I had a hellish night and am going to the ER to be admitted as soon as I can get Puzzle boarded. The day program was a nice idea but it won’t stop the bingeing, and I need to get into the hospital before the hospitals close up for the weekend. Otherwise, I’ll be spending a grueling weekend at the emergency room for a couple of days waiting for a bed somewhere. Even that is better than bingeing. I need to get away from this living hell.
I went to the emergency room at the Prestigious hospital last night. They were very nice to me. They asked me a few questions, not a lot, and did a blood test and took my vitals and did an EKG. I am very anemic. The doctor did a rectal and found that I do not have internal bleeding. I showed him where my stomach sticks out on one side when I binge. He verified that this is the case, but gave no explanation. My feet are so swollen that they look like the feet of an elephant. No way will they fit in shoes.
They called Dr. P in the night, and decided to release me and send me to this “program,” and that I would start today. They sent me home at around 3:30am in a cab with a cab voucher. I’ve had a couple of hours of sleep, and now I’m getting ready to leave for the “program.”
I hope I can walk to the bus with my elephant feet. I tried to brush my teeth for the first time in days and my mouth hurts real bad cuz it’s cut up so much from bingeing. I bit my cheeks and tongue, and my gums are torn. I have a bad crack in my lower lip.
I feel too sick to eat. If they stick food in front of me I think I will be very, very upset. I just want someone to listen to me and talk to me. I need compassion and understanding, not regimentation and force-feeding.
I hope this “program” is a decent one. It will last a couple of weeks. I hope they have good staff. I have been in all kinds of “programs” and hated all of them. I went to my first “program” when I was 23 years old and didn’t know any better. I am now 53 years old and have been closing all the doors they open for me. But I’m going to this one now because I pretty much have no choice. I was told to go.
I’m about to leave. I can’t take the bingeing anymore. I can’t live like this. I put in a call to Dr. P and she agrees with my decision. I’ve been thinking of this for several days. Puzzle is safe at Pooch Palace. Hopefully, I will be put in a humane place, and not ____11. Wish me luck.
PS: my “supportive” brother called and said “You should be bingeing because then you’ll gain weight.” So much for support. Well, it was nice while it lasted. My loving family. I really hate them all.
After four horrible days of bingeing following my hospitalization for dehydration, malnutrition, and severe anorexia nervosa, I have reverted to starvation as a desperate measure to prevent another nightmare bingeing episode.
I left the hospital as soon as my Section 12 ran out. I left last Thursday. My doctors there had strongly urged me to stay the weekend. But when I was handed a conditional voluntary form, I realized that they would then have the legal right to hold me there for as long as they damned please. And if I wanted out, I would not be able to get out immediately, but would have to wait three long, grueling days in that “prison.” For indeed, that was how it seemed to me. They had taken away my privacy in the bathroom and shower, my telephone rights, 75% of my belongings, and severely rationed my fluid intake to the point where I was suffering constant thirst. My therapist supported my decision so long as I was planning to eat properly when I got out of the hospital. I said that I intended to. This was a lie. This wasn’t a tiny lie. This was 100% a lie.
I was devastated, and taken by shock, by the first binge. I was devastated by the second. I was devastated by the third, and fairly certain that this series of them was over. And when I binged the fourth time, I was, as they say, hanging by a string. I came into my therapist’s office desperate to make the bingeing stop, and would do anything at that point. But it had to stop immediately. I could bear it no longer. I am 53 years old. I am not 20. I just got out of the hospital for malnutrition and extreme reduction in caloric intake that had been gradually increased. I have edema that is getting worse and worse. My heart pounds when I binge and my heart rate increases. My stomach sticks out on one side. I eat to the point that I load myself until the food reaches the top of my throat, or so it feels. I eat so fast that I risk choking. I risk infection because the inside of my mouth is so bitten up and damaged. In the past, I have passed out from extreme exhaustion. And the emotional and mental effect? That’s the very worst of it.
