“Ruin is the root of transformation.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert
I finally made it in.
Ten months after I broke down and admitted that my eating disorder was killing me, and ten months after I first asked for help, I have finally made it into the hospital.
I’m exhausted right now, so I don’t know how interesting this is going to be, but bear with me. And I will also need a bit of time to finish the detox story. I‘ll start typing out the last day on my computer, and when it’s totally done I will post it.
So. I gave the hospital half an hour to call me this morning, before I was going to try them. And actually, if Mum hadn’t been there to harass me, I might not have called them when the half hour was up, either. But at five minutes past nine, Mum started talking about getting me packed up to go to the mountains for a few days, and I was so exhausted by the thought of it that it just seemed easier to call the hospital.
I spoke to a nurse, who said that she would call over to Unit 32 and find out what was happening, then call me back.
One (very tense) hour later, she called back.
I was to be admitted at 1 pm.
I blew the hair out of my eyes with a shaky, unsteady breath.
Of course, now that I am here, they don’t actually have a bed for me. Which suits me just fine, really, since I am in one of the overflow rooms for tonight, and don’t have to get used to sharing a room with five other girls until tomorrow.
I have to say, it is a little disorganized here. Nobody really seemed to know what to do with us when Mum and I showed up this afternoon, and we kept getting passed along or asked to wait for someone else. We were just sitting down after a trip down to the nutritionist’s office that resulted in no nutritionist, when I finally saw a face that I recognized.
Mary, one of the nurses that I had done an intake interview with. I recognized her choppy blonde bob and circly, John Lennon glasses, and before I knew it I was waving at her. At the time, I couldn't actually remember where I knew this woman from; I just saw a familiar face when I was terrified, and reached out for it.
Mary came over and met Mum, and then took us on a tour of the ward. It’s a very bizarre set-up, there is a group room and a nutritionist’s office by the elevators, then you walk down a corridor that houses a whole bunch of other patients - shriveled-up old ladies moaning softly, some dude whose entire face was beaten black and blue, a child with burns. Then, tucked in at the end of another corridor, was one small room with five hospital beds, for all of us girls in the eating disorders program to live in together. I was told right away by the nurse that we are not even allowed to draw the curtains closed around our beds.
I’m so glad that at least for tonight, I am alone in an overflow room, away from everyone else. I have the feeling that it is going to be even harder than I thought to make sure I get left alone enough, once I get in that tiny little room. Thank God I have Mr. Reznor (iPod).
I had my first appointment this afternoon with Grace, who will be my nutritionist while I am here. She is a plain-looking Asian girl who wears an overabundance of foundation, clearly to cover some vicious skin problems underneath, and her hair is lank and lifeless. I couldn’t help but wonder, how is this the picture of healthy nutrition? Like, Nutritionist, Heal Thyself! She was very sweet, but she looked like she had trouble taking care of herself, honestly.
We sat down together in a tiny room off the girls living quarters. She asked me to go through my typical day of eating, whether anything had changed in the past week or so - which it really had - and what I wanted to accomplish here.
I was totally honest in all my answers. I told her how often I usually binge and purge each day; I told her that I drastically slashed my calories in the past week in an attempt to balance out all the food they would be force-feeding me. She listened carefully and wrote everything on my chart, and then she pulled out the big guns.
“Menus,” she smiled, and handed them to me.
“Yay,” I said weakly.
I had to go through one sheet for each day of the coming week, and select exactly what I would be eating at each meal, and at each snack. There were guidelines that had to met; breakfast had to include not one but two servings of grains; any lunch or dinner that came with bread would also come with butter or margarine - your choice which - that had to be consumed; and after the first two days, I would have to increase my caloric intake by adding vegetables to my lunches and dinners.
I gulped at a few things. I HAD to eat butter? I HAD to eat six times a day? Eeeek.
Grace asked me to go through the menus on my own time and make my selections for the coming week’s menus this afternoon. I took them back down to the overflow room, and was just sitting up in bed reading them when another nurse came in.
She introduced herself with a slight Hindu accent. “Kage? I am Beena,” she said, and pushed a blood pressure machine up to my bed.
“Hello,” I said.
