56 and free.
Yep, my new slogan. Last year, it was 55 and alive, this year, 56 and free.
This year I am more than just surviving. More than just barely hanging on. I am more than a thread, a small flickering flame, more than a candle in the wind, that tiny bit of oil left in the lamp, that miracle. I am a giant ball of unstoppable fire.
Rest assured, I don’t plan to shut up anytime soon.
Just thought I’d share these….
First, this one, which you’ve seen before, taken about a year ago. I’ll call it, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Julie and Puzzle, September 2012.
Here I am roughly a month ago. I believe August 6, 2013 . Maybe I’ve found out that a monsoon has indeed hit the house. Of course, this kind of thing happens to folks. When it does, it tends to sweep you off your feet. It will also kill off a witch or two in the process. I stole this photo off of a You-Tube I made that day, or evening. You can view the You-Tube on my Juliemadblogger channel. I made a couple around that time and I’m rather out of it, I must say. I viewed them both, rather cautiously, while a patient in the hospital. I don’t think any doctor or nurse knew I was accessing my own recent past. Surely, they may have “advised” against it, or thought I had “no self-awareness” or “no insight,” as they call it, to at all recall having done these You-Tubes. However, I certainly remembered it. I have the keen memory of a writer, a memoirist. They forgot this, as these practitioners always have over the years. We can forgive them, I suppose. They don’t have the training I have as writers. The pen is mighty indeed. Here’s the photo.
Here is the last photo I’m showing you tonight….taken just now, that is, tonight, September 11, 2013, roughly a year after the first photo I showed you of me and Puzzle together, the one on the top of this entry. Here is the one I just took of us. We’re not in the same room. We’re in my bedroom. I’ll call the photo, “Still crazy, alive, proud, and together after all these years, Julie and Puzzle. Nyah nyah.”
Doesn’t Puzzle look fabulous? She’s so darned cute. Must say, I’m a little bit on the cute and funny side myself. It’s one of our many assets.
Can we really count on our shrinks? Those guys and gals that take the Hippocratic Oath? I don’t think so. After all, they’re only human. Many are impeccably on time, but there are those that are chronically late. We all know the type, always running behind schedule. Their waiting rooms tend to be on the crowded side of course. The last patient bows out of the office, Kleenex in hand, sobbing maybe. Oops. Another one bites the dust, we tell ourselves…who is next? Then the next one leaves, gleeful, prescription in hand. Next!
Then one day, the doc goes on vacation and ten overly dependent patients are hospitalized. Or she takes maternity leave. Or he takes maternity leave and calls it something else. Twins and it’s twice as long. Triplets? If babies keep popping out, this vacation might last years and the happy shrink couple could travel the world, spending your money, babies scrambling all around the boat, wining and dining at all the world’s ports.
Of course, if you call a shrink, how often do they call you back? Is this an indication of reliability? Nine times out of ten? Five times? If they feel like it? In an hour or two? If you have a deadly rash, maybe you’re best off getting seen right away and not waiting a day or two or three for that return phone call. Cuz by the time you get called back, that deadly rash might be, er, deadly. On the other hand, if what you have is a bug bite or two, I wouldn’t recommend either calling your shrink or biting the bug back. Neither will get you very far.
Are your pills more reliable than your shrink? If it’s an antidepressant, I can guarantee you, the pills may or may not work. I can guarantee you that it’s hit or miss. If it’s an any psych med, I can guarantee you that there’s a good chance you may get side effects, and these may or may not be serious side effects, that you can count on. You can count on being scared of tardive dyskinesia if you take an antispsychotic, whether you end up with TD or not. You can count on everyone having an attitude about you if you take psych meds. You can count on the “raised eyebrow.” The look. The discrimination. The assumptions. Especially if you take, or have ever taken an antipsychotic.
