I just checked my inbox and found a junk email with the title ‘Freak Them Out…..With Your New Hooters’.
Being a six foot four man I believe that yes, I probably would.
I just checked my inbox and found a junk email with the title ‘Freak Them Out…..With Your New Hooters’.
Being a six foot four man I believe that yes, I probably would.
This week’s topic is something a little easier: we all go to bed after all. What does bed time mean to you? Is it a relief or a challenge? And end or a beginning? A time for stories, for thoughts, for shutting down? Does ‘bed time’ mean something different entirely to you?
Bed time. Harder to get right than the answer to the time-honoured question ‘Do these sheer micro mini hot pants with split crotch and diamante butterflies make my butt look big?’ (The correct answer, for those who may encounter this is of course: ‘No Greg, you look awesome’).
When I was a wee lad my bed time was strictly 7.30pm. Any later would lead to accusations of being overtired from my parents the next day, regardless of the scenario. It wasn’t quite as bad as the examples below but I seem to recall them using it as an excuse for pretty much anything out of the ordinary that happened.
Example #1: Dad slams car door shut on Seb’s fingers.
Dad (carefully placing severed pinkie in a lunchbox filled with ice): “Stop it. You’re just overtired.”
Example #2: Seb runs past with head on fire, trail of smoke billowing behind him.
Mum (without looking up from Mills and Boon novel):“Overtired. 6 o’clock bedtime for you tonight!”
Example #3: A Boeing 747 falls out of the sky and lands directly on Seb.
Seb: (bone crunching squishy sounds)
Parents (in unison): “You’re just overtired and showing off. It’s a nap for you this afternoon, mister!”
After countless years of begging to be allowed to stay up to watch Hart to Hart and Knight Rider my parents finally extended bed time to 8.30pm shortly after my twelfth birthday. This triumph only elevated my status among my friends to ‘second lamest’ in our group, narrowly ahead of Julia Mcgonfrey who had a 9pm bedtime but had a serious social disadvantage in that her parents didn’t own a television. Plus she said ‘Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa’ in a loud voice instead of laughing when something amused her. Kid was weird.
When I moved out of home I cautiously extended my bedtime to 9.30pm which I hoped managed to reflect my new found independence while still affording me the protection a good night’s sleep offered from the car doors, fireballs and rogue aircraft that I feared being overtired would attract.
The following year I discovered nightclubs, shift work, drinking until 2 Unlimited’s lyrics became deeply meaningful and a rather handy trick – completely blocking sunlight out of your bedroom by lining the inside of a window with foil.
Bed time then became whenever I collapsed in a twitching heap, if not directly on a mattress then at least in a park within three minute’s walk of my house.
Sleep lasted anything from four hours to twenty, dependent on my ability to grab and set the alarm clock as it spun around the room after a night of
drinking my body weight in vodka doing volunteer work at the local cat shelter.
After decades of sleeping patterns that would test the mettle of the most hardened late night infomercial enthusiast, I returned to a day job with early morning starts and a requirement to be pleasant to the people I encountered from the moment I set foot in the workplace.
In theory this doesn’t sound very difficult but the reality of only having half your brain wake up after the alarm blasts the song of it’s people at 5am means you have to lumber sideways like a crab as you attempt to bathe then dress, using your (then) only functioning arm. The other half wakes up when you pass out momentarily getting into your car and your forehead hits the horn at full blast in your remarkably acoustic garage.
Once entering the office any attempt at communication – pleasant or otherwise – results in you emitting a strangled croak as a lone cornflake falls from your cheek and lands elegantly between two keys on your manager’s keyboard.
Not only did I have to battle this, I constantly have to factor in that depression and anxiety would also be along for the ride. After an increased incidence of swearing at my screen, frustrated man-tears and the sudden onset of flailing Muppet arms at work recently I resolved to try setting a bed time for myself in 2013.
Of course, weekends are still for sitting up until bitch, is you crazy? o’clock. There’s no better time for arguing with people on the internet and searching new YouTube videos of people scaring the shit out of Taylor Swift.
My weeknights however now have a strict 10.30pm lights out followed by a 6am wake-up. Seven and a half hours of blissful slumber.
This is interrupted only by my diabetes’ insistence that my body make the equivalent a 44-gallon drum of urine every four hours which then requires a one-eye-open zombie stumble to the bathroom. It’s incredibly annoying but it does finally allow me to rid myself of the recurring dream that I’m being being soaked by a giant purple chicken holding a garden hose. My subconscious early-warning piss-the-bed system is fucking insane.
I’m happy to report that the early bedtime is working for me – better than I could have imagined in fact. Mentally I feel better prepared for the day ahead and I haven’t arrived at work sporting a steering wheel mark across my forehead since late December.
I even tested the effectiveness of my new routine by staying up until 12am one Thursday night and the following day had my worst panic attack in over a year. I couldn’t breathe properly and was shaking so badly that my chair threatened to shuffle across the call centre with the momentum of an off-kilter washing machine.
That was the only time I broke my self enforced ‘rule’ and I’m not going to be testing it out again in a hurry. (And no, I won’t do your laundry)
Yes, I may have to finally concede that my parents were right and Julia Mcgonfrey probably out-ranks me in the coolness stakes but a set bed time that allows me a little more mental breathing space coupled with a notable reduction in unexpected Muppet arms makes it more than worth it to me.
This week’s topic was chosen by Kate Dzienis. What does rescue mean to you? Do you need it? Can you offer it? Does it make you want to dress in Hi Vis and lurk by the roadside?
As always I look forward to finding out* …
(* not about the Hi Vis: keep your deranged personal fantasies to yourself!)
Don’t try to rescue people. Help them, by all means, but never try to rescue them. There’s a big difference. I learned this lesson twelve years ago in the most painful of ways. Kick in the nuts every half hour for a month type of painful.
Did that visual make you shift uncomfortably in your seat? You’re welcome.
David was a good friend of mine. I’d met him when I was 17 and working in a record store. He was a DJ at one of the city’s biggest clubs and he came in every week to go through our new vinyl.
I was obsessed with House music and spent three nights a week at the venue he played for. Over that time I’d perfected the running man, the stomp and the strange little hand movements that were a hangover from the acid house heydays and were now part of rave culture.
When I saw him walk into the shop one Tuesday afternoon I shoved a co-worker into a sale rack of cassette singles in my hurry to dash over to offer assistance, all the while doing my best to look like I didn’t give a damn and was pretty much too cool to be there.
This was of course the internationally recognised default setting for staff working in independent record retailers and I did it well, aside from my first few weeks there, where I ended up looking like I was trying to hide my need to do a particularly loud belch by letting it escape through my nostrils.
After a few visits we became pals and at the club I was even permitted to stand with him in the DJ box a couple of times, gaining ultimate bragging rights. David was also responsible for hooking me up with my first set of secondhand DJ turntables, allowing me to learn to mix and ultimately beginning a journey that lead to me being a full time club DJ myself, seven years later.
David was still one of the busiest and most in-demand DJs around when the owner of the club I was resident at asked him to come and work with us. He fitted in perfectly and soon had our late Saturdays packed until we closed the doors at 6am.
One night he was really late for his shift – he wasn’t the most punctual of people – most DJs aren’t – but he arrived an hour late, looking extremely troubled. Something had happened to him, and it was bad. He took over the decks from me, handed me my record and said nothing. It was clear that conversation wasn’t on offer so I packed up my crates and left for the night.
