Letter to My Oncologist

First of all, I can never express enough gratitude and appreciation for what you did to treat the leukemia I was diagnosed with in 2010.  I’m thankful to God for your skills and incredible knowledge that helped to save my life.  Your awareness of the latest treatments for acute promyelocytic leukemia is wonderful .  I’ll always be thankful for that.  I often wish I had the chance to find out more about Iran from you. I’m sure you could tell me things that I’d never know from a book or documentary.  Because of you, I’m more interested in TV shows that focus on Iran, as I have respect for you and your skill as an oncologist; I want to know more about where you’re from. 

But I feel so misunderstood by you when it comes to losing the weight I gained during chemo.  Every single appointment revolves around my weight, and I’m really sick of it.  I’ve told you about my history with eating disorders, and while I’m aware that you don’t specialize in them, you must be aware of the nature of EDs.  The only time you backed off was when I was in tears trying to explain that I KNOW I need to lose weight. Nobody beats me up more than I do over my weight.  It is painful to hear it from someone who doesn’t know me aside from the leukemia.

Did you have to openly chastise me in front of the med student?  Up until then YOU had said that the weight gain was a side effect of the chemo. When I said ‘chemo weight’ and you told me “don’t you blame the weight on the chemo” when the med student was there, it was confusing and shaming. Was that for the med student’s benefit?

When you thought I was depressed, as in clinically depressed, you backed off. I’m FRUSTRATED.  You backed off that day when you saw I was upset.  But yesterday, when I had no outward signs of being bummed out, you started in again. I’m not going to keep showing up to hear about my weight  from a doctor who doesn’t deal with weight issues.  Not gonna happen. You deal with the cancer. Period.

You suggested I go to the YWCA to swim. Do you understand that heated pools trigger the dysautonomia?  I wear an ice vest to appointments, and that didn’t occur to you?  Well, I guess that’s understandable since you don’t treat dysautonomia.  You don’t know enough about me to know that I can’t walk unsupported for very far. I do OK in my apartment, but if I go to the store, I need the cart for support.  I was using a walker IN my apartment up until the day I was admitted to the hospital for that first admission when the leukemia was diagnosed. I had a partially torn ACL and medial meniscus in my left knee; you didn’t know that. It never got fixed, and I’m not sure how well it healed since it still hurts now and then. I was supposed to get a knee replacement done.

You asked about specific high calorie snack foods yesterday.  Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I had chips, cookies, cake, or candy in my apartment?  No?  I don’t either.  I don’t buy them.  The biggest treats I have are freeze dried apple slices that pack in a whopping 38 calories per bag.  Oh, that’s right- you told me to quit eating fruit.  Really?  Unsweetened fruit is a very basic food.  It’s on the diabetic meal plan I have that was set up by a registered dietician. I’m sure she got more nutrition education than physicians do (or her job wouldn’t exist). I’ve read about the basic nutrition classes that US med schools require. I’m not convinced that Iranian med schools demand much more with instructions to not eat unsweetened fruit.

I don’t need anybody to tell me I need to lose weight. Do you think I’m blind, or stupid? Or maybe you just think I don’t care and sit around eating bon bons all day. How insulting.  There hasn’t been a day in over 35 years when I haven’t considered my weight.  Are you even 35 years old?   I was badgered by my mom about my weight from the time I was six years old.  Then I took over, and equated my weight with my self worth for decades. It has been something that has haunted me for years, and I’ve worked hard to keep from letting it destroy my life. I don’t need (OR WANT) you to keep harping on me about my weight.  I know it needs to come off.

I’ve been an RN for 27 years, and a diabetic for 17 years. I know how being overweight is hard on a body.  I get it !  I’ve seen my regular doctor about it, and will see an endocrinologist next week. My blood sugars were never the same after chemo.  Is that my fault also?  I know that insulin is a problem when someone gains weight, and insulin stores fat.  I can’t not take it.  You don’t realize that I was 40 pounds lighter when I started on insulin; I wasn’t ‘fat’… somewhat overweight, but more than 100 pounds less than my highest weight. You don’t know about that, because you don’t do anything but tell me to lose weight over and over and over again.  You don’t know my whole medical history, or the daily struggles because of being disabled (I do pretty damn well, considering). You see fat and cancer.  Well, I’m in remission; maybe it’s time to have someone else follow me until the five year mark when I’m considered cancer free.  Someone else can do the yearly bone marrow biopsies.

