Whitney Houston, Eating Disorders & The Greatest Love Of All

“Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfil my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe

No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity..”

The words above seem more poignant than ever today, as news of the death of one of our generation’s greatest voices spread around the world, via texts, tweets and status updates. My own reaction was not, I imagine, dissimilar to that of many other people who, like me, grew up listening to her music. A sense of sadness and loss, not only of a fine singer, whose life was cut short, but a loss of the era she represented. For all the fanciful make-up and hair spray [not to mention those horrendous shoulder pads], the 1980s were also the time when I discovered the joy of music for real. It was a time when music sounded like it had a life not only through the melodies or the words, but through the very record, with their unique individual kinks and scratches. Back in the day when such imperfections could not easily be remedied in a computer program, and listening to my father’s copy of Whitney Houston’s now iconic 1987 album was a completely different experience to listening to the same record at a friend’s place, since their copy had different scratches and kinks. I was only 11, but I remember the feeling as if it were yesterday..

The picture of Whitney Houston on that album cover trigger other, very different, memories, too. It reminds me of one of my cousins who had a large poster with that picture on the wall in her room. I only ever visited her once in her home, as she and her family would normally travel up north to see us [and the rest of our family] for Christmas and Midsummer, and I didn’t even know her that well, because she was almost ten years older than me, and would usually hang out with my other older cousins. And yet, she left a big impression on me, and I think of her often.

My cousin died young.
For much of her life she vacillated between battling anorexia and bulimia, and in the end, even though she had got to a stage where she was ready to accept the help she so desperately needed and had begun the twisting road to recovery, it was too late; her heart was literally broken and it gave out.

I don’t often talk about her. I may mention her, but I rarely say much more than what I just wrote. That she died young, of an eating disorder. But, she’s often in my thoughts.

I haven’t got the best of relationship to food myself; I tend to comfort eat when I feel down, or to not eat at all – and being a survivor of sexual abuse I am automatically at higher risk of being caught in the claws of an eating disorder.

Physical abuse [sexual or other] has been shown to have a huge effect on the way we view ourselves, not only in terms of our personality traits, but also in terms of body image, and I know that my own need to be in control of things could easily encompass my eating habits. So I have good reason to be extra aware of thoughts of this nature. The memory of my cousin helps with that, helps me to not just brush it off and think of it as not a big deal, but to recognise that anorexia and bulimia are real illnesses, illnesses which people die from.

I remember my cousin and honour her memory by making myself at least try to improve the way I relate to food [and by extension, my body]. It doesn’t often last very long, this improvement, but long enough for me to catch myself before getting stuck in that very unhealthy pattern where you feel you have to be in absolute control over what you eat..

Of course there are no guarantees, I – like anyone else – could slip, could forget; if it was easy to avoid the trap of eating disorders then no one would suffer from them.. But, I really feel that the memory of my cousin, and the way she struggled, gives me that extra kick to keep my alarm bells powered up.

So I guess, in a backwards kind of way my cousin has been a role model to me, and even in death she has left a legacy.

As has Whitney.

‎”..I believe that children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be..

Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all ..”

xx

Extracts from The Greatest Love Of All © Michael Masser & Linda Creed
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Thinking Of Children

 

Little S - Pretty In Pink

Little S – Pretty In Pink

So much of this year has been spent thinking about children, about having children of my own, about my therapist having a child, about myself as a child. It seems only appropriate that my final post – my final drawing – of this year be one of Little S.

To help me not forget that that small and innocent child still lives inside of Adult Me, and hurting Adult Me, also means hurting that very precious little child. So that I can remember to be kind to myself.

I wish you all the very best for the new year.

xx

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back – An Entry About Slow But Steady Progress

As you’ve probably noticed reading my blog, I have been increasingly struggling with some very dark thoughts of self-harm and suicide. I’ve been doing my very best to be able to contain myself, to keep myself safe and to not act on my impulses. I’ve been calling various helplines at all hours of the day and night and using tens of different distraction techniques. Basically, I’ve given it my all to make it through, to hold it together, until D. comes back and I’ll once again have the space and the guidance I so desperately need.

But sometimes, as hard as you try, it’s just not enough. Lately I have felt myself seriously slipping and losing my focus, forgetting altogether what it is that I want to achieve.

So, I decided to do something for me drastically different. I decided that rather than tell people I need help by acting on my impulses, drinking anti-freeze and suchlike, I would simply reach out and ask for it. I spoke to a very close friend of mine who called up the Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre to start a referral. There were a few ifs and buts, but the sum total is that I am back at the centre now for one week, to give me the chance to re-discover what the real me is like. I remember reading Freud’s metaphor for regression where he likened the phenomenon to that of an army retreating to the last safe stronghold. Much in the same way have I now retreated to the last place I felt I could get the help and support I need. This is not in any way criticism towards any of the many wonderful people I have in my life, who have all been worried and tried to help to the best of their ability – but merely stating a fact; The last time I felt really safe and able to express my fears was at Drayton Park – at my sessions with D. and also during my residence there earlier in the year.

I have been allocated two key workers – both of whom I have not worked much with in the past, but I have also had one-to-ones with one of my main workers from my last stay, and I think the combination of new input and ideas and talking to someone who knows me reasonably well is very helpful for me.

I have changed a lot since my last stay there, and also my stay this time around will, as I mentioned before, be decidedly shorter; one week compared to the five weeks of my previous stay. So, it’s different. It’s different also because there are different women staying there at the moment. However, there are two people there from my last stay, and that’s really nice – it means I don’t get as shy as I normally get around people I don’t know very well, and it helps me challenge myself to interact with the people I don’t yet know.

Another change, and one of the really major changes within is how I really feel about myself. I suppose that it goes hand in hand with starting to allow myself to feel things about the actual abuse; it alters the way I feel about myself. And although some may argue that I’ve always had a somewhat weak self-image this somehow feels different now. Whereas I may previously have disliked aspects of myself I now genuinely loathe everything that I am, and I feel absolutely disgusted by myself.

I am aware that this is an enormously common way for abuse survivors to feel; in fact I talked about this this very morning with my previous key worker. That in order to overcome and heal I need to acknowledge, in the true sense of the word, the fact that what happened really was abuse, and much like how people mourning go through a series of comparatively predictive phases, so do people who have experienced abuse, often starting with questioning their own role in it, feeling as if they haven’t done what they could have to make it stop and so on and so on – ending up where I am now: sheer self-hatred.

But as much as I can intellectualise and analyse this, it doesn’t help one bit when it comes to dealing with the actual feeling. And that is where the asking for help comes in. I need someone to put things into perspective, to in a sense hold my hand. Help me chop things up to bite-size portions, rather than biting off so much that I end up choking on it.

So, to sum up; although it doesn’t change how I feel about myself or where I’m at right now, I’m glad that I did decide to ask for help before I got to the stage where I forget that I can.

Anyway, dear friends and random readers; I’m going to leave you now – I’m only home for a bit and I want to go cuddle Dev. Thank you all for your lovely and encouraging text messages. They mean a lot to me.

All the world has to offer and more,

xx