The next day the club owner called me and filled me in. David’s life had been threatened by a club promoter after a gig they’d worked together on had lost money. A lot of money. They’d verbally agreed on who would cover venue hire, DJ fees and advertising and all went well until they had a poor turnout and suddenly the arrangement changed.
The promoter now wanted David to pay for everything and informed him of this by sending some large and frightening men to his house. Men with nicknames like ‘Big Mental Ian’, ‘Ripper’ and ‘Stabby’. Men that had been back every day since as a gentle reminder. David had sent his girlfriend Marie to stay with a mutual friend of theirs called Mark and their housemate went to stay with his sister so David was in the house alone. The stress was such that he couldn’t bring himself to eat and he was only sleeping a couple of hours at a time.
David was my friend, so I immediately offered to have him come and stay with me. Nobody knew where my apartment was and I lived alone. If we made sure only the club owner and I knew David was there he’d be safe until he could find somewhere more permanent.
He moved in the next day and within a few hours I started to see him look more like his old self. He offered to pay rent and a share of the bills but I suggested he put the majority of his earnings to paying his debt to the promoter. We were both bringing home around $1500 a week at that time so having him there didn’t impact me that much financially.
A few days later David had spoken with the promoter and made an arrangement to clear the outstanding amount over the next 10 weeks. He picked up an extra shift at the club and after his other outgoings (mainly taxis and records) would be left with enough to buy food. He was visibly relieved and I felt a lot more comfortable having him stay knowing that this was being taken care of.
He was a great guest. Always up for a chat, but also respectful of my personal space, he kept things tidy and was considerate enough to replace anything he noticed we ran out of. He helped me re-organize my record room and best of all brought his computer over and set up my first dial-up internet account and email address for me.
Because there was still a niggling worry that the promoter would change his mind and arrange a visit from his goons we didn’t tell anyone where my apartment was, even Marie. David went to visit her regularly instead and she seemed happy enough where she was.
About 5 weeks into our arrangement Marie called David in tears. She’d accidentally broken something belonging to Mark. He’d flown into a rage and tried to choke her, just flipped out. I could hear her sobbing spilling out of the earpiece as David tried to calm her down.
I offered to drive David over so we could pick her up. He said he didn’t want to put me out further by having her stay, but would really appreciate if we could go and get her. Right now he just wanted to see her and move her out of Mark’s house.
We got in my car and headed to the other side of the city. We pulled into the driveway of the house and Marie was standing there waiting for us, her suitcase next to her. She was still shaking and had large red welts across her face and neck.
I helped her into the car while David loaded the suitcase in the trunk. Mark had gone out so we were able to get her out of there quickly – a relief for me but I could tell that David was getting angrier by the second. He didn’t want to go back to the apartment. He wanted to wait for Mark to return and confront him.
Marie and I managed to calm him down enough to get back in the car so I could drive us all home.
Once we got back they talked in David’s room for an hour or before Marie asked me to drive her to the police station so she could make a statement and press charges against Mark.
David wanted to go with her but she insisted he stay in the apartment, which I thought was a bit odd, but she said that hearing her recount what happened would just make him angrier and she didn’t want to “…put him through that”.
She started to tear up again when he tried to change her mind so we drove to the local station without him. When we got there she asked that I go home again and told me that she would find her own way back. I offered to wait but she told me to leave.
I watched her walk into the station and started to drive off. Just before I turned the corner looked in my rear view mirror and saw her walk straight back. I thought about turning around and going back but then realised she must have been scared and just needed time on her own. Perhaps she didn’t want to go to the police and David had insisted. So I went home and didn’t mention it.
If David was the perfect guest, Marie was the opposite. She spent the whole day in her pyjamas, left dirty plates, food wrappers and tissues everywhere and slept on the couch from midday until early evening so we couldn’t make any noise without her waking up and complaining about it.
After two weeks of this I came home to find half a packet of uncooked spaghetti scattered over the kitchen floor, milk that I’d bought the previous day left out on the counter so it was warm and two dirty tissues sitting on the sink, one with blood on it. There was a wet towel dropped in the hallway next to a giant clump of hair that looked like it had just been pulled out of a hairbrush and further along, a patch of vomit that looked to have been there for most of the afternoon.
Neither David nor Marie were there. I was so disgusted I shut myself in my room until I heard David come in a couple of hours later. He apologised profusely and cleaned everything up, saying that Marie had a terrible problem with depression and that he was going to get her some help. He was horrified that she would do this to my home and offered to move out.
I told him that as long as they were both respectful guests they could stay but if anything like this happened again they’d both have to go.
It was one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’d ever had – here was someone I’d known for close to decade doing his best to get through one of the worst times of his life and I was complaining about his girlfriend who was clearly having some kind of breakdown.
Marie returned home that night and went straight to bed without saying anything to me. For the next week it was like she wasn’t even there. I didn’t see her once and the apartment remained immaculate.
Then… she vanished. One afternoon I got in to find her suitcase had disappeared along with David’s wallet, my watch and about $150 in change I was keeping in my wardrobe.
David was devastated and neither of us could work out why she would do this. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little relieved she had gone but I mostly felt bad for my friend. We rang around some friends but nobody had seen or heard from her.
After a couple of days David’s upset turned to anger. He stopped looking for her – there were rumours among his friends that she had moved back in with Mark – and instead focused on finding a place of his own to live as he only had two more payments to make to the promoter.
True to his word he found a one-bedroom place, paid off his debt and moved out. He left me an envelope with money to cover the change Marie had stolen, as well as his share of the bills even though I’d told him he didn’t need to.
I felt a sense of relief, for both having the apartment back to myself and that Marie was out of his life. He was a good guy and didn’t deserve to be dragged down by whatever it was she had going on.
Life returned to normal for both of us until a month or so later. I was playing a gig at a local bar and after I’d finished my set I stepped out of the DJ console to see Marie smiling at me. She rather unexpectedly gave me a huge hug and then apologised for everything, saying she had been under an incredible amount of stress at the time. I told her I understood but I didn’t have anything to say to her.
Her eyes welled up and she told me she had taken the money and the watch and gone to a hospital for treatment. Now she was better and wanted to make amends. She told me she had my watch and wanted to give it back, along with my house key. I felt a dull thud in the pit of my stomach as I realised she’d copied the key I’d given to David without me knowing. I made a mental note to get the locks changed.
I grabbed my records and followed her outside to a parked car. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a scary looking unshaven man with a long ponytail. She introduced us. It was Mark. He shook my hand and passed me my watch and two keys. One for the deadbolt and one for the window locks. I hadn’t given David the window key. The only copy was on my key ring. What the hell had this bitch been playing at?
Marie asked if I knew where David was. Straight away I knew not to tell her and said he’d found a place but I didn’t know where. Anger flashed across her face but she forced a smile and said she understood. I said goodnight and walked to my car.
I sent David a text letting him know what happened and he said he was sorry and thanked me for not passing on his details.
When I got home I called a locksmith and paid him an extortionate amount of money to change the door and window locks.
At 4am that morning I received a text message from an unknown number.
You fucking filthy faggot. You’re dead.
40 more messages came through in the next hour with similar threats.
Just after 5am someone threw a brick through my bedroom window. I called the police and told them about the visit I received from Marie earlier and gave them the address of Mark’s house.
David had received a similarly disturbing amount of text messages and we arranged to meet up and lodge a restraining order at the police station. In the time it took to get there, we’d both received so many messages our phones were full. They were similar in content, all sent from four different numbers.