“I need to do your blood pressure, both standing up and lying down. Could you please lie down now, and I will come back in a few minutes?”
“Sure,” I said, then waved my menus in the air. “What about these, should I just put them down?”
“Yes,” she said, indicating to the rolly bedside table to my right.
I did as I was told, and the next thing I knew, I had been asleep for God-knows how long, and Beena was trying to wake me up again. She must have forgotten to come back for me, cuz all of a sudden it was 5 o’clock.
Beena checked all my vitals, then sent me off with another nurse named Anna, to find the Group room for dinner.
When we arrived, I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and walked into the little room.
God, I thought as I took in my surroundings. This room is really small.
I looked around. There were five people seated around the table, with dinners sitting before them, then one lonely dinner sitting by itself, in front of an empty chair. A nurse was seated at the head of the table.
“Hello,” I said awkwardly.
“Hi,” said a couple of the girls, and that’s when I noticed that we had a boy in the program. Tall, red-headed and with a patchy beard, he actually looked to be the thinnest one of the group. He sat at the back of the room, beside a small brunette girl in a heavy wool sweater. On the other side of him sat the tall, long-legged and tiny-waisted girl I had seen from behind in the nutritionist’s office earlier. She has that kind of body where her waist is SUPER tiny and then her hips curve out nicely, and there is a massive space between her thighs. As she invited me to sit down next to her, I noticed a couple of rings in her lower lip, and smiled. My kinda girl.
I plopped into the seat next to her, and looked across the table at the two remaining girls. Directly across from me was a petite girl with a very pretty, very sweet face and soft, light blond curls down her back. To her right was the last girl, who was wearing a heavy dude’s FuBu sweatshirt over loose sweatpants. She was trying to hide her body, but you could still see from her cheeks that she was very, very thin.
I was invited to sit before the dinner that had been left for me. The moment my arse touched the plastic chair, everyone started telling me I could and couldn’t do.
“...you can heat it in the microwave, but only for one minute...”
“...you can’t have that water bottle in here...”
“...you have to eat everything they serve you...”
"...to completion, or they Ensure! you..."
Jesus. I nuked my plate of turkey stew and grabbed a styrofoam cup of water, then sat down to eat my first meal as a patient of the Eating Disorders Unit.
The food wasn’t too bad. In fact, if I only could have left out the margarine on the bread, it was about the size of something that I would normally consume and keep. I ate it as slowly as I could, which was unbelievably challenging. As a bulimic, I like to stuff food in as fast as I fucking can! I tried to eat slowly and enjoy every bite.
Even though the others had started a few minutes before me, I wasn’t the last one to finish. That prize went to the Boy Ana, who had to be given a countdown for how much time he had left to finish his food.
Everyone did finish their food, though, I was relieved to see.
Afterwards, we were all supposed to do something called Check In, which Mary told me we would be doing every day after supper. Each person shares about their day, how they are feeling, that kind of crap, and then we go do something together as a group to help distract us from obsessing about the food we have just consumed.
Tonight after dinner, we were all getting ready to go outside for a bit, but Grace the nutritionist came into the group room and pulled me aside.
“I just need to grab those finished menus from you,” she said.
“Oh,” I grimaced. “Beena told me to lie down for my blood pressure, and I fell asleep. I’m sorry.”
She glanced quickly at her wristwatch. “Can you go and get them, please? I need to get going for the day.”
“Okay,” I said, and walked quickly down the long hallway to retrieve them from my hospital bed.
When I returned to the group room, I saw that Grace had sent everyone else outside with LynnLynn. She motioned for me to sit down at the table with her.
“Okay, if you could just get those menus done right away, that would be great,” she said, then stood up and walked out of the room.
What the fuck? though I.
I was a little perturbed. I mean, yes, okay, I am the one who fell asleep this afternoon when I was supposed to be doing my menus. But are you really going to rush me through them on my first day?
Apparently, yes, she was. When she returned and I hadn’t filled them in fast enough for her liking, she started prompting me on what to choose. Fuck it, I thought, and just circled all the vegetarian things she told me to circle. I’m here to eat, right?