Do you get after your obese staff members in the oncology office like you do patients?  Is that why nurses no longer go over the medication lists with me when I first get there, and why I found 16 errors on my list when I went over it today? Did the nurses leave?  Or are there techs in place of nurses now to save money?  I know that isn’t something you can control, but look around.  Don’t talk to me like I’m the fattest person you’ve ever seen.  I’ve been in your office and in the hospital enough to know that isn’t true.

I feel like less of a person every day because of my weight.  I know that’s not right, but it’s the truth. You aren’t helping that. You only let up one time (when I was in tears) because YOU had done so much to keep me alive and didn’t want me to be depressed.  It’s not about you.  I appreciate what you DID.  But what you’re doing is damaging.  I hate coming to appointments, and will continue to refuse being weighed at your office if I keep coming at all.  You did a great job with the leukemia while I was still being treated, but now, it feels a whole lot more like harassment.  Continuing to tell me repeatedly that I need to lose weight is so counterproductive I can’t even explain it.  It drives home even deeper that my weight is more important than anything else.  That is a great way to trigger something I never want to go through again. And something you really don’t know much about in my history.

I have to make a decision about whether or not I’m coming back.  I know my primary doctor can refer me to another oncologist.  I don’t want to keep seeing you three times a year just to be lectured about the obvious in a way that is demeaning and shameful.  Thank you for the incredible job dealing with the leukemia. But get back when it comes to the continued lectures about my weight.  I’m not going to do it.  When appointments are more of a sense of dread than they are productive, it’s time to hit the road.

Update: My primary doc is sending a referral request to another oncologist 🙂

Gratitude- The Single Most Important Thing In My Eating Disorder Recovery

Sounds nuts, eh?

When I returned from a treatment facility in California where I’d been sent for eating disorder recovery, I was still a mess.  The facility was really a drug and alcohol rehab place that took eating disorder patients, but they didn’t have a real eating disorder program.  The few of us ED patients were hauled to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting once a week, and given a table in the dining area away from the staring addicts who were only too glad to have more food for themselves; many of them had also been starving, though for other reasons. While I did start to eat while I was there (the ticket to go home), my attitudes towards food and the world at large were unchanged for the most part.

I had to get better.  I’d been an RN for 11 years at the time, and decided to get every professional eating disorder treatment book I could find.  I read them cover to cover, and decided that my best hope was to act as if I were dealing with a patient at work when having to eat and make changes in my overall interaction and thinking about food.  I had to remove its power over me, and only I could do that. I had to make it a mechanical process for quite a while. And I didn’t have to do it all at once- baby steps mattered. It didn’t have to be perfect.  I could fail, and then just pick up and keep going.

Food became ‘medication’, and I kept a chart of servings of different food groups, and checked them off when I ate them.  It was a process that took several years, and eventually I was able to eat around other people without the panic and tyrannical thoughts going through my head. Food was simply fuel. It wasn’t my moral compass, or an indicator of my personal integrity.

But I had to look at my overall thought processes, and get rid of the victim-y, negative core beliefs that affected everything I did.  I decided to start a gratitude journal, and made myself write down five things every night that I was honestly thankful for, with no duplicate entries.  At first, things were pretty sketchy.  “The milk in the frig isn’t chunky”, “My socks match”, and other such things- but soon I had a greater understanding of what those things meant indirectly.  I had a home with electricity, I had feet to put in socks, I could walk down the sidewalk on those feet, and so on.  I was focusing on such insignificant things when I gave in to the eating disorder obsession, and I was really so much more selfish and superficial than I could imagine being.

