I’ll warn you here – a wall of text is coming at you, and it’s not pretty.
I have thought long and hard about what my response to the recent drama that has erupted should be. There is no easy way to deal with this, and a lot of people have been burnt.
I was going to not name names, but mine has been dragged through the trash over on Nicole‘s blog in these posts, so here I go. For me, the last straw has been her post My Dream, in which she calls me a hypocrite. But before that, I hung in there and defended her over on GOMI for months, and stayed loyal despite not agreeing to her militant hatred of fat and people as expressed in Buying the Model, where she calls normal women ‘lumpy’, the resulting comments, the comments on The big fat, fat fat article, I’d rather be dead than fat, her comments about Beyonce being fat on my own posts about beautiful women… and then the shit hit the fan.
Her response has been to follow me around the internet attacking me on other blogs, on my own blog, and to post calling me a hypocrite.
“when I drop below a certain point/weight (and corresponding aesthetic)….I feel just that, as though my body can stop working at any point.”
what if this is how Jess would feel physically if she reached her ideal? (which could actually continue to change — to perhaps even thinner or more muscular. EDs work that way.) what if pursiung that ideal caused her to feel like the walking dead? heart beating erratically, muscle failure and tremors, obsession, depression,…etc/
not saying this would or would not be the case…just “what if?”
anywhoo- my point is — what if this would also be for Jess “unhealthy” would you still support her pursuit — to the death?
rationalizing all the while that sometimes “the unhealthy is healthy,” as you put it?
do you think you might change your opinion of “she died happy” after she was dead?
Jess, one way to lose weight is to ditch some of your “friends.”
i am very concerned. and disturbed. in so many ways.”
As you can see – not an attack. A very concerned (with good reason) comment. Concerned for Jess’s wellbeing over all things.
This and this were Nicole’s responses. As you can see, not at all appropriate. And if you have time to read the hundreds of comments, the attacks just keep coming. Missy has bowed out – and is fine. She’s wise.
I am a very loyal person. I have lived with mental illnesses all around me. I’ve volunteered with the homeless, of whom a large percentage are in that position because they are mentally ill and have fallen ‘through the cracks’ so to speak. I’ve spent over 150 admissions mostly in a psychiatric ward for my eating disorder where I have had the opportunity to become extremely familiar with mental illnesses and those who live with them. I have good friends with all sorts of problems – and mental illnesses. My best friend in the whole wide world lives with Schizophrenia – and I’ve hung in there despite at times, being scared of losing my friend to a stranger who just happened to inhabit her body and could hit out at times verbally. I’ve seen friends become psychotic, either from starvation in anorexia, or other mental illnesses. I’ve watched friends suffering anorexia and bulimia become distraught and verbally abusive in hospital, even physically fight those trying to help them. I myself, have been abusive both verbally and physically in my own admissions – “I hate you! How could you do this to me? It’s MY body! Mine. Leave me alone! You can’t make me have this! You can’t do this, I won’t let you!” and so forth. Physically I have fought tooth and nail to keep them from nasogastrically feeding me. I am not proud of that, but I was sick. So I have stuck around for friends despite this behaviour (and scarier) in them, because I love them for them – not their behaviour. I separate that from them and support them hoping for their recovery.
This is what I expected to be able to do with Nicole. From the beginning, she was a lovely person to know. She was kind – sending me gifts and inspiring me to have hope that I can beat the bulimia part of my eating disorder – by adopting a practice of buying my food daily, not keeping food to binge on in the house. I could see myself doing it, whereas before that, I couldn’t imagine it being possible.
But Nicole has changed hugely. At first there were glimpses, little signs that things were not completely okay under that facade, but lately she has spun wildly out of control. This behaviour – the last straw being her attack on Missy – has gone way beyond ‘sick’ and into just plain nasty – and I believe we are dealing with someone who is a Malignant Narcissist. Wikipedia describes it as an
“”an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifest in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty andsadism“.“
I know now, that I can rest easy that stepping out was the best thing to do. I could stay loyal to Nicole – and if she ever does get help for her problems and settle down and try to be a sincere person, I will gladly again support her. But we have to draw a line – and sticking with a cruel and sadistic person is like placing your own head on a chopping block after handing them the axe.
That said, I now wish to talk about what Nicole has said about me.
If what I am doing makes me a hypocrite, so be it. But I know, in my own heart, that I have been working my arse ON in my efforts for a better, more functional life. I might be far from any kind of ‘well’ in anyone’s language – but I’m getting there.
