Wednesday, May 09, 2012

HfC day 9: on being different

Today's task asks us to examine what it means to be different. I think I began to look at that when I blogged about men and EDs, because, to me, it's all about individuality, identity, quiddity.

There is a big paradox because anorexia often functions as a way of gaining or solidifying identity when one's sense of self feels too fragile and it is hard to believe that self could continue to exist without it. Yet it also makes one known as an illness, which smoothes out differences and ends up making every person just another patient or just another statistic.

Funnily enough (and somehow related to this point in a way that I'm struggling to define), I've said to people before that, in some ways, it's easier to be "me" when I've been in hospital .... because everyone has the illness and we therefore get to know one another in a deeper way than ever seems possible elsewhere. It's as though the anorexia isn't the barrier that it usually is, stopping me from being fully me. And so I've been able to make wonderful friends, people whose lives may have been entirely different or spookily similar to mine, but who've known me and loved me through some of our (shared) toughest times.

I'm finding it hard to connect all the thoughts that I've had on this topic. There are two other things that have been on my mind today about difference and individuality. One was after seeing a lady in Sainsbury's. Over the winter, I saw her walking up and down the very long roads into our nearest town, practically every time I was driving past. And that made my heart hurt because I could sense her struggle and I wanted to reach out and tell her that she didn't need to walk and that the layers of clothes and gloves and the hat she was wearing weren't going to keep her warm enough because her fragile body needed to be warm inside and resting. I hadn't seen her for a few weeks until today. The sight of her made me immediately tearful. And I know, deep down, that it's partly because even though she and I are very different and at different stages in the illness, I felt recognition with her. We were in the same aisle, examining the backs of similar products, clearly both hoping that the numbers and words on the packet would give us the magic permission we needed to put the item in our trolley. So crying for her was like crying for me. I'm not sure whether it's for me now, or for me at times in the past, or for that big fear that we (me and all my friends) can only always been a thin line away from being horribly, visibly poorly. I wanted to run away at the same time as wanting to hug her and take her to hospital.

The other thing was the birth of a baby whose mother is connected to me via married relatives. This little girl has arrived in the world with a future ahead of her, an identity that has yet to be formed. At a recent Christening, the minister said that one of the reasons that people love babies is that they represent opportunity and the future because life has not yet had a chance to hurt them. Once we have lived through the disappointments, betrayal, sadness and tedium of a few decades on earth, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that our future can hold anything different from the present. But the hope that this minister gave me was that our futures remain as open as a newborn baby. Just because we have been damaged by the past does not mean that we cannot be "reborn" or repaired to dream dreams and experience new things in the years to come. The danger with eating disorders is that often medical professionals give up hope, perhaps labelling someone as SEED and offering "management" rather than "treatment". It's therefore beholden on those of us who've got that label to continue to hope for ourselves and to carry on believing that we have an unwritten future that can offer us health and happiness.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts Lindy.

May I ask? What does quiddity mean? Am I being stupid? I've just never heard that word before.

Also, what does the label SEED mean? It sounds very sad.

LindyB said...

I first came across the word 'quiddity' when studying the Shakespeare paper at Uni: my supervisor talked about it in terms of how Shakespeare manages to use the words of the play to create the essence of each person... i.e. you get to know who they are as a human being. So it's almost like a distillation of who a person is.

Just entered it into Wiktionary (I would use the OED but no longer have free access now that I'm not a student!) and found the following:

From Middle French quiddité, and its source, Late Latin quidditas, from Latin quid + -itas.
Pronunciation (UK) IPA: /ˈkwɪdɪti/
Noun quiddity (plural quiddities)
The essence or inherent nature of a person or thing."

As for SEED, it stands for Severe and Enduring Eating Disorder and is used to describe individuals who have had an ED severe enough to have warranted intensive treatment (e.g. inpatient) over an extended period of time (i.e. a decade or more). I'm not sure of the exact criteria that they use to define it but I did ask N (my psychologist) whether it had been applied to me and he said that I did fit the criteria.

Thank you for reading and commenting :-)