Go Big or Go Home

Inpatient was hell on earth. And I say that in the most loving way possible. I will say this: it saved my life, but it did not “cure me” of my eating disorder. I showed up at 78 pounds, barely holding on, and left 87 days later, 25 pounds heavier and physically stable. But that’s where it ended. When I left, I was so completely terrified of the weight I had gained that I relapsed harder than at the onset of my disease. But let’s go back to the beginning.

After I had consented to go to inpatient, I had 24 hours to pack up my things and fly out to Arizona to –we’ll call it “R.” It was the best eating disorder inpatient clinic in the country. Mary Kate Olsen, as well as several other “A-List” patients have “served their time” here. Back in the mid 2000’s when I went, it was a different place than it is now. Ringing in at over $160,000 –yes, you read that right- it was the best and only option.

My parents flew out with me. I had packed up my clothes, which, although we were going to the desert, consisted of mainly cold weather things, since my body was always freezing. Then, I had my “ED bag” – an entire suitcase filled with the cocktail of pills and supplements I was taking, my walking shoes, my exercise ball to “stretch” with, etcetera etcetera.

The plane ride over was terrifying. Not because of the flight, but because of how scared I was of the impending doom. I knew I was going to have to eat and actually gain weight.

But here’s the thing: I knew that the minimum amount of time I could be there was three months. I also knew that at the end of the three months, that if I hadn’t gained enough weight to be “stable” and “healthy,” that they would make me stay longer. Cue the slasher music.
So already going into it, I knew that I was going to “go big.” From as far back as I can remember, my motto was always, “go big or go home,” and that was precisely what I did. I knew that if I could just play the game, I could get on my way. The perfectionist in me kicked in. I’d gain that F-ing weight, be the absolute best patient they’d ever seen, say all the right answers, and then get the f#ck outta there after three months, and not a day more. That was what I was going to do. Check the box, get the hell out, and then get the weight off. That was my plan. And it was starting the minute I found out that they would keep me longer than the three months if need be.

So, on the plane over there, I ATE. My entire carry on bag was filled with cereal and snacks and water. I was gonna put that f-ing weight on, and fast. Granted, I was scared shitless, so I was wiggling my legs the entire time to burn calories, but I was going to get those numbers up so I could go home.

When I got to R, they checked me into the front desk, at a lovely, Spanish style building. Then they drove my parents and I out in a golf cart to the rec room where I would be spending my days. It almost seemed like a daycare for adults: there were two round dining/craft tables, which each sat about 8 people. There was a couch, cubbies, a “food window” where food was served, art supplies, and a nurses’ station. When I arrived, there were about 15 girls, who were playing cards, journaling, or reading. About 10 of them had feeding tubes coming out of their noses. I felt an all over hotness – a flush of fear and anxiety, but I knew that my 90 days were ticking. It was time to do what I came to do so I could leave. So I kissed my parents goodbye and marched my way into my resident hell for the next three months.

After my parents left, it was like a switch was flipped and I was instantly pummeled into a vortex. I was taken into a back examination room. I was freezing. Scared. Freaked out by the girls with tubes in their noses. The nurses were being frightfully mean and firm, but I know now that this is because they never know if the patient will be belligerent or cooperative. And I learned after being there for a month, belligerence happens more often than not.

“Strip and put on the gown. We’re taking your weight and doing a body check.”

I was literally shaking with cold from the air conditioning. Being forced to take off my clothes and put on a paper gown was sheer torture. Not only that, but I had “water loaded” and not pooped in addition to stuffing my face on the plane so that I would weigh as much as I possibly could for my entrance weight. “Water loading” is when you drink as much water as you can bear before weighing in so that you get an inaccurately high read. It may not seem like much, but every ounce counts in inpatient. The problem in this plan (aside from the dangers of water loading) was that I would have an inaccurate “starting weight.” As a result, I would have to water load every morning before weigh in to compensate.

So there I was, having to pee so freaking much it was unbearable. I mean, I have never had to pee or go to the bathroom so badly in my life! But I had to get weighed first so that I could make it count. Then to top it off, I couldn’t pee directly afterwards, or it would be obvious that I had water loaded. So not only was I trembling with cold, but I was also ready to explode like Niagara Falls. But they had to do the body check first.

I’ll tell you what, there’s not much more humbling in life than shivering, naked in front of strangers at 78 pounds as they check every inch of your body to see if you’ve been cutting or self harming yourself. Not. Much. Well, except for when my hair fell out. That was a close second.

Simultaneously a tray was slammed down in front of me consisting of chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, a mandarin orange cup, milk, and a cookie. ‘Oh God,” I thought, “I just ate all that on the plane. How am I possibly going to eat this too?” “Oh God, is that a cookie?” I was terrified of the butter in the cookie. No way was I going to eat that cookie.