Once I ‘got it’ that my focus on food and weight was so amazingly narrow-minded and selfish, I wanted to change.  I didn’t want to be the person I was discovering.  I remember the first time I felt joy for someone else; a co-worker won $1000 on a scratch off lottery ticket, and instead of being resentful that I didn’t win such great prizes, I was happy for her !  I was changing, and that made me want to keep going on the path of expanding my world, and reaching out to others. Being able to connect with other people in their joys and pain was incredible!

Eating disorders are selfish.  They are so incredibly superficial when it gets down to the behaviors- even though the core of self-worthlessness is incapacitating and very real.  But when I was able to get out of my own head, I was able to find so much more satisfaction in relating to other people in a deeper way- not the lip service I knew to be socially correct.  I was replacing the hollow responses with genuine feelings. And they felt good !

What I looked like, how many calories I ate, and how much I weighed became insignificant when I saw the blessings I had, and how I was wasting them.  But first I had to be willing to be thankful for what I already had.  Now I could list hundreds of things I’m thankful for- no matter how small.  There are a lot of things that make my life better, and starving isn’t one of them.  I’m overwhelmingly thankful that I discovered gratitude.

Starving At 35,000 Feet

I’d been put on a plane in San Antonio en route to Los Angeles, via Houston (ascend x 2 and descend x 2…no direct flight).  I don’t like to fly, and had taken a Benadryl to get me past the jitters. I’d flown many times with no problems, aside from that time coming back from Hawaii when the plane dropped a few thousand feet and blew out windows in buildings below- but I was 9 years old, and clueless. Otherwise, I’d never had any mayhem with flights other than delays. I was already in bad shape physically, and every time the pressure changed in the plane, it felt like the plane was nosediving. Nice. Just great.  I was already ambivalent about going to eating disorder treatment, and now the plane was going to crash.  It had been a great day all around. Oy… someone just shoot me now, but please pick out a slenderizing casket.

While I knew I needed help, I was scared to death.  Looking back at the photo taken on admission to the treatment center, I looked like I’d already died, but hadn’t had the sense to go lie down.  I was very pale, and my eyes were barely open (though I remember I’d tried to look perky. Fail. ).  Now I was on a plane, alone, and thinking I’d made a huge mistake. I’d been given an ultimatum at a formal intervention: no help means no job.  Maybe I should just figure out a way to get back home, and get a different job. I was a registered nurse; it took about 12 minutes to get a job on a bad day where I lived.  But, maybe I should get some help. I knew I was falling apart.  I’d been diagnosed with anorexia in my late teens ( the criteria used at the time based it on many things including a percentage of weight lost from original weight- which I prefer, as waiting until someone is skeletal delays help for a lot of people who are still clinically very ill, but not skinny ‘enough’; they die anyway).  I was still overweight, but had lost around one hundred pounds in about a year and a half; fifty of that in the previous three months.  I was confused. But I knew deep down that I was in trouble.  I was still scared.

In between the episodes of thinking the plane was going down, I tried to keep calm.  Since I was half dead anyway, that wasn’t really that hard, but I was still in a minor panic.  I knew that any eating disorder treatment included eating…big bummer.  I was 32 years old.  I’d been in some sort of eating disorder treatment on and off for 14 years.  I’d had some sort of eating abnormalities from the time I was six years old, and had food restricted unnecessarily. That led to hoarding food in my room that I’d get with babysitting money, because I was hungry.  I wasn’t a fat kid. I was told I needed to lose weight by my mom all the time. Looking back at old photos, there was nothing wrong with my weight.

I knew how this treatment stuff worked, and while strapped to that doomed airplane seat, I decided I had to eat in order to get home if I didn’t die in a fireball when the plane crashed. That’s how it works.  Once I got home, I could do what I wanted to do, but in the meantime, I had no way to get home (no cash for another ticket). I knew that the plan wasn’t for me to do a round trip in one day, and not get help.  I was stuck.

The ‘nosediving’ feeling happened about every 20 minutes or so, from what I recall.  It was often enough to be disturbing.  Nobody around me seemed to be writing out their last wills and testaments, sooooo….. it must be me. That helped a little bit. My blood pressure was probably sub-viable, so that didn’t help, and the Benadryl would have made that worse, but there was no way I was getting on a plane to have my life turned upside-down without something to chill me out.  I was a mess.  I’d also come off of working a 16-hour double shift with only about 3 hours of sleep since the morning before.  I was exhausted, mentally and physically.

