I was very sad to read the reports of 14 year old school girl, Fiona Geraghty’s tragic suicide due to bullying over her weight. She was bulimic. I was bullied at school and I know how lonely and desperate it can feel. I also know the risky means I took to try and cope. It is heartbreaking that this beautiful young girl took such drastic measures to alleviate her overwhelming feelings of self loathing. It is appalling too that despite public school resources and professional help she slipped through the net. Too easy to happen, too easy to believe the feeling of hopelessness, to listen to the illness and become a casualty of this treacherous condition. For me news like this spurs me on in my intent to go the extra mile in our work at Charter and in schools, and to remind all those that will listen that we are responsible for Step 12….there is hope and it lives in every one of us who is committed to walking the walk…we can do what I can’t. Pray for her family who will feel such a huge loss…I will – there but for the grace of God go mine.
I agree this is a fast growing health problem. I bear witness to people whose dependence on these drugs causes more trouble than the original issue. Medication is rarely a cure, but if managed properly it can provide a valuable support whilst the individual explore more sustainable ways of coping with stress, anxiety and expectations of themselves in this highly pressurised society. Therapy is an extraordinary tool to achieve just this and transforming many people’s lives.
It is shocking that UK adolescents are the heaviest drug users and drinkers in Europe but not surprising to me. I put this down to a number of things including these three:- a lack of family boundaries – too many parents are their child’s ‘best friend’, catastrophic for a child who needs a boundary to play brinkmanship against. I also think that many of the young adults I encounter in my work in schools and with teens at Charter are far too clever for their own good, clever and invincible. There is a distinct lack of humility in this population, so danger is dismissed as irrelevant. And then, and perhaps most significantly, drugs are so accessible in terms of literal access as well as price, with the curiosity of youth, experimentation is inevitable. So alongside every other parent whose child heads into the uncharted waters of their teens, I hold my breath, pray and try to trust my parenting of childhood years that fostered self representation, good communication and a respect for boundaries.
Anorexia is a complex illness often borne of trauma experienced in the early developmental stages of a person’s life. It is an illness related to a desperate need for control when there has been a painful experience alongside feelings of lack of control. That control is then displaced to food intake which in turn can make a person feel powerful that they don’t need food…translate this as not needing anything – love, attention, friends… Thus the anorexic is god, apparently surpassing and denying basic human need – this then feels safe. Eating awakens an appetite, and this can leave the anorexic (unconsciously) terrified that their entire coping mechanism is breaking down. Crazy as it may seem an anorexic will opt for the paradoxical safety of starvation rather than the terror of being human and therefore vulnerable. This lady who the court has ruled should be force fed to save her life should also be provided with counselling – intensive, qualified, experienced anorexia and trauma counselling – to make the force feeding worthwhile and not just another abusive act that she tolerates until she can kill herself in another way. I do believe that ‘no hopers’ can get well and I have witnessed the miracle many times. But always the key to the miracle is to inspire from the inside. Battering on the outside only reinforces the defences…I hope she can ALSO find someone she can talk to and work with.
See more of this story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/15/anorexic-woman-fed-judge?newsfeed=true
I want to add my voice to the positive public response to MP’s Charles Walker and Kevan Jones’ disclosures around their mental health issues, OCD and depression. Even in a one to one counselling environment it is challenging to ‘get honest’ – to do it in a public forum with no control over the outcome, risking public opinion and popularity, these disclosures set an unprecedented example to us all. Stigma is fuelled by secrecy and shame and is a fundamental part of the dynamic of many mental health issue in themselves: paranoia, fear of what others are thinking, a desperate need for approval are characteristic of many psychological disorders and an openness of individual experience from those in the public eye goes a long way to confronting the stigma and hopefully encouraging others to come forward and own their experience, and perhaps we even seek help. (See more on this story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18444516)
I read this recently: – ‘A treatment centre is where you go and pay $ to find out that AA meetings are free’. Ok, so it’s funny and all, but once we’re all done laughing I’m left thinking about the relationship between fellowships and treatment in the UK.
