I didn’t sleep much after the hospital because I immediately went on a three-day binge that seems to be over now. I do not throw up, so I was just piling it in and piling it in. It is unusual for someone with anorexia nervosa to binge without throwing up. Most professionals don’t even believe me when I tell them I don’t purge. Certainly, they didn’t believe me in the hospital. A single binge can put 10 pounds on me that I quickly lose. My ankles get extremely swollen, my heart races and pounds, and I sweat like crazy. My ankles didn’t always swell like this. I don’t know when that started.
I ended up talking to my T today. I hesitated to contact her on the weekend, but I was scared that I was in serious medical trouble, that maybe I had given myself refeeding syndrome, given that only a couple of weeks ago, I’d nearly starved myself to death. But she said no, that I would be okay.
We talked for a while. I was surprised that she actually wanted to talk to me, it being a weekend. She was very helpful. One of the first things she said was that we should find a “happy medium” between extreme highs and lows of intake. I didn’t like the sound of that. I don’t like medium. I want to eat very, very little. But I didn’t say anything. I felt like I wasn’t calling her for help. I was calling her to see if she thought I’d done something horrible to myself–again–and what to do about it, because I just didn’t know. She told me I wasn’t going to die and didn’t need to get checked out at this point, which is a good thing, because I didn’t want to have to show up at the ER saying that I had been bingeing for three days. “Another nutcase….”
I slept for the rest of the day after my conversation with her. It’s hard to sleep when your stomach feels horrible. We’re going to talk about it all when I see her on Monday.
I spent over two weeks being watched and cared for and attended to, and now I’m on my own. I am reminded of getting training wheels off. You might hate the damned things, but once they’re off for the first time, you’re pretty wobbly.
Tomorrow I’m gong to a local synagogue for a worship service. Usual worship services at Jewish synagogues are Saturdays, the Sabbath. But this one has services every single day, not just the Sabbath. The chaplain at the hospital said I might want to find a rabbi I can talk to after I get out. I like talking about God.
So tomorrow I’ll put on my “edema dress,” the dress I wear to hide the edema in my legs, and head over to the synagogue via a bus and two subway trains. I am surprised that I am brave enough to be doing this. I didn’t want to wait a full week.
My stomach feels pretty horrible right now. It will for a while, for a long, long while until it finally settles. I don’t know when I’ll start eating again. I wish I never had to eat.
What shocks me is that I lived with this for most of my life in complete secrecy. Bingeing, almost by definition, is done in secret. My weight would drop and either I would hide it or no one really cared or said anything, and I’d have these horrible, disabling binges periodically. Now, when I get it, it frequently lasts three days.
On July 1, 1980, I moved into my own apartment and started my first diet. I had never heard of eating disorders and didn’t think a whole bunch of bad things would happen to me if I went on the diet. I weighed 117 pounds and I wanted to lose 10 pounds. One hundred seventeen pounds is a reasonable weight for my height. One hundred and seven pounds is also reasonable. When I entered the hospital in the end of July, I weighed 80-1/2 pounds.
Where is my family? Why didn’t they help me? Why did my parents not ever listen to me? Why did my brothers turn their backs on me when they started raising families of their own? Why does my mother continue to make rude comments to me about my body size instead of being supportive and loving? One of the “sitters” at the hospital medical ward told me that I was a “sinner in the eyes of God” when I told her I wouldn’t allow my mother to know I was hospitalized and certainly not allow her to visit. No one has the right to call anyone else a sinner. My mother, who has eyes and can see, doesn’t know I have anorexia nervosa. It is not because I haven’t told her. I guess everyone sins, I have done my share of them as everyone else has, but I have every right to feel whatever I want to feel about my mother.
Well, I am getting tired, and will go back to sleep now. I have slept all day, and plan to sleep all night.
I really didn’t sleep much last night. Things were spinning around in my head. I was processing what had happened to me. It has taken a lot of thinking and recovering to shake off the trauma of what happened to me on the psychiatric ward as an eating disorders patient. I believe that it could work for other people, many other people, but inpatient ED treatment isn’t for me, and that is now clear to me and to my treatment team.