But, I knew that when I got to that treatment center (where I’d sent a patient from the facility I worked at just 24 hours earlier- great, I’d be seeing one of my patients…. more joy…) I’d have to eat. When the perky flight attendant started handing out box lunches, I panicked (per usual), and then looked into the box.  There was a sandwich (OK- maybe I could pick that apart), some chips (not a snowball’s chance in a volcano for those), and a mini Snicker’s bar (I wanted that SO badly…but that was a really ‘bad’ food).  *sigh*  I had to make an effort.

The sandwich seemed the least horrifying. It didn’t have any sloppy dressings or spreads on it, and it was easy enough to peel off the cheese. That little packet of mayonnaise could go spread itself; no way I was eating that.  But I didn’t want to appear totally deranged to the complete strangers I’d never see again, so I left the thing intact. I figured out the calorie and fat content, and figured that in the past 36 hours, I’d had little more than that, so may survive it.  And, I told myself just to try acting normal for one stupid sandwich…pretty soon, I’d have someone setting a tray of stuff in front of me, and I’d be expected to finish it. Gotta get my teeth wet, and just do it.  So, I took a bite.  That was already kinda gross, since I didn’t like food touching my lips- it felt weird, and I preferred to extract things with my teeth from a fork. No utensils in sight, so I had to buck up and just get on with it.

Now, ‘normal’ people will think this is all completely nuts. (So did my co-workers, and that’s why I was fighting with a sandwich 5+ miles above the earth’s surface).  To someone with an eating disorder, I was making huge steps even before I  had to !  Nobody on that plane cared if I ate the sandwich, chips, or even the box (well, OK- maybe gnawing on thin cardboard would have drawn some stares).  It was just me and the sandwich.  And, the beginning of getting better.

My brain had been living on fumes for months, and it showed to those around me. In hindsight, I can see where I was really bonkers when it came to food.  I could still do my job, and pay the bills, but in regards to food, I was more than a little goofy.  ‘Fumes’ don’t make someone all that insightful. ‘Fumes’ make nutty stuff sound reasonable.  ‘Fumes’ keep the disordered thinking going strong, and any glimpses of reality really hard to grasp.  I knew I’d have to eat.  In some way, I think I felt some sense of control in taking those first few bites of ‘random’ food on my own with nobody breathing down my neck, or checking to see what I’d eaten.  I needed to get my head in the game of getting better.  At least I still had that much clicking in my noggin.

It probably took about 45 minutes to eat that 4 inch sandwich (on some sort of sub-roll). Bite-chew-gag-swallow-repeat.   It wasn’t anything I would have picked out by a long shot, but I got through it and it didn’t kill me. It was the first ‘whole’ anything I’d eaten for weeks, especially without my trusty laxatives to zip it on through my guts.

The plane also didn’t go down in flames.  Life went on.  I ate the little Snickers…

The Fight With A Fork

Fortunately, most people don’t understand the battle that goes on whenever someone with an eating disorder sits down to eat.  It’s agonizing,  isolating, and terrifying.  And, the person is grossly misunderstood.  When it gets to the point of a ‘disorder’, it’s not about the person being in control of the overall behavior. There is no ability to cope with  the actual process of eating,  and it becomes completely overwhelming.  Many people with eating disorders have all-or-nothing thinking.  Food = fat. Period.  And fat = failure and the loss of the right to take up space on the planet.  It’s not about the food. It’s about self worth.  In some bizarre way, consuming food symbolizes absolute worthlessness.  Telling someone to ‘just eat’ is the same as telling them that they don’t matter.  It’s messed up, but I guess that’s why it’s called a disorder.

