Community Behavioral Health Hospital

I need to write about a place I had to go to in June that was a complete hellhole.  It was located in Bemidji, Minnesota and I have never been anywhere quite as bad for a lengthy period of time.  Sure I’ve been stuck in horrible placements for a few days or so, but I was put in a place for over a month that neglected my physical and mental needs.  Neglect is a very serious thing when it comes to vulnerable adults.  We are often subjected to it and shot down when we try to speak up about it.  Nobody believes us when we talk about it because who’s word are they going to take at face value: the “normal” person, or the “crazy” person?  It’s not hard to figure out.

It was a Friday at 4:00.  There was no warning.  The director at my program said she needed to talk to me and pulled me into one of the conference rooms.  I knew it wasn’t going to be good but I didn’t think the news was going to be as bad as it was, either.  I thought I had broken one of the rules and was about to be reprimanded for it.  Instead, she handed me a piece of paper.  It was a revocation of my provisional discharge.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term, if  you are on a commitment for mental health, the courts can send you back to the hospital at any time for any reason.  This is known as “revoking your provisional discharge.”  They hand you a piece of paper detailing the reasons why they believe you need to be in a hospital and then the police come and get you and take you against your will.  It feels like you’re being kidnapped.  As someone who once was kidnapped at one point in time, I can tell you that it is the exact same feeling because you are taken somewhere you do not want to go against your will.  I live in fear every day that this will happen again because it is always without warning.

“Tomorrow morning they are going to come and get you and take you to Bemidji,” the director explained to me.

“But…but…..but…..WHY?”  I stammered, confused.

“It says here that your weight has dropped too much and that your potassium levels are also starting to drop, and that they can’t get you into an eating disorder treatment center, so they have to send you to a CBHH.”

This is where the confusion REALLY started to settle in.  Community Behavioral Health Hospitals are not really hospitals.  They do not treat you for any medical issues while you are there.  They have a doctor who comes in every once in awhile, sure, but someone with vitamin deficiencies and a severe eating disorder would be placed at high risk in a facility that was not attached to a hospital.  Medical monitoring needs to be done while the patient is refeeding, and if it’s not done, the patient could die.  Sending me to a CBHH was negligence on the part of the state, and I still look back and shiver when I think about how likely it was that I could have died there.  I told them that if they were going to send me to a psych ward, then they needed to send me to one that was attached to a hospital so that they could monitor me medically.  They chose not to listen to me.  I am an excellent self-advocate, but being on commitment complicates things and I often do not get my needs met, no matter how hard I fight.

My original plan was to sleep naked so that when the cops showed up to get me, they wouldn’t be able to take me out of the facility without clothes on.  That would be indecent exposure.  This would at least buy me some time to get something done and possibly prevent them from taking me.  However, this plan obviously didn’t work.  One of my favorite staff, Jenny, came in the next morning and said, “Don’t you want to go out with a little dignity?  What they are going to do is drape a blanket over you and take you out anyway.”  I put clothes on and planned to contact my lawyer as soon as I got there to see if I could have a trial and be placed somewhere else.  Going the legal route generally works for me.  The judge is impartial and listens to both sides.  I felt like I had a good chance of getting moved if I did things that way.

It was 4 hours away.  I slept during the entire ride.  When I got there, the staff was friendly and welcoming and gave no indication of the nightmares I would later face.  They did, however, make statements such as, “We’ve never dealt with an eating disorder before so we really don’t know what to do with you.”  I could have told them that.  This was not my first rodeo.  I’d been to a CBHH before and they did not know how to handle anything correctly.  The doctor talked to me for five minutes and decided I was psychotic and forced me to take Haldol.  I have never been psychotic or exhibited signs of psychosis and this was the first doctor I’d ever seen that tried to say I was.  Even though he wrote down that he thought I was psychotic, he lied to me and said, “I don’t think you’re psychotic.  I’m putting you on the Haldol because I think your thinking is stuck and I want to get it unstuck.”  Antipsychotics are not good for me because they give me bad reactions.  Since I’m not psychotic, they actually make me psychotic when I take them.  I start having persistent thoughts about self harm and suicide, and they make it impossible for me to lose weight no matter how little I eat, which in turn makes my eating disorder flare up.  When I am underweight, my eating disorder does not pester me nearly as much as it does when I am a normal weight.

Though the initial staff was kind to me, the environment seemed hostile.  There were patients and staff that glared at me.  The feeling was entirely mutual.  They didn’t want me there and I didn’t want to be there either.  It was explained to me that I was only going to be there until they could get me into eating disorder treatment, which made me feel better, but I soon found out that that was a lie also.

I will use pseudonyms for the patients, but not for the staff.  The staff needs to be held accountable for their words and actions, and I will not censor them.  The only power I have right now are my words, so I will use them and hopefully they will make a difference.  I will not be silent about my experiences.  Maybe if I speak up, then things will change and others will not have to suffer like I did.  Bear with me because I had a lot of negative experiences at this place and I want to detail all of them.  I want you to know that they are real and that I will never go back to a CBHH, no matter what the courts say.  I will jump the fence and run away and be homeless until November 22, the date my commitment is up.  Anything is better than the verbal abuse and medical neglect at the hands of a CBHH.  I am NOT trying to play the victim or say “oh poor me” or ANY of that.  I am detailing my experiences exactly as they happened so that you know that this is real and that things like this DO happen.  The format I’m going to write this in is going to be a little different than the others because I am going to write it by each separate incident.

DONNY

There was a patient there that all the staff seemed to favor, and it was unclear to me why.  His name was “Donny” and all he did was attack the staff and try to put them in a chokehold so he could grab their badges and try to escape.  Like me, he didn’t eat or drink much, but he was put on a pedestal for it.  Whatever Donny wanted, Donny got.  If he wanted to eat in his room away from everyone, he could do it.  Every time he came out of his room, he was treated like a king and offered food or drink.  The favoritism was upsetting to me because everyone’s insurance was paying the same amount for us to be there, so I believe everyone should be treated equally.  One patient should not be offered food and drink at times when it’s not available while everybody else can’t get it.  That’s not good patient care.

I was scolded and met with disdain when I didn’t eat or drink, while he was met with understanding and kindness.  One of the staff, Merrill, would often print off cutesy little quotes for Donny that said things like, “A body cannot function without fuel.”  Basically, they were treating him like an eating disorder patient when he didn’t even have one.

They would often give him highly overexaggerated praise when he ate two bites at the dinner table while I was left to struggle in silence and tears.  The staff told me that I could either “eat or die.”  I began to have screaming panic attacks when I couldn’t eat (which was often) and became convinced I was going to die.

Whenever I brought up the favoritism with the staff, they often crowded around me and laughed at me and said, “What’s the matter?  You jealous?  You want attention?”  No, I believe in fairness and equality.  THAT is what was the matter.  I believe no one should be singled out for special treatment.  My protests led me to almost get attacked by another patient.

AIMEE

I’m using the pseudonym Aimee because it’s one of my least favorite names.  There is a girl I know named Aimee in real life who has been stalking me for more than 6 months.  I’ve blocked her on every possible social media account, but still she manages to get around all that and send me nasty messages.  I don’t know why she is so obsessed with me, but I’ve sworn to her that if she contacts me again I’ll be getting a restraining order.

This girl had it in for me the moment I walked through the door.  She glared at me with such hate in her eyes that I had to look away.  She seemed to have a very negative attitude in general and was always complaining about something.  Things didn’t come to a head until the time when I was struggling with my meal and the tears started gushing down my face.  Picking up on my weakness, she loudly proclaimed, “I’m gonna get away from this fucker crying,” and then walked into the next room.  I followed her and yelled through the window, “DON’T EVER FUCKING TALK TO ME THAT WAY AGAIN,” and she tried to come out the door and attack me.

The staff, Joel, who was a nurse, immediately began to take her side and declared, “SHE is calm.  YOU are not.  Are you okay, Aimee?  Do you need anything?”  SHE was the one who tried to attack ME.  I yelled at him to butt out if he was going to take sides, and that I would sue them for every penny they had if they allowed me to get attacked by another patient.  Joel acted very funny around Aimee.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had a crush on her.  He exhibited very strange, inappropriate behavior around her and was always singling her out for special treatment and taking her side when she acted hostile and violent towards other patients.

This was not the only incident with her.  The next day, me and another patient were walking down the halls at 4:00 pm and talking.  She came barreling out of her room and screaming at us to shut up because she was trying to sleep.  Well, the world doesn’t revolve around you, honey.  It’s not nighttime and we have every right to have a conversation in the hallway in the daytime.  I told her this and she started screaming at me, “SKINNY BITCH!  ANOREXIC BITCH!”  Four staff had to restrain her from attacking me.  “TOUCH ME AND I’LL KILL YOU!”  I yelled back.

“YOU JUST MADE A TERRORISTIC THREAT!” One of the staff yelled at me.

“THEN PROSECUTE ME!”  I yelled back.  Of course they didn’t.  They liked to try to intimidate me but it usually didn’t work.  She left me alone after that.  The staff continuously tried to scold me for that incident even though I was just defending myself.  I stuck to my guns.

BRENDA

The worst staff at the place was named Brenda.  She was always discriminating against me because of my eating disorder and would tell lies about me to the doctors.  The weirdest thing she would do was come into my room in the morning and ask me, “Did you have any dreams about food last night?”

“Yes,” I’d answer.

“Well, that’s because you’re starving your body,” she’d say.  Well, duh.

She would make comments about my eating disorder in front of many other patients, too, which is breaking HIPAA laws.  “When you don’t feed, your body feeds on itself,” she would tell me with about 4 or 5 other patients present.  They would snicker.

