Being admitted to the hospital for an eating disorder was an all time low for me. I was in disbelief that I let Ed get this far, but deep down he was applauding me. He was telling me that I had finally gotten myself sick enough to be hospitalized, and that was a win in his book. To him, this meant that the days of starvation and exhaustion had finally payed off.
It had all gone so fast that I didn’t even realize I was in the hospital bed until I started getting pricked by needles. I was so dehydrated that it took about forty minutes and three nurses to draw blood from me. With numerous heart monitors, IVs up my arm, and doctors coming in and out constantly, I felt like a case on Grey’s Anatomy. And for anyone who watches the show, I felt like most patients on it; terrified. Whether it was from the pain of the IV or the anger of the fact that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without unplugging myself from machines; there was a constant stream of tears. Doctors were coming in with booklets for me to answer with questions like, “do you get anxiety while eating?”, or “are you preoccupied with the desire to be thinner?” When I answered “always” to these questions a part of me deep deep down knew that this was the underlying reason why I was there.
When dinner came I was surprised to see such a small portion, and Ed of course was satisfied with that. The reason behind this was because I was at high risk for refeeding syndrome. As a result of being so malnourished, I could not just begin eating normally again, so my food intake had to be monitored very closely or my body could go out of balance which could end very badly. All meals were supervised, and I had a nurse sit with me during all of them. When I began to eat, I ripped my sandwich apart and started by eating just the crust. Ed told me that smaller bites and eating the “bad” parts first was how I should eat. The nurse asked me not to do that again, because it was considered ritualistic eating. My habits and rituals involving food were something that calmed me during meals and made me feel in control, and when they got disrupted it was not a good time.
During my stay at the hospital Ed was still controlling me. After every meal I continued to look up the nutrition facts just like I had been doing. And if the “bad” categories such as fats, calories, and sugar exceeded Ed’s limits, then I would get very upset. I was googling “low calorie dinners” to make when I get back home, and even though I was limited to a hospital bed I still found a way to exercise behind everyone’s back. Nothing was really clicking at this point and I continued to do what Ed told me.
The routine in the hospital got really old really fast, and I was begging and begging to go home. I got woken up at six every morning to get my vitals taken, which included blood pressure, getting dressed in a hospital gown to get weighed, and then getting blood drawn. There was no type of freedom whatsoever. I couldn’t even flush the toilet because they thought that I might put my food in it. I wasn’t able to walk around unless I was escorted by a wheelchair, and I couldn’t even take a shower without someone else in the room, because I might pass out. It took me a while to realize that too much freedom concerning food and my health is what got me here in the first place, and though I was very reluctant at first, I finally started to let the doctors do their jobs.
What would become my medical team included a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, pediatrician, and a family therapist who were visiting my room daily. The treatment I was told I was going to receive is called the Maudsley method. It is a family based approach which put my parents 100% in charge of my meals. I was eighteen, had just left for college and felt like I was being treated like a five year old again. I had been a very independent person growing up, and I wasn’t about to be told what I would and could not eat. Ed had developed a very systematic approach to my meal choices ,and I did not want that getting disturbed. However, I didn’t have a much of a choice at that point, and the day after I was released from the hospital I found myself at an eight hour a day partial hospitalization program for eating disorders.
If you or someone you know is suffering with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org) supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Call their toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. In addition, Project HEAL funds inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment for applicants suffering from an eating disorder who want to recover but cannot afford treatment. Go to http://theprojectheal.org/apply-for-grants/our-scholarship-progra/ for information about how to apply for a treatment grant OR VISIT WWW.THEPROJECTHEAL.ORG
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