So what’s your mental status today? Yeah, you can count on that question whether it’s relevant or not. You can count on being discriminated against on the job unless you hide the fact that you take psych meds. Yeah, there’s such thing as the ADA, and yeah, it’s 2012, but that’s on paper and reality is that folks are uneducated and folks make assumptions and you know who discriminates the worst?
Yes, medical professionals. Doctors. Shrinks. I’m serious.
Did you show up at an ER with chest pains? And you take psych meds? Oh, they’ll assume it’s anxiety right off the bat. You can count on that. You might drop dead, of course. But if you’re lucky, you’ll almost drop dead but not drop dead, cuz then, you can sue for misdiagnosis due to discrimination. Oh my goodness and then get filthy rich. Now you can share some of this green, green dough with me, please, because I’ve given you this lovely idea, right? Right?
Yeah, you can count on the drugs to do all that for you? It’s near the end of the year and you can count on insurance switching over come January 1st. So you show up at the pharmacy on the 2nd, the day or the long, long lines, only to find out about insurance non-coverage, just like everyone else in the long, long line at the pharmacy, with the pharmacist who has Oxycontin Headache Number 27 (trust me, he’s got it medicated, he saw it coming). He’s got all 50 insurance companies on the line at once, on all 50 phones that the pharmacy has, hanging up this phone and picking up the next, with doctors on the line as well, the ones that have already returned from their wining and dining vacation in Alsace-Lorraine or Italy or Switzerland or whaling in Australia or snorkeling in Antarctica. Hopefully, this pharmacy has cordless phones, otherwise, the lines are tangled and a few pharmacy assistants are strangled, either by accident or due to someone being very, very frustrated. Yeah, you can count on all this, or at least you can count on me joking about it.
Can you count on your dog? You bet you can count on your dog more than you can count on you pills or your shrink. If you did what the humane society told you to do when you adopted your puppy, he or she isn’t going to go on maternity leave of any sort anytime soon. As for other patients, you’re covered, your dog has lots of patience just for you. You’ve got to have patience for your dog. Your dog is always on time. Your dog will wake you up on time and remind you to walk and feed him or her on time, too. If your dog is like Puzzle, she’ll remind you to take your meds on time and do a bunch of other things on time, too. A dog will make a “present” on the ground (or on the floor, if you goof) for you to clean up, reminding you to be a good, good citizen. A dog is someone to take care of. A dog will never serve divorce papers. You can count on that.
A dog doesn’t know what Facebook is. A dog doesn’t know who is president and who is rich and who is poor. A dog doesn’t know when it crosses state lines or the border of a country. A dog has no clue what religion is.
When my dog is in church, she hears my minister’s big voice on a microphone. She knows I stand and I sit. She hears children. Then, the children leave to go to religious education, and only adults are left. Sometimes, we sing. Sometimes, I cry. What else does she know?
I think I can count on my dog’s sense of mystery and wonder in the world, whether we are in church or elsewhere. For certain, she senses a larger spirit of life, something beating in all of us. What is it? What is it? Is it in the thunder? Puzzle is scared of thunder. The big voice in church is only a man, magnified, but thunder is not a man. Thunder is air. Thunder is clouds. You can count on that. And then, the thunder is gone.
You can count on me, writing this silly stuff, sometimes every day, sometimes taking a break for a day or two days or a bunch of days, but I seem to come back and come back with dumb stuff, sometimes pissed off stuff, sometimes stuff that makes other folks pissed off too. You can count on my bad grammar, and you can count on me not giving a hoot about it. You can count on a glitch in cyberspace taking out your Internet connection and not being able to access this blog every now and then, but more or less, I’ve been around since 2005 on hotmail’s blog venue, now defunct actually. Have you been following me since then? Have I been counting on me since then?
Naw, not long ago, I wasn’t exactly counting on me. I was thinking about this while walking in what I call “the woods” (not exactly woods, but Watertown’s version) today. You know, around 2011 until sometime in 2012, I used to go to bed thinking I had no clue if I’d wake up alive in the morning. That happened so much that I even got used to it. I’ll bet a lot of very elderly folks get like that, going to bed thinking, “I might die in my sleep tonight,” and thinking that night after night. Well, this was exactly how I felt, going to bed every night, only I’m not elderly, far from it. See, I had an eating disorder and folks with eating disorders take this risk. Folks with eating disorders live on the edge. I lived on that edge.
