Sunday, 23 November 2014
Blog 17th to 22nd November. 'When someone tells you that you're a walking disaster area, it's inevitable that you eventually become one'.'
Blog 17th of November to the 22nd of November I had a very strange experience on Sunday. It showed how distorted my own body image is. I think that I am gargantuan, enormous, I see myself as a hulking clumsy giant of a woman. We were talking in work about buying clothes for one of the patients who is fast running out of them. I informed the staff that I would go out and buy the clothes then stated “She’s about my size” The staff stared at me as though my head had fallen off. One of them finally responded “How big do you think you are? She’s twice the size of you” I laughed and said “No she’s not, she’s about my dap” I didn't say this in the way that some females do fishing for compliments waiting for someone to say “Don’t be ridiculous you’re teeny tiny” I said it because I truly believed it. The poor staff were baffled “She’s about a size 26 Ju’ll your nowhere near that” I was baffled “Is she? She looks the same size as me” There was more laughter, then real curiosity “Do you really think you’re that big?” I’m sad to say that I do, I really do. It made me think about how I see myself and how others see me. When I watch Miranda Hart on television I feel her pain, she’s awkward, freakishly tall and big and has learned to laugh through her pain. I recognize this in myself. Get the laughs in first before someone makes them at your expense. I learnt how to do that from early in life, it deflected from the hurt and the embarrassment of feeling different. Different, because I was taller and bigger than all the other girls and most of the boys as well. I was told that there was nothing graceful about me, that I was clumsy and accident prone. As a child I would run in to my Nan and Grandpa’s house where my Grandfather would shout “Jesus Christ Dolly, nail everything down here she comes”. When you are told that you’re a walking disaster area I suppose it’s inevitable that you eventually become one. My school nickname was Julie Jumbo. Looking at the photos today I would not even class myself as fat, big yes, tall yes, but no fatter than anyone else. Yet due to that cruel nickname and my mother’s obsession with my weight and dieting I grew up thinking I was the size of a small bungalow. School nicknames hurt, I hated that nickname, I dreaded going to secondary school with the thought that it would follow me there when I wanted to make a fresh start, and it did. So you learn to cope the best way you know how, so you want me to be the fat girl, do you? Then I’ll develop the big loud brash jokey personality to go with it. You want gobby? You got it. Yu want the cheeky class joker? Here she comes large as life and twice as brazen. And I do it myself, how often have I referred to a woman as “Big…….” Compared myself “At least I’m not as big as ………..” - Sneering, passing comment, sitting in judgment, forgetting the hurt, scared person underneath the mask. Defining people by their size. When you are an overeater you can’t hide it. You can hide being an alcoholic a drug addict and a gambler up to a certain point, but you can’t hide being an overeater. The world can clearly see it; overeaters are fat and the outside world can see that and point it out with gay abandon. Fat people are considered greedy gluttonous weak-willed and useless, they are ridiculed by society. They are not considered, useful, beautiful or given much credit. If they are lucky enough to achieve success in their chosen field, their weight is still mentioned. In the case of Dawn French: “Oh! She’s so pretty, if only she wasn’t so fat”. The media does not like fat people as a rule, they scare “normal” folk. My friend Julia and I used to joke that we were anorexic as we had read that anorexic people look in the mirror and see fat people staring back at them. Another favorite joke was to tell people that we walked over drains with our arms out stretched to stop us from falling in. To hide that shame and the pain we laughed it away. Fat folk are jolly. We allowed people to make fun of us and we mocked ourselves right along with them. We once went to see a drag act that pointed at us and said, “Oh, would you look at that pair, they’ve been to weight watchers, to watch.” The audience howled and we laughed along with them shrugging it off, cat-calling back, pretending it didn’t matter. But it did. Would the drag have pointed at someone in a wheelchair and made jokes about not being able to walk or told a racist joke? Probably not. But fat people are fair game and we learn to live with it. I never thought there was a way out of this - God knows! I’d tried everything or so I thought: diets, excessive exercise, diet pills, laxatives, fat binders, tea, vomiting and, dramatically, surgery. None of them worked. They were never going to work. As Wyn says, “The way out is in.” I need to go inwards to solve my problems not outwards. The key to changing my thoughts and feelings about my size and my body lies in learning to love myself. I repeat the mantra everyday “I am the right weight for me today”. This coupled with my food plan, my 12 step programme, my meetings, the group and my one-to-ones are helping me become the person I was always meant to be. It’s a process. It’s a journey. And I’m well on the road….. Part Two: Blog Nov 23rd 2014 "Private Hell" Closer than close - you see yourself - A mirrored image - of what you wanted to be. As each day goes by - a little more - You can't remember - what it was you wanted anyway. The fingers feel the lines - they prod the space - Your ageing face - the face that once was so beautiful, is still there but unrecognizable - Private Hell. The man who you once loved - is bald and fat - And seldom in - working late as usual. Your interest has waned - you feel the strain - The bed springs snap - on the occasions he lies upon you - close your eyes and think of nothing but - Private Hell. Think of Emma - wonder what she's doing - Her husband Terry - and your grandchildren. Think of Edward - who's still at college - You send him letters - which he doesn't acknowledge. 'Cause he don't care, They don't care. 'Cause they're all going through their own - Private Hell. The morning slips away - in a valium haze, And catalogues - and numerous cups of coffee. In the afternoon - the weekly food, Is put in bags - as you float off down the high street The shop windows reflect - play a nameless host, To a closet ghost - a picture of your fantasy - A victim of your misery - and Private Hell Alone at 6 o'clock - you drop a cup - You see it smash - inside you crack - You can't go on - but you sweep it up - Safe at last inside your Private Hell. Sanity at last inside your Private Hell. Paul Weller from Setting Sons I went to a concert on Thursday and was instantly catapulted back in time. The song above transported me to my teenage bedroom with its posters of the Mod Father Paul Weller. Lying there in the dark listening to my teenage fantasy spit the bitter lyrics of a woman who was deeply dissatisfied and dead inside. At the age of thirteen I thought the song was a predication of what my life would turn in to, perhaps that’s what all women were destined for? I looked at my mother, was she going through her own “Private Hell”? I could see the effects of my mother’s generation, married for duty, trapped in domestic drudgery, whitening door steps , stuffing mushrooms, buying hostess trolleys, feeling as though they had missed out. I certainly didn’t want to end up like that. Eventually of course I did enter my own Private hell but it was one of addiction. Similar to the Valium haze of the woman in the song, to take the edge off life, to soften the edges, to run from reality. I wondered what made the eighteen year old Paul Weller write a song like that? How could he possibly know what goes on in the head of a forty something woman? Was he looking at his own mother? Did he have such a jaded view of women and marriage that he imagined that this was our fate? Did he fear that that would be his lot trapped in the suburb’s peeping out from behind the nets? Arrogance or clairvoyance? Who knows? Perhaps I should write and ask him? I am now a forty six year old woman whose kids have left home and has a bald (a bit chunky) but not fat man who I still love and he never works late. It could be someone’s idea of a private hell but I’m quite content with it today thank you very much. Addiction is private and sometimes very public hell. It saps you, it takes everything, it is a living breathing parasite draining the life blood out of you. All consuming, preoccupying, repetitive and revolving. Unsafe and insane. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Existing. Like the woman in the song. Julie
Sunday, 16 November 2014
