Tag Archive | bulimia

Life: The Masquerade Ball

Since August 3rd I have been on a Contiki group holiday travelling from Los Angeles to New York.  At the beginning of this article, I am in a hotel abutting the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida.  For most people, this state of events is ideal and has the potential for wonderful times and indescribable adventures.  Sadly, as you will all have picked up by now, I am not most people.  Neither my brain nor my heart will permit me to compute the idea of a month of such glee or merriment.  I simply cannot stress enough just how frustrating it is to me that I so desire to join in the fun and have a great time with the new friends Pippa has made (for reason I address myself in 3rd person here, see..) and yet, there never comes a time when control of the requisite organs to appreciate my situation rests in my hands.  My illnesses are constantly usurping my power and forcing me to conceal the true madness behind the mask (yes, I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!).

The Pippa I was before I became medicated and up-to-a-point subdued and diluted would have been standoffish and shy to a fault, but eventually she would have found her feet and met her lobster (Friends has been playing on the coach!).  Sadly, the Pippa who survived assault and constant mental, emotional and physical abuse with scant comfort to punctuate the suffering, attempts to fit in and finds her lobster but buckles under the strain of being so constantly watched and masked in front of strangers.  That is what has happened in the midpoint of this wonderful trip that has been eagerly anticipated for years.

Precisely halfway through my sojourn abroad my mood took a nosedive.  My sleeping hasn’t been too bad, which can sometimes lead to depression, yet just before a wild night in NOLA (New Orleans), most of which I do not recall, I felt as though I had no reason to live.  I had just seen the most beautiful natural sight I’m sure I’ll ever see: the sunset over the bayou in Louisiana from an airboat floating on calm waters.  I’ve included one of the pictures I captured of the moment that nearly brought me to tears but though it is a cliché thing to say, you really did have to be there sitting at the front of the boat with spray hitting you and showing you just how alive you are at that moment in time.  I felt free and alone in a crowd.  It was perfection.  There was no pressure, there was no suffering, there was no thinking or living.  There was just being.  I thought it God’s gift.  Sadly, as I have previously said, the greater the gift from God, the harsher and greater the payment owed to the Devil.  The Devil took his payment in full not three hours later (even Faustus had more time to settle his debts!) when I determined to drink my way down the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  It has been said that I was “drinking like I didn’t want to live” and I am forced to agree with my travelling companions.  I did not want to live.  Life will never be as perfect or easy to deal with as it was on that boat in the middle of the swamp seeing a spectacular sunset, and somewhere, subconsciously, my broken brain told my broken heart that both should go down after a high like that and then my entire system was in agreement that Bourbon Street would be a location where I tried to die happy rather than England where I have attempted to die miserable many times.

P1090743

Louisiana Sunset

I remember the entirety of Bourbon Street, including the bulimic attack I had during a helping of gumbo.  I even remember being cogent enough to request the Uber to take me and my two friends back to our hotel.  The last thing I remember is getting into bed at probably about 2am, but after that, I have no clue what befell me or my roommate, though I am told I was a very abrasive drunk.

Drinking like I didn't want to live...

Drinking like I didn’t want to live…

Since then, I don’t know if I am almost disappointed that I am not dead or if I am just reacting to the poor opinion of me that the other passengers now have, but my mood has refused to be improved.  Despite my proverbial inhalation of my SSRIs and antidepressants, my bulimic attacks have not slowed up or gone away and I cannot get into the spirit of the trip as well as I was before I grew tired of wearing the mask that showed the rest of the world the portrait of a sane person, while beneath there resides a broken, bat-shit crazy bitch.

When I am back home, I wear a mask to a certain extent with people I do not trust or have only just met, but when you are spending a month in the company of the same people and without resorting to Facebook and Instagram stalking – something I refuse to do with my time – you have no idea who they really are as much as they cannot tell who you are.  When it’s a fortnight or less, it’s not so bad because I can keep it together (more or less…) for that duration of time, but I’ve never had to maintain a constant mask for over four weeks and to paraphrase the great Tennessee Williams, I’ve never had to depend on the kindness of strangers for so long.  It’s exhausting and it made me think about how often I don the mask and thereafter how long I wear it in the company of others.

I have since made up my mind and decided that none may know me as long as I live, save my children and the only love of my life.  They are the only ones with whom I feel – or will feel – safe.  As such, I wear a mask to all others to protect myself from being further broken and rendered unable to show my face to those who have to see it, who deserve to see it, who must see it.

Anyway, I’ll leave you all with that thought as I sit watching my roommate get ready to go to a club in Miami Beach that according to a club promoter I am too ugly, too big and not sufficiently “Miami” enough (yes, I am using Miami as an adjective that’s how low my self-esteem is currently, that without the mask I’m still too warped physically for the world that the Grammar Nazi in me has checked out for the night!).

