Oh, not another poem about her being in the wars! Can’t she change the subject and get on with her chores? Is it so essential to talk about her pain? Could we have another tale before we go insane?
So, let’s talk about the weather; it’s beautiful outside But what about the dentist and the damage he’s denied She doesn’t like that surgeon; her doctor’s on the case The whole *kit and caboodle is an absolute disgrace
But think about the summer with a lovely cool breeze Look out of the window at the flowers and the trees Now, she’s got some pills that should offer some relief Yet, here she is going on about her blooming teeth!
Four days on these pills, and she sleeps, and she shakes It’s difficult to concentrate; she thinks she needs a break She wants to carry on her writing; it’s something she enjoys But she’s drowning in the water, so we need to throw a buoy
So here she is, producing work; will she never rest? Though everyone on WordPress makes her feel quite blessed There is a lot of gratitude within this heart and soul She knows that pushing on will really take its toll
So how about a holiday; where would you like to be? Ooh, yes, she says, delighted, and chose Southend-on-Sea We could paddle in the water. But the sea is full of shit! Aww, can’t we dip our toes in just a tiny weeny bit?
*kit and boodle (Collins Dictionary)
Informal (often prec. bywhole) The wholelot of persons or things; all of something
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.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and have decided that it’s high time for you and me to part company. I’ve been carrying you around like a large basket of groceries for many years, and you’re getting too heavy for me to manage anymore, so I finally made the decision to break up with you.
You can’t do that! You can’t manage without me in your life. I’ve always been with you, and you need me; you know you do!
No! I don’t need you anymore. Whether you like it or not, it’s time for us to go our separate ways. I won’t be held back by you; you’ve had me chained to your judgements and doubts for far too long.
But, please, don’t do this to us. We can’t survive without each other.
There is no us! I can survive quite happily without you pulling me down day after day, week in, week out. I don’t want you in my life now. It’s time for pastures new. I refuse to be dragged back to the past whenever you feel morose or emotional.
But what will you do without me to remind you of all those years you were abused … those years when you didn’t tell anyone? You know you should have told, don’t you!? Why did you keep it so quiet? It’s such a massive part of you and a part of you that deserves not to be forgotten. Surely …
Now, listen here, Guilt, you’ve been reminding me of that for decades. Just stop it!! I know it wasn’t my fault – I was just a small child and too young to comprehend what was happening to me. I’m not going to feel bad about it any longer. I’ve discussed all this in my last lot of therapy. You continually pulled me down even then. I don’t know why I listened to you.
I thought you said you wanted to continue to discuss your past experiences with your new therapist when you get one. After all, why else go to see a therapist if not to deal with your past?
Look, I’ve done all that! I’ve thought it through thoroughly in the break. I don’t need to keep dragging it up from the past! Just because you want to cling to the pain and awful memories doesn’t mean I want to do that again. I’ve been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt. When I see a new therapist, it will be with a view to moving forwards, not to keep harping on about the past.
What about all those years you were an addict? You remember; when you’d get off your face with drugs and alcohol? You were hopeless without it, just like you’ll be hopeless without me. You know how worried and cross you made your family and friends. No one wanted to know you back then – only me – there was only you and me together. I never let you down. I was always there to remind you of how good I was to you, that I was the only one who stuck by your side.
My family and friends understand that I was ill back then. We’ve spoken about those times over the last few years. I was very mentally ill. They knew that, but they didn’t know what to do to help me. I had to sort myself out with help from the hospitals and doctors. And I did. And I didn’t need you lurking in my mind all day and night, trying to suck me back down. I do not want you in my life anymore! Do you hear me? Can’t you get this through your thick head? I’ve had enough of walking hand and hand with you.
But … you can’t do this to me. You can’t do this to us. I … we …. Listen, we can start again. I’ll be good to you. Honestly, I will.
Really? Seriously, Guilt?? Just go away!!
What do you mean, go away? You’ve always held me so close and told me how much you needed me. I needed you, too. I still do. You need me, too. Who will you be without me? Who would we be if we were not together? How would we live without each other? You can’t do this to me. I’ll die without you.
Look, Guilt, I’m not going to say this again. I’m sick to death of having you hanging around my neck. I don’t need you – do you get that!? You’re going whether you like it or not. You’re out. We’re over. I’m not going to feed you anymore. You can go and shrivel up in a corner and disappear. I don’t care, I do not care. Get it?