I am a fan of the fellowships; they are an accessible and inspiring resource that is in my opinion vital for a person to gain a sustainable recovery. But akin to the kind of disapproval in the fellowships 20 years ago when someone was on anti depressants (an opinion that is now thankfully outmoded), I have found a culture of animosity in the rooms towards treatment. Its a kind of snobbery that insinuates that those in treatment are being ripped off, or that somehow they have failed to work a proper programme or the rooms would have worked. I believe that what works works – treatment, therapy, fellowship, service – and who are any of us to criticise?
In my experience those who benefit from treatment are people with multiple addictions and fractured lives who don’t know who to believe any more; those who have lost any sense of valuable self and need holding until they quiet enough to hear themselves again; those who are shy and have no voice; those who have some form of PTSD or trauma; people who persistently relapse or simply need the support. Treatment is a powerful experience to help someone get completely clean and from there with the support and experience of a dedicated clinical team, gain valuable insight and understanding of themselves, their priming and of addiction in a relatively short space of time. Sadly this does come at a price in the UK that is not widely affordable, but it remains an incredibly valuable service that deserves due recognition.
I am now proud to describe myself as a monarchist. My conversion began in earnest with the BBC documentary on the Queen earlier this year which was thought provoking and at times very moving, and was completed by witnessing the stalwart, steady stance of Her Majesty over the jubilee weekend. As I woke each day, tired despite sleep after the demands of my own busy life, I was mindful of how she might be feeling and admiring of her constant presence at the celebrations. Reliable, determined, other centred and motivated by duty – these are qualities that stand a person in good stead. Are they teachable I wonder as these are qualities that many in my client group lack? With self centredness being a core constituent of addiction, other centredness is a vital component of recovery.
As many ended last week looking forward to an extended bank holiday Jubilee weekend, albeit in the rain, I headed home with heavy heart. For in a moment of weakness and under extreme duress from my daughter, I had conceded to swim in the 24 hr school Swimathon that night, after a long and intense clinical day. Not a great lover of swimming, I spent my journey home pondering how in the past I would have come up with colourful excuses to swerve this commitment as I got cold feet. But I am good for my word today, and this was in an excellent cause – local children’s charity Dandelion Time – and, most importantly perhaps, the commitment was to my daughter. Also as we were camping at the school in celebration of the end of exams and Jubilee, there was no way out! So with a flask full of tea and towel over one arm I ventured onto the campsite with trepidation to discover that I was scheduled to swim the 0215 leg alone for 3/4hr!
As the evening darkened so did any hope that a miracle might alleviate me of my duty. And so it was that 2am found me standing in fine drizzle at the edge of a steaming pool, with 2 life guards and my husband watching over me, and a sole swimmer in practised rhythm finishing the leg before mine. Knees bent I felt a sudden surge of satisfaction, I was doing this.
After about 20 minutes I was tiring so I floated on my back and found myself thinking about recovery and how it is possible to do anything when you just put one foot front of the other. How simple it is when you just accept and put the over-thinking to one side. And as I looked to the side of the pool and saw my daughter and 2 of her friends amble out of their tents to file along the side of the pool and watch, sleep addled and shivering in the night air, I felt supported and grateful – we can do what I can’t. (Then I sent them back to bed!)
And as I crept back into my sleeping bag around 0315, uncomfortable, tired, still damp and cold through, and yet I felt proud. This was an esteem-able act, and I felt nourished by it – what an unexpected result!
I hope to use this forum to share my thoughts and experiences and to stimulate discussion, mainly in the field of addiction, but also around life in general.
I am sure we will get to know one another over time, but for now let me offer a brief introduction. I am in my late 40s and came into recovery in 1989 – it has not been plain sailing, but its been a gift! I met my husband in 1993 and we have 3 children. I am now a working mother as we have swapped roles and he takes care of the home.
I used to work in TV, and have now been in the addiction world in a professional capacity for around 15 years. I launched Charter in 2008 with friend and professional mentor, Anthony Mclellan. Charter is an addiction day programme that is a 12 step back to basics approach, with an additional personalised dimension, borne of my own experiences. Last year I bought the company off Tony and since then have cemented an experienced, happy and effective clinical team.