I was still circling the last menu when she swiped the papers out from under my pen. “Perfect, there we go,” she said, shuffling them together neatly. Then she called out for Mary to come and get me, and was out the door again.
Maybe she has a hot date tonight, I thought.
Mary came to the door, and decided that we would go join the others outside. But after several minutes of wandering around, we weren’t able to find them anywhere, so we just came back upstairs to the ward. By the time we had reached Unit 32 again, I was free to go down to my bed and be alone again, and do some writing.
Now I have an hour until snack time, and I am fucking starving. That’s something I'm going to have to get used to, I guess. I’m addicted to compulsive overeating, and now there are rules I have to live by. I will have to learn to live without.
Think I will watch some Sons of Butcher to keep my spirits up, then read the book Eat Pray Love, which Mum gave me after we saw the WAY too long movie last night.
Just finished our evening snack.
As I suspected, the fruit that they had for me was a five point apple. I told Grace earlier today that I cannot stand those goddamn things.
There was a slightly bruised and beaten banana on the counter, so I asked if I could have that instead.
“Nooooooo,” answered every single person in the room. “No substituting.”
“But I told Grace that I won’t eat these,” I said to the room at large, but more importantly, to the nurse in charge.
Ah, the nurse. She was a cheerful, pretty, busty redhead who, for some ungodly reason, wore absolutely no makeup on her face except to draw her in lips with the darkest purple lipliner I’ve ever seen. I had seriously seen her lips outside the Group room well before I reached the end of the hallway and saw her.
The worst part was when she smiled. The dark purple lips would part to reveal a massive expanse of pink gum, then little white teeth. Why? I couldn’t help but think every single time I looked at her. WHY?
Anyway. Back to my banana.
Nurse Purple Lips said that she would call and ask, and picked up the phone.
Ask who? I wondered. God? My mum? Who?
We all sat with baited breath to see what the final decision would be.
“Okay, thank-you,” she said into the receiver, and hung it up again.
We all looked at her.
“It’s okay,” she said.
The whole group released their collective breath.
I peeled my hard-won banana and, of course, it was completely bruised down one side. But I was so hungry, I ate it, bruises and all. I also had a tall glass of water after to wash it down.
And then... I asked if I could have some more food!
“Sure!” said absolutely every single person in the room, once again. They pointed out the cabinet that I could choose additional food from, and I got up from the table to have a look.
Ummmm, I though as I poked through the cabinets. Weird. I could understand the one shelf; Rice Krispie squares (actually a menu item here), Nutrigrain bars, granola bars, cookies and crackers. But when I looked up at the shelf above it, my mouth popped open in shock.
Oh my God! Greasy, delicious junk food!
GIMME! screamed my eating disorder.
Little blond Sweetface must have seen the look on my face. “That’s the dairy free Extras,” she explained, though it actually explained nothing at all. Why is there junk food in here?
I carefully selected my last food for the day, a raspberry Nutrigrain bar, then refilled my water cup. As I sat down again, I was relieved to see that the girl in the FuBu sweatshirt beside me seemed to be having an extra snack as well.
When all our assigned foods had been duly chewed and swallowed, Nurse Purple Lips checked each of our containers for any uneaten leftovers. Then we threw away our garbage, and were free to go.
I brought the cutting board with the apple slicer on it up to the counter, where FuBu Sweatshirt Girl was washing up. Boy Ana slipped past me and opened the door, and was gone like a shot.
“He never finishes anything,” FuBu grumbled.
“What, the dishes?” I asked, confused.
“No, his food,” she turned around to take the dishes from me. “He never finishes his food. Not really.”
We finished the dishes, and then everyone dispersed to his/her individual beds, which I thought was weird. Aren’t they supposed to sit with us for half an hour so we don’t puke? I wondered, watching everyone scatter.
Nope. Turns out they don’t need to go that far. They just lock up the bathrooms, and we can’t use them until thirty minutes after snack time. And not for sixty minutes after full meals.
There are also no unsupervised trips to the bathroom on Unit 32, ever.
Gee, I can’t wait to have my first bowel movement in front of someone, I thought after my first supervised trip to the loo.
That's gonna scar both of us for life.