I tried so hard…I don’t even know what to say, what to do at this point. I did phone my T back. I don’t know why, I just wanted to tell her that I felt…what I said above, that I was recovering FROM treatment. What I said in my previous article that I posted here.
I was thinking something that I subtly pointed out in a group: “meal plan” is one thing. “Healthy eating” is another. The group leader was making a list and I wanted to put “healthy eating” on the list. She said, “We already have that on the list.” She pointed to “meal plan.”
I wanted to say, “Bullshit,” but of course, this was in public, so I said, “My words were, ‘Healthy eating. That is different. Could you add that to the list?” Thankfully, she did.
What is the difference? “Meal plan” isn’t necessarily healthy. If you are weighing and measuring your food obsessively, this is far from healthy eating no matter what you are putting into your body! If you eat food you don’t like, forcing yourself to do it because your meal plan says you should, this is not healthy eating. If you are following your meal plan because someone else is forcing you to and you do not have a say in it, this is not healthy eating. If you do not season your food properly in a manner that makes it at least palatable, this is not healthy eating.
Healthy eating means respecting culture. Healthy eating means using good table manners. Healthy eating means complimenting the cook. Healthy eating means being thankful. Healthy eating means sharing with others and leaving a seat for the wanderer.
Healthy eating means trying something, and if you don’t like it, politely leaving it without complaint or fuss or excuse. It means not eating something that sickens you even if it is on your meal plan. It means eating with attractive utensils and dishes, and sitting in a chair at a clean, uncluttered table that is at appropriate height for eating. It means eating not too fast and not too slow.
Healthy eating means, first and foremost, common sense. If you are going to use food in a healthy manner, you will use logic when making food choices even if it means you have to choose foods that do not follow your meal plan. This means that if you are having a veggieburger and want to pick it up with your hands, you will need two pieces of bread, not one, that is, one slice under the burger, and one slice over the burger. A veggieburger will also look much more attractive between two slices of bread, perhaps cut in half with slices of tomato if they don’t dribble all over the place. Please do not have a nightmare over this extra slice of bread. If you are having a nightmare over the extra slice of bread, I suggest you use a fucking “coping skill” such as yoga or read one of those handouts they gave us on how to do deep breathing properly.
Did they teach me healthy eating at Walden? Did they teach me this list of healthy eating that I have listed here? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. They gave me confusing information about nutrition. In one group, we played Nutrition Bingo. I am not kidding you. I heard it was helpful for some people to play Nutrition Bingo. If I were perhaps 84 years old and not 54, I would have gotten very competitive about this Bingo and suggested that we all go out to Foxwoods or some other casino and hold our game there instead of on the locked ward. As a person who lives in elderly housing where they have Bingo games three times a week right downstairs, where I hear them shouting out numbers and these addicted, pathetic elderly people who have nothing better to do with their time scrambling to find Bingo chips, I decided that Nutrition Bingo was not my thing.
Later on, I spoke up. I was always speaking up. When I saw something that in my mind wasn’t right, I said so publicly. Sometimes, I felt that speaking up, no matter how politely I did so, could not be done in proper balance, that is, a balance between accuracy on one hand and avoidance of negatively affecting someone’s desire for self-improvement in some serious fashion. This negative effect had to be serious to cause me to shut up. The things I say disturb people. I shake things up. I make people think. It is my intent to do so, to challenge. You know something? I help people when I do that.
So Nutrition Bingo, I said, offended me. I said this game is for children. The argument I got was that some people on the ward were indeed children. I argued back that Bingo was for very young children not the ages that were on the ward. I argued that furthermore the information given out in the group as well as many other nutrition groups can be found on the Internet at reliable nutrition sites such as government sites on nutrition or medical encyclopedias, and that using a public library card we can now access a lot of medical documents online. You don’t even need a college library card anymore. I pointed out that one nutrition group had been very helpful, and this one was good because the nutritionist wasn’t giving out information that was so easily accessible, that I’d heard a zillion times over and over anyway. She wasn’t talking like a textbook. I said that I had personally spoken with this nutritionist and thanked her for giving me useful information. I really wanted, in that instant, to make this woman’s day. I really wanted to tell her, from the bottom of my heart, that she was not like the rest.
