Hurricane Irene, the day after: Coping with destruction, and my eating disorder

I was walking to Watertown Square this morning on my way to catch the #71 bus so that I could get to therapy, and passing through the shortcut, where I came upon a downed tree right across the path.  The entire tree had been uprooted and lay squarely in front of me.  When I attempted to walk around it, I saw that it had left no hole behind, that is, no empty space where the base of the tree, with its roots, had been.  The rain and water running along the ground had quickly filled this hole with outlying dirt.  The tree will leave behind no mark, just emptiness, and for the few of us who have traveled that path often to remember, “Yes, there was a tree about right there,” memory.

Often, since I first ventured out last night after the worst of the storm had passed for a time, I had seen fallen branches, but this was my first personal encounter with an uprooted tree.  I was alone on the path.  It appeared to completely block my route uphill to the sidewalk and the edge of the street.  Sometimes, I am so deep in thought while walking on that path that I have my head down, and the headphones blasting, and I don’t see what’s ahead of me.  I simply walk by rote.  Had I not seen the tree ahead of time, I would have nearly fallen upon it perhaps, and then, taken quite by surprise and shock, laughed at myself and my foolishness and told myself that life tends to do things to us that we don’t expect, and we’re doubly surprised if we don’t look ahead.

Sometimes, though, it’s all you can do but to step forward once, and then another time, and then another.  That is what walking is, after all.  Sometimes all we can do is to feel the process of walking itself and concentrate on that and not on the path we’re following or its destination.  I’ve been feeling that way since I nearly died of starvation at the end of July, only a month ago.

In my journal entry for July 26, I wrote, “I ended up staying up all night.  I drank coffee to get my heart rate up, then just stayed up. I want to get to my appointment with [my therapist], and until then, won’t let myself die in my sleep.  I starved very well.”  At that appointment, my T and Dr. P brought me to the hospital.  Whereas for the last few weeks before my admittance, while I was losing weight very rapidly, I wrote down not only everything I ate and when I ate it, but everything I did during the day, and once I got to the hospital I felt the necessity to continue writing down the food I ate while there that came up on my tray.  But I ate a few vegetables,iceberg lettuce without dressing, and nothing more.  After some time, my therapist told me that I would be forced to accept feeding tube nutrition if I didn’t eat.

On August 2, I wrote, “[my T] came to see me.  She says I’m on a hunger strike.  I am just taking things one day at  a time.  One minute at a time. Thinking about nothing but survival in this horrible place.  No longer thinking about life and death.  I do not want to think about life outside of here.  Only day to day things on the inside.”

This was a very small world in my hospital room on the medical unit.  People were there for all sorts of reasons, and unlike psychiatric units, where you see mainly doctors of the specialty psychiatry, on this medical floor, doctors of every specialty you could imagine were meandering about, as well as nurses, medical students, housekeeping staff, visitors, stray patients who were able to walk on their own or with a bit of assistance, and hospital volunteers.  The workings of a large medical hospital–and this hospital was one of the most prestigious in the country–amazes me.  But all this I only saw from my bed, looking out into the hallway through the door, or through the window when the blinds had been pulled up.  I had no interest in the hallway for the first week, though.  I had no interest for anything past the edges of my bed for the first few days.  I had simply collapsed there.  I thought about the bed itself.  Whether the bed was raised or not.  Getting unhooked from the heart monitor so that I could walk, with assistance, to the bathroom and back.  Finding the call bell.  Trying to talk into the loudspeaker properly when someone answered. Asking for coffee.

This was my world for a long time.  My world has grown since then, beyond the call bell and the IV pole and the route from the bed to the bathroom and back. Now, I can walk just about everywhere I walked to before.  And I have come upon trees that have suddenly appeared before me on my path.

This tree I saw now showed me the power of Hurricane Irene, with her strong winds and rain that knocked over anything unprotected, and brought down objects that weren’t supposed to fall, things we didn’t bargain for.  Last night when I left the house briefly after the winds had lessened, a neighbor, out for a smoke briefly, pointed out to me some rubble that was once rooftop.  “Couldn’t be anything else,” he said.  “Look at the size of those concrete pieces!  Well, it doesn’t matter.  No one got hit by them.”

Self-starvation is a powerful, destructive act.  When we think of self-harm, we think of cutting oneself with a razor blade, or burning one’s skin, not to cause death but to cause pain and bleeding.  It is said to bring relief to those who do it habitually.  But self-starvation and other destructive eating patterns are also self-harm.  I am learning this.

While Irene was raging outside, I was engaged in my own destructive acts.  It seems like I am not anywhere near eating normally, even now.  I am still underweight but not dehydrated and weak like I was.  This is hard to explain but I’ll try to:  I derive incredible satisfaction from having an empty belly and feeling weak and faint.  I derive incredible satisfaction from putting off eating, if only for an hour, if I can, just so that I’ll eat less.  I derive incredible satisfaction from eating micro-bits of food and gaining strength from those bits.  There were days in July when the only substantial thing I would eat were a few cubes of potato.  When the potato made contact with my tongue, I salivated to the point of drooling.

And now, hospitalization and a boost in my nutritional status took some of that away from me.  But I can’t stop trying to destroy myself.  I seem to be born this way.  When Irene was just south of us Saturday night, I drank a couple of gallons of liquid all at once.  Perhaps a reader might recall that while it’s good to hydrate oneself, consuming huge amounts of liquids can cause an electroyte imbalance and, very quickly, death.  It all started with thirst, and drinking, and more thirst, and more drinking, and I could not stop myself.  I did this knowing that what I was doing could kill me.  I spoke with my T today, and she called it a “water binge.”  This is the second time in my life that this has happened.  The other time was in 1997, and it only happened once.

I wasn’t sure how the water would work itself out, and I was scared.  I had a full belly and I kept piling more in.  Where would it go? Would my stomach rupture?  Would my kidneys give out?  Would I puke?  At best, it would be that.  It surprised me when something happened that I hadn’t thought of: spontaneous diarrhea.  I had, unintentionally, purged, bulimia style.

I instantly realized the appeal of bulimia, the addiction of purging, and the desperation of the bulimic act.  I thought bulimics threw up to rid themselves of unwanted calories.  No, there’s much more to it, much, much more.  Feeling my stomach suddenly empty itself gave me incredible satisfaction.  I wanted to do it again.  I told this to myself knowing–again–that stomach emptying, no matter which way it goes out, causes an electrolyte imbalance that if done repeatedly, over a long or not so long time, can be fatal.  I also knew that I was getting myself into some serious shit with the water drinking imbalance already.