To be in front of a plate of food, no matter the leanness of the meal, triggers panic, and honest-to-goodness terror.  The exchanges going on in the thought processes demand absolute rigidity to the ‘plan’ (of not eating/getting fat). The more someone has starved, the more entrenched their thoughts are to the disorder. And, some research has shown that endorphins are released during starvation, so when someone who is starving eats, they feel bad.  The endorphins stop enrobing how they feel, protecting them from the reality of what is going on.  It’s a vicious cycle that can only be fixed with nutritional rehabilitation at first, and then a lot of work to figure out the reasons for such self-loathing. And that involves dealing with the pain and actual ‘fight’ to resume some sort of  eating, however small the steps may be.

Most people simply pick up a fork and eat. There is no thought about raising the fork, deciding what to eat, putting food on it, raising the fork to their mouths, taking the food from the fork with their lips and teeth, chewing, and swallowing.  Each step in that process is like some alien-enforced cruelty to someone with an eating disorder.  Every step is another chance for the thoughts to interfere and remind the person that they are not in charge of what they do, and if they proceed with eating it proves they’re not good enough to even avoid eating ‘right’.  It sounds bonkers to someone who hasn’t ‘been there’.  But to the eating-disordered person who is faced with the task of eating a meal, it’s all very real.  And most know that nobody around them really ‘gets it’.

I remember feeling actual guilt and shame for consuming more than %25 of any particular item, and if I ate a whole ‘anything’, I was thrown into panic. Even if that ‘whole’ something was a single saltine cracker. “Why did I eat a whole cracker?”  “What is wrong with me that I actually ate that much?”  Seriously, that’s what went through my head. Eating in front of someone was unbearable (and continued for years, often resulting in comments by one administrator at a nursing home  I worked at…”you never eat”, or “it’s nice to see you eat”…by that time, I could cope with those supportive comments; before then it would have been a race to drop more weight as quickly as possible, no matter the method).

As a nurse, I finally decided that I had to disassociate myself from food, and act as if I was giving a meal to one of my patients. It had to be a mechanical process, and started out very slowly.  I added one item to one meal until I could handle that without too much distress. Then I’d add something to another meal, and on and on until I was consuming the meal plan set out for me at the treatment facility that was otherwise nuts. Food was unpleasant, but necessary.  It simply ‘was’. If I didn’t meet the bare minimum (I don’t remember how I figured that out), I ‘grounded’ myself from walking the neighborhood for weird lengths of time.

I bought as many professional eating disorder treatment books as I could find, and read them from cover to cover.  I did all I could to apply the principles to myself, and put food in the proper context. It was fuel- nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t a measure of my worth as a human.  It was inert and powerless.  And, bottom line- at some point I’d have to eat.  It wasn’t going to get any easier, and I was just going to get sicker, and lose more of the things that were important to me: my job, my health, and my friends.  Being around someone with an eating disorder is more work than a relationship is worth in the context of friendship.  People just leave, which reinforces the feelings of self-loathing.  It’s just one big mess.  And, I was in the driver’s seat, as much as it didn’t feel like it. By acting ‘as if’ I were dealing with one of my patients, I finally was able to make the small steps that eventually ended up with a fairly normal relationship with food, no purging, and a focus on health.

As my nutritional status improved, my thinking about food almost fixed itself. SO much of the obsession is driven by starvation. The study in the 1940s on the effects of starvation (related to the refeeding of millions of people from WWII)  showed that decades ago.  I was amazed at how little effort it took to sideswipe those disordered thoughts as I got better.  Finally, those thoughts just weren’t there.  I might have the occasional ‘nudge’ in my thoughts when I was in front of someone’s celebratory cake, but I was able to ‘out-talk’ it in my head.

It took about three years to be able to go out with friends and not feel guilty for eating.  I had some ups and downs, and in rereading a bunch of journals from that time, realize how goofy my thinking was for much longer than I had remembered.  Every meal was a conscious effort at being healthy in relationship to food.  One forkful at a time, I got better, and the fights were fewer and fewer.  Those days are places I never want to visit again.  It’s still terrifying to think about how brutal the compulsion to starve had been.

So, in terms of eating disorders, I hope I’ve put a fork in them. I’m done.