I did ask my usual nutritionist the question about how not to binge. My T told me that the nutritionist would be the person to ask.
This is kind of pathetic when you think about it. I mean, I was going to eating disorders treatment. I should have been able to shout this question, scream it so loudly that it broke down every wall of the place.
I have thirty-two years of Binge Hell behind me, enough shout that will break down more walls than they have. I have seen so much of my own repeatedly asking and asking and asking for help with bingeing over the years, and now, I see their negligence.
In 1981, my T was clueless but I don’t fault her any more than I fault society and “the system” and myself and mostly, that’s just what happened and that’s the way it was. I am talking about my very first T. She was excellent and ran a support group for people who were overweight. She said she couldn’t put me in the group because I wasn’t overweight. But she did good therapy and by this I mean I learned a lot, lot, lot, exponentially a lot from her in just a few months.
There is a big soft spot in my heart that just opened up for her. She was such a good therapist and human being. She cared. She listened. You couldn’t ask for a better first therapist considering there were none available for ED and no one knew about ED anyway. She knew nothing about ED so it was like talking to a blank slate. May everyone be so blessed.
The agency that my first T worked out of had a good reason why it had no ability to treat my ED with the personnel it had. The whole town where I lived in Vermont did not have the capacity to treat ED, none of the mental health practitioners had knowledge or experience. There were five psychiatrists in the county. One was a drunkard. One refused to take on serious cases of psychiatric illness. One died. One threw his training out the window and adopted a philosophy of “micro-doses” of medication. Funny, the number “five” sticks in my head, but I think these four were it. I think the one who died, the one I call “Scully” in my memoir, was the best of them. The rest of them had no inner sense of medical responsibility. You could tell by the way they prescribed. The lack of psychiatrists in the area, and with the best of them dropping dead, down one head count, being short-staffed trickled down into the whole mental health system covering, I’d say, a huge bite, the southwestern corner of the state of Vermont.
I got fed up, having tried and tried, but was tired of commuting to far off places for what I considered was still barely acceptable treatment. So I moved to Boston. It is all in my book. This was 1986, the year I ended up in Metropolitan State Hospital for three days. Now that place was a trip and a half.
Now, while I sit here, am I blaming the state of Vermont for ignorance, lack of knowledge, treating me for the wrong illness, etc etc etc? There were a lot of assholes involved, true. There are assholes wherever you are. Some people are worse assholes than others. Some assholes should be “snaked out” and hung. I do this with my words. I don’t do this to hurt them but when I think, in the back of my mind, that people read what I write on here, and about the possibility, for instance, that an asshole will Google me someday on a whim and read about himself and the shit he did to me and that I haven’t forgotten….You know, forgiving someone is just plain unnatural.
The micro-dose doctor was the first whom I convinced to give me Imipramine. Of course, he was unfamiliar with the research. I told him about the book. It must have taken me about a month to get up the guts to ask for this drug. It is the first drug I have ever, ever, ever asked for. Actually, I don’t ask as a general rule. I am not “medication-seeking.” But let me back up. I rarely, rarely, rarely spoke with the micro-dose doc. He was in private practice with the psychologist who collected huge sums of money directly from my parents for my treatment, talk therapy twice a week. The psychologist told me I would not get to see the psychiatrist as a general rule. Everything would be done through the psychologist, who said he “knew all about the medications.” First of all, he did not have the training to prescribe, so really, how much could he possibly know about the medications? He did not have medical training and if he did, there was no framed degree indicating this in his office.
Therapy with the psychologist consisted of him being 20 minutes late. This was the first 20 minutes and my parents paid for these 20 minutes. We would talk for the next 20 minutes. I recall feeling that his faked compassion was way overdone. I felt that I could have done without the “I understand” because he clearly did not. Now 40 minutes were over. This psychologist would then shoo me out of the office, saying that he was going to call my parents and discuss with them my case. This took up the last ten minutes of the session, which my parents paid for. Often this phone call to my parents, which concluded the session, used up 20 minutes. The psychologist told my parents everything I had said to him. The psychologist told my parents what medications they were thinking of trying, what treatments and new approaches they were considering, what my prognosis was, what my diagnosis was, and so on. I was 25 years old at the time. I was legally an adult and my parents did not hold legal guardianship and we didn’t even live in the same state. I was aware that he was calling my parents, but not aware of the content of these conversations. I thought he was telling them, “She’s doing well. I am seeing her next Tuesday and Thursday.” It was only years later that I learned from my parents that the psychologist and the micro-dose doctor were considering Lithium. But maybe he just told them that so they’d think something was being done for me. The psychologist never told me anything or answered my questions or outlined what they were thinking of doing. He told my parents everything. Maybe he needed his glasses changed and read my age wrong. Like, maybe he saw “25” and thought it said, “2.5.”
