adolescent, anorexia, anorexia nervosa, anxiety, appropriate clothing, breast feeding, breast milk, bulimia, calories, eating disorder, family tree, fat, feeding, food, goodness, hate, love, milk, mother and child, nourishment, object relations, pain, personality development, personality disorder, self hate, starvation, teenager, the anorexic mind, young girls
I am about to start back at Uni… and I have decided after a year of non academic reading, I will slowly get myself back into it. Despite really enjoying theoretical work, I do find it difficult to engage with papers when I don’t have anyone to discuss them with…. Hearing anothers thoughts and experiences with the worlds on the paper is an exciting thing but doing it in isolation isn’t quite to fantastic. I think a lot of it is to do with little faith in my understanding and interpretation, so I would rather do it with a trained professional, and hear what they have to say before drawing my own conclusions. I dont know? Whatever the case, I tried a few times last year and just could not focus my attention. Perhaps I did just needed a break.
I have started reading again… And I thought I would start with the illnesses that are foremost in my mind at the moment, and that which I am gaining the most experience, currently.
I have decided to start with some chapters of a book called The Anorexic Mind by Marilyn Lawrence and some of my thoughts about my experiences as well as what I have read are as follows.
I will first start with my personal experiences.
Before starting work on the adolescent unit, I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to be in contact with some of the current work force who gave me their ‘insight’ into what it feels like to be working with teenagers with eating disorders. Most of the feedback I got was semi disheartening, it made me feel very disengaged and unmotivated by the prospect of working with this select group. They were labelled as masquerading as personality disorders, rather than eating disorders….. That they were intensely self focused, most of them spoilt and from middle class families, and generally a pain in the A$$ to work with…
I remember one of the very first groups I worked with in what may have been my first or second week, was in fact the eating disorder group.. I remember sitting there, thinking to myself how much disillusionment was floating around in the room. Ranging in ages of 13-17 years, there seemed to be a lot of misguided judgements, a lot of what felt like delusional thinking. There is a serious issue about what is reality. Many people in the room struggled to even engage in the topic, one member walked out half way through. There group was made up of females and one male.
For a few weeks in my mind I did weigh over the thoughts about personality disorder. I had some difficult experiences with getting to know the young people, mainly measuring the wrong food and causing quite a bit of ‘chaos’ and anxiety at dinner time… But I never felt so intensely strong about them being unmanageable, or spoilt… And it wasn’t long before I started to gain some attention from some of the young people, who wanted to engage in conversations with me, ask me to be involved in their day to day… and relationships started forming. Now, on the ward I feel I am most happier spending my time with the eating disorder patients than others.
Some of my most valued links with young people at the moment are with the eating disorders, and the patients that tend to make my heart sore are the ones on the eating disorder program.
Turning to some of what ‘The Anorexic Mind’ has to say… I am drawn more to anorexia as a real and dangerous illness. Seeing someone who is in, over 30% weight deficit, seeing the veins, the bones… the weakness, the cognitive deterioration, the obsessional thinking, the pain and the torment that has to be witnessed over a single, left over crisp… I think also of Freuds links to anorexia and sexuality… Stating that there is a lack of sexualness in young girls with eating disorders. It was a thought that crossed my mind, one day whilst I sat in the TV lounge, watching over the eating disorder girls, wondering… What sort of social lives they would have. Some of the other teenagers were talking about ‘fit boys’ and it appeared the eating disorder girls were almost blocking out the conversation. The fact that many of the girls had not had a period, some were nearing 15-16 years old and were completely flat chested…
Moving on to discussions about object relations, developed from Freud and further developed by people such as Melanie Klein.. The book talks about the early infantile relationships, most notably that of the mother and child, and feeding… and linking this to the development of how the child learns how to survive in the world. Here I think of one of the patients on the world, who came in as one of the youngest, who clearly both loves and despises her mother, who hates being in the kitchen?! Running with this idea… I visualise the small baby, looking up at her mother with love and adoration, she comments on the beautiful colour of her skin and father talks about how mother is ‘popular and loved by all’ so young baby is growing up wanting so badly to be someone as magnificent as this woman… But whilst mum is able to be a beautiful adult in the world, she struggles with giving the baby nourishment, it is difficult for her to connect with her baby girl in this way and there fore the baby does not have enough experiences of looking at mum, loving and adoring ad having soothing nourishment ie, breast milk. The link between beauty and food, between life and sustenance.. Whats more, its not secret mum has had some eating difficulties in the past and really and truly struggles with making food for the family.. Hence why they have a woman that comes in to make the food… In addition to this, I go back to the young baby… trying to understand the world… I wonder if, mum bottle fed her in her arms or taught her how to be independent and feed herself? ‘self soothe?’ Now I am not saying all of this in order to ‘blame’ mum… We cannot expect parents to be perfect, but it is merely and attempt to understand what may have happened to cause their little girl to become to unwell. Dad is a very busy and successful man, little empathy and little good experiences of good, loving parental figures.
A few more things before I end this… I have an intense feeling of despair in the presence of many of these girls. When they bring the food to their mouths and look in complete distress over a strawberry jam sandwich, my heart goes out to them. Somewhere deep down in their minds, life has just become so overwhelming for them that they hide behind this fallacy that the world will collide if they take another bite, and put on weight…. making them ‘fat’. All the mental arithmetic is so undeniably clear, and written all over their faces. so completely obsessed with their food and liquid intake, so obsessed with the idea of getting fat, when they can sneak in exercise,how many calories they are eating… They have absolutely no space for anything else. I dont feel like any of them feel any true happiness through their days. Some are lucky… the ones who have pets and can visit them and have that comfort… Others have amazing talents such as singing, and can get lost in that for only a few minutes a couple of times a week… But on the whole it feels and looks like a dreadful, painful, obsessional existence.
I will continue reading through this book… and continue with my thought process… for now… I will end this post.. I apologise for the rambling nature… I am not the worlds best writer but for me, this blog allows me to get my random thoughts and experiences out there, in the hope that I can solidify some of them.. get some feedback.. The reason why I write is to improve my writing skills.. I know I have a long way to go… but thanks for reading if you got this far.
Good night… from someone who enjoys working with eating disorder patients.