I called 111 for assistance (a helpline within the UK) I needed advice about the pain I’d been having every day They asked me lots of questions to see how I was feeling I told them it was time that I really should be healing
I told them about the tablets that made me feel all funny I mentioned that my dentist had charged me lots of money They asked about my general health and how I felt today Do you need an ambulance? I replied with a firm “No way” Had I had a heart attack, or perhaps, I’d had a stroke? I was puzzled by these questions, but they seemed well-meaning folk Did I feel a heavy weight sitting on my chest? I began to doubt myself and started feeling stressed
I confirmed it was those pills that made me feel unwell My head was very dizzy, like I’d been on a carousel Had I had an accident within the past few days? Had I had a migraine with brightly shining rays?
Was my speech quite slurry; my mouth dropped on one side? I said yes, but it was nerve damage the dentist had denied I think you need an ambulance; I firmly refused once more No, I really don’t, and yes, I’m certain, that’s for sure
I thanked them very kindly and said that I had to go But you might need an ambulance. I really don’t, you know I thanked them once again; I shouldn’t have a moan And with that, I stopped abruptly and hung up on the phone.
This is a real-life story that I wrote a few days ago. As I’m terribly busy for the next week, I thought I’d post this piece, but I hope to write a more up-to-date post when I can. This is rather long, so I would be very grateful if you could take the time to read it. Thank you ~ Elliex
I missed her terribly, but not a word had been uttered about her disappearance from home or, more painfully, from my life, leaving me in limbo and feeling very vulnerable.
Instead, there was a strange woman who’d taken the place of my mother. She got me up in the morning, gave me breakfast and ushered me out the front door to begin my short journey to school. I was told to call her Auntie Vera, but at eight years old, I silently objected to calling a perfect stranger my Auntie. She was bossy, with straight grey hair swept back off her face in a bun. She wore my Mum’s blue and white checked pinny around her thick waist. I wanted to say that the pinny belonged to my Mum, and I didn’t want this total stranger wearing it. It wasn’t hers, after all, but I didn’t dare risk a scolding from this sharp-tongued woman. Auntie Vera became the only person I saw every morning. There was, as usual, no sign of my father, who always left early for work at the upholstery factory with not as much as a ‘good morning’ or a ‘goodbye.’
At breakfast, I sat at the small Formica table while Auntie Vera pulled down the flap on the front of the sage green kitchen cabinet to get the porridge oats. She tipped a large spoonful into an aluminium pan, added boiling water and a pinch of salt and left it to cook for a few minutes. Then she dished out two large steaming dollops into my bowl. I didn’t like it; it wasn’t like my Mum used to make. Auntie Vera’s porridge was so thick and gloopy that my spoon could nearly stand up in it, and it made me feel sick it. I so wished my Mum was here, but there was still no explanation about what had happened to her. My mind wandered, and I shivered as I wondered if she had died, but no one had told me. I missed her so much, and the thought of her never returning upset and scared me. I choked back my tears and forced my porridge down.
That day, after school, I trudged home reluctantly, knowing grumpy Auntie Vera would greet me. Earlier in the day, I’d been told off for daydreaming in class. I so wanted my Mum to be the one to open the front door and reach her arms out to hug me and ask me if I’d had a good day. But it was only a dream, and I was met by this ill-tempered woman still wearing my Mum’s pinny. I felt cross, but I didn’t dare say anything.
A couple of hours later, I was very surprised to hear my father opening the front door with his heavy keys. He wasn’t usually home at this time. He told me to go and brush my knotty brown hair and to put on my best dress and smartest school shoes. I did as I was told, as I feared being reprimanded by him. He led me to his black Morris Minor outside our house. I clambered into the back seat while my father sat at the wheel, lighting up his foul-smelling pipe as always. The plumes of smoke wafted into the back of the car. It made me feel sick. I was glad when he pulled up in front of a large building and got out. I had no idea where we were or what this building was.
