My sister Lynda Johnson suffered from anorexia nervosa along with general anxiety, hypochondriasis, agoraphobia, panic disorder, social phobia and low self-esteem. From childhood her life was difficult, her shyness and anxiety was crippling resulting in school phobia, bullying by other children and adults, and consequently loneliness. Although very intelligent, as a result of her nervous disposition Lynda never achieved any academic qualification. Simply trying to get though each and everyday was difficult enough. So full of the fear of death and illness, so isolated by social phobia that there appeared little time or energy left for learning. With the arrival of adulthood came agoraphobia resulting in further social isolation, depression and frustration. Finding and keeping a job became impossible, as did social activities. During her thirties after a period of being very overweight Lynda became anorexic. Obsessed with thinness whilst seemingly unnoticed by herself her body wasted away, at under six stone she appeared emaciated, craving food yet afraid to eat should she put on an once of weight. Unhappy with her body imagine, filled with feelings of inferiority her life became absorbed with counting calories: Eating lettuce and cottage cheese, drinking calorie free drinks, denying herself the satisfaction both physically and mentally of more enjoyable and nourishing foods. She fought this illness at times, even going into a day hospital. Yet it was a difficult fight especially as she derived pleasure from being thin, making it far harder to wish to defeat.
At twenty years of age Lynda married Michael Johnson. They were married for over thirty years during which time he offered his support during difficult times. Lynda tried to live a normal life and lamented the wasted years when her courage failed her to pursue a more satisfying life style, social phobia crippling her attempts to integrate into society and enjoy the company of others and share in the achievements and opportunities open to most in the western world, namely an education, a career, a family and a satisfying life.
However in her late forties Lynda made an effort to change. After receiving treatment at a day care centrefor the mentally ill in Leicester, she became friendly with another lady of a similar anxious disposition and they shared a close friendship, something Lynda had found so difficult over the years. (Mostly we had sought out each other’s company as children and in adulthood distance had separated us adding to both Lynda’s and my loneliness.) Also as a result of occupational therapy at the day centre she was motivated to join a local patchwork/quilting group of ladies who met weekly to share the accomplishments of this craft. Here Lynda became motivated to take a City and Guilds patchwork/quilting course and, albeit with a difficult start, she went on to accomplish a high standard of work. It had not been easy, the trauma of meeting others, strangers with whom she had little in common, making small talk, trying to function as normal person but feeling tired and exhausted by her anorexia, fatigued by constant fears about health, and social interactions. Sometimes even picking up the phone was a traumatic experience; accidentally putting on a once of weight was devastating, thoughts of death terrifying, so many fears vying for possession of her mind and her life.
Sadly in addition to all the mental maladies that thwarted her life and destroyed her happiness Lynda suffered with an unusual heart condition. After many years of suffering from palpitations she was diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat. Eventually when the problem became more acute it was discovered through invasive and distressful tests that she had only three heart valves and would need heart by pass surgery. So filled with fear Lynda nonetheless completed her patchwork course, not letting her overwhelming fears stop her from fulfilling this desire, feeling many times as though she would like to quit, feeling as though it was all too much. Just before surgery she finished her course work completing a magnificent piece of art, an appliqué /patchwork double quilt. It has an African theme and is an intricate piece of hand stitching requiring patience and persistence that I had not thought her capable. She passed her requirements for the City and Guilds certificate both practical and academic before sadly passing way at only 51 years of age after the by pass operation to prolong her life failed.
To view Lynda’s work please click graphic: