What happened to me after Alcott, and text to the book launch speech I had prepared to give at Alcott, Walden Behavioral Care, in August 2012, but it never materialized

I was incarcerated at the Alcott Unit, Walden Behavioral Care, from July 19 (I ended up in the ER on July 18 and they had no clue what to do with me) until  August 3, 2012. This was around the time of the release of the paperback version of This Hunger Is Secret.  

The book is of course available for sale in .pdf form, Kindle form, and paperback form and everything is all okay and to my liking finally.  If you want the Kindle form, you do not need a Kindle device.  You can download the Kindle software for free and have a version on ALL your computers and other devices that will run the software such as ipads.  It is adware free and will keep your page marked.  To those who live near me, I have paperback copies available that I can sign for you, and will be giving readings locally, so stay tuned for news about upcoming appearances.  If you want me to show up for your organization, let me know.  I give an awesome reading and I’m also funny.

Anyway, near the time of my release from Alcott, around Aug 1, to bribe me into staying the weekend, the social worker promised me a book launch party.  Wow, I thought this rather awesome.  “Monday,” she said.  “But you have to eat.”  I got the idea.  I knew the insurance company was on their back about me.  They did not look good in the eyes of the company, because I had lost weight, and losing weight means bad, meaning maybe the hospital might not get money…I am not really sure how it works, just speculating.  However, when I was admitted, my weight was not the issue, not this time, and even though my weight had dropped, my weight fell within “normal,” and I didn’t think there was any medical need to put weight on me so drastic that they had to keep me inpatient.  Actually, weight loss mostly meant that the severe edema I had come in with had reduced.

I got panicky, thinking, “If I stay the weekend, I will get fat.”  Of course, I nothing of the sort would have happened, but panic did set in.  I was not going to let them have this control over me.  So I insisted that they let me go on Friday, and they did, finally.  I’m not sure what I weighed when I got out, but I had done so much extreme bingeing for months that I was still rather bloated, even after being in Alcott stopped the behavior and gave me a little break from it.  I recall coming out, getting on the scale when I got home, and feeling rather devastated because I had hoped to have dropped more.  It took a long, long time to recover from all those months of massive binge eating.

And by the way, my body does not throw up.  It refuses.  I’m stuck with whatever food (or non-f00d) I put in.  Last May I got sent to the ER and had to have my insides cleaned out, that’s how bad the binge eating was.  My feet were the size of my head and didn’t fit into my shoes at all much of the time.  I was suicidal over the weight I had gained.

I was mourning the loss of thinness.  When you lose the dips in your body (we all have ones we love), the bones that stick out that shouldn’t, and the skinny, skinny arms, we grieve.  I found the grieving tough to bear.  I had no one to talk to about it, no one to relate to, and if I tried to talk to anyone, I was told how wrong and sick I was, or I was told rather rudely to “get over it” or to “accept” it or “it will pass” or whatever…by people who had never been there or people who thought they knew all about eating disorders but really knew nothing at all.  I was trying to find a therapist but no one took Medicare and Medicaid.  Not only that, but I was suffering from severe paranoia, so I isolated myself to the extreme.  It was hard for people to tolerate me because I was so isolated that on the rare occasion that I did speak with anyone, I had no clue how to act.  All my “stuff” would come overflowing out of me all at once, all the bottled-up feelings.

It was a deadly situation.  It’s sad that the hospital could not help me.  They don’t treat binge eating at Alcott, despite their publicity and claims that they treat all eating disorders.  They don’t.  It says on their website that they do, but this is not true.  Their admissions people will tell you, too, that they treat all eating disorders, but these admissions people are sales people and not clinicians.  Their binge eating groups, at least at the time I was there, were held off the unit and I was not taken to these groups even though they said they would allow special exception and take me.  They have a binge eating program, but it isn’t inpatient.  My insurance does not cover this program, period.  My insurance, public insurance, only covers inpatient.  Their inpatient treatment is about weight gain and they added the “band” system for teaching people to stop vomiting in the bathroom, something I’m not going to get into because it didn’t apply to me.

What they didn’t know was the truth about my psychiatric condition.  They never found out just how suicidal I was over my weight.  They didn’t really listen to me.  When I tried to talk to most of the counselors, they appeared bored, like they could hardly wait for their shift to end, so I just gave up.  Only one nurse seemed to have both expertise in eating disorders and interest in my particular case, and she didn’t have enough time to talk to me.  They never gave me a psychiatric evaluation, and as I said in my previous post, the psychiatrist barely spoke with me the whole time and took no interest in me.  They may have thought I was nuts but even though some of the nurses spent time with me, they did not recognize paranoia.  This wasn’t their fault.  They didn’t have the training to recognize it, I suppose.  People who are paranoid have ways of hiding it.  We do this out of fear, terror.  I did get some comments from the patients, little observations…it’s amazing….They may have guessed….I don’t know.  I didn’t even realize how scared I was.

I didn’t realize they couldn’t help me at first.  I kept an open mind.  I was willing to give it a go.  The head nurse, who is truly an exception among the staff, took me aside and spoke with me one day. I was impressed with her because she obviously spent her own personal time researching ED, unpaid time.  She cared.  She asked relevant questions.  Then, it was like she disappeared, had no time for me, and I wanted desperately to speak specifically with her because she had the knowledge.  She mentioned Naltrexone to me, a med for binge eating.  I felt like an idiot because I didn’t write down the name of the med.  She said she recommended the med to me, and would mention it to the doctor and have him put me on it right away.

Then, she was gone for days.  Not one staff knew the name of this med.  Not one staff knew what drugs were given for binge eating.  The doctor didn’t even know.  I said, “All I can recall is that it begins with N and that it is given for OCD off-label and for binge eating off-label.”  No one could help me.  Did they not have knowledge?  Days passed.  I wanted to start on this med and I felt that time was wasting, that insurance was paying for my time spent there needlessly.

Actually, all you have to do is Google “meds for binge eating” and eventually you’ll get to Naltrexone.  It’s an opiate antagonist.  I didn’t have use of my laptop at the time or I would have done this myself.

Finally, one of the staff did this himself.  This in fact was A, the night nurse.  He did it with his iphone.   Any seventh grader could have done this Googling, too.

So I went to Dr. W and explained that M, the head nurse had recommended Naltrexone.  First of all, for the first nine days  I was there, Dr. W did not know I experienced binge eating because I guess he never read the admission notes.   He said, “You don’t binge, do you?”  I was shocked, too shocked to be enraged.  Didn’t he even know why I was there?  So I asked him to put me on Naltrexone, saying the head nurse had specified this drug.  He flat out refused.  A few more days passed, finally the head nurse cleared this up, a few more days passed and red tape, red tape, and six expensive days later, I was finally on it.

I felt no need to stay longer, feeling I was getting nowhere.   I had no clue if the Naltrexone would work at all once I left and tried it out in the “real world.”  I left Alcott, bewildered….Having received no treatment except a pill (it turned out that the Naltrexone never worked), no groups for binge eating, nothing….I knew I needed to leave and seek care elsewhere.  I felt gypped and lied to.  Not only that, but I had been sectioned there.  It was all so confusing, and with people criticizing me for being so “down on the system,” saying I was the one who was wrong, that there must be something wrong with me because treatment at Alcott didn’t work, I felt so downtrodden….

A few weeks after getting out, I went to my own psychiatrist and the first thing she did was to recognize my paranoia.  I hadn’t seen her for months.  I had been avoiding her.  She was shocked that the hospital had not properly evaluated me.  I, too, am shocked that I went into detail with the hospital staff about some of my symptoms, but they did not recognize what was going on with me.  I truly did ask them for help.  I guess they are not properly trained to recognize psychosis.  I now take a low dose of Abilify which tones down the paranoia enough to be manageable.

