On Monday, I showed up for my usual 1pm therapy session with a letter for my therapist. I had begun writing the letter as soon as I had returned from church Sunday afternoon. I’m not certain when I had finished writing it. Immediately before leaving the house, I made certain to weed out sloppiness, repetitiveness, unnecessary cuss words that when overused, lose their value as shock or taboo words, verb tense inconsistency, and so on and so on and so on…in other words, I weeded out many of the errors you see here that I do in this blog in just about every entry I create.
Oh yes, one more thing you know I do here is that I contradict myself. I say one thing one day, then another thing the very next day. Well, of course. There are two sides of the bed. No, let me contradict myself right there. Most beds are four-sided. No, let me contradict myself yet another time! Beds are three-dimensional in space. In addition to the four sides, there are a top and a bottom. I have never heard of a person getting out of bed via the bottom of the bed. How would I do this? My bed has no hole in it. If it did, would I go through this hole to get out of the bed via the bottom? Or at least no hole yet. What kind of day would I have if I got out of bed this way? Would the bottom be one of the “wrong” sides or one of the “right” sides? What sort of blog entry would result? Would it be the most contradictory blog entry yet? Would it even make sense?
No, honestly…Some days, I say I am going to eat and some days I say I want to be get skinnier and have no food in the house, and so on. So I might say in the entire blog entry…you know how I am…that life sucks and I hate humans and that nobody loves me and this apartment is freezing as always…I have a thermometer that proves it right here at my desk…see? It’s only 76! You know my deal. And then I wrap up the entry and say that there’s hope. Maybe I leave it at that so you won’t go away feeling bummed out like I am. Maybe I leave it like that because I, too, wish deep inside that there was hope for myself. Or maybe I leave it at that because it’s just plain a nice way to sum up. It’s a nice twist, a surprise, just something that, as a writer, I find that it is maybe a trademark or mine, one of my writerly tendencies. As a matter of fact, deep down inside, I have an optimist’s heart. At least I do as a writer, and probably as a human being as well. I think we all do. I think that spark in all of us can get buried in some bad shit, but it’s there. It’s there in everyone.
That spark is even there in people I’m pissed at. It would be helpful for me to remember this. Maybe I need to see that spark of goodness in these people, every single one of them, instead of repetitively going over and over every single shitass thing that has been done to me in the past, that is, over the years and years of being shit on. Yes, it is true that I have been shit on more than most people have been shit on. Why? Because I am a shit magnet. It’s not anyone’s fault that I am a shit magnet. It’s not my fault. I just came out this way. I was born with it. It’s not my parents’ fault even though they reinforced this thing in me by the way they acted. They were just being parents. Repeatedly blaming them, over and over is doing me absolutely no good.
My mother, it is true, has a lot of problems. Maybe I should just use a general, vague term like “problems” and leave it at that instead of using the term “abuse.” She does have the spark.
At the same time, just because she has the spark does not mean that I have to go over there and spend time with her. Just because she has the spark does not mean I should forcefully purge all the anger out of myself. I am incapable of self-induced purging, remember? I’m not going to punch pillows or do scream therapy or hold onto a frozen orange or do psychodrama or any of that therapy bullshit. I am not going to waste my precious library time (when I could be working on book #6) sitting around in freaking day treatment with a bunch of other mental patients five days a week in “group” talking about my mother non-stop or talking about how I’m going to use “coping skills” when I feel old angry feelings or memories pop into my head.
Actually, I have, over many, many years, learned about these “coping skills.” This list of coping skills has been sitting around since 1997. I have been wasting my time continuing to be talked to, talked down to, repeated to over and over, about coping skills. I am blue in the face about coping skills. Enough already. I heard you the first time. I learned years ago. Don’t insult me. My memory isn’t that bad. I am intelligent. My hearing is pretty good. Sometimes, I play stupid. You tell me, “How about a shower?” and I say, “Gee, I hadn’t thought of that, actually!” Dang. This is because I figure I don’t need your fucking run-of-the-mill insulting put-down advice, anyway, and the shower is a nice place to be absolutely alone, if I can stand the bullshit feelings I have about my body size and shape while washing myself, but let me not get into that right now. You obviously don’t get that issue.
