Interview Between Frances  and Kay Ingamells
FRANCES  AND KAY INGAMELLS
DATE: 2ND SEPTEMBER, 2006
FRANCES(SUMMARY OF THE INTERVIEW SO FAR) : My situation at the moment seems to have come to an ultimatum regarding school. All the teachers are unhappy and either want me out of their class or want me to buckle down. Right at the moment the major thing is school. I have decided for the rest of 7th form to get on with in and get work done……….. So exited about the idea of moving in with Tom next year and going to university……..:The idea is just to go on automatic mode. It’s probably not a healthy thing for me to go on automatic mode and just be numb, no feeling for the next couple of months. It’s like I said to someone a couple of months ago, it might have been you: you can’t always get where you want to be. You often have to do things you don’t want to do to get there. Sort of like you can’t get your desert without eating your vegetables. Like climbing a barb- wire fence to get onto the other side.
KAY: You said no episode in the the last four days? It hasn’t got the better of you in four days. And you have been saying ‘bulimia screw you I’m doing this for me’ and you have been on automatic mode and numb and unfeeling. Is it a case that to drown out bulimia there is a price to be paid? Do you have to drown out other feelings?
FRANCES: Errrm. I don’t need to drown out other feelings to drown out bulimia. It’s all the mind-set and feeling really positive and hopeful and sort of believing in my ability to overcome this period.
KAY: : Are you turning up the volume on those thoughts?
FRANCES: Yes, I am really trying to think positive. I have been really crying a lot. I have been crying a lot. Um. But at the same time it’s good to be able to feel. I mean the idea is to go on numb mode but I’m not really sure I can do that because I’m quite an emotive person but errm yeah it’s good to be able to cry. The other night I was sat on the couch watchingTV and texting Tom and I cried because how I’ve been treated by the year and my health being bad and my situation and being really tired. And sometimes I have been crying because I’m so exited about possibilities for the future and my relationship with Tom. Our love is endless and grows and grows. Just so much came out and if felt really good.
KAY : How does Bulimia respond to your crying and to your tears?
FRANCES: Well because Builima really revolves around guilt and food and stuff. It sort of…it’s such a bitch. It just says- “well you don’t really have the energy for studying right now. Just sit down and eat. Eat lots. You know keep eating, keep eating. And then ‘oh my God you idiot, look how much you just ate” Or”Oh my god, you idiot you haven’t even done any study. You’re hopeless. You are a hopeless student, ra de ra de rah”.
KAY : Is Bulimia encouraging you to numb out feelings which, if it didn’t numb them out, might prompt you to act? Like feelings about your schoolwork and wanting to get on?
FRANCES: Yeah yeah. I think it does that. It kind of suppresess all the feeling of urgency and reality. It takes reality away. Without so much bulimic influence over me, my head has cleared a bit and reality has sunk in a bit more than it usually does. I’m thinking: “No! I know what I need to do and I know that I need the strength and the sort of willpower to say ‘no'”.
KAY: How does it take reality away?
FRANCES: It just cuts things down to say periods of an hour and makes it just me and it. Sort of encourages me to block out everything else that’s in my life. Encourages me to think about me and bulimia in our little bubble of food and guilt and stuff. It’s pretty crap. And at the same time when it blocks reality out, it blocks out ideas of food and good and bad. This week, I have been making really, really good food choices. I’ve been eating really, really well Instead of going for a really huge, huge bowl of cereal which could lead to a binge, I’ll just eat a pear. I’ve been keeping up my fluids and trying to remain not tired. I don’t like being tired anymore and I know I need to wake myself up a bit. I’m going to see my GP because I need to talk about ways to get my energy levels up and stuff because I’m just so tired all the time. Right now I could easily curl up on that couch and have a nap.
KAY: Yeah yeah. How does Bulimia succeed in cutting your time down to one hour periods and does it promise you some sort of respite from time? Does it promise to make time timeless, to take you out….
