the exam in May now.

The Cognitive Psychology, unfortunately, I had only completed three assignments and I have had to re-take the year. Incredibly frustrating.
So I began in February and I finish with a final exam in October.

I had my first assignment last week, and as expected, I was so anxious over it.
My marks hadn't dropped under 70 last year in all my classes. I was actually achieving significantly more than that in many of my assignments. And I won't lie, it felt great to achieve that way.
And that is the weak spot...
The fact that such achievement brings on that feel good factor.
And yet, to this day, that intense pressure on myself is something that although reduced significantly throughout my recovery, is STILL there.

I would argue adamantly that I am not a perfectionist.
I fight that word out daily with those around me, and I struggle, still, to accept "good enough."
I am better though. I am far removed from the obsessive-paranoid-anal retentive-perfectionist Anorexic that I used to be.
I am normal!
I live.
My grades, "achievements" etc have not solely revolved around me being "perfect."

I am grateful for the woman I am, and the things I do achieve, over what I do NOT achieve.

Today was a weak spot. A thump in the chest. A time to remember.
I got my mark back, and it certainly wasn't the grade I had achieved over the course of last year.
The biggest part of my ill health last year, was exhaustion. This wasn't helped by the over focus I had on my academic studies.
I wrapped myself up in a cycle of non-stop going and wound up, literally, depleted of any energy.

Since the end of last year my health has improved drastically and I am possibly happier and healthier than I ever have been.
I have a lot going on in my life aside from my studies, and I wouldn't change that for the world.
After all, what is it worth all this studying, if all I do is exhaust myself and cannot practice.
The whole process of "becoming a therapist" is about lessons in self-care, boundaries, balance, empathy, and most essentially, being able to support and facilitate another, but to not carry them, or "do recovery" for them.

And so, as the years pass, I learn and evolve as a person, which all gives me insight into my own capabilities and others.
I develop and learn in ways outside of a text book.

I could list a million reasons for not achieving a great grade today.
I far from failed, and yet my automatic thought was, "not good enough."
It was so sudden, and so quick, that it impacted me like a smack in the face.

The course has changed, the marking has changed and on...

However, maybe the greatest progress is made when we don't achieve perfection and instead have to settle for "okay" or "good enough."
I learn a hell of a lot more about myself when I have to look fear in the eye - failing (at least what I consider failing) - compared to when I just do great and think no more of it.
I learn more in the times I have to deal with that fear of failure.

Sitting in tears over a grade seems ridiculous, and yet still, all these years later, I still struggle to balance myself with good enough.

As Nin says, "I want merely to gain in strength...in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more."

I am finally starting to accept that the experience of life is of far greater importance and relevance than attaining a perfect grade.

It is that acceptance that is going to influence the course of my life, more than my academic record. 
And the only person standing in my way of that, is me. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Family Ties


The above is an image from the 50's of my grandma and my dad.
I managed to get my grandpa to find a mass of slides, from images he took when he was younger.
My grandpa is an amazing photographer, and even today, not too far away from turning 93, he takes pictures.
I remember as a child looking through multiple albums of his.
He has pictures, so many pictures, and I often think about that "hard copy" of images I would have, in slides or other formats, if it were not for technology.
There is something wonderful, beautiful and timeless, about a stack of slides from decades back.
I was blessed enough to be able to scan them on to the computer, and share some of them.
I think that this is one of my favourites.

I lost my grandma in the summer of 2008.
I always find it remarkable that the day she passed away, was the Saturday of her 65th wedding anniversary to my grandpa.
They had been together over 70 years and with the war and time away that my grandpa spent fighting, left them with periods of time where there were great months of distance and absence.

And yet, since then, they had only spent one night apart.
A night in which my grandma had to be at home with me, as I was so sick from the Anorexia that I couldn't be left alone.
My grandpa had to drive back to Wales for a doctors appointment.

I remember the next day when he returned, my grandma had dressed up, hair sprayed, lipstick on, and greeted him in a way only true love could ever manifest.

And this is perhaps what I love most about him.
His family ties.
His massive collection of photographs from decades of film taking.
And I hope too, that the one thing I could only ever dream to inherit, are his pictures.
Because his pictures tell a thousand and one stories.
His pictures speak a thousand words.


When you go to my grandpa's house, in each room, there are pictures.
In the same way I coat my bedroom walls with images, he does the same all over his house.
I often see pictures of myself I have never seen before, from when I was a child, and I giggle at the moment in time he captured.
I see my tight white blonde ringlets, and this round tanned face, grinning at screen.
I see her eyes as light and bright as ever possible.
So much hope and appreciation of the gift of life.
A face showing no scars of the painful and enduring nature of life.

My grandma always knew how to pose.
I recall stories from my father, when he would describe to me the outfits my grandma would show up in at school teacher's nights.
The heels, stiletto's of course.
The hat, glamorous of course.
And her poise. Her walk.
Her ability to attract the attention of a whole room when she walked in one.

There isn't a day that passes when I don't miss her.
Her smell - Chanel No.5.
Her soft nature, her kind words, her reassuring hugs.