While I was speaking to the officer at the desk, one of the numbers flashed as an incoming call on my screen.
I started to shake and had trouble catching a breath so David took me outside. The officer took my phone and answered it, identifying himself. The caller hung up.
The police wrote out our statements and used some software to download copies of the messages. We were told that both Marie and Mark would be served with temporary restraining orders in the next 48 hours and that the officers serving them would contact us once they had been passed on. We would have to be especially vigilant in the days following as most people react badly to receiving an RO and were likely to try to retaliate.
Within ten days, Mark had been to my apartment six times with various other people, kicking at the front door as I hid on the floor of my bedroom and I had received close to 100 more threatening text messages. The police had not been able to serve the restraining orders because they couldn’t find either of them.
Messages now started coming from a larger range of numbers, late into the night, telling me that someone was waiting outside followed by the sound of shoes running up the front steps and something banging against my window.
The most frightening text came the same afternoon the police had called to say they’d finally tracked down Marie and Mark and served the RO’s on them..
The text was from a number I hadn’t seen before. It misspelt my name and purported to be from someone who knew what I ‘had dun to Marie’ and that he and his mates were going to ‘serve justice on you fag’. It went on to say ‘u wake up with your throat slit’. Then they sent another text with my address and ‘front left window – bedroom’.
I spent the next three hours moving all the furniture out of the front rooms, leaving the blinds and curtains open. I moved all my plants from the balcony into the bathroom and I took the light bulbs out of every room so I wouldn’t accidentally switch on a light. I went and explained to my neighbours what had happened and they agreed to say I had moved out if anyone asked.
I left a flattened cardboard box, some newspaper and a broom in the bedroom so anyone looking in would be given the impression that I really had moved out, then went to a friend’s house and spent the night.
Sure enough the messages started up again at 3am, saying that my having moved wouldn’t stop them from finding me and that they’d track both David and I down and make us pay for ‘what we did’.
David and I went to the police the next day to report the restraining order having been broken but none of the texts we could show them came from Mark or Marie’s phones so we had no proof.
We spoke with one of the officers at length about our options and he said that in cases like this it was the thrill of knowing their intimidation was working that kept people like this going.
The fact that they still didn’t know where David lived and thought I had moved was good. They had also had ample opportunity to come to the club and wait after work for us but hadn’t. He recommended we both change our numbers and wait to go to court, where Mark and Marie would have a chance to challenge the restraining order. If they didn’t show up and we presented our evidence a Judge would extend it.
Both of our phones buzzed with messages the whole time we discussed this so we decided it would be in the best interests of our mental health to call our respective providers to have new numbers issued.
For the next two months I parked my car three blocks away from the apartment, just as a precaution. I only ended up sleeping in the back room for a week then moved back to the main bedroom but was careful to never open the blinds or curtains and I spent a lot of time visiting friends.
During that period Mark and Marie replied to the restraining orders saying they were going to challenge them. I couldn’t believe it. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of being in the same room as them.
The court date arrived and I David met at his house. When we arrived at the courthouse the poor guy had to do his best to help me keep it together as I was shaking uncontrollably.
We sat at the back of the room with the other people having cases heard that day. We were eventually called up and we sat down behind a long desk to the Judge’s left. There was no sign of the other two.
My sense of relief was short lived as a clerk entered the room with them in tow. They were just late. Mark was wearing an ill fitting, shiny grey suit and had shaved his head, the resultant look presenting him as much more of a drug dealer than he had perhaps intended. Marie looked thin, pale and absolutely wired.
Her appearance certainly explained why so much of the aggressive activity occurred in the early hours of the morning. She was the new ‘face’ of meth. I turned to look at David who was just staring at her with a look of disgust.
After they were seated, Marie took one look at me, threw her head down on the desk and started wailing. The Judge looked concerned and the clerk rushed over to see if she was okay.
“It’s just..” she squeaked between sobs “it’s so painful to see them after all of this. They ruined my life and I… it’s just … I don’t even have any parents or anything..” She then rested her head in her hands and proceeded to caterwaul like a three year old who’d just fallen off a swing.
David and I exchanged a ‘What the hell?’ look as tissues were brought over and the Judge asked her gently if she felt she could continue. David leaned over and whispered that Marie did, in fact, have parents. They had filed a restraining order against her and Mark around the time we did.
Marie bleated a feeble ‘yes’ and the Judge asked me to sit in the box next to him. In small cases like this the people involved cross-examine each other, and it was their turn with me first.
As soon as I sat down, Marie stood up and loudly said “Right, then!”. There wasn’t a single trace of the trauma she was apparently experiencing seconds earlier. And her eyes were perfectly dry.
She asked me a series of questions about David, none of which made much sense but I did my best to answer. Obviously not getting the responses she’d hoped for, she then switched tack, asking the same question phrased slightly differently over and over until the Judge asked her if she knew what repeating something ‘ad nauseam’ meant, then explained she was asking an identical question ‘to the point of nausea’.
Marie then pulled a manila folder out of her bag with ‘EVIDENCE’ written across it in red marker.
She waved it at David and said ‘I have your birth certificate in here, you don’t want me to show it’. The Judge told her he didn’t tolerate his time being wasted and asked her to sit down. Marie burst into tears while Mark looked furious.
Their plan must have made more sense at 3.30am through a misty crack haze. David and I then got to tell the Judge our side of the story and we submitted a printout of the messages we’d been sent, with a log of the times they’d visited my apartment.
When they were asked to take the stand so we could cross-examine them, they declined. Marie now looked completely terrified.
Thankfully the Judge saw everything clearly and gave both of them a thorough dressing down, warning them that breaking the RO would mean fines and possible jail time. He did a good job because neither of us received contact from them again.
After we left the courts David and I went out to lunch to celebrate the RO being upheld. Unfortunately this was was the last time I spent any quality time with him. I certainly didn’t blame him for anything that happened but just didn’t feel comfortable enough to continue our friendship past the occasional ‘hello’ when one of us took over from the other at the club.
At lunch he told me he’d found out from an ex-friend of Marie’s that she had started a relationship with Mark long before the trouble with the promoter and he had gotten her hooked on speed, then meth. Also that her drug use had escalated so much in recent months that they thought she would be dead before the year was out.
She had been telling people that we had beaten her up, stolen all her money, then thrown her out of the house – even stating that we’d started a gay relationship and that David and I had possibly given her AIDS.
Mark had a lot of ‘acquaintances’ and anyone who came to the house encountered this frail, crying, waif who tearfully told the tale of these two disgusting men that had ruined her life. It was little wonder that the threats came from so many different numbers.
Twelve years on I still don’t like phones and I freeze when I hear an unexpected knock at the door.
Be there for people by all means but don’t invite their crazy into your home. If you try to rescue someone from a situation they created they’ll just create it again and again and add you as a supporting cast member.
And no friendship is worth that.
**The names of people mentioned in this post have been changed to protect their identities.
Our optional topic for week two comes from Candii_date, who submitted the first post for week one.
What does the word voices say to you (see what I did there?!)? Looking forward to reading the posts on this one …
I had a voice when I was younger. Not a “This is my point of view and I will be heard, fight the power, Bananarama plastic lunchboxes with bonus ‘Cruel Summer’ thermos for all” kind of voice. A singing voice. And a damn good one, if I do brag so myself.
