Yes, I’m back from my second trip to _____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. I left before the recommended discharge date, on my insistence. Inpatient eating disorders treatment doesn’t jive with me. This is the fourth time I’ve done it, and each time, it hasn’t worked, and in a way, it is a worse experience.
My T says that I merely panicked, thinking that the treatment at ____11 was going to make me put weight on. Maybe so. I simply don’t think that inpatient is the answer for me.
The first two times were at W Behavioral Care, in a nearby town. The first time, I was in for five days and hated it. I faked my way through the program. I don’t know what I hated most. Was it that I was the oldest there, and everyone else there was in their teens? Was it that the girls called me “Grandma” sometimes, behind my back? (That, I must say, was uncalled for, though perhaps I was their grandmothers’ age.) I was of course overwhelmed by the place. I hated that I couldn’t tell my friends anything about my treatment over the phone, or talk to any of the other patients about eating disorders issues; it simply wasn’t allowed except in their very structured groups. All along, I told myself that I would lose the weight I had gained as soon as I got out. I never wavered from this promise. What disgusted me most was that while there, I was working on knitting a hat. I completed the hat, and wore it home. The nurse said to me, “Call it your recovery hat!” Since then, I have despised the word recovery. I also would have thrown the hat into the trash. But I didn’t, because it matches one of Puzzle’s sweaters.
My second inpatient eating disorders treatment was at the same place, W Behavioral Care. It is said to be the best place in New England. I was tube-fed this time. I despised tube-feeding. It is like rape (no, I’m not being extreme when I say this). It is an object forcefully inserted into an orifice of the body against one’s will. Agreeably, I didn’t use the word, “No,” but in my heart, after it went in, I felt truly violated. I ended up pulling the damned tube out myself eventually, in the middle of the night. No one attempted–or dared–to insert it again. Lord knows they’d fattened me up enough. I felt horrible on the tube. The “tube feed” goes right into your stomach just like food, plus we also had to eat. It put weight on me way, way too fast, and my stomach hurt and all I did was fart all day long. My knees were killing me, as was my back. This misery wasn’t recovery. This inpatient stay certainly didn’t help me any. I was incredibly uncomfortable at my new weight, and took it off as quickly as I could once I left the hospital.
My third inpatient stay was my recent stay at ____11 at the Prestigious Hospital in Boston. This is not an eating disorders unit. It is a psychiatric unit that has an “eating disorders protocol.” This was the first of two stays at ____11. This stay was a nightmare to me. I have told you much of it. Much of it I haven’t told you. I was treated poorly and came home extremely traumatized. I haven’t been this traumatized since I was raped in 2008. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was still there. This happened over and over. I had nightmares about the place. I had replays of what happened to me, like videos playing over and over in my mind that I couldn’t stop.
The shitty thing about this was that I couldn’t get anyone to believe me. I couldn’t even get my own T to believe me. I couldn’t get my friends (with the exception of Frank) to believe me. Everyone assumed that since I had an eating disorder, and this was the Prestigious Hospital, it must have been just the thing I needed, and surely I was exaggerating, or complaining because I didn’t want to get better, or complaining for the sake of complaining. When my T came to visit me just yesterday, the first thing she said was how “nice” the place looked. Well, fuck. Architecture means shit. People mean everything.
And the point is not so much what went on there, but my reaction to what went on there. When I left, I was in a state of terror and shock. I needed to talk about what happened. I needed to process it. I needed to be believed and validated. I didn’t need ____11’s actions justified, or for anyone to blame me for having had a negative experience there, as my T had done. And as I replayed and replayed everything, I relapsed in a really bad way, for eight days, until I brought myself into the emergency room–at the Prestigious Hospital–figuring that there wasn’t a chance in hell that there would be an opening at ____11. There never is. I figured I’d be sent elsewhere.
I spent over 24 hours in a little “secure” room at the psych emergency room. This little room had nothing but a bed and four walls. I was stripped of my regular clothes and shoes, and required to wear hospital clothes. I knew there was a possibility I’d spend the entire weekend there, and it was now midday on Friday. It’s sometimes hard to find a hospital bed for people on public assistance.
At first, I freaked. But what ended up happening in that little, empty room was amazing. I asked to speak with the chaplain. I don’t remember her name. It doesn’t matter what religion she subscribed to. We spoke for perhaps an hour. I cried. I always cry when I talk with the chaplains. I cry when I even think about God. No, we didn’t talk only about God. We talked about other things, too, many things.
You know, you don’t have to believe in God, in fact, you don’t have to have any notion whatsoever that there is anything that controls the universe, or any kind of spirit or supernatural power, or an afterlife (now that I don’t believe in), or judgement, or reason to behave well other than behaving well is simply a good idea to know that the medical profession and pills aren’t a cure-all for illness. You may believe in the power of humor, or the power of thinking positively. Many people pray and find this very therapeutic and relaxing and fulfilling–and for some, it is an essential part of daily life.
Let me tell you this: My talk with the chaplain, in that little room with nothing but four walls and a bed equipped with hookups for leather restraints, was the most helpful and amazing part of my hospitalization. In fact, my entire stay in that little room was amazing. At one point, they hooked up a telephone in there. I used it a lot. Then I slept a lot. The ceiling in the first room developed a leak, and I had to be moved to another little room that was identical to the first, except the phone jack didn’t work.
So I was alone, no phone except for my phone line to God. No, I didn’t talk on this phone, and God didn’t talk to me. The chaplain had taught me that if God was anywhere, God was in these rooms, right beside me. God is like air. God is everywhere. You breathe every day. Feel it. I breathed, as I do every day, all day long, and fell asleep.
I’m not sure when it was on the second day, after I awoke, that I realized all this stuff about ___11, that the whole reason for my eight-day relapse had to do with my stay there. What I didn’t know was that by being sent to ____11, I would have the opportunity to deal with unfinished business with the unit and the personnel there.
I ended up being transferred on Saturday. I had the weekend to make myself clear. And I did. I made my demands. I told the nurses that I wanted to be treated better this time. I told them how I reacted to my first stay. I told them that I wanted to be treated like a human being and not like an animal. I told them that in no way did I want to have that nurse that had been so cruel to me last time. I wanted help from them, help with my relapse. I had come voluntarily, boarded Puzzle and brought myself to the hospital first thing Friday morning. It was my hope that all my demands would be met. Many were. Many weren’t.
The weekend was okay. Monday was okay. Then mid-Monday the “eating disorders protocol” began, and my progress ended there. I had expressed myself already, though. My unfinished business had been taken care of. My mission was complete.
As I said, inpatient eating disorders programs and I don’t jive. The worst of it was the limit on how much water I could drink. This rendered me desperately thirsty. I was truly suffering. I’m not talking about dry mouth. This is physical thirst. Finally, at 6:30 yesterday morning, I stole a cup, and drank water in the bathroom. This was the beginning of my breaking protocol, and the end of my meaningful use of “treatment,” that really wasn’t useful to me in the first place. Later yesterday, I asked to be discharged that afternoon. It was pointless to stay.
The good thing was that I got what I came for: I broke the cycle that I had been stuck in from my eating disorder. I no longer felt the physical discomfort and subsequent despair that I felt when I came in. So I truly didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore. The doctor agreed. So here I am.
I feel pretty decent now.