You see, when I got my strength back…maybe it’s been a month now…that I’ve had my Power and have recognized my Power…and no, I am not experiencing a “delusion of grandeur” (those of you with heads on your shoulders and a bit of common sense in you know this by now)…this Power has to do with WRITING and with WORDS…and with VOICE as well…I have my voice and a place in the world and I will use my voice…I will roar and the world will hear me…I speak aloud and it is important…ALL PEOPLE WITH EATING DISORDERS HAVE A STORY…YOU NEED TO FIND YOUR STORY…trust me…trust me…
At any rate, I realized, when my Power came to me, that anger is a feeling, and nothing more. I realized this through writing about anger. I felt angry at the hospital. I told the hospital people this. I filled out their survey last night, very late, and will mail it in today. I was very specific. I wrote down my phone number and said that the survey people could call anytime. There was a place where you could write this. I used the word “disrespect” more than once. I feel a lot of disrespect more than anything from the human race. From other people. Period. Strangers even. Because of what I look like. Because of stereotyping. Etc. I’ll get into this in a minute. Just hold on. I need to get back to the subject of anger because I have a few things to say about it.
Anger can’t hurt me physically. Like, it isn’t going to break a bone. The last thing I need is another fracture that will put me out of commission for a couple of months! It doesn’t sting like an insect bite and you don’t need any kind of painkiller or allergy pill for it. It’s not loud. You can’t hear it at all! It’s not like that dumb TV that was constantly blaring in September when I was hospitalized. Nothing like that. You can’t sense it with any of the five senses and it’s not tangible or edible and has no size or shape. It doesn’t commit a crime or a sin and it isn’t human or a god or an extraterrestrial thing such as a Martian or from any other planet or a Vulcan like Spock or anything else I saw on Star Trek.
So what is anger? Anger is a feeling, of course. Can we agree on this? Are there “bad” feelings and “good” feelings? Or can we say that there are “comfortable” feelings and “uncomfortable” feelings?
In the hospital, when I was just there, they told us that feelings were not bad or good. They told us that some feelings were comfortable and some feelings were uncomfortable. Actually, I decided that the first statement was definitely true. The issue of feelings, of human emotion, was not a moral issue. This is self-evident. There is nothing morally wrong with having a certain feeling, whatever it is. You can’t help having this feeling. It comes into your gut. If you end up breaking the law or doing something that is not right in the moral sense, such as stealing money from a homeless person while they are sleeping in a park, or…well, never mind…I am just sitting here trying to get creative thinking up a really, really bad thing you can do…and who am I to judge another person? (Make your own decision what is right based on sound, careful thinking. Take your time. You’ll be glad you did. This is what I learned.)…if you break the law, or do something morally wrong, then this is an ACTION. Your actions can be moral issues but your feelings are inside of you and are not a moral issue. They are not wrong or right. They are not good or bad. You experience them. They are there. That’s all.
As for feelings being “comfortable” and “uncomfortable,” this was verified by the group leader and people confirmed this by stating that when they felt an uncomfortable feeling they had “acted out” by either doing “destructive” behaviors such as “eating disorders” behaviors (restricting, bingeing, purging, overexercising, etc), or other behaviors such as cutting, punching walls, having a tantrum, and involuntary things such as panic attacks, sweating, or hyperventilating. The list goes on. Or they did non-destructive things, “coping skills they had either learned through therapy (laugh) or had picked up during their lifetimes, such as walking the dog, crafts, screaming into a pillow so that no one can hear, listening to one of those dumb (basically cuz I can’t stand them) relaxation tapes, counting backwards, calling a friend, taking a PRN, and so on and so forth.
I was disturbed by this. I thought about it and early on, I spoke up. Actually, I concluded that the statement that feelings are decidedly “comfortable” or “uncomfortable” to varying degrees (maybe there is a difference between, say, “peeved,” “annoyed,” “angry,” and “in a rage), is a bit psycho-bullshit. Let me explain. If you reject this statement, and make up your mind that by all means feelings do not have to have anything to do with comfort, then a whole new world opens up.