I once told her that I could never eat peanut butter again because it was my best friend’s favorite food and she died on May 1.  I  explained it was too painful for me because it was the food that we always ate and enjoyed together.  I should not have told her this because she made it her mission to force me to eat peanut butter.  She’d leave it lying around in my room when I was asleep along with graham crackers and I’d wake up in the morning and there it would be on my dresser.  I’d cry because the sight of it made me miss Amanda so much.  One time I did eat it in front of her just because she wouldn’t stop trying to force me to eat it.  It tasted like grief and sorrow and loss, and she told me it was going to taste like fond memories.  I cried the whole day the next day.

About a week later, I chose to eat peanut butter on my own, for some reason.  The emergency medications they would give me would often make me crave it and I’d eat it without thinking about it.  The psychiatrist pulled me aside when he heard about this.

“One of the staff says you’re being manipulative because you made this huge deal about not eating peanut butter and now you’re eating it.”

“I don’t see how that’s being manipulative.  I didn’t want to eat it when forced but then I later decided to eat it on my own.”  It didn’t take a genius to know which staff that was.

Another time I woke up extremely confused and I genuinely didn’t know where I was.  I stumbled out of my room and limped into the common area and there was Brenda.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“I think you know exactly where you are and you’re trying to manipulate me,” she declared.

Confused, I stumbled back into my room and went back to sleep and never mentioned that incident again.

“HERE’S HOW YOU HANG YOURSELF”

Quite possibly the worst incident at Bemidji was when a staff member instructed me on how to hang myself.  I don’t remember his name, but I remember his face very clearly.

I was very distraught that day and was in my room sobbing because I hated it there and I would do anything to leave.  A staff came in and I told them, “I would do ANYTHING to get out of here!  Absolutely ANYTHING!”  They took this statement to mean that I would kill myself to get out of there, so they came in and removed everything from my room, including my pillowcases.  A male staff member remained in my room with me.

“Why would they take my pillowcases?  What the hell can you do with a pillowcase?”  I wondered, genuinely confused.

“Well, you can hang yourself.  I’ve seen a man do it with one pillowcase.  He tied it up on the ceiling and tied it around his neck and hung himself.”

“Thanks for the tip,” I said dryly.

THE MEDICAL NEGLECT

This is the part that is the most difficult for me to write about.  I cannot tell you how much it scared me.

I struggle with severe hypotension, or low blood pressure.  When I first got there, they were taking my blood pressure three times a day.  After a couple days, they reduced it to once a day.  I confronted them about this and they said it was a “mistake.”  They continued to do it twice a day but never three times a day again despite how low it often was.

They did labs twice weekly but never told me the results despite it being my right to know.  At one point I did demand they tell me and they explained to me that I was deficient in several nutrients and they told me that they weren’t going to replace them or do anything about it.

“Why didn’t you TELL me my labs were bad?” I asked.

“That’s not something we would tell you,” they responded.

They’d force me to eat and I’d force myself to throw up to the point where I was vomiting blood.  I showed them the blood in my vomit and they’d make comments such as “Well, we’re not going to do anything about that since you do it to yourself.”  I asked them if they could talk to me a little bit after meals so that I didn’t feel the need to do this but they refused.  I now have permanent stomach issues due to the lack of medical treatment I received there.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Erickson, promised me I would be able to stay on my Topomax, which prevents flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms, if  I ate.  I took his word at face value and I did, but he lied.  He took me off of it without telling me.

The last two weeks I was there, I noticed I was feeling more and more depressed and I didn’t know why.  After awhile I finally realized that my antidepressant was missing from my meds.  I asked them about this and they said, “Oh, sorry.  We forgot you were on it and stopped giving it to you.  We’ll restart it.”  There is absolutely no excuse for that.  I have no words for how incredibly negligent that was.

BODY IMAGE COMMENTS

Anyone who works in mental health knows not to make comments on someone’s body image, or so I thought.  Despite the fact that I was throwing up everything they forced me to eat, I was still gaining weight and it was obvious to some staff members and they felt the need to comment on it.

I was waking up one morning, and a staff member named Jody came into my room and started commenting on my body image out of the blue.

“It’s very obvious you’re gaining weight.  Before you just looked way too thin and now you have a runner’s build and I really like it.  Keep it up!”

Devastated, I clutched my blanket and sobbed.

Another time, when I was out in the common area, a staff member named Susie looked at another patient and looked at me and said to the other patient, “You’re so tiny!”  I reported this comment to the supervisor but Susie lied about it and said that she had told “Ellie” that she had a tiny wait time for her next placement.  That’s definitely not what she said but of course they were going to take Susie’s word over mine.

YOU CAN’T EAT, BUT HE CAN

There were times when I was ravenously hungry and I needed the nutrients but the staff refused to let me eat.  They’d let Donny eat whenever he wanted, however.  The dietician had ordered me vanilla pudding because it was mushy and easy for me to eat.

I asked for a snack and they said “No, you’ve had enough,” even though all I had for dinner was a small salad and I was really hungry.  Donny came out of his room 5 minutes later and asked for food and they gave him the pudding that was ordered for me right in front of me.

“HEY!  That’s MY pudding!  The dietician ordered it for me special!  And why shouldn’t I be allowed to eat when I’m hungry?”

The staff member Sarah aggressively told me, “That’s not YOUR pudding.  And you’ve had enough to eat tonight.  HE hasn’t.”  That IS one thing that the staff got in trouble for when I reported it.  It was communicated across the board that whenever I was hungry I should get to eat.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

There were good staff there and I’d like to give them credit where credit is due.  I don’t think I would have made it through if it weren’t for the good staff.

Mary Lou was my favorite.  She’d pull me aside and talk to me and every time I had a complaint about the way one of the staff members were treating me, she’d address it.  She assured me they wouldn’t let me die if I didn’t eat, although it was stuck in my mind after the one staff member had told me that.  She often made me coffee with whipped cream and it tasted really good.

One night I passed out cold on the floor and they didn’t find me for 30 minutes or longer.  The staff who took me to the ER was Chrissy.  She was so sweet and kind and talked to me like one would talk to a friend.  She would hug me every once in awhile and say, “We all need that physical contact.  It helps.”  And it did.  The most difficult part of being in the hospital for me is the lack of physical contact so I appreciated it more than she will ever know.

Kaya was the best nurse they had there.  She rescued me when the staff members were crowded around me laughing.  She took me into her office and gave me a shot so that I’d fall asleep and stop crying.  If I was hungry she’d feed me even though she wasn’t supposed to.  She called herself the “food enabler.”  She said she was always there and that I could come up to her whenever I needed anything so I really trusted her.

Farin Rae was the one who had experience in eating disorders.  She was always telling me that I was beautiful and that I didn’t have to hate myself so much.  She would sometimes have hour long conversations with me about my life and my struggles.  She was genuinely interested in what I had to say, which meant a lot to me.  She would gently encourage me to eat, rather than force and threaten like the rest of the staff did.  I always looked forward to her coming in to work.  She would print off special quotes for me so that I could hang them on my wall.

Tammy was my social worker there.  She would make special time for me to work on my PTSD together.  She’d devise special worksheets for me and I would do them and we would talk about them and how my PTSD had affected my life.  Those sessions were very helpful for me and they were what got me through the day because I felt like I was doing something productive and not just languishing around doing nothing.

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Me Against the World, Part 2

Everything that happened after agreeing to go with the paramedics is nothing more, or nothing less, about facing my greatest fear.

My greatest fear before that was being raped, but clearly, that already happened…multiple times, by multiple different men.

My new greatest fear was like a small seed.  The moment my eating disorder started getting bad, the seed was planted.  As it worsened, it began growing and growing like a poisonous vine until it was growing all along the fences of my mind and choking the life out of every breath I took.

In Texas, I was safe from it.  No one could impose such a violation onto my body, and apparently the state of Texas felt the same way.  The only way an adult could be force fed in Texas is if the parents of the adult became their power of attorney over their medical decisions in a court of law.  I was safe, I knew.  My parents didn’t care about me.  They hate me.  They would never do that.  They would sit there and watch me starve to death with a smile on their faces, and that’s the truth.

However, by agreeing to move to Minnesota, I did not know what I was getting myself into.  I knew there was better healthcare for both me and for my family.  I knew we would all be able to get medical assistance, which we desperately needed.  But I didn’t know the law.

In Minnesota, if the doctor deems it necessary, he or she can have a patient force fed against his or her will to save his or her life.  It’s rather easy to get a court order to do this.  I had no idea.  That’s what this post is all about.  That was my greatest fear, and I faced it.

Last night I nearly ran away from my group home, and I tried to think of what terrified me.  My mind came back absolutely blank.

I’ve already faced my greatest fear.  What the hell am I even afraid of?  What……?  My mind is blank…..?  Nothing…..?  There must be something???  Nothing?

Which means that right now, nothing stands in my way of doing whatever I can for my recovery so that I can go back home to my family, and I am working hard at it, even if it means another hospital stay.  I’m committed to this (excuse the pun!)

The moment the paramedics dropped me off at the hospital, I was fully expecting to be kicked out of there too.

Nobody wants me because I can’t eat.  Not my group home, not Melrose, not the hospital, not my family.  And now whatever hospital they are going to send me to is going to kick me out, too.

Contrary to my initial attitude, the nurse that walked in was so sweet and treated me like a human being, which is very rare in medical hospitals given the fact that I am diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.  She hooked me up to yet another IV, which was about the 6th or 7th one I’d had that week alone because I was in such poor health.

“I think they’ll be able to help you, honey,” she said.  “You’re about the same size as my daughter.  She has an eating disorder too.”  I was down to nothing at that point, and was basically a walking skeleton.  I cried.

“I have a daughter, too, and I cannot imagine what you are going through.  I know I have one and everything, but I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the parent who is the one watching her daughter go through this.  I am so, so sorry,” and I cried more.