I told my T about all this. And I told my T about the behaviors–what I do, what I eat, what happens to me…a lot of what I go through, a lot that I have never told anyone. She asked a lot of questions. I cried and cried and cried. If anyone has ever believed me, if anyone has ever understood me at all, it was my T. I am so, so alone with this, and have been for most of my life. Anorexia? Many people understand anorexia. No one understands what an anorexic person who does not/cannot throw up goes through, because this is such a rarity…that I know of.
What we ended up doing was working out a great plan to stop the bingeing in its tracks. Immediately. The plan is tailored specifically for me and my behaviors and no one else.
Upon leaving her office, my eating disorder took over. I got on the Red Line subway and then ended up at a drugstore after a while and gazed at all the goodies. But I didn’t buy any? Why I didn’t buy any…I do not understand the complexity of my thought processes at that point. But I do know that at the drugstore across the street, the prices were ridiculous and I turned down the junk food for that reason. That plus the bus was arriving shortly. I came home. I was terrified that I would binge. So I got in touch with my T. S.O.S. She never got the message until late night. I ate a few things that I shouldn’t have eaten, but it didn’t trigger a binge–why? I think I was simply binged out. From then on until I went to bed, I followed the plan we had set out. Meanwhile, my T got the message and said she’d call me in the morning.
I woke in the night hysterical. Crying over the bingeing, though I hadn’t binged for a while. I woke up in a desperate, distraught, panicked state this morning as well, weeping, and it took a while to calm down.
Since then, I’ve been starving myself. I have eaten…nothing. I looked at the food I’d promised my T I was going to eat, though. I looked at the package. Nothing.
Very soon, I felt…nothing. No emotion. No panic. No more crying. Just sitting here writing to You. I ran a few errands and did some very much needed cleaning around the house.
I started the starvation last June…or I think it was June…and the more intense starvation in July, and the structured daily activities, specifically to end the bingeing. Don’t tell me this is happening again. I want it…but I don’t.
Why have I made so many secret promises to myself? Why do I lie so much? Why do I hold back? Isn’t this exactly what the chaplain was talking about when we met the last day I was at the hospital? God sees everything. God sees through all my lies, all my secrets. Everything. I can hide nothing from God. God is all-seeing and all-knowing.
Isn’t it God that I now seek? Isn’t it God that I now hunger for? Didn’t the chaplain say that anyone that hungers, hungers for God, and has God in their heart, and that God has never left me, but has walked by my side all this time, all through my relapse in fact, though I have thought I did not believe, that I had lost my faith and had lost my ability to pray?
Wow. No wonder I cry so much.
You have heard what I said so far in my audio post I made at the bus stop on my way home (if you have speakers or headphones and could hear me). But I didn’t say anything about the rabbi or the service. So I will tell you.
The synagogue is huge. It seems to be a major landmark in the area. On top of the building is a menorah, and by this I was able to know that this was the correct building. I wasn’t sure where to enter. Off to the side was a ramp entrance. I noticed one on both sides of the building, which was handy because of its size. I saw no parking lot, but did notice a sign saying something about appropriate parking elsewhere for worshippers. Finally, I located a door on ground level that was open. Inside was a huge celebration, and it was obvious that this wasn’t the service because I heard music in Spanish and it didn’t seem to be a religious event. So I inquired from someone who seemed he might know. I asked where the Jewish services were. He said, “Downstairs,”, and showed me the way, also pointing out the bathroom. I waited. No one was there. Then a fellow showed up who said he was there for a MassPIRG meeting (kind of a political/social fundraising organization) and that they had rented this room for their meeting, and that the worship service was elsewhere. So I went upstairs and asked the guy again. He said, “Oh, to pray!” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “The library, then.” He showed me a different room, and pointed out a different bathroom.
Here was a tiny room with only a handful of chairs, surrounded by Jewish books of all sorts, mostly very, very old hardcover books, many of which I recognized but hadn’t read. There were many copies of the Holy Book, possibly in different translations, though I don’t know about the various Jewish translations and biblical commentary they may contain. I am embarrassed to say that I know more about the Christian Bible New Testament translations–or did, in days past, very long ago, when I studied it very intently. I must say, it all dates back over 30 years ago to just before I developed my eating disorder. As I say in my book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness, “I craved God like it was a drug.”