My father was a very talented singer and guitarist (he played Saturday nights in a cover band at the local Chinese restaurant – two 30 minute sets and all the chicken fried rice he could eat) and my mother’s Aunt used to play live piano as the soundtrack to silent films in the local theatre.
Based on this evidence you can clearly see that I’m part of an international musical dynasty and should probably be in the Pussycat Dolls.
Knowing this, it wasn’t such a surprise when as a youngster I discovered a talent for belting out ‘Knock on Wood’ and happily performed it with my two younger cousins on our front verandah with tinsel curtaining strapped to our heads for that oft-copied silver and red hairdo look that was so ‘in’ at the time. Especially in rural Western Australia circa 1979.
All I can say about the response from the neighbourhood boys was that I feel that I was robbed of my rightful place in the Guinness Book of Records for ‘fastest land speed record while sprinting with four foot long tinsel curtain sticky-taped to forehead.’ But I digress.
In primary school I joined the choir and received my first taste of fame when Mrs Smith the music teacher told my classmates I had one of the most beautiful soprano voices she’d ever heard, and that it was a pleasure to be teaching such a talented young lady.
I threw my Kermit the frog pencil case at Greg Mansell, who was laughing so hard he accidentally farted, the smell of which caused Kaylene Meadows to scream and run to the opposite corner of the classroom where she started crying and dry retching. After experiencing the noxiousness of a 9-year-old boy’s post-lunch fart (Greg would often be seen wolfing down garlic meatball sandwiches) I’d be very surprised if Kaylene didn’t grow up to be a lesbian.
As revenge I called Mrs Smith ‘Mr Smith’ for the rest of the term until my little act of rebellion was halted by a letter safety-pinned to my jumper as I left for the day, requesting a parent-teacher meeting.
Throughout primary school I performed as part of the main choir and a lead soprano for years. We toured the neighbouring towns and entered competitions in the city – where we once came 14th, such was our hunger for glory.
The recognition (mostly from Mrs Orbinski in the school canteen), the constant partying (pretty sure we had sponge cake once) and the early bedtimes (I’d be cranky and start showing off if i didn’t get 10 hours sleep) had their appeal but I craved more.
I wanted the spotlight. And not just the one I tried to create by balancing a large torch between the door frame and a slightly ajar door in my bedroom. It had lasted all of two minutes anyway because Mum walked in to tell me ‘Hart to Hart’ had started on TV and caused the precariously placed torch and the large hardcover Disney annual I’d sat it upon to fall on her head and bare foot.She’s my Mum and I love her but even when assisted by excruciating pain she couldn’t hit a high C to save herself. Even while screaming “JESUS FUCK!!” which surely opened up the diaphragm enough to allow her a pretty good shot at it.
My chance at vocal stardom came in the last year of primary school when a cover band from the city called ‘What A Life’ put on an all ages gig at the local football oval.
They played pop covers and were fronted by a lovely young woman with a giant backcombed hairdo who captivated me with her white blouse, high heels and ra-ra skirt. Why didn’t I have a ra-ra skirt? I looked down angrily at my pastel yellow parachute pants, cursing them for robbing me of the successful musical career that I so clearly deserved.
Halfway through the concert the band announced a competition to find the best singer in Merredin. All we had to do was go to the side of the stage during the break and talk to them for the chance to perform live with ‘What A Life’, Western Australia’s 22nd most popular cover band!
My friend Rebecca Westall turned to me said “You shou-”
But I had already run off.
I was so excited as I bolted toward the front of the crowd I knocked over Narelle Pantaleone’s uncle Joe who I later saw pointing at me and asking his niece if she knew “…who that rude girl was”.I didn’t care. This was my shot at getting out of this half horse town and nobody’s frighteningly moustachioed relative was going to get in my way.
Four of us had made our way to the designated spot where the guitarist and singer stood waiting. One of the boys in my class, who I knew wasn’t as good a singer as me wanted to do ‘Dancing In The Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen. He sang a few lines as the guitarist plucked along on his guitar and it was decided he would go first.
The next candidate, a girl wearing far too much perfume on that didn’t cost anywhere near enough couldn’t choose a song and her friend who only seemed to be there for moral support dragged her away complaining she wanted to go back to pashing Mackenzie Millard and that the band were “..all rank pricks”.
Now we were down to two. I smirked to myself as I totally had this in the bag. I was going to be totally mintox.
No doubt an international record producer had just at this moment arrived in Merredin, a wheat and sheep farming community, in search of the next Boy George.He would of course just happen to be walking past when I performed, discover my undeniable talent and whisk me off to somewhere amazing like Scunthorpe in the UK, where my Aunty Lola lived.
I pictured myself smiling zanily with bright red spiked hair on the cover of ‘Smash Hits’ holding my platinum album. I wondered how many albums I would have to sell to go platinum. Probably 500 or so. Wow. I could be the next Michael Jackson. A world class superstar. Then Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins would fall in love with me and we’d get married and live next door to Madonna in our 400 bathroom mansion in the centre of Scunthorpe.
The singer from ‘What A Life’, interrupted my plotting by asking me which song I’d like to sing with the band. I knew right away it had to be ‘King For A Day’ by the Thompson Twins. She looked at me blankly.
“Oh, it has to be ‘King For A Day’. It suits my voice perfectly. I can sing it much better than anyone in Merredin and it’s by my favourite band the Thompson Twins and I have their poster on my science folder so I think I should sing it”
“I don’t think I know that one. Can you sing a bit of it?”
Ah. An audition. I’d read about this in Number One magazine. Even Duran Duran had made people audition before deciding on a final line up. I knew how the industry worked. I was twelve, after all and had all of Kim Wilde’s albums on tape.
I sang the chorus as the guitarist and singer leaned in and listened. They looked at each other and shrugged.
“Sorry, we don’t know it. Do you know A-ha? We can play “Take On Me” and I can sing it with you” offered the guitarist, helpfully “It worked really well at our last gig at the Mukinbudin Pub.”
“I don’t know the words to ‘Take On Me!!! You don’t know KING FOR A DAY? HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW KING FOR A DAY. IT’S NUMBER SEVEN ON ‘COUNTDOWN’!!” I replied, with
several tonnes a pinch of petulance.
“Look, I think I know the song, but the band haven’t learned it yet.” Said the singer. “We have lots you can pick from… we haven’t played ‘Like A Virgin’, or ‘Nutbush City Limits…”
My eyes started to fill with tears. They were ruining my opportunity.
“Hey, don’t get upset, love…” said the guitarist.
Oh great. Was there anyone in the known universe that didn’t think I was a girl?
“Come over here with me and try and teach me the chords and we’ll work something out.”
Well, at least being mistaken for the opposite gender it was working out in my favour for once. And it didn’t seem to hurt Boy George’s career. Or Marilyn’s. I mean… he was going to be huge!
We walked over to the outside of the change rooms. He leaned against the wall and strummed along as I sang the song from start to finish twice.
“Okay, I think we can work with this. It won’t sound exact but we’ll follow you and do the best we can.”
So it was going swimmingly. But of course, being a young gay boy who had spent his singing career being told how wonderful he was, I had push it that little bit further.
“Thank you. I just know I can do this song better than anyone else…. even her!” I said, gesturing over to their singer. “But eventually I want to write my own songs and be really famous. Otherwise I’ll just end up stuck singing at places like… well… here.”
There was a beat as the guitarist’s smile dropped. “One sec.”