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

20-08-2015

Pippa AKA River Tam

I was watching the episode War Stories from Joss Whedon’s AMAZING series, Firefly, when it occurred to me that the quote in the little spotlight I put together is such a good expression of what I feel 99% of the time and what I am sure other people who suffer from depression and other mental health illnesses feel too.  For those of you who have never seen the show (and therefore have not lived!), it is only fourteen episodes long, plus the movie Serenity to tie it all off, because FOX cancelled it prematurely and a decision that is rage-inducing to all its fans still going strong today as Browncoats.  River Tam is the character played by the glorious Summer Glau who has her mind altered painfully by the government, leaving her lobotomised but clever, agile and more perspective than her other shipmates.  It never occurred to me until today how good a character she is for mental health illness sufferers to relate to, but I guess I’ve found another kindred spirit in a TV show.  Let’s face it, no matter how much I tried to believe it, I was never going to be the eternally happy Kaylee (Jewel Staite), was I?  No, best make myself into the lonesome, ostracised and damaged young girl that is River Tam.  That’s realistic thinking for you.

10501729_10153697750326521_5889297687234892158_n

Hope that speaks to you as much as it does to me!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P.Mistry-Norman

02-04-2015

Time to Change & Time to Talk Day

For those of you who do not know, Time to Talk Day was four days ago and I missed it!  However, as someone who keeps a blog on mental health and is extremely open about her own problems in that area, I feel I have given more than a year’s worth of five minutes talking about my depression, anxiety disorder and mythomania.  So, it gives me great pleasure – and I thank him very much for opting to give his five minutes to LaBellaBorgia Speaks – to introduce you to the writing of Jack again, who has written very well and to great effect here previously.

P. Mistry-Norman


You may remember me, I wrote here previously about my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (https://labellaborgia.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/living-with-borderline-personality-disorder/). For those, however, who do not, my name is Jack Jeffreys. I am twenty three. I live with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (Bipolar).

Today I want to talk about Time To Change, a charity aiming to reduce and eradicate mental health stigma. Today, 5th February, is Time To Talk Day. The idea is that you take five minutes to discuss mental health – so get a cup of tea because I’m taking my five minutes with you all now. However, I do not really want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about the work Time To Change do, and why I think it is vital. Vital in the present, and vital in the future. In our generation and for generations to come.

time-to-talk-290x169

I work with Time To Change through the Advocacy Project based in St. Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove. I do not get to spend a huge amount of time with them because of work, but I give them as many days off as I can afford. We go to public areas, and set up cafes. People can never turn down free tea and cake, and in return we discuss mental health with them. This always starts very one sided, but by the end it completely flips and I am left listening to the random member of the public. This is because so many people have a lived experience of mental health.

One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health “issues”. You have to remember mental health is a sliding scale from suffering from stress, through anxiety and depression, up to addiction, personality, obsessive, psychiatric, neurotic, eating, or mood disorders. When you think of it like this one in four does not sound so extreme.

At Time To Change we aim to challenge people’s views on mental health, and bring them into the twenty first century. We discuss statistics: one in six people in work in the UK have a mental health condition, and roughly 11% of the population is on anti-depressants. We discuss people like Stephen Fry and Winston Churchill, who suffer/suffered with Bipolar; Jim Carrey, who suffers with depression; Heath Ledger, who suffered with drug abuse; and John Prescott, who suffered with Bulimia. We aim to make mental health something that everyone can relate to. We aim to make mental health less scary.

Once we get into a discussion with people, they often start asking questions about mental health. There are some very common mental health myths.

Myth: If you suffer from a mental health condition you can be violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health condition makes you no more violent than anyone else. Only 3-5% of violent attacks are attributed to mental health, and when you consider that 25% of people suffer with some form of mental health, the myth does not really add up. In fact, it actually works the other way. In the US, you are ten times more likely to be a victim of violent crime if you suffer from mental health.

Myth: If you suffer from mental health problem you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health conditions has very little to do with being a weak person, it often requires help, in some form, to get better. Different forms of therapy help different conditions, generally. Mindfulness is the real mental health buzz word/therapy at the moment. Many factors attribute to mental health problems, such as biological factors (genetics or injury) or life experience (trauma and abuse). Many people recover from mental health conditions, but you cannot put time on this. There is no rule for how long it takes to get better; it is not the same as a broken leg.

Myth: YOU cannot help someone with a mental health condition.

Fact: I know a lot of people with mental health conditions. The little things mean the most. Friends telling them they are there to help or helping them access mental health services. Treating them with respect, just like anyone else. Generally being a friend or family member, just how you were, before mental health became an issue. Refusing to allow someone to be defined by diagnosis – I am bipolar but I do not have to act that way. And making it a ‘normal’ thing.

Myth: All you need to do is take tablets.

Fact: This works for some people. But for lots of people this is not the whole answer. A combination of therapy and medication is important. In some cases medication is not even required. I believe anti-depressants are drastically over prescribed by the NHS. This is because of an ever reducing mental health budget.

Myth: Children do not experience mental health problems.

Fact: Half of all mental health disorders show first signs by the age of fourteen, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of twenty four.

There are many more than this, but these are the most common myths we hear.

