Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Don't call me crazy

As you probably know I love a good documentary
Especially ones about eating disorders and mental health
Last night there was one called 'Don't call me crazy' shown on BBC3
It followed a year in the life of patients in the McGuinness unit in Manchester, which is a unit for young people with mental illness
In this first episode we were shown the girls unit
I think the next episode next week is about the boys

We were introduced to a few of the patients but the documentary mostly concentrated on Beth's story

Beth was 17 years old and suffered from anorexia and depression
She had been in the unit for 2 months when they took up her story
She stayed for 6 months and was discharged in April of this year
Beth was a pretty blonde with big brown eyes
She came across bubbly and out going
She described the voice in her head
It told her she was fat and useless
She was refusing food and wouldn't even go in to the dining room
As you can imagine there was constant tug-of-war between her and the staff
She also refused to give blood tests and wouldn't allow staff to weigh her
After being given chances to make changes herself, her team decided that she needed to be sectioned
That meant that she was no longer a voluntary patient and the staff could force her to eat
We saw her sitting at the table one day
The staff member with her could only persuade her to eat 2 piece of carrot
If Beth didn't eat then she was expected to drink the same amount of calories in a supplement drink
She fought them all the way
She must have started make progress though as I know she was discharged in April and is doing quite well
She has returned to her beloved dancing also

I have to admit that when I first saw Beth, I thought to myself 'She's not that bad'
Partly because she didn't look emaciated and appeared to be relatively healthy
But I know that this is no way to measure how sick someone is
Looks can deceiving
Beth was obviously struggling
Her bubbly personality was obviously hiding a lot of pain
People do not stop eating for no reason
And it is a huge myth that you have to be extremely thin to have an ED
I know for myself that I was just as sick at my highest weight as I was at my lowest weight
But doctors only really grew concerned about me when my  weight plummeted
It's so sad that we never feel that we are 'sick enough'
That we don't deserve the title of anorexia

Another girl was in for OCD
She described how she had to do things a certain number of times and it was ruling her life
She made good progress and was discharged

The unit was a tightly run ship
Doors were kept locked
The patients weren't allowed outside on their own
Their rooms were searched regularly
Patients frequently tried to harm themselves
They used anything they could get their hands on
At one point 2 girls escaped the unit
One was found quickly but a girl called Gillian managed to give staff the slip
8 hours went by and she still could not be found
Staff were very concerned as this girl had taken an overdose recently and they feared she would try again
Their fears were realised when they got a phonecall that Gillian was in the local hospital after taking another overdose

What was nice about the documentary was the bond that the girls had together
They supported each other and took care of each other
I can remember that feeling from when I was in hospital
It was so refreshing to be in a place where people were just themselves
We were all in the same boat so there was no point in trying to hide our conditions
People spoke freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed
I have actually never felt as comfortable in my own skin as I did when I was in hospital
I could just be me
I could talk about my illness if I wanted to and people understood
In the real world it's very different
People don't talk about mental illness even though 1 in 4 of us are suffering
We have no trouble taking about physical health
So why not mental health?
And there is still a stigma attached to it
People are ashamed of their condition
I am quite open about my own struggles
I have no problem talking about them if I am asked
But people rarely ask
They think it's impolite or taboo to ask
But I would rather people asked than stay silent
I'm more than happy to answer questions

I remember when I was a child these were a couple of people in my town that were considered 'crazy'
One woman was known as 'Mad Mary'
She lived alone and was rumoured to have put her baby in the oven to keep it warm
Another man was called Tommy and he walked around the town muttering to himself
Looking back now, I can see that they were both mentally ill
They weren't crazy
I don't think that crazy exists and if it does then we are all crazy
I think people are afraid of mental illness because it's not something that they can easily understand or explain
So people pretend that it's not there

I though that this documentary was good
I think it gave an accurate account of what life is like inside one of there units
Beth's story was particularly sad
She was such a beautiful looking girl yet all she could see when she looked in the mirror was fat
I hope for her sake that she manages to overcome this and doesn't become stuck in the recover/relapse cycle
The outlook is hopeful though
Because she has caught her illness early there is every chance that she will make a full recovery
And I hope and pray that she does
There are so many of us suffering
Some in silence
I'm glad that this documentary was sown because if nothing else it will get people talking
And that has to be a good thing


  1. I watched this too! Maybe as part of our WP we could do a review about an ED documentary each week/fortnight?

    I loved Beth's personality, and I felt awful when she was sectioned - it made me realise how lucky I was, narrow escape. You are so right that weight is no reflection on someone's state of mind, I think too many people don't realise this, and I'm glad this came across so well in the documentary.

    I love that you said this: 'I have actually never felt as comfortable in my own skin as I did when I was in hospital
    I could just be me'
    because I have felt exactly the same but have felt way too strange to admit it! I'm glad I can relate to you. I can relate to you so much!

    You're right, people don't talk about mental health, and it means they don't understand it. I like the bit when the girls were talking about issues etc. and the one with OCD said something like, 'If you have a cold, you don't go up and say why have you got a cold.' So true. There's such a gap between mental and physical health. That's why I talk openly too, to raise awareness and understanding, but so many people aren't prepared to listen.

    I wish all the patients featured in the programme all the best for the future. Such brave souls.