Sunday night Irene slowed enough for folks to get out.  Imagine what happens when you’re consuming a lollipop, and before you finish, you drop it on the sidewalk.  Picture the ants running after the sugar.  That was what the sidewalk looked like last night.  Parents were coming out with kids on bikes and babies in strollers to see the end of the rain and feel the wind on their faces and in their hair.  Kids carried their scooters and readied themselves for their rides.  Dog owners came out with their dogs to get some relief.  No one wanted to be cooped up anymore.  Folks were friendlier than usual.  Many wanted to talk about the storm: what they had seen and heard, how closely the storm goings-on followed the experts’ predictions, and what was going on in other cities and states.   Me?  I didn’t talk to anyone.  I went straight to the supermarket and bought a gallon of chocolate milk.

It is not true what they say about gross consumption of milk and throwing up.  This is not a universal reaction.  If it is, then I have just proved you all wrong.  I drank it and didn’t throw up.  Let me say, though, that I drank it for the purpose of throwing up because I was convinced that this was what would happen.

Today I told my therapist that I had drunk the milk for this purpose.  She listened carefully.  She didn’t laugh at me.  I tried to describe what it felt like last night standing at my kitchen counter, gallon milk jug in my right hand, glass in the other, pouring cup after cup of it, and drinking, drinking, drinking.

Destroy, destroy, destroy.

It was a tough night last night.  Right before I left the house to see my therapist, I began a note to her stating my wish to refuse any kind of eating disorders treatment from now on, and focus on treatment that, unlike eating disorders treatment, focuses on treating oneself and one’s body with respect and kindness.  I ended up not liking the way I worded the document, and deleted it without printing it.

So I took the shortcut into Watertown Square, walked around the downed tree, and arrived, soon enough, at CVS.  I usually don’t take this bus, but wanted to stop at the CVS, so this was the route I took.  I wanted to stop at the CVS because I needed, at that moment, to do the self-harming act of stuffing myself with candy, unnoticed, on the near-empty bus on the way to Harvard Square.

I told my therapist today that I think I have a problem with self-destructiveness.  I can’t seem to stop.  Either I slowly and deliberately and with considerable thought harm myself with starvation, or I lash out and strike at myself by bingeing on solid food–or simply by extremely and rapidly overhydrating myself.

What the fuck?  What is going on here?  Yes, I have always starved or binged.  I have always enjoyed having something to sip on or chug down.  But the water binge was something new, and I really, really, really don’t think I have ever been this self-destructive in my entire life.  I do these things knowing they are dangerous.  Maybe I should add that perhaps I do these things because they are dangerous.  I am becoming less and less fearful of the risks I am taking.  I feel like I am, yes, putting my feet one foot in front of the other on this unstoppable path of destruction.  It is the path laid out for me by the experts: they’ve seen it before in kids that do harder and harder drugs.  Kids who take bigger and bigger risks.  Kids who dance closer and closer around the Hole of Death, knowing that if they get too close, they will be sucked into Death, their life taken from them by the roots.  And soon enough, the storm around them, the storm that is of their own making, will, with its heavy rains and running water along the ground, fill in the Hole and bury them with surrounding sand, grit, and dirt, along with their stories, and their pain, and if they had any joy left, that too. Maybe a few who knew they existed, who had seen them along the path as it came uphill near the road would remember, but there would be no record, the hole now filled completely, and instantly.

My therapist asked me some questions, if I thought I wanted to stop, or if I thought I could in fact stop.  I answered neither.  We’re going to do a workbook together to help me with self-harm.  It’s supposed to help with the feelings you get that cause these acts.  The workbook, she said, will teach me alternate methods of coping with those feelings, things to do that won’t be self-destructive.  I told her I’d give it a shot.

I also told her, in all honesty, that I am so weary of this that I frequently do think of giving up.  I think of dying and it seems like it would be a relief to me.  I think of it as an alternative and I think of it frequently.  I don’t think that saying this makes me weak, or a quitter, or a sinner.  I am tired, that’s all.

I came home and the phone rang.  I picked it up.  It was the Police Chief telling everyone where to put their yard debris for pickup when the trash trucks come around.  I guess that doesn’t apply to me, since I live in a large apartment building, but for the occasion, I emptied the trash.  This bag of trash dates back about three weeks.  Like everyone else, I have my own personal debris.  I discreetly stepped with the bag down the hallway to the trash room and dumped it.  Then I walked, one step in front of the other, back to my apartment, and now will try to deal with what’s left.

After Hurricane Irene: Taking the tape off the windows and coping with my eating disorder

I am a person with anorexia nervosa who lives in an area affected by Hurricane Irene, near Boston.  My anorexia manifests itself in self-starvation with breakthrough periods of bingeing without purging.  I have had this illness for  over 30 years.  I have had some good times during those 30 years in addition to times of illness.  I relapsed in 2008.  It is now 2011.  Hurricane Irene struck today, and that didn’t change things much.  Not that I expected it to.

I never purged. This is a weird thing because most people with anorexia do purge following a binge.  I seem to be unable.  Saturday night, the night before Irene was to grip New England, I came the closest to self-purging that I have ever come.  I loaded up on all sorts of liquids.  This I did knowing that it was extremely dangerous to over-hydrate myself.  Afterward, I wasn’t sure what would happen.  I thought what I had drank would come up, or my kidneys would process it, or it would manifest itself as edema.  No, it sat there.  And finally, all at once, what was in my stomach zoomed through my intestinal tract into the toilet.

Now, that felt pretty good. More than good.  So good that I knew what I’d done was wrong and addicting and that I had purged, even though I hadn’t thrown up and that it hadn’t been a conscious decision that I had made.  The Bug was in me.  I wanted that release again.  Tonight, I went out and bought a gallon of chocolate milk.  I had heard that you can’t drink a gallon of milk in one sitting without throwing it all up.  I wanted this for myself.  I came home and drank the gallon of chocolate milk really, really fast.

It didn’t feel good to be drinking it.  Nothing felt good about it.  I didn’t like the taste of it.  It didn’t quench my thirst.  It didn’t feel good in my mouth or my throat or my belly.  It didn’t feel good in my feelings.  I pictured myself dying this way, a gallon jug, nearly empty, in one hand, a glass in the other, pouring myself some over and over, my organs giving out on me, or, most likely, my stomach or intestines rupturing.  I pictured myself falling to the floor, the chocolate milk spilling all over me.  I imagined pissing all over myself.  I imagined hitting my head as I fell, and biting my lip or my tongue.   This image didnt’ stop me.  I kept on drinking the chocolate milk even though I had absolutely no more room for it anywhere inside me.  I told myself that I’d heard that no one can drink a gallon of milk without throwing up and I will not be the exception.

Well, apparently some joke was played on me.

I told my friend tonight that I have now crossed yet another line.  I have been crossing them since late April.  It all started with the edema.  When I saw my puffy, puffy feet and legs, how they swelled and swelled and didn’t look at all like my own feet anymore, I felt like my life was over.  And pretty much, it is.

I crossed a lot of these lines in July when I was starving.  I felt myself sinking into it, into deeper and deeper layers of self-starvation.  You get to the point where you can see death plainly in view and say hello to it and play with it some. I think if you’ve ever been there, if you know what it’s like to bring yourself into a space where you’re easily slipping away…or not.