Blog 9th of November to the 16th of November My son is an addict and he’s still out there. He still uses daily. In early recovery I dragged him along with me hoping that he would be cured and that the recovery process would be absorbed and filtered down to him like a bizarre type of osmosis. I wanted him to get well so badly I neglected my own recovery, totally missing the point and becoming preoccupied with trying to stop or control his using. No one can get another person clean. I failed to grasp this. He was not ready, he didn’t want to stop and didn’t know how to stop, he had not fully comprehended his true condition. I live in hope that one day the miracle will happen for him. The old timers have told me the seed is planted and I hope and pray that he will be brought to his knees by this illness that has swept like a tsunami through my family. I also have to accept that this may never happen and that he may be one of the few who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. My son is a massive trigger for me, I can see so many traits of myself in him that it scares me; he knows how to push my buttons. When I’m with him I can swing from love to frustration to hate to fear to anger and back again in the space of a minute. I love him but loathe his behaviors. I should know better but I continue to expect rational behavior from an irrational person. When the phone rings and his number pops up I immediately think the worse, what’s he done now? What does he want? Where is he? Hospital? Police cell? Who’s he hurt/ upset/ robbed/ hit/ hiding from/ upset or who is after him? It’s the same with a text, a seemingly harmless “How are you Mum” results in that fear, what does he want? What’s the ulterior motive? For it seems there is always one. He and I are cut from the same cloth, you can’t kid a kidder. He’s a rubbish liar yet he persists in doing so. He lies when there’s nothing to lie about - it is so ingrained it is second nature. He has no sense of self and no idea how to just be, he is not comfortable in his own skin he is like a chameleon changing skins to fit in. And I being his mother feel so many different emotions when I think of him. I explored these feelings a little in family group on Sunday night and my main feeling is fear. Fear of what he is capable of, fear of his death, a fear of failure as a parent and the fear that he has the ability to make me so angry that I lose control and that dagger inside me jumps out. Fear of the dagger inside him. Ours is not an easy relationship. I heard another piece of sad news this week, a young woman who I nursed in a past job died, she committed suicide when on home leave. It made me think how fragile life is. Sometimes, for these girls, life is too painful to live. This young girl had a desperate life full of abuse and pain, as Wyn said the other night, sometimes people like her turn to drink or drugs as it is the only way to cope, to come through the emotional pain. She didn’t have any support. She felt totally alone, un-nurtured and unloved by those who were supposed to protect and care for her. I remembered a day on the ward when the hard snow came a few years ago, the patients had really enjoyed themselves making snowmen having snowball fights with staff, she ran in breathless grabbed me and another staff member and said, eyes shining “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE”. It was the happiest I had ever seen her and I was so glad I could share that with her. There was an incredible sad inevitability about her short life. This week has been a difficult one, it’s been overwhelming at times and I have felt stressed snappy and doubted my ability to cope. My work is very stressful at present we have had 4 new admissions over the last month and the ward is now full. Staffs are finding it hard to cope and the patients are going through the stormy period as it’s been a massive change for everyone. Everyone reacts differently; some people put their heads down and get on with it, others complain and can’t see a way through and are negative. I’ve been trying to hand it over, I know I’m powerless over people places and things and that this too will pass but it’s quite difficult when you’re in the thick of it. It seems that everyone wants a piece of you, you walk through the door and everyone accosts you. I accept it comes with the territory but it feels as though I’m being bombarded. I have to be careful; stress is not good for me at all. The eating plan has been followed this week. I had one instance of over-eating a little on Thursday. I came home from group on Thursday, my partner had gone to a gig and I was looking forward to my tea, a chicken pie, when I got back I had been left a tiny piece of pie and I was really hungry. My partner’s brother had come over and he had offered him some tea as he was dishing up when he arrived. I was rather perturbed about this, and felt angry, it meant I was hungry. I over-ate at supper I had 4 crackers instead of 2. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re following an eating plan its significant as you have deviated from it and this means you are in active addiction. I can try to rationalize it by saying I was hungry all I like. This, combined with stress at work, made me feel restless, irritable and then I start beating myself up and the negativity creeps in “You’re useless, you’re hopeless, you may as well just eat, you’re big fat and ugly, you should be ashamed, you can’t even do this properly, you’re a failure; then I start loathing my body. I have to repeat “I am the right weight for me today” and trust to believe it. It’s hard when I feel like this. Work today was again difficult, lots of challenges and another new client thrown in to the mix, coupled with staff feeling the strain and finding it hard to manage the shift. You try and support best you can but I do recognize that I need to keep myself safe and try not to personalize the negative comments, they are not directed at me they are directed at the situation that we are placed in. I need to look for solutions and put the processes in place to try to keep the team and the patients safe. I need to ask for help and not be too proud and accept that I cannot change the current situation. I snapped and swore at a colleague on the phone this afternoon when we had a visitor in the office, I apologized instantly and admitted I was in the wrong, I also apologized to the visitor for my unprofessionalism but it was a warning to watch myself. I haven’t done much step-work this week so feel I need to up the program and start looking at step 1 in regards to my eating. It’s time now. I’m looking forward to going on retreat as that helps cement my recovery and always gives me a boost which will help me in the run-up to Christmas. I have a one-to-one on Tuesday so that will help too. Julie
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
My reply to James's blog who, in his email to me, said this: ' funny I did a writing group today on faith and fear, I wonder where my faith is in this time of my life'. My dear Jim, Faith is a doing word. We have to meet God half way. If I ask someone to do something for me by Friday I have to trust that that guy will do it, and let go. Likewise with God. But whatever is going on in your life, I know one thing: that it has everything to do with your recovery. No matter how bleak or hopeless a situation is, there’s ALWAYS something positive lurking underneath. So look for that positive continually, and you will ALWAYS find it. And once you’ve found it – as you always will if you look long and hard enough – you will have found the solution to your problem. This is the practical way of doing Step 3. If you don’t yet trust God, trust what I say. My love and thanks for the piece. I’ve put it up on our blog. Who knows who will read it!
A New World August 8, 2014 Jim McGovern Pulling up out in front, I saw a couple of little black kids and a white one playing on the steps at a recreation center in Port Richmond. By their interaction, you could tell they were buddies. There was a time in the not-that-distant past where such a thing would have been unheard of. Growth, diversity, change, tolerance. Attitudes that can change a neighborhood…and a world. On yet another beautiful non-humid August night, having heard on the radio driving up about the massacres going on in Northern Iraq that were fueled by religious fanatics, la grande difference, struck me. Then there was the news that the bombings back’n’forth in Gaza, started up again moments after the 72-hour cease fire. About 45 minutes later, our 12-step meeting began. The topic and chapter was about the spiritual solution to our deadly disease. Eventually the literature makes it very clear that the Higher Power that will tear us away from the hell of our addicted lives is one of our own understanding. The practical step-by-step method to become aware of and then do - the will of our Creator, is what the steps and program is all about. Never is it far from my consciousness how world-changing it would be for a Shite, a Sunni, an Israeli, a Palestinian, a Christian and a Kurd to sit in a meeting together and to practice the 12 steps. The will of God, the will of Allah, the grasp of our Destiny that the sanctity of open-mindedness can lead us to, IS A MEANS to change our world. 14 years ago this very night was the first of the rest of my life without a drink or a drug. 8/8/00. Eights are huge in my life. My mom was 88 when she died. 1988 was when my dad died. On 8/3/98 a spiritual experience had near a minutes worth of pins and needles cascade my body as the thought ‘you will be insulated and protected because you believed that I love you’ stammered through my brain. 8’s – lay them flat and you have the Infinity sign. My wonder of how to pay back for that love, evolved into the taking of those steps to the world. Unfortunately I have not gotten very far. My book “12 Steps to Change the World” has not made much of a splash…my sloth and despair and lack of marketing focus or know how, get in my way. May my Higher Power guide me to and my world to overcome.