FRANCES: Yeah, it kind of makes it stop. It makes my idea of time warped. Like I won’t structure…it takes away all structure of time and reality so time stands still or it doesn’t become a factor. It’s just one of those little details…. There is a huge time limit on from here to the end of the year but when Bulima’s here, it just makes time go away. I think it’s still an escape from responsibility, it’s still an escape from my own sort of obligations. It’s just getting the courage to step away from it.
KAY: Does it tell you that it will free you from your responsibilities, that it will ….
FRANCES: Yeah it does for a couple of years. It’s like a little …I think I need to find a better way to express that like going for a bike ride or having a bath or ….reading a book
KAY: Are you talking about an anti-bulimic timelessness?
FRANCES: Explain that?
KAY: Well it’s interesting how Bulima seems to have cut your time into slots. In a way, you said it’s anti-routine, anti-reality, yet in another way it seems to love routine and ritual…..the rituals of making you throw up, cutting time down to one hour periods! What if you were to create your own rituals as you say, that would take into account your own kind of timelessness, one that is healthy for you. As you said, like riding your bike, reading your book.
FRANCES: Um yeah. More productive ways of timelessness. Putting things into time and giving structure. Structure blocks Bulimia out completely because it doesn’t allow for it. If I put time limits on things my priorities change. If I write down what I need to do today between 1 and 3 then I’ll do my english research. And then from 4-6, I’ll read Othello and then from 6-6:30, I’ll watch the news. And then from 6:30-7. I’ll make dinner and eat it. And from 8 onwards it’s this and that. Structuring time doesn’t let Bulimia in. I’ve sort of built up this resistance in me over this year where I’ve come to a point where I am sick of it. I am so sick of it. I was reading a little while ago…I always say every fortnight or so that this is the beginning of an anti-bulimic revolution inside of me and blah, blah, blah but I remember reading…you read to me once an account on the website about a girl being anti-bulimic and saying that she was feeling bored with bulima and I know exactly how that feels now. I’m just so bored of it. It’s just so blahhh and dull and boring and just …it’s just absolutely pointless and I can see that now with such clarity that it’s quite overwhelming. Just in the last episode, I was thinking this is such crap. There is nothing in this. This is just empty time-wasting. Its a dumb escape.
KAY: You have just made me think of something that I noticed just this week reading ‘Biting the Hand that Starves You’….I can’t find it. But there was somebody who was talking with Rick in the book and they were laughing at how boring Bulimia is.
KAY: Just how boring, how tedious it is!
FRANCES: Yeah it’s like becoming disillusioned. Going back to that whole partnership relationship thing. Like being seduced by it, entranced by it, fascinated by it. Sort of becoming disillusioned with the fairy-tale romance that you know isn’t real but you ignore it. And then it kinds of sinks in that this is not the right person for me or this is not the right thing for me at all. And you kind of go ‘you’re not for me!’ You become aware of that person’s…
KAY: You start to see through them?
FRANCES: Yeah! You start to see all their little flaws and their real intentions. And you get past that facade of ‘I am so lovely and wonderful’.
KAY: And it’s false promises?
FRANCES: Yeah, false promises and little tricks and manipulations. If you can go ‘you know what you are- an absolute cow! I don’t want to be with you anymore’. And then you start that whole argumentative back and forth break-up thing. And pretty much what’s going on is that I’m breaking up with Bulimia and Bulimia’s not happy about it so we are fighting. But it’s a fight that I know is pretty redundant because in the end because I am going to win.
KAY: Like some jilted lovers though, does it resort to extreme tactics? Is it stalking you?
FRANCES: Yeah. I guess it’s doing that. It’s trying to tie me down and keep me trapped and it does that by flaunting it’s appealing. ….I keep thinking of things I want to express and I can’t find the words for them. I ‘ve been doing that for the past month. I’ve been doing that again-I’ve been using my words to express things and I’ve realised how much my vocabulary has decreased with this year with not writing much. So I’ve got the Thesaurus sort of permenantly sitting by the bed so if I think ‘what’s the word, what’s the word, what’s a similar word and then I think ‘THAT’S THE WORD’. So I’m getting my words back. Cos I love my words and they have sort of diminished a bit.