That space has a certain taste to it.  I had that taste in my mouth all the time during the month of July.  And I think that was what I tasted when I drank the milk, not chocolate at all, but the taste of playing with death.  It is the taste of going way, way too far with my body.  I will not live if I keep this up.

I lay down with the milk in my belly and dozed.  The milk is still sitting there.  It didn’t go anywhere this time.  I slept, got up, slept again, drank water, slept.  It is still sitting in my belly, all 128 ounces of it.  Guess I’m going to have to wait this one out.

So I got up and decided that now that Hurricane Irene is winding down, there was no need to keep my shades taped closed, or my windows taped up.  So I unpeeled the tape, and put the pieces into a big wad.  As I removed each piece, I felt kind of a sense of relief and release about it all.  The tape made a loud noise as I removed it, but left no mark on the window.  I found the noise, grating to ordinary ears, strangely satisfying to me; in fact, I found that the more tape I removed, the more I enjoyed this tape-removal sound, and I wondered why an annoying sound can, in a certain context, be pleasing to the ear.

Removal of window tape is removal of something that has kept the window from breaking into a zillion pieces when it smashes from the force of wind or if it is hit by a tree branch.  The window is on one hand freed, but on the other hand, it is left unprotected.  It is like what happens to a child when he or she grows up and leaves home.  Or what happens to a mental patient, or any patient, who leaves the hospital.  It is like what is happening to me now, crossing these strange lines I’ve been crossing.

In a few days, my apartment will look back to what it looked like before.  I’ll set the desktop computer back up, I’ll take the plastic off of everything, I’ll move everything back to the wall, and plug stuff back in.  I’ll empty the returnable soda bottles of their water and give them to the guy down the hall who does the returnables and earns a little money for himself.

Today, I will take public transportation, which turns out is running after all, to see my therapist in Boston.  Most likely, I will tell her about having crossed this line I have mentioned here.  Most likely, I will tell her about the image I saw as I drank the chocolate milk, with the jug in one hand, and the glass in the other, of my collapse, of my body giving out at last to not only years and years of having an eating disorder, but to this specific incident of self-abuse.  Perhaps also I will tell her how my stomach felt stretched to the absolute limit not by binge food this time, but by liquids I’d drunk.  Perhaps I will tell her that I did this not for the purpose, if there is a purpose, of bingeing, but ultimately, for the satisfaction of releasing it from my body, as I did Saturday night.

But the point is, the point is, the point is the crossed line, not the fact that Saturday I discovered this release.  That isn’t that big of a deal because obviously it was a random happening.  In June and July I told my therapist about the lines.  Sometimes, I went in there and I told her I’d crossed another one, and she’d ask me about it.  I want her to know about this one.

Now, I ask myself, why is it important to me that my therapist know about these lines?  In July, I knew that she was going to stop being my therapist soon because I was not committed to “recovery” and was refusing inpatient eating disorders treatment.  I figured she didn’t want to help me die, so she would just drop me.  She did, but kept inviting me back to her office, much to my surprise.  She now makes a point of telling me that after all this time, and after all that’s happened, she will stick by me.  I will tell her about the line today and see what she says.

I took all the tape I’d removed from the windows and made it into a huge wad and put it into the trash bag.  This bag hasn’t been emptied for a while.  I had promised myself that I would take out all the trash in the apartment before we were evacuated, if this were to happen.  The wad was so huge that it took up a fair portion of the bag, and stuck to the walls of the bag as well.  I imagined the wad as big as myself, as big as the room, as the universe, just wads and wads of sticky packing tape, unruly, untamed, without restraint, like my hair when I don’t keep it in an elastic.

I thought of how some parts of being human are always kept inside of us, tightly contained, and never, never let out free, or they will destroy us, or so we fear.  I thought of my hunger.  I thought of my thirst.  I thought of the great abyss within me.  I thought of the hole left by what is missing in my life, and the fact that I don’t even know what this thing is.  I realized that this hole, this space, this void, creates this incredible destructive power.  This power is my eating disorder, but it is much, much more.

Last night when I went out, many folks were wandering around on the streets.  I guessed that they were tired of being cooped up.  I saw kids on bikes and skateboards, families together, and joggers.  They were like ants coming out to inspect spilled juice.  The sky brightened, then darkened as the sun set, then brightened to indicate that the hurricane was leaving us.  If you’d observed carefully, you would have seen me.  I was the skinny lady crossing Main Street with a knapsack filled with a gallon jug of chocolate milk.

 

 

Coping with my eating disorder as the worst of Hurricane Irene is upon us here in Boston

Must say, it’s bad, bad, bad out there.  I’m not even peeking out at this point, taking advice from what I’ve read online and staying away from windows.  I ended up taping them with packing tape in the shape of an X–I really don’t know if that’s the way to do it–and taping down my shades, not that it’ll do any good.  I no longer trust the trees out there.  I saw a downed tree branch and I’m guessing that it came from tree #2, which has already lost a fair amount of limbs over the past few years and needs to get chopped down, or will, when all this is over with.   It’s not a large tree, not like the one that blocks my neighbor’s view of me during the summer months, so that I can walk around naked in my living room and not be seen.  Of course, in winter, the tree is naked, so it is useless as a coverup and I have to either pull the shade or keep something on.  Well, being skinny and, I’m told, not having much meat on my bones, I find it freezing in here no matter how warm someone else thinks it is, so I’m well dressed, trust me.  Well, I’m rambling here.  The wind, let’s say, sounds real bad, worse than it’s been all day, and if you’ve heard that Irene has been downgraded to a “tropical storm,” well, that doesn’t mean anything really.  It’s closer to us, so it’s worse right now.  Weather dot com says “gusting to  48” but I’m guessing that sometimes it gusts higher.

I’m wrapping things in plastic more and more.  I can’t help but allow my mind to wander and mentally pack a suitcase for evacuation.  I live in elderly housing, so they may evacuate the building to protect the seniors, whose health is compromised to begin with.

How does all this affect my eating?  Something inside me told me I didn’t need much food in the house.  I had some canned food.  Sort of.  Enough for yesterday.  I have juice and V8 and milk.  I thought I’d cook up some rice while we still have power.  It’ll keep a while without refrigeration.  This is Julie’s idea.  The eating disorder’s idea is to forget making rice.

Why am I saying this?  Why am I personifying the ED?  My therapist does this all the time.  I don’t buy the theory, though.  I hate personifying the eating disorder.  I even told her I’d prefer not to, even though many therapists like to do this.  I don’t think of my eating disorder as a person “Ed” that I’m married to or whatever.  I think that’s childish.  The book Life Without Ed is all about the person Ed.  It’s a fabulous book with fabulous ideas in it, but I couldn’t get through it.  I didn’t like the way I was being spoken to in the book.