“Eat.” The stern woman with the large breasts gave me a cold, dead look that read, “try me.” Well, alrighty then. Put the weight on so I can get the hell out. Challenge accepted. Cookie and all.

While all this was going on, I felt like my head was spinning. These women were so cold to me and kept asking me, “So when did your eating disorder start?” “How long have you been anorexic?” “When did your eating disorder become so severe?” “Are you bulimic too?”

“But I’m not anorexic!” “I don’t have an eating disorder!” “It’s Ulcerative Colitis!” “I’m eating! I don’t have an eating disorder!” I kept trying to get it through to them. “I’m not anorexic!” I kept saying it and saying it, but these unyielding women would have none of it.

15 responses to “Go Big or Go Home”

  1. I hope you don’t mind the frequent comments. That darn ‘like’ button just seems so inadequate. Useful, but inadequate. Kind of the way I view myself at times.

    Thanks for dishing this up in small doses. I cheated today (and will probably continue to do so) by reading the ‘end’ first. Of course, the current blog is never the ‘end’, is it? It is a remarkable story and one that is worth reading by anyone, whether their lives have been touched by eating disorders or not. If I can help to share it with others, I will do so.

    Thank you.

    • Wow, thank you Tony. No not at all! That’s so kind of you to say! You have no idea how much it means to see you supportive and encouraging comments on my dashboard. It is so affirming and for that I am so grateful. So Thank You!!

  2. I want to hit the “Like” button because I absolutely love your writing style, your honesty, and how you are using your experience to help someone….BUT somehow, hitting “Like” seems improper. I am going to continue reading your blog entries, but just wanted to take a moment to say, “Thank you”, for sharing. In ways you do not know, you have given me hope. Take care.

    • Thank you so much. Yeah my proud is not something I am proud of, but I’m sharing in the hopes that it will offer hope to those suffering or loved ones that freedom from that darkness is possible. Thanks so much for reading and for your feedback. Blessings and hugs to you

  3. I found your blogbook after you placed a ‘Like’ on mine. Thank you. I am so impressed by your courage, your writing and your honesty. I am not following your blog, because I want to read it from the beginning (or until I catch you up). I thought I had been clever, putting a ‘like’ on Tony Casson’s comment and your reply following ‘the Intervention’. His words and yours seemed so complete I did not want to spoil it by adding a comment. As you are both on this next post I can comment anyway. Like Tony and ‘Emergingfree’ I agree that ‘Likes’ seem inadequate, even wrong, for this post. My prayers for you and for the many others in your situation, not only ED – Tony Casson is an example of many others who have fought similar problems in other guises. Our Father’s love will win the victory even for those who might think they have failed.

    • Hi tony, wow thank you for such kind and encouraging words. And I really appreciate the prayers:) you are so right: God is SO good and it is 100% because of his love and healing that I can claim recovery. It is my deepest prayer that through sharing my brokenness and redemption found in, to, and with Christ, that other that may be going through something similar may find hope and encouragement here. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond. It means more than you know. Blessings to you and yours ☺️

  4. I’m hooked. I just want to keep reading! Your writing flows so well and draws me right into your story. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. Even though I’ve not personally dealt with Anorexia, I know that your story will teach me and others. Not only giving us a view into/understanding of your life, but teaching us how to live our lives better.

    • Hello again! thank you! That’s so kind of you to say:) I’m glad my posts resonate with your heart. That means so much. Truly. Hope you’re having a lovely evening. Hugs and love xox

  5. I’m back 🙂 Still enthralled by your (true) story. The degree of humility you exhibit is beyond measure. By the way, I have mixed emotions about the “like” button. I think we would all agree none of us “like(s)” what you went through. That said, I check “like” as an acknowledgment. I am simply acknowledging I have read and appreciate your work. What I truly appreciate – or, I should say “who” – is you. I am so thankful I have “met” you and that you have shared with us. That takes immense courage and a complete surrender to what God has called you to do. You inspire me.

    • Hi friend! Wow, thank you so much for these kind and encouraging words. I’m grateful to have “met” you as well. Sending so many hugs–your words have been a bright spot in my day so far. So thank you for that. Hugs and love xox

  6. Good morning! First, I want to dispense with one thing, your writing is fantastic, want to get that our up front so I don’t sound like a broken record reading through your story, but truly, the honesty and the craft, both entrancing.

    Second, this whole scene of utter defiance is depicted so powerfully. Sort of at a loss for words, this morning, though, just checking in to say good morning and that I am still listening.


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