Friday, 19 September 2008

Supporting: Meandering Words

It's not easy. Not by a long shot. You need to love the person suffering with an ED completely unconditionally. One of the aspects of an ED is low self esteem. If you are judgemental in your support, then all you will do is create a feeling of self-worthlessness in your loved one as they believe that they are failing you.

Find out all you can about what your loved one is going through. An ED is rarely about food, it is more about a feeling of lack of control. The underlying reasons for that lack of control are the nub of the problem. So whilst you can read books and check out websites (and blogs!) this is no substitute for actually talking to your loved one.

And when they talk, you need to actually listen. Some of the stories that Annie is retelling now almost beggar belief. And that is because I personally have never encountered anyone that has been through anything like this. It's so easy to get into Black Catting (my cat is blacker than yours) to try and garner empathy ("I know how you feel. When I was a kid this happened to me."). All you are doing with this is further enforcing the belief that their problem is lesser than yours. But really.. Ask yourself... Are you killing yourself because of your problems?

Often, the best course is just to listen. And when you listen, you will begin to hear "The Voice". And when you hear the voice, you have found your enemy. Yep. I know. It sounds like I'm talking psychobabble, but I believe it to be true. I read about it in a great book called Diet Of Despair. This is an excellent book for those of you that don't like long words. It's aimed at teenagers, so the writing style is very very easy to read. The chapters are well defined, and it will almost certainly tell you something you didn't know about an ED. One chapter is devoted to the "Voice".

One of the most shocking (in terms of being surprise-shocked) things I have seen so far, is Annie's reaction to her mother ringing up the house and asking to speak to me. The abject fear in Annie's eyes scared me to my boots. When a loved one shows such terrible fear of something, your only urge is to protect and comfort, but Annie was inconsolable and we had to lock up the house and go out for fear of her mother coming over. The "voice" was in control.

That irrational "voice" completely overrides rational thought, and is one of the hardest things to deal with. When the ED is talking, your ability to reason with your loved one drops through the floor. Any slight drop in your support at this, the most difficult of times, can do terrible damage to the trust and bond you have built up. To recognise the voice, you will hear those superlatives. "Always, Never, Everybody, Nobody". The voice spreads itself out to encompass everything and everyone.

I'm not an angry person generally. However, I do get angry at irrationality. I know, I know... I am far from perfect, remember? When that voice starts talking, I can feel my anger rising, and it has taken me literally months to condition myself to understand that these are not Annie's true feelings, rather it is the voice of someone else. Even now, I still find it hard. Once I accepted the fact that the ED was "separate" to Annie's personality, I could handle the difficult words and times much more. But this was not always the case...

As an example, Annie and I were talking one night about her weight loss. The bathroom scales play an important part in her life. Every day, she would weigh herself several times, and her mood would change dramatically depending on the readout. I began to hate those scales with an absolute passion. She remarked that her mother had taken them off her at some point in the past, and it had made things worse. At an early stage, I vowed that I would never try and impose controls on Annie, but my hatred for this plastic thing in the bathroom was growing. My Annie's health and well-being rested on those scales. That night, I snapped. I can't remember the actual words that did it, but the pain in my wife's eyes and her utter sadness and desperation, prompted a desperate measure for me. I wanted those scales battered. I pulled £20 out of my wallet and laid it on the table. I was angry, Annie could see I was angry, and she was also fearful of me. I went upstairs and grabbed the scales. I then went outside into the garden (it was the middle of the night). It was pitch black out there, so I took a candle from the table, and sat it on the grass next to the scales. I could see Annie watching me from the conservatory as I went into the garage and came back with a long handled axe - the sort you use for chopping wood. I sank the axe blade into the ground next to the scales, then went back in to the conservatory. I can't remember my exact words, but they were along the lines of "I will buy you a new set of scales, but I really need to do this."

Looking back now, it must have seemed so symbolic. The scales on the grass, illuminated by a single candle, reflecting its light off the axe blade. The fury inside me as I smashed the scales into tiny pieces evaporated instantly. And it wasn't the act of actually destroying the scales that did it. It was the image of Annie standing there, staring at me in horror and fear. I was so sure she would wrap her arms around me and tell me that she understood, and I got it so wrong. All she saw was violence and anger directed at something she believed she was responsible for. I can tell you now Annie. I know that this is not your fault. How many times have we said that if you kick a dog enough times it will eventually bite you? You have been kicked so many times.