He walked over to the singer and talked to her for a minute or so, then came back.
“We’re on in 20 minutes. We’ll announce you and then you come up and sing your song, okay?”
“Okay, thanks! Hey, I hope you didn’t think I was being rude, it’s just that some people sing things better than other people, I mean she’s good as well but I do sing this better than anyone else…”
He gave me a look that I didn’t quite understand and walked away.
True to his word, in 20 minutes time the band were on stage and my Springsteen loving classmate was called up to bleat his way through a mostly off-key version of ‘Dancing in the Dark’.
He didn’t know much more than the chorus so just kept repeating the same parts over and over. I stood there congratulating myself. The title of ‘Merredin’s Best Singer’ was mine and I hadn’t even performed yet.
The band finished and the crowd gave him a wildly enthusiastic cheer.
The singer announced my name and called me up. I ran up the steps and took my place behind the mic. A sea of faces stared at me. I wondered momentarily which one was the international record producer before I spotted Rebecca beaming at me and waving.
I didn’t want to look amateurish so I ignored her. I was sure she understood. This was too important a moment for me to appear anything but completely professional.
The drummer hit his sticks together four times then launched into a furiously fast beat.
I froze completely.
The keyboards kicked in. It was ‘Take On Me’.
Why were they playing ‘Take On Me’? I didn’t know the words to ‘Take On Me’. I didn’t want to take on ‘Take On Me’.
Instead of singing I just stood there petrified. I looked over at Rebecca, who appeared confused. Her head slowly sank into her shoulders and she folded her arms.
I looked over at the guitarist, who was smiling again, but now with smug satisfaction.
I looked over at the singer. She made the international symbol for ‘Come on then – sing something, you oddly androgynous little shit!’
So I did. I sang the words to ‘King For A Day’ by the Thompson Twins. To the tune of ‘Take On Me’.
It was not mintox. It was in fact, the complete opposite of mintox. This performance was about to drain the world of all its mintox-ness.
Rebecca’s facial expression had now changed from confusion to abject horror, as I ran out of room while trying to fit the words I was singing into the music of a completely different, much faster song.
“If I was king for just one day, I would giiiive it all awayIWOULDGIVEITALLAWAYTOBEWITHYOUUUUUUUUU”
“Diamond rings, and all thosethingsTHEYNEVERSPARKLELIKEYOURSMILEEEEEE!”
The singer was laughing now. I was purple with embarrassment. Rebecca had now decided that giving me gentle encouragement would help so she started clapping along. When nobody joined in she decided this was actually a bad idea and developed a sudden interest in her shoes.
After what seemed like forever but was probably less than a minute the singer grabbed the mic from the stand and took over, singing the rest of ‘Take On Me’ to approving cheers – possibly of relief – from the crowd.
Too scared to move, I stayed there with my hands in my pockets until the end of the track. The singer asked for a round of applause for me.
“At least……. “ she paused to look me up and down “…he? gave it a good go”.
I tried to set fire to her with my mind but only managed to make my face even more purple so I decided to flounce off the stage.I didn’t turn back to look but I’m pretty sure I heard the guitarist still laughing to himself.
Bastard. I hope he ended up in a Wa Wa Nee tribute band. And if there was any justice in the world the singer had to give up on music and ended up scrubbing toilets – ironically using a brush fashioned in her 80’s hair likeness.
Four years later my voice broke and I found I couldn’t sing any more. My soprano register had slowly disappeared when I was thirteen but it appeared that the gift of no longer being mistaken for my Mum when I answered the phone meant that I couldn’t hold a note at all.
Not that it mattered. I still ended up with a career working with music, albeit as a DJ. And I’m still fairly certain that all those years ago, ‘What A Life’ and I invented the world’s first mash-up.
(I expect the royalties are still in the mail).
At age 19 I had my first relationship. It only lasted 11 months but the way it ended effected me for years afterwards. Shocking to say but I’ve discovered that if you don’t value yourself you end up making some pretty bad relationship choices. I know, right? Projectseb.com – bringing the revelations since 2010.
It turned out that my first boyfriend – this seemingly kind,
smart and handsome 27 year old I’d all but moved in with was an escort. He’d met me through friends, fallen for me and decided to get a legitimate job and ‘go straight’ as it were.
Three months in he’d started seeing clients again but kept this, as well as a return to amphetamine abuse hidden from me.
After eleven months he became so worried about me finding out he ended the relationship – waking me up at two in the morning by burning me with a lighter. He then screamed at me to get dressed, pulled me downstairs and threw me out of his house.
He didn’t speak to me again and a month later a friend of his told me about the escort work and drug use. He said my ex had decided that making me hate him was the easiest way to get me away from ‘the situation’ without hurting me. He did this because he loved me.
Now you see why I crossed out ‘smart’ in the preceding paragraph.
I was already heartbroken and blaming myself for the breakup and this news pushed me over the edge. That night I had a complete meltdown and ended up walking the streets, alternating between fits of crying and furiously hitting myself.
I ended up on the front porch of a friend’s house and the poor guy opened his door to find me standing there hyperventilating,with red welts all over my face and arms, unable to speak. He put me in his bedroom but he couldn’t calm me down and eventually had to call another friend to come and get me.
While this is not the most flattering of incidents (I should delete my online dating profiles now, yeah?) it highlights the mindset of someone who receives abuse to the point where their self esteem is all but destroyed so I believe it’s important to share. Validation from others feels so amazing when you don’t like yourself and it’s so gut wrenchingly painful when it’s taken away.
When you’ve spent your formative years being beaten up and called disgusting names it’s frightening how adept you become at carrying on the tradition as an adult, in your own head.
If so many people acted that way toward me there I knew there had to be a reason, and in my mind that reason was plain and simple. Me.
Teachers used to ask me that all the time. If I was found with the shit kicked out of me in the boys toilets – “Well, you must have done something to deserve it – what did you do to them?”
Over the next year my hatred of myself became stronger and my bulimia got worse. I was eating and purging several times on most days and it started to show. Already thin, I dropped more weight and felt tired all the time. I wasn’t happy with anything in my life and would cry over the smallest things.
I was never skeletally thin but there was a period where my head looked too large for my body and lack of nutrition was beginning to effect my hair, skin and nails. My obsession with the way I looked and my weight had created so much more for me to find fault with.
There were times that I would get dressed to go out when I looked in the mirror I’d become furious with how ugly I was and tear apart or cut my clothes – often something I’d bought that day – and throw them across the room in a rage before dissolving into sobs on the floor.
I always felt I looked disgusting. I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted to look and the mirror always showed me a revolting, fat freak.
I met my second partner around this time. He was the first person I’d ever spoken to about my problems with eating and he was an incredible listener.
The relief of not constantly trying to hide my problems went a long way toward me starting to get better. With his support and a year’s work with a psychologist I was only purging once a month.
The key was to use my obsession with my supposed ugliness. My fear of losing more hair and destroying my teeth eventually won out over the need to vomit the food back up.
Talking about my past helped but we weren’t able to get to the root of my self esteem issues and I was still completely addicted to food. Around the same time I stopped working in clubs and money became very tight for a few months.
I had to stop seeing the psych but it didn’t seem like we were making progress at the time so I wasn’t too worried. My concerns were now all financial.
After rent and bills were paid there was usually $30 left over to feed two people for a week – and one of us was a food addict. It was awful. I sold off some of my belongings and he used to go to his parent’s house and take food from their pantry.