“It’s going to be okay.  There’s help for her.  And there’s help for you, too.  Talk to the doctor and tell her everything.  I think she can help.”

I have to.  I can’t lie.  I can’t hold back.  If they release me from this hospital, too, I will die.  I’ve been back here too many times lately.  I need to start telling the truth and face whatever consequences are handed to me, no matter how painful they may be.

Then my damn eating disorder kicks in.  “BITCH, YOU WILL NEVER WEIGH 88 LBS IF YOU KEEP THIS UP.  LIE, AND GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.”

You menace.  My body is shutting down.  I almost died, and I’m dying now.  Go away.  I’m saving myself.  

The psychiatrist was on a webcam.  She had a kind face and asked me exactly what was going on.  I told her everything.  I told her I couldn’t eat anything and told her that I was obsessed with jumping out windows and all I wanted to do was jump off a building.

She immediately agreed that my suicidal ideation was so obsessive that it was dangerous and I needed to be admitted immediately.  She couldn’t understand why the doctor from the other hospital hadn’t released me to the psych ward.  She gave an immediate order to transport me to whichever psych ward had an available bed, which turned out to be Fairview Riverside.  For the first time in a long time, I felt safe.

The nurse came back in and had me drink some nasty tasting potassium supplement because for about the 3rd time in 2 weeks, I was potassium deficient.  The drips burned like hell and fried my veins and the supplements tasted disgusting.  I just couldn’t win!  I told her that I was being admitted to the hospital but that I was scared it was just going to be the fourth place I would be thrown out of.

“Fairview Riverside is a very good place.  They’ll take good care of you.  Think positive.  They aren’t like all the other places you’ve been so far.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

I decided to take her word for it because she had been so kind to me.  How could I not trust her just a little bit.  I tried to sleep while I waited for transportation to take me there, but I couldn’t, so I simply paced around listening to Linkin Park on Pandora.  There was a guard posted outside my door and I heard her yell that she couldn’t move from her spot because she had “two suicidals on hold.”  So I was on hold.  Lovely.  I suppose it was for the best, though.

The paramedics came back in and took me on a stretcher to the ambulance waiting outside.  It smelled like someone had died in the garage and they confirmed that I was correct.

I wish it had been me.  It would have saved everyone a whole lot of time and trouble.  

I held my breath as they pushed me through the doors of Station 10 at Fairview Riverside.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was terrified.  I wanted to cry, but I was too exhausted to cry.   I was immediately taken off the stretcher as soon as I got into the exam room.  There were two female staff in there, KK and Anna.  I was taken aback by how kind they were.

They aren’t going to lecture me?  They aren’t going to tell me that I brought this upon myself?  They aren’t going to scold me and tell me this is all my fault and I should be ashamed?

The first thing they wanted me to do was change into a gown so that they could weigh me.  Boy, was I familiar with that procedure.  I begged them not to.  They explained to me that they had to, but that I could stand backwards if I wanted to and they wouldn’t tell me the number if that made me feel more comfortable.

“Please,” I begged with tears in my eyes, “It’s probably something huge and gross and I don’t want you to see.  I don’t want anyone to see how fat I am,” I cried.  I weighed 103 lbs, but I didn’t find this out until MUCH later.  They both looked at me in shock.  I was nothing but bones.  `

“No, you’re low.  REALLY low,” Anna explained to me.  I was flabbergasted by her statement.  I knew I should lie, but the words flew out of my mouth.

“I….I’m just having so much trouble eating…and….and…I don’t like it…I can’t do it….I try so hard….and I can’t…and no one understands….”

“Here they will give you a tube if you can’t eat anything,” KK told me.  I was honest with her, now she was being honest with me.  I felt like a lightning bolt of fear had struck me in the heart.  I knew I could avoid that, though, if I talked my way out of it.  I got threatened with tube feeding all the time but no one had ever followed through with it.

“I thought they only did that to the skeletal girls, and Melrose is an eating disorder clinic and even they didn’t do that.  They just kicked me out when I couldn’t eat.  They didn’t do tubes there,” I explained.

Calm down, Melodie.  They are only trying to scare you into eating.  So many people have threatened you with a feeding tube, and no one has ever followed through.  You are safe.  Don’t worry.  All you have to do is eat a few carrots every now and then and they won’t do it.

“You’re at that point, you just can’t see it.  And we aren’t Melrose.  We aren’t going to throw you out for an illness.  We WILL tube you though.  We have to keep you alive.”

I don’t know, it sure sounds like they mean business.  I didn’t think anyone did tubes.  I’m scared now.  I need to come up with a plan to avoid this.  My greatest fear.  

They had me meet with the dietician almost immediately and she and my assigned psychiatrist both agreed right off the bat that they would put in an NG tube on Monday (the day we had the conversation was Wednesday) if I were still unable to eat by then.  However, they were very kind about it and didn’t use it as a punishment.  They simply saw it as a way to save my life.

Kari, the dietician, was very kind and good at what she did.  She asked me about my illness and told me the truth: that she thought I was skeletal and wondered if I wanted to keep losing weight.  I wanted to lie, but the truth spilled out.  I told her that I did because I thought I was massive and that my thighs were the size of Texas and that I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything.

My doctor treated me like a human.  He fixed my medications first and foremost.  He sat down with me at the table in the cafeteria when I was sitting alone and explained the NG tube procedure.  I did feel better after that.  All the nurses would periodically reassure me that I didn’t have anything to worry about.  The staff knew how terrified I was and would pull me aside and talk to me quietly.  I would repeat the same things over and over, like I often do when I’m anxious.  They were okay with that, too.  They offered me reassurance.

That first night, Kari wanted to see just how bad it was.  I was too weak to actually go to the cafeteria and eat with everyone else so they were nice enough to bring my tray to my room.  It had carrots and green beans and broth.  Easy stuff to eat, right?  Even for me.

You have to eat this.  You have to prove that you can.  You have to show them that you can eat or you are going to end up with a tube shoved down your throat.  Go on, show them.  SHOW THEM, DAMN IT.  SHOW THEM.

Hands that seemingly didn’t belong to me reached out and started rearranging the vegetables into neat little piles.  Not one little piece would go towards my mouth.  I couldn’t control my hands.  Why couldn’t I control my hands?  Why couldn’t I eat BROTH?  Why couldn’t I eat even a CARROT?  My mind would not let me bring my hand to my mouth.

NO.  YOU WILL NOT.  NO.  YOU ARE UNDER MY CONTROL NOW.  YOU ARE NEVER EATING AGAIN.  EVER.  YOU ARE MINE, BITCH.  

Suddenly I was more afraid of my own mind than I was afraid of the feeding tube.  I’ve had this illness for 18 years, but this was the worst it had ever been.  How could it have gotten this bad, almost overnight?  This illness is so insidious.

Kari came back in after awhile.  I had to admit defeat, which was the most shameful part.  I hung my head in shame, expecting a lecture.

“I……I’m sorry.  I just…couldn’t do it.”

“It’s okay, Melodie.  We understand the illness.  I know you tried.  It looks pretty, by the way.”

I was speechless.  They understand….?  They aren’t going to yell at me or tell me to try harder?  HUH????

I began to bond with a staff member named Stephanie who used to work with girls with eating disorders who completely understood what I was going through.  I trusted her and I trust very few people.  Over the next 5 days, I began to confide things in her and realize things I hadn’t even thought about.

1)How this bitch of an illness was hiding behind the trauma the whole time.

2) How the NG tube was my greatest fear but I still couldn’t bring myself to eat.

3) How I didn’t care if I died because this disease is living death and it’s killing me slowly and painfully anyway.

4) How the last time I was able to eat anything was last Monday morning.

5) How I couldn’t handle Melrose because eating 6 times a day would have given me a mental breakdown.

All the other patients and my roommate, “Vanessa,” were all so understanding about my eating disorder.  Not one person made fun of me for it.  Everyone had their own issues.  Every time they announced breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I ran back to my room and hid.

I became terrified to touch food or even smell it.  It might seep through my fingers and make my skin cells swell up.  The smell might permeate my nostrils and make my body expand, thus making me fatter than I already was.  I thought things like that only happened on Lifetime movies.  I didn’t know that degree of sickness was real.

Eventually, Monday, the dreaded day rolled around.  They weighed me and I looked.  The number was 98.0, making my BMI a 14.  I could not stand up without passing out.  I hadn’t eaten in a week.  I still dragged myself to group, though.  The other patients knew that the tube was a possibility and how afraid of it I was.

Sure enough, Kari pulled me out of group early that morning.  I struggled to stand up without blacking out.  My blood pressure was in the 70’s.  She asked me what was going on, and words started spewing out of my mouth.  Honest words.  The truth.

I told her what had been going on the past 5 days.  How bad the illness had gotten, and how I had been losing a pound or more a day since I’d been there.

“At least.  You look SO much thinner from when I last saw you.  I know I’m technically not supposed to say that, but I have to make the observation because I think you need to hear the truth.”

“I’m too afraid to touch food and I don’t even know what to do anymore.  I’m just so exhausted.  I’m too exhausted to cry or even stand up.  I feel like complete shit.  I haven’t been able to eat since last Monday.”

“I can imagine.  Right now our only option is to do a tube feed.”

“I’m so scared,” I whispered in such a small voice.

“It’s the only way we can keep you alive, Melodie.  We HAVE to do it.”

I can’t fight them.  I have no strength left in my body.  My fear is radiating throughout every pore of my skin, but there is no avoiding it.  They are actually going to do it.  They actually mean business.  I can’t talk my way out of it.  Hell, I can’t even think up the right words to talk my way out of it.  I feel so terrible I may as well let them.