Dr. P put me back on Topamax.  After Topamax had pooped out I had stopped it months previously, but when I restarted it late August, a few weeks after getting out of Alcott it worked again.  So the bingeing nightmare ended right then and there, late August.  I am grateful.

A week following, I brought in Puzzle’s papers for Dr. P to sign.  I must say, life sure has been better since August 29, the day Puzzle moved up in the world.

But I need to deliver to you what I promised.  The day before I left, I had hoped to have a BOOK LAUNCH right there on the floor, so I wrote a speech for everyone.  I wrote two speeches, but I’ll include one of them now and one some other time.  After the speech, I was going to read from the book, I forget which excerpt, but I had one planned out.  The book launch would have taken place in a large room, known as the Group Room, where there would have been patients and staff seated and listening.  This was the intro:

“That was the intro to the intro, of course so here’s the intro:

Hello, everyone, welcome to my book launch party.  Most writers, of course, hold their book launches–well, where else?–at bookstores, but as circumstance has it, I have the extra good fortune of sharing today with the most resilient and strong-hearted people I know–everyone in this room, some of whom, like me, have eating disorders.  It is truly an honor, and of course, a total blast.

Before I read from the book, I will tell you how this project came about, and I promise it won’t be boring.  I began writing This Hunger Is Secret in 2007 while at Goddard College.  I was studying for my master’s degree in Creative Writing.  I told my advisor, Paisley Rekdal, that I wanted to write a memoir about my mental health history.  All the folks at college knew that it isn’t everyone that survives over 50 psychiatric hospitalizations and then ends up in graduate school.  Paisley suggested to me, one day over coffee, that I start writing the book with the story of my first hospitalization in 1983, and then move forward or look back as I saw fit.  Winters are mild in Washington State, but cool enough so that Paisley and I were armed with warm winter jackets, and the steam rose from our coffee and clung to the window panes.  Outside, the sky was dreary and the grass dry and dead, but the excitement and electricity that Paisley and I felt over this project was enough to warm the entire campus.  I flew home and dug into my writing.  Over the next couple of semesters, my work took on a solid shape.  Under the tutelage of poet Beatrix Gates, I learned about color, balance, and rhythm.  Darrah Cloud, poet and playwright, guided me through the final stages of the manuscript.  I loved it when Darrah called me “Kiddo,” and it’s kinda funny that when all was said and done, Darrah knew one heck of a lot about me, even more than my therapist.  Darrah was also one of the first to know that my anorexia was returning.  She never judged, criticized, or lectured.  A couple of weeks before my manuscript was due to be mailed in, my therapist was talking about hospitalizing me. I was scared, or maybe I should say, terrified.  Darrah heard it in my voice right away when I phoned her.  She said, “Send me the file as is, and that way, no matter what happens, I’ll have it.  I believe in you, Julie, and I adore this book.”

The next bunch of weeks were tense, but my thesis was approved, and the last minute before mailing it, I changed the title from something I can’t remember to This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness.  I stayed outside of locked doors.  I was all set for graduation.  By sheer luck, my therapist allowed me to fly back to Washington.  I was required to give a reading from my book.  Yeah, I was scared and starving, but for whatever reason, I read with a passion that I never felt before.  A couple of hours later, I was among ten students to be awarded degrees.  We all gave speeches.

My speech was the story of how I got to where I was.  It could have been anyone’s story.  I had defied the doctors, who had told me I’d never make anything of myself.

I’ll bet a lot of you in this room have been told that, patients and staff alike, that you’re a loser, that your take on life is skewed, that you have some chemical imbalance and that you only should hang out with other people like yourself in a safe little environment such as this.  Should we believe this?  Should we believe what those doctors, teachers, bosses, friends, family, and even parents said, that our bodies aren’t right, that our minds aren’t right, that we just don’t belong?

What I found out is that there is no wrong way to think.  My mind works differently than other people’s.  It’s a little uncomfortable occasionally.  I’ll bet different thinkers–I’ll repeat–different thinkers, such as Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Virginia Woolf, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein all had their share of anguish.  And who am I to compare myself like that?  I mean, look where I am!  Alcott?  Look at this!  (Show hospital band.)  Pssst…it’s not even green.

Are my words any less valid than those of the folks outside locked doors?  I don’t think so, cuz you’re all sitting here waiting to hear my words.  Yes, the whole world is waiting for each and every one of us.

When I was finished with my little graduation speech, which was not done behind locked doors, I turned back to Darrah to embrace her.  She held me, and then, with tears in her eyes, turn me back around, saying, “Julie, look at your audience, just look!”  What I saw before me were hundreds of people, some of whom I did not even know, clapping and cheering in a standing ovation.”

******

When I left Alcott, I was not allowed to read this.  I was shooed out the door and barely anyone said goodbye to me or seemed to regret my leaving.  I tried to read from my book at lunchtime, but I was told rudely to “hurry it up, we want to play Trivia.”  Like Trivia was so important?

Actually, what I did read was barely heard.  I don’t know why no one seemed to hear my words.  I will repeat them here.  I read the text to my second dedication page of the paperback version, 2012, of my memoir:

To the awesome patients at Alcott
and to everyone everywhere
who suffers from an eating disorder
or any mental illness:
Let us tell our stories.
Let us stand and shout our words
to the world,
and never, ever
shut up.

 

Regarding the yWriter software

Okay, first some background info: I am a writer, a memoirist, with an MFA degree.  I’d say as writers go I tend not to suffer from writer’s block and tend to be well-disciplined as far as keeping a work schedule goes.  I work hard at times and really had to do so when I earned my degree and when I did Nano (National Novel Writing Month) in 2009 and 2010.

Enter anorexia nervosa.  Now mind you, it’s a big deal.  I am okay now and I eat fine, as of a couple of months ago, but you could say the disease left some marks on me.  I am much more fortunate than many.  At least I’m alive.  But my brain doesn’t work right and it’s frustrating.  Starvation fries your thinking.  Between my doctors and me, we don’t know if this is permanent or if I’ll get my abilities back.  But for now, with Nano coming, I’ve got what I’ve got and I’m dealing with it.

What you do is you adapt.  Do you hear me?  Adapt.  Because that’s how you survive.  No, I did not say compromise or settle for second best.  You gather up everything that you can, and you do your darndest.

I have recently downloaded yWriter, which is free software.  I cannot tell you how invaluable this software is.  I must say, it is a helpful tool for me now that my organizational ability seems to be lacking.  yWriter is like a filing cabinet.  I wouldn’t call it “writing software.”  It’s kind of a databank or organizational tool, and has sort of a word processor built into it in case you want to write material directly into it, which I think you will want to do unless you’re just copying and pasting into it.  I don’t find this program difficult to use at all.

Think of it this way: People who have trouble seeing use glasses.  People who still have trouble seeing use screen magnifiers when they use the computer.  So when I use yWriter, it’s like a screen magnifier, like a tool for someone who has trouble getting their brain to organize the material that they are writing.

yWriter is meant to be used to write novels, but I am using it to organize the short speech I am giving October 21st in Cambridge, MA.  I suspect there will be hundreds in the audience, not sure yet, though.  So I want my speech to be good.  With yWriter, I can rearrange paragraphs and groups of paragraphs very quickly, and use the software to view summaries of what I have just written (I write these summaries myself, the software doesn’t come up with them).

Of course, I am also trying to use yWriter for my Nano book.  But right now, I’m focusing more on the speech and find that the software is working brilliantly for it.

Yes, you can call it an “off-label” use for this software.

We do what we can with what we have.

You are sitting in a room with a shiny pair of crutches.  What are you going to do, try to walk without crutches, and fall, or pick up the shiny crutches and walk to where you need to go?

Now you might say that this is an argument for taking all sorts of antidepressants and the like.  No, I did not say that the crutches have nasty spikes in the sides that poke you every time you take a step.  These are called “side effects.”  With crutches like that, you may want to consider some alternatives.

Just sayin’.

Here is the page for yWriter5: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

Please tell me what you think!  I’ll keep you updated.

I am proud to be different

People love to see someone suffer, and now that my life is relatively stable, blog readership is slacking off.  I’ve noticed that the times that things have gotten truly hairy are the times that folks have been most interested in reading about what’s going on with me.  Well, I suppose the suspense really got to you, did it?

My blog cross-posts onto Facebook but I get absolutely no clicks from there, unless WordPress isn’t showing them.  Apparently my school friends want to read political stuff, stuff about writing, or feminist quips about boobs or vaginas.  Not boring goings-on from some disgruntled ex-patient.  I ramble far too much.  Same ole same ole.  I guess they just can’t relate.

I’m sure my ex-friends peek on here now and then, to see if I’ve reformed myself.  Nyah nyah I got better you guys.  Tee hee hee.  Just love it.  I’m sure they’re patting themselves on each others’ backs, telling each other how great they are for dumping me, affirming what a great decision it was, and what a horrible, inhuman person I am.  They desperately need to do this because of their own suffering, their own individual eating and weight issues, their own hatred toward those that “don’t belong,” and are “different.”  Really, it is their own self-hatred that makes them do this.  They desperately cling to their need to exclude  and classify and DIAGNOSE and be judgmental and hateful.  If you cannot accept another because he or she is a little different, then maybe you need to do a bit of self-examination.

Today, I am proud to be different.  I don’t need to be super skinny to be different, either.  I was born the way I am and I can just be that way, be that person, and be proud of who I am.  I don’t need to overmedicate myself or change myself or fix myself.

I need to find out who I am and be more of that person.  I think that’s what everyone needs to do at some point.  I need to find out what I like about myself and keep doing that thing.  I am not here to please others though it’s fun to keep folks laughing.

I’ve been working on preparing my speech for my public appearance on the 21st (that’s a Sunday) and getting my outline ready for National Novel Writing Month.  By Wednesday, I’ll have a decision made on the North Carolina trip.  I’m leaning toward not going, simply because I am not physically up for it.  I cannot meet the work requirement due to medical problems beyond my control.  This was not expected.  Psychologically, I’m fine, never depressed or anything, certainly up for an adventure right now.  Maybe it will have to be a different sort of adventure.

 

Huge public speaking opportunity coming up

Sunday, October 21st, Cambridge MA.  Details coming soon.  I will be speaking from the heart about my eating disorder in front of a live audience for about 8 minutes.  This event begins at 11am and I think it goes until 3.  It is truly an honor to be doing this.  More later.  You are all invited!

Julie's Open Mic Readings: Tonight at the Canadian-American Club, Watertown, MA

Last night’s reading at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge, MA hosted by Bob Gautreau was a smashing success!  I read well.  I must say, Puzzle and I do an entertaining read.  I excerpted from my chapter, “Pro Re Nata,” about the old Metropolitan State Hospital, which, by the way, closed down 20 years ago.  Hard to believe, folks, that it was that long ago.

And yet those state hospitals still exist.  These are not hospitals.  They are prisons for mental patients.

Come hear me read tonight.  Come meet my wonderful little Puzzle.  I think I will do the same text again.

Bob is a wonderful comedian hosting the shows at Out of the Blue until the end of 2012.  He invited me to read again and possibly participate in a video shoot he’s doing.  He needs someone to play a Jewish lesbian crazy character….

Well, Bob, I said, right up my alley.  I told him I was going to be in North Carolina in November, but come December, we’ll see to it.  Did I hear him say there’s an acting part for Puzzle as well?  Yeah, I think I heard that.  I think I did.

JULIE GREENE READING ALOUD NEWS! OUT OF THE BLUE GALLERY, Cambridge, MA

There will be an open mic there tonight and I am reading if I can get a slot.   I am going to read from my chapter, “Pro Re Nata,” about my experiences at Metropolitan State Hospital in  Waltham, Massachusetts.

Of course, that place was no hospital.  You’ll see.  Just a prison for mental patients.

Puzzle and I are very excited about this open mic.  We will be selling copies of my book.  See you there!

Regarding the use of swear words in writing, speaking, and reading from my own works

When we use swear words in speech, there are certain do’s and don’t’s.  These have somewhat changed over the years, but I notice that despite the loosening of taboo, most people are cautious when using these words, and would agree with the statement, “It depends on the situation.”  I know a few people who choose not to use these words ever, and others who come out with the “F” word a number of times in each sentence they utter.

Toward the end of his life, Joe used the “F” word indiscriminately.  It wasn’t that he was angry, but rather that he’d adopted it as an adjective to use in a way that I use the word “wicked” in a sentence.  I believe he was hardly aware that he was doing it, and had no clue that someone might not like hearing the word.  People around us realized this, and lovingly forgave him.  They knew that when he came up with the “F” word, it was more often than not a sign that he was overwhelmed with positive emotion, or extremely impressed with something, such as, “That’s fucking amazing!”  I forgave him as well, even though I was occasionally embarrassed at places like restaurants where there were families seated nearby who may not want their kids to hear.

Which brings me to my next point: these words are still considered “adult language.”  So in many families, it is considered taboo to say these words in front of kids or to teach a child to use them.  We are warned of songs and movies that contain “adult language.”  In many situations, it’s the law that this disclaimer is stated in reviews, introductions, and  previews.  If “adult language” shows up in a movie, it may be given a rating that indicates it’s meant for older audiences.  If a movie is rated G, rest assured that you won’t find a single swear word in it.  But of course it’s rather naive to believe that a child won’t learn these words as his or her English vocabulary increases.

As a kid growing up in the sixties, I was a latecomer to this type of vocabulary.  To shelter a kid from “adult language” was the norm in those days.  Sure, my dad would come out with “damn” at times if he accidentally hit his finger while trying to hammer in a nail, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard the word.  It is weird how a kid mind works.   For whatever reason, if “shit” had ever been uttered in my presence, it didn’t register at all until I was taught the word by another kid, who told me it was a sin to say it and made me promise I wouldn’t taddle on her.  Eventually, we decided that some swear words were “dirtier” than others, so we ranked them.  “Damn” was barely a swear.  “Shit” was fairly bad.  “Fuck” was an absolute no-no.  We didn’t even think about “ass.”  Ass was a kind of farm work animal that was mentioned a zillion times in our very own  Bible, which of course among us Jews meant what the Christians refer to as the Old Testament, or, more specifically, the more holy part of the Bible, the Torah, or Five Books of Moses.  Yeah, there are asses all over the Torah.  I don’t recall hearing the word “asshole” until well into college.  These swear word compounds, such as “motherfucking” or “bullshit” weren’t used much back then, at least to my recollection, with the exception of “Goddammit.”

My dad said “damn” and “goddamn” quite a bit, but usually he’d mutter these under his breath and never used them in his “lectures” to us about poor grades or about the evils of faking an illness to stay home from school.  He’d swear to himself while fixing things if the fixes weren’t working out.  Occasionally, he’d get pissed and say, “Goddammit, Julie, can’t you see I’m busy?” or something like that.  My mom generally didn’t swear.