The important thing about Time To Change is the attempt to normalize mental health. Mental health is not going to disappear. In the high stress world that many people live in, it will only become more prevalent. And without wanting to make this political, under the current government, treatment is becoming less available. Therefore it is vital we are in a position to help each other.

I guess I am urging you to avoid awkward conversations, and to be that person who talks openly about mental health. Go and do research. Find out the truth. Do not shy away from it. If you have a friend or a family member who suffers with any form of mental health, break down the invisible barriers that exist in society, and talk about it. Mental health is not something to be scared or threatened by.

To conclude, I make no apology for not talking about my mental health. If you know me, or have read what I written previously, you will know I am very open and will discuss anything you want to know about me. Today is not about my mental health. It is about building a foundation for our generation, and generations to come. A foundation that allows our friends and family to feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. Start talking about mental health. Go and have another cup of tea. Go and talk about it over dinner. I’ve taken my five minutes today. Now go and take yours.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

09-02-2015

The Hunger Games: The Odds Never In My Favour

I don’t know that anyone who doesn’t live in the barren countries in Africa or a refugee camp in the Middle East can claim to know or experience true hunger.  However, when you suffer from an anxiety disorder that can lead to hospitalisation and hours of seemingly endless regurgitation as I do, I can assure you that hunger is a very real and recurrent sensation.

It is a shame but I cannot actually recall when my inability to eat began, in fact, to put it plainly, I cannot remember a time when I could sit down to eat and not have to fret about how close the bathroom was or how to make sure I always had a cold liquid to hand.  It’s been that long!  My earliest memories are of me dashing through the halls just beyond Chigwell School dining hall to heave my guts out.  The funny thing about the many times when my lunch at school didn’t go to plan was that often I would fly past the deputy head (the school taskmaster) and they were the only times he never told someone off for running in the hallways.  Small comfort, I know…

I cannot speculate on the matter of how the trouble started, only that it started when I was very young and still has a hold over my eating habits to this day.  I don’t know if it arose on account of how busy a child I was what with musical commitments and studying – yes, I was a geek/nerd at school and am still – but I know that it is nothing whatsoever to do with the actual food.  Doctors have diagnosed it as allergies, but been unable to determine the specific allergen, my mother (a pescetarian) reckons it’s because I eat meat, but I believe it is caused by anxiety and stress.  I think that at some point during my formative years, I must have thrown up during a meal and thereupon developed a kind of psychosis towards eating with people and in a stressful – aka formal – setting, for I am not sick when I eat alone as much as I am when dining in a restaurant and/or in company.

As I’ve said already, I have been hospitalised on numerous occasions because of this and been referred to a throat and mouth specialist in the hospital later, but I do not care about the blood that shows when I am sick more than once per meal, I can easily disregard the tonsillitis that flares up as a secondary symptom on account of stomach acids aggravating my tonsils, and even the cuts I’ve got on the back of my throat from when I’ve had to stick my fingers down my throat in order to feel better on the third or fourth regurgitation matter very little to me.  What I would give anything for to be healed and eliminated is the debilitating sense of failure, wrongness and guilt which accompany the physical sickness.

One of the phrases I am known for using when I see or am referring to a particularly problematic or jarring human being is “it’s like God threw up a person” and though I know it’s not an especially pleasant or eloquent statement, I feel it sums up the sheer inadequacy of the current settings in a situation where you cannot simply press a button to restore factory settings (please pardon the IT Crowd divergence).

The current settings on my body’s mainframe seem to be to fail whenever possible and not backup any crucial information or just shut down at a moment’s notice.  In other words, my body is the MS DOS of computers!  My body does not function with speed or finesse and cannot do the most  basic functions that I expect of it in this – or any, for that matter – day and age.  I am now 21 years of age and despite my romantic, mental, sexual and social lives being non-existent or at best deeply dysfunctional, I feel I am well within my rights to beg the divine beings in the world, to just let me be able to sit down to eat without worrying myself and my fellow diners and having to locate the restrooms ahead of time and then panic if they seem more than a minute’s gallop away.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): heroine of The Hunger Games franchise

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): heroine of The Hunger Games franchise

So, to conclude, I guess I am luckier than the poor souls who live without food and don’t know from where their next meal is coming, but (#thirdworldproblems) having a lobster Thermidor or the best bangers and mash in the country (from The Waggon & Horses, Lymington) steaming and appetising on a plate in front of you and then replacing it into a toilet bowl is a kind of Tantalean torture of the 21st century that is hard to bear.  All I am saying is that people forget or dismiss depression and anxiety because so often there is no physical repercussion, however, this post serves as proof and a cautionary tale that mental illness can lead to and perpetuate all kinds of physical trauma.  Mine is the certain regurgitation and the competition between keeping food down and defeating my body or letting it get the better of me and vacate my stomach.  It’s a game of mealtime and a game that until it’s solved and I have help I can not be expected to win.  I just have to apologise constantly and continuously to the people with whom I sit down to meals for worrying them and for consistently flying from the table.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

23-09-2014