Don’t ask me what happened to me exactly. I do know that I rejected a lot of stuff. I rejected a lot of traditional psych stuff suddenly. I opened my eyes and saw it for exactly what it was. I realized what it meant to have this illness 32 years and to be in therapy for 31 of those years and get nothing out of therapy. That is, writing about myself would have done the exact same thing or more. Like journaling or writing my books, any and all of them (the fiction ones, trust me, they’re all about me…it’s a given), and here in my blog, too, it’s self-discovery, like a non-stop memoir or personal essay or journal entry, depending on the day…
NOW LET ME SAY RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW THAT IF YOU ARE A WRITER, YOU WILL DISCOVER THAT THE STATEMENT THAT I JUST MADE IS INDEED TRUE…YOU WILL EVENTUALLY DISCOVER IT, I HOPE. HOW DO I DEFINE WRITER? IF YOU WRITE, YOU ARE A WRITER. PERIOD.
GO. WRITE. BE A WRITER. WRITE A LOT. DO THERAPY ON YOURSELF AND SAVE SOME MONEY INSTEAD OF SITTING ON A COUCH.
Anyway, I worked this out early on, that feelings are feelings and if you reject that they don’t have to have a comfort level, they become this thing you can channel and actually put to good use for your own benefit. Every feeling you have you can use to shovel out a path for yourself, a path into the future. And this is exactly what I did.
Actually, I did this not only because I wanted to do this, but it was essential that I do this to survive at all. I had to eat to stay alive and not to die. I needed to have this path, because I needed to have a direction in which to walk. What would I do without a path? I would not be able to walk anywhere. I would become frozen in time. I needed a future, something to want for myself, some reason to live, some reason to keep on eating, even after I left the hospital…especially after I left. I kept on saying this, even out loud I said this.
I needed my anger. I needed my anger. My anger is energy. My anger is movement, continuous, flowing. It needs direction. It needs to be roped in. Channeled…funneled…When you do this, it’s more concentrated and more powerful and forceful…laws of physics I guess. But it which direction? There were so, so many dimensions of my life, so many questions, so few answers. So many times in the past year I had thought I was at some kind of turning point. Had I been? Was this really an important question to be asking, right here and right now? Was “turning point” only a label, some artificial map point or writerly nonsense thing they stick into novels just to make a decent-looking plot?
Channel my anger…I looked around me and saw the kids…or at least mostly kids but quite a number of adults as well…many ages…folks, all of us…we’d all fallen between the cracks. I certainly had. I’ve done so much writing about this, especially recently. I saw it for the first time in the kids, in the world in which they lived, how by all means their schools had completely failed them. This was inexcusable. An atrocity. The schools need to be number one. Even more than parents. Parents are flawed and this cannot be helped. There are between one and four parents if you include step-parents. There is a whole school, well, a lot, lot, lot of adult school people compared to the number of parents, and these are professionals with professional training who should know better than to let these kids down. The medical profession, too…had failed some…not all…of these kids. The adult world in general…by definition…me too…kids are kids…seventeen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen…let’s face it, these ages suck for just about every kid. How many of them are happy? How many of them truly feel understood by the world? There are a handful, a small handful, that enjoy these years. Like a couple. These are put in front of the photograph, on display. The rest walk down the street, kick stones, and wonder what life’s about, and if it’s worth going on at all. Maybe sixteen will be better. Maybe seventeen. They’re not even in the picture. They didn’t show up for the shoot.
I just have to do something. For all of us. For everyone, young or any age, with an eating disorder. We fall between the cracks in any dimension. I started right away, right then and there. I strengthened myself. I had my voice, my Power now. I spoke up. I made mistakes, lots of them, but I thought out my decisions and tried to do what was right, to channel my anger and act and make good decisions, right what was wrong in constructive and creative ways. Sometimes it meant just smiling at someone and telling them to have a nice day, or good morning or something like that. Many times it meant doing what was right by being a good example. Many times it meant breaking unit rules to do what was morally right. Contradiction? I don’t think so. I’ll get back to this. Often, it meant doing lots, lots, lots of writing. It meant doing lots of speaking aloud, speaking audibly and clearly, getting certain messages out loudly and clearly (I don’t mean shouting, just making sure I spoke so that I was enunciating and not mumbling). Sometimes, I had to do this by using subtleties and hints. Why? Because I was in my own way, encouraging people to question the unit’s message, which was to blindly do as you were told and be submissive to what the unit staff were telling you.
I feel strongly that people, that is, patients, should speak up and question everything about their treatment. There is nothing wrong to doubt something. If you are being given a medicine, ask what the name of it is, and the spelling of the medicine and the name of the brand name and generic(s) associated with it. Get a printout. I don’t mean the dumb nursing printout that only tells you three or four side effects. I meant the entire drug insert that comes with the bottle. Demand that you get this. You have the right to this. The staff DO have Internet access. Don’t let them bullshit you. They do. The Internet does have ALL these bottle enclosures that pharmacists can give you. If they say they do not have time, tell them to make time ASAP. Trust me, 99% of doctors and nurses don’t have a clue about drug side effects. Sad to say, you are the one who is going to have to look these up on the Internet. Most of them do know about interactions, at least the more serious no-no’s in terms of interactions. Pharmacists definitely know these interactions and many pharmacies these days won’t even dispense drugs that produce serious interactions without doctor’s approval for whatever reason. Another idea is to call a pharmacist from the hospital phone (I just thought this up). These people not only have instant computer access but they are drug gurus. Not only that…if you are going to take this a step further and look into studies that have been done on particular meds, ignore the studies done by the manufacturer, or take these studies with a grain of salt. They are probably fudged. It’ll be tough, but try to find independent studies. Take message boards with a grain of salt as well. You have to “interpret” message boards. Again, tough. How credible is this person? What kind of message board is this? How often do you see this side effect mentioned? When I saw the side effect of ataxia, that is, effectively “swaying” from Trileptal mentioned over and over and over at every single message board I saw, I realized that the manufacturer downplayed this side effect and also the representatives effectively downplayed in their sales pitch to doctors about the frequency that this side effect had occurred in patients. Google weight gain and Zyprexa on You-Tube and you can find a former drug sales guy talking about how he was told by the company to lie to doctors about weight gain from Zyprexa. Let me not go on. Get the drug insert and don’t take no for an answer. And okay one more thing. Talk to other patients, too. Other patients are a great resource and they’re right there. I’m not saying to freak out over side effects, no, not that at all. But you do need to beware of them. And you need to let people know that by all means, you are a worthwhile person and have a place in this world, not a lowly person on the bottom of the huge totem pole called Mental Hospital.
Other things: Ask questions every step of the way. Question everything. This is illogical so why are you doing it? If a rule makes no sense, get together a bunch of patients and ask that it be changed. Insist that if a decision is made about you, that it is put in writing, and that this piece of writing is put in your chart, especially, of course, if it is one that you have been waiting for and hoping for. Stick to your guns. Also, if you hear some theory or something that you don’t agree with in group or that doesn’t make sense, or if you have another idea, speak up. Don’t take their bullshit as god-honest truth. There are other ways of doing things besides “conventional.” There are people out there who recover from eating disorders in very unconventional ways. I am looking into alternatives because this “team” approach isn’t working for me. Conventional-type hospitalization didn’t work for me. What worked for me was to throw out most of what they attempted to throw into me and cast before me a path of my own. I did this through my writing. I think the smarter staff realized that this was happening. The less smart ones may have sensed it only subconsciously and maybe that was the reason for their extreme hostility toward me. In the end, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left.
I have knocked on doors. Doors have opened and doors have remained closed. I have taken all sorts of turns in this crazy maze. I have gotten lost and and then found again, but actually, you are right where you are sitting, right here, right now, so no one is ever lost in time or space. Even if I get out of the wrong side of bed, I am still out of bed anyway, and can find my way to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee, and Puzzle will want her walk no matter what the weather is like. So everything is just fine with the world.