When I was in second grade…let’s see, I must have been just turning seven in the middle of the school year, in January…we went skiing and I had a bit of a tumble.  I had a minor ankle sprain.  I think I spent only a day on crutches, maybe two or three.  It didn’t hurt but it was a good way to get excused from stuff I didn’t really want to do, such as making my bed or cleaning my room.  My mom, remembering the advice of an aunt, had enrolled me in a music class, but I used the sprained ankle as excuse not to go.  (Actually, this kid Robbie Blake, who used to tease me horribly, attended this class and terrorized me with a clave drenched with his saliva.  Claves are generally used in pairs.  These are wood sticks you hit together that make a nice plunking sound upon impact.  I haven’t a clue if he had the other clave in his possession, but my main worry was the germ warfare.)  So I was delighted to use the sprain as the perfect excuse to get out of going to this music class.  My excuse worked brilliantly.  A few days without being tormented by Robbie was very nice.

It came  time for Show and Tell.  Do they still play this game in schools? I got up in front of Miss MacDonald’s class, my homeroom, and did my little song and dance about “damn music lessons.” I was clueless that this wasn’t said in class or anywhere at the school.  Miss MacDonald took me aside and lectured me on my inappropriate language.  I was so, so embarrassed and I rarely made any presentations for Show and Tell for quite some time.

I believe I was in junior high when my brothers made an amazing discovery: Philip Roth’sPortnoy’s Complaint. Yep, they had leafed through the pages and bookmarked (a real bookmark?  Huh?) the pages where there were zillions of swears.  We read this in secrecy, over and over to ourselves and each other, clueless as to what was going on in the book. Looking back, I am fairly certain that our absolute favorite passage was just someone’s rant.  There was a big problem that my brothers and I ran into when this paperback book ended up with its spine creased right at that page.  I think it was then that our parents found out.  I was embarrassed.  We weren’t punished, though. The book was right on the bookshelf and not hidden away somewhere. It wasn’t like we’d gone leafing through my mother’s underwear drawer.

The word “nigger” had long since change status, but was far from the swear word it is today.   My mom explained that the proper word was “negro,” and that “nigger” was bad because it was slang. We weren’t allowed to use slang, believe it or not.  The explanation as to what constituted slang was very confusing.  Slang was for low-lifes, my mom explained.  We are a proper Jewish family.

In our neighborhood, we kids joked that parents, upon hearing their kids swear, would put soap in the kids’ mouths. We kids debated at length whether this constituted morally appropriate punishment.  I heard rumor that there were a handful of parents that did, in fact, do the soap thing.  They were probably from the same families where having Dad take off his belt to dole out punishment was an everyday occurrence, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

I believe it was one of my brothers who sang the praises of the word “fuck.”  He pointed out that it was perhaps the most versatile word he knew.  What I know now is that when a word becomes that versatile and flexible in the way it is used, it automatically becomes meaningless.   After all, if one were to say “fuck you” to someone, what is one saying specifically?  Nothing harmful, really.  It does not constitute any kind of threat in the legal sense of in any other way.  It says nothing that is tangible, so how can it truly be an insult? Saying “fuck you” causes no bodily harm.  Bad vibes, yes, if you see human relation in terms of vibes.  One thing is clear, though, it is generally considered to be a rude thing to say.  One has to be careful when saying it in friendly manner or in jest, because surely it can be taken in a way that is not intended.

The last time I said the words “fuck you” to anyone, if I recall correctly, was while I was a patient at Walden Behavioral Care.  This was after I had gone to my room and burst into tears in utter frustration because once again, I’d tried to make a point while in a group and I’d been interrupted and told that what I was saying was “inappropriate.”  The staff absolutely loved using the word “inappropriate,” a word that is often used while correcting a child’s behavior.  Of course, I hadn’t even finished making my point.  My point was quite appropriate.  I was interrupted mid-sentence, in fact.  As a writer, I abhor censorship.  I was furious.  This was the one meeting I literally walked out of.

When you’re locked up and completely under control of these staff people in an eating disorders unit, that is, all bodily functions controlled and monitored by staff, all conversations monitored and eavesdropped on for “appropriateness,” you feel so, so vulnerable.  If you have never been to one of these places, you just don’t know.  The idea is that we are to completely give up all control over ourselves and bow down to these staff and their so-called research-backed “treatment.”  They make every attempt to brainwash us into thinking that we know nothing, we are totally wrong about the world, and they are always, always the right ones.   For some unfortunates, this brainwashing lasts a lifetime, and this is precisely how people are turned into chronic mental patients.  I’ve been there, trust me.

In my utter despair, I ran to my room, burst into tears, and let myself have a nice good cry.  I sobbed aloud.  A staff person came in after a while and, assuming wrongly I was approaching a state of mental instability instead of reaping the benefits of letting out my frustrations aloud, attempted to tactfully calm me, saying, “Julie, deep breaths….”  I was so furious, only because of her attitude, that is, her desire to censor my nice good cry in the name of keeping this unruly patient “under control,” that is, control of staff, that I blurted out that lovely two-word phrase, “Fuck you.”  The look of shock on her face was priceless.  I knew all along that the three actions I’d taken, that is, walking out after being censored, sobbing loudly, and then making the statement, “Fuck you,” were symbolic acts done as a matter of principle.

So in comes the covering weekend doc to see patients.  Let me tell you about weekend doctors: These are highly paid folks who see patients for about two minutes each, or not at all, and charge a zillion to their insurance.  At Walden, specifically on the eating disorders side, our weekend docs varied in quality of advice and prescribed “treatment” doled out.  Most were residents from nearby hospitals.  It is the law that while inpatient you have to be seen by a doctor every day, or at least I think it is, so this was all done as token so the hospital could say it had been done.  We were told by staff that the weekend docs really couldn’t do anything, anyway, except to prescribe something like an antacid or Tylenol, or, in rare cases, to respond to an emergency.  The weekend docs varied, like I said.  From my point of view, some were worthless, some were…shall I say, assholes?…and some were darned interesting to talk to.  Once, one of them took the time, quite a bit of time, actually, to carefully read my chart, but this, trust me, was a glaring exception, and this didn’t take place at Walden, hardly.  (Let me add that most doctors of every specialty in most hospitals do not read patient charts but lie and say they do.)

It was no surprise to me, after having made this “fuck you” statement, that I was assigned as first in line to see the weekend doc.  The staff, or, rather, most of the staff, probably figured I needed to be heavily medicated, that is, chemically forced to shut up and obey.  Meanwhile, I had done quite a bit of written analysis of the situation.  I considered myself well-prepared to see this doc.  And I hoped I wouldn’t have to deal with one that fell into the “asshole” classification.

I walked in.  The young doc I saw before me was a bearded guy, wearing, if I recall correctly, the classic hospital uniform often worn by nurses on medical floors.  They no longer wear white, neither males nor females, except for their lab coats.   This garb consists of loose button-down shirts or shirts that are snapped and have handy pockets, and drawstring or elastic waist pants that resemble the “johnny” pants often worn by patients.  Women might wear flowery tops, and nurses in pediatric wards might wear teddy bear tops or tops that have candy canes, confetti, and ice cream cones printed on them, or perhaps cutesie cartoon kittens and puppies.  You get the idea.  The guy had a pen in his hand and my chart already out there before him.

He grinned at me.  I grinned back.  Our eyes met.

