Month: November 2014

A Phd For My Hair

There is something symbolic about hair. Think of Samson and Delilah, where the hair had all the power. So I am trying to figure out what it means that mine is falling out. Every day, there are a few more whisps – I brush my hand through my hair to find it full of stray ones. Dark coils clog the shower. I have always had a very thick, glossy head of hair, so this isn’t noticeable, yet, to the outside observer. Only I can feel that my head is lighter, and see the naked white scalp visible which never was before.

I look it up, and see that this is one of the common symptoms of Concerta (1 in 10), along with a very long list of others. When I mention it to the psychiatrist (I can’t bring myself to say “my”), he is dismissive. Looks at me warily and then says something like “looks ok.” Maybe it does look ok, but I am telling you that it is not ok you fucker. In general, he is dismissive. There I am, an intelligent grown woman, and my questions are answered with grunts and mumbles. He won’t even look at me, instead he looks instead at his computer intently as if searching for the secrets of the world.

Then onto the scale for the monthly weigh-in, like a turkey, and then a band is put on my arm and he pumps pumps pumps it full of air until it squeezes, to ascertain my blood pressure. Then suddenly it deflates, pooped, the air squeezed out. My blood pressure is high (very) compared to the last time he checked. I ask, what causes this? What can I do to counter-act it? Grunt, grunt, grunt.

Piggy doctor, I am here. A breathing, living, inquisitive, cautious woman trying to make the best decisions for myself and my body. Get the fuck off your high horse and give me some information.

Being philosophical by nature, I wonder about the significance of taking Concerta which helps with finishing this PhD in exchange for my hair (how many strands do I pay per day?) Let’s leave my heart out of it for now, and just concentrate on the hair. What a deal with the devil, if there ever were one. What a pact. The thing is, I have decided it is worth it. I will give all my hairs up until there is notable unflattering baldness for a leg up in writing my PhD..

I leave the psychiatrist’s office completely demoralized (now, I realize, feeling very trampled upon). Some weeks later when I visit my psychologist, I tell him about it. Psychologist N. is a long, kind-looking man. Young (maybe my age) with short gelled hair. Today, he is wearing a brightly patterned hoodie. He confesses he had no time to prepare for our session, and fixes me with an observant eye. I have come to like him, very much. And to trust him even, this unlikely candidate for my secrets, this person I thought initially a light weight, who is actually strong enough for me. Immediately when I tell him about the psychiatrist I start crying, blurring mascara on a tissue and sniffling. N keeps quiet, as doubtless he is trained to do. And then he is amazing. He said it’s not on for a psychiatrist to not answer my questions, is affronted for me, and sorry. He sets up an appointment with another psychiatrist that I can talk to, and suddenly I feel like I’m not crazy.


Raising a fat child who likes food

I am fat. I call myself that provocatively, inspired by zine writers who have embraced the term over the more polite “overweight”, “big”, “solid”, “full-figured and you name it euphemisms. I choose it also over the medicalised “obese” which sounds so smugly factual. “Fat” harnesses some of the stigma coming from the eye of the looker. By medical definition, I am fat. I should way x to be “healthy”, and instead, I weigh xx. I can’t remember a time after age 12 or so when I was slim. As a kid I was all skin and bone and up and down trees like a monkey, completely lacking in self-consciousness. Then as a teen, I got plumper, filling out with the curvy hips, the belly, the breasts which are my own.

The thing that astounds me about all of this is that I have had such little trouble from the outside world for being fat. That I have a great love for food, and most of the time, a love for my body too. I love the strength of my legs. The way I can walk, and walk, and walk and not get tired – or dance and dance. I love the fullness of my cleavage. I like the soft pear of my hips. I love eating, and the pleasures of cooking, or being cooked for by my lover. I love

I got disheartened writing this, because I realized that it is a half truth. Here is the other half: I am conscious of being fatter than my girlfriend, and think that she is more of a “catch” than me because of her slim size. I hate very fat people in my head, watch them with morbid fascination, and think – well – at least I’m not THAT fat. At least I can walk easily. I wish I could lose a few kilos and go back to my 3 years-ago weight (which I din’t appreciate at the time). I have even been reading this Dukan book, which proposes eating only fish, non-fat dairy, prawns and a spoon and a half of oat bran for a week, and considering this proposition seriously. That is the other side. If someone said: press this button and get thin! I would do it.

I had an eating disorder for 2 weeks when I was 16. I was driving around the wet Irish countryside with my parents for weeks on end in a “mind-broadening” trip abroad, following my dad on tour. I was despondent like only a 16-year old can be: thoroughly. I had just heard that the person I was besotted with was having sex with someone else. I was far away from all my friends and in the full-time clutches of my family. I decided to do the only thing I could control: I would have an eating disorder. For 2 weeks, I ate carrots, drank black coffee and smoked. Everything I ate, I wrote down in a little book. I don’t remember what my parents thought of all this but I can guess they were bemusedly indulgent of the whole experiment. I went on long jogs along the rugged cliffs, and drank coffee and smoked in pubs, while scrawling in my journal. I got thinner. I felt powerful, miserable, strong, alive.

2 weeks later we went to Barcelona, another part of the tour. There I met the children of my parent’s friends, Adrian and Sara. 18 and 16, they were the perfect age for me to hang out with. They were also worldly, sophisticated, fun. Their parents had a bohemian den of a flat, covered in art and filled with actors. Long dinners took place round their dining room table full of red wine, cigarette smoke and food, food, food. Adran and Sara loved food. While teenagers I knew went out to drink, Spanish teenagers went out to eat. Late at night at balmy tables, we would eat: manchego cheese and salad and asparagus covered in mayonnaise and crispy calamari hot on the plate. My diet dissolved in Barcelona, when I realized that those pleasures were what life really should be made of.