I still live on that edge. Only quite a bit backed away from it. Rather safely, I’d say. I’m out of the woods now. Anyone can die anytime, and freak things can happen, but I don’t starve myself anymore, and I don’t binge anymore, and my weight is just fine and stable. I’m happy and I love life. I look forward to each day and when I go to bed, I assume I’m going to wake up fairly soon and start a new day, a new challenge. As a matter of fact, I assume I’m going to enjoy myself the next day, and I always do.
And you know something? This living business means responsibility. Naw, I’m not talking about just that dog of mine, the one I can count on. Not just her. And naw, there’s no one else I’m taking care of besides me. But the world. Folks pop out of nowhere and I never know when someone is going to need me. Just someone out of anywhere. Someone wants to talk. Someone wants me to sit with them. Someone wants me to listen. Someone has an eating disorder. Or someone has an experience I’ve had, and I can help. It happens so often that I am truly amazed. I find myself a helper more often than I am helpee. If nothing else, Puzzle helps someone else, not just me, but she shares her goodness and her joy and her love and her innocence and her little kisses.
Whom can you count on? Your pills, or the shrink that prescribes them? Or me? Or Puzzle? Or God? (Okay, okay, I’m not going there.) How about yourself? You are the one that opened your browser and clicked on my blog, or discovered it in the first place, after all. If you are short like me, then you can count on being very, very tall, because with my six legs (four have paws, you see) we are truly the tallest and furriest tall tail that ever happened to eating disorders recovery that I know of. And one of us has a fuzzy face, too. Now that ‘s something. Two-faced and not even lying. Only they say you should let sleeping dogs lie, shouldn’t you?
We have a water ceremony every year. We bring water from where we were over the summer, and share where our journey. We mix the water together. I wrote down what I wanted to say to make sure I wouldn’t bore folks. Here’s what I said:
I learned that we here in UU don’t have this place called Hell.
But if anything was Hell on Earth, it was the four years of relapse I had with my eating disorder.
On August 29th, Puzzle had her Psychiatric Service Dog papers signed,
And she’s legal.
That was when Hell ended. It was done with.
When I gave Puzzle her name, five-and-a-half years ago, I didn’t realize
That she was the missing Puzzle Piece.
If there’s any way I can describe it, going from “pet” to Psychiatric Service Animal,
Maybe it’s like you take on vows,
Such as the vows that a doctor or minister takes on,
My place with Puzzle in the world has forever changed,
Together, we walk on six legs. Or that’s how I like to think about it.
I got better in spite of this thing called treatment.
I hope I never grow out of wanting to change the world.
I am getting stronger, and prouder, and more confident every day.
This water comes from Heathrow Airport.
I came back to the US on Sunday and on Wednesday I got locked up against my will.
I spent sixteen days imprisoned and then left against medical advice on Friday, August 3rd.
Opening the bottle, it’s like the water isn’t even me anymore. I’m so different. I’m so thankful. Amen.
Yep, they all are. My life is getting better and better. Thanks, Puzzle!
Writing as Catharsis, Publishing as Empowerment: my second full day in London, UK, with Chipmunkapublishing
I sitting in the lobby of the London hotel where I am staying, in the middle of madly reading Jason Pegler’s book,Mental Health Publishing and Empowerment. If I start to cry, I will not hold back my tears. If someone sees me sitting here all emotional and powered up, then let them go ahead and ask.
I have a story to tell.
I am beginning to write the story tonight. It must be so. I am telling the story about a woman past 50 years old, who, against all odds, hopped onto a plane for London knowing one thing: she wanted to change the world. She was not even well enough to travel. She had to jump through hoops of fire to get to this place, avoiding doctors who surely would have had her locked up and therefore making it impossible to make this trip.
