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Helen's account of how frightened she was when first confronted with the medical establishment

In February 2003, my friend Hannah told me about a sponsored fast that she and some of her friends from her youth club were going to do later on in the month in aid of charity and she invited me along. Well how could I refuse? This was an offer far too good to miss. But the only problem was that we had to get our parents’ permission and I knew that my mother was beginning to suspect. I could have tried to side-track her by asking my dad but I knew that he would only tell me to ask my mum. One day in the car just as my mum was parking, I brought the subject of trust in to our conversation. Little things like, “Do you trust me?”. I was preparing the ground to build the conversation to the ultimate question. At first she paused , then she looked at me sternly.

“ Why do you ask?” she enquired.

“Well….um… I was just wondering whether I could do a sponsored fast because it’s for charity and I just want to prove to myself that I can do it.”. This question was met with a cold glance and a firm, “Why?”.

“Well I just thought it would be fun - and anyway if Hannah is allowed to do it why can’t I?” I begged, almost crying.

“Do you think you can honestly cope? I know what you’re doing to yourself. Do you honestly think you can cope with what you’re doing?”, she asked me. For once I didn’t shoot myself in the foot. In a rare moment of sanity, I capitulated and admitted that I really did need help. A few days’ later, I sat in the waiting room at the doctor’s waiting for my doctor to call me into her office. I was nervous and began to worry that this maybe hadn’t been such a good thing for me. After all, the doctor would probably ….. almost certainly … make me put on weight. Finally, my name was called. “No turning back now,” I thought to myself.

“So what’s wrong with you?”, Dr H. asked me.

“Say you have a cramp or something”, I thought to myself.

Just I was about to speak, Mum came in with the truth. “Helen has been having eating difficulties lately”. Dr H. talked to me for a while about my feelings, weighed me and then asked me to leave the her office and wait in the waiting room.

As soon as I stepped outside, I began to panic. “Oh no!”, I thought to myself. “What have I done? You’re a fool! You’re stupid! How could you do this! Now she (Mum) will start to turn the doctor against you! You should have refused to leave or even said that you didn’t need help! That doctor is going to make sure that you get fat! There’s no doubt about it! Stupid girl!”need help That voice just echoed in my head, that inner voice, but it had never let me down yet, so why would it do so now? I stood by the door, then started pacing up and down, occasionally trying to listen through the door to their conversation. I must have looked like a lunatic. But if I didn’t stop my mother from ruining my life I would be classed as a lunatic anyway - another stupid kid with an eating problem. Finally, their conversation was over and I was invited back in to the Doctor’s room.

“Helen, your mother has been talking to me about your problems and I’m glad you had the courage to tell her how you felt.” Dr H. smiled at me. At this point I felt sick, claustrophobic and trapped. I just wanted to escape the fastest way I could. “And we both agree that you should go through counselling. But firstly, we will need you to take a blood test .”

But once she’d finished what she was saying I felt very relieved. I was going to get a counsellor which meant when I would tell people they would feel sorry for me and care and I would be able to be the centre of attention. I knew about counselling because one of my friend’s had a brother who was having counselling in order to stop him from tearing their house apart after his parents split up. But there was one slight problem … I hate blood tests and although I have never fainted or even been remotely close to fainting I don’t enjoy having a needle stuck in my arm while my blood is drained from me. Finally, it came to March and I was due for the blood test that I was dreading. I pulled a number from the ticket machine and ten minutes later my number matched display on the screen. I stood up feeling terrified. The nurses welcomed me with smiling faces - and long pointed needles. I sat down in the dark chair, as they smeared my arm with anaesthetic so that it wouldn’t hurt as much when they stabbed me with that needle.

“Get ready. One, two …”, the nurse said as she pushed the needle into my arm searching for a vein. Once she was done, she put a plaster over the throbbing wound. I stood up and immediately began to see purple dots. Suddenly the room began to spin and I was experiencing hot and cold flushes all over my body The spinning became faster and faster and the hot and cold flushes intensified. The nurses must have realised that I was about to faint and so they rushed me off my feet, put me onto a bed and gave me a glass of water. I was still feeling ill and, although I hadn’t noticed up until this point, I was crying. Finally, the day came that I was going to meet my counsellor. I put on the clothes that I usually wore those days which consisted of baggy blue trousers, a “hoody” (a jumper with a hooded top) and tied my hair back because the slightest thing could really get on my nerves. I looked really plain and sloppy but, to be honest, I didn’t particularly what people thought of what I wore.