So I left inpatient, and walked out into this fine world. The weather was awesome. I didn’t feel so great. I had the headache from Hell. I had felt wicked shitty for the past few days. No, not freaking tension like the staff was telling me, nor was it the fucking “fluorescent lights,” this too, is complete BS for god’s sakes, I have fluorescent lights at home that have never done this to me, and I do have this “dry air” they are trying to tell me is causing it from my useless heating panels…So I got the precise answer shortly after boarding the bus, on this gorgeous day, this perfect day for a hospital discharge, this inviting day…and as a matter of fact, I had just finished telling the cab driver that if he ever needed to send a kid to eating disorders treatment, he should send the kid to the place I was…
So I get onto the bus. It’s so damn crowded I can’t move, but I’m lucky and get a seat. Like a minute later…I swear the bus stopped (verb tense disagreement here) at every single stop!…anyway, I got this gigantic foot cramp. I am absolutely not kidding you. Wicked painful. I thought I would never, ever, ever walk again. Naw, exaggeration. I’ve had them before. What I didn’t know was if I could unkink it before my stop came. It was so painful and there was no room to stretch out my leg to try to flex it or do anything fancy to get it worked out. Dang! Have I mentioned this before? Of course I have. I mentioned the nosebleed as well, didn’t I? The one that went on and on and bled and bled…that I got just after the foot cramp?
It all came crashing in. The realization. I was just in the hospital. I had asked for water over and over, said I was thirsty, and they were too busy to get it for me, this went on for two days…my blood hadn’t been tested…even if it had, of course would anyone have taken note of it? Probably not. The NP never read my chart, rarely even opened it. I don’t know…bummed out…disillusionment…uncertainty…doubt as to how to think about my whole experience at the hospital and what my opinion was and how I should judge my experience and what I should do and think and act and react. It was a negative…only part was positive and that was that I knew that self-care was very important. Hydration was essential. Another thing was the realization that there was one heck of a lot more baloney going on over there than I had originally realized. I had to re-do my thinking and re-think everything and make some decisions. I had all the time in the world to do these things. I have a lot of things to do, a lot of writing and a lot of speaking up and thinking for myself from now on. No one, no one is going to kick me around ever again. Julie Greene is coming back.
Hydration…getting back on Impramine…had to do it for eating disorder reasons…doing what I need to to care for my body. It’s been really rough, and it’s hard cuz by default it’s tough for anyone to self-care when you’re two or three weeks out of inpatient and alone, alone, alone to the extreme to the point where I have gone for days and days with no human contact or even a word with another human, not a polite hello or in passing on the street or a glance at a cash register or even the phone ringing with a recorded human voice on the other end asking if I needed my gutter cleaned. Nothing. But I have my Sundays when I go to church and this is good. And my writing. Not seeing people is temporary. It is not exactly the most healthy option. It is healthier than being around negative people who are going attempt to run my life. It is also a lot healthier than wasting my time becoming institutionalized all over again in freaking day treatment. Ugh. Or backsliding as a result of wasting my time at a so-called clubhouse, or any other mental health institution. Reminds me of the passive, overly drugged person without a voice that I was when I was younger. I am no longer that silenced person. I do have my voice now, and you will hear me from now on.
I have looked into a host of alternatives, some of which I have mentioned and some I have not. I have looked into some that are free or inexpensive. I have looked into some others that turned out to be ridiculously expensive, like you wouldn’t believe, and I had to put my foot down. I felt certainty and then second thoughts and signed nothing so far.
Except I did write the letter to my therapist. I fired her. Thursday is our last session. This was a decision I made last weekend.
“Fired” is a word with bad connotations. I made the decision on my own and we, together, agreed on it. Where from here? I’m just not certain. I have signed nothing.
Writing is something that helps. I know this. Writing has helped me since the day I learned to write. I wrote my first book at age seven. Now, I have always said that my first book was the one I started when I turned 40, haven’t I? Nope. Here is another one of my contradictions, you say. Well, I just remembered this recently. I’ll tell you someday. Or maybe I already have. Maybe I’ll just bore you and be repetitive. Another character flaw I freely and unashamedly admit to. I think sometimes it’s okay to say something more than once if you say it a little differently to make a different point or use the information for a different purpose. I guess I’m talking like a writer now. What gets boring is if a person goes on and on, like when I keep on harping on Zyprexa and weight gain…I mean geez, enough already! Besides, I went way, way off-topic when I went on that rant, didn’t I?