You might often hear her recite her motto, “You do what you have to do to survive.” She had done just that. Sometimes, you have to lie, just like the Jews, those from whom she had descended, had covered up their Jewish identity to avoid the gas chambers.
Was the lie so wrong? Yes, there had been close calls. The threat of being forced into “treatment” was on her tail every step of the way. The authorities wanted her locked up in the name of keeping her alive. They would take away her freedom, her choice to live or die,and replace it with a life of slavery to the system she now rejected.
She walked onto the plane a free person, and the next morning, stepped onto a different continent where people did not know her, where her identity was secret…
Yes, This Hunger Is Secret. The title of her book. The key.
The thirty-two-year anniversary of her eating disorder had just passed and she was entering her thirty-third year of self-deprivation. She was the riches-to-rags girl who had hungered with a credit card in her pocket. She hungered to change the world. She hungered for God and for the pinnacle of the Universe. And now, it was on the verge of happening.
She was shown her room upon her arrival at the hotel. Yes, this is more than suitable. This is the place, she told herself.
With painstaking precision, she unpacked her things and put them into their places. It was Tuesday. Then, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday with her publisher, a man who himself had changed the world and was continuing to do so.
Learn. Observe. Listen. Be transformed. Either something would happen or it wouldn’t. Live or die. You can’t straddle both worlds for very long.
The Chipmunkapublishing offices are located in Canary Wharf, perhaps 45 minutes’ ride on the Tube from her hotel. Why, after two days, did it seem as though she’d been in this city for her entire life? The Summer 2012 Olympics will be held right here in this city. It was like a beehive, a swarm of what is to come.
Living with an eating disorder has been the only life she has known, especially for the past four years. Ignorance about eating disorders was so abundant that she had been branded a liar, an addict, a filthy abomination not fit for the common crowd. She tried on the role of bitch and wore that clothing for months.
They said she used her anorexia to manipulate others. Above all, they said, she was attention-seeking, flaunting her thinness, wearing her illness like a badge. It was a badge that made others uncomfortable because they saw a tiny bit of themselves in her. They could not tolerate that ache in their hearts that she represented. They despised that symbol, crushed it, rejected and denied it.
Hey, folks, I am coming back. If you choose to despise me, let my mere presence haunt you.
People say that in February 1983, Karen Carpenter’s death changed the world. What people forget is that she changed the world while she was alive, through her music, through her celebration and love. Anyone can do this and you don’t have to pass a BMI test to qualify.
I can and will change the world, and I don’t have to die to do it. I don’t have to be infamous and cause a stir and a huge nuisance to get noticed. Karen Carpenter did not die for anyone’s sins. She died because her body gave out. It is not the 20th Century anymore and I never was a famous singer and never got noticed.
But I am a writer. Most trained writers desire to be noticed. Writing is catharsis and publishing is empowerment. It is not the kind of power that means control over others but a feeling of self-worth and inner strength. Yes, we can.Attention-seeking is not the horrible sin folks think it is. It means making a statement and being heard. It is a myth that people with anorexia starve for attention. All we want is the same thing everyone else wants: to be loved and wanted and cared for. We do what we do because it is the only way we know. We do this to survive. To turn our backs on life so that we can live. Most of us gave up on having our voices heard long ago.
Sure, you hear me screaming here in my blog. You have sat and watched me for years. Maybe you have come here and read my rants and shaken your head and said, “She will never learn.” Or perhaps you have come here periodically to see if I was finally getting “help,” and then, seeing that I had taken the path toward death yet one more time, you had Xed out my blog, shut down your computer, and gone and watched the soaps and tried to forget about me. But maybe once or twice you freaked and got a little paranoid over my words. You called the cops on me. Hate to inform you, but the cops have a lot of respect for me now. They do not have the time for paranoid people who call them all upset over something they read on the Internet.