“It….it’s not something I can fight you on.  I wish you didn’t have to,” I said softly, with waves of exhaustion washing over me and the dizziness swirling my vision, threatening to consume me.

“Okay, I’m going to go talk to the medical doctors and Dr. Strauch and let you know what’s going to happen,” Kari explained.  I immediately went back into group and told them that the shit was about to hit the fan.

“Ohhhhh shit, they’re really going to do it???” Vanessa asked.

“I think they are, but things like this must take time, so hopefully not today,” I explained.

After group, Kari came right up to me as I was heading back to my room.

“Melodie, I just spoke with the medical staff and it is imperative that we start tube feeding as early as today.  Is that going to be okay?”

“What happens if I say no?”

“We have to get a court order, and believe me, we would win.  Your appearance in court alone would prove our case.”

“At this point, I can’t physically offer you any resistance.  You could poke me and I’d fall over.  And I feel so terrible right now, so I’m a lot less afraid.  But if I agree to it, can I please get two requests met?  I need to be sedated because I am so afraid, and I need someone in there with me holding my hand because this is my worst fear and I CANNOT do this alone.”

“We can definitely do that.  That’s not a problem.”  Relief flooded over me.  I was not expecting to do it that day.  They said “possibly.”  So I sat down and watched TV with the other patients.  All of a sudden, a nurse came up with a blood glucose kit.  It was Barb, my nurse that I trust and hold in high regard.

Much to my dismay, she informed me that the procedure was going to happen today as soon as possible.  She pricked my finger and squeezed and my blood sugar came back at 58.  She said that was my body’s way of trying to regulate itself.  I’ve always been hypoglycemic.

“We are going to give you a whole milligram of your PRN (Xanax) so you’ll be pretty out of it for the procedure.  And don’t worry.  I’ll be right there the whole time.  You’re not going to be alone.”  She was so sweet.

The nurse who was going to put the tube in accidentally brought up the wrong tubing, so that bought me some time.  I stumbled into group.  Halfway through, I got called out.

“It’s my doomsday,” I informed them dramatically, dropping my head and slumping my shoulders.

I dragged myself over to them and quickly took the Xanax.  I started feeling its effects almost immediately.  I was still scared but calmer and had a more matter of fact attitude about facing my fear.  Barb helped me to the bed and squeezed both my hands.  The other nurse got the tube out and began to insert it into my nose.

THE PAIN, OH GOD, THE PAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was too tired and too ill to actually cry, but tears cascaded down my cheeks involuntarily as the tube went down my left nostril.  I stared up at the ceiling, trying desperately to dissociate so that I could go somewhere, anywhere but here.

I felt it go farther and farther down.  I was squeezing Barb’s hands really tight.

“We are almost done, honey.  Now swallow,” she instructed.  I kept trying and trying to swallow but since I have such difficulty swallowing, it wasn’t going down.  More pain.  More tears.  More fear.

Finally, after four very painful attempts, it went down.  I was still holding Barb’s hands as tightly as I could but I was fighting the drowziness and calm from the Xanax so my grip gradually became weaker.

Vanessa came in to grab her things because they had to move her rooms because of the tube.  I was sad.  She was an awesome roommate.

“I hope you feel better soon, Melodie,” she said.

“Thank you,” I whispered weakly.  The pain and fear had taken such a toll on me that I fell asleep while Barb and the other nurse hooked me up to the feeding pump.

The procedure had been pretty traumatic, but much less traumatic than eating at that point.

The x-ray technician came in and made sure the tube was in place because I was too ill to actually go down to the x-ray floor.  It was, so I closed my eyes and fell asleep again.  This time, peacefully.

I wasn’t scared anymore.  For once I was able to simply rest and know that I was getting fed without physically having to eat and having mental breakdowns.  It was the weirdest feeling ever, the milky nutritional paste trickling down my throat, but it was nowhere near as frightening as I thought it was going to be.

I faded in and out of consciousness.  I woke up to a nurse coming in and pulling the wiring out of the tube.  I remember sighing in relief because the wire was so painful and it felt so much better.

I had a one on one with staff because they told me that a lot of people with my illness will get pissed off and rip the tube out.  I was too weak to make such a move.  While I was half asleep, I heard the staff switching off and talking to each other.

“Any trouble?” I heard one of them ask.

“No, she is actually being very cooperative,” the other one said, with a surprised tone in his voice.

Yes, I surprisingly was.  This scenario always played out in my head with me fighting and kicking and screaming and resisting, but when it actually happened, I faced my greatest fear like a warrior.  I just hope that I never have to face it again.

 

Can’t Be Fixed

Every day that I wake up in my group home about 35 miles away from my husband and daughter with no way of being able to visit them, I feel more and more empty and alone.  I do not know how long I will be here.  I do not know what they want from me.

If they want me to be ‘cured’ or ‘perfect,’ they will never get that.  The expectation is too unrealistic and is too futile for me to even try.  I have struggled with anorexia since I was 8, and the more they want me to eat, the less I am able to eat.  The more they increase my meal plan, the more impossible it seems.  I feel so hopeless, and then the depression settles in.  When the depression settles in, the feelings of worthlessness settle in and I want to do nothing other than cut myself so I don’t have to feel the pain of never being good enough anymore.

I’m not good enough to go home.  I’m no longer good enough to be a wife.  I’m no longer good enough to be a mother.  I try so hard to at least get a grip on this illness, but I stumble and I fall and it’s the end of the world.  The pressure that is being placed on me is like the weight of the world on Atlas’s shoulders.  It’s unbearable.

Every time I talk to my husband, it inevitably ends with tears streaming down my cheeks, begging him to let me come home to him and my two year old daughter.

“Please let me come home, James, please.  It isn’t doing me any good, sending me away constantly and having me in and out of institutions for something that cannot be fixed.  All this is doing is making it harder on me and keeping our family separated.  I can’t stand being apart from you.  I know I have trouble eating, but that doesn’t mean I should be locked away where I can’t see the light of day and where I can only see my daughter once a week for an hour or less!”

“Melodie, we’ve talked about this.  It’s not safe for you to come home.  It’s not safe for you, or Michelle.”

The conversation is always over when he says it is.  It always feels like a sucker punch to the gut.  He used to love me.  He used to hold me and kiss me when I cried.  He used to treat me like I was his prized possession.  Now, I’m nothing.  I’m nothing but a broken toy that can’t be fixed.  A broken toy that needs to be thrown away because it doesn’t work the same way it used to anymore.

I still have the same ring on my finger.  I still have his last name.  But he doesn’t look at me the same.  Doesn’t talk to me the same.

Where’d You Go, by Fort Minor.    “I find myself trying to stay by the phone/cause your voice always helps me to not feel so alone/but I feel like an idiot/working my day around a call but when I pick up, I don’t have much to say….

I told him to just leave me.  To divorce me.  It would be better than this pretend game.  He always pretends like nothing is wrong, when everything is.  If he doesn’t love me or want to be with me anymore, I wish he would just say it, rather than acting like it without verbalizing it.

I want you to know it’s a little fucked up that I’m stuck here waiting/at times debating/telling you that I’ve had it with you and your disease/me and the rest of the family here singing/where’d you go/I miss you so/seems like it’s been forever/since you’ve been gone/please come back home

The song is perfect, minus the ‘please come back home’ part.  How I long to hear those words out of his mouth.  I pray every night that he will call me one day and ask me to come home.  He told me he would only let me come home if I were dying and there was nothing more the doctors could do, though.  Otherwise, I’d have to stay until the group home staff decided I was okay to go home.

She said “Some days I feel like shit, some days I wanna quit….and just be normal for a bit”

All I want is to throw myself on the sidewalk and scream at the sky.  Scream and scream until I have no voice left.  Scream at God to please make me normal.  Scream because I can’t be normal, no matter how hard I try.  Scream because my family is slipping away from me and I am powerless to stop it.  Scream because I see food on the table and I can’t bring myself to put it in my mouth, for the life of me.

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?  WHY????  CAN’T I BE MIRACULOUSLY CURED OR SOMETHING????

My constant fear that I’ll be sent to the hospital for some medical complication looms over my head like a thunderous raincloud.  Since doctors and nurses think anorexia is something you can control, they treat you like garbage.  Like a second class citizen.  Like you’re nothing.  They treat me the same way I treat myself.  The screams that bubble up in my throat are silenced there.

Attention whore.  Attention whore.  Attention whore.  Attention whore.

I press the blade to my skin, drag it across, and watch the red blood seep out of the cut.  It’s the only thing that will stop me from reacting to their condescending stares or harsh tones or hurtful words.  It also proves to me that I am human.  So many like to treat me like I am not a human being; like I am synonymous with the lesser, but I have one thing in common with other humans.

I BLEED RED.

That’s the one thing that proves I am still a human being.  They can’t deny it then.

Me Against the World

 

I have been gone for quite some time and have unfortunately been unable to update my blog due to being denied access to the computer.  Believe me, it was pure torture, as this blog is my life and since I am on disability, I feel as though it is the one thing in my life that gives me purpose.  I want my story to be heard.  No one in real life ever listens, but those who follow this blog listen.

I was hospitalized at Fairview Riverside in Minnesota on the psych ward from complications due to anorexia, major depressive disorder (recurrent and severe), and one hell of a case of PTSD that runs my life.  Please remember however, that I am not my diagnoses.  They are what I struggle with, but they do not define me.  They will not tell you anything about who I truly am as a person.  They will not tell you how much I love my family and would do anything for them.  How I am an avid reader and go through books faster than people go through tissue paper.  How my life experiences burn inside of my mind and will mentally and physically harm me unless I am able to write and type them out on paper, which is what I am going to do right now.