My father roughly took my hand as I climbed out of the car, and he led me into the building, and then up two flights of stairs. I wondered where we were going and what we were doing there. We turned through a door on the left and were met by a nurse. I was confused; why had we come to a hospital? We were taken through a set of double doors, which the nurse unlocked for us to enter. As we did, I was confronted by two long rows of hospital beds, one on each side of the ward. I could hear loud, muddled voices and the occasional shout or scream. People in nightgowns walked about the ward, many muttering to themselves. A nasty strong smell of urine permeated the air. I was scared and didn’t understand why we were here with all these strange people.
Suddenly, a small bearded man in pyjamas shuffled nearer and reached out to me. My father pulled me away sharply and continued to walk the length of the hospital ward. I glanced around, and as we almost reached the end, I was shocked to see my Mum sitting in a chair next to one of the beds on the righthand side. She didn’t look like she did at home. She was pale, thin, and dressed in a pink hospital nightie and grey woollen socks. As we reached her, she didn’t appear to recognise me, so I leaned over to her and planted a kiss on her cheek. She didn’t smell like my Mum. She smelt of TCP – the same liquid Mum added to a pan of my father’s dirty hankies that often boiled in an old saucepan.
My father walked to the far end of the ward and returned with two folded-up wooden chairs. Sitting on the neatly-made beds wasn’t allowed. This was my Mum, yet I was lost for words to say to her. My father said very little, too, so I sat, upset and uncomfortable. Mum didn’t attempt to make any conversation, but she stared vacantly into space for much of the time. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t looking at me or talking to me. It was only many years later that I discovered that my Mum had had ECT treatment, which delivers an electric shock to the brain and is meant to help get a person back into a less-depressed state. Instead, it seemed to have left her confused and drowsy, unable to speak to us properly. The longer we sat there, the more distraught I felt. I wanted to go home but, at the same time, I wanted to stay with my Mum. I was frightened that I might never see her again if we left.
Finally, a loud bell rang, signalling the end of visiting time. My father got up, returned our chairs and told me we were leaving. I waved at my Mum, but she didn’t respond.
Would I ever see my Mum again? What if she could never talk to me again?
I felt a chill running the length of my spine as I once again wondered whether she would die in the hospital and never come home. Tears were running down my cheeks, and I let out a quiet sob.
“Stop snivelling, you wretched child,” my father ordered. The ward doors were slammed and locked behind us, and I quickly wiped my tears away as we continued down the two flights of stairs.
We climbed into my father’s car and drove the short journey home. On arrival, my father turned the keys in the lock; we were greeted by Auntie Vera in my Mum’s pinny again. She noticed my tear-stained face and spoke to my father, demanding to know whether I’d be causing any trouble. I always seemed to be in trouble with this woman. I didn’t want her there; I desperately wanted my Mum to come home again.
Weeks went by. Dad was rarely home in those days, so I was left to the mercy of Auntie Vera, still wearing my Mum’s pinny. I wanted to snatch it away from her, but I wasn’t brave enough. She would have certainly told my father; then, I’d be in for a good hiding, like many times before.
I ran to my room, burst through the door, and threw myself onto my bed, grasping my bear, Peter, for comfort. It was cold in my room, so I slipped under my pea-green woollen blanket to keep warm. I knew I’d be in trouble if I were caught, so I lay there, hardly daring to breathe and hoped that I’d hear Auntie Vera coming up the stairs in good time to jump up and tidy up my bed so she wouldn’t know I’d been lazy.
It wasn’t long before I began to feel hungry, but it was time for Auntie Vera to go home, so as usual, she took me to the next-door neighbour’s house. It was the same routine every evening. The family cared for me until my father got home from his regular visit to the pub after he’d finished work.
