Category Archives: WRITE TO RECOVER

Write to recover.

The life and celebration of one Bella Bee

It was 13/10/2011. Icelandic temperatures in the U.K. We had zero cash and I was not afraid. Everyone around me; My Nan, my Mom and my Aunt were giving me advice and asking me questions.

“Have a bath. Have sex. Have a curry. Have a bath. Have a … inundated with many opinions and suggestions

My daughter was still not due until a week later. In one week I had had three stretch and sweeps. My Nan had to give us money for fuel to get back to the hospital. After my lovely bath, I went to lie down but I felt rather contrary and decided to check back into the hospital. The midwives said I still had at least 5 cm to go.

So we trudged back into our car for the seemingly long journey home. 10 minutes into the drive home, I felt something that I thought could be a contraction. It wasn’t painful but it was consistent. and it was a real ‘feeling’. I turned to my Nan and said I think I may be contracting. The car swerved and headed back to the hospital. At the hospital, the contractions started to pick up in intensity (not sore just an ‘alien’ feeling). The nurses led me to a room and said they would be back with all their midwifery gear. My Mom and my Aunt arrived.

By this time I was going into panic mode because I didn’t know what to expect. I demanded my drugs and started hitting the gas and air (That was all I asked for). If only I knew how ill too much would make me. I sat on this massive pink blobby ball, bobbing up and down like a confused Buddha. Mom was massaging my shoulders like I was in the wrestler’s seat ready for round one in the ring. DING! DING! DING!

Out of nowhere, I had the urge to get to the toilet. I don’t want to be vulgar though the feminist in me wants to flip the bird and give all the gory details. We need to get over the fact that birth can be ugly.

Moving on. This immense pressure hit me and it felt like I needed a shit. REALITY PEOPLE! Though, it wasn’t the same feeling like the usual order of the bathroom purge. I ran/made a move to go to the toilet and I sat down on it. My mom followed suit and said to me,

” No grandchild of mine is going to be born on the toilet” so she and my aunt took an arm each and propped me up and headed in the direction of the bed.

I got on the bed and screamed out what I needed to do. I wanted to push.

“PUSH” they cried.

Okay…. so I pushed really hard. I heard my Mom say,

” I can see her shoulders, push! “

I gave one almighty push that started from my head (with thoughts of ‘ one more push’ ‘body will obey’) One more push and it was ‘SHOWTIME’, I felt her shoot out of me. A chill stirred by my snakelike placenta laying frigid in between my legs. No cry. The midwives burst in at this moment with a Spanish inquisition manner of urgency about them. All tooled up for their big moment.

“We need to pierce the placenta.”

My little girl was born in the full sac. My body didn’t even have enough time to send a message to tell my bodywaters you may now burst’.

Still no cry. Then a tiny mew of a cry and they placed her on my chest for a nanosecond and then took her away to make sure she was in top form. They took my girl to another ward to observe her breathing and to make sure the medication I take had not affected her in any way. The midwives broke my waters!

My Mom and Aunt were clapping like a bunch of sea lions and then kissed me on the top of my head and dashed out of the hospital to catch a bus to London! I almost looked around for any discarded popcorn.

I did grab for the gas and air because my daughter had torn me and I needed to be stitched all the way around like a hem of a skirt. I needed some post-labour-pain relief. The whole drive back to the hospital and the labour lasted less than three hours. My baby girl was born on the 13/10/2011 at 03:15 a.m.

All the other Mom’s were super jealous. The easiest birth ever. The worst part was actually having to go to the toilet and not scream out in pain when my stitches had been so cruelly awoken. She has never been a hassle from her birth right up to her fourth birthday. She is such

a placid kid, she is always smiling from morning till night. She tells people they are beautiful and she comments on what people are wearing. She sings and dances. She shares. She is so courageous. There is an old wives tale that children born in the placenta sac are ‘special’. Centuries ago men travelling at sea would wear a part of the sac around their neck as a talisman – it was thought that it would give them protection and stop them from drowning at sea.