Forgive me for being a bit technical here: I took a shit last night for the first time in ages. Ever try to take a shit when someone is scrutinizing your every move? You can’t do it. Yes, I hadn’t eaten, so there was nothing in there to begin with, but the body does process stuff. I shit my brains out over the last 24 hours. It’s like getting all that crap, all those emotions, all the bad stuff, my anger mostly, out of my system at last. Gradually, it is traveling down the pipes and into the septic system with all the other crap.
I saw my T today. The session was fairly good. The gist of it was that I was relieved to get out. We agreed that the most important piece of my hospitalization was the medical stabilization that had taken place on the medical ward. She asked me if I had thought much about what would have happened if I hadn’t gone in when I did. She said I would have died. I was a ticking time bomb when I showed up at Dr. P’s office to meet with her and Dr. P the afternoon that they sent me to the emergency room at the Prestigious Hospital. I do recall being brought to the “psych” ER, then having my vitals taken, then being whisked to the “medical” ER side, and immediately given two liters of IV fluids. I remember lying on that bed, feeling the coldness of the fluids pumped into my veins at a rapid rate. Beyond that, I really didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t get up much after that, except to pee, and I peed a lot. My kidneys weren’t right. Everything I drank came out of me right away. They offered me jello, broth, and custard. I remember I was afraid of the calories in the jello and the custard, but I drank half of the broth, after checking to make sure it didn’t have oil in it. They kept me in the psych ER for a long time, overnight. They didn’t watch me as closely as they watched some of the other patients. I was too out of it to cause any trouble.
I told my T that there was only one thing good that happened to me on the psychiatric ward of the Prestigious Hospital. That was when the chaplain came. I asked for the chaplains to come nearly every day while I was in the hospital. The same one came two days in a row at _______11, Wednesday and Thursday, just before I left. You can talk to the chaplains about anything in your heart, anything you want to talk about. I told all of them about Puzzle. I asked them to pray for Puzzle, and they did. The one who came Wednesday and yesterday told me that I was mistaken when I thought I had lost my faith when I had relapsed in 2008. You know, this was something I rarely discussed with anyone, not even my therapists. It was so hard to bring up. It’s hard for me to talk about God. I stopped believing in God entirely–or so I thought. I couldn’t pray. I stopped bothering to pray to someone I didn’t believe existed. I didn’t see the point in it. I had relapsed and the eating disorder was taking over my life and pushing God away. This is what I thought but it wasn’t true, this chaplain explained. She explained that everyone who hungers, hungers for God, and has God in their heart and right by their side. She said that God has been by my side all along, that God has never left me, and that I have never lost my faith, because I am hungry and thirsty for God. This made one heck of a lot of sense to me.
Yesterday when she came, she said that I keep a lot of secrets, that I hide myself, and that there is no reason, really, to do this, because God sees everything, all my secrets, and I can’t lie or hide myself or keep secrets from God. So, she said, I should be honest with my therapist, and open with her, and quit lying.
I told my T today that the chaplain had explained this about not lying and hiding and keeping secrets. So my T was kind of expecting I’d tell her all kinds of stuff, and I just wasn’t ready to do this just yet. I told her a couple of things. I told her about sneaking into the bathroom to drink water because I was so damned thirsty on ___11 due to the water rationing. I told her that I drank tons of water before weigh-in on the last day and falsified my weight just to make sure I got out of there. Plus those idiots forgot to tell me to take off my “edema dress” and change into my hospital johnnies. I was scared she’d be angry, but she really wasn’t. Then I really took a risk and told her I completely bullshitted my way out of ____11 because I was so desperate to leave. She said, “Of course you did. I know that.” Well, done. I have a few more things to admit to her, but I’ll save them for another time.
While walking Puzzle this evening I was thinking about things, and wondering if this hospitalization has really changed anything, if it shook me up enough that I almost died to teach me some kind of lesson, or if I will go on and on and anorexia will continue to run my life like it always has. Well, there are no lessons. There is rock bottom and I hit it. It has never been that bad, not nearly that bad, ever. In which direction I’ve traveled on this road I don’t know. Maybe as far as I know it’s not going in any particular direction that I can see. But all roads do go somewhere. I just don’t know if I’ve gone up, or if I’ve gone down, down, down.
