November 4 – 10, 2018
Because of my near slip-up on Friday, I was moved back a level for more accountability for the weekend. The clear name badge that was hung over my neck now bore a green strip at the bottom. This signaled to staff that for 45 minutes after meal and snack times I had to be escorted to the bathroom or to my room. If I needed to use the bathroom during that time, I’d have to count loudly, talk, or sing to a staff member waiting outside. I discovered during week two that I am actually unable to count and pee at the same time, so I’d usually just wait until the 45 minutes were over.
I didn’t sleep much over the weekend. During groups, since I couldn’t hide in my room after meals, I’d sleep on the couches in the community room. Saturday after lunch, I claimed my spot on my usual couch, covered up with my blanket, and tried to rest my eyes. I felt someone lightly pet the top of my head and my eyes jumped open as my body sent me into fight or flight. I saw that it was Kelsey and she was just silently telling me that she was next to me. I closed my eyes again. I was almost completely asleep by the time group was starting. I heard the counselor say, “Who is that asleep under the blanket? Wake them up, please, it’s time for group.” I didn’t move, internally groaning. “She hasn’t slept at all in like 3 days! Just let her rest,” I hear Kelsey reply. They went on with group and I quickly fell asleep.
I tried to sleep on the couch outside the dining hall before meals. I tried to go back to my room during breaks to sleep. I wished I could have two months worth of good, solid, sleep. Kelsey kept telling me, “On Monday go see Jodi. This is ridiculous. You need stronger sleeping meds.” I was on my third change of sleeping meds since I’d arrived and they still weren’t helping. And I was worried that I may get in trouble on Monday for skipping and sleeping through so many groups.
After four days of little rest and high levels of panic and depression, the weekend ended. Monday arrived and I was grateful. I always felt so much better when all the staff were there. The groups that my therapist and her practicum student led were always ones I looked forward to. I also loved all of the practicum students as well. I found I was much better able to engage in groups during the week than the weekend. I was especially excited for this week because the art therapist had been out of town last week and she was returning.
Every Tuesday, my entire team meets for rounds. My therapist, psychiatrist, dietician, and nurse practitioner are together to talk about my progress in each area. I was never present during this time so I’m not really sure what they would talk about. I assume this week that my therapist would relay that I was still a mute who stared at her in silence, my dietician would say I am terrified of her and of eating fats, and my psychiatrist would talk about how I need more Prozac and sleeping medication. I do know my nurse practitioner kept me on daily vitals since my heart rate was all over the place. Later that day I see Liz approaching me. Since I did well over the weekend, she handed me a clear badge with no green, allowing me to be free to do whatever I wanted after meals again.
She also handed me a packet that read, “A-Stage Readiness Packet.” I looked at her in confusion. Every patient entered on E (Engaging) stage. In this stage, the groups cover a lot about motivation to change, emotional awareness, and the function of eating disorders and emotionally driven behaviors. But my entire E stage packet was practically empty. I had spent every group either extremely panicked or sleeping. I never did my homework. I was very confused why she thought I was ready to move up to A stage.
Acquiring Stage involves putting one’s self into challenging situations, bringing up uncomfortable emotions, and learning how to deal with all of it in healthy ways. It is intended to prove to yourself that you can live through the situations and emotions that you’re scared of or avoiding. I was terrified of moving to A Stage, it sounded awful. She held the packet out to me and asked, “Do you want this?” and I said yes because that’s what I was supposed to say. What I really wanted was to nap. Or live in a cave. Or sit comfortably where I was. But she believed I was ready to grow and challenge myself. Dang therapists always challenging me to be better. I took the packet.
I went to the community room and showed everyone my A stage readiness packet. All the girls were so excited for me and said they were proud. This made me smile. I walked over to the long wooden table on the opposite side of the room and sat down next to Sarah who was working on something too. I began filling out my packet since it would be due Friday. I was honestly surprised at how I was able to answer all of the questions completely with details and examples. I even drew a graph on one of the questions to support my answer. Maybe I had retained more information from E Stage than I thought.
My dietician came into the community room and asked to talk to me for a second in the hall. She told me that she thought I was ready to move from trays to independent eating on Monday. “Oh.” I stared at her. Independent eating meant I would be able to go through the line in the cafeteria and make decisions about what I wanted to eat in the moment, instead of having my tray sitting there, ready for me when I walked in. I still had to meet all of the requirements and be checked off before and after the meal, but it was a lot more independence and freedom, which freaked me out. I still didn’t trust myself at all. “I knew this would make you anxious!” she laughed and handed me a new menu that read “independent eating” at the top. “It keeps you on track with moving to A Stage and I know you’re ready for it.” I was starting to get concerned with the professionals here. Have they met me? Have they seen how many panic attacks I’ve had? I cried over ice cream last week.. but she believes in me? I was deciding to trust them while simultaneously wondering if they were confusing me for someone else.
I came back in and showed the girls again. They were floored. Seeing their excitement for me was contagious. I felt really great that everyone was believing in me and cheering me on. Even though I didn’t actually believe in myself yet, these girls did. And that was encouraging.
Everyone becomes so invested in each other. The tiniest things are a triumph, all the girls just understand. I would get so invested in their own journeys and wanting to be there for them. I would cheer for them after a challenge or a tough day. They would lift me up even if I didn’t share what was going on in my mind. Every week this community became more and more special to me. I would hear these women talk about their struggles and what they’ve been through and my heart would ache. For the kind and hilarious 16 year olds who have so much ahead of them. For the girl who can’t bring herself to fully finish a single meal. For the girl who will be the maid of honor and sing in her older brother’s wedding. I would pray for them to overcome this and find health and happiness. All of them. So why couldn’t I pray that for myself?