So much has happened in my daughter’s 8 years on this planet. People expected you to act like some feral child but no you are the most chilled, charismatic, hilarious, intuitive and smart child I know. I see you blossom and I blossom too. When I hug you to my chest that connection. That surge of emotion puts everything in perspective.

I LOVE YOU!

Our pinkie promise: I promise to love you forever and ever and I will never stop loving you and you will always be my baby girl, pinkie promise.

I know a special girl whose heart is full of sunshine
She dances her way around the world to deliver her own special punchline

She laughs so distinctly that people cannot help but become infected
It is a sight to behold when this observation is detected

She is gracious and kind and is delicately inclined
the phrase 'she is an angel' are the only words that come to mind

Her name means beautiful-that  of body, mind and soul
and to have her touch so many lives confirms her title role

She is my modern day princess -so noble and full of grace
I love her with all my being and she is a person that I cannot replace 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my sweet child. You are the true gift
I found it in your innocent eyes and that was the day my world truly began to shift

Making friends living on an Acute psychiatric ward

I remember my first meeting with a mental health charity to collaborate and co-facilitate an anti- Stigma workshop/group that This is what I have been wanting to do for some time and here I am achieving my dreams. When I was back -institutionalized in an Acute ward with Anorexia and Bipolar in 2005. I think that personality trait to help others and organize groups has always been in me.

I was am a nightmare patient.

I always refused bed rest and focused my time on doing things like raffles to raise money for a charity shop connected to the Retreat,in York. I ended up raising over £100 in a matter of days with a BMI of 14.5. so about 41 kilograms. , 90 pounds – I’m nearly 5.8.

In other clinics- I was tube fed and restrained -often by up to four nurses.

That is a whole other story and debate.

I met another man who is/was a barrister and he had a complete breakdown. His wife had been cheating on him. I met an artist who expressed her unarticulated pain by painting. I met a woman who had been fighting Anorexia and OCD all her life and who taught me how to put a Christmas tree up.

I had forgotten.

I didn’t know what life was and what it meant to live.

I met a few ladies, not on my unit -The Acorn unit ( the name pun has not gone over my head). They expressed their pain through cutting and self-harm.

Nobody played games. Although some of us, from time to time would get hold of paracetamol and other shit and overdose to liven the humdrum mundaneness of life in an acute ward. I once got caught out on weigh day with fishing scales attached to my paper gown. The staff was quite taken aback with imaginative ways we would come up with to avoid putting on weight. These girls were hardcore. I met so many people.

I met a girl who terrified me. I could tell she had been in hospitals all her life. Her family could absolve themselves of whatever guilt they felt towards their daughter by puttting her in private clinics and the problem was dusted under the carpet.

I had started the process and recovery of eating again and putting on weight. I couldn’t cope. I developed another way to cope, for at least 4 months my day consisted of:

  • chewing gum

  • making a coffee

  • eating more chewing gum

  • make a cup herbal tea

  • smoke a cig .

I was on this loop for24 hours /7 days a week -for 4 months.

I was driving myself crazy in a way that was unfamiliar to me. The nurses tried to lock me out of the communal kitchens and one night I flipped out when they tried to grab me so I started throwing stuff around.

I wanted them to help me. The girl who initially terrified me came into the kitchen and sat down on the floor with me and held me for over an hour while, I shed tears for everything I can remember.

All the emotions attached to those memories I had pushed aside. None of these people was violent. We were trying to be understood and to understand ourselves.

I met a young girl with schizophrenia -she dressed like a Goth. Always had headphones in her ears. She was trying to silence the voices. She had been coping well up until her Mother passed away and like any normal person she was traumatized by it and her mental health went a bit off balance again. She was trying to make sense that her mother is dead. She was grieving.