At last, I was in the room with Emma, my counsellor. During my first meeting I decided to be as normal as possible because then it was likely that she would just think that I only had a slight eating disorder and so I could get away with carrying on as I had before. The best thing was that she wasn’t telling me to eat anything. In fact, all she was saying that I had to was write about how I felt. As if I was going to tell her the truth! If this was all there was to it, then counselling was going to be a breeze to get through. She was going to believe everything I told her and I was going to make it clear that I really didn’t have much of a problem and so all of this concern was unnecessary. Unfortunately, shortly after this first meeting with Emma, I experienced the nervous breakdown which took place on my return from Sarah’s house (see Chapter One) and then it suddenly became much more difficult to fool people. Now even my dad understood me - and he had been as blind as a bat so far.

After about four visits with Emma, I finally met my psychiatrist, Dr. L.. I hadn’t been able to meet him earlier because he had been off work with a broken leg. My parents and me were invited into his office, along with Emma. I sat there as quietly as I could not listening to very much because, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about what they were saying. All I wanted to do were my exercises. Occasionally Dr L. would ask me questions before questions, like :“Do you mind if I ask you this?” And then he would go into the question he really wanted to ask.

But he wasn’t asking me any major questions about my eating and dieting, just small questions. He seemed to be leaving it up to Emma, my counsellor, to find out information about me. I found this very amusing as I basically intended to con both of them. Then he asked me to leave the room and basically talked to my parents, which I didn’t find quite as amusing. I felt very paranoid whenever my parents talked to people about me when I wasn’t present. I knew that they would soon turn everyone against me, especially my counsellor and my psychiatrist.

It turned out that I only ever saw Dr L. a handful of times so there is not too much I can say about him. However, I do vividly remember one of those times in June or July 2003. By this point, I had turned the corner and made the decision that I no wanted to get well. I must have been much stronger emotionally because at one point during the meeting, to which my parents, my counsellor and I were all invited, he asked me: “So how’s Dad?”.

I knew my dad used hated being called that by him - but maybe I also had a little grudge against Dr L. - so I replied, “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” I saw dad smirk although mum looked disapproving. My first meeting with the dietician, Sue, happened in March 2003, a number of weeks before I first met Dr L.. Her room was in the dark part of the old hospital, with pipes showing in the ceiling and fading yellow paint on the walls. It was like a setting from a horror film. First of all she asked me what I had been eating all week, to which I answered, “The slim fast diet plan”. Mum and dad hadn’t known what else to give me so, as best as they could, they had been encouraging me to drink these on the basis that something was better than nothing.

Then, Sue weighed me. I tried to make her write a lower weight on the sheet than the scales showed because I had just been forced to eat breakfast and so it wasn‘t fair to put down the weight showed by the scales. When I read what she had written down on her chart I felt very distressed because she had not taken a pound off. Finally, she sat me down and discussed what we would be doing over the next few months, which was putting on a pound a week. I desperately tried to con and bargain my way out of this as I was horrified at the idea. I became quite hysterical but to my distress, I couldn’t win this argument.

“She’s going to make me fat,” I thought. Look at her she’s just writing out my diet sheet for the week. She’s against me - they all are! I feel so alone, so trapped. I feel like I have been put in a prison. I am in their prison and there is nothing I can do about it. I feel so stupid! I am stupid. I am worthless. But I will not give in to them. I will never give in.” I felt the tears run down my cheeks. I tried to hold them in to prove that I was stronger than they were, but they began to flood down my face. I began to feel physically sick with fear, rage and that sickening piece of food that they had forced me to eat for breakfast. I hated them all! They were going to make me eat every meal and snack that Sue had recommended. They were going to make me drink that weight they called water. They were going to make me fat, fat like they were. That first week was an absolute hell. No matter what I did I would lose against them. I really started to hate my dad. How dare he do this to me? I wished he would go back to the way he was before, where basically my dieting was a fad to him - end of story! I was the most depressed I had ever been. I would just sit there and cry knowing that if I didn’t eat or drink what they gave me, they would send me to hospital where, if I refused to eat, they would stick a tube up my nose.