As for the micro-dose doctor, he, too, had the “I understand” lines memorized. He was good at compassionate facial expressions and his beard went along with this nicely. I don’t know what was up with the micro-doses. He gave me something like 25 mg of Imipramine but I’m not sure of the exact figure. Whatever he gave me, trust me, was micro, and I’m sure there was no scientific evidence that the dose I was on was a clinically effective or useful dose for binge eating or for anything at all. Of course, this micro-dose was useless to me. He threw his hands up into the air and said the medication didn’t work and that I was responding to very few of the medications he gave me for anything. I had no access to documentation such as pharmacy inserts…no, let me correct myself…I could have asked at the pharmacy but I didn’t have the guts. Finding out that this guy was…what’s the accurate word? Medically irresponsible? Finding out that this guy was placing patients in harm’s way through prescribing incorrect dosing, and doing this for the sake of adopting a certain “style” of medical practice for the sake of style alone over the well-being of the patient…maybe I was scared to see the insert for real in print and official and know what I full well already knew.
Years later, after I moved, a patient of his died that I happened to know. I haven’t a clue what she died of, and I’ll never know. She may have gotten a bad case of flu one day. All I got was a postcard saying where she was buried. Actually, there were a number of patients of the micro-dose doctor that had died over the years. Mental health patients were dropping dead and dropping dead and dropping dead. There were four psychiatrists and I can’t say I blame one of the four for refusing to take on “serious” cases.
It was just the way things were. Inadequate care in a rural area. Me, eating disorder, forget it, that went ignored…they were treating my mood and thought problems. Treating these secondary diagnoses and doing a bad, bad, bad job of it, just making me worse, taking money from my parents and giving them information about me that I myself didn’t have access to. I wonder if I even signed release forms giving them permission to speak with my parents at all.
And you know something? It’s a given. That was how people were treated back then. There were lots of micro-doctors and there still are. Every morning, there are therapists who sit in front of the mirror practicing their fake compassion while straightening their tie, and as soon as their Windsor knot is complete right under their Adam’s apple, they double-check that the dollar signs in their eyes are somehow photoshopped well enough to appear to be tears of empathy. It’s amazing what you can do with technology.
What happened back then is done and it is history. It should be written down and remembered and never forgotten. I hope micro-doc and the accompanying psychologist read this and remember that Julie Greene is alive and kicking and telling her story…I hope they know that I am strong and will not be pushed over like that again…
I became ill in 1980, and moved from Vermont in 1986. That’s six years of patients dropping dead. Their story is not lost, please, please, let it not be lost. I hope that people remember them in their hearts. I hope that journals are found and kept and cherished and yes, published. I hope that artwork is saved on walls and preserved forever. I know someone in Vermont is sitting at a desk right now, at a keyboard, writing a book about their life.
Only a few miles away, in a bathroom stall, a woman etches her initials, and next to these initials, the initials of the only other person in the world that cares about her, right here, right now: her hospital roommate.
May the initials stand.
The question I keep harping on is which situation is more pathetic: not getting treatment in rural Vermont while I lived there between 1980 and 1986, or not getting treatment for sixteen days at Walden Behavioral Care, state-of-the-art eating disorders specialized inpatient treatment, earlier this month, that is, decades later than when I lived in Vermont? I just…damn…
Maybe I should just whittle it down. Figure out what was most important. Figure out what I got out of being there and what I went there for in the first place, what happened, and where to go from here.
I really didn’t go there for treatment, anyway. I was blank and dead inside and treatment was not relevant. Getting food into me and getting blood sugar up and getting myself less dehydrated was priority. Sleep, meds, warmth, cleanliness, non-violent, compassion, spiritual wholeness, toilet. I think that would cover it.