I have met Jenni Schaefer in person, and she’s nothing like she is in her books.  It’s hard to explain.  I saw her speak at a MEDA location in Newton, Massachusetts.  She’s a powerful speaker, and she didn’t speak to us like we were kindergarten kids.  She explained why she wrote the book the way she did, with short chapters structured in a specific way.  I didn’t buy her explanation, but I highly respect her decision to do the book the way she did.  At the end of her talk, she sang and played the guitar an original song.  (She lives in Nashville and, like many living there, is an aspiring country singer and has a “day job” to support herself in the meanwhile).  As it turned out, the entire, I mean entire audience–and I haven’t any clue who was eating disordered and who wasn’t and don’t care–couldn’t hold back the tears as she sang.  Wow.  I wished I had tissues because I really couldn’t hold it together.  Then there was a long book-signing line and I joined it near the end of the line.  I had Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me  ready for her to sign.  I was wearing a beanie cap that I had knit myself (I was cold), and when it was my turn in line, she asked me if I had knitted the hat, and there was a bit of discussion about how knitting seems to be a meaningful hobby for people with anorexia.  I was in tears when she signed the books.

I write in short chapters, too.  I like being “to the point.”  I find short chapters annoying except in certain situations, ironically.  In This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, just about every chapter is brief.  I did this because I was inspired to write my book the way Kenny Fries wrote The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, which is the most brilliant book I have read in recent times.  After I read Kenny’s memoir, I went on to read some essays on writing using this “braided” structure (read Kenny’s book or my book and you’ll know what I’m talking about) that were very, very helpful.  Switching over to this structure was a brave move on my part.

Am I brave now?  Probably not.  If I were brave, I would break out of the bad pattern I have with my anorexia.  My special friend refers to this as a “loop.”  You can’t get out of it unless you really work at it.  You get stuck in it unless you can take charge and use all your strength to break free.

Right now, Hurricane Irene is breaking loose, unleashing her power, and sending tree limbs flying onto power lines and into buildings, into the middle of streets and blocking them, all over people’s yards, and even on top of cars and squashing them.  Irene is blowing stuff over and sending it all flying.  You can see the destruction everywhere.  Wind and rain is out of its usual pattern of sunrise and sunset, reasonable weather (considering this is New England), and scaring the pants off of us.  Irene is showing us her strength.  She is not kidding.  She is a force to behold.  She will not let us forget her.

My eating disorder has the power over me that Irene now has over the East Coast.  My anorexia has the power to destroy me, and has recently nearly done so.  It didn’t, though.  I survived.  You could say that I was rescued.  You could say that I lucked out.  You could say that I took shelter in a hospital just in time, that the hospital was structurally safer than my home.

Maybe someday, I will be like a mountain, and Irene won’t be able to blow me over.  You know, this is something I don’t truly believe will ever happen, but it’s a nice metaphor to consider right now that I hear the wind howling outside and I am taking shelter in here and getting a bit of writing done.  But when I was kept in my shelter of the hospital, right after my eating disorder, as powerful as those gusts of wind outside, almost blew me down, the chaplain, who made a surprise visit maybe an hour prior to my discharge from the hospital, helped me, for a small moment, see myself as that mountain, and I felt a calm come over me that I haven’t felt for a long, long time.  I can’t say when I felt the peak of that calm, because I only felt it for a short time, but it was genuine, and real, and right, and I knew in my heart that I truly deserved every bit of that calm, peaceful moment.  And then the storm came back, but I didn’t forget what had happened.

They say the eye of the storm is deceptive.  They say not to go out in it.  They say if you do, you’ll get knocked over after the eye passes.  No, this wasn’t me as a weakling before the Eye.  There are times when my eating disorder offers me the calm of the Eye, and then I fall back into the destructiveness of the storm–very quickly.  When I almost died, it was  because I had stepped into the calm of the Eye, knowing I was approaching death and rushing to prepare for my demise, realizing that I didn’t have much time, but I felt a strange peace, accepting what would happen as inevitable.  I didn’t question it.

At that time, there were many, many things that I kept secret from everyone.  You could say that at that time, I had more secrets in me than I ever did at any other time in my life.  It’s something I’m working on right now.  I still have many,  many secrets.  The chaplain knew, without asking, that I had this tendency, and asked me about it.  She said that you can’t keep a secret from God, that God sees everything.

If I were to talk to God right now, and I don’t–I don’t pray–what would I say to someone–or perhaps God is an “it”–from whom I can hide nothing?  Do I need to say anything at all?  Actually, I think that maybe, when I’m ready, I will have some things to say to God.  And for sure, I will pray for Puzzle.

Whenever I met with one of the chaplains at the hospital, I requested that they pray for Puzzle.  Not one of them thought that praying for my little dog was an unreasonable or silly request.

Maybe it is a God who is keeping Puzzle completely calm during this storm.  She hasn’t a clue what’s going on outside.  She has had no reaction whatsoever.  She is incredibly strong in the face of a force as powerful as my eating disorder.

May we all be so brilliantly equipped.

A person with an eating disorder wakes up from a nap at 8:30am to discover that Irene's high winds have begun

After last night’s unfortunate water-drinking incident, I seem to be okay, but rather shaken, realizing that you don’t need to consume too much liquids to quickly develop a severe electrolyte imbalance.  This happened to a lady who entered some kind of water-drinking contest.  It was put on by some idiot radio DJ.  I believe she very quickly drank two gallons of water and died.  Last night I drank two gallons I think, but it wasn’t all water.  Some of it was milk.  Once, I drank five gallons of liquids.  This was over the course of two hours.  Diet cola, iced coffee, and water.  Zero calories.  Anyway, I didn’t die.  I didn’t even get a stomach ache.  I wasn’t particularly scared.  But last night was damned scary.  Am I glad I was scared?  Is that a good, healthy reaction to something that is “normal” to be scared about, and shows that I want to live?  Well, I’m darned glad that I am okay right now.  Puzzle needs me.  Irene is upon us.

I didn’t sleep well.  I haven’t slept well in ages.  In the hospital, they woke us in the middle of the night every damned night.  I always had a roommate that needed medical attention in the middle of the night.  The last night I was there, there was an emergency they had to attend to in my room at 3:30 am.  It took about 45 minutes to resolve it.  We were both up for the rest of the night.  Oh, BTW, that was the morning that I swiped a bottle of diet ginger ale from the kitchen refrigerator and brought it to my room.  As an eating disorder patient, I wasn’t supposed to have soda of any kind.  Diet, regular, whatever.  Dumb rule.  I just about got caught with it when the guy came in to do blood pressure, but his eyes were on the TV that was on in the room.  So anyway, I have been getting up in the night every night, by habit, since returning home.  I can’t seem to break myself of the habit.  Pain in the butt I know.