The neighbours were called Auntie Rose and Uncle Mohajit. I enjoyed playing with their two children, who were ten and eight, but I didn’t like the food they had for dinner, which was often chicken or mutton curry and rice. I wasn’t keen on spicy food; Mum never cooked anything like that. I didn’t dare make a fuss and had to force it down, hating every mouthful. Occasionally, I came across a gristly piece of meat. I tried chewing and chewing, but I just couldn’t swallow it for fear it would get stuck in my throat, making me sick. I knew better than to spit it out.
Everyone else had finished their meal and left the table, but Auntie Rose instructed me not to leave until I’d eaten everything. They all went into the living room while I sat there, desperately wishing the lump of gristle would disappear. I looked around the dining room with my mind wandering in different directions. Did I have enough courage to bury this lumpy bit of meat in one of the flowerpots? I could dig a hole in the earth, and perhaps, no one would ever know. Or could I sneak out and give it to their tabby cat when no one was looking?
After a while, although terrified of being caught, I tiptoed silently to the large rubber plant in a heavy clay flowerpot. My heart was thumping hard as I carefully dug a hole in the soil with my finger. I spat the gristle into my hand, quickly pushed it firmly into the hole, and covered it with the remaining earth. I returned to the table briefly, feeling guilty about deceiving the family. I gradually caught my breath again and waited for my heart to stop beating so hard.
Should I join the family in the living room? I wondered whether they would somehow know what I’d done. I knew I’d been in terrible trouble if I were to be found out. I walked hesitantly towards the living room door, knocked softly and waited to be let in. As the door opened, the whole family stared at me. Now, I knew I was in serious trouble and was sure my father would be told, and I would receive a beating. Oh, how I wished my Mum would come home again. It would be several weeks before that happened, and in the meantime, my nightmare continued …
TRIGGER WARNING – THIS IS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS (ANOREXIA)
This account is purely about my own experience of anorexia. This disease affects all sexes, not just women. It can also affect people of any age group. In my case, I was in my forties when it began. Treatment these days may well be different; I don’t know. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or suspect you may be, please seek help from your doctor or any of the helpline numbers given at the end of this post.
Anorexia isn’t about the food; it’s about control. I wanted to control my life but thought if I could control my body and weight, I’d start to feel better. How wrong I was.
It started with me cutting out fats and carbs like many people on diets. I began to lose weight and felt like I was achieving something. As I lost weight, I still wasn’t satisfied, though, convincing myself I was overweight and needed to lose just a few more pounds. I lost more weight, but I still wasn’t content. I began to develop rituals around food, such as cutting food up into tiny pieces to make them last longer or seem more and, weighing everything I ate, then totting up the calories. I stopped drinking coffee with milk and drank only black coffee and Diet Coke. Still not satisfied; eating salad wasn’t enough to control my habit. I began to weigh the lettuce, water well shaken out of it, and work out the calories in three thin slices of cucumber. The weight started to drop off me, but I couldn’t see how ill I was.
I need to make it clear that anorexia is not a choice, a fad, or a diet; it’s an extremely serious and dangerous illness, which is nearly always caused by significant trauma in childhood, as was the case with me.
More rituals developed, and the weight loss continued. I’m not going to go on to describe all those habits and routines because I DO NOT want this to read like an ‘instruction manual’ for anorexia. Suffice it to say; I ended up in the local psychiatric hospital on the eating disorders ward at a very dangerously thin weight of five and a half stone! I was confined to bed and only allowed to use the bathroom with a staff member present. It was so embarrassing.
My first meal there was presented to me two hours after I’d arrived. It was, to my horror, vegetable curry and rice followed by bread-and-butter pudding and two scoops of ice cream. It wasn’t a small portion, either. I don’t think I’d ever felt that sense of panic before. A nurse sat with me and insisted I ate every stone-cold mouthful. I cried, I sobbed, and I begged, all to no avail. I was made to eat all that food despite having terrible pain in my stomach. It seemed barbaric to me. It took me nearly three hours to force the food down. Other than that, they threatened to tube-feed me, and with my phobia of choking, I couldn’t bear the thought of that.
