How To Build A Girl

Caitlin Moran writes in the Times, such a good article. She gives me permission to share it with you since not everyone reads The Times

“What I would say to all teenage girls who are struggling or overwhelmed right now”

I have just finished a tour where I spoke on stage, for two hours, about doubt and self loathing, anxiety, eating disorders, hope, joy and wanting to change both yourself and the world – because those are the subjects of my latest book, How to Build a Girl. And unless I was ill, I would always sign books and meet everyone after.

……..

When you are someone who talks about the bloody war of attrition that adolescence can so often be – especially for girls – you tend to get two kinds of people coming to the gigs. Half are the ones who’ve already been through it – winking and hooting, “Thank you for telling the truth. And thank God it’s all over”.And the other half? They are the ones still going through it. You can tell instantly as they step up. The posture, the sleeves over the hands, something in the eyes – the girls who are struggling right now.

Some of them are hard and tense with overeating. Others , anorexic, feeling like starving baby birds when you hug them – a handful of brittle bamboo canes. There are arms furious with criss-cross razor lines. Studs in the ear, the nose, the tongue, where they have tried to reclaim their bodies from something, or someone, with the snap of a piercing gun.

Sometimes their parents are there – standing in the background, nervous, their faces anxiously projecting, “She likes you. Please make her feel better now. Oh Christ, don’t break her”.

Other times, the parents aren’t there, but still present – their carelessness or rejection as tangible as if they were standing a foot away, casting mile-long shadows. What do I say to these girls? The ones who are having the Bad Year – the Bad Year where you cannot remember why you were happy aged 12, and cannot imagine being happy at 21? What can you say in one minute, two minutes, three minutes?

So many things. That panic and anxiety will lie to you – they are gonzo, malign commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine. Panic and anxiety are mad, drugged fools. Do not listen to their grinding-toothed, sweaty bulls****.

Here is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute. However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not. That will never happen. That is not what happens. The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time – all orderly strung, like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never, ever have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds. Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute. The work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that, for just one minute. And if you can do a minute, you can do the next.

Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.

Buy flowers – or if you are poor, steal one from someone’s garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom – and put them at the end of the bed. When you wake, look at it, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers. This stops your first thought being, “I fear today. Today is the day maybe I cannot survive anymore, ” which I know is what you would otherwise think. Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years.

And the most important thing? To know that you were not born like this. You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done – which means things can be undone. It is hard work. But you are not scared of hard work, compared with everything else you have dealt with. Because what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.

And Deanne says. Thank you Caitlin for saying these things with the words I can’t always find.

How To Respect & Love Your Body

People send me the loveliest things. Here is one Kat sent me today if you follow this link to You Tube. Please keep sending me your lovely things. We want inspiration, more than accounts of suffering which can inspire people to do the same… or am I wrong?

Kats film about self esteem

 

 

From Big Bottoms To Thin Waists

Tanith Carey, author of Where Has My Little Girl Gone (and other books) see our Books pages, writes with a little help from me (Deanne) about the new rib-breaking trend to make your waist pint sized. Read her article here which was published in the Daily Mail today.

> Posted in Body image, Deanne's BlogTagged ,

All Females Must See This Short Film

Does Anorexia Ever Really Go?

In the Times way back in August 2013 Lizzie Porter wrote movingly about the after-effects of the illness, which are still with her.

In her book about Anorexia, Emma Woolf also writes movingly about her struggle to get well. Despite being able to move away from the cachexia of severe anorexia, she documents in her column An Apple A Day how residual anorexic thinking prevents her from being able to eat cheese. Her recovery  is conditional upon maintaining an orthorexic relationship with food.

I was, oh so briefly anorexic  years ago, and now I eat a very broad diet. Only yesterday  I dug happily into  a meringue made by one of my friends. I stir fry quite a lot of food. I have butter on my jackets.  But I do eat more healthfully and in smaller quantities than most of my friends.  Even now, after all these years,  you won’t see me tucking into the canapes at parties. I drink very little alcohol and rarely want  dessert, only ice cream, perhaps one boule.  I eat cheese although dainty little chunks. I’m not very interested in food.  Am I just looking after my health, or, does anorexia ever really go?