At around 6:15 I walked Puzzle.  It wasn’t raining much, nor was there much wind, so we were just fine.  She wore the crocheted patchwork sweater, the one people Google all the time that’s on this site.  We saw tons of other dogs out before the storm hit.  I wasn’t listening to music.

I fed her, came back in, took my meds, slept.

I have been drinking V8 periodically to replenish my electrolytes.  Luckily, I had it on hand.  I was shitting a whole lot overnight.  I think there’s nothing left and I’m done.

You know, initially it felt very good.  The stomach emptying, that is.  It was like a release.  I can’t say it was comfortable, but emotionally it was awesome.  Like I was shedding some really, really bad stuff.  I could easily slip into a binge/purge ordeal, except I still believe that no matter what I do, I will never learn to vomit.  Being incapable of it is engraved in me. It is my doom.

We got a call from the Fire Chief saying to listen to instructions.  Well, who knows.  My phone is on, but no word of an evacuation.

Hey, just now, a beeping sound started in my apartment.  I thought it was the carbon monoxide alarm.  Ohh, no. But it was my old alarm clock, which had fallen off my table during the night.  I shut it off.  I’ll bet the fire people get calls all the time from people who are mistaken about things like these.

The winds are worse and worse.  There is a tree outside, right outside my window.  I am not scared of this tree.  I like it because it blocks the window, so the people in the house next door can’t see me if I have the shade up and the lights on.  I like it so much that I trust it not to break the window if it falls on me.

The worst of it is supposed to be at 3pm.  No, I am not going to go out of my apartment and hang out under the stairwell with a bunch of gossippy elderly folk.  I just can’t stand those people.

Puzzle is asleep in her bed and not reacting to all this.  I am so tired.  I think I’ll shut down again, cover the laptop with plastic just in case, and take another nap.  I wonder what it’ll be like when I wake up.

Coping with my eating disorder while Hurricane Irene bears down

I am a person with anorexia nervosa who was recently hospitalized for severe malnutrition and dehydration.  When I went in I was in pretty bad shape.  I was in a medical ward for ten days and spent a few days “upstairs where I *belonged*” in the psychiatric ward, which was hell for me.  I was then released and spent eight days on the worst streak of binge eating I have ever experienced.  I went back in voluntarily, spent 24 amazing hours in the psych emergency room, where I did a lot of healing, then went “upstairs” again for a few days, and was released.

I have been pretty much okay.  I am delighted to be out.  Hearing of the storm was just another challenge for me.  In New England we’re due for something I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve seen bad rain, sure.  I think everyone living in the East has.  It can come down in pellets even in the heat of the summer.  It can be dry and hot one moment, and then, 20 seconds before the bus arrives, the sky can open up, and I’m soaked by the time I get on.  Sometimes, an umbrella is just the thing to bring on a bus trip into Boston.  Other times, an umbrella isn’t quite enough because it’s either too windy, and the umbrella turns inside-out (grrr) or the rain is so thick that nothing will protect against it.  On those days, it’s best to leave your laptop and electronics at home.  Some insist that they only need a hood to protect themselves against the rain.  I have never understood this thinking.  My little Puzzle wears one of the 17 or 18 (lost count) wool sweaters I have knit for her.  These are naturally waterproof.  Her fur isn’t.  I, in turn, wear one of her matching wool  hats and we go in style, even in the middle of summer.

But this will be different.  It’s like those winter emergencies we have all the time here in Boston, only it’s summer and we don’t get emergency weather in the summer except for a couple of days when it’s a bit hot out.  I have never been evacuated from my home.  Being a person with a psychiatric disability, that is, I do not have a mobility problem, but what some people call a “brain disorder,” I still end up spending a lot of time at home even though a physical problem isn’t what’s keeping me here.  My home is my home and because I’m here a lot, I cherish it more (I think) than someone who just finds it a place to sleep at night and store food in the fridge.  I haven’t had what folks think of as a “job” for a long, long time.  When I had “jobs,” they didn’t agree with me.  I guess when you think of things you value, “job” isn’t one of them for me.  Work is.

They say mental illness can’t be seen.  Sometimes, on public transportation (here in Boston called the “T”, which, by the way, will be closed Sunday and Monday) you see posters of smiling faces and on the poster is says, “What does autism look like?” or, “What does schizophrenia look like?”  Actually, anorexia nervosa is often a very visible illness because of the person’s extreme thinness.  But you don’t see that on the posters, just in the fashion ads in magazines.

I got online and read all the experts’ advice on how to prepare for the storm.  I’ve done what I can within reason.  Also, I have my own brand of common sense.  There are things they don’t tell you about that you just have to figure out for yourself.  They tell you to stock up on diapers, but they don’t say anything about toilet paper or “feminine” supplies.

Now is the time to think about what “things” I value most and might want to protect from harm at this time, or bring with me if Puzzle and I are evacuated.  Some things that immediately came to mind were my degree certificates, some of the best sweaters that I knitted for Puzzle (I can’t bring all of them), and a few of my old handwritten journals I have from years past (there are over 20 of these and I’m just going to have to pick a few to bring) that will be lost forever if I don’t take them with me.  As a memoirist, I find journals an important tool for writing and remembering.  I also find them useful when I want to learn about my life years ago, and about the onset of my eating disorder.  I have maybe 700 books here, some are quite expensive reference books, that would be destroyed if this place flooded.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  My friend recently gave me a wall quilt she made for me, that is quite lovely and easily packable in a suitcase.

I asked myself: If I have to go to a shelter, I won’t be able to weigh myself, what do I do…I might fly into a panic!  I dared myself to pack the scale.  No, I am not really packing, just packing mentally, but I dared myself anyway.  Instead, I took the scale off the floor, wrapped it in plastic in case this place floods later on Sunday (it’s Sunday already on the East Coast) and put it in the closet. Now, I will see how long I can leave it there, even after the storm is gone and left us, till I take it out again, step up on it, and admonish myself for not being as thin and starved as I’d like to be.

They told us to stock up on food and water.  I have water.  Food, that’s another story.  It’s a tough thing for someone with an eating disorder to deal with food, natural disaster or not.  Even when faced with a life-and-death situation, food is an issue…why?  Because eating disorders, for you idiots out there that don’t know, are fatal illnesses, that is, you can die of them.  Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all the mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and major depression, both of which carry suicide risk.  It’s not just about being skinny and it’s not about vanity.  If it was vanity, I’d toss it aside in a natural disaster.  Let’s say I’d be capable of putting it on the back burner while Irene passed through.