But I’m glad for the simple things, just having Puzzle back, and a shower, and shitting, and my precious privacy, my own home. I’m glad to be writing to You after having disappeared for a few days. Lying in bed and not walking around–just this in itself–has weakened me, so I’m gradually gaining muscle strength back as I walk Puzzle and just move my body around. I think I mentioned that the hospital lost my shoes. On my way out, well, in order to get home, I purchased a pair of flip-flops at the gift shop so I could take public transportation. You know, you can’t walk outside in socks alone! Anyway, I’m getting used to walking in flip-flops. It’s kind of new and different. Soon, I’ll have a new pair of running shoes and new insoles to replace the ones that were lost in the hospital. Nice and squishy. In a way–I know this sounds weird–the flip-flops represent something to me. I don’t know what. Maybe kind of like the afterlife, like after my body was restored to life.
So right now, I’m sitting at the computer, and I’ve got the flip-flops on. You’d think I’d slip them off, being inside the apartment, but I haven’t. My feet are kind of clinging to them, hugging them, the way feet tend to hug flip-flops to keep them from slipping off. Maybe that’s how somehow my heart kept on beating even though I wasn’t sure if it would stop in the night. It never stopped. I woke up every morning alive, and I accepted it. Maybe my heart was curled around something, clinging to life, the way my feet are clinging to the flip-flops right now. Eventually, I’ll shut down the computer and take off the flip-flops and go to bed, and I won’t have that question in my mind of whether I would die in the night, as I had only a few weeks ago. I am okay now. I have been given water. I am alive.
Here is the final document I wrote at the hospital’s psychiatric unit the day I left, yesterday August 11, 2011. I choose to post this one first. It is two pages long, written on lined paper in pencil.
REASONS I CHOOSE TO LEAVE TODAY
1. Whereas my stay on the medical floor was positive, my stay here on ___11 has broken my spirit and ruined my experience at the Prestigious Hospital.
2. I made many steps forward on the medical ward. I kept a record of my progress in oral accounts on my blog. Had I stays on _____11 any longer, I would have become angrier and angrier, and taken many steps backward.
3. Because of your unbending “protocol,” I am filthy, thirsty, have no privacy or sense of dignity, and my contact with the outside world is nearly cut off.
4. The eating disorders protocol has not been individualized for me.
5. The nursing staff are completely lacking in compassion, warmth, and empathy. From the time I arrived Monday evening, the nurse, whose name I forget, was unbelievably cold to me, and ____’s hostile behavior ruined my experience here at ___11. Had I had a different nurse, perhaps I would feel completely differently about my stay here. Also, the nurses have no time to sit down and talk to the patients. I thought that was part of the job of a psychiatric nurse.
6. Being handed the conditional voluntary form was the last straw. It was then that my mind was made up. My reaction? I laughed. And laughed and laughed.
7. I have written a lot while here on the ward. I have, in fact, been encouraged to write. When I get home, I plan to type up these documents, and post them on my blog. I will use no names or even initials. My blog is fully Googlable. In my blog, I write about my journey with anorexia: my fears, my hunger, my dreams, and over 300 people–maybe more by now–are following my journey. Whether they care, are curious, or like to see someone suffer, I don’t know, but I know someone, somewhere out there is listening.
When I read #7, there was a bit of shuffling around, and I sensed discomfort in the room!
Another document explains the second conditional voluntary form I was handed. Perhaps it doesn’t, though. I’m not absolutely certain. My Section 12 expired yesterday, and I was free to leave at that time. Of course, I took advantage of this opportunity! But the medical student approached me Wednesday and said, “We’d like you to stay longer. Will you sign yourself in?” In other words, sign myself in so that they could keep me as long as their little hearts desired! If, then, I’d signed myself in, and I wanted to leave, I’d have to sign a paper called, in short, a “three-day,” which would get me out, but it would take a full three business days to actually get out. How could he think I would be that stupid? No wonder I laughed.