The eating disorders ward had strict rules. Everything was done on a reward and punishment basis. To begin with, I wasn’t allowed phone calls or visitors, not even my family, and I wasn’t allowed out of my room. Weeks passed, and as I gained weight, albeit reluctantly, I was ‘rewarded’ with a phone call to my daughter, then my son and my Mum. They were all worried sick about me and dreadfully upset that I was going through all of this at the same time, realising I was very ill and needed help. There was no way of ‘cheating,’ although some of the people there tried. We would have lost a reward if we lost weight, which was impossible with every mouthful being supervised. It was such a thoroughly miserable time. At the time, I thought it was tortuous; it certainly felt like it.
However, there are only three ways out of anorexia in my mind. One is to get better despite it being painfully hard work (but well worth it); the other is that you spend your life battling with your illness for, possibly, the rest of your years (and believe me, that’s pretty awful), or you die!! It’s as simple as that!
I began to make good progress and started to feel better physically. I was allowed to eat in the dining room with the other inpatients on our ward; I could go to activities and learn about the basic psychology of eating disorders. We were taught about CBT therapy and offered other forms of treatment once our minds had started to recover from the starvation. We were basically given another chance at life, and I was grateful for that.
Finally, after being in hospital for six whole months, I was allowed day leave, and then weekend leave etc. Eventually, I was allowed home but had to attend the day hospital every day.
I don’t think you are ever really ‘cured’ from an eating disorder, but for me, it’s like being in remission, and I never take my life or health for granted. Anorexia is an addiction as well as an illness. Like any addiction, you have to consider yourself in permanent recovery. Now, at the age of 65, I’m making the most of my time and intend to live the rest of my life without harming myself in this way. I’m happy in my life with two adult children and four gorgeous grandchildren. If anyone is reading this and recognises themselves in what I have written, please, please, seek help.
Firstly, I want to say that I know this post is a long one because I wanted to share my experience in full. I hope you can manage to find the time to read it. It would be much appreciated.
Over the last six years, I’ve shared several posts about my dearly-loved late Mum. I wrote at the time she had her stroke, and then, a couple of years later, I wrote a post called THE MISSING MUM YEARS. It explained how, because of my disability, I could not access my Mum’s house, and Mum couldn’t leave there because of her severe agoraphobia, so we didn’t see each other for several years. It was heartbreaking.
It was only a few weeks after Mum’s stroke that she finally left the hospital and went to stay in a stroke rehabilitation unit, where she had her own room, daily physiotherapy and a television. There was wheelchair access to the unit, so I could finally see her regularly. She was, understandably, becoming depressed there because she’d always been so active and was mowing the lawn two weeks before her stroke. Now, she had no movement down her left side and became increasingly frustrated. It was awful to see my Mum like that. She spent three months there before my sisters and I had to decide whether Mum could return to her house as she wished. It was impossible. Mum had lived in a big Victorian terraced house with many stairs, which she just would have been able to manage.
We had many meetings with the hospital staff and the social workers there and finally concluded that Mum would need to go into a care home. It was decided that she would come to a home near me, given that my sisters all worked and lived too far away. I went on the search to find a suitable place, all the time knowing that Mum wasn’t happy about leaving her home after being there for decades. I spent several weeks visiting care homes, but none were suitable.
Finally, I found one called The Lodge. The lovely manager showed me around. I noticed many elderly and disabled residents, some asleep in chairs, some watching TV, and some happily participating in craft activities and bingo. The manager took me to the room that would be Mum’s. I really wanted her room to overlook the garden at the back, but because of the urgency of the situation, the only room they had had a view of the neighbouring house’s roof and a few weeds growing out of the paving down the side of the house.
Her room was almost bare, apart from a bed and a wardrobe. Some faded pictures hung on the walls, and some artificial flowers in a jug on the dressing table. The manager explained that Mum could bring any of her belongings, like pictures, photos, ornaments etc., to make the room more homely. I tried to imagine Mum there, knowing she would hate anywhere I could have found her. She wanted her independence back, but that couldn’t happen.