Anyone who sets pen to paper is a writer, but I was the only patient there, to my knowledge, with graduate training in writing.  My training gave me incredible ability.  I was only then beginning to realize this power, to seize it and put it to good use.   So the fact that I had my notebook, with my writings inside, right in my hand while I sat there gave me all the confidence I needed.

The doc had already been primed by the staff, of course.  I knew they’d told him I was “out of control.”  I knew they’d hoped he would medicate me so I’d be less of a nuisance and less of a threat to them.  I was a threat, actually, because I challenged the lies they used to keep control over the entire patient population.

The person he saw before him was hardly out of control.  She was intelligent, well-educated, well-poised, witty, and articulate.  In fact my skills in these areas were emerging rather suddenly and were a delight to me.  With my written notes to back me, I told him in the most organized fashion I could, the story of what had happened.  I ended with the statement I made a bit ago regarding the absolute harmlessness of the phrase “fuck you.”  I pointed out that I had not hit anyone or caused bodily harm and I had not harmed myself.  Then I said, “You know, doc, I could have said something far, far more hurtful, but I didn’t.  I could have said, “You’re fat.”

Even before I said this, I had already won him over.  We launched into a lively, intelligent, and enjoyable discussion.  We laughed quite a bit.  He seemed curious about my writing, so I shared a bit about my history, how I earned my degree…stuff like that.  I asked him questions about his own life, how his studies were going, and I must say, of all the talks I had with doctors the entire time I’d been there, this was the most enjoyable and stimulating.  I skipped out of there, precious notebook in hand, grinning at the nurses, whom I guessed would soon hear of the outcome: no meds, no chemical restraints for me.  No sirree.  Mostly because of my well-thought-out analysis of the words, “fuck you.”

Yes, writing is empowering.  It’s the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.  But powerful writing cannot be overdone or it loses its power.  If you use too many exclamation points, they lose their power.  If you use all CAPS, you risk discrediting yourself. And the same goes for overuse of swear words.  Depending on your style, a swear word can be used to shock or amuse, or both.  You might have one of your characters swear, and the meaning, intensity, and perhaps shock value of the swear will vary depending on the character.  If the reader sees too much “fuck this” and “fuck that,” the word “fuck” fades into invisibility, losing all meaning and power.

I learned this the hard way while writing my chapter “Walking the Line” in my soon-to-be release-in-paperback memoir, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness.  The voice of my character, that is, my voice, is a bit different in this chapter from the voice I wrote in in other chapters.  My awesome advisor at Goddard, Beatrix Gates, was quick to point out my overuse of swear words.  She made many suggestions as to how I could trim them out of the text, showing me line-by-line examples of how I might do this.  I immediately saw what she was saying and realized how my overuse of profanity weakened my writing.  In fact, all at once it was quite glaring and obvious to me.  So I began the enjoyable process of very careful editing.  I paid attention to rhythm and timing, and kept in mind the subtle humor I meant to convey as well.

Unfortunately, I did a reading of this piece far too soon, before I had done adequate trimming.  It was the only reading I did while at Goddard that I’d say completely flopped.  Not only that, but the glaring faults in my writing came clear to me while I was actually standing there, reading aloud to the audience.  I watched in dread, out of the corner of my eye, the faces in the audience fall, and fall, and fall, not just a couple of faces, but what seemed to me like every single face before me.

Oh shit.  Shit shit shit shit shit.  I let my audience down.  I disappointed them.  I suck as a writer. I am an amateur, a coward.  And so on.

Since then, I’ve been very careful when choosing what to read to an audience.  Whether the work contained swear words or not didn’t matter so much as whether the work was adequately polished.  I vowed that I would never, ever suck in front of an audience again.  I decided that if I were to present an unpolished work, that is, a draft, it had to be presented in a certain way otherwise my presentation would flop miserably.

Yes, I have read unpolished works in front of audiences since then. But I learned my lesson.  Remember the show “Candid Camera”?  This was unpolished work at its finest.  Before us, we didn’t see professional actors, but ordinary people with no training whatsoever who didn’t even know they were being filmed.  And yet the show was hilarious.  It was tastefully done, ironically, by lacking taste. The scenes were filmed as is, and then–hey, listen up, this is important–the film was clipped and edited and introduced with oh-just-so-perfect explanation, not too much and not too little, taking into account the concepts of suspense and anticipation. My guess that after all these decades, the show is still on air and still well-loved by young and old alike.

So I kept this in mind, quite a bit ago, when I read from my work, The It Notebook.  This work is in fact what ended up being what I might call a “focused journal.”  I’ve never altered any of it from its original, unpolished state.  And yet I felt the work had enough merit and was timely enough that I wanted to present it to a live audience.

I picked out excerpts for their emotional intensity.  I made sure that there was not only variety but stark contrast between the segments I chose.  I kept my my entire reading relatively brief.  I put all my heart, guts, and soul into my delivery.  What I was presenting was a window, a rare glimpse into a very painful part of my life that had only recently ended, almost too recently.  I stood there and wept while I read, not a lot, not in a way that interfered with my reading, not in a way that would make me appear helpless or out of control or someone to be pitied.  My tears, which were of course involuntary, represented my candidness and honesty and depth of sharing.  And you know something?  It worked.  It worked damn well.

This reading, done at the now-defunct Mouthful Reading Series, was in a way a closure for me on a chapter of my life, the chapter I think of as the time I spent with It.  This time period seems like so, so long ago now, like history I guess.  While I was going through it all,  I had no clue if I would spend years with It, or if It would go away fairly quickly.  In fact, the latter was the case.  The act of writingThe It Notebook was what It was all about.  The notebook had to be written because it was an intrinsic part of what I was going through.  Never mind that while It was happening in my head, there was little else I could do but write.

I wrote.  I empowered myself.  It was all just so cool, now that I think of it.  Looking back, I was beginning to find my Power long, long before it became clear to me that I was anything but powerless.  This Power lay within the act of writing.  It was always, always there, waiting me to grasp onto, and for the sake of survival, hold deeply within me, with full commitment, ever so close to my heart.

On reading aloud to an audience

I’m reading tomorrow, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about reading strategies.  I’ve been thinking of how the way I read aloud has changed over the years.  When I first started doing it, folks told me that often people speed up when nervous. They explained the importance of rehearsing thoroughly, and timing the reading a number of times, not just once.  Rehearsing gives the writer a chance to find the rough spots and smooth them over.  Sometimes I’d find mistakes or places where words were awkward for me to pronounce together.  I’d find places where there was no place to take a breath comfortably because the sentence was too long.

And then there is the dreaded page-turn problem.  A page turn in the middle of a very emotionally-charged sentence can spell trouble.  If the writer’s hands have the least bit of a tremble, turning pages can get cumbersome.   If the lighting is dim, one might consider printing in 14-point font and perhaps boldface as well, but this means more pages to turn.  And of course, at the last minute it’s essential to make sure all the pages are in the printout, and stapled in correct order.  Lastly, don’t leave it at home!

I love lecterns.  I feel so important standing at one. It’s security for me.  I’ve got something to hold onto, like a hand to hold in tough times.  I feel that it protects me and sets me comfortably apart from my audience, and at the same time, standing behind a lectern gives me a feeling of authority, like an assurance that what I’m about to read is worthy of listening ears.  And here’s my secret, which isn’t really a secret anymore: if I’m nervous and my hands tremble, a lectern hides the tremor very nicely.  Otherwise, the pages tremble when I hold them or turn a page, a dead giveaway.