It’s late, and I’m still up. I guess I’ve got a bit of energy left before the meds kick in. And relief to be home and free. I wrote a lot of stuff while in the hospital that I will copy over and put up here. It won’t take all that long, but I don’t want to do it tonight (unless I suddenly change my mind in an instant) because the documents are fairly long and too many pages and I’ll run out of steam. Most are in narrative form. I think I wrote three or four documents while imprisoned at the psychiatric unit. It was my only outlet of expression. There was really no one to talk to there. No one. My phone privileges were taken away or severely limited. Let’s just say I had to ask to make a phone call, and this would be granted at the nurse’s whim. It would generally be a two-hour wait to get to make a phone call, and when I did have this privilege, the nurse monitored everything I said, “commented” on my conversation, and told me what to say to my friends. My conversations were cut short at the staff’s whim. I had to give a brief rundown of conditions on the unit and my situation, and then they made me hang up. So calling into this blog, and talking to You, was completely denied to me.
I was closely monitored in the bathroom, though, if you have been following my blog you know I do not throw up. This, though, is universal eating disorders “protocol.” This word “protocol” was the buzzword there. They really, really watched you. Now, a slightly cracked door meant male staff and patients could see inside the bathroom while I did whatever I was doing in there. I truly felt uncomfortable doing anything with someone standing right there, even with their back supposedly turned. I couldn’t shower because I didn’t want someone standing near me and seeing me. I didn’t feel comfortable having anyone see my body. I can’t stand having to see myself, actually, let along have someone else see me. On the medical ward, the “sitters” did things a little differently, so I was able to wash myself in the bathroom at least, though I never got a shower. I washed my hair in the sink so long as they didn’t watch me. I would not let them watch me brush my teeth. On the psychiatric ward, because of the strict bathroom policy, I didn’t even wash up from the time I got there on Monday evening until just today (Thursday) when I got home. I was filthy.
Okay, more. I was allowed four eight-ounce glasses of water a day. These were given at mealtime and one other time. That’s it. I’m used to a lot, lot more. I was constantly thirsty. Thirsty beyond belief. When friends (the few I have left) called, the first thing I did was cry and tell them how desperately thirsty I was because of the water rationing. Each time I asked why they were doing this, I was given a different explanation, and none of these were satisfactory or made sense to me. I could hardly wait for mealtime so that I would get my water. I didn’t care that I had to eat. All I wanted was that bottle of water. I drank it, and a few minutes later was thirsty for more. I asked to be tested for dehydration. I was assured that they were monitoring it. They didn’t take my blood this morning or yesterday. Interesting.
To make things worse, I discovered that the hospital, the most prestigious hospital in Boston and perhaps the country, lost my running shoes (with orthodic insoles) and clothes I came in with in the psych emergency room. I don’t think, at this point, that they are going to be recovered. The Human Rights person is working on it. I think she’ll end up working on getting me a reimbursement. I’ll save the receipts from what I pay to replace them. I couldn’t get home in socks, so I purchased a pair of flip-flops at the gift shop to get me home. I’ve saved that receipt as well. I never signed any paper releasing the hospital from responsibility if something was lost.
Denial of bathroom privacy, and therefore ending up filthy, lack of phone rights, and denial of the basic human need for water were my main complaints about the psychiatric unit. I am accustomed to locked doors. This is fine. But there were many, many more violations of my rights and dignity, but I’ll leave off, as I’m getting sleepy.
Let’s just say that while I found my stay at the medical ward very positive, my stay at the psychiatric ward ruined it all for me.
Okay, I’m nodding off.
I’m home, at last, from the Prestigious Boston Hospital. And about to pick up Puzzle from boarding. She is currently having a bath and will be ready for me upon my arrival. Sorry I wasn’t able to post from the psychiatric prison I was in after I left the medical floor. Thankfully, I was only an inmate there from Monday evening until just after lunchtime today (Thursday). It was a bad, bad, bad experience there. More later.