Within two years in my late teens my mum, my school friend from age five and my paternal grandmother died. This was when I began to use food as a survival mechanism. Initially, I lost weight after my mum passed from cancer which she had somehow managed to hide as the cause.
The night she died I stopped having sugar in coffee and I recall not eating at all the next day apart from a piece of very stale coconut cake. I was in shock, Sunday afternoon she’d gone off in yet another ambulance carried out in a chair, a tiny figure wrapped in a red blanket. The Wednesday night we got a call at 10.30pm to say she was dead. I can remember trying to tell my dad about the plot of the TV drama series we had been watching but he was not taking it in. I lay in bed feeling like I had been ripped apart and knowing that my life would never be the same again.
My maternal grandmother came the next day and took my younger sister away I was in charge, I baked cakes and made sandwiches for the wake after her cremation. I found cakes she had made in the freezer, they were served up too. I kept going, kept busy “little mummy” part of me revelled in the role and it being 1980s rural Northumberland I got on with it.
Memories were fuzzy but one that sticks out was a girl at school asking me how I had lost weight.She too was sixteen and I am sure I gave her some healthy eating tips as I was always interested in food and diet my mum having been a professional cook and nanny.
I was in shock, I had not cried at my mum’s funeral and I kept going, just kept going. Muddling through end of year exams and feeling different and isolated as the other kids had no clue what to say to me.I was sad and ashamed of my exam results when they did come through but had passed Maths and the two Englishes and Chemistry and Needlework.A girl in the village I had known since primary school asked me how I had done in the exams and I told her tersely hiding my embarrassment that “I got what I needed” ..that was the last time I spoke to her as within a matter of a couple of weeks or so listening to the police channel on the radio as was my dad’s wont we heard of a fatality one Sunday afternoon. She was dead, she’d come off her motorbike on her way to meet her dad and take him his lunch.
I think things began to get out of hand with my eating then as I would bake a cake and eat most of it and put the end of it in the bin so my dad would not know. I would eat all of the “nice stuff” out of the shopping or have snuck an extra packet of chocolate biscuits in there or something of the like.
My gran, my dad’s mum died the following year, I was not close to her and had found Homeopathy and Nux Vomica which is the top over indulgence remedy by then. Homeopathy at seventeen, no mean feat and then after a fluffed first year of A levels. I went to the local college to do different subjects and met an amazing lecturer who asked me to decide what my priorities were and he gave me indirect permission to make some changes at home. He also got me through A levels in a year.
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