Several years ago, I was on my deathbed. I had been dying for the past decade. I was never out of hospital for long periods of time – I pretty much have spent more than a decade practically living in that place – fighting them, and fighting for my life. My weight dropped as low as 29 kilograms on my 170cm frame, constantly. Not just once, but many, many times. I would lose the weight pretty much as soon as they discharged me. They stopped taking me up further than 40 kilos to discharge me and I would be back in the low 30′s within a week and my bloods would be dangerously out of whack. I was on 30+ medications to just keep my body alive daily, as well as constant medical admissions for IV’s to save my life. I had chronic severe neutropenia – meaning I had very few white blood cells and my immunity was dangerously suppressed, so I spent a lot of time in the infectious diseases ward too. A very simple infection – a cold, an infected cut finger – would have killed me, I had nothing to fight it.
I started out a restricter, but after some admissions, learnt to purge. I then slowly became bulimic as control was lost to the urges from a lifetime of starvation. So while I was losing this weight, I was bingeing and purging horrifically, so that my eating disorder (diagnosis is Anorexia type II) was extremely dangerous – all the worst aspects of both anorexia and bulimia combined. It was also a living hell.
Over the last couple of years, even nasogastric feeding did not help me. I could throw up ANYTHING and did so, even when restrained with two point restraints – you are strapped to your bed, on your back, by your wrists. What did stay down, no longer seemed to be used by my body. So I was kept alive with TPN – total parenatal nutrition. I got extremely sick every time I was refed with refeeding syndrome. It was touch and go. I have been told several times I would not make it through the night. I have been told I wouldn’t live to 24, to 28, to 30 – I’m now 34. I wasted to the point that I was not able to sit up myself, could not stand up without support, could not walk. I was a broken mess.
All this time, I was working in therapy – asking for more help, working with my case managers and doctors. I was honest with them, and tried to do what I could to help myself, but it wasn’t much. I felt utterly hopeless in the face of a beast that screamed (still does) 24/7 the most horrible things. I felt overwhelmed by self hatred and in the depths of major depression, which I was first diagnosed with at nine – and felt I needed to die, to stop my horrible-ness from infecting the world.
I reached a point just a couple of years ago, where I was able to ask for more help – despite my fear, I asked them to NOT stop at 40 kilos in this admission – but to take me all the way to 45 kilos – so instead of just hitting BMI 14, I asked for another whole BMI mark. It’s scary because for me, going above 40 is a huge point of fear. I can’t stand being 40. I can’t stand being in hospital and was basically asking to stay there longer. And they refused. I had to beg and beg before they said they would help me – because they did not believe that I could do it, or that I would keep the weight on anyway.
And I did it, over two admissions and by myself – I ate that weight on. And I have kept it on. It’s two years this May since I have been in hospital and I’m still 45 – 46 kilos. For me – that is a miracle. My treatment team, and the doctors and nurses from the hospital when I bump into them – still gush over what a miracle it is.
I am far from fixed. I am still only BMI 15. I am still living a hell in my mind. So I have a long way to go. But I’m getting there. Over this two years I have been working in therapy – very hard. I have been doing physiotherapy to get my body strong enough to do all the things I could no longer do – this took a huge comittment from myself, since physio is quite painful for me and requires me to do daily exercises despite that pain. I have moved to get away from my family and two abusive, stalking exes – and was fortunate enough to have needed a transfer to a lower ground unit as my severe osteoporosis requires me to not have to constantly walk up and down stairs. I have tackled my chronic pain and been active despite it. I have come a long way, still have a long way to go on the physical and therapy fronts. But from someone who couldn’t even sit up or hold her head up, to someone who in a few short weeks will be starting ballet barre and pilates classes – wow.
I struggle with C-PTSD every single day, and I cannot use losing weight (and therefore my mind – turning the memories ‘down’ like a volume switch) to escape that any more. Every day I am flooded with flashbacks. I come from a history of severe child abuse – sexually, physically, emotionally, and neglect. I grew up hungry, dirty, and battered, and was bullied at school for being hungry, dirty and battered. It was a cruel upbringing. I then was raped and captive, then stalked, by a two men after I left home. So I have those memories all the time, and it’s not a matter of putting it all behind me – because it doesn’t work like that. I have moved forward, but anything can send me crashing out of reality and into the past – like living in a time machine. It’s extremely real – simple memories do not involve feeling, smelling, hearing what happened as though it’s really happening for the first time – but my flashbacks are that powerful. Using DBT skills (I am not eligible for DBT or CBT groups so I have been working on the skills from those by myself with the help of a case manager) I have learnt to distract myself and bring myself back into the present, to notice my thoughts and not be sucked into them – become an observer, etc, to lessen the severity, but it’s still a daily battle.