You see, this time around, things were worse than the last time I had voluntarily admitted myself to Melrose because of my eating disorder and swallowing trigger.  I had spent a little less than a month in an IRTS (Intensive Residential Treatment Services) facility and my swallowing trigger had gotten so bad that the nurse at my group home and I had talked about surgery to have a feeding tube placed directly into my stomach.

I wouldn’t mind that.  I’d still be in complete control.  I’d be the one feeding myself, and I could restrict as much as I want to.  My body, my choice.  My body, my choice.

The IRTS facility was interesting.  It was called Willow Haven, and it was out in the middle of nowhere.  There must have been a meth lab somewhere nearby, because half of the residents in the house were tweaking.  I loved my roommate (we will call her Monica) but she would smoke crystal meth all the time in our room right in front of me and spend all night rearranging the furniture.  Drugs are a major trigger to me because when I was human trafficked when I was 19, my abusers forced me to take drugs before I met with a client so I would be more docile and pliable.  That is the reason I will never again touch drugs in my life, regardless of how much pain I am in.

Monica was a sweetheart, though.  She simply thought life wasn’t worth living without her addiction, which was the same thing that I thought about my eating disorder, so we understood each other.  I never would have breathed a word about her smoking meth to staff.  Even if I had been a snitch and decided to, the staff wouldn’t have done anything anyway.  When I first arrived at the house, they had found a bag of meth just lying there on top of the couch upstairs because someone was too high to even remember it was there.  They didn’t even give everyone in the house a urine analysis to see who was using.  They simply said, “We can’t prove anything,” and dropped the issue.  I was flabbergasted, to say the least.

Their program centered more around chemical dependency rather than depression, anxiety, or PTSD.  I was told by both the program director and my social worker that they dealt with my issues and could help me.  The moment I walked through the doors, I felt as though I made a mistake, but I loved my housemates.  I had daily chores I was supposed to do, so I felt like I was a part of something.

But they don’t understand my eating disorder or my PTSD.  Did I make a mistake in coming here?  There’s no turning back now.  Did I make a decision that was too hasty because I felt like I couldn’t live under the same roof as my mother in law?  Was I being too selfish?  What if I had stayed and toughed it out?  Is this the best option for me?  Did I do the right thing?  

My thoughts tormented me, day after day.

My eating disorder AND my PTSD had gotten so much worse after my discharge from Melrose.  They had had me gain 12 lbs in 2 and a half weeks.  I could not handle it mentally, so I began to have breakdowns.

“Skinny.  Skinny.  I’m fat.  I used to be skinny,”  I would tell anyone who would listen.  My body dysmorphia was so bad that it was borderline delusional.  One of my housemates who was a few years older than me who we’ll call Frank who had a problem with overeating told me that he had seen girls like me before at the Emily Program before and that I needed to get help immediately or I was going to die.

I ate nothing but salads in the IRTS facility, and they didn’t know anything about eating disorders.  They thought I was being healthy, and called me healthy all the time.  I let them think that, even though their words were highly triggering to me.  In case you don’t know, the word ‘healthy’ is the worst thing you can call someone who struggles with anorexia, because it translates to the word ‘fat’ in our brains.  I lied and deceived whoever I could so that I would not be put back in the hospital, but I lost tons of weight in the 3 weeks I was there.  My housemates began to notice.  The staff began to notice.

I stopped trying to hide it.  I refused to drink, even.  I couldn’t swallow.  I would consume nothing but Pedialyte popsicles, and sometimes not even that.  Anytime someone would confront me about it or try to get me to eat, I would shout, “MY BODY, MY LIFE!  I LIKE BEING SKINNY!  I DON’T WANT TO EAT!”  My housemates knew me as sweet, gentle little Melodie who loved to color and walk around the house and sing Linkin Park all day.  Sweet little Melodie was turning into a skeletal monster, like the ones you see in horror movies.

One particular morning, one of the female staff kept coaxing me to eat and telling me if I didn’t, I would be sent back to Melrose.

“No!  NO!  I don’t WANT to!  I’m NOT going back!  I’m NEVER going back!  Why can’t they understand?  Why doesn’t ANYONE understand?  It’s MY life!  Why can’t I just not eat in PEACE!  I like it this way!  I don’t LIKE food!”

“Hey, Melodie, what’s wrong?” One of my favorite male housemates asked as he walked downstairs and saw the tears gathering in my eyes.

“They’re trying to save her life, but she’s too anorexic,” Frank explained.

“HEY!  I’m not going to die!  Nobody has to save my life!  I’m doing FINE!  I just don’t like food the same way everyone else does!  I was born this way!  God made me this way!”  I explained back.

But Frank was right.  It ended up being a good thing that Monica was up all night all the time.  She kept a watchful, motherly eye on me.

I pass out all the time, and I am usually able to hide it.  I have about a 30 second warning, and I stumble into the bathroom or into bed and either shut the door or close my eyes.

One night, however, I didn’t make it in time.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, it’s gonna happen, I have to get to the bathroom NOW, I’m going to pass out, get in there, shut the door, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!

I got to the bathroom, but I passed out with my hand still on the doorknob.  I wasn’t able to shut it.  Monica was walking by, saw me with my head slumped over, my arm limp on the door.

“Melodie?  MELODIE!”  I heard her, but couldn’t respond.  I heard her footsteps running on the carpet.  Gradually, I got my consciousness back, but only barely.  My whole body shook when I stood up and I felt like if I closed my eyes I was going to go into a coma.  I wanted to go walk back into my room and lie down, but my legs were too shaky.

I need help walking, but I’ll never admit it.  I can do it myself, even if I have to crawl.  I’m independent.  I can do it myself.  

Karen, one of my favorite female staff, came running into the bathroom.  I tried to make myself look as conscious and well as possible so that they would not be calling for help, but Karen was already on the phone with the paramedics.  I was already screwed.

“….yes, yes…..right here in the bathroom…..extremely weak….pale….come out….look at her….barely walk….”  I could only hear bits and pieces of what she was saying.

Monica took me over to the couch and held me.  She didn’t try to make me talk.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  I was so exhausted.  I heard Monica humming a soothing song, like the mother I never had.  If I could have felt feelings at that moment, I would have been angry with her teenage daughters for not wanting to visit her just because she was struggling with addiction.  That doesn’t make her a bad person.  We all have our trials and tribulations.  Don’t hate the addict, hate the drug.  If it’s hard to watch, imagine how hard it is to live it.

“I’ve just called the paramedics.  They’re on their way.  Hang tight, Melodie.  PLEASE stay awake,” Karen said.  They came within 5 minutes and asked me a million questions.  The police came too, for some reason.  I am afraid of the police.  The questions were basic questions.  They asked me what my name was, what day it was, and other things.  My answers were slurred and raspy.  I failed on two of them because I was so confused.  My brain simply wasn’t working right.

“What year is it?”

“2009?” I responded.  Nope, it was 2015.  2009 was the year I was human trafficked.  That was the year I died and was reborn a monster.  I often get confused and think it’s that year.

“Who is the president?”

“Bill Clinton?” A South Park episode played in my head with Bill Clinton in it, so I thought that HAD to be right.  With those answers, they decided to take me.  My eyes were also unsteady, unfocused, and my vision was so blurry.  They brought a stretcher in, picked me up and placed me right on it.

Monica wanted to ride with me, but the paramedics pushed her back.  She tried to go with me despite that.  I was too weak to yell out for her, but I reached my arm out and whispered, “Please.  Let her come.”  Karen responded, as the doors were closing, “She can’t.  But don’t worry.  It’s a good hospital.  They’ll take good care of you, Melodie!”

The first thing the paramedic did when he started the IV was ask me if I was doing suboxone treatment.  I had no idea what that even was.  The next day, when I got back to the IRTS, I asked my housemates and they told me it was treatment for heroin addiction.  I laughed and laughed.  I had had so many IVs and blood draws that he thought I was doing intravenous drugs!

“Suboxone, what’s that?” I asked him, all confused.  He looked embarrassed and walked up to the front of the ambulance.

We arrived at the hospital and they took blood and found out I was low on potassium and that was why I was so confused.  They explained to me that I could have had a heart attack. I had never been low on potassium before.

But wait, doesn’t potassium really only get low because of purging?  I’ve heard and read countless times that it’s damn near impossible for potassium to get low because of restriction, no matter how severe the restriction is or how long you restrict for.

They took me back to the house that night after they gave me the potassium drip, but the next morning they told me to pack my things for Melrose.  The nurse told me not to worry because they were strongly considering the surgery of having the feeding tube placed directly into my stomach.  However, when I got there, I was bluntly told that that wasn’t the case.  I called the nurse immediately.

“No, I was told that they were still considering it.  Please sign the papers, Melodie.  It will be okay.  You won’t know unless you try.  I am in contact with your entire treatment team.  I’ve spoken to them about this issue multiple times, and they know how difficult it is for you.”

I don’t think they do.  They don’t understand the fact that if I put ANYTHING in my mouth, food OR water, my brain feels like it is going to explode with trauma and flashbacks and excruciating pain, while simultaneously my eating disorder screams at me over and over that I’m nothing but a fat cow and look at those thunder thighs and oink oink fatty and everybody hates me and FAT FAT FAT.

” I NEED to go back to trauma treatment!!!  I’m doing EMDR!!!  I HAVE to process this trauma or it’s going to keep killing me!!!”  I screamed.  “PLEASE don’t let them keep me here!  I can’t eat!!!  I’ll DIE!!!  All they’re going to do is keep trying to force food down my throat!!!!!”

“You are pushing yourself too hard in trauma treatment,” my psychiatrist warned.  “It’s causing you to break down and causing your body and mind to turn against you.  It’s literally killing you and is detrimental to your health.  You need to stop, and focus on the basics right now, which is relearning how to eat and drink without having these intense flashbacks.”