But I couldn’t.  I did heed the experts’ advice, though.  I bought a couple of cans of stuff.  I bought things that felt safe for me.  For the most part yesterday, I didn’t eat much.  But then I started in on the diet soda, and I couldn’t stop drinking it.  I don’t know what got into me.  I just started drinking it and drinking it.  It tasted pretty good, actually.  I drank some water and some milk, and more diet soda.  It was easily two gallons.  Suddenly, I was very, very full.  And scared.  I am not supposed to be doing this.  It’s dangerous, very dangerous.  It can screw up your electrolytes and it can screw up your kidneys.  I was scared because since I have had this disorder for a long time, my system has kind of slowed down, and I know I’m not necessarily peeing right.  I sat there with my belly sloshing around wondering why I had done this dumb thing.  Nothing was coming out.  I figured I’d either pee real soon or throw it all up.  Nothing.  So I waited around.  Nothing.  My stomach kind of hurt.  I lay down and tried to think of other things.  I thought that what I had put into myself had to come out somehow.

Yeah, it did.  A bit later, I was shitting my brains out into the toilet.  I feel much better now.  I could feel better but letting go of it felt kind of liberating.  My stomach doesn’t hurt anymore–well, it does, but I can think straight and not be distracted by it, anyway.

I am 53 years old, no longer in my 20’s.  I can’t do this at my age.  No more mucking around with dangerous stuff.  You can die of this.  You can die of anorexia nervosa.  You can die anyway but it’s stupid to do mean things to your body.  I guess that’s one essential part of eating disorders that’s hard to overcome, the self-meanness part.  It’s kind of built in.

This on the eve of Hurricane Irene’s strike on Boston.  In 12 hours, winds will exceed 30 miles per hour, maybe 40 miles per hour, and at that point, vehicle travel is just plain unsafe.  If you’re going to have a medical emergency, forget it, you’re on your own.  Or that is what I heard.  So now, of all times, is not a nice time to be mucking around with my electrolytes.  Now or anytime.  Ever.

You know something?  I’m thirsty.  I don’t understand why.  I just am.  Maybe deep down inside, I thirst for something else, and can’t put a finger on what it is, and that is why I feel so empty inside, and why life seems to have no meaning to it.  I’m going to go have a drink of water at this point because I know it won’t satisfy or fill that longing even though my physical sensation is very real, my body’s sleight of hand, I guess.

I do remember feeling this way at the onset of my illness, that I’d lost something and was desperately searching for it, and that it was so lost and so deep-seated that I had lost sight of what it in fact was or that it even existed or had existed for me.  I just felt this void, and a deep hunger.  Whatever I had had, I wanted back.  Desperately.

I don’t think you get back things you had when you were 18, or 21, when you’re in your 50’s.  It’s over 30 years later, and life doesn’t work that way.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’m not going to find it, whatever it was, now.  Whatever I find now, though, was unreachable then, because I was only 21.  So I should consider myself fortunate that I have lived this long.

I want to wish everyone peace during this hurricane.  Just take a moment during your preparations to remember loved ones who have passed, to enjoy cherished memories, to care for your children, to feed and hold your pets nearby.

I am managing as best as I can.  Later, I will call a friend in a different time zone, zone out, and sleep I hope.  I had my modem replaced today (for free).  That’s communication, after all.  Faster.  Better.  More efficient.  Wow.  I should be writing this at lightning speed, maybe running the Marathon next year.  Since getting out of the hospital, I’ve realized that soon, National Novel Month will be approaching, and I would like to get the ball rolling on my paperback preparations and get all that done by the end of next month.  So you will have a bit of hard copy to read next year I hope.

Irene, Irene, Irene.  I think I will share a bit of my chapter, “A Forgotten Line,” from my memoir, which focuses on the character, Irene, in a coming post.  See you then.

Puzzle's potty trips for Hurricane Irene

It’s not 100% set in stone yet, but the plan right now is this:

I have the Internet repair guy coming sometime between 5 and 7 tonight.  This totally screws up Puzzle’s evening potty trip, which is difficult to begin with because she can’t find a toilet in the rain for whatever doggie reason she has.  I’ll take her out at 4.  It’ll be raining but the wind will be mild.  She’ll have to wear a sweater to protect her non-water-resistant coat from the rain.  I’ll wear my rain jacket.  It’s incredibly difficult, when you need four hands for dog walking tasks, to find a fifth to hold an umbrella.

Next potty trip: 8 or so, not much later as the pouring rains will start up soon.  She’s not likely to have to go a second time.  Tough.  This is her last opportunity for a long, long time.

Sunday morning no way will it be safe for any doggie to go out.  Leash or no leash (she’s always on leash).  She’s going to be pissed at me…well, hopefully not at me (ha ha).  She’ll whine and moan non-stop and drive me crazy until she figures it out and uses some discreet indoor spot.  Dang, my dog hates an indoor potty.

I just re-checked weather dot com and it appears that something has changed and now they are predicting that the wicked bad winds are going to go on all Sunday night.  So…Sunday PM, same deal, Puzzle.

I have plenty of junky towels, paper towels, and cleanup spray, but I think it’s time to buy a newspaper maybe…maybe I’ll even read it.  Probably not.  It’s for her, after all.  If she can read, well, that’s news to me.

Hopefully, the newspaper will end up unreadable and stinky, and something else won’t end up unreadable and stinky.

Monday morning….I have a question for you idiots out there: Why is it that when you finally go #2, they call it “success”?  Hopefully, Puzzle will already have earned her own PhD in Poop indoors a couple of times.  Dogs, of course, aren’t supposed to hold in any kind of PhD.  After all, they can’t even read.  Books on tape, braille, large print…nope, won’t help her.  But if her learning specialist (I think they don’t call them tutors anymore) came to the house and petted her like crazy and gave her treats, Puzzle wouldn’t care about learning.  Not that she ever gave a hoot (evidenced by the fact that when you tell her “sit,” she sits for about a half of a second, then gets up again).

Those of you who know better will more accurately call Puzzle’s trip outdoors Monday morning “relief.”

I wonder if I will buy the Herald or the Globe.

See ya later.

A poem I'd like to share, right before Hurricane Irene hits New England

I was going through my “important documents” which happen to be stored near a window.  Obviously, I need to move them.  These include my SS card, passport, and birth certificate.  Among them, I found this poem and one or two others, plus an essay.  I finally found the poem on my hard drive.  Here it is. (Looking at how it showed up on the blog, the stanza breaks didn’t appear, but I’m not going to fuss with it.  WordPress…grrrr…….

IN HIS MEMORY

Joseph Coleman Casey

February 26, 1958 – August 19, 2003

Slithering like a fish,

the dead man slipped into heaven

while my eyes were turned.

When I looked back

I saw the arms of evergreens

reaching out to an eclipsed star,

familiar as beachy sands

and a stone that skipped over my grief,

hissing, popping, then breaking

under waves’ surfaces–

God knows where it went–

leaving a white, smooth rigging

once touched by storm,

then whitewashed until only

a conspicuous sediment remained.

Raindrops kiss window panes,

glide like scree,

embrace earth at last

then sink deep and steamily rise again,

filling my breath and holding me

within an angerless shroud

that protects and suckles

until I can almost feed myself,

yet hunger for more.