“Just Make Her Eat”

“Dear God, please just let me wake up in the morning.”  I weakly said that before I’d drift into a fitful sleep every night for weeks as I was deteriorating from a relapse of starving and purging.  I was getting ‘flack’ from co-workers, and even comments by waitresses on the rare occasions I’d agree to go out and ‘eat’.  I’d lost roughly fifty pounds in about three months, and a hundred pounds total over the previous year or so. And I was stuck.  I didn’t see the weight loss as others saw it, but I knew I was in trouble. Yet, the disorder refused to let me say I needed help.  A former co-worker saw me one day and asked “Are you OK? How much weight have you lost?” in the same tone someone uses when asking if someone has a visible affliction; I did have a visible problem- but I was the only one who couldn’t see it clearly.  I had no answer for her. I was confused. How could anyone notice I’d lost weight? (fifty pounds, and I couldn’t figure that out).  That was the beginning of the end of the tight control the denial had. It didn’t leave completely for years…but I had glimpses of reality after that day.

I was working at one of the top alcohol and drug treatment centers in the country, and my co-workers knew when they saw an addictive process. The denial in spite of negative consequences, the inability to change, the refusal to discuss anything logical related to my behaviors…they were all there.  I was dying.  I later asked my physician how much longer she thought I’d last, and she said less than a month.  I’d lost chunks of skin from my heels. I was crawling up my stairs in my townhouse to get to my bedroom.  My hair was thin. I was always freezing. My bones  hurt. My muscles would spasm. I was dizzy. I was in my own self-imposed hell.  A starving brain can’t process logic. I could still justify not eating- and yet, it felt like my choice in any of it was gone.

The relapse into anorexic and bulimic behaviors seemed to  have been triggered by a fast weight loss while I had pneumonia in late November 1995. I’d lost nearly 50 pounds slowly during the  nine months prior to being diagnosed with diabetes. The diabetes had been diagnosed in June 1995, and the weight loss slowed as my blood sugars improved.  In November, that bout with pneumonia kick-started something I thought had been put to rest years earlier. It turned out to be the worst go-round with eating disorders I’d ever had.

I was still very overweight, so actually categorizing me as anorexic didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria, though the behaviors were those of someone who was ‘really’ sick. My weight was my excuse to keep going. In my head, I was fine if I didn’t have bones showing.  More denial.  Had I started at a ‘normal’ weight, I wouldn’t have survived.  When my co-workers did a formal intervention and shipped me to California for treatment from the facility, I knew I was in trouble.  I just didn’t know how to tell them I knew. And I was terrified.  Each relapse gets a tighter grip much more quickly than the previous one.

I was also exhausted. Keeping up the secrets, and avoiding some odd ritual from being discovered took a lot of mental energy I didn’t have.  My thought processes were erratic as far as what I thought was ‘normal’.  When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I counted curds of cottage cheese, and I’d eat three ‘medium’ ones…three curds of cottage cheese. In 1995-early 1996, I thought I was doing so much better since I’d actually have an unknown number of curds on a fork.  I’d eat 1/4 of a potato, and be stunned that at some point in my life I’d actually consumed a whole one.  With toppings. If I had to eat in front of someone, which had become monitored and critiqued (and very unpleasant), I’d take laxatives ahead of the scheduled meal, so it would exit as quickly as possible. I never did throw up.  I guess that’s a big blessing, as it was one less thing to ‘fix’.  As it was, my gut never recovered.

In the early 80s, in the dormitory, I’d pick cheese off of pizza boxes in the trash room after as many people as possible were back ‘home’ and I felt little chance of being discovered.  Since I wasn’t doing that, I must not be so bad, right?  I wasn’t taking 40 laxatives per day like I had back then, ‘just’ 40 per week, so that was pretty good!  How could I really be sick? But how could I keep going?  I hadn’t purchased new jeans, so I had to use something to tie belt loops together so they didn’t fall off. That didn’t knock a knot in my head either.