He said this while I was curled up into a ball on the bed like a little girl, clinging to my stuffed calico kitty for dear life.  My head was buried into her soft fur.  She has been with me through every hospitalization and every traumatic experience since I was 14.  She means the world to me.

The last time I had been at Melrose, it had been a safe place for me.  This time, I felt trapped and lied to by the nurse at Willow Haven.  I lashed out at the nurses and doctors who were just trying to help me because I was in so much pain and felt so deceived.  There was no excuse for it, really, but my PTSD was so bad that my flashbacks were constant and almost hourly.  They would bring food in and gently try to help me eat it.  I couldn’t.

I’ll have to put it in my mouth and swallow it and OH GOD THE PAIN IT WILL BE JUST LIKE BACK THEN THEY WILL KILL ME THEY WILL KILL ME BUT FIRST THEY WILL FUCK ME AND THEY WILL MAKE ME DO HORRIBLE THINGS

I felt like the staff didn’t believe that it was as bad as I was telling them it was.  They thought I wasn’t trying by not eating at all.  I didn’t want them to see my reaction, and I didn’t want to go through that pain anymore.  Melissa, the kindest nurse there, listened to me cry and told me she couldn’t imagine what I had went through and said it’s no wonder why I can’t eat or drink.  I refused to go to groups and wouldn’t interact with the other girls.  All they had were eating disorders.  None of them understood trauma.  Plus I had this phobia of people seeing my face for some reason.

“You have the opportunity of going to groups, Melodie.  Why aren’t you going to groups?”

“I don’t want them to see my face!  I don’t want any of those girls to see my face!  What if they see my face?  They can’t see it!”  Then I burst out crying.

I could literally feel myself dying.  I curled up into a ball underneath the desk in my room and did nothing all day but either listen to depressing music or recite the Our Father prayer or the Hail Mary.  The staff who was lovely to me and hinted at having been through something similar would come by and try to coach me to eat in all the right ways.  I’d cry and cry and cry that I was afraid and I’d see her almost get emotional too.

She got lots of towels and we got something easy, a popsicle.  I tried to eat it, but once the juice would hit my throat, my esophagus would physically convulse and I would spit it back out.  I physically could not swallow it.  There was a barrier between my brain and my body. But I was showing them I was trying.

“I really AM extremely hungry, but I CAN’T eat anything,” I explained to her, fresh tears gathering in my eyes.  I ran both hands through my filthy hair that I was unable to wash because I couldn’t stand the sight of my own naked body.

“I know, sweetie.  I was advocating at the team meeting for tube feeding.  I know you’re trying, but it’s very very hard for you right now.”

“It’s the last thing I want, but I physically can’t eat or drink ,and I don’t want to die,” I cried, the tears running down my cheeks more freely now.

The next morning, the team came back with their decision.  I could either find a way to eat, or be discharged.  They thought I was being too noncompliant, especially since I wasn’t even TRYING to eat.  I was furious about it then, but now I realize they were right.  I did start to ‘try,’ but I couldn’t swallow it.  ‘Trying’ meant chewing it up and spitting it right out.  At least I got SOME nutrients that way.

That night, however, I tried to sign myself out.  Big mistake.  My husband brought me some super mushy food that melted in my mouth.  I purposely ate too much of it hoping that it would kill me with refeeding syndrome because it had had been so long since I last ate.

It didn’t kill me.  It just gave me a seizure where I ended up on the bed shaking uncontrollably and almost shitting myself.  One of the nurses had to put an adult diaper on me.  I was unbelievably embarrassed. They sent me by ambulance across the street to Methodist Hospital with Park Nicollet, where they kept me for several days because my blood pressure was critically low.  They had me on fluids and a potassium drip.  No one came to visit me, and all I did was cry and stare at the window.  I was on the 8th floor.

I just want to jump.  No one would notice.  It would make everyone happy.  I’m such a worthless waste of space.  I just want to jump.  Jump.  Jump.  Jump.

They ran tests to see if I couldn’t swallow due to physical issues, but as I was expecting, it was all psychological.  Two on call psychiatrists spoke to me and concluded that I needed to be in inpatient psych, but Dr. Jackish said to me, “I’m going to discharge you and let nature take its course.”

That comment gave me the strength I needed to fight.  I felt like giving up before.  Now I I felt like I had the strength of a lion in me.

God, give me the strength I need to fight this illness, even if it means facing my worst fear.  Stand with me through this.  Do NOT let me die.  Please, do not let me die.  Do not let these people win.  All these people who want me to die.  Please, do NOT let them win.  I will survive and I will go on to live a long life.  Please help me fight.  

Dr.  Jackish spoke to my husband on the phone and told him the amended, more appropriate version of what he told me.  He told him that there was nothing more that the hospital could do for me and that they weren’t willing to do what was necessary to keep me alive even though I physically could not sustain myself.  He told my husband to bring me back anytime I was low on nutrition or dehydrated.

Rage churned in my mind.  I posted this interaction word for word for my online support group so that I could receive advice on what to do.  However, I didn’t need to do anything.  One of my online friends was a mandated reporter.  She called Adult Protective Services and reported it as a case of abuse and stated that she believed my life was in immediate danger.  I didn’t know she had done this.  All I know is that the police showed up at my mother in law’s door at 2 in the morning.

Oh my God, the police…..Oh God…..I am in deep shit…..my mother in law is going to kill me, I’m going to get arrested, I’m going to die…..

“Melodie, we just wanted to talk to you.  Did you make any statements online tonight about thinking you were going to die or about planning your own funeral?”

“I…..I…..I don’t remember.  I don’t think so.  I was just asking for advice on what to do because I’ve been having such trouble and the doctor at the hospital told me discharge me and let nature take its course so he told me to go die, basically, so I feel like dying.”

“Can you step outside for a minute and talk to us?”

I shook uncontrollably.  It was so cold outside, and I weighed a mere 103 lbs on my 5’8 frame.  It wasn’t super cold out, but cold enough to penetrate my bones and feel like my feet were rooted to the ground and as though I were going to die of hypothermia.  Words cannot explain how painful the cold is when you are struggling with anorexia.  It is bone chilling.

“P-p-p-lllllease…..I’m s-s-sorry for w-whatever I d-d-d-did,” I managed through chattering teeth.  We were out on the porch but the windows were open so it was the same temperature as it was outdoors.

“We aren’t here because you did anything wrong.  We are here to see if you’re okay.  Can you tell us more about what you were writing tonight that got your friends so concerned?”

“I d-d-d-don’t rrrrrrremember,” I cried.  My memory was a blank.  Whatever status or message I had posted, I must have been dissociated when I did it.  My brain is like that.  I have giant black holes in my memory from things I’ve done when I’ve been dissociated.  Countless people have come up to me and told me I’ve said things or done things I have had absolutely no recollection of doing or saying, but I know I must have.  The police wouldn’t be lying.

“Hey, guys, if you want to talk to her, you’re going to have to do it in here.  She’s anorexic.  She has no body fat.  Her body temperature will drop, and she will freeze.  Come inside,” my mother in law yelled from the porch screen door.  Thank God for her.  She draped a Vikings blanket over me.

“Now, it’s still your choice.  You can go with the paramedics, or you can choose not to go.  I think it would benefit you, but it’s still your choice,” the policeman said.  I’ve spoken to the police in this town before.  They were very very kind, which is highly uncommon.  The last time is because I had a violent allergic reaction to Seroquel.

“….personality disorder…..definitely needs to go with you…..post traumatic stress….” I caught little snippets of my mother in law’s conversation with one of the paramedics.  Just hours earlier, I had sat down with her and asked her to be my power of attorney over all medical decisions because I don’t make smart ones when I am deep in the throes of anorexia.

So I agreed to go with the paramedics.  I prayed that I made the right decision and that the Fairview hospital system would decide that my life was worth saving even though the last hospital didn’t.

Voluntary Admission

I was in agony on that day, that fateful day.  My high pain tolerance could not even withstand what was going on in my body.

Dysphagia.  The inability to swallow due to trauma.  I couldn’t drink water.  I could sometimes eat food, maybe three bites a day if I was forced, and then I’d run outside, hide behind the bushes, and scream.  Collapse onto the ground and scream and cry like a demon was being exorcised from my body.  Painful flashbacks shot through my heart.  I felt like I was being struck by lightning and the electrical currents were shooting through my body.  The hateful voices I had heard during the trauma were coming out of my mouth in a choked, raspy voice.

The only thing I was thankful for was that my mouth was so dry I didn’t have to worry about swallowing my own spit.  Several people tried to force me to drink, but I physically couldn’t swallow.  I choked on it and coughed it up.

“PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!  PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!”

“Mel, it’s just water!” My husband tried to reassure me.  “It has nothing to do with a guys…stuff!”

I screamed in agony, and thrashed about as flashbacks permeated my brain.  Usually when my dysphagia gets triggered, it ends after a few hours.  This time, it didn’t end and it showed no signs of stopping in the near future.  I don’t know what triggers it, and I don’t know how to make it stop.  By the time dehydration or starvation gets to a certain stage, it gets stuck like that and I often need medical intervention.

On Wednesday, September 23, I had had nothing to drink for nearly 5 days.  I had eaten next to nothing in 3 weeks.  Desperate, I did the unthinkable: I begged my husband to put a call into Melrose, the eating disorder center I was doing outpatient at.  I didn’t think they’d do anything.  I mean, what COULD they do?  Nobody could force food or liquid down my throat because that particular bodily function didn’t even work.  I would have made the call myself, but I was in such a fog I kept losing my train of thought and would not remember what I needed to say if I picked up the phone and called myself.

The doctor’s appointment at Melrose was on Thursday the next morning, but my mother in law had set it up to where she was forcing my husband to go with me.  My survival instinct screamed in protest.  I knew I could never completely come clean if someone else were in the room with me.  I’d lose my nerve and forget what I needed to say, or I’d have someone contradict me when I tried desperately to tell the truth.

