Writing in the Time of Covid

Escaping to the NT from virus-ridden NSW in March, I was confined to home in mandatory quarantine for fourteen days. What bliss! The tropical weather, the smiling faces, the feeling of being safe. Being home alone held no fear for me, being a confirmed introvert.

The isolation and lack of pressure suited my solitary nature. At last my time was all my own, with no places to go, no people to see. What else was there to do but write? At last I could concentrate on finishing my novel, which I’d been struggling with for years.

In spite of not going outside for two weeks, I managed to keep fit by tuning in daily to yoga classes on Zoom. How amazing to follow expert teachers online from the comfort of home, thanks to the generosity of Darwin Yoga Space.

There followed the most productive months, in literary terms, of my writing life. In April I was honoured to be elected Vice President of our NTWriters’ Centre. In May, being shortlisted for the fiction prize for the 2020 NT Chief Minister’s Awards for my novel Capriccio, was a huge thrill. My short story, Procrastination, was accepted for publication in the new print edition of Borderlands, the new NT Literary journal, released here in September.

Attending Board meetings by Zoom was a new experience, and far preferable to travelling into town by bus, car or taxi. I don’t even need to change out of my yoga clothes!

Reading poetry at the Rosella Festival in Adelaide River in July was another great opportunity to enlarge my literary repertoire. In August I was privileged to join other NT poets from rural areas of Darwin at the annual Taminmin Poetry Day. Poetry lovers are so blessed to still attend our monthly Poetry Mornings run by Kaye Aldenhoven, Life Member of the NT Writers’ Centre.

My heart goes out to those who are struggling with loss of income, claustrophobia, anxiety and depression during the time of Covid. But how lucky we in the NT have been, to live in the safest place in Australia, while other States experience harsh lockdowns, strict isolation, spikes in the spread of the virus, and deaths.

Talking about Capriccio

DINA DAVIS

A Dangerous Daughter

How Writing helped Me Survive

by Dina Davis

In the mid twentieth century, I was sent away from my family to an aunt & uncle on the other side of the continent, because I was ill.  My symptoms were extreme loss of weight, obsessive walking, and refusal to eat. Desperate, my parents consented to ECT, which in those days was extremely primitive. I was hospitalised for several weeks and underwent cruelly painful sessions of electro-convulsive therapy without anaesthetic. I also witnessed other patients convulsing while having the treatment. I was fourteen, and weighed less than 27 kilos.

Lonely and isolated in Western Australia, my only solace was my journal, into which I poured my frustration, anger, and sorrow. I wrote frequent letters to my parents and sisters back home. One sister remembers me writing ‘No-one can ever understand.’ I myself didn’t understand what was wrong with me, as the disease which we now know as anorexia nervosa had not been named in the Antipodes, at least not in the small communities in which I lived.

The journals and letters do not exist today. Along with photographs of me at the time, they were destroyed. Only one photo remains, of me in so-called ‘recovery’. In the black and white print, my body and face are cadaverous. I’m smiling for my parents, showing off the summer dress my mother had sent me from the eastern states. It swamped my body.

Amazingly, I didn’t die. When I was told that I had only two months to live, I made a supreme effort to force food down, which I immediately vomited up. My face, arms and legs were covered with long fine hairs, and I had no menstrual periods.

I credit my survival to two factors: the first was the eventual naming of the disease, which somehow gave it a legitimate status in the eyes of my family. The second was my treatment by a psycho-analyst specialising in children. She saved my life not  only by  her skilful exploration of my psyche, but also because of her kindness, and her belief in me.

Author Dina Davis

It is only recently that scientists have discovered that anorexia nervosa is genetic, not, as presented in the popular media, a life choice. Nevertheless sufferers are often still blamed for bringing the illness on themselves, compassion goes to the patients’ families, rather than to the sufferer herself. My work-in-progress, A Dangerous Daughter, is a fictional re-creation of my harrowing teenage years. My hope is that, if my novel is published, it will help both sufferers and their families understand this insidious disease, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

DINA DAVIS

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