After a while our phone was cut off and things got so bad one week we ran out of food, soap, toilet paper and toothpaste. We ended up having to use old newspaper and showered twice a day. I drank litre after litre of water to try and keep my stomach full.
The whole time both of us were too proud (read: stupid) to ask anyone for help.
We sometimes could only afford to have one meal in a day and I wasn’t coping mentally. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t sleep properly and I felt physically uncomfortable constantly – a feeling of dread and panic filled the pit of my stomach and didn’t budge.
Taking away my ability to binge eat didn’t cure me of the disease, it made the need stronger than ever. It’s very similar to being in ‘fight or flight’ mode, but there’s nowhere you can run and nothing to fight. I thought about killing myself most days.
When I found full time work in a cafe later that year we were allowed staff meals. The owners charged us $4.00 for anything on the menu and I ate myself sick every shift on the large portions as well as the leftovers from patron’s plates. I’d cut away the part they’d been eating from and gorge on the rest.
My body, deprived of caloric intake for months began to store fat and my weight ballooned.
I remember the service station near us opening up for 24 hour trading and night after night standing at the counter at 3am in a daze, holding packets of crisps, chocolate bars and a tub of ice cream. I hadn’t wanted to walk there but I had.
I could hear my own voice in my head screaming at me ‘SOMEONE FUCKING HELP ME. I DON’T WANT THIS. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS’ as I smiled at the attendant and handed over money I’d earmarked for our electricity bill. I did this night after night as part of my routine. As soon as I’d eaten it all I’d promise myself I’d stop. But I couldn’t.
The deli at the end of my street knew my order as soon as I’d walked in. I worked nights at the cafe, so woke up at 11.30am and went straight there for a large chips, choc milk, a bag of Burger Rings and a large fried rice. This was breakfast every day.
At 2:30pm I’d leave the house and start the half hour walk to work. I’d buy another ice cream or packet of chips from the deli (no doubt they retired early based on how much I spent with them) and eat as I made my way up the hill. I’d stop at the next deli and do the same, finishing the ‘snack’ just before I walked in.
On my first break I’d try and find an orphaned slice of cake (the last slice in every display was seldom bought because it ended up looking dry and a bit sorry for itself) and then at dinner I’d have two large toasted foccaccias loaded with cured meats, sun dried tomatoes and cheese with a giant milkshake.
By this time I’d been promoted to shift supervisor and the owner allowed us to have anything we wanted as long as it was recorded – I can only think that he assumed my partner was coming in to eat with me because he never questioned the amount of food I wrote down and it was a lot.
After my shift there would be another half hour walk home, then a trip to the service station to complete the day’s ritual before beginning it all again the next day.
On my days off I would go into the city and go to two separate food halls, gorging on huge combination plates of Chinese and Thai food.
Once my weight hit around 100kg/220lb (I was 78kg/171lb at my thinnest) I stayed at that weight for a couple of years, the amount of walking I did daily thankfully stopped further gain and kept my health in check.
My cholesterol and blood pressure were normal and I didn’t get short of breath walking long distances. Physically I was overweight but doing okay. Mentally I was slipping into a deep depression and agoraphobia really started to take hold.
I stopped wanting to go outside except for work or to get food and I’d hide if someone knocked on the door.
My partner had long given up on trying to talk to me about my eating – it only lead to arguments and I’d storm out of the house because it was just too confronting.
Eventually the toll of watching me channel my depression and self hatred into slowly destroying myself with food got too much for him and after four years he finally left.
At this point, people reading this will either know exactly what I mean or will be thinking there’s no such thing as a food addiction. I can completely understand this viewpoint, after all – surely we’re in control of what we put into our bodies? It’s a conscious thing. I wonder why some of us lack this control – be it psychological or a physiological disposition to an eating disorder. Unfortunately I have yet to find the answer myself.
Another question that comes up a lot- If you feel hungry all the time, why not just eat more but choose healthier foods? I met a man a few years ago with a terrible binge eating disorder that managed to force himself onto binging on fruit and vegetables. It didn’t help. He was still destroying his body. Sure he was thin, but he had an eating disorder. The food a person binges on is only a tiny component of the disease.
The feeling – for me at least – of trying not to binge on particular foods is like trying to hold your breath until you pass out. Your body will fight and fight and fight and you have to exhale. Doing that brings immediate relief to all the pressure. An eating disorder does this but the fight is in your head.
Next: food and the modern seb, part five: exercise to exorcise.
A big thanks to @jasonjordan and @cooksphere for having me on their show Friday night. I got to share some thoughts on the effects of childhood bullying longer term and stay after my segment to watch the guys in action, radioing it up like a boss etc etc. Poor Jason even put up with two hugs from me even though he’s not really the hugging type. He’s good people!
I’m sorry that I don’t have a copy to share online but imagine me discussing this post with a couple of awesome dudes interspersed with classic rawwwk and it’ll be as if you were there.
In previous posts I’ve discussed my relationship with food as a boy and in my early teens. I stopped binging on food when I left school and things were ‘normal’ for a while. I rarely thought about food and was just your average teenager with a penchant for disco.
At 16 I got my first full-time job, bringing home a staggering $140 a week. Would I be a philanthropist with my newfound millions? Perhaps, but I had houses and boats to purchase first and I knew that if I worked hard and saved every cent I could, I’d be able to afford a 1972 poo brown Torana and part ownership in an outdoor toilet by the time I’d retired at 95. I was nothing if not ambitious.
I worked in a record store (dream job) under the management of a woman called Perri (dream shattered) who on my first day refused to speak to me because she only liked working with girls. She left it up to the other staff to tell me that she didn’t want me there and she’d told the boss it was her or me. Thanks for the welcome. That first day was the nicest time I had working there, because she turned out to be incredibly vindictive and became almost pathological in her hatred of me.
I’m pretty sure she lived on a staple diet of live rats, lemons and barbed wire to help maintain her level of nastiness. She worked out very early on that I was easily rattled and took great delight in pointing out to the other staff how stupid and clumsy I was.
So…. I told her to fuck off and walked out of there with my head held high. I lodged a workplace harassment complaint and successfully took her to court. She was fired and I received thousands of dollars in compensation which I used to record a duet with Dannii Minogue. It went to number one in several european countries and I still live off the residuals today.
Well, that was the fantasy at least.
No, instead of complaining I put up with it and when it was time for lunch I ate like I was about to go into hibernation. I’d start at the cafe opposite the store and get a large chips and a hot ham and swiss cheese roll with mayonnaise. Then I’d go to the food hall around the corner and buy a coke and a large Chinese combination. I had an hour, so there was plenty of time to scoff it all down and I always ate as if there were bonus points for not chewing. Don’t be too grossed out though, I always used a napkin. I’m classy, me.
Why did I do this? No idea. It was a compulsion. With apologies to Nike, I just did it. And when I moved out of home it got worse. I got another job at another record store where the staff were great to work with (I left Perri a badge that said ‘I’m a fucking bitch’ and a card that told her to wear it with pride) and I continued with my lunchtime binges, always one lunch followed by another but by now I was doing the same with breakfast and dinner too.
It was around this time, in the staff toilet at the top of the building that I tried purging for the first time. Someone I worked with mentioned that they’d been so drunk on the weekend they’d had to make themselves throw up (how very rock and roll, right?). I asked how someone makes themselves be sick and they told me.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I mastered the art of un-eating in a matter of days and thus a bulimic was born. It wasn’t a weight thing for me to begin with. I just wanted to stop feeling like I was about to pass out because of the all-you-can-eat-and-then-some-that-you-shouldn’t-and-come-on-you-should-stop-now-you’ll-do-yourself-an-injury sessions I was having. The craving for food was constant, confusing and uncomfortable. Fear of not having food caused me to spiral into a panic. I’ve described it before as having ants swarming over your brain and you not being able to get to them because of your skull.
Food always stopped that feeling but I needed to eat a hell of a lot and the relief was always short lived. Half an hour later I would feel physically sick, guilty and completely disgusted with myself. Every binge was followed with promises to myself that I would stop.
The danger for me was that I discovered purging was followed by a frighteningly dangerous reset of my feelings.
After I’d emptied the contents of my stomach I felt as if I’d suddenly regained control of myself. Peaceful. Cleansed. Unbroken. My mind was quiet and it was if the binge had never occurred. I had clarity of mind. The trap of bulimia.
I started going to clubs four nights a week and danced for hours on end. I eventually got work as a podium dancer in a gay club (stop laughing!) and the intensity of the sets – these were the rave days where we flung ourselves around like windmills – meant that my body didn’t succumb to the bloating so many bulimics suffer from.
I was in the best shape of my life, but I hated my looks and was convinced that I was hideously ugly. I’d frequently spit in the face of my reflection in the mirror at home and had fits of rage where I’d punch the sides of my head over and over, furious at how disgusting and fucked up I was.
I’m ashamed to say that I still occasionally have these moments of violent self hatred. It’s deeply rooted and connected to thoughts about myself I developed the around the time I became bulimic. It’s very rare that it will occur but it’s still there, all these years later. Yay, bulimia.
I met a woman in one of the clubs that owned a model/casting agency I did some work for a couple of designers in fashion shows and some magazines. She also got me gigs as a backup dancer for club acts and a truly shameful two gig career as a rapper in a truly awful house music act called ‘Lurex Groove’ – fronted by a lesbian singer who later became a hooker.
I got fired from my day job because I was always turning up late, looking like a zombie but I was getting plenty of club work. Of course purging had never been so important and I found new levels of obsession with my body. Sure, I ended up with some cool stories and there were some short lived boosts to my ego but I used it as a justification for my eating disorder. This ended up damaging my mental health further and created the first seeds of the agoraphobia that dictates so much of my existence today.
Next: food and the modern seb, part four: supersize, me?
In yesterday’s post I explained my relationship with food, glorious food up until the age of 11 or so – not the biggest eater, a bit fussy and never welcomed into the local chapter of the clean plate club. In my last year of primary school that began to change.
I was being bullied at lunch so my parents thought it would be a good idea to eat at my grandparents house which was diagonally across from the school. Excited about not having to sit through daily performances of the off-broadway musical ‘You’re A Poofter And We’re All Going To Kill You’ complete with full ensemble punch-choreography performed by our school’s most talented bogans I jumped at the opportunity.
My Grandmother, who we all called Dot (her name was Dorothea) made a cooked lunch every day – mostly roast chicken or beef with oil brushed potatoes and pumpkin, some peas cooked in butter with diced onion and half a bacon stock cube and corn on the cob. This would be accompanied by freshly warmed bread rolls and thick onion gravy. It was all incredibly rich, salty and delicious.
I can recall the first time, about five weeks into me having lunch with them, both Dot and my Grandfather becoming so excited over me completely clearing my plate that there were hugs and declarations of pride that made me feel like I’d just done the most amazing thing a grandson could ever do and there would be some sort of town parade in my honour later that afternoon.
The next day I was given a bigger serving, which I finished too – not wanting to disappoint after winning my lunchtime audience over the day before. After another month or so of this I was eating more than both of them and it wasn’t long before I started gaining weight. Helpfully, after years of begging me to eat more my Mum pointed out in front of one of my friends “You’re putting it on a bit mate, you’ve got boobs!”
Having no self esteem due to years of daily bullying at school, the comment hit hard and at age twelve I’d found yet another thing to loathe about myself. In an attempt to fill my stomach so that I wasn’t so hungry I started eating tissues. I’d sit there with a box and slowly tear strips off to chew on as I did my homework or read a book. I did this for about a year and don’t recall if I really lost any weight but it did fulfil the constant urge to chew something.
One of the positive things about being a twelve year old was that a growth spurt was around the corner and over the eighteen months or so I shot up to being 6 foot tall and all the fat just stretched out, making me – as I felt – ‘normal’ again. Bye, bye, boobies.
I progressed on to high school and went back to boxed lunches that I sometimes ate and sometimes didn’t and the only standout recollections from that time are that I would regularly steal ‘forbidden food’ from the fridge or pantry. Mum and Dad each had their own stash of chocolate biscuits or dairy milk bars that I wasn’t allowed to have but I took them all the time.
There would be muesli bars or crisps there for me, but I only craved what I wasn’t allowed to have. I got found out and told off a lot over this but I kept doing it. One one occasion I’d eaten a mini chocolate bar and flushed the wrapper down the toilet because Mum would always find them in the bin despite my best attempts to hide them. A small white part of the wrapper hadn’t flushed and my Dad thought it was a cigarette butt and went absolutely mental at me. What stuns me now is that I took the smacks on the arm and the yelled accusations from both parents rather than admit I had secretly eaten something I wasn’t supposed to as if there was some greater shame associated with it.
If only they’d been smart enough to forbid me from having fruit, I’d be the healthiest person alive today.
We moved to Perth when I was 14 and rake thin. I was again bullied, this time on a much larger scale. I don’t know what happened at school on this particular day. I just remember getting home and crying. My parents were both still at work. I went to the pantry and opened a sealed box of waffle ice cream cones, stood there and ate all 24. It was like they were oxygen, I couldn’t get them into my mouth quickly enough.
As soon as I stopped eating I panicked. Someone was going to ask me what happened to them. I went straight to the money jar that my Dad kept on his dresser and took enough to go to the shop and replace them. When he noticed the note missing I told him I’d given it to charity door knockers. This started a cycle of lying and secret binge eating that went on for years.
Next: food and the modern seb, part three: modelling should help, right?
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be writing about my issues with food and my experiences with eating disorders. I wanted to share this as it seems to be such a taboo subject for many and as with all mental health issues, if you don’t communicate what you’re experiencing with someone the disease starts to gain advantage. It’s so important that people know they’re not alone and that as well as that seventh helping of black forest gateaux with double cream, there is hope.
Oddly enough, even after all the love and support everyone has shown me I’m a little scared to write about this so if you can send me a few mental mirrorballs as you’re reading I’d really appreciate it. There’s also so much to cover that I’ve broken this down *unconvincing rapper pose* into parts so it’s not a giant unreadable clump of “AND THEN THE SNICKERS BAR TRIED TO KILL ME AND WAH AND SUCH”.
Please be warned that this and the next few posts can be triggering for those with eating disorders, that I’m not an expert and I’m not offering any advice, help or judgement, I’m just a man with a keyboard and a love of tasty crispy fried things that is in a bad place and wants to share the
woe dread agony chips and mayonnaise story with you.
Eating. When I was a small disco enthusiast in a lime green Kermit the frog t-shirt and brown corduroy flares I liked eating but I didn’t like eating a considerable amount of much. At primary school I’d take a bite from a sandwich and throw the rest away. On the days that I’d forget to open my lunchbox altogether, Mum would look at me witheringly as she unpacked my bag to find yet another untouched polony and tomato sauce sandwich that she’d sliced lovingly into perfect squares be returned to sender.