I had an embarrassing experience when I was younger that I’d like to share.  Of course, after a while most writers have their share of reading-aloud embarrassments.  I think the worst was when I was on so much medication that the hand tremors I had were evident even to a casual viewer.  Lithium was the main culprit, but the antipsychotics made it worse, giving me a coarse tremor along with the fine tremor from the Lithium.

This particular reading was for a contest.  I had won prizes in this contest both times I entered, and was invited to read my winning pieces in front of a relatively large audience, I’m guessing maybe over 50, in an auditorium.  It was an academic setting.  Winning the contest was a delightful surprise.  Both times, I won in both categories, poetry and prose.  The first year wasn’t too bad.  My prose piece, about the joys of smoking cigarettes (yeah, yeah) was a humor piece, or so I found out when I heard the audience’s reaction.  In my writing at the time, I had this almost involuntary habit of doing this little round-up at the end of paragraphs, and it was these little temporary resting points that my audience burst into laughter.  This was convenient, due to the natural pause at the end of a paragraph, which allowed time for the laughter to settle.

I admit, the prose piece wasn’t very good.  The poem was much, much better, that is, for me.   It was strange because the poetry reading came after my prose reading. The poem, too, was about cigarettes, and as soon as the audience realized this they chuckled.  Then they realized this was a serious work.   It came off fine and I went home feeling halfway decent about myself.

Next year of the contest went badly.  I believe the hand tremor was far worse.  My skin was badly broken out, a problem I hadn’t had in my teens but was now occurring as a side effect of Lithium.  I wasn’t embarrassed about the pimples, not being one to fuss over such things, but I believe at that point folks looked down on me because it was known that I had a mental illness.  They saw the teenager-style pimples and this further lowered their opinion of me.  (Note that this was the 1980’s, before the ADA was enacted.)  At the time, the eating disorder was not foremost in my life, thanks to Lithium.  Otherwise, I was a sick, pimply, shaky mess, drank gallons of water every day due to constant thirst from Lithium, and had very few friends.

So after finding out I’d won in both categories, this time second prize, I believe, in both, not first like the year previously, I went up to read my poem.  I must have looked awful physically even though I remember I read fine.  Turned out everyone felt sorry for me standing up there.  Then they had the prose readings second.  The first prize winner read.  Then, to my shock, the event ended.

What?  I didn’t get to read?  I was mortified.  Was there some mistake?  Not long after, within a day or two, I revealed my feelings to my friend who was on the faculty of the college.  He was on my side.  With my permission, he met with me and the person on the English faculty who ran the contest and had made the decision not to include me in the reading  This was someone I’d worked with at a menial temp job, by the way, until she found the job at the college…at the temp job folks didn’t like her because she had an obnoxious voice, among other reasons, but that’s neither here nor there…or maybe all this history had something to do with her decision, whether she was aware of it or not.

Her excuse for not including me was a complete lie.  She said, “I didn’t think you wanted to read because you shake so much.”  My faculty friend and I agreed that more likely, it was a case of discrimination.  We were glad that he and I had pointed out how shitty her exclusion of me made me feel, and that if she really cared about how I felt, she would have consulted me and asked if I would like to bow out of the reading.  I went home and felt embarrassed and defeated.  I didn’t enter next year’s contest because I had moved out of town.

So now I’m off all those chemicals and I have no tremor, no dry mouth, no extreme thirst, no stutter, and to my delight, my speech is no longer slurred.  I think I speak clearer now than I ever did.  I still have that strange vocal tic, though. It does affect my speech, but not when I read.  I think the tic developed originally due to the fact that I am so frequently dehydrated.

I was sitting in the acupuncture waiting room after my last treatment and writing in my journal, waiting for the sedated feeling (inside nickname: acu-stoned) to wear off, and the vocal tic started up.  When I am alone, which is almost all of the time, I make no attempt to stop the tic because no one is around to hear.   But there I was in the waiting room with one person seated not far from me, and I couldn’t stop the darned thing.  No, he was not immersed in a cell phone or ipod as these are required to be turned off there.  This was the only time the vocal tic has reared its head in public. Only one person has commented on my speech, actually several times, sorry to say a negative criticism, something about taking a breath frequently and therefore appearing breathless or anxious.  I hated that criticism and next time she says that, I’ll tell her to butt off.  Politely, I hope.  At least my speech is clearly pronounced.

For tomorrow’s reading, I have perhaps rehearsed more than I ever have.  My reading is as good or better than it ever has been.  I have always enjoyed reading aloud and never was overly nervous because it is so much like playing music in front of an audience.  I got over that type of stage fright in early college as a music major.  Almost all of us did.  We had gigs all the time and it was a matter of getting acclimated to stage performance.  The occasional paid gig further helped my confidence.  I figure I’m proud of what I have written and my delight in sharing it overrides whatever self-consciousness I feel.

I’d say one reading I did that came off well but was extremely difficult was my graduation reading in July 2009.  Many writers experience throat tightening while reading.  It’s not so much nervousness but the fact that we’re speaking continuously.  That’s why the throat problem has occurred even while rehearsing at home.  I’d discussed this with faculty on a number of occasions and was glad I was not the only one that went through this.

So there I was, up in front of a huge audience full of fellow grads and students, a bunch of alums, the entire faculty, and a whole lot of guests such as family, friends, and admirers of the graduates.  It was the largest graduating class so far at Goddard’s Port Townsend campus.  I believe there were ten of us.

I began my piece.  It didn’t take long for my throat to close off, this time worse than ever.  I could barely choke the words out.  Finally, I told myself I would have to stop, apologize, and step down.  I didn’t even think that this might disqualify me from graduating.  I only wanted to get the hell off the podium cuz reading was nearly impossible.

But something changed.  I went on autopilot.  I pushed through the tightness and kept going.  I don’t generally like the autopilot mode while I am reading.  I prefer to be entirely present and engaged.  But now, my need to survive was in the lead.  Not long afterward, I awoke from autopilot and began to read with all my heart.  I began to feel tears form, a reaction to what I was reading, but this, too, I pushed through.

I absolutely loved the conclusion to the piece because it read so well aloud.  So when I finished, quite emotional, it was obvious to the audience that I had concluded and after a split-second silent moment, they broke into applause.  It was over. I was done.  I felt wicked decent about it.

It seems that for whatever reason, the last few times I have read, I have not had the throat closure problem.  I seem to enjoy reading aloud more and more each time.  Perhaps this is a factor.  Perhaps through practice I’ve trained my throat to relax and stay open.

What I’m working on now for tomorrow right now is my reading speed.  This piece reads slowly, or at least I read it slowly.  My challenge is to remember to speed up at certain times.  I tend to have difficulty sustaining the faster pace, or I just plain forget.  Of course many folks have the opposite problem of reading too fast. I was told that if in doubt, read slower.

Absolutely the slowest speaker I ever hear was Robert J. Lurtsema who did the radio show, “Morning Pro Musica.”  Here’s the link to the wikipedia.org article on Robert J:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_J._Lurtsema

Note that right away in the beginning of the article, his slowness of speech and frequent “dead air” pauses are mentioned as something folks loved or hated.   It was his intention to be soothing, but I believe it was in his nature to speak slowly and deliberately.  He thought before he spoke.  Slowing down gives us that freedom, especially when we need to think extra before we speak.