Monday, 10 November 2014
Blog 2nd November to the 9th of November When I get stressed I get bitchy. I find it hard to be upfront and honest with people and tell them that their behavior has upset me (unless they are one of the patients) I think it’s a combination of different feelings and emotions, fear of the unknown, fear of the reaction, fear of having to deal with their anger, fear that they will tell everyone what an evil old harridan I am. It does not come easily to me. In the past I have either avoided it totally and hoped it would go away, or I’ve discussed my anger and my self-righteousness with half a dozen other people in a very unprofessional manner all before half past seven in the morning! When I was in active addiction that is just what I did. Now I’m in recovery that doesn’t work anymore. Maybe when I was in active addiction I did so many other dreadful things that the bitching and the backbiting didn’t seem that big a deal. Now in recovery I don’t make the dreadful mistakes of the past so the mistakes I do make are being recognized. I didn’t acknowledge this behavior before I just thought it was part of my personality. It’s not it’s a nasty character defect and it doesn’t sit well with this recovery malarkey. I know what I have to do it’s about plucking up the courage to confront in a sensitive and kind fashion as I would like someone to do to me and accept the other persons reaction without trying to justify sooth or apologies (no mean feat) My other big problem is self-righteous indignation. When Wyn first mentioned that to me I had to go home and look it up in the dictionary. I was furious and called him a few choice words (not to his face but behind his back).The cheek of it! Who did he think he was! After reflection I realized that he was bang on right. I did it a lot; in fact I did it without knowing I was doing it. Judging others, do as I say not as I do. There was me, life a mess in active addiction but I was ever so happy to tell others where they were going wrong and what they should do. I ministered to all and sundry, sound solid advice (or so I thought). And where did it get me? Absolutely nowhere, as it leaves you feeling angry resentful and quite delusional. I’m trying not to dole out the advice now unless I’m asked for it and then try to give it as a suggestion or advice through my own experience, as that’s all I have to give. My own experience strength and hope. This situation arose in work this week, one of my nurses had a close family bereavement and another nurse had swapped a shift with her. I informed the one nurse of the sad news of the other and the first words out of her mouth were “What about the shift swap” Well………………… I was shocked, upset, angry and amazed that someone could be so insensitive. So shocked that I had to discuss it with several people instead of the person herself! I shared it in group and again those words, those bloody words that have begun to haunt me I was accused of “self-bloody righteous indignation” This time I didn’t have to look it up in a dictionary. It was true; I was putting my values and beliefs on to another person. Instead of addressing it there and then, I let it fester and things that fester bother me and play on my mind and before I know it I’m preoccupied and the cycle of bitchiness and talking behind someone’s back starts again. God, this is a learning curve. I learn lessons every day and some of them are quite hard to swallow. I have an action plan, she’s on leave and I will speak to her honestly when she comes back, tell her how her reaction made me feel and how I felt it came across and listen to her response. That’s the right way to deal with it. The other dilemma this week has been visiting my mother. When we go down to see her she normally makes a big Sunday lunch, I’m on an eating plan and not to follow it means active addiction. My mother is a big enough trigger as it is without throwing food in to the equation, but I don’t want to upset her by refusing her food which she sees as a mortal insult. I shared this in group the suggestion was take your own food, stick to the plan. I asked my higher power to guide me when I was doing the sitting with my feelings in an empty room exercise. I know the group is right. I text her and told her not to cook for me as I would bring my own and she text back saying that was fine. Planning is the key. I can’t do ad hock when it comes to food. My 1:1 session was cancelled this week as Wyn had to go to Cardigan. I felt as though I had been given a get out of jail free card as we were going to discuss my Dad. My Dad died eight years ago on March the 9th. I loved him very much, and for some odd reason when Wyn asks me about him I get very tearful. I talk about him a lot but not as part of my recovery. I talk about the funny things he did and said when he was alive. I have talked a lot about my mother and her influence on me but not at all about my father. I am aware that he is on a pedestal and this has also transferred on to my children who talk about him and remember him in almost sainted and reverential terms. He died at the age of 63 of leukemia, he asked me to look after my mother and the children as he lay in hospital dying. I think he knew the fractiousness of my relationship with my mother and was scared that the tie would be severed after he went. He was a good man and I feel disloyal talking about him. My greatest fear as a child and as an adult was that something would happen to him or that he would cut me off and disown me if I did something that displeased him. I was never really honest with him for that reason. I just stopped telling him things or communicating with him on any deeper level. I know that he loved me; I was scared of disappointing him. It’s hard for a child to live like that so you begin to lie or avoid telling the truth for fear of disapproval. I also know that at some stage I have to explore these feelings and knock him off that pedestal. I presume that’s the next chapter in becoming a well person. Julie