Like I said, I am coming back. It is my presence, not my absence, that will blow your mind.
Sometime late today at the seminar at Chipmunkapublishing I had the gem of the idea I needed. We had been discussing marketing all day. Not just marketing of our books, but spreading the word: freedom, justice, empowerment, love. I do seek attention. I have always loved reading aloud to others. I was always a ham. And this is not a bad thing. Being a ham is how you get the message across. Be daring. Take a risk. Cross the ocean. I am the bravest person I know.
I am here against all odds in every sense of the term. It is an amazing story that needs to be told. I vowed that I would begin to write that story tonight, and I am, right here, right now.
Last night I joked with myself, figuring that
If I live another month
Within that month
Surely I’ll lose a tooth.
It’ll come out by itself
And hopefully this won’t happen in church.
Maybe more than one tooth. Maybe several.
I felt each of my teeth, wiggling each
With my fingers, trying to guess
Which one of them would come out
But none seemed to give me any answer
Any peek into the future.
I bent over and picked up Puzzle’s poops
With a flip-top Baggie.
This I did twice on our walk.
I am thankful for such simple tasks.
Where does this surge of energy come from?
Not a calorie in sight.
The sky, the moment.
This morning, I know
I must try to keep my mind sane.
My insanity protects me.
But today I am going to send an e-mail
To my favorite undergrad instructor
Whom I went to hear read
Not long ago.
I’ll tell him how much I cherish his words
The influence he had on me
Just thank him
And tell him that whatever happens
Well, you know, mixed
There will always be mixed
But basically I am okay with it.
Before leaving on our walk
I checked weather dot com
Power lines may be down
Well, so be it.
I brushed her teeth.
I brush her teeth every day.
I hooked up her leash.
I had a thought. A fleeting notion. I knew
There doesn’t need to be any logic to it
It doesn’t need to make intellectual sense.
I put on my headphones.
Just for old times’ sake, Bruce Springsteen
Louder than I could stand.
Down the hallway.
Puzzle is eager to get out and sniff.
She tugs on the leash.
The front door opens and I pass through.
I step into the strong, strong wind
And at that moment I know for certain
That my feet still carry me
That although I thought that I had lost my faith
God has been in my heart
And held me tightly
Because I am not the religious zealot type, I do not hold some claim to special knowledge of the nature of God or anything of spiritual nature. The only exception to this is that my late boyfriend, Joe, has appeared to me a few times in dreams telling me that Heaven is a rather decent place. He spoke of it enthusiastically, saying I had to see it for myself, and said the food was “terrific.” To see that boyish smile on his face I knew so well, and his voice as if he were describing the highest point of a baseball game, convinces me that every meal every meal is truly delicious, served on the best dishes. Is there an afterlife? I’m going to butt out of it and stick to things that are a bit more concerning to me, but I do know that Joe right now is really doing okay. Is this is a delusion my inner mind has created to comfort me? I don’t care. Delusions, after all, are correct in the heart. Boy, have I learned this over the past couple of weeks and months. Maybe I have always known it. Maybe I should also add that I do like to think that there is a Doggy Heaven in my tears.
But this is all. I grew up Jewish. We were told there was a God. Sometimes, yeah, God. Sometimes, the existence of a God made no logical sense to me. It didn’t add up scientifically. It never, never, never made any sense to me to assume that God was male. This was a resentment that began in me as a sudden jolt when I was booted out of my brother Ned’s bris simply because I was a girl and not a boy. It made no logical sense in my six-year-old mind that a bunch of old guys wearing scarves would sing Holy songs in a language I didn’t understand to an invisible Holy Male God in the sky, and these old guys in scarves were crowded around the crib of my baby brother, whom I owned and was given by my parents so that I could personally protect and care for, and these guys–these men–in scarves were going to seriously harm my brother. Yes, I was only six, but I knew from that very moment on that the world was male-dominated. Especially in my given religion. So, like I said, I have, at this point in my life, no real right to make any real claims about the existence or non-existence of God as any entity or being whatsoever, or to instruct you as to what you should think in such matters.