But … please, think again. You know you …
NO, GUILT!! NO! I TOLD YOU. I WON’T TELL YOU AGAIN. YOU’RE JUST A BULLY. JUST GET OUT OF HERE. BYEEEEE …
TRIGGER WARNING – mentions alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, eating disorder, self-harm, and emotional abuse.
My kind and excellent blogging friend and reader, Brian, published a post yesterday called ‘A Good Question‘ – it was about how other people cope with their feelings if they’re unable to write them on paper or screen. I’ve not always been able to write; I started after an awful experience working with an emotionally abusive therapist who had no boundaries. I became a wreck while I was with her, and she walked out on me the day my father died in April 2012. I thought I would never recover. From that moment, I began to write and wrote about that experience of what happened to me while I was, supposedly, having therapy with her. I wrote a poem at that time (one of my first posts on my new blog) called, ‘Killing Me Softly.‘ Please, could you take the time to read this, as it will help you make more sense of today’s poem? It’s only short (thank you).
This poem is the story of those years. I’ve never shared this part of my life, so it’s an extremely scary thing to do. I wanted to speak my truth, as I always do. I’m aware that I might be opening myself up for criticism and disgust here, but I now take responsibility and deeply regret my actions at that time and everything I put my family and friends through. Please, know that I’m not in this place anymore.
BACK IN THE DAYS
Back in the days when I couldn’t write and the pain lived deep down in my soul I had other methods to help me cope to fill up that vast, gaping hole
It was when I was seeing that counsellor when they all told me not to go I came out of there tearful and broken I’d never been so depressed and low
Back in the days when seeing her I found myself drowning in sorrow I got into debt with the landlord and more and I needed some money to borrow
I started each day with a bottle of gin kept it down by the side of my bed I couldn’t face coffee or breakfast just lay wanting death instead
Back in the days when I got into drugs and was out of my head every day I was literally living on benzos and weed and had totally lost my way
I stopped eating food; became so unwell I had anorexia; was all skin and bone I hated everything about myself I was down to under five stone
Back in the days, I’d knock back the pills I’d bought from the chemist as well and swallowed all my prescription drugs I thought I was living in hell
I woke up one day in intensive care all hooked up to tubes and wires It hadn’t occurred to me before that I was literally playing with fire
Back in the days when I started to cut I was trying to bleed out my pain I got treated like a timewaster and I tried to jump under a train
Today, I’ve totally moved on from that I’m grateful that I’m here at all I confess I caused so much trouble but now, I can stand straight and tall
Now, these days, I’m fit, happy and well Have been clean and sober ten years I’ve made my amends and changed my ways And I’ll continue to persevere.
Most of you who know me will have learned that my desperately-needed counselling has to come to an end on the 4th of January 2023 (straight after the New Year). I’m on a two-week break over Christmas at the moment. You know how terrified I am of being without Chris. I’m still on a long waiting list to enable me to see someone else; this is likely to be months rather than weeks. All the things and emotions I’ve shared with her, some of which I’ve never shared with anyone before, where do they go? Do I have to begin all over again with a new person? I’m not sure I coud bear that.
I wanted to write something for Chris to express my gratitude for all the work we’ve done together, but also to share my fear of coping without her to speak to every Wednesday.
I wanted to write something purely for you to say thank you for all that you’ve done and do I came, and you helped me to open my heart You’ve listened to poems and seen bits of art
You’ve travelled my journey alongside with me through all the depression and anxiety We tried to deal with my muddled eating That was the first thing we intended treating
But, then came the flashbacks of child sex abuse A crime committed with no good excuse I shared secrets I’d never discussed before Felt guilty as hell as I stared at the floor
You’ve been by my side and witnessed my pain Taught me I’m worthy and have lots to gain You’ve reassured me I wasn’t to blame and helped me let go of the awful shame
Trying to deal with my anger was tough I couldn’t scream or shout loud enough I did once throw hard clay at the chair Tried to imagine the bastard sat there
I poured out my soul in words, rhyme and tears and looked at my strengths and all of my fears I’m so grateful to you for hearing my truth of long, long ago, back in my youth
You’ve listened to secrets and made me feel brave and I’m dreading our final goodbye and last wave How do I live with this loss and my pain? I just can’t believe I won’t see you again.