Joey,

your spirit creeps ever forward;

I cherish fullness for a moment,

remembering the day in February

when the Artist seized his brush

and spat out blazing hues upon the world,

in praise of God.

8/2003

Coping with my eating disorder and preparing for Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene is supposed to hit us tonight here in Watertown, MA, and the worst of it is due tomorrow around 5pm as far as I can tell.  Rain will start today late morning but it won’t be windy for some time.  Right here in my town, it’s predicted to be a “tropical storm,” while in other nearby areas they’re expecting hurricane conditions.  One quirk about this neighborhood is that trees fall down here all the time.  The neighborhood seems to have an unlimited supply of trees for this purpose.  Cleanup takes a while, and my street is frequently blocked by downed power lines even when we don’t have a hurricane.  We’ve had a couple of calls from the Chief of Police telling us to keep debris off the street, park off the street, follow police instructions, check out the state website for preparedness, all kinds of instructions, but no hint that they are considering an evacuation at this time or even close to considering one.  Meanwhile, I will probably get some of Puzzle’s stuff together on the remote possibility that we do have to evacuate: Maybe three or four week’s supply of kibble (this isn’t much–she’s a little dog), her bowl, which Pooch Palace has kindly labeled with her name, her medications, extra leashes, plastic bags for poops, and rabies documentation.  She doesn’t have a carrier.  One of the leashes I have wraps around my waist and a leash attaches her to my waistband.  This is useful if I’m asleep at a shelter.  She has been microchipped since she was 6 months old, when I had her spayed.  Microchipping is highly recommended for pets at times like these.

It is kind of funny to me that the name Irene is the name of one of the characters in my memoir, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness.  Actually, Irene is one of the most important characters in the book (besides me).  Of course, the name Irene is a pseudonym.  The person has a different name.  I do not know why I chose this name, absolutely no clue.  She has been Irene from the beginning.  Other names I changed to pseudonyms at the very last minute.  In the version I turned in to Goddard College as my master’s thesis, some of the real names are still there.  I am not the least bit sorry about this.  When I did my graduation reading, I used real names, and I’m awfully glad I did.  But Irene…now she is always Irene, and the name of the other person has kind of lost its meaning to me.

Irene is a manipulator in every way, from the time I meet her until the time we break contact.  Yet my attraction and need for her is very strong.  She is an addict (drugs and alcohol) and possesses the personality traits of someone desperately in need of protecting her addictions, even if her actions hurt others.  She is always afraid of being “found out.”  Throughout the chapter, “A Forgotten Line,” it doesn’t dawn on me that Irene is controlling me.  Then finally, I come to this realization in a moment of epiphany–in a “quiet room” in a community hospital in Vermont.  Was it too late?  I don’t think so.  But…well, I don’t want to give it away really….Have I really ever shaken Irene?

As a person with anorexia, I find it strange to be squirreling away food and supplies right now.  They say you should have maybe three to seven days’ supply of food in your home.  There are many foods I don’t feel okay about and so I haven’t purchased them.  Never mind what I have and don’t have.  Gradually, I am rummaging through my imagination and coming up with non-perishable foods I feel okay about that don’t require cooking.  I think I’ve been rather creative about this.  I’m going to make my final trip to the supermarket today.

TIPS: Get a manual can opener.  What good is one that requires electricity?  If power goes out, you will not be able to have your morning coffee…just something to think about.  I know this is “anorexic thinking,” but if you really need caffeine, then having it in pill form on hand might be a good idea.  Stock up on hand sanitizer.  Make sure you have not only prescription meds all set, but make sure you’ve got a good supply of over-the-counter meds you may need such as Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, etc.

I have this thing about bottled water.  It’s really stupid that whenever some weather event is about to happen, everyone rushes to the store to buy it, when all they have to do is to turn on the tap and fill a bottle.  I have a trillion bottles and pitchers filled with water I filtered myself here at home.  If you don’t have a car and have to travel on foot, how the heck can you carry water home, anyway?  Town officials offered people water last year or whenever it was that we had water quality problems, but they didn’t think that some people had no way to transport the water home.

I have to walk Puzzle now.  I have more to say about this and hopefully will be able to get back on later.  My Internet has been very slow.  The Internet people are coming tonight to do repairs but meanwhile I have to make do.  Then, Irene, and who knows what then.

Wow there is so much to tell you

I wrote so many papers while I was in the hospital that I need to copy over and share with you.  One is very long, 25 hand-written pages.  Several are from my previous admission to the hospital.

I unpacked my suitcase this morning.  Completely.  I feel pretty good.

I have appointments every day for the next week and a half.  Wow.  Two of them are scheduled for the exact same time, so I have to fix that.

It’s great having Puzzle back.  I feel like finally, finally I have my life back.

I see my T today.  I’m expecting a huge argument.  Well, maybe not.

Would you believe Dr. P actually wanted me to go to “residential” after the hospital?  Is she kidding?  My insurance (Medicare/Medicaid) doesn’t pay for a single residential program in the Boston area.  I suppose she didn’t really look that far.  And I haven’t a penny left to pay for Puzzle’s boarding.  I took out a cash advance on my credit card to pay for her this time.  I had to lie about my income to get it.  Dang!

Not that I would want to go to one of those fucking places.  The ED program at the hospital, where they fucking controlled my food, watched me in the bathroom (I don’t even puke), and–

Get this: It was within an hour of discharge.  They said I still had to follow “ED protocol.”  Such bullshit.  So I sat there and ate.  The whole time, I ate everything on my tray.  This time, I put the juice and water in my pocket, telling them I was going to drink them on the bus ride home.  Well, they said I couldn’t do that.

“What?”

“Drink them NOW!  You can’t drink them later!  Eating disorders protocol, remember?”

“Well, I’m not going to.”  I poured myself some diet ginger ale.  We are not supposed to have soda.  Another no-no.

“Give them back or we’re calling SECURITY!”

They actually called Security.  I’m not kidding you.  Those Security guys must have been laughing their eyeballs out.

So was I.  I told the guy from the kitchen who delivered trays and he was cracking up, too.

I laughed all the way home.

Hey, I’m going to have a good walk with Puzzle and not think about this shit.  Just listen to the loud, loud music and have a great walk.  We’re leaving as soon as the sun comes up.

I can hardly wait.

I'm back!

Yes, I’m back from my second trip to _____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  I left before the recommended discharge date, on my insistence.  Inpatient eating disorders treatment doesn’t jive with me.  This is the fourth time I’ve done it, and each time, it hasn’t worked, and in a way, it is a worse experience.

My T says that I merely panicked, thinking that the treatment at ____11 was going to make me put weight on.  Maybe so.  I simply don’t think that inpatient is the answer for me.