However, I do know what I truly believe in my heart right here right now.
Tonight, I do not know what time, I noticed that I was developing a fever. It began kind of in my jaw area, and then spread around to my eye sockets, and then to every single tooth, and my entire mouth. My head had that all-around ache you get when you have a fever. My body had that bone-ache, but not a lot, not to the point of discomfort. I decided to have a bit of water, not a lot, and then head off to bed. Who knows. I had a flu shot. The flu, though, you can get anyway. On the other hand, it could have been some result of malnutrition. I often feel kind of weirdly sick. It comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel this overall crappiness and want nothing but to stay in bed. I headed off to the sack as quickly as possible.
I lay in bed. I found that I wasn’t all that tired. This sometimes happens. I had a lot on my mind. I have mentioned someone I fancy, in my craziness, hanging out here in my apartment that I have named Michael the Man with Wings, to whom I carry on a one-sided conversation at times. Well, I began one such lively conversation while I lay in bed. It went on and on. I began to laugh. It was getting hilarious. I imagined developing Compulsive Square-dancing Disorder temporarily, burning shitloads of calories, going to bed, waking up, and then weighing myself only to discover I’d lost a whole bunch of weight. I began to completely crack up. Then I settled into a deep satisfaction and warmth of feeling, a natural curve of smile on my face.
Then it hit me. I had a fever. Laughter. True joy like a rare gift I had not felt in a long time. Even an effortless smile. So many people would give anything to die like this. Laughing and with a smile, just simple joy. It could happen. I felt thankful that this moment had now come to me, almost like a gift. It could be a few hours, and I was very aware of the possibility that I could be way, way off base. But I felt close to prayer. Fever. Hot waves rose from my forehead, almost like I could see them, though my eyes at this point were closed, a smile still on my face. And I knew now that if I uttered a prayer, whether silent or aloud, I would ask God to take my life from me.
I began to weep. Just a bit at first. Then, sobbing. How can I do this? There are people I would hurt. I want to be in church on Sunday. It’s only Thursday night. Only today, I reached out to my college friends on Facebook. They wrote back. What am I doing?
Then I thought of one specific person who had written: my final semester advisor, Darrah. Dang. I had worked just so hard that last semester. I remembered all the hours at the library, toiling over my thesis. I remembered the trek to the post office, wondering if all those thesis pages would fit into a flat rate envelope. Every packet I received back was like a birthday gift I opened with the suspense I felt as if I were a little kid untying magic ribbon. Then I remembered: Darrah always called me “Kiddo.” That made me feel so wanted. Darrah, of all people…How on earth could I do this to Darrah?
I cried for a long time. Fleeting thoughts and emotions mixed with my tears and wrapped around and around me. Mostly, I was sad. I asked myself if everyone who was dying, in their knowledge of their own impending death, was saddened by it.
I felt something, a change just then, an urge in me, to kick off my blanket. I was still weeping, crying aloud. I was lifted, or rather, was helped to lift myself, from the bed, and stood. The fever was gone.
A bunch of hours have passed since then. I didn’t know what I was going to do with what had happened. I didn’t know if I would tell anyone. I didn’t know if I was going to record what happened, but then I decided that it needed to be told. I am telling you now. Maybe it all sounds like it was written by a very deluded soul in a feverish, starved state. This is in fact true. But it is written.
I thought I hadn’t prayed at all. But you know, I think that in fact, at that moment, I did. When God is in my heart, God is in my heart, right there. I was answered. I was put where I needed to be. Maybe not for much longer. Maybe just for a few more hours. But I didn’t die in bed. I’m one step closer to tomorrow, one bit nearer to staying right alongside those that care that I stay right here with them.