I threw so many tantrums and used to just sit there and not look or talk to anybody after my meals because I was so angry and depressed. To make it more bearable, I started doing intensive sit-up routines straight after eating, followed by trying to make myself run up and down the stairs for as long as possible before I would get stopped. I began to loathe and detest everyone who was around me. I felt so alone and imprisoned into a world of cruelty. “Nobody is to be trusted,” I thought. “I hate everybody, especially my Dad!” I detested my life at this time. I was trapped indoors a lot of the time. When my parents were at work, I was at my Grandmother’s house because I was not stable enough to go to school. I was bored most of the time that I would almost look forward to meals because even if eating made me feel depressed and want to slit my wrists, at least I wasn’t bored! Being suicidal was the only lively emotion I knew. At least then, I wouldn’t be just watching television judging whether the person on the screen was fat or not. And at least it was a break from my other occupation of doing boring, exhausting amounts of exercise.

After that long week had passed, I was due for my second weigh-in with Sue. Again I travelled down that gloomy looking corridor towards the weighing room. I was so nervous about what the scales would say but I hoped that I had lost a pound - or two, preferably. Finally, Sue called us into her room. I felt my heart and my stomach ache with fear. I was already feeling awful about being forced to eat my breakfast by those two traitors, my parents. I stepped through the door almost wanting to run around in order to burn off that weight that they called food and drink. Sue smiled at me and then asked my Mum what I had eaten for breakfast. Like the last meeting, I just wanted to cry but held back the welled up tears in my eyes. Sue again started talking about our final goal to get me up to a healthy B.M.I. of 6 stone, 10 pounds. This was so overwhelming, knowing that no matter what I did I was going to become fat. At this point again I just burst into tears. I felt that everyone hated me and was plotting against me. I was worthless and hated them all with all of the strength I had left in my body.

Sue then asked me to stand on the scales for her. I took off my shoes and kept telling her that my clothes would make me heavier than I really was. This was to nerve myself so that if I had gone up a pound I could keep telling myself that it was really my clothing. But I was the same weight as last time. Instead of enjoying a sense of relief, I felt like I had nothing to live for because they had actually stopped me from losing weight. They had prevented me from doing the only thing in my life that kept me going. Therefore, they had taken everything away from me. I had nothing to live for, not anymore. I closed my eyes to try and hold back the rest of the tears which were about to stream down my face. I couldn’t’t do anything except think about how much exercise I had done and how it hadn’t been enough. I had failed as a human being. I had to be punished for my failure.

But all of this was nothing compared to my third visit to see Sue. After another painful week of eating whatever Sue and my parents had told me to eat, one week of arguments with my Dad and week of hard exercising it came to the terrifying weekly ordeal at the dietician’s. Again I was told to get on the scales but this time instead of stabilising or even going down, my weight had risen by a pound. Sue looked at me, almost congratulating me. But I refused to believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I couldn’t. I waited until the scales reached 0:00 and then I stood on them again. I turned away from both my mother and Sue, put on my “hoody” and sat down quietly in the corner to cry again. My Mother tried to give me a hug but I just pushed her away. I didn’t want her to touch me. I just wanted to throw up but even though the thought of food repulsed me, I couldn’t bring myself vomit. They both asked me if I was alright but I just couldn’t talk. I was so upset I could barely move. When I eventually got into the car with my Mother, I made sure that I didn’t put on my seatbelt, so if we had a crash I would be put out of my misery.

“Put on your seatbelt”, my Mother said.

“No,” I replied wiping my eyes.

“Why not?“, she asked me quietly.

“Because if we crash, then I will die!”

“Put on your seatbelt!” she shouted at me.

I just looked at her and shook my head.

“If I get to Audy’s (my Grandmother’s house) I’m not eating anything!” I bawled hysterically. “And you can’t make me! And I’m doing as much exercise as I want!”

Mum just looked at me in the saddest way.

“I’m fat and you just want to make me obese!!! It’s my life! You never listen to me!!! Nobody ever listens to me. You all hate me !!! This is why you’re trying to make me fat!!” I screamed at her as the tears flooded down my face.

“Don’t be so stupid! Why are you doing ? You’re so selfish! Don’t you ever think about anybody but yourself?” Mum yelled back at me with tears dripping down her face.

“I hate you! I hate you and Dad! It’s my life and I’d rather DIE!!!” I screamed at her.

As soon as she parked the car she got out and slammed the door and stormed straight into my grandmother’s house. I just turned on the radio and sat there crying for the next three quarters of an hour wondering whether or not I should just get out of the car and run away from the Hell that I lived in. But I knew that I just had to accept that they liked making me miserable and that’s just the way my life was going to turn out no matter what I thought and felt about it because that’s the way things would always be from now on.