One night a new guy arrived on the scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had that charisma of the kind of guy I always seemed to attract. His eyes were full of spark and mischief. A person you would want on your side. We became friends. We spoke a lot. He did a very Titanic thing and drew a picture of me. Fully clothed. I can’t find the picture to load up. He was still going through the DT’s. I will live with my memory of how the picture looked- possibly very trippy. Ha Ha.

Barry was only staying for 10 days before he went to ‘a dry out clinic further up the coast. I don’t know what happened inside me but I didn’t want him to go.

He was a lot older than me but we did everything together.I got him painting again. I know he had just got out of prison but he was so talented. I begged the nurses and psychiatrists to let him stay.

‘Look! Look! how talented he is! He needs help from you’.

Our last night before we parted ways. We sat in the smoking lounge and watched ‘Pulp fiction’. I know this may make some people reading this go .. erm………what?

I lay my head down in his lap and he played with my hair. For me, the act was more like a father gesture. I suspect for Barry it could have been different.

He wrote loads of letters and planned to come to visit me. The nurses censored my post and turned him away.

I often wonder what happened to him.

I get angry that just because he was an in and out of prison for many reasons- he was denied the rehabilitation that I received. He had issues. I am no innocent.

I feel he could not have benefited from a recovery type community setting rather than prison. It’s not my place to say what he did, I don’t want to remember.

It would have ruined the fact that I found feelings inside me. I could laugh again, I could cry. I was real. I felt like a human being and not some freak with Anorexia. Anorexia took second place and I wanted it to always take second place. I felt real.

So back to the Anti-stigma workshop, I am doing. I can’t wait. I have a passion. I have the drive. This is my new chapter. I did have a beautiful picture Barry drew of a dragonfly but I guess moving around a lot means that I have lost other precious memories. I am finally in a position to help other people. I’m not letting this opportunity getaway.

Mom -living with a Manic Depressive

Who is this lady? She is elderly, yes. A grandma,a mother a sister, an aunt, a great grandmother. I don’t know. I have forgotten. Hang on a minute… Aaah yes there was this one time that I was sat in her house -plush, ‘propre’ , stylish and I couldn’t sleep. I kept on getting up to go to the cupboard on the far right of la cuisine that housed all the gigantic Cadbury’s chocolate. I ate and I ate and I ate some more. I always seemed to be able to eat more.

I didn’t it like it when she bought the dark kind. So bitter. So classy, so not me.

But back to la cuisine. Footsteps pander lightly behind me. I turn and look around and I look into the eyes of a lady with pure class-sans maquillage. This seems to counter my non- class evolved youthfulness.  The lady asks me a question ‘Ca Va?

I’m expected to answer with the same ‘ca va.’ but it is something like 3 am in the morning. Obviously ‘ca va’ is not appropriate for this setting.

I don’t know why I can’t sleep, I confess. I’ve shoved a load of pills down my throat in an effort to be like the one whom I shall refer to as the Manic depressive. The lady sits me down and makes me a Sleepytime tisane – . Good herbal shit. We sit at the kitchen table with our ‘Sleepytime’ tea, I can’t remember what we talked about.

I have a habit of forgetting things, you see. It is so frustrating. I go back to bed feeling cared about. Why didn’t I feel grateful then?

No regrets. Have no regrets. Okay. I try not too.  I wish I had paid more attention, then maybe I wouldn’t forget so much.

I can hear her laughter in that loud roomy part of my brain, it’s threatened me it will become a real auditory sound that knocks me sideways with fright turning me into a paranoid wreck.

I have to remember that laugh. She used to laugh at my jokes. She loved me. She told me she loved me all the time.

She also loved another – another woman-my mom. Angelic looking, graceful, naive and I don’t know – wonderful?  This lady helped me out with the angelic-looking lady. Yes, I remember, one poignant night, the angelic-looking manic depressive and I had a vicious fight. I took a braai fork to her neck. I was fucking going out to drink and get strung out on drugs and Miss Manic Depressive could mope in her stupid illness and fuck right off.