Crikey. These things are painful to write. Annie and I sat down last night and she read this. I wasn't sure whether I was actually helping by writing like this, and co-authoring the blog. After all, this is more about Anorexia than the support thereof, and even I'm not sure that the words I am writing are helping, hindering, or just fogging up the painful missives that Annie is trying to get down. My words drift a little, and maybe there isn't much in the way of a point to what I'm rattling on about. I guess I want to show that I'm not some sort of hero (and I do believe that). I'm just "normal". And what is "normal"? Everyone has stuff going on in their lives. Everyone has bad things that have happened to them. It's all just a matter of perspective. Some of you reading this will no doubt be shocked, some of you will empathise, and some of you may think that I'm doing more harm than good, but as I said above, I am doing the best that I can and every single day is a new opportunity to make things better.

The comments I received for my last post have given me some confidence, but the fear and worry I go through as I hit the "post" button do not lessen, and if nothing else, it has given me insight into how hard it must be for Annie to get her words down. And for that, I have great respect.

So I'll close with my wedding vows. I said them in front of a small group of people when we were married back in April, and I'll say them again now because I want them to define me and my desires.

I promise that I will always love you,
Always care for you,
And always be there for you.
For as long as there is a light in my soul,
I will yearn to be close to you,
And never to be parted.
I love you.


Karen ^..^ said...

Ian, You seem to be a very good man who is at least the first person in Annie's life who TRULY, unconditionally has her best interests and well being first and formost on his list of priorities in life. Keep up the good work. Keep telling your beautiful wife that yes, YOU and SHE are lucky to have found each other, as you are a perfect fit for each other, and all others before were unmatched peices of the puzzle.

As I've said before, this disorder in no way defines a person. Annie's true character and personality is so much more than this. I grew very attached to the Hex my Ex blog, due to the brilliant writing and amazing wit. Only a truly interesting and imaginitive person could write like this. Someone I'd like to know.

Just out of curiosity, what did you say to that insufferable cow when she called? I hope you told her to go pound salt. Anyone who ilicits that much fear in someone needs desperately to be kept far away. Too bad you didn't live here, you could obtain an order of protection against her, and the girls wouldn't be allowed around her either. The ex ass would be arrested and thrown in jail if he violated that order. Ah, so nice to fantasize, eh?

And perhaps you don't need the lottery to start a support group. Try asking around for a psychologist who specializes in these disorders to volunteer his or her time, to be a speaker at the group. You could meet for one hour, once a week, in a church basement or something. Like an Alanon meeting of sorts, only for supporters of this disorder.

As for the alcohol, she is self medicating, as the meds are not working for her. They have too many side effects, and are making things worse. Have you tried a more holistic approach, maybe? Meditation and hypnotherapy? I'd LOVE to be hypnotized and told not to beleive all the horrific things I learned as a child. I wonder if it would change anything.

I know I don't know much, and I hope I am not hurting either, as I want more than anything to help, so if I step even a toe out of line in anything I've said, please let me know. But gently, as I am a coward too, LOL.

Keep up the good work, Ian. You guys will be ok.

Charles Parsnip said...

Thanks Karen.

I never got the chance to speak to her, although I would have taken great pleasure in giving her a piece of my mind. The lies she told Annie about me, and the lies she told me about Annie are something that will sit with me for a long long time. How a parent can conspire to such devious methods of control is beyond me.

I always try to make it a point of avoiding people like Annie's mother, and the $hitbag that is her ex, so this is a new one for me, having to deal with their manipulative shinanegins.

As to hypnotherapy. Well... Don't get me started on that one. I came downstairs the other night as I was not feeling too well, and turned on the TV for distraction. There, was Paul McKenna (famous TV hypnotist) advertising his new product "I can make you THIN". With the words "thin" in massive letters across the front of the packaging. It kind of made me lose faith in that method of therapy. Let's face it, anyone with an ED needs someone who understands just what comprises an ED. I'm sure there are people out there that do provide this sort of service, but that one TV ad has put me off.