I had arrived perhaps five minutes early. There was no one else there. The rabbi arrived maybe five minutes late. It was clear that I would be the only member of the congregation. He said to me, “This will be a Yartzheit service today, you know.” It’s been a long, long time, and no way did I remember what Yarzheit meant. He explained, “To remember the departed. Do you have anyone that has died who was close to you?”
“Yes,” I responded. “My father. And my boyfriend, Joe.”
“And what are there names? I’d like to write them down.”
I gave him their names and proper spellings, emphasizing the E on the end of my father’s last name. It’s interesting, too, that most Jewish Greenes don’t have the E.
He handed me a prayer book. He told me which page we’d start on, and we began.
Jewish prayer books, and all Hebrew books, start from the right, not the left. This I quickly recalled. The rabbi, who was from the Old World, read from the Hebrew, which, interestingly, was printed with its vowels (the little weird figures surrounding the larger Hebrew letters), making it easier for me to read and follow along even though it’s been ages, a number of decades, since I’ve been to Hebrew services. He read fast but not faster than I’ve heard ever before. After this came the English translation of what had been read in Hebrew, followed by a response in italics, which was to be recited by everyone. The entire service continued in this form. I caught on very quickly. The rabbi instructed me when to sit and when to stand. At a certain point, he closed the doors that exposed the Torah scrolls that were in a compartment in the wall. I hadn’t even noticed the Torah there until then. He must have opened those doors when I wasn’t looking.
It was weird. I did, in fact, understand a bit of the Hebrew. I recognized many of the words that meant “God.” The Hebrew language has tons of words that mean God that are used in prayer, and I recognized their spellings right away. I also recognized the word for “mankind” (humankind) and “world.” That was about it. After a while, I could pretty much follow along with him according to the consonant sounds. Of course, though, it held no real meaning for me, no actual feeling that I was praying. Nor did the English translation that was provided, or the response that I recited along with him. Why? It went by so very fast that I didn’t even catch the meaning of what I was saying. I had no clue what I was praying about, or saying, nor did I know to whom I was saying it. It occurred to me then that the folks who came to these services said the exact same prayers each time they came, and probably had them memorized. I remembered, also, that this was the case when I went to services as a child. I, too, had them memorized, even the Hebrew, though I had the sounds of the prayers memorized, not knowing the meaning of what I was saying. The only thing different, at each service, that was, each Shabbat service, was the Torah reading for that week. Or at least that was the way at the synagogue where I grew up.
Was I praying? I didn’t know. I didn’t feel like I was. I just felt like I was reciting something from a book. Yes, it was something very special, something Holy perhaps, written by very, very special, learned rabbis from very long ago, and revised over the years. Perhaps various editions of this prayer book had come out every now and then that were sanctified by a special group of higher-up rabbis. But the words went by so fast that I had no clue what I was saying. I have no memory of a thing that was in any of the lines and lines of prayers that I recited today, except for the Shemah: The Lord is One! a very short prayer that I know because we are taught it from day one in Hebrew school and recite it over and over. I felt a disconnectedness and this was very disconcerting to me.
And then, the rabbi closed the book, and said, “The service is now over.” And that was that. Wow. It felt so weird. I immediately sensed that perhaps this synagogue was too conservative for me. The only thing liberal, interestingly, was that the rabbi often substituted the word “God” for “He” or “Lord, ” undoubtedly to avoid the assumption that the Diety is male. He then told me his name, and invited me to services on Shabbat, and the other weekday services. I told him that it had been over 30 years since I’d been to services. He said that it would all come back to me in time.
