today, I'm writing a novel. Seriously, this is going to be a long one. I was taking a walk outside on this beautiful, glorious day and listening to music and my mind started wandering back into some of my baggage, which seems to happen alot when i am outside walking. I have ALOT of baggage (but dont we all) that haunts me, most of which is treatment related. I thought it might be good to get some of it out. I'm not really sure how this particular bit fits in; if it was treatment, or just wearhousing. You can decide.
ABBE Care, 1998
It all started when i was brought to the hospital by my worker at the homeless women's shelter (where i was living) for overdosing on laxatives. As if i didn't overdose on laxatives every other day, but she didnt know that. So anyway, there i was on the psych ward, and my doc is shaking his head cause he doesnt know what to do with me anymore. I had recently struck out at the local EDU after a disastrous 1 day stay, and my eating disorder was out of control. I was also self-harming and severely deppressed. He thinks i am in need of stabalization and treatment, and i agree. After all, i was tired of living in the hell of my eating disorder. So when he says "how 'bout giving ABBE CARE a try... it would be a nice rest....you'll be taken care of....30 days or so" I think this sounds like my best option. After all, the homeless shelter wasn't taking me back. Too much of a liability, they said.
Then my doc tells me that i will have to be involuntaruly committed- "just a formality"- so that the county will pay for my care. I say ok to that too and sit silently through my committment hearing. It takes about 2 minutes.
The ABBE Center for Community Care sits out in the country, about 10 miles out of town on county home road (guess why the road is named that). It looks like any large, one story nursing home, with a giant hub that houses the cafeteria and social hall, and 3 units that branch out like arms. East unit is Geriatrics, where elderly people in need of nursing care go if they cant afford a private nursing home. South unit is RCF, for head injured people, autistic people, and those with down syndrome. West Unit is where i'm heading, the PMI unit ( Persons w/ Mental Illness). Sub-acute, long term care for the mentally ill. Mostly people who are too deppressed to take care of themselves, but not actively suicidal. Alot of schizophrenics. The odd borderline and chronic alcoholic thrown in. And now, an anorexic/bulimic.
The moment I got there, I know I made a mistake. I mean, this place is grim! The dayroom (there are 2 actually, one on mens hall and one on the womens) looks like an old greyhound bus stop, rows of plastic seats bolted to the ground. Plastic, cause they're easy to clean (cause peeing your pants seems to be the "in" thing around here). Bolted, I would find out, so they could not be thrown. One of the dayrooms does however have a rocking chair, and i will spend my mandatory(useless) hour of observation after meals rocking furiously in it, or curled up, fetal, bawling.
In my room I have *four* roomates, and just a few square feet to call my own. A bed, a nightstand, and a locker which I lock with a key that I wear on a string around my neck. I find out the first night there that sleeping will be impossible, as all 4 roomies sleep with their OWN nightlight, and three of them like to listen to their radios as they nod off. All different stations, of course. When i wake up in the morning, the room stinks like pee.
I quickly realize that there will be no therapy here, just daily inane groups designed for the very low functioning individuals i was now surrounded by ( and apparently, seen as). For example, there was "observation group", where we watched a tape recorded episode of the Andy Griffith show, and then answered questions about what we had just seen ( but what KIND of pie did aunt bea take to the fair?) to see if we could follow along. This was a challenge for some people. I am, like, the superstar of this group. There is current events, where we read the newspaper. There is community, where people complain about things. And there is stretch and relaxation in the mornings, where I am reprimanded for circling my arms and touching my toes twice as fast as everyone else. One useful thing about stretch and relaxation is that if you attend this group, you get a cup of coffee. You also get a cup of coffee if you make your bed. On wed, there is social hour, where east, south, and west units come together, and you get 2 cups of coffee. So on wed, there is the chance for 4 cups of coffee, providing you are doing everything you are supposed to do. Wed is my favorite day.
Of course, my ed is alive and well at the abbe. At first, the 1 hour observation after meals is all they do. They dont really know much about ed's. I visit the geriatrics or rcf to purge. i throw out the "health shakes" the dietician sends me. I power walk around the grounds. I go on a pass and come back with laxatives. Eventually, I lose all my priviledges and am restricted to the unit.
I am miserable. Being eating disordered on the outside is bad enough, in here its unbearable. I beg to be able to see a therapist, but I would need a priviledge level to get to town to do that. Dont they understand that I need therapy to get my behavior under control to get a priviledge level to get into town to get therapy?! And the dang Andy Griffith show ain't helping! At least I am moved into a room with only one roomate, who seems harmless enough, except when she wakes me up at night, yelling violently at her hallucinations. Eventually, she stops wearing clothes, so they throw a sheet on her and send her off to the hospital. My new roomate is a pincher and a puncher, but her meds make her move slowly, so you can usually see her coming and get away in time. I do not like having her as a roommate.
I do not like it that fights break out in the medline right next to me, and punches are thrown right past my head. I do not like it that some guy who crapped his pants put them in with my wash while I was doing my laundry. I do not like using the resident phone; it stinks so bad that I have to hold it away from my head when I call my family. Then I dont have to worry about this anymore, cause my phone priviledges are taken away.
the last straw comes about 45 days into my stay, when my "team" meets to come up with my treatment plan. By now I have noticed that the "30 days" that my doc mentioned have come and gone. It feels like I have been here an eternity. Still, I am hopeful that they will decide to let me see a therapist. I now have new issues as a ressult of being in this place!
They dont let me see a therapist. They take away ALL of my remaining priviledges and inform me that they have come up with a whole new levels system, just for me. It's a red light, yellow light, green light system. I am starting on red. In I have to be on green for the priviledge of seeing a therapist. To get to green, i have to get my eating disorder behaviors under control, and also gain weight.
This is bullsh*t!
Oh yeah, and i will be there indefinitaly. They will re-evaluate my case in six months. SIX MONTHS!
I leave that night. It's so easy, once I decide to do it. The facility is not locked. I call my friend that I met in the psych ward and ask her to come get me. She asks me if I got a pass and I say "no, I'm leaving! I'll be in the bushes to right of the driveway!" I am excited as I stuff whatever I can from my locker into my pockets. I dont even notice my roomie until she is right ther with her fist in my face, but I push her away just in time. Out in the dark in the bushes its cold; I'm wondering where my friend is and thinking about the Consequences and starting to lose my nerve when there she is!!!and I hop into her car and speed off into the night free.
And have a nervous breakdown the next morning because I realize I have nowhere to live and I have to get a job and there is noone to tell me what to do or where to be. Funny, how quickly we can be institutionalized. Well, I got over it pretty quick.
I hope this wasn't too much, or too borring. I just had to get some of it out. Unfortunately, I have been in these types of situations several times. Today, I still struggle, but not nearly to the extent that I used to. Nothing like what i have just written about has happened to me for years. And I do all the normal things, too. I go grocery shopping. I pay bills. I take care of not only myself, but 2 children as well.
I am a big believer of treating people in the least restrictive setting possible. What happened to me at ABBE Care was neither logical nor theraputic. One day I will go back to school and have considered becoming a mental health advocate. I don't know if i could make a difference, but if I could even help one person through my experience, it would be worth it.
5 weeks ago