Thankfully, the nurse called me back and offered me an appointment at 4:40 that afternoon.  There was no way anyone could go with me then, and the sooner I could be seen, the better.

Go to the doctor, and go alone.

Go to the doctor, and go alone.

Go to the doctor, and go alone.

My survival instinct has its own voice, and the words played over and over in my head like a broken record.  If I wanted to live, I had to listen and follow those instructions.  Even though I wanted to die, my survival instinct often acts on its own accord.  I feel as though someone else is in my body and doing the things necessary to live, even though in my heart I often want to end it all.

I dragged myself into my psychiatrist’s office because I’d had that appointment for the past two weeks and I didn’t want to cancel.  My meds were running low.  And she was very kind and understanding.  She always wanted to talk to me about what was going on in my life before we discussed meds.

I told her what was going on with the liquids and not being able to swallow them.  My voice was raspy and I could barely speak above a whisper.  My words were slurred slightly as though I was drunk, but I hate alcohol.  Hate the smell, hate the taste, don’t even like to be near it.  Bile rose up in my throat at the thought of alcohol.  Focus, focus, I tried to tell myself.  I felt so far away.

“You need an IV, sweetie,” she said.

“I know.”  This would be the 4th time in only 6 months, so I wanted to avoid that if at all possible.  I wish I had my own IV.  I can never tell an ER about my little problem.  What would I do, say, ‘Hey guys, I can’t swallow liquids because a guy made me go down on him 6 years ago?’  Yeah, no, that’s stupid.  

Usually I kept my dysphagia a heavily guarded secret because of the embarrassment attached to it.  My cheeks burned bright red when I even THOUGHT about it.  But I was so far away.  I felt like I was up in the clouds looking down at myself.  So I told my psych everything.  The truth tumbled out of my mouth.  How I was scared of trauma treatment because I can’t physically eat while it goes on, and how I keep getting turned away because no one knows how to deal with me.

“Have you ever considered being tube fed?”  she asked me.  Normally those words strike terror into my heart because my eating disorder was also pretty out of control, but this time, my mouth moved of its own accord and told the truth while my mind floated in the clouds.

“I have, that and liquid nutrition through an IV.  My family keeps threatening it. Only problem is, most trauma treatment centers won’t take you like that.  But they won’t take you if you can’t physically eat, either.  So really, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.  It would make things exponentially easier since it would eliminate the horrible flashbacks eating and drinking cause, and would let me focus solely on dealing with the trauma.  I know this sounds…..stupid….and…..like I’m just looking for….attention….but….I’m not….”  My breathing became shallow and it was getting harder and harder to speak.  The rest of the words froze in my mouth and felt like icicles on the tip of my tongue.

“I don’t think that at all.  I think it would be a good temporary solution to the problem until you completed trauma treatment and were able to eat again.”

Somebody understands.  Someone understands how hard it is.  

Tears pricked my eyes, but I was too far away to cry.  We got my medication sorted and parted ways.  I stood up and the room spun.  Black spots blinded my vision.  I did the best I could to conceal it.  I slowly limped out to the car, gasping for breath.

Just two weeks ago, I was killing it at the gym, and now I can barely walk.  Look at what I’ve been reduced to.  I thought you had to be skinny to lose your ability to walk because of a lack of nutrition.  And I’m not skinny.  This must be all in my head.  

My EMDR specialist called me and cancelled the appointment.  I was counting on that so much.  I needed to speak with someone who understood trauma.  Finally, for a brief few minutes, I tumbled out of the fog and sobbed brokenly.

Why?  Why?  Of all the women who were assaulted, why the hell did I have to be one of the few who ended up like this?  WHY??  WHY CAN’T I FUCKING SWALLOW!!!  WHY!!!  

It was almost too exhausting to get the tears out of my eyes.  For the first time in years, I had hit rock bottom.  They always say with any addiction you have to hit rock bottom.  I didn’t think I even had a rock bottom.  Well, I’d hit it alright.  My rock bottom was being unable to walk.  Passing out three or four times at night and in the morning.  Dizziness clouding my vision constantly.  My back feeling like someone had lit it on fire.  My legs feeling like they were being bitten by sharks all over.  My head pounding and knowing that the only thing that would make it stop was the water that I physically couldn’t drink.

I drove to Melrose.  The traffic was heavy and I had trouble driving because I was in a very impaired state.

Just a little bit farther, just a little bit farther….

Truthfully, I had no idea what was going to happen once I got into the doctor’s office.  They’d hopefully give me an IV and send me on my way.  I couldn’t see past going to the doctor’s office and going alone.  When I tried to think of what would happen after, I drew a blank.

I dragged myself in there, quite literally.  I could feel what little strength I had depleting quickly.  I don’t remember walking up to the receptionist’s desk and telling her I had an appointment.  I don’t remember the doctor calling me.  I just remember being in the office and being told to change into the gown so that I could be weighed and have my blood pressure taken.

The nurse weighed me and said, “Can you step on it again for me, please?   I just need to make sure because this is throwing up major red flags on the system.”  I had lost close to 20 lbs in 3 weeks and was underweight to begin with.  My mother in law had gripped my wrists tightly the night before and yelled, “YOU ARE DYING!”

I looked at the numbers when they took my blood pressure.  They were bad.  Very bad.  I would have gulped nervously, but I couldn’t.  The nurse asked me to change back into my clothes and the very thought exhausted me.  I hadn’t been able to even change clothes in a couple days.  I was too sick.  I managed to do it, but had to sit on the couch and put my pants on because I kept falling over when I tried to stand up.  I finally finished and I slumped over on the couch, only barely conscious.

The doctor came in and cut right to the chase.  She was very direct, and I liked that about her.

“Things have really gotten bad since the last time we met, haven’t they?”  I nodded my head weakly.

“Last time we talked, you said you were eating vegetables and sometimes desserts.  Has that changed at all?”

“I….only eat….one….small vegetable a day….and that’s when…..my family….makes me,” I managed, barely able to get the words out.  But I knew I had to tell the truth.

“Do you still work out every day?”

“I can’t…..I can’t even walk….”  The room swirled around my eyes.  I had dizzy tunnel vision.  Keep it together, keep it together…..conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show….

“How are fluids going?”

“I can’t….well….I can’t….swallow…anything.  So I haven’t had….anything….to drink since….Sunday afternoon,” I finally finished.  Even speaking was exhausting.  I just wanted to lie down and sleep for a year.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, and stepped out of the office.

Well, that can’t be good……

She stepped back in and immediately said, “I think you need to be admitted.  Do you think you need to be admitted?”

At that moment, I did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life.

Yes,” I admitted, in a robotic voice barely above a whisper.  I stared blankly ahead because I wasn’t fully present.

“Okay.  Let me go check on insurance and make sure it’s covered.  Otherwise it would be thousands of dollars a day.  But as of right now, I can’t let you leave the building in this condition.”

I didn’t think insurance covered it.  I fully expected her to walk back in and release me because of lack of coverage.  But she didn’t.  Thank God for the mental health parity law.

“Okay, insurance is good and you are all good to go.  My nurse is going to take you upstairs to the intensive stay unit.”  I was too out of it to argue.

“Can I go home and pack, or….”

“I can’t let you leave the building.  I know you weren’t expecting this, but this is an emergency admission.”  I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was.  I was absolutely floored.  I don’t remember walking up to the elevator or going up with the nurse, but I remember being escorted into an office where I blindly signed paperwork I couldn’t even read through my blurry, spotty vision.  I remember a nurse wrapping me up in a warm blanket and being taken in a calming room while somebody put me in a rocking chair and rocked me.  I remember them asking if I felt far away and I answered in the affirmative, saying I felt like I was on autopilot.  My answers were very forced and robotic.  I was barely functioning.

I remember tears of relief streaming down my face because I was so frightened that it was going to be just like Timberline Knolls, where the admission staff was very cold and harsh.  The whole place just looked…safer.

I remember being taken to the dayroom where some of the other patients were.  They waved hello to me and seemed friendly.  I stumbled over to a chair and introduced myself.  Soon after, they called for evening snack.

I questioned my ability to eat, but I knew I had to try.  I knew I couldn’t drink, but I had to try to eat.  I don’t remember what the snack was, just that I managed to eat it and surprised myself.

Then dizziness overcame me.  I stood up and nearly fell down.  They offered me a wheelchair, but I was bound and determined I was going to stumble back to my room.  ‘High fall risk’ was written on my chart in red letters.  I gripped the railing with both hands because my arms still worked.  I half dragged myself into my room.

I did it.  I did it.  

I collapsed on the bed before I passed out.  No one saw.  My nurse came in the room and informed me that everyone was supposed to go to the dayroom after snack.

“I’m….too…dizzy to stand….”  I gasped.  I kept blacking out and then coming back.  Blacking out and then coming back.

My nurse, Tracy, came in with a cup of water with a straw.  I had been attempting to drink Gatorade since I got upstairs, but only could manage a few sips.

“You are severely dehydrated.  We need to just try.  Can you try?”

“I can’t….”

“You need to try,” she instructed.

“Okay.  I’ll show you what happens when I try to drink.”

So I showed her.  My swallowing was very forced and painful and I coughed up some of the water.  But now she could see it with her own eyes and would know I’m not a liar.

“You have trouble swallowing?”  she asked.

“…..yes.  It’s not physical.  It’s trauma related.  It’s a physical reaction to trauma that I have no control over,” I responded in my same monotone voice.

“I’m going to take a guess and ask if it was because you were forced to perform oral sex on somebody?”

I nodded my head slowly.  She got it on the first guess?  I didn’t think anyone would understand or even have a clue as to why.  I was wrong.