One co-worker  (I’ll call her “C”) had a daughter who had been anorexic in college, and she watched me like a hawk. She said she’d talked to our boss about me not doing well, and my boss had talked to me.  “C” would bring food back for herself  from the cafeteria when we worked together, and put pieces of it on a plate near where I worked, and then leave it there.  She’d say something to indicate that she was done, and if I wanted anything it was fine, then return to the medication room where she did most of her work. If the pieces were small, and I wasn’t too terrified, I’d pick at what she’d left.  And the war in my head would go on and on about how pathetic it was to ‘give in’ and eat.  I should be stronger than that.  “C” would pick me up  on our off days to go shopping (she tried to get me to try on clothes that fit, but I was terrified that I’d look so much fatter) and usually out to eat… and make comments about how I was going to die, and other blunt statements about what I was doing.  I thought she was exaggerating because of what her daughter did. I wasn’t like that. Right ?  I’d met her- she was a size four if she was bloated… I didn’t look like her.

I’m not exactly sure what hit the fan, but I  got called out after about 3 1/2 months of things going downhill.  I’d worked a double shift (evenings and nights) and decided to sleep for a while on campus, then later do some dictation summaries that I did for the medical director.  “C” often had a room since she came from a couple of counties away, so she told me I could use her room to sleep while she got started on the summaries that she also did.  She came back around lunch time to get something, and told me to walk with her to the cafeteria to at least get something to drink; she knew I wouldn’t eat. She said she had to stop and drop something off at the operations director’s office, so I followed her. When I walked in, I knew what was going on. I don’t remember now who was already there, though I do remember who ended up being there. They had planned an intervention. About ten people were there, telling me I had to get help, and it had all been arranged. They had the plane tickets, and the driver was waiting.  No help meant no job. Someone had already agreed to take care of my dog, and my car would be watched at work. NO excuses.  My landlady had even been contacted about paying rent when I returned (my boss lived in the same complex).  There was an employee of the company’s Houston office that would meet me at the airport there to be sure I got on the connecting flight to Los Angeles. The treatment center in Port Hueneme, CA would have an employee waiting for me on that end.  Details done. Would I go?

Uh, yeah.  Like the choices seemed so plentiful at that point.  In one way I was so relieved. I didn’t have to fight ‘it’ anymore.  On the other hand, I was terrified of eating.  I knew what those places did. They made people eat!  My brain was so confused, but people I trusted and liked were telling me what a great idea it was. And I was exhausted (seriously, I’d had about 3 hours of sleep in a bed that wasn’t mine after working a double on a day I didn’t usually work).  I still remember thinking that if I told them I’d had a 1/2 sandwich on the night shift maybe I could get out of it, but thought maybe that wasn’t such a swell idea after all.  I felt cornered and freed, and fortunately the fatigue urged the words “I’ll go” out of my mouth.  Then the whirlwind started in ernest.  I was immediately put into the van, taken to my apartment (with “C” and the van driver in tow) to pack, and go straight to the San Antonio International Airport. From there to Houston, and then on to LA and ‘the facility”.

I stayed at that facility for 5 weeks and one day (not that I was counting). It was horrible. It was a drug and alcohol treatment center that took eating disorder patients. No actual dedicated unit.  But I knew that telling my co-workers and friends back in Texas that the place sucked wouldn’t come off as anything but the disorder talking, so I dealt with it as much as I could.  I got sick out there, and wasn’t allowed to attend any of the program activities, so they finally cut me loose. They’d sent me to the ER, and it was really something…they diagnosed me with a blood virus after doing a urine test. W.O.W.   I was better. I did eat. But I wasn’t ‘fixed’.  I had to figure that out on my own, through a very rough few years. But I wouldn’t have been able to get to that point if I would have stayed home.  That part of being shipped out there was definitely a positive, but I wasn’t ‘treated’.  I talked to my boss and some of my co-workers (my only friends) when I was in California…my boss would say “Tell them I said ‘just make her eat'”.  There was so much more than that needed to result in any sort of real recovery, but it was a start. Without the nutritional aspect being addressed, anything else was pointless. The dietician at the facility wasn’t nuts, so that helped !

After treatment with my 'before' jeans... 1996.

After treatment with my ‘before’ jeans… 1996.

But I did get something that can’t be appraised- I got another chance. For some reason, God listened.