Well, she took that big FU literally. We had this stock of prescription pills that could take our local pharmacy out of business – bad joke- that’s why I rely on comedians for such amusements (Omid Djalili and  Gabriel Iglesias being two of my favourites ). Nothing like a next-day hangover and a shrill ringing phone to make me grab a handful of downers. I’m not ready for the sunshine just yet- maybe not ever. The lady on the other end of the phone wants to know if the manic depressive is okay. Of course, she is ok……

I turn over

…but she isn’t. She is one tunnel turn away from death. I need some Rohypnol and valium and I need that lady on the end of the phone.

She says she is going to get the next one hour flight from JHB airport to Durban and I need to get the manic depressive to a hospital. I don’t have health insurance. I’m 15 years old.

A cocky shit who obviously knows it all but nevertheless in my narked upstate I somehow manage to get the angelic Manic Depressive a space in a run-down public hospital in Africa  – in a- I kid you not – broom closet. Sick people were lying on the floors, covered in congealed blood, in the corridors of this hospital. So I count my blessings that we had some type of room and a bed.

The lady meets me at the hospital. It’s touch and go. We are rooting for survival on this one.  Black tar leaks down out through a tube from some part of the manic depressive’s body.

Hours pass.

She is okay- stable.

She is in a coma.

The Lady transfers her to a more upmarket private hospital. She has the master card. We spend the night next few days at the Oyster Box hotel – in a chalet. She takes on me and my two cats. Lilac and Mocha- and we all sleep in the same bed united by our love for the angelic manic depressive one.

We don’t know if she is ever going to walk again. I mean it was an overdose with powerful intent. No, pithy cry for help as some believes a suicide attempt is. The angelic manic depressive has a new name angelic, rapid cycler  Bipolar.lady in The other lady is my grandma- as you probably have figured out. We go and see her every week. She broke her hip back in Feb 2015 and can’t walk anymore.

Okay… so that happens with a lot of old people. Yeah, but this lady, my grandma has been stripped of her dignity, identity, memories, and she can’t remember she can’t walk. She is stuck on a loop – every few moments she tries to get up and screams in frustration when she can’t. This lady sitting in the middle is my relationship with someone I love who has Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

I know I’m not writing something fucking profound but she means something to me and her family. She is living a world with no faces, no colour and the world speaks another language to her. How is she meant to interpret all this shit?! People talking. Loudly?

Other elderly people not moving- crying, shouting, fondling themselves to remember that they too can feel.  My Chronic Anorexia 10 stone self could envy my grandma’s current weight. 5 stone if that. She forgets how to eat. Imagine that?

What type of existence is this?

This is where I get political. Let people die with dignity.

I signed up for the campaign years ago. Who is this lady? She is so much more than she looks. She has had a life people probably can’t even dream  up and a life where people would also be horrified how she survived such heartache, ( love is the answer here, folks) but for today we can’t go back into the past too much without forgetting. I don’t want to forget, not today. Those two memories I can hang and frame in the gallery of my mind. They are mine. No one can take them away from me but Alzheimer’s can. Dementia too. You know what really makes me sick about all this? When a person with these illnesses die, Alzheimer’s and Dementia don’t take the credit. The diagnosis of death is usually a secondary symptom. How twisted and messed up is that?

Does she remember her husband? Where does she go?

I should have been a Neuroscientist or something. I want to know what is going on in her head and fix it. All clichés but they are my clichés for today. Can you believe people are being diagnosed with these maladies at as young as 25 years of age?

I would rather choose to die than have everything taken from me. Would my Grandma say the same? I wish I had asked her.

Me: ‘So Gran, let’s talk about something so morbid as to how you would like to die.. ‘

I’m putting it out there. Me? I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want to feel pain and I don’t want to not be understood. That is not living that is stuck between two perverse worlds. I want my family to pay the ferryman and for him to take the money and take me along the river Styx to Elysium and let me die with dignity.

Information on the dying dignity campaign  http://www.dignityindying.org.uk