I felt so guilty because my disability and having no car meant that I was limited in choices of care homes. I would be the only member of my family who would be able to visit Mum regularly. This home had, at least, very kind and caring staff. I went back a couple more times to make sure I thought it would be suitable, knowing full well that Mum would hate being in any home. It was heartbreaking to have to make that choice on my own. A moving-in date was set for the 10th of January, 2017, one day after Mum’s birthday.
When I next visited the stroke unit, I told Mum all about it, ensuring I pointed out all the positive aspects and tried to help her come to terms with her upcoming move. She wasn’t happy, but I felt I had no choice. I would have loved her to come to live with me, but the practicalities made this impossible. She was so unhappy, and it broke my heart to see her this way. A couple of days later, she caught a cold that went to her chest and caused an infection. Then, it developed into pneumonia, meaning she had to return to the city’s main hospital. I saw her frequently, but she wasn’t at all well. My sisters and other family visited her; one sister flew over from Australia. She wasn’t really aware of what was going on, but now I imagine this is such a common scenario; families all flocking around their loved ones’ beds. I can’t help but wonder if she knew why we were there.
By the evening, the family had gone home, leaving just Mum and me. The ward sister allowed me to stay late, so I sat at Mum’s bedside, talking quietly and holding her hand. I sat with her for hours, talking to her and wondering if she could hear me as it wasn’t evident. A nurse came along to check Mum’s sats and said Mum’s oxygen levels were up a bit, and she seemed more alert. I was so relieved at the thought of Mum pulling through this horrible illness.
When I finally got home, feeling a bit more positive, I thought I would be able to see a lot of Mum now that she would live within my wheelchair-driving distance. I felt a little more reassured about the future.
And then, came the next morning and the phone rang very early. I hesitated before picking it up. As soon as I heard the sister’s voice, I knew it would be bad news. She spoke softly as she said my Mum had passed away about half an hour ago. I was devastated and put the phone down with tears streaming down my face. As the oldest daughter, I had the job of informing the rest of the family.
Looking back now, I’m almost sure that Mum had lost the will to live because of not being able to go back to her beloved home and having to go into a care facility. It was the 30th of December 2016, and only a few days before she was due to move to the home. I truly believe now that it was a blessing that she left us then rather than go into this care facility. She’d always been such a positive, independent woman, and this was her way of escaping the reality of her future.
My biggest regret that haunts me to this day is that Mum died alone in hospital with no one to hold her hand as she slipped away. I just can’t come to terms with this. Perhaps, I will do in time.
RIP, My precious and so much-loved Mum, 30/12/16
(I was prompted to write this piece after reading a post from Cindy Georgakas. Thanks, Cindy xx)
I never remember my dreams, but last night, I woke up at 2.30am in a state of panic and fear. I’d had a nightmare, only this time, I remembered it vividly. I have no idea where it came from; I hadn’t been talking to anyone about my experience, and it wasn’t in my mind yesterday. I’m left wondering why I would remember this now. As I wrote this, I was shaking, recalling every detail as if it were yesterday. These are my memories of that time.
I remember when I was five. and only very small I got measles and constant nosebleeds and had to go into hospital
It was called ‘The German Hospital’ It treated contagious infections I was scared and wanted my teddy bear At five, I needed affection
But it turned out to be a prison and I was shut up all day in a cot and when Mummy and Daddy left me there I was only a little tot
Hardly anyone came to see me I was in total isolation Even the nurses who came every few hours just gave me nasty medication
I couldn’t get out of the cot though I’d stand there and call and cried Surrounded by four solid walls and trapped in there, inside
And I added my own tooth marks to those that were there before on the cot rail, in utter despair hoping someone would walk through the door
Not another child did I see the whole time I was in there Mummy and Daddy didn’t visit much and nobody seemed to care
Not even an ounce of kindness did I get in that awful place and I stood for hours, rocking my cot with tears streaming down my face.