The first two times were at W Behavioral Care, in a nearby town.  The first time, I was in for five days and hated it.  I faked my way through the program.  I don’t know what I hated most.  Was it that I was the oldest there, and everyone else there was in their teens?  Was it that the girls called me “Grandma” sometimes, behind my back?  (That, I must say, was uncalled for, though perhaps I was their grandmothers’ age.)  I was of course overwhelmed by the place.  I hated that I couldn’t tell my friends anything about my treatment over the phone, or talk to any of the other patients about eating disorders issues; it simply wasn’t allowed except in their very structured groups.  All along, I told myself that I would lose the weight I had gained as soon as I got out.  I never wavered from this promise.  What disgusted me most was that while there, I was working on knitting a hat.  I completed the hat, and wore it home.  The nurse said to me, “Call it your recovery hat!”  Since then, I have despised the word recovery.  I also would have thrown the hat into the trash.  But I didn’t, because it matches one of Puzzle’s sweaters.

My second inpatient eating disorders treatment was at the same place, W Behavioral Care.  It is said to be the best place in New England.  I was tube-fed this time.  I despised tube-feeding.  It is like rape (no, I’m not being extreme when I say this).  It is an object forcefully inserted into an orifice of the body against one’s will.  Agreeably, I didn’t use the word, “No,” but in my heart, after it went in, I felt truly violated.  I ended up pulling the damned tube out myself eventually, in the middle of the night.  No one attempted–or dared–to insert it again.  Lord knows they’d fattened me up enough.  I felt horrible on the tube.  The “tube feed” goes right into your stomach just like food, plus we also had to eat.  It put weight on me way, way too fast, and my stomach hurt and all I did was fart all day long.  My knees were killing me, as was my back.  This misery wasn’t recovery.  This inpatient stay certainly didn’t help me any.  I was incredibly uncomfortable at my new weight, and took it off as quickly as I could once I left the hospital.

My third inpatient stay was my recent stay at ____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston.  This is not an eating disorders unit.  It is a psychiatric unit that has an “eating disorders protocol.”  This was the first of two stays at ____11.  This stay was a nightmare to me.   I have told you much of it.  Much of it I haven’t told you.  I was treated poorly and came home extremely traumatized.  I haven’t been this traumatized since I was raped in 2008.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was still there.  This happened over and over.  I had nightmares about the place.  I had replays of what happened to me, like videos playing over and over in my mind that I couldn’t stop.

The shitty thing about this was that I couldn’t get anyone to believe me.  I couldn’t even get my own T to believe me.  I couldn’t get my friends (with the exception of Frank) to believe me.  Everyone assumed that since I had an eating disorder, and this was the Prestigious Hospital, it must have been just the thing I needed, and surely I was exaggerating, or complaining because I didn’t want to get better, or complaining for the sake of complaining.  When my T came to visit me just yesterday, the first thing she said was how “nice” the place looked.  Well, fuck.  Architecture means shit.  People mean everything.

And the point is not so much what went on there, but my reaction to what went on there.  When I left, I was in a state of terror and shock.   I needed to talk about what happened.  I needed to process it.  I needed to be believed and validated.  I didn’t need ____11’s actions justified, or for anyone to blame me for having had a negative experience there, as my T had done.  And as I replayed and replayed everything, I relapsed in a really bad way, for eight days, until I brought myself into the emergency room–at the Prestigious Hospital–figuring that there wasn’t a chance in hell that there would be an opening at ____11.  There never is.  I figured I’d be sent elsewhere.

I spent over 24 hours in a little “secure” room at the psych emergency room.  This little room had nothing but a bed and four walls.  I was stripped of my regular clothes and shoes, and required to wear hospital clothes.  I knew there was a possibility I’d spend the entire weekend there, and it was now midday on Friday.  It’s sometimes hard to find a hospital bed for people on public assistance.

At first, I freaked.  But what ended up happening in that little, empty room was amazing.  I asked to speak with the chaplain.  I don’t remember her name.  It doesn’t matter what religion she subscribed to.  We spoke for perhaps an hour.  I cried.  I always cry when I talk with the chaplains.  I cry when I even think about God.  No, we didn’t talk only about God.  We talked about other things, too, many things.

You know, you don’t have to believe in God, in fact, you don’t have to have any notion whatsoever that there is anything that controls the universe, or any kind of spirit or supernatural power, or an afterlife (now that I don’t believe in), or judgement, or reason to behave well other than behaving well is simply a good idea to know that the medical profession and pills aren’t a cure-all for illness.  You may believe in the power of humor, or the power of thinking positively.  Many people pray and find this very therapeutic and relaxing and fulfilling–and for some, it is an essential part of daily life.

Let me tell you this: My talk with the chaplain, in that little room with nothing but four walls and a bed equipped with hookups for leather restraints, was the most helpful and amazing part of my hospitalization.  In fact, my entire stay in that little room was amazing.  At one point, they hooked up a telephone in there.  I used it a lot.  Then I slept a lot.  The ceiling in the first room developed a leak, and I had to be moved to another little room that was identical to the first, except the phone jack didn’t work.

So I was alone, no phone except for my phone line to God.  No, I didn’t talk on this phone, and God didn’t talk to me.  The chaplain had taught me that if God was anywhere, God was in these rooms, right beside me.  God is like air.  God is everywhere.  You breathe every day.  Feel it.  I breathed, as I do every day, all day long, and fell asleep.

I’m not sure when it was on the second day, after I awoke, that I realized all this stuff about ___11, that the whole reason for my eight-day relapse had to do with my stay there.  What I didn’t know was that by being sent to ____11, I would have the opportunity to deal with unfinished business with the unit and the personnel there.

I ended up being transferred on Saturday.  I had the weekend to make myself clear.  And I did.  I made my demands.  I told the nurses that I wanted to be treated better this time.  I told them how I reacted to my first stay.  I told them that I wanted to be treated like a human being and not like an animal.  I told them that in no way did I want to have that nurse that had been so cruel to me last time.  I wanted help from them, help with my relapse.  I had come voluntarily, boarded Puzzle and brought myself to the hospital first thing Friday morning.  It was my hope that all my demands would be met.  Many were.  Many weren’t.

The weekend was okay.  Monday was okay.  Then mid-Monday the “eating disorders protocol” began, and my progress ended there.  I had expressed myself already, though.  My unfinished business had been taken care of.  My mission was complete.

As I said, inpatient eating disorders programs and I don’t jive.  The worst of it was the limit on how much water I could drink.  This rendered me desperately thirsty.  I was truly suffering.  I’m not talking about dry mouth.  This is physical thirst.  Finally, at 6:30 yesterday morning, I stole a cup, and drank water in the bathroom.  This was the beginning of my breaking protocol, and the end of my meaningful use of “treatment,” that really wasn’t useful to me in the first place.  Later yesterday, I asked to be discharged that afternoon.  It was pointless to stay.

The good thing was that I got what I came for: I broke the cycle that I had been stuck in from my eating disorder.  I no longer felt the physical discomfort and subsequent despair that I felt when I came in.  So I truly didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore.  The doctor agreed.  So here I am.

I feel pretty decent now.