Was the book I wrote at seven indeed a book? According to Nano, National Novel Writing Month, it wasn’t a book, because it was far from 50,000 words. Maybe it was 50 words…???? But wow it was therapeutic. I stapled it together. Kind of. It was bound. Kind of. Never mind. Writing is writing is writing. It was memoir. A story about a car accident I was in. I must have known about how to write a “hook.” Those of you trained in writing know about a “hook,” the first sentence you are supposed to start off with (but who writes these so-called rules?) that brings in the reader with a bang. My first sentence was, “Our car flipped over.” My second sentence was, “And we got out.” The rest of the book is about everything that happened AFTER the accident. This is not exactly juvenile literature, mind you. Let me say that “we” didn’t include me. I was stuck in the “way back” of the station wagon and trapped back there.
One thing I do remember is this: There was really no way out of the way-back for me. It was a three-dimensional space. We exist in three dimensions, so there was the floor above me, the ceiling of the station wagon, on which I was seated, below me, the two windows on either side, a bunch of suitcases sealing me off from the front of the car and no way for me to get past them, and the rear swinging exit thingy. I guess you’d call it a door, which swung to the side. Everything was wrong and backwards and topsy-turvy for sure. They’d gotten everyone out but me. The front windshield had smashed but no one got hurt from that. My grandmother, knowing her, was probably going, “Oy, oy,” over and over. Sometimes she was resourceful and incredible in a crisis and sometimes she’d just lose her head.
So what does my mom do? She found this tiny space, this space that was about three inches wide, sticks her hand into it, and tries to pull me through it. Is this body dysmorphia projected onto me, or what? No seven-year-old is three inches wide. Was I supposed to not eat honey for a month, like Pooh Bear when he was stuck in Rabbit’s hole, so that I could fit through this three-inch space that my mother expected me to fit through?
Like I said, you should really question everything you see around you, especially the way you are treated and expectations that others place on you. If you see something that doesn’t make the least bit of sense, in other words, that is illogical, speak up. You have a voice.
Logic, in fact, prevailed. Common sense. You know what common sense was? It came from a complete stranger. I watched him walk toward the upside-down station wagon, toward the way-back. It was a simple act of kindness toward another human being, an act of courtesy, something that is done time after time all around the world. He opened the door for me.
So a door was opened for me, and doors continue to open for me. Many don’t open. Sometimes I get frustrated knocking and knocking with no results. Well you know something? What did I do when I was a kid? Well geez! Nobody’s home! Don’t keep on knocking! Just leave an envelope and go on. If you don’t get your collection money at that door, maybe the next customer will pay the bill. Eventually, the collecting is over and you’re tired. You put all the bills and coins together and call it a day.
Actually, I never was a paper girl. Well, I was. For two weeks I subbed for someone. It was my brother that had a paper route. Times have changed…sometimes as an inpatient I used to tell the younger patients about the sixties when things were different, when cigarettes came out of machines, when music had scratches, and about my first record album that I ever owned, and how my parents didn’t allow rock music in the house, and we had only a black and white TV and a couple of TV channels. We had a “party line” for our phone service for a while, too. I guess most people did. Most of the patients there were born in the 1990’s and could barely remember a time when we didn’t have the Internet. I enjoyed being entertaining and telling stories about to some of them was long, long ago. Some were rather amazed that my grandmother, the one that said “Oy, oy!” at the car accident, was born in 1900, and the other one was born in the 1800’s. To tell you the truth, both of them said “Oy” a lot. But I could tell them apart.
So I’m well into 54 now (and thankfully not a mom or a grandmother, I kind of like the simplicity of it all) and well out of 53 thankfully, therapistless as of 2pm tomorrow, with a lot up in the air…well, no, most things are not in fact in the air but attached to the ground, when you think of it…there are clouds and planets and the sun and stars and such in the air, and of course air itself…so…maybe everything is therefore grounded and I needn’t worry.
It feels decent being on the ground. I’ve got a nice place to sit, and I think I’ll stick around for a while.