Often I hear, that photographs are some what over-rated.
That all that we need to remember is stored in out memory.
And of course, it is.
And yet, to hold an image dear, a smell, a taste...
Is all part of the experience of remembering a person.

I wouldn't have my life any other way.
I will always surround myself with pictures.
Always want to take pictures.
Always want image that trigger a happy memory.
A moment.
A snap shot.

Life is a series of moments.
And although we can fully experience them ourselves, the printed version of that event, also carries a deeper, greater memory.
It holds the possibility of more.

Greater than this, are the images of my grandma that he took.
I suppose she was his muse.
I often feel that way about the girl.
That the stacks of images she has of me, are a similar holding.
They are taken with a degree of obsession, that I am not saying is too much, but almost highlights the amazing nature of love, that a lens can produce.
Her lens, is about seeing me through a different angle.
It is about capturing who I am.
A laugh.
A smile.
A frown.
They all represent me.

And in a similar vain, I do the same with her.
I capture raw and true emotion on her face, in her body, her soul.

I know I will be the same as my grandpa when I have a family.
They will be forever captured.
Much to the annoyance, I am sure, of those around me.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

I Reflect...



It is coming to that time of year again.
Where my chest tightens and my heart beats faster.
Tears fall down my face...

As I write this, I remember...

I remember my best friend.
I remember her laugh.
Her smile.
Her hugs.

Losing Elin, and how that feels, is perhaps, impossible to articulate.
I can only talk from myself, Hanne and Tracey... I can only mention them, because they were the two people I was with when Hanne received that awful call where she was told, Elin, had committed suicide.

Every single time I am in London, and I use the tube, I remember.
I have this habit of always clocking who is on the platform and more importantly, who is driving the train...
I don't need to state here how she killed herself, and not that one suicide tops another, but the way she went...
So sudden, so violently, makes me feel sick inside.

There is no doubt that Elin was troubled.
She had recovered from the Bulimia that plagued her.
Her self-injury was under control.
She was fighting, the needed, and the good fight.

She had friends, and a life, and a family who loved her, and a life she fought so hard to fight for.
She loved life.

And that was it...
I know, she wanted to live, and that is what kills me.

The day we arrived in Norway, I was so happy and excited.
I had just handed in my dissertation and I was off with my best friends.
And Elin never met us...
She never got to the station.
An hour or so later, we discovered why.

---

Elin was beautiful; inside and out.
She was creative and talented and made her own jewellery and exhibited her art work.
Her photography was outstanding.
Her "joie de vivre" ever present.

I love her.
I miss her.

And this world, this world isn't the same without her.

---

So, if you are reading this...
And you question this life.
Know that, as painful and frustrating as it is to hear...
This will pass.
It will one day get better.
And yes, it is going to be hard.

But had Elin had that moment of thought, she would have realised she would far rather be here, than not.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Thursday-17/03/11-Thankful Thursday- Rachel- Life Beyond An Eating Disorder

Evolution of A Woman



"In order to evolve, you must stand still long enough for your heart to have a conversation with your brain."
~Erin Dalli~

I found a piece of deep seated faith in myself today.
As I sat in the therapist's chair, I had to fixate on the belief that has evolved in me over the years.
For the first time in my life, I sat, as a grown woman, holding myself accountable for my actions past, present and possibly future.

It has taken a long time to learn such self-reliance and confidence.
It has taken years of painstaking self-reflection and critique.
It has taken hours of tears and sharing, laughter and sadness, joy and empowerment, to truly look myself in the eye, and know my truth.

My truth is my life.
My truth is how I choose to live my life.

My truth is the voice I use to articulate where I am at, literally, and figuratively.
My voice is my vessel.
My means of self-expression.

My voices holds all the possibilities that exist within my world.

I have evolved from a small enclosed shell.
A shell marked, beaten, and attacked.
A shell starved, exhausted, and purged.

All sin and escape, was held tightly within the walls of my shell.
And yet, as the years have passed, an evolution has occurred.

The shell has not only opened and the walls broken down.
A self has emerged from it.

The emergence of the self, became a self-identity project.
A lesson taught as a child, which needed re-mastering as a woman.

After years of being repressed and shut down, this woman, saw the world and held it tightly in her hand.
Within her palm, were all the possibilities of life that could await her.
Within the shell, were held all the possibilities never realised or those that never will be.

I chose the light.
I chose the small pearl that was held tightly within my hand and finger.

Today, that self was made even more present.

I am a woman evolved.
I am a woman, who although some what shaped by her past, has allowed that past make it be about who she is today.

---

Being recovered is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
It does hold all we could ever dream and wish for.
It is spelled out in H.O.P.E.

It is my name.
And many other amazing women's names.

Recovery is a journey...
Recovered is a choice in how you live your life - with the light, or away from the light.

I am recovered because I choose the light.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Antique Photoshoot

So, there were lots of pictures and I have tried to show my favourite ones.
They are of me, the girl and her niece.
All the make-up and pictures were the girl.
We often do this of a type of creativity project and as another healthy activity to deal with adversity.
Here goes ---