No, I’m not that slow when I read.  I have always read relatively slowly.  Some people are able to read aloud quickly but still be very effective.  I am thinking of Goddard faculty member Michael Klein.  He writes both poetry and prose, and I can’t remember how he reads his poetry, but when he reads prose the words seem to fly by.  It’s absolutely wonderful to hear him read because he has the ability to come across clearly and take us off our feet.   The rapid reading speed can often accentuate his humor, or drive a point home quite effectively.  He also has a bit of cynicism in his voice, and in his writing, he’s direct and tells it like it is.  We’re at the edge of our seats and am with him the whole way, so engaged that we don’t miss a thing.  Not only that, but Michael is a singer with a big, big speaking voice.  He has complete command over his audience.

I think everyone, all writers, need to have this big voice.  You can speak or read any way you’d like, even softly, but if you have a big soul and believe in what you’ve written, then your voice will be big and will shine through.  Try having a big voice today, and if you’re not a writer, pick up your pencil and start right now.  I challenge anyone, especially those who have been silenced by society, such as us folks with eating disorders who are known to speak in whispers, to write, speak, and dream big.  We are worth it and need to feel proud once again.

*****

Michael’s latest work is a poetry collection called Then, we were still living.  I’m not sure which link of his would be the best to send you to, but here he is writing for the Ploughshares online site:

http://blog.pshares.org/author/boypoetme-com/

I was highly influenced by his memoir, Track Conditions.   Though from a distance, I have always felt a kinship toward him, because both of us were music majors at Bennington College in previous lives, and we knew the same faculty members.  After an interruption, I took up my pen and wrote, and I guess that’s exactly what he did, too.

See ya later, alligators.

 

News about me!

I have been meaning to write here for days but for whatever reason haven’t done so.    I’ve been spending time writing in pencil lately.  I worked on a couple of stories and I’m ambivalent about both.  They are both memoir stories.  One happened to me a long, long time ago, and the other happened less than a week ago.  In brief:

The first is about a creepy experience with an aunt who spent time in a concentration camp.  I haven’t a clue which one or where, or any of the details.  They did talk about it…sort of.  Maybe I just didn’t want to hear, not because it was too painful, but because it happened before I was born and I had no interest in history.  I thought history was irrelevant to modern times and didn’t see myself as having any influence on the larger goings-on in the world, anyway.  It was all parent stuff, even when I was an older kid.  Parents read newspapers and I was a lowly high school student, just a puppet in society, kicked around, teased, bullied, enslaved…oh, I could use all kinds of words that meant I had no control, nothing, a non-life…all I wanted was to be free…move out and have a life of my own.  What I didn’t realize was that it was inevitable that I, too, would very soon become an adult myself.

So this aunt took me aside.  That was as far as I got.  She was damn creepy.  Anyway, if I had continued with the story, she took me to this creepy part of the mansion where my bossy, domineering grandma lived (my mom’s mom), and gave me a lecture, saying that of the three kids in my family, I was the one who most obviously “looked the most Jewish,” and therefore it was my obligation, as Jew, to carry on the Jewish tradition.  This, and guilt-tripping because I had not done this, had quit Hebrew school, had not chosen to travel to Israel and live on a Kibbutz, or study at a…forget what it’s called but it’s a Jewish school thingy that is very intense, hold on a sec.  Yeshiva.  That’s it.  It’s not a seminary, but kind of very religious school.  And she guilt-tripped me because my parents hadn’t brought me up Jewish enough, like it was my fault…my dad had blown it by not sending us kids to a Jewish day school…our friends were not Jewish…we had mingled with non-Jews…on and on and on…even comparing me to the other cousins.  Then she started talking about the concept of Jewish suffering.  That got me going, that is, I started crying, but she didn’t see.  Maybe she had bad eyesight…yeah, I guess that was what it was.  I fled out of there as fast as I could.  I rushed down the stairs, dying for fresh, cool air.  Then (I was going to fudge this part of the story a bit) I saw one of the younger cousins, drunk on all four glasses of wine (this takes place at the Passover Seder) puking in the front bushes.  I guess the story ends there, but I  can’t recall exactly cuz of course I never got around to writing that far.

The other story is about my brother, Ned, that is, who showed up at my apartment on Saturday.   I felt good about the visit at the time that I was writing the story, but now I feel shitty about it.  I did some thinking.  He was in town for a while.  Sort of.  He came up to see my mom, then he went skiing for a bunch of days, then he came back.  When he called, the first thing he did was to indicate surprise that I was out of the hospital.  Well, heck.  The least he could have done was to come visit.  He damn well knew what hospital I was in.  I had told him clearly the name of the hospital, the location, and the name of the unit, and he had written it down.  This was about a week into my stay.  I had also given him the number to the nurses’ station in case he hadn’t been able to reach me on the patient phones.  He didn’t even call the hospital while he was in town to find out visiting hours.  I also found out my brother Phil spent an extensive time in town a few weeks ago and made no attempt to contact me.  I have not heard a word from him since the sixth or seventh of February!  He figuratively dumped me off at the hospital, and left me there to rot, saying, again figuratively, “That’s taken care of,” and wiped his hands clean of me.  That’s how I see it.

Dang.  I had tried.  On Saturday and Sunday, when I had started writing this story, I felt that my attitude toward my brothers had turned  around.  I thought that the doors I had knocked on repeatedly for maybe twenty years, doors that never, never opened for me, would maybe open for me if I presented to them a person free of the mental health system at last.  Like I was going to do this chameleon act and be this changed person, no longer institutionalized.  Then maybe they’d love me.

I had mixed feelings about this story anyway.  It was too rushed.  Way, way too rushed.  The thought was nice.  But it was fiction.  Fiction is a lie and an exaggeration.  That is fiction in a nutshell.

I feel crappy today.  Wicked crappy.  Mentally, I’m fine.  I’m not depressed at all.  But I think I’m dehydrated.  I can’t beat this.  I drink plenty of fluids.  In the past, I have had, say…I am clueless as to the exact amount, but at least a half gallon…definitely more than a half gallon of fluids at night, and in the morning, ended up with a blood test indicating dehydration.  This, of course, was not in my recent hospitalization.  They never allowed me that much water.  I am drinking fine now, reasonable amounts, spacing it throughout the day.  I carry a water bottle with me most of the time, and fill it up periodically whenever I can.  Sometimes, I forget the bottle, though.

I don’t know what it is.  I have no appetite.  I kept looking in the fridge, and then looking in the cabinet, back and forth.  This isn’t my ED keeping me away right now.  I’m fairly sure of it.  I have no appetite even for my black coffee, which has no calories.

Change of subject.  I wrote a reading list and have this list written up at the library’s site with the call numbers, etc.  I put a few of these books in as requests.  One of these is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has written a lot of books that have been translated into many languages.  I believe he won the Nobel Peace Prize quite some time ago.  Another book I found in the catalog, and this one I have on my list.  A third has ended up missing within the library system and is not obtainable in any system I’ve searched around here.  Coincidentally, I found it on Amazon and at the same time, managed to pay under$5 for it including shipping.  I read the reviews to make sure it was something I was seeking.

Another writer that piqued my curiosity is Stanton Peele.  He has an unconventional view of addiction.  I was unable to quite ascertain what exactly was meant by “unconventional,” but my best guess was that maybe he believes the American media is paying too much attention too addiction and society is placing too much blame for its ills on this ailment, focusing self-help on curing addiction.  We shall see.  I googled him and went roundabout, ending up at a site that protested forced attendance at spiritually-based addiction meetings, stating that these meetings, in some areas in the country, always used the Lord’s Prayer and were consistently attended entirely by Christians.  This forced attendance that this site mentioned happens when a person is on parole for breaking the law and has an alcohol or drug problem.  The parole officer, apparently, checks up on the parolee to make sure that this attendance requirement is being met.  The folks at the site stated that it was illegal to push Christianity or a specific religion, or even belief in a Higher Power (actually, this Higher Power is soon after specified as God) on a person, that this was against the First Amendment.