KAY: Is that another way that it has been trying to take reality away: taking away a way that you connect with people? A way you express yourself?
FRANCES: Umm. It’s so tricky, it’s so subtle. Ahhhh. Dwelling in my head rather than dwelling in pen and paper.
KAY: What do you think Bulimia thinks about what your tutors have said to you this week: that you are either…….?
FRANCES : In or out. Bulimia has been saying- ‘See you brought this all on yourself. You have been a complete failure for this year and you have turned this entire year into shit and it’s all your fault!’. I could get really down about it but I am like ‘No, I can’t carry that mind-set if I am going to try and get this done. I can’t beat myself up about getting this far down and so dug into my little hole. I have to get myself out of it rather than dwelling on it and going ‘Woe is me, poor Frances…ahhhhh!’. I can’t play the victim anymore.
KAY: And Bulimia wants you to be a victim?
FRANCES: Yeah it wants me to play a victim, play up the role and go ‘Yeah, I’m so unfortunate! Nothing goes my way, blah, blah blah, sulk, sulk, sulk, throw a tantrum. I’m mature enough to know that that’s not going to get me anywhere. It’s like a little kid walking through…walking down the street with it’s mother and it says ‘I want an ice cream’ and the mother says: ‘No’ rather than getting down on the floor having a huge tantrum, wasting their energy and not getting it anyway. You just go- ‘Okay! Next time!’ And you walk away.
KAY: How have you gone about refusing to engage in the tantrums, refusing to take on the kind of victim behaviour that Bulimia would have you do?
FRANCES: Just getting into looking to what the future does hold. Having gone to the university open day. The possibilities are there and they became more real and more obtainable. It’s acutally a realistic thing to think about living with my boyfriend and going to university next year. That is possible. That can happen. And now that it is right there and so close, it’s like- ‘Oh my God, I can do this’ . And Bulimia just becomes so small because it gets me nowhere. It’s like where is the future that you promised me?? Where are all the little rewards??
KAY : What has it promised you? What promises should it have fulfilled by now, Frances, if it had been going to keep them?
FRANCES: I don’t even know what I had been promised me anymore because I have completely thrown it’s promises out the window because I know that they are not real. Where is that fabulous.. you know… happy and successful and in control person? And that wonderful body I was promised? That flawless, happy, full of energy with all that weight loss? And now here I am with a recovery to such an extent that I have got my body back. I have claimed my weight back from bulimia. I am back to the size I was. My curves are back. My breasts have returned and…
FRANCES: Thank you! I have my feminity back. I have my curves.
KAY: So it wasn’t just your body, it was your femininity that it was trying to rob you of?
FRANCES : My identity, my sexuality, my sense of being a female and of being a young woman.
KAY: Is that another aspect of what you call reality?
FRANCES: YEAH! And having that back has been very empowering. It sort of made me reassured about myself. And just last week I got an excellence for my drama assessment. And I handed in a couple of essays and I just feel like I’m coming back. My capability is coming back. Because I have to. I mean it’s not an option for me now to go ‘whatever, I can’t do this right now’. I can’t. I just have to do it.
KAY: Do you think bulimia always has this alternative game up its sleeve: it’s like on the one hand it can drag you away from reality and then when you try to step back into it, it can hit you; it can condemn you; it can taunt you with what you have lost in the meantime?
FRANCES : With what it’s made me lose! It taunts me and says: ‘Look at what you have done. Look at what you have failed with!’. And at the same time, right now I am thinking- ‘That’s in the past! I can’t dwell on that because that’s just stuff that’s already happened. I can’t stop that! I can’t alter it. All I can do is to learn from it and forget about it’.
KAY: In terms of time, where does bulimia like you to dwell most? the past?
FRANCES: Actually probably the present. It blocks out the future completely. Bulimia doesn’t even believe in the future. The future is not in it’s vocabulary.
KAY: How does it have you dwell in the present. Can you tell me about that?
FRANCES: Instant gratification. Sort of ‘the now, now now, get away from it now’. The sort of lazy ‘don’t worry about it, let go of it, sit on the couch, stuff your face’.