You can’t predict when you’re going to die. Some die with a smile on their face but most probably don’t. After all, it’s not scientifically likely. You’re not born smiling, or so they say. As to whether I smile in Heaven, like I said, I don’t really believe in any afterlife, and it’s not what I’m worried about right now. I guess I am thinking that I want to write one word after the other, keep on writing, and not write too much about God. Rather, I’d like to keep God very quietly and passionately in my heart.
If you have listened to my audio posts, you might have a clue how I feel right now.
Or maybe you don’t.
Before I left the hospital, I took some time alone and just stood by the window and looked out. I looked out over the parking lot and up at the sky. It’s decent out. Not raining for a change, not even overcast on my day of discharge. I put my things together so that I could easily get them into my suitcase when the staff got it to me. It suddenly dawned on me that I had brought with me very few belongings, and had lived on very little material possessions of my own for a month in this place. All had been provided for me.
I began to weep.
Yes, all had been provided, and more. I came into the hospital determined not to let anyone or anything take my eating disorder away from me. No, no one took anything from me. There were no thieves there except for an occasional caffeine-starved patient who took my tea off my tray when I didn’t show up for a meal on time.
I came to the hospital wanting a quick fix. I wanted to stop the binge cycle and then go right back out and starve myself again. I wanted to lose all the weight I had gained from bingeing, and then keep on losing even if I died. But I wasn’t thinking in those terms. I had no hope, no future.
Today, leaving the hospital is just the beginning of that future I didn’t think I’d ever have. I believe that this relapse that began in 2008, over three years ago, the worst bout of anorexia nervosa I’ve ever had in my life, has finally turned a corner.
I do this for me. I had to do it to save my own life. Nearly dying in July didn’t stop me. But while in the hospital this time I reached a level of insanity that brought me to the point that the doctor told me I required long-term care in the state hospital. If any of you have ever been in a state hospital, you know that those places aren’t really hospitals at all, but prisons.
That, readers, was The End Of Life As I Knew It. Because many people with anorexia might feel as I did, or might understand why I felt the way I did: that I’d rather starve to death than to have my life taken from me by incarceration in a state hospital.
One of the staff told me that I had to fight back. Then they all said the same thing: You Can Do It.
So at 4:30 in the morning on September 15, I walked up to the night staff sitting at the desk, and with a tremble in my heart, mustered up all the strength and courage I had, and asked: “Can I have a glass of orange juice?” Believe me, it was a lot easier drinking it than it was asking for it. And that was just the beginning.
This morning, I had my last meal at the hospital. I had two pancakes. I asked the staff to give me some peanut butter. I had special privileges to get anything out of the kitchen that I want (I had to get a dr’s order for that). I spread the peanut butter on the pancakes, then spread applesauce on top, then sliced a banana on top of the applesauce, cut everything up into pieces, and ate it up without a thought.
And no, it isn’t always that easy. I asked the staff not to expect too much of me. So they didn’t. They watched me eat, and wrote down what I ate at every meal. I got used to it. Sometimes, it was a comfort. I also got accustomed to having to sit right by the video monitor in the dining room.
When I started eating again, I chose to take myself off the meal plan. This way, I could make choices that were more palatable to me. Otherwise, I would have had to eat scrambled eggs every single day for breakfast. The staff weren’t too pleased that I’d done this. After that, I got real creative with the limited selections on the menu. If you’re going to stay 26 days in a hospital and still eat, you don’t have much choice.
Before I left, I wrote a grocery list for myself. On the way home, I stopped at the stores I needed to go to so that I would have the things I needed to make meals for the next couple of days.
I will be satisfied. I will no longer be empty of life and joy and hope. There is no point in burying myself in my eating disorder any longer, because I choose not to.
And yes, I fight off the urge to starve myself and lose weight constantly throughout the day and night. I fight off the urge to skip meals or cut back on my food. I had to fight it at the hospital and I imagine it will be doubly hard here at home.
But it’s over. It’s over. It’s over. I stepped into daylight for the first time in 26 days this morning. I know I have a huge task ahead of me now.
Come, follow me into the light.