I tried to tell her that Karlene Orbetski had polony for lunch then spent the afternoon doing farts so potent that our carefully drawn crayon portraits would melt into dali-esque nightmares but she didn’t care. She wanted me to eat.
I was born with a taste for most everything that was good for me. I would only eat chicken breast and the skin had to be removed or it was the dawn of the apocalypse down at 22 Princess Street (I know, I know). I hated sausages, chops and any type of steak. I wouldn’t touch cheese and preferred plain bread without butter. I was never really given soft drinks and loved milk and water.
My favourite treat was tinned tuna or a delicious ham and salad sandwich from the local bakery – I would could eat salad and vegetables until most everyone was convinced that I was part rabbit. I wasn’t averse to a bowl of ice cream or coco pops, I just didn’t crave these things in the same way I did the healthier options.
When I was growing up, kids ate what the adults were having and unless it was a special occasion you weren’t offered a choice. Mum was a fantastic cook (she made a killer Satay Beef that no restaurant has ever bettered) – this meant a large variety of foods made it on to our plates, most of which I loved but the portions were always too big for me. The unfortunate thing about the era that I grew up in was that the consensus among parents was that if your kid wasn’t a member of the clean plate club then you clearly weren’t doing your job.
Everything had to be eaten, regardless of your child’s preference or appetite for it because they’d wither away and die before the nightly news had finished if you didn’t force them to eat, eat, eat. Failing to have a child in the clean plate club meant that you were a terrible parent and would immediately be cast out of the town and forced to live a nomadic lifestyle with the other unfortunates that couldn’t get little Gregory or Melissa to finish that last spoonful of mashed parsnip.
Most struggles with me came over food I didn’t find palatable but was part of the great Aussie diet. I have vivid memories of retching repeatedly while trying to swallow pieces of fat or gristle in a steak, with my Stepdad telling me off for doing so. Sometimes he’d become furious and yell at me while I’d be bawling, trying to choke the food down so I could get away from the table. I’ve never understood why it was so important to him that I pretend to like something I clearly didn’t.
No doubt it wasn’t wonderfully appetising to have a 9 year old sound like he was about to present an explosive encore of tonight’s dinner while you’re trying to enjoy your meal but to this day, (and I believe this to be completely true) his well intentioned ‘eat it, it’s good for you’ approach has meant that I will start dry heaving the second I find anything texturally similar to fat or sinew in a mouthful of food.
There was also the time honoured battle of ‘if you don’t finish it you’re not leaving this table’ where I’d sit, crying in front of a plate of cold sausage and congealed gravy for half an hour while Skyhooks played on the radio in the background before Mum complained I was drowning out the television and to just go to my room. And of course the worst of all techniques – ‘what you don’t finish tonight will be your breakfast, if you don’t finish it then it’s going in your lunchbox’.
My parents only tried this once and after I’d not eaten a very depressed looking lamb chop for the following day’s breakfast, lunch or dinner they realised they had a formidable opponent and filed the technique away under ‘oops’ right next to ‘get him to stop playing with dolls’ and ‘get him to join the junior football team’. Nuh-huh, girlfriend.
These occasions were thankfully not very frequent but are certainly ingrained. I also have vivid memories of visiting my Grandparents after school and not wanting to refuse the kind offer of a biscuit, because I was scared to hurt their feelings so I’d put it in my pocket and throw it over the fence into the ditch drain next door. If I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat and that was that. I was always thin, but I didn’t lack for energy and I loved food that I…well… loved.
Next: food and the modern seb, part two: winning at lunch, losing at manboobs.
I think it’s about time I wrote another blog post, seeing that my last update was the 1st of October 2011. I’d hate for the internet to threaten to take this website off me by explaining that there are kids without blogs in Africa and if I wasn’t going to post on here then it will be sent to them. I’m not sure how you’d send a website to someone but the internet is quite magical so I suppose one of the unicorns or cats that run it could find a way.
So – now to the update. I’m not doing so well and I can attribute part of that to not writing, or rather the guilt and frustration that comes from not feeling able to write. I made a commitment to myself two years ago to write about my struggles with mental health, sort of not realising that poor mental health makes writing (along with pretty much everything) difficult and well, didn’t that come back to bite me in the ass.
What a way to cleverly create an infinite loop of struggle and disappointment. Next, I might try to cure my agoraphobia by shopping nude in the city on a busy Saturday afternoon. As long as it’s not too cold. I don’t want anyone talking about the tiny peen on the man running down the middle of the street crying and hyperventilating. That would just be embarrassing.
I’m not too enthused with the whole ‘being alive on this planet’ thing at the moment and am ready to start working my way back from this. Rather than making any positive steps forward I’ve just been sitting in the darkness and feeling crap. Sure, I’m walking a couple of days a week and I’ve introduced a multivitamin as a way to try and make myself healthier but it’s like trying to stop a flood with a household sponge. I’m going to need a lot of household sponges. In a variety of appealing and decorative colours, obviously because: style icon.
One thing I’ve not written about, but is an important piece of the SebPuzzle™ is the fact that I have major food issues. Don’t be shocked, I know you’ve suspected it – all 146kgs of me can’t be muscle, right? I have had and currently am suffering from an eating disorder. Mark that down on your bingo cards next to clinical depression, OCD and agoraphobia. And then possibly consider dating me, because WHAT A CATCH, EH?
I have also unfortunately been experiencing the darkest thoughts I’ve had in a long time, with obsessive thoughts of suicide and self harm running through my head like an unhappy little jingle. Seriously, my brain could be a marketing genius, it pitches ideas like a motherfucker. The thoughts come for a few days then go but they’re returning with more frequency than I’ve had in a long time which is frustrating because I thought I’d beaten this in early 2011.
On a daily basis I’m angry. I’m feeling defeated. I can’t sleep for a week and then I can do nothing but sleep for the next month. I don’t just hate this existence. I hate myself. Any time I’m alone I feel sad. And all I want to do is be alone. So that’s working out nicely. Alanis Morissette would probably write a song about it called
Ironic? This Poor Fucker Needs Help! Ironic.
Yes, I know she has already. I was being ironic.
At least tonight I’m managing to put something out there and I’m not hiding away in silence. I know that there are friends, family and coworkers that read this. As always this website is a great way for me to communicate where I’m at, without turning up for an invited dinner and sharing my head’s handy top ten plans for ending it all painlessly over stir-fry. Not that I think any of you would genuinely mind, because you’re freaking amazing. But you know what I’m like. I know you’re there for me but I need to work on a lot of this on my own.
Tomorrow I’m going to write about my issues with food for the first time in my life. Be warned that tomorrow’s post may have a triggering effect if you suffer from or have experienced an eating disorder. And if you’re a man in a similar situation but thinking you’re alone I hope I can help by sharing my
delicious large family bucket with extra gravy sized story.
In the meantime, text those that mean a lot to you and remind them that you love them. If you have have someone in your life with depression or other mental health issues give them a hug (if you can manage to find them – under the bed is a good spot). Last week was international mental health week but the focus has to be daily, not one week a year. We mentally interesting folk need you, whether we tell you we do or not.
And I’m eternally grateful to every single one of you. Except that woman at Gateways on Friday afternoon. Seriously, what the hell, girl?**
**story to follow later.