I walked in there and fell into this thing. For a bit, I just let them care for me, just gave into it all until I had the strength to do for myself. I felt obligated, the obligation to myself to make my own decisions as soon as I was strong enough to do so. It was not a sudden switcheroo. It was a gradual strengthening.
I am not talking about surrender…but I am. I had no choice, really. I guess I just passed out, not literally but in the metaphorical sense, and someone picked me up off the floor and brought me to the table and it was really easy to allow this to happen because I was in such a starvation stupor.
Then, my will and strength returning…this was a good thing, too. I am stronger than ever. This was really, really weird. Now that I think about it and think and think, this strength is carrying me now…If I did not have this strength, this new, strange strength….
What the heck is this? What is this strength? It is like an inner something. I have felt it within me. It is like a lamp that is lit, a flame, a very strong flame, not a wavering candle that flickers every time the wind blows and has songs written about it even. This strength is one of those Coleman lamps, so bright that people shield their eyes. Those Coleman lamps are loud. Their flame is clear. Their flame is consistent. The lamps have been around for a long time, and you can rely on them. You don’t snuff out a Coleman lamp. It is well-protected with glass. The glass is a well-defined boundary and there are no questions asked as to where You and I begin and end. A Coleman lamp lights the way for others. A Coleman lamp does not shut up. A Coleman lamp is not afraid to speak. A Coleman lamp reveals, and tells it as it sees it.
That was always the thing I did in the hospital. I said things the way they were. I did not disguise what I said just so that it would be presentable or “appropriate” or pretty. If you keep on doing things like this, that is, censoring, you will never grow up. If you are always proofreading yourself and editing what you present to the world, you will stand there dressed in clothes that have nothing inside them.
I wasn’t really sure what to say after I wrote that last sentence. Maybe you are one of these invisible people. Maybe when you are invisible, it is a heck of a lot easier to take a good look at yourself with honesty and sincerity and ask yourself some very basic questions, because now, you can see all the way to your heart. We can cut the rest of the crap out and see the damn thing in there beating, beating, beating.
I can say that one thing I learned on Alcott was that I am, indeed, knowledgeable about a few things. You don’t need to be super educated to be knowledgeable. Being a mental patient does not cancel out “knowledgeable.” It does not cancel out my degrees and it doesn’t cancel out life experience and it doesn’t cancel out my age or the fact that I am legally an adult. It does not excuse disregard for federal or state law or the policies of a facility where I am situated, such as a train station, office building, church, restaurant, or hospital. Yes, I am knowledgeable and I am responsible and I am an adult and I am an extraordinary writer. I am a respectful human being. I take pride in myself. I speak well and express myself well. I get my point across. I am amazing at getting what I want through my words. I am amazing at using my writing to solve problems. I can use my writing to do things now in a matter of hours that would ordinarily take weeks in a hospital or months in therapy. Actually, what I do with writing and what goes on between my brain and my writing, this interaction…it is hard to explain.
New paragraph. What I do with my writing and what goes on between my brain and my writing, this interaction, is so powerful…
Let me insert this: It is not a “coping skill” it is POWER
Fuck coping skill I am not sitting here right now writing this for the purpose of coping with bad feelings.
My feelings are not bad.
Yes, I have rights…while I was in the hospital I had rights granted to me that were granted to all patients. These rights were repeatedly being broken, broken, broken….It was not just me it was all the patients…this has to do with nobody being aware of the Patient Bill of Rights and not reading the document or not caring. I care, I care, I care…this repeated over and over and was a constant battle I kept to myself…
Well, let’s just say I didn’t sit around whispering…I think whispering secretively between two people…talking about others…”She said this…” “Look at her…” “What’s her problem…” etc I tried to stop this whispering. It was something that shocked me at first because adults don’t do it. At my apartment building, they do it in normal speech tone. They sit in the hall, congregated there like they think this is some nursing home, I walk by, they stare at me, and as soon as I’m, say, twelve feet past, they start up their conversation. They did it at the old building as well. The people acknowledge that this is being done and complain about this overt gossip behavior, but it doesn’t stop. I do hear what they say. It’s nice to hear that I am skinny. They have said that my thinness makes me unattractive and I admit I love to hear this. The difference at Alcott was that it was done in a whisper. In March 2010 the entire unit was a living, breathing teenager whispering nightmare for me.