Hmmm.  While I feel that the folks at this site are absolutely right, that the law should not require that the meetings or treatment HAS to be one of these groups, and leave as the only option groups that are all spiritually based, I don’t think the only options should be groups that are non-spiritual.  Hardly.

If you can prove that standing on your head will cure 90% of cocaine addicts, I mean really prove that this will work, tell those law guys, show them the statistics, and convince them that the parolees should do this in order to better themselves.  If they are convinced by your presentation, then perhaps this will be a new requirement for those capable of standing on their heads.

When I was a kid, I did headstands all the time to impress people.  Right now, the last thing I want to do is to stand on my head cuz I feel so lousy.  I am so glad, also, that I never did cocaine.  This saves me the headstand cure, should it ever be discovered that it does indeed work.

Oy, I want to keep on talking to you but I want to lie down.  I will keep going and then stop when I can’t go any further.  I feel great after stopping therapy.  It was the right thing to do.  I feel freed up, no longer scared that I’m going to end up in the state hospital.  So mostly, I am relieved.  Just like my whole self is sighing, “Phew!”   What’s weird is that I feel like I’m getting out of the house more and that I’m more active all of a sudden.  I don’t know.  Energized and motivated, focused on self-improvement and self-everything.  I’m in charge now.

I went to see the acupuncturist yesterday and it was a fabulous experience.  This approach is like nothing else I have ever experienced.  First of all, my number one beef with “traditional,” and might I add “Western” medical method of treating eating disorders, that is, the one and only option (“team” approach, “step-down”, etc, and all that these entail)  is that the practitioners of this “traditional Western” eating disorders treatment, or perhaps I ought to broaden this and say ALL mental health treatment in the Western world, treats the patient with disrespect, sometimes subtly, but often very blatantly.  It is clear that Eastern practitioners and the whole Eastern treatment philosophy has a different take on what treatment is.  You don’t glean this from any website, and you won’t learn half of what someone with an eating disorder can get out of acupuncture treatment.  Let me say first off that it would be different for each person.  Why?  Duh.  I’m not a height and weight, nor are you.  I am Julie Greene and I have certain things going on in my body, mind, and spirit.  I described what these things were.  The acupuncturist pointed out a few other things, and you know something?  I didn’t even know these things were going on with me, and she’s absolutely right.  Not only that, I told her some stuff that I’ve been trying to convince medical people for months now, and not only did she believe me, but she said that all put together, these things make a very, very clear and believable picture.  We were entirely straight with each other.  She is referring me to the school where she used to teach, where I can get inexpensive or possibly free care.  She explained thoroughly how treatment plans work, what takes place in an acupuncture session, and what to expect.  She even told me which supervisor to ask for at the acupuncture school, and told me that she would speak to that supervisor, whom of course she knows, and send over her notes.  As far as seeing an improvement, she said that the patients she has treated with eating disorders have seen marked improvement, but in my case I will probably see less improvement since my case is so advanced, however, she feels that it will certainly be worth my while to follow through with this.  I agree!

Okay, let’s see…what else.  I have decided that since I am so absolutely disgusted that I was unable, after a long, long search, to find any “group” for people with eating disorders that would accept me, or that wasn’t ridiculously expensive, I will start my own!  This, of course, will be therapist-free!  So this will not be a “therapy” group.  I am kind of sick of the word “group.”  It is so mental health cliche.  So it will be called a “gathering.”  I will find a meeting space, one that is accessible with accessible bathrooms, and I will check the space out myself to make sure that yes, accessible means accessible.  Renting the space…maybe asking for donations from members…whatever they can afford.  I haven’t decided if this is “drop-in” or if you have to “join,” but for certain this gathering will be welcoming, that is, anyone can be there regardless of where they are at ED-wise, male or female, welcoming to anyone of any race or religion or economic status or sexual orientation or how they choose to identify themselves sexually, or body shape or size or what or how they eat and there is no requirement that they be in any sort of “treatment” while they are attending this group or be at some minimum weight or minimum medical condition…how can we not serve those most in need?  People choose to refuse medical treatment for many reasons, and often, are refused medical treatment, turned away due to non-insurance, or kicked out of residential treatment for stupid reasons, or homeless, or suddenly jobless.  You can’t assume anything.

What we would talk about and what we wouldn’t talk about in this gathering…hmm…I guess it would be a really positive thing to say what works for you, and the positive things you are doing to help yourself.  And also what you tried and didn’t work.  Books you read that impressed you that you would recommend.   No pro-_n_ talk or pro-mi_ talk.  How, specifically, would this be defined?  This would have to be laid out.  Maybe we could have writing time and reading what we wrote.

Maybe, as an offshoot of this gathering, an eating disorders writing group.  As a culmination, or perhaps ongoing project, we would do a public reading of our works, or joint writing project, or mixed media project, slide show with artwork and readings possibly.  So unlike going to those eating disorder conferences and hearing “recovery stories,” from people who had no choice but to do “traditional” treatment, you’d hear writings and possibly all types of art of all types from people at all stages of their eating disorder, and this would be in many genres, not necessarily autobiography.

Me personally?  I want to be “out there” as much as possible.  Let’s face it, I know more about eating disorders than most medical professionals do.  I don’t know a thing about what it feels like to self-induce vomit because I’ve never done it, but I sure know body dysmorphia first-hand.  A lot of eating disorders specialists don’t know eating disorders.  Training means nothing unless you “get it.”  Like the feeling I had when I thought the diet cola I’d bought wasn’t really diet.  This was in February, not long before I went into the hospital.  I thought I’d been tricked by the generic cola company and that they had mislabeled the bottle, and that they had switched them.  I searched on the Internet to see if there had been a cola recall.  I was terrified.  So I told them this when I went into the hospital.  Dang!  They wanted me to take a freaking antipsychotic.  I was wise enough to tell the admitting shrink that no, I don’t need your pills, thank you.  My brain is starved and I haven’t been thinking clearly for months, can’t you see?  No pill will FEED the brain.  I have had more first-hand experience with eating disorders than many medical professionals have even been in the medical profession.  Not only that, I’ve had round-the-clock experience.

So I feel perfectly confident, competent, and qualified to write about eating disorders and read in front of an audience about my first-hand experience.  I know a lot of places around here where I can arrange a reading.  I am lucky to live in an urban area where there are so many opportunities and venues and nonprofits and interesting 0rganizations to explore.

Okay, what else…the acupuncture school called me back, and I have an appointment in a week!

Mass General suddenly called me yesterday.  They found my running shoes and clothes!  After all this time!  They were lost last July, that is, taken from me in the psych emergency room and never returned to me.  I was told that I was reimbursed.  I pursued this, as I mentioned before, and was given the runaround of course…pass the buck…so I was disgusted, meanwhile had had to replace them, having nothing else to wear, and saved the receipts, but to no avail.  I had lost out, in the hole not only $117, but the cost of the flip-flops I’d had to purchase in the gift shop just to get home on the subway, having nothing to put on my feet for the journey.  I’m going to be picking up this stuff tomorrow.  They have it at the medical floor I was on.

Okay, I’m going to get going.  I can’t think of much more to talk about.  I’m surprised that I stayed up this long.   I have this pile of laundry on the floor.  The least I can do is to pick it up and put it in the laundry bag.  I’m surprised that Puzzle isn’t lying all over the pile of laundry.  You’d think that Puzzle would settle herself among my filthy, stinky socks and have the time of her life.