Monday, 3 November 2014
Blog 25thOcotber to the 1st of November After the trials and tribulations of last week, things have finally calmed down. I went to OA on Monday and it was good to share with like-minded individuals. When I was there it struck me as rather amusing that I had let something as trivial as a pizza become such an enormous big deal. I was thrilled to bits when someone else shared their obsession with oven chips. It made me realize how all these items food, drink, drugs are the symptoms not the cause. It was not the pizza that was at fault on Saturday night it was the person who felt that need that craving and that desire beyond all other desires to order that pizza. Putting down your chosen substance or poison as a friend of mine likes to call it is the tip of the iceberg, its delving deal in to the murky waters and discovering why you feel the need to cope in that way that really counts. I have followed the food plan this week to the ticket, no negotiation, no substituting and no playing around with it, despite being invited to two gatherings both with food. I’ve had a busy week (and not busy in the look at me I’m so busy I’ve not got time to stop as I’m so important week) it has been one of those what I call “ bitty” weeks at work, where it seems as though your getting nowhere fast. Consequently this had led to some frustration, lots of saying the serenity prayer and lots of reminders to self that I am powerless over people places and things. I’ve been trying to bring myself in to the moment when I feel overwhelmed by it all and reassure myself that I can cope and this too will end. Trying to see the funny side also helps. I had an interesting afternoon this week, in my old job I felt that I was bullied, I had never experienced this in over 20 years of Nursing and it came as a shock to me. Somehow when you’ve never experienced bullying before you think you’re immune to it and when I was actually in the middle of it I was trying so hard to just keep afloat that I doubted myself and wandered if I was losing my sanity. This week a few people from the head of the company came to speak to me about it, I never reported it but my name had been given as someone to talk to regarding a culture of bullying in the hospital that I worked in. I had forgotten how much it had affected me and I found it really cathartic. As a result of this programme the 12 steps, I was not frightened any more, and I was totally honest. I gave them a true reflection of my experience strength and hope and I felt validated. I had total trust that I was doing the right thing. Prior to this I would have been plagued with self-doubt, fear and overwhelming panic. After they left, I found myself slipping into old habits, I began to have to good old “bitch fest” with another staff member who had also experienced the same thing. I had to stop myself and look at my behavior. Carrying resentments is no good for me, it causes me pain anger and preoccupation, and having any expectations of the outcome of the investigation would be just as bad. I just have to trust that justice will be served I the right way and as long as my side of the street is clean, I have nothing to fear. The end of the week has been lovely. I attended a Halloween party on Friday night, before this we had a ward party where all the staff and the patients dressed up for Halloween and had a disco. One of the staff nurses who is also known as the Legend burst in to the office in full pirate regalia carrying a fake cutlass shouting “ARR Jim Lad” She then announced “I can see really well through this eye patch” It’s fantastic when someone makes a real effort to brighten the day of others and all the staff on the ward really threw themselves in to making it a special evening. It’s tough being in hospital but I really think that little events like that make a difference and boost everyone’s spirts. A great time was had by all. The party was fun, there was drink but I had an action plan, I was on call and also I left when it started to become a little louder to go home. I was even able to sing some Karaoke without liquid refreshment (apart from tea) Tonight was fireworks in Coopers field. It always sounds best when you say “Sparks in the Park” in a Cardiff accent. My best friend and her children and grandchildren always make it a date and it was a real joy to see the look on her little granddaughters face gazing in awe at the fireworks. My bestie then bought her a light-up Mickey Mouse that she kept thrusting at people saying “Look what Nanna got me” she is just so cute. So different and so much better than the year that I took 2 bottles of brandy hot chocolate to the same event!!!!!!! Chaos reigned, and that is the insanity of this illness, thinking that was perfectly acceptable. And so I plod on, working this recovery, onwards and upwards to the next week. Julie