Lizzie Porter’s account of her 10 year struggle with anorexia needs to be read by all eating disorder professionals who feel stuck after working with a young patient for 2 or 3 or even 10 years.  While it is clearly a mental disorder, the manipulation of food has very physical effects. Perhaps the physical effects of eating trump the emotional ones and make it easier for someone to become or stay anorexic rather than  depressed or psychotic. Lizzie writes about all the medicines she has to take to manage indigestion, cramping,  bloating and nausea. Is this an effect of the anorexia or did it make the anorexia happen?

In my case for example, from as early as I can remember, I couldn’t eat large platefuls of food. The usual party food loved by kids made me queasy when I was very young.  I was only interested to eat fish and chips when I went out.  I only wanted to drink milk or bitter lemon. I couldn’t stomach biscuits or coloured ice creams. Unlike other kids, I was not interested in food. My tummy is very unhappy if I eat a lot of fat or drink more than half a glass of wine. That was there before I had any concerns about weight.

Lizzie says that the anorexia is still with her long after therapists think her treatment is done. Until recently she says, the idea of sex was repulsive but she seems to have dragged herself out of that. What an effort everything is for her, although outwardly she seems to be successful, she is still secretly weighing food and scheduling her day around mealtimes.  She wishes to be free of the fears  of food and its effects  like occasional dizzy spells while and enjoys being thin.

I would say to Lizzie that anorexia never really goes, but as one gets older, one becomes more forgiving.  We learn to be “anorexic” and also well. We can learn to live without thinking about food at all. We can have fat moments and fat days and give them no attention at all.

So to therapists who agonise about the extent to which someone is stuck with their anorexia I would say this. If the patient is bulimic, they need constant care since they are those most likely to be very, very sick.  But if  your patient is safe and functioning reasonably well, endless therapy probably isn’t going to do much at all other than provide the illusion that something is being done.  Anorexia isn’t a quick fix, a life sentence or something that has to be chewed on by well meaning therapists until someone is maintaining a totally normal weight .

Many therapists might disagree with me and argue in favour of treatments that represent a complete cure. This is ideal, but is it possible if anorexia doesn’t really ever go?  I’ve met some eating disorder experts running well known treatment services who are still extremely thin.  YES,  YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE…. They argue in favour of health. But has their anorexia ever really gone?

An Open Letter To Rebecca Adlington About Appearance Bullies

 

Dear Rebecca,

I note that you have been very insecure about showing your body in the presence of some beauty queen called Wilmington. I also note that you have been abused by people who have made comments about your body.

I’ve been working with eating disorders and body image issues for many years; over  these years I have seen a horrific rise in bullying  generally. Bullies tend to do their thing in secret but social media like Facebook or Twitter have made it easy for people to be poisonous and obscene without having to bear the consequences. It would seem like there is a sea of sad, pathetic people out there who are nobodies in their own lives and who get pleasure in ruining the lives of people who are better than them. They tried to pull down the young diver Tom Daley and they are trying to pull you down as well. They don’t do it because there is anything wrong with your body, they do it because they haven’t got what you have and they hate you for it.

In the range of people I respect and admire, beauty queens come way down the pecking order, in fact I don’t rate them at all. Not Beckham nor Moss nor whoever Delevinge.  Even so, even after all these years  of wisdom, I don’t think I could cope with reading evil things about myself.

You are a champion and a star.  Please don’t cry about your body.  It did what you wanted it to do, which was to swim like a dolphin and make your country proud of you. Can some wise person  please help you to  stop using Twitter and needing to reply to the idiots who are writing about you?  Why are you giving them this power?

Daniel Radcliffe isn’t on Facebook or on Twitter. You needn’t be either. You will miss out on absolutely NOTHING worth knowing and you will start to take back your power bit by bit.  There is life without Twitter; some of us have realised that it is just a massive waste of time.

No one smiles when they look at a skinny body (do they really?)  We can never have a perfect body  and we can never have a body like someone else’s. But some of us die trying. Rebecca, dry your tears and if you have body image issues because of your spell in the limelight get some help and learn how to celebrate the skin you are in. Because I love the way you look, I rate what you have done, and so do many, many people who don’t waste their time being an Appearance Bully.

Vogue Bans Catwalk Models

Today there is a big fuss about anorexia in the press. Does this make it even more important to ban underweight models from our catwalks. Or is anorexia nothing to do with the size of models. You might like to see what I have written on my Eating Angel Blog