I definitely saw some pretty crazy and intense things during my three-month stay at inpatient. There was one girl who came in for bulimia, and during the morning weigh ins, she would somehow smuggle rocks in her undergarments to make herself weigh more. Like I said, every ounce counts at inpatient. This was the same girl who used to throw up in the bushes in the middle of the night.
I was not without my own deceitful activity either, though. I already mentioned my “water loading” before weigh ins. Even though that was to make up for the abnormally high entrance weight, I had to keep it up, petrified that they would take away my walking privileges. I had to ride in the golf cart, or “People Mover” for weeks when I first arrived because my weight was so dangerously low. Also, after meals, we would play the card game, “Nerts.” This group game was a lot like “Speed,” and it got pretty intense. I would purposely get up and down out of my seat when things got really “exciting,” and jiggle my legs up and down underneath the table to burn calories. The nurses were totally on to me, and even wrote it up in my chart. Little vices. Little ways that I thought gave me “control.”
Because that’s the name of the game. Anorexia is all about control: Controlling your food, your portions, your weight, your exercise, etc. Your life is out of balance, and you feel out of control, so you latch onto the one thing you find out you can control: your weight. Inpatient strips you of that control. They tell you when to sleep. What to eat. When to eat. What you can or can’t do. Privacy is nonexistent. You couldn’t even flush the toilets by yourself – the nurses did for you. This was to ensure that there was no bulimic activity going on. Inpatient makes you surrender everything, so that you can “heal” and relearn how to trust food and trust your body. Not that it really gets to root of it all – it does get close. But I will say, that they save your life and get the weight on so you don’t die.
One episode that really sticks out in my head was when a bulimic patient came in who was addicted to drugs, and in a belligerent state – OD-ing on some sort of narcotic. I remember her arriving in handcuffs, chained to the stretcher, screaming profanity. We had to watch her go through withdrawal and it was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen.
It was really eye-opening for me to hear the other women’s stories. There were former gymnasts and ice dancers, victims of rape or abuse, international women, and professional athletes. The majority of the women had been to inpatient before – some several times. There were a couple of women who were in their 40’s and had been battling the disease for decades. I remember thinking how sorry I felt that their lives had been wrecked by this horrible disease. Little did I know that that’s just par for the course.