I don’t know exactly how long I was in that back room that first day of inpatient, but it seemed like hours. I got weighed. Examined. Blood work done. Vitals taken. During my first 2 weeks, I had to have my vitals taken every 3 hours. And I wasn’t allowed to walk anywhere on the ranch for the first month. Not that we went anywhere. But we did go to chapel every day, a therapy session, and an activity – like therapeutic art, equine therapy, or other body image seminars. For those “trips” – which were a 3 minute walk –. I had to ride in a golf cart, called the “People Mover,” so as not to burn calories. Apparently, they were afraid I was going to die.
In actuality, they were. You see, I learned after I left that I was the most severe case to have ever come through R. And please don’t take that as me “bragging.” It is humiliating, but it just shows you how sick I really was. At 5’6” and 78 pounds, the doctors couldn’t believe that my heart hadn’t stopped. It was literally a miracle that I was alive. But as a result, they were extra strict with my care plan. Most patients move into one of the bunk houses, which are a 3 minute walk from the rec house, which houses the nurses’ station. For the first month, I had to sleep in a special room attached to the nurses’ station. This was so they could monitor me when I was sleeping, to make sure I didn’t die. You see, when you’re so malnourished and depleted and you start eating a highly caloric diet, your body can go into shock, or “refeeding syndrome” and you can actually die from over stressing your heart. So there’s that.
But back to that first day. After the hellish experience in the examination room, I was taken to my room at the nurses’ station. I had a roommate who was bulimic. I remember seeing her and thinking how pretty she was. I also literally remember thinking, “Thank God I’m not bulimic. How disgusting.” Oh, hello Pot, meet Kettle.
But anyways, the nurse unpacked for me. In fact, I wasn’t even allowed to touch my things. I had to watch as she went through my stuff. I felt so violated, but that’s what inpatient does: it breaks you. So I had to watch as she went through my suitcase full of my exercise ball, medicines, apple cider vinegar, supplements, etc. “But how is my pyloric valve going to empty if I don’t have my apple cider vinegar to correct the acidity level in my stomach?!” – “You’ll live.”
I also found out that a lot of the things I brought were considered “contraband.” For example, my make up compacts had to be taken away and have the mirrors taken out. Girls could apparently use the mirrors to cut themselves. Books that my mother had given me to read were taken away because they weren’t on the “approved list.” Magazines were taken away because of “triggering images,” aka, models. I brought a tee-shirt that had the Diet Coke logo on it, (hey, it was the mid ‘00’s, give me a break) – and that was discarded because that was triggering. I learned later from a self-proclaimed “professional bulimic” that Diet Coke, or “DC” as the they lovingly called it, helped them to purge their food after binging. Also, many of my clothes were deemed “too revealing” and could be triggering to people. Apparently seeing my bony shoulders in a tank top was worse than seeing them in a three-finger-wide sleeveless. But I digress. I was the exemplary patient – I would comply with every rule and regulation.
On my first day there, I had to decided whether I would gain weight via supplements or through the NG (nasogastric feeding tube) that I saw coming out of many of the girls’ noses. I would be damned if I was going to have another tube prodded inside of me. I had already had more colonoscopies than your average senior citizen. No way I was going to get one going in the other end. And additionally, I wanted to put the calories in by my own doing – willfully. Maybe it was a subconscious act of self-loathing or another way to punish myself, but I had already committed to getting the weight on (in order to leave), so I might as well put the damn food in my own damn pie hole. Plus, the perfectionist/overachiever in me saw the NG tube as the easy way out. I wanted the challenge. Bring it on.
My first couple of days were a whirlwind of doctors appointments, dietician meetings, and therapy sessions – both group and individual. After all, even though R may seem like an episode of “Salute Your Shorts” meets “Hey Dude,” it actually is a hospital. I remember telling my Ulcerative Colitis history over and over to each doctor, and them basically throwing it out, and just getting back to “…But your anorexia…” I would adamantly explain and explain myself, saying, “No, no. I don’t HAVE an eating disorder! It’s UC!” But you see, even though there were large portions of my UC history that were valid and actually true contributors to the weight loss, the fact remained that I was definitely, and positively anorexic too. They saw through that and were waiting for me to own up to it.
Note to self, when you’re in an eating disorder clinic, you have NO credibility whatsoever. None. You’re guilty until proven otherwise. You see, these doctors have seen everything. People suffering with eating disorders are masters of deception, so these doctors have had to become keen detectives for the truth and for “BS.”