I left, knowing that I wouldn’t be back. I can’t go back. I just don’t feel any connection. I don’t even feel a sense of memory, and I don’t know why that is, either. Maybe I’m blocking it all out. Maybe I don’t want to picture my parents beside me in the synagogue, or the blue seats, or the aisles in between the rows, or the pulpit, or the fiery sermons the rabbi would give over the Six-Day War. Maybe I don’t want to taste the Israeli wine, or the challah bread, or the goodies we ate after services, or hear the ancient Hebrew chanting. Maybe I don’t want to recall my bat mitzvah and the fear I had that my period would show through the white robe I had to wear, and the huge reception line, relatives I didn’t know kissing me and leaving lipstick marks on my cheeks, and all the thank-you notes I had to write for weeks and weeks after my bat mitzvah for the gifts I had received from friends, congregation members, and relatives. I know I don’t want to remember waiting for my mother to pick me up from Hebrew school and waiting for 45 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half in the dark, the cold, long after the synagogue building had closed its doors for the day, and finally, giving up, walking home over a mile on a slippery, dangerous sidewalk to a home I wished I didn’t live at.
So I came home this morning, arriving I don’t recall when, maybe 11:30 or so. I put away the vegetables I’d bought. They looked nice and fresh. The fellow at the co-op had asked if I was making soup. I had just shrugged. I’d felt like saying, “No sir, I’m anorexic and this stuff doesn’t have, like, much calories,” but I didn’t. I just said, “I don’t need a bag, I don’t think,” and I put the stuff in the red stuff bag I have. The vegetables were still cold when I got home. The computer was still on. I decided to Google Unitarian churches, thinking this may be the way to go at this point. I found that the Unitarian church is the one that Puzzle and I happen to pass every day on our walk. Bingo. On further inquiry, I looked up the sermons posted at this church website. They contain poetry I like from familiar poets, as well as quotes from quotes from great literature in every sermon that was posted on the site. I also looked at a posting of Q&A on UU. This was a publication that came out of another UU church. I found that the church is very liberal and doesn’t push beliefs on its members. Just about all of the members came over from other faiths, and a huge number, interestingly, are baby boomers. Jesus is considered a teacher but definitely not deity, nor is the Bible taken literally (i.e. the “virgin birth” or Jesus walking on water). Many don’t believe in God and call themselves atheists. And I am wondering if prayer has a place in the UU church. The Q&A didn’t say, but I assume that traditional prayer doesn’t exist there. Would it, then, be okay to talk there about God, or would it cause discomfort or controversy among members?
I so very much want my faith back. The chaplain at the hospital said I never really lost it. Like I said in my audio post, she told me that people who hunger, hunger for God, and if I am hungering for God, then I have God in my heart and God has never, never left me, and has walked by my side all along, even though it was my thought that I had stopped believing around the time that my relapse began in 2008. I told her that I was completely unable to pray, and that I lost my connection long, long ago, even before 2008. I spoke with a number of chaplains during this hospitalization. When they asked who I’d like to pray for with them, I said to please pray for Puzzle. And so each of the chaplains would say a special prayer for God to watch over Puzzle–and me–at this difficult time. Every time, we held hands and prayed. I always cried when I talked to the chaplains. In fact, I’d start crying as soon as they came into the room and told me who they were. I opened up right away. I told them about Puzzle. I showed them photos of Puzzle. They knew just how special Puzzle is to me, and why I wanted this special prayer to be said for Puzzle. The last one who came while I was at ____11 (the psychiatric “prison” came two days in a row. She said that God didn’t want me to starve myself. She gave me an explanation of this that made a lot of sense and made feeding myself seem not so scary. Actually, what she said was more helpful than anything any therapist or doctor has ever said to me about my eating disorder, not because it had anything to do with God, but simply because what she said was so powerful and went straight to my heart. And for one moment, it stayed there, and it felt okay, and very rich and delicious. And then, it was gone.
And now, as I sit here writing this, I realize that I have been writing for a long, long time, and it is close to the time for Puzzle’s walk, and Puzzle is my dear dog who has been prayed for so many, many times. I would ask a zillion people to pray for her if I could. Puzzle so many times has saved me, so she deserves plenty of prayers and blessings. We will go out soon, and pass by the fire station, the library, and–yes–the Unitarian church. I may–or may not–think about God when we pass by the church. I know, though, I’ll be blasting the music on my MP3 player and be tuning out the world as I always do, but watching the traffic to save Puzzle from harm.
Please, please, pray for Puzzle.