I spoke up about it.  Now the whole treatment team will know, but it’s better than keeping it hidden.  The longer I hid it, the worse it got.  I want to get better.  More than anything.  I want to live, even though I’m in agonizing pain.  That’s why, this time, I checked myself into the hospital rather than running from it.  

And maybe, just maybe, with a lot of hard work, I will be able to go to Castlewood, the best trauma/ED treatment center in the US.  They know what my problem is, and how to treat it.  That’s my next step.  I will never give up hope.

Divine Encounter

Though I had many horrific experiences at Timberline Knolls (treatment for my eating disorder and PTSD, which ended up getting cut short due to insurance and doing further damage rather than helping), it was not all bad.  In fact, the experience was worth it alone in the relationships I was able to form with women from all different experiences and from all different walks of life.  We were all there for different reasons, yet we were all united by pain and suffering.  Some women struggled with addiction, some with mood disorders, and some with eating disorders.  We were all working to achieve the same goal: to heal so that we could lead happier lives.

One experience I had at Timberline Knolls stands out to me, and in a good way.  I do not believe that it happened by chance.  I believe it was a divine encounter.  Even if you do not believe in God, or any higher power, I hope you are still able to appreciate this experience and how much it meant to me.

I had been at Timberline for about four weeks when she arrived in the middle of the night.  I was wide awake and was knitting in the milieu, which was what we called the center of our lodge with four couches surrounding a table.  I was waiting for my sleeping meds to kick in, but for some reason, on that night, they weren’t.

Her face was a combination of stoicism, nervousness, and hope.  She was middle aged and had dark brown hair in a stylish pixie cut, although it was a bit disheveled, which was totally normal considering the intake process was quite rigorous and draining.

Normally, I am painfully shy around people I don’t know and am physically unable to speak.  Speech and communication difficulties are a major part of my PTSD and disrupt my every day life.  My brain freezes and I cannot get the words out.  I am borderline mute.  If you heard me speak after reading my writing, you would wonder if it were really the same person.

However, this time, I was not afraid.  A calm, peaceful feeling flooded my body. The thoughts in my head, usually a jumble of fear and traumatic memories, were clear.

Go and speak to her.  You can help her.

    I doubted my thoughts, but I obeyed them anyway.  I couldn’t help her, I thought.  I couldn’t even help myself.

    “Hello, I just wanted to introduce myself and say welcome.  My name is Melodie,” I said, in a voice clear as day.  Usually I speak in a hesitant stutter and have trouble getting the words out, but this time, miraculously, I spoke normally.

    “Hi, Melodie.  I’m ‘Ellen.’  It’s nice to meet you.  How long have you been here?” (Please note that Ellen is a pseudonym and that I do not use real names in my blog).

    “Four weeks.  Did you just get here tonight?”  I asked.  A divine presence seemed to be directing my voice and my questions.  The conversation that followed made it crystal clear that this meeting was orchestrated by none other than God Himself.

     “I did.  Three nights ago, I woke up in the hospital.  I had tried to kill myself by overdosing on pills.  I apparently called for help, but I have no memory of this.  I almost died, and I saw God while I was unconscious.  I have to ask, are you a Christian?  Do you believe in Jesus?”

     “Yes, I am.  I am so sorry you had that experience, but I’m glad you are still here.  I believe that Jesus is always with us, and there are so many things I’ve been through in my life that I never could have gotten through without God.  He has been with me through my darkest hours, and I am so glad that you feel the same!”

     Never in my life have I been asked to explain my relationship with Jesus to anyone else who genuinely wanted to know more about it.  I always worried that a conversation like this would come up and I would not be able to find the right words to explain it to them and that they would lose their faith in God because of me.  However, it felt as though Jesus Himself was putting the words in my mouth.

    “Can you teach me more about Jesus?”  Ellen asked.

     “I would be HONORED,” I responded.  This encounter was truly a blessing, and it alone made the forced treatment at Timberline Knolls worth it because I was able to help someone else.

    “How do you pray?  How do you talk to Jesus?”  Ellen asked.

    “Well,” I explained, “I like to talk to Jesus like you would talk to your best friend, or like how we are talking now.  I like to tell Him whatever is on my mind and pour out my heart to Him.”

    The conversation continued for about an hour, and in that time span I was able to answer  a good portion of her questions.  It came to an abrupt end when a nurse  came out and announced that the lodge was full and they didn’t have any beds for Ellen tonight and that she would have to sleep in a group room.  She was supposed to be my new roommate, but my roommate that was supposed to be leaving ended up having to stay an couple of days.

     I went to bed feeling over the moon.  I could not believe God chose ME to be such an important instrument in someone’s spirituality!  ME, of all people!  Timid, clumsy, bumbling, stammering ME.

    The next afternoon, I was preparing to use the phone when I saw Ellen walk up.  I instantly greeted her.

    “I have to go now,” she said.  “I’m being transferred to a different treatment center because this one still doesn’t have any beds.  But I wanted to let you know that this meeting was not an accident.  Thank you for everything.”

    “Oh, I know it wasn’t.  It was a miracle.  And thank YOU!  Good luck, sweetie.  I am very, very glad I got to meet you.”

     I think about Ellen and pray for her almost daily.  I wonder if she has found peace and has gotten better.  I wonder if she has continued her relationship with God.  I wish her the best, and I will always remember our meeting.

Daughter of Narcissists

Few are able to understand the amount of pain that is caused by having a mother who never wanted you.  I am thankful that few experience this, but I often feel cheated because I was raised this way.

My mind is often consumed by thoughts such as “Why didn’t my mother love me?”  “Why didn’t my mother want me?”  “What did I do wrong?”  “Is it because my father wasn’t my real father and I’m a reminder of her mistake?”  These questions, and others, circulate through my mind over and over again on a daily basis.  I try to stop obsessing over it, but I cannot.  I will never lose hope that someday I may find the answer.

She has two other children that she loves very much.  I am the oldest, and she never loved me or wanted me.  The stark contrast between my upbringing and my siblings’ upbringing is painfully obvious.  My father despised me as well.  It leaves a hole in your heart that cannot be filled by anything, no matter how hard I try.  At the age of 8, I began refusing to eat because food could not nourish my aching soul.  I didn’t want it.  I didn’t want to live.

I was a child genius.  As unbelievable as it sounds, I learned to read at the age of 18 months.  I did not believe it either until I saw proof in home videos.  There, in a voice clear as day, I read from a children’s book.  I was only a baby.  At the age of four, I was reading adult novels.  At the age of five, I was drawing and labeling a diagram of a cell and memorized the entire school directory.  At six, I realized that it was no fun to be intelligent.  I was placed in the highest reading group in my grade, but the lowest reading group got to do nothing but play, so I wrote a petition to have myself placed in the lowest reading group and had the whole class sign it.

What happened to that genius child?  My intelligence began to wither and fade when I was eight.  I often wonder if it was because of my refusal to eat.  Malnutrition kills brain cells, after all.  Or maybe it was because I was always told that I was not good enough.  Maybe it was because of the constant beatings and the constant name calling.  I sat on my bed and had in depth conversations with myself because my illness was the only one I had to talk to.

Anorexia, as horrible as it sounds, was my only friend; my only companion.  She was my real mother.  My mother was never around.  She was always with my sister; always ignoring me in favor of her.  I was raised by a disease.  Since people do not understand this, I often tell them that I raised myself, which is also true.  Maybe this is another reason why I cannot let go of my eating disorder.  I was never truly able to have a childhood, so it keeps me looking like a child.

I remember wishing with all my heart that someone would adopt me and love me.  Once, on the bus to a band concert in middle school, I had forgotten to buy the device that attaches to your musical instrument so that you can read the music.  I folded a sheet of cardboard and made one myself out of the scant amount of materials I had in my binder.  One of the volunteer mothers witnessed this and said to another mother, “WOW, look at how smart that one is!  I wish she was mine!”

I got tears in my eyes.  I wanted to say, “I can be, if you want me to be.  Will you adopt me?  Please?  I promise I won’t cause you any trouble.”  But I kept my mouth shut because I  knew if I said something like that, my biological mother and father would find out and I would be severely punished.  They always found out.  They told me they had spies everywhere that were watching me.  I was always afraid; always paranoid.  It was as though the walls had eyes.  There was no escape.

One of the memories that haunts me the most is when I was 13 years old and I had angered my father, though I do not recall how.  He grabbed me by my hair and threw me face first down on the sidewalk.  My head landed about a centimeter above the pavement.  In a panic, I screamed that he could have killed me, and ran.  I ran and ran and ran into the woods across the street from their house, shaking and crying.  I cried so hard I threw up.  He called my mother up immediately and first told her I was flailing and fell, and then told her that I had slipped on the pavement.

“YOU LIAR!!!  YOU LIAR!!! TELL THE TRUTH!!!”  I screamed.  But I knew that no one would believe me, and that even though neighbors likely saw what happened, no one would say anything.  I was alone.  After all, my father would sometimes drag me around by my hair through the neighborhood as a form of public humiliation.  No one ever said anything then.  Why would they speak up now?

I remembered the old proverb “The truth will set you free.”  But what if no one believes you?  Then you are held captive by it and there is nothing freeing about it.

When my mother got home, I hoped and prayed that maybe this time, she’d believe me.  Maybe this time, she would stop this from happening instead of simply watching.  No such luck.

“I’m tired of it!  I’m going to call the police!”  I said.

“Go ahead, you call the police.  But then Daddy will lose his job and we will be living in a box out on the streets.  Do you want that?”  she said.

“Go ahead, call the police.  But I have friends on the police force, and no one will believe a word you say,” he said.

Fear, paralyzing fear, is no way for a child to be raised.  This is all I can manage for now.