I still binge and purge, but nothing like the scale I used to do it on. I also manage to eat and keep down enough food to keep my own weight stable without the need for constant hospital visits. For years, I had a problem with shoplifting, a huge problem, and I have now not stolen for a long time. Probably close to six months – which I realise sounds not very long – but for me It’s such a relief. Morally, I hated myself, hated what I was doing. The urge to grab food and hoard food is still always there – but I don’t steal. This is my own doing too – I asked for help and support and now have someone with me twice a week to go shopping with.
I have help with physical tasks I cannot manage from my home and community care (HACC) people too, I see a psychiatrist once a week, a consultant psychiatrist once a month, a dietician when needed, a mental health case manager weekly, a HACC case manager monthly, Physio several times a week, a GP every couple of weeks, and other appointments as needed eg Endocrinologist and ECG, Echocardiograms, blood tests, scans, x rays etc. It tires me out – it doesn’t sound a lot to someone who works but for me, it’s exhausting. It also takes a lot of mental energy to constantly engage with people who are ‘shrinking’ me in a way.
I have also been working with an agency that helps people who have a mental illness and have been out of work to get a job. This has been a committment over months – appointments, interviews, paperwork. I’m very hopeful about being able to get a job. I would have to start small – cognition is terrible (I cannot read at the moment – even small amounts of reading on the computer are difficult and slow, heartbreaking as I’m a bookworm – and yet I still am trying, constantly in the library) concentration is bad, energy levels are low, pain is high. I also live with constant chronic pain and fatigue. I have bone pain from severe osteoporosis and I have peripheral neuropathy from malnutrition which believe me, is AGONY. Back on the subject – I would have to start small – maybe one shift a week or even fortnight – but it’s a start. Another step forward.
I could go on – I’m sorry for this super-long blog post. But I wanted to defend myself against Nicole’s accusations. In her own words-
“Fiona, Missy Miller, Karen Carpenter, etcetera might preach about birds and Lauren Hill. But did that give them a clean esophagus? Did that feed their bodies with nutrients? Did that create health? Fuck no. They are bitches who want to pull you into the depths of their despair. Don’t fall for it.
They thrive on the great sorrows of their disease. SICKENING. GROSS. DECEPTIVE.
I manage my disease, successfully.
Don’t judge me. Judge the hypocrites.”
OH for goodness sake, is she for real? This woman calls herself the “Ex-Bulimic” and blogs that she is fashionably raising awareness of eating disorders (and by the way, calls mental illnesses like depression ‘personal weaknesses’.)
Nicole has swapped bingeing and purging for alcoholism. She has NOT dealt with her issues at ALL – instead she hits out at those around her, spews hatred about fat and far from eats a healthy diet – choosing to sit with an empty plate at her family’s easter lunch and eat only corn and peas for thanksgiving. She restricts her diet not in calories, but in terms of nutrients. And she calls us hypocrites? Thank you so much! (not.)
The behaviours of eating disorders are NOT the illness itself. Whatever the underlying issues are, (different for each of us), they are the core of this illness. When someone with anorexia is refed and their weight restored, they are not cured. Likewise, you cannot no longer have a problem just because you stopped bingeing and purging overnight. You have to put in a lot of hard work to consider yourself better from these diseases, and swapping bulimia for alcohol abuse is NOT an improvement.
Lastly, in her latest post, she says that
“Fiona, the Liberal, campaigns to earn the support of those who want to love.”
Love is amazing. Love is precious. It isn’t just thrown around like words can be. I’m all for love – but I don’t campaign for it. If I campain for anything – it is acceptance and understanding - both qualities that Nicole has done a lot to harm when it comes to both those people with eating disorders, and people with mental illnesses in general. She accused my post about Stigma of being contradictory because I counsel against trying to cure someone with a mental illness through prayer – but am all for having and keeping hold of HOPE. Hope and prayer are not the same thing. I am Christian – but I do not expect anyone else to be, or try and push that on others. Hope, for me, is the belief that you can get through something, the belief that things can get better, the belief in basic goodness – aside from the hope that being Christian brings me. And when we lose hope – we are lost indeed. Perhaps this is why Nicole herself is so lost and hurting so much that she needs to basically attack everyone who isn’t ‘for’ her, belittle anyone else’s efforts at happiness or hopefulness, and why she’s so unable to have a basic concept of how it’s possible to be happy without needing to be skinny and fashionable and beautiful. That’s sad, because true happiness isn’t about the outside – it is within. Just like true progress when battling any sort of mental illness is, too. Perhaps that is why she pretends to be so happy and gaily upbeat and content. She doesn’t fool me. She doesn’t fool most people.
Okay – I have run out of gas here! Thank you if you read this far – it is a long and wordy post about unfortunate and uncomfortable things.
I don’t know how exactly to end this rant! Just that it’s been a relief to get it out, and that it’s time we all moved on. Hopefully Nicole will put it all behind her, get help, and move on herself.