Thank you for reading, your comments and your compassion. Take care.

Hbear said...

Brave man.
You made me cry.

Good luck on this journey -


Charles Parsnip said...

Thanks Heather. You've no idea what these positive words mean.

Linda and her Twaddle said...

It was interesting to read about Annie's reaction to her mother ringing. Even though my father no longer speaks to me and there is a bit of sadness attached to that, the very thought of having contact with him fills me with such severe and deblitating anxiety that I cannot think. If I saw him in the street, it would really be unsettling. When parents, through their own actions, cause such problems in their children, I can understand why no contact works so well. Obviously Annie's mother would be completely resistant to any level of therapy or taking any responsibility. She must be in huge denial about her own personal problems.

Once my mother said to me that there is usually a very good reason why children don't visit their aging parents in nursing homes.

And, those scales, that must have been quite cathartic (even if frightening) to destroy them. Did another set find their way back into the house?

Charles Parsnip said...

Hi Linda.

Yes. A new set of scales were purchased, but it was not until some time later.

It's quite scary how you can develop different ways of thinking. I remember looking at Annie, and wondering myself what her weight was. Had it gone down any further? It is one of the ironies of an ED that we both react in completely opposite ways to the readings on the display.

Anonymous said...

I find your point of view the most intriguing for me. I've been working on recovery for the last year, and while so far so good, it helps me to read from another side just what I put my partner through.

There are times I think wholeheartedly that my eating disorder hurt my partner infinitely more than I hurt myself... and that alone keeps my resolve more than my own well-being and new found health.

Good luck. This is a hard hard road, for both of you.

Charles Parsnip said...

Hi Emily and thanks for the comment. We're getting quite a few views now on this site, and it's reassuring to know that some people are finding it useful. If Annie can help one single person along the road to recovery, then it was all worth it.

I really do sincerely wish you both the best in your recovery. It's good to know that you have someone who will support you.

i*maginate said...

Hi charles,

Am kinda new here...I aint the advice giving sort, so my comments are gonna be kind of short and maybe not make sense lol.

I just wanna say parsnip is the only food I dislike ;-)

(And yes I read your post and I don't wanna go into the details - maybe good for you both to share out in the open and I do amire ur openess and frankness...that in itself is touching...impact on me? definitely.)

Charles Parsnip said...

Hi there i'maginate. I too hate Parsnips, but it was the name I was christened with so I'm stuck with it :(

I do believe that my posts will shock some people, maybe even have reactions that aren't so positive. But I'm new to this, and doing my best. Whilst I appreciate that not everyone will agree that the path I sometimes choose is the right one (in fact, even I kick myself at least once a day) I hope that some will find it useful.

i*maginate said...

I find it personally useful.

Being interested in foods, and the havoc it can play with bodies, I found it was coincidental a top-rated nutritionist found my biochemical individuality was prone to neglecting parsnips: nothing personal.

A good nutritionist may help. A good one listens and then advises not only on how to "fix" ones diet, but also how to "compromise" on letting go of other stuff in tandem with everything else. A good one could work wonders.

All blessings both your way. I am a woman speaking, so, since it is through your wife that I discovered your blog, this comment is really directed at her.

I would love to see lady-love recuperate, and am convinced, soon she will.

I, too, have had family like you see people through problems like these: they are short-lived.

Agnes Mildew said...

i'maginate: I agree with what you say - these problems can be short-lived. This, I must be honest, is the worst episode and on-and-off, the longest - I never really got over it 'properly' from 2006 although I sort of came to 'an understanding' around food. It never felt a wholly comfortable one, that time, though. I am very grateful to Ian for his support and I think he can see that although there are bad days (and yesterday certainly wasn't one of the best), the good days are coming back again wherein I will eat bits, I'll not purge and I'll cut down on the laxatives. I'm sure that things will pick up.

may_be said...

Ian, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I can definately relate to some of the feelings you've had (although of course in different contexts). I'm glad you are contributing here, and I draw strength from the relationship you and your wife have that enables you two to post this blog.

Thank you.

May (as I really don't like being 'anonymous')