KAY: I’m interested that it’s managed to take over a domain of time that is usually the domain of spirituality, that is ‘being in the present’. I find that curious. Is it actually allowing you to be present or is it just allowing you to be present to what it wants you to be present to?
FRANCES: It doesn’t want me to live; it just wants me to exist. Exist either depending on it…or it would rather I was dead rather than not depending on it.
KAY: And is that existence……is it really in the present or is it in a kind of zombie fake-like present?
FRANCES: A sort of zombiefied present.
KAY: And are the thoughts that inhabit that present- that zombie, fake like present- are they the thoughts of the present or are they a kind of way to numb thoughts about the past?.
FRANCES: Um. I don’t think they numb thoughts about the past because that’s always been in there as well-sort of saying ‘Look at how you were last year. You were so great last year. You were so successful and so in control and now look at you. Now look at you. Don’t think about it. Just escape from it. Just escape from it.’ But it ignores the fact and doesn’t let me think about the fact that that is not going to help make…and it’s not going to take me back to where I was last year. In fact, it’s just going to make me worse.
KAY : And when you are in an anti-bulimic time, are you really in the future or are you in the present inspired by the future?
FRANCES: Yeah right now I’m sitting in…yeah living in the present, inspired by the future.
KAY : Ahhh…..
FRANCES: Yeah definitely. That’s a very good way to put it. And living right now with the present in front of me and then right over a bit is the future and the idea of that in my head is that it is sort of sparkling…..it sort of looks just so good. And I want to get there. I would love to get there. So the present is inspiring me to get there. Yeah, an inspired existence with a goal in mind. I actually have a goal now for next year, which i didn’t have at the beginning of the year. I had no idea where I was going. No idea, no direction. I think that is when I was most vulnerable to bulimia. Nothing to aspire to. I had these vague ideas of ‘I’d love to work in media, I’d love to work in performing arts!’ Not really sure until two weeks ago. Now it’s a reality and I have a goal. I WANT IT. I WANT IT. So I am going to get it.
FRANCES; Then that whole empowering thing comes in. And here I am with my body back and feeling like me again and it’s really exiting. Wooo. And of course there are worries of what if I can’t do this and what if I fail the year and ra ra ra . I’m going to try and avoid that and try to do what I can now. Like shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. I mean there are so many things I could do next year even if I do pass this year.
KAY: What do you think the real victory is here? Is the victory in passing the year or passing the year with flying colours or is it a victory of staying in a present inspired by a future and seeing what happens from that?
FRANCES: I think it’s just not giving up.
KAY: Ahhhh. Yeah.
FRANCES: Not allowing myself to be defeated.
KAY: And when you say…
FRANCES: Yeah it’s taking a lot of courage to get up every day and go to school but I am doing it. It is hard to catch up on all my work when I am so tired but I am getting there.
KAY: I would like to ask you more about the last four days?
KAY: I’d like to ask you more about how you have not allowed bulimia to defeat you and how you have been using structure to block it out and how you have been doing everything you have been doing like eating good food and everything that has been contributing to you having your life rather than bulimia trying to have your life?
FRANCES: I think it’s been being more aware of other people’s influences and beliefs in me. Listening to what my friends say, listening to what Tom says, listening to what Mum says and then I think it’s first changing the behaviours, actions, just doing them. I think at first I thought it would be changing my mind-set and following up with behaviours but the first physical think you can do is change your behaviours. So instead of reaching for fish and chips, reaching for an apple. And instead of turning on the TV, I’ll pick up a book. That’s the behaviour and then the mind-set follows that because it sees what I get out of those good choices. And it makes me feel good about myself. Behaviour and that makes be feel good which changes my mind-set.
KAY: Is this also a changing of allegiances or a re-kindling of a trust in the people around you.
FRANCES : Yeah, yeah that’s it and not wanting to let them down. Letting their advice and effort with me..rewarding them. Because they want nothing more than to see me getting through the year and feel good. That will make them feel good and that will make me feel good. Good is good. So it’s just a matter of taking it on aboard. Doing good things, feeling good about it and that encourages me to feel good, feel positive.