    Hope you are well Ruby <3 xx

  2. I'm definitely giving this a watch.
    I am of two minds about mental hospitals. On the one hand, patients need to be controlled because they aren't able to or refuse to safely care for themselves. On the other hand, the environment in hospitals doesn't really support recovery.
    When I told my group therapist that I had been to the mental hospital treatment program in my area, she rolled her eyes. Apparently people that come to her hate the mental hospital and it doesn't do anything for them.
    I don't know, sometimes I feel like being an inpatient is the only thing that will get me better, because if left to my own devices I will always find a way to binge and purge.
    I have to admit I'm surprised they chose to feature someone with an ED on the documentary when it was about all mental illnesses.

  3. See...I hate hospitals. I hate doctors, being a patient, meds that I don't know what they'll do to me. My mother and brother have spent times in hospitals. I've never even been to the ER or had to stay in the hospital for more than a check up or blood drawing. I have to get some stuff checked on and I don't even want to make an appointment.

    Not that I don't understand or have sympathy or acceptance for those that are hospitalized, whatever people have to do to get healthy, do it. But I feel so confined and watched and helpless. Ironic hospitals are for help.

    That's just my opinion. I'm not one of those people that would get help for myself even if I needed it..like, if I twisted my ankle and it hurt to walk, I would go to get it checked, I would just ice it and move on. Sounds weird, but the same is true for any other kind of help. It took a huge panic attack and hyperventilating to the extreme to make me go see a therapist.

  4. Wow, I didn't see this but your description of it is wonderful. Thanks for shedding some light on mental illness. You're an angel.

  5. Yes Ruby, mental illness is real... I suffer from depression that can be very low... I took medication for about a year but I didn't like the feeling, I had no feelings... I couldn't cry, that is not normal to me, so I stopped.... Now I deal with the lows and I cry... I write a lot, that seems to help... and now I am walking which helps my stress level.

    It is very difficult to not be affected by my life, with the child abuse while growing up to be raped by my ex husband... I didn't always act appropriately but I did what I needed to get myself to the next level.

    I am 25 days in, just letting myself feel... not always easy but the only way I can deal with anything anymore.

    I pray you will see that you are beautiful too Ruby and so very worthy :)

  6. I was worried this would be triggering but I knew I would watch it anyway, looked forward to it all week (sad me i know!!)

    Actually it wasn't triggering at all, it was just nice that BBC3 gave airtime to something well worth while rather than just churning out some more of its usual mind numbing crap.

    Like you I couldn't help the thought that leapt to my mind 'but she's not really ill'. I instantly felt a guilty, bitchy hypocrite. I like you was just as ill, if not worse, at a higher weight.

    I had a lot of sympathy for them but I still felt the program was a little superficial, it didn't dig into the reality of mental illness, rather skimmed the surface and I think anyone who watched with no real experience of IP or mental illness wouldn't really get an accurate idea of the reality.

    Overall though I enjoyed it (right word??) and I will definitely watch the others.


  7. I'll definetely put this on my list. Sadly we don't get many if any of these docos on TV, but that's where the Internet comes in.

    I have a soft-spot for any inpatient documentaries, eating disordered or not. They make me feel less batshit-crazy. Prior to my ED developing I'd had 4-5 psychiatric inpatient admissions, and I've had 2 since, plus medical admissions. I wouldn't/won't go to the ED unit again because its really just a weight-gain unit, but I think general inpatient could help me with other issues (except that's not an option until I gain weight).

    I'll definetely put this on my list for next time I'm downloading (I still need to get 'Starved!'). Thanks for the recommendation.

    Hope you're well Ruby dear. You're in my thoughts <3

  8. Hi Ruby
    I hadn't watched this and normally hate watching anything about EDs but having read your post about it, and the comments here, I watched it back on 'on demand'.
    Again, like you, I thought she didn't look 'too bad', and yet, as you so rightly point out in your reflections, an eating disorder can be just as bad at the highest weight as it can at the lowest.
    Her absolute terror is so reminiscent of my own...
    I stayed in a similar style unit for 7 months. It was a specialist ED unit for over 18s and, although it was extreme hell, it also had its good times. The staff were fantastic at keeping the patients feeling safe, despite the agonies that we went through as we gained weight.
    It breaks my heart to see Beth in such pain and fear.
    I wonder how she's doing now.
    Like you, I'm glad that the BBC devoted some airtime to the area of mental health. It's an area which just seems to be the 'underdog' so much of the time, despite common rumour that the stigma is 'improving'.
    Hope you're doing okay, yourself


  9. I'm actually a friend of beth and i'm pleased to say she's doing really well since leaving the unit. of course she still struggles daily but she is still fighting and is back winning prizes in her dancing, working 2 jobs and off on holiday next week. Unfortunately as well as positive feedback from the documentary she's had a few narrow minded people accusing her of faking it because 'she wasn't even thin' What a lot of people don't know is that she was on a medical ward prior to this admission to stabilise her weight but like your comments point out weight is no reflection on the struggle in our minds xx

  10. I think we should all be honest about whatever baggage you drag with you as a person. Like heads up poker.
    Ok, I binge eat when I am feeling lost and out of control and then to gain a sense of control I limit my calories to ensure I don't gain wt.
    I guess that is too forward for most people huh? But its true that once we know another persons "issues" we feel no need to hide our own. I met a girl in college who we had friends in common but not much else. Until we both realised that we were both in therapy, suddenly we could connect on a very personnel level and knew we were safe.
    Could you imagine if everyone was up front about this stuff?

  11. i watched this documentry and can totally relate to the eating disorder ,i too didn,t look ill but i couldn,t see the damage i was doing to myself my ribs were sticking out my chest i looked terrible my hip bones were sticking out my collarbones looked gross but i still couldn,t see it i just saw normal and every one was screaming out at me to get some help .iam currently getting cognitive behaviour therapy and my meals are litlle but often....[gemma norris]


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