I guess that is the one single bad memory or searing photographic image that is sitting in the back of my eyeballs and won’t quit in my ears, the whisperers, the sound, the occasional understood word just enough to taunt me and stir me up enough to rise and place myself in the Center of the Universe where I am talked about and talked about and talked about. It is here in the Center of the Universe where everyone notices everything about me. I am a scared animal all over again, just an animal and I am back in survival mode. You can’t trust anyone. It is here, in the Center of the Universe, where everyone sees me, notices every body part every time it blows up. It was here in the Center of the Universe where my sixth grade teacher calked me fat. The whole world was watching that afternoon.
Maybe that’s why they haven’t brought out the microphone yet. Someone is waiting for me to prepare my speech.
This is not about coping skill. Living like a scared animal is only a means. You can’t stay in that heightened state, that sheer survival mode, for very long. They gave us a handout that stated that the heart can sustain a very fast heartbeat for lengthy periods and that this was built into the heart to help a human run from predators. But I’m not talking about just my heart. I came into Walden barely clinging to life. There was no food in me. My stomach was empty. Intestines should have things in them and there wasn’t anything in mine and hadn’t been for days.
What happened there was
I showed up. I got fed. I found my Power.
I connected with other patients while I was in there. God bless you all.
I saw that I now must use my Power to make changes in the world. I make these changes out of love and duty to myself, to others with eating disorders, and the ground I live on.
My Power has nothing to do with eating, food, or weight. The hospital did not give me this Power. I already had it and had been using it all along. My Power transcends locked doors or any architectural barrier. I cannot give it to others as I might break a loaf of bread, but I can open my heart, and warm up an entire room.
I began to make world changes right away. Where something was morally crooked, I straightened. This happened all around me, not only in single instances. I focused on separating injustice from misfortune. I found that there was little difference between bad manners and other types of disrespectful behavior. I discovered that the value of demanding respect from the world is more than it seems because others are watching and learning from me that they, too, are people of value and should demand respect from the world.
I left when I had done enough of these things. I had practiced using my Power long enough. It was time to use it in the world.
I knew that ultimately, I was all alone. I have no family. There was a “family incident”…I think I mentioned it on here before I went in. Absolutely despicable. Not the incident, just the fact that they haven’t bothered to call…just haven’t bothered with me. I told them. Spelled it out. Spoke clearly over the phone and made sure they heard every word of it. Maybe I should just send a certified letter that says, “I have anorexia nervosa.” Have them open it and read it and sign a paper saying that they read this document. This would be a great time for them to suddenly develop severe learning disabilities or blindness. Maybe partial amnesia would be more convenient.
One of the things I had always told the other patients, what I had actually been saying all along was, “It doesn’t matter so much what you eat on your tray in the dining room. You can eat 100% and eat% and eat 100% but what ultimately matters is not what happens in the dining room, but what happens outside those doors after you walk out of here.”
My stay totaled sixteen days. I have been out for a week and I still agree with the above statement…100% agree.
No, Walden didn’t teach me a thing about how to eat. They didn’t teach me how not to binge (as I have just finished ranting and being angry about). So pretty much I didn’t get help with my eating disorder behaviors.
It was just so shocking to ask a simple question, “How do I stop this behavior?” and to get a completely blank look like I’d asked for them to recite for me the Five Fundamental Rights, the brief document that every staff should know, at least in summary, that states patient rights in inpatient and community facilities where they are quartered for care.
They didn’t know how to tell me how to stop bingeing other than the one method, medication, that works for me. I can buy a book on Amazon, one of those fad books, and get more information.
This was the bit I got from the nutritionist: “If you follow your meal plan, your meds will work better.” That’s weird cuz I didn’t read this on the pharmacy insert. It didn’t say anything about “meal plan.” She wasn’t qualified to say what will make my meds work better. Topamax, the one that helps bingeing, works irregardless of whether you take it with meals. I think the point is not to starve yourself.
I think the first dose of Imipramine, which I took last night, did something, because already I have the dry mouth side effect. Fast. Wow. I hope more than this. I just want this nightmare over.