Wednesday, September 29, 2010

stuck in the past

There is a spot in my brain where I like to keep things that I don't like to think about or remember. I visualise it as sort of a Pandora's box or maybe more like a closet full of junk. You know, a closet so full that if you opened the door you would end up in an avalanche of junk. So you just don't open it.
Once in awhile something happens to remind me of all this crap I try not to think about and then it comes back full force and consumes my mind until I can get it back under control. Some things that we talked about in my NAMI group this monday, and in the writer's group yesterday, unleashed my "treatment baggage". I'm referring to memories of experiences I had as a patient in the UIHC ED program. Treatment which was, ironically, supposed to help me. I was there 6 times, mostly involuntarily, 3 times dragged in in handcuffs by the sherriff. I try so hard not to think about it. The things they said to me. All the little insults, the mind games, the humiliations, hours of boredom alternating with anxiety alternating with anger. Feeling threatened, poweless. Forced to take medications I didn't want, accused of things I didn't do. Doctors and social workers talking about me right in front of me as if I wasn't even there. Having no say, no voice. Having to play their game, never winning no matter what I did.
Example: the last (LAST!) time I was there, in 07, I was on weight gain and for some reason, just a few pounds short of my target weight, I stopped gaining. The doctor couldn't figure out why, so he was convinced that it must be something I was doing. Never mind that I was well inside what would be a normal weight range for my height. Never mind that I was soaking my sheets in sweat every night from being in a hypermetabolic state. So the Team called me into the interview room and told me that they knew I was doing "something" and wanted me to confess, because they were going to catch me anyway. I told them the truth, that I wasn't doing anything wrong, no purging, because I wanted to gain the weight just as badly as they wanted me to (because I wanted the hell out of there). I even asked them to give me more food (I was already on a 3500 cal plan)! I wanted to prove to them that I could do it. But they said no, because "a calorie increase won't make any difference until you stop what ever behavior you are doing to keep from gaining weight". I broke down crying, frustrated, angry. Angry at them for not believing me, angry at my stupid body for not gaining weight. Helpless.
Then they said "we would like to put you back on 24 hour observation. This will be an opportunity for you to prove that you are telling the truth.". I said "fine", because I had nothing to hide, although I was sad to have lost the priviledges I had earned. Sitting in the tiny dayroom all day sucks. Having to find someone to take you to the bathroom and watch you pee sucks. But whatever. At least I could prove my innocence.
But when I got to the dayroom, I realised I was screwed. I still needed and wanted to gain weight so I could go home. But if my body got over this "metabolic hump" now, after I was put on obsevation, it would incriminate me. To the team, it would confirm their suspicion that I was purging when I was off observation. I was in a catch 22 situation. I felt angry, helpless, sad, and scared. I even felt guilty, not because I was doing anything wrong, but because I knew they thought I was a liar, dishonest, manipulative.
They started having lab draw my amylase levels daily, to look for signs of purging. My amylase continued to be normal. But shortly after being put on observation I started to gain weight. They never brought it up again, but I knew what they thought. One day after I was transferred to partial I got into an argument with a nurse there, and she threw out a comment about how I was purging in inpatient. I was furious and set her straight but she said "I 'm only going off of what is in your chart".
After I got home, my therapist showed me portions of my chart that were sent to him. It said "when confronted, patient denied purging or other compensatory behaviors. Cognitive techniques were applied without success" and then blah blah blah reccommend 24 hour observation blah blah blah, with a few blurbs thrown in about how the nurses are sure I'm purging in the shower but no one has caught me at it. It was just so infuriating to hear all the things they wrote about me, and wondering what it is about me that comes off as so awful or sneaky or manipulative that they couldn't just believe me?

This is just one incident of many. I remember the first meal, the first time I was there at age 19. I ran out of time so they put me out in the hall with my tray, where I could either finish it or sit there with it until I did. I remember crying silently, overwhelmed, facing more food that I had eaten in a long time, wishing someone would come put their arm around me and help me through it. And Dr. A coming down the hall, followed by a handfull of residents and med students. Dr A, head of the program, who is supposed to be a national expert on eating disorders.
Someone who could help. He came to a stop with his entourage, looked down at me, and said "what is this, 19 going on 2?". I felt humiliated and wanted to disappear into a puddle right there. That was how I met Dr. A. This man, who was in a position where he could have done so much good, has caused me so much damage by his treatment of me over the years. The very last conversation I ever had with him he looked me in the eye and told me that he was convinced I didn't love my girls. I was shocked, sickened, I opened my mouth to protest and he cut me off by saying "no, no, nothing you say can make me believe otherwise. No amount of fancy verbal footwork can convince me.". Well, what do you day to that. I stayed silent, vowing to never speak to him again. I would never allow him to hurt me again, because I would never come to his program again, not even if I were dying. And I havent.
I have to quit now. I will do a part 2 on this post later. I feel like I need to breathe.


I Hate to Weight said...

Oh, Lisa. this is so awful and sad and such a crime. I am so sad that you were treated this way. i don't understand such cruelty.

i saw all kinds of treatment when i was inpatient for drugs/alcohol. Some of the staff was weirder than any patient. and some of them were really mean.

i can see why writing this makes you lose your breath. you are very brave to put it out there, and i'm so glad you did. it's such hard stuff to keep inside. and your re-counting may make someone else feel less alone about her own experience.

this is a devastating post. take extra good care of yourself. and give yourself so many kudos to hanging in there.

still, it's disgusting and unimagineable what was said to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry this happened to you.

I think there's a difference between being stuck in the past and waiting to process something. Some experiences are just to hard to process until years later.

Some therapists and doctors learn really wrong techniques and some are just bullies. When you combine the two there is a real potential for abuse to take place.

What grown man with that much education and schooling verbally abuses teenage girls in crisis?
You have a right to be angry.
Keep speaking truth to power. I'm so proud of all the work you're doing with NAMI!

Anonymous said...

I'm so, so sorry Lisa. I don't have many words right now, but I'm sending you love. I second the taking extra good care of yourself.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

I'm so sorry. You didn't deserve that kind of treatment and shame on them for treating you that way!

Try to remember this is the past and it can't hurt you. You are safe and are doing well, and you have a loving husband and two beautiful, wonderful girls. Relish your present and know it is how you live now; you don't have to go through any of that ever again.

Take care of yourself.


kris said...

I know this may be a crazy comparison, but your post here reminds me of the mean nurse in "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest." Except, when you see that movie you find yourself thinking that things aren't really like that or aren't like that anymore at least. It's so sad to hear that it's not all just some story and that cruel things like that do go on in hospitals. Worse yet, I think, is that someone with so much potential to have a positive influence just squanders it all!

It would be horrible to go through such a tough time and have people like that make it worse. I think that everyday you are healthy is just one more day to prove that doctor wrong. I would also refuse to ever speak to him again!


ania said...

This hurts my heart. I know how helpless I feel when someone has formed an absolutely incorrect view of me, and I have no way/opportunity to let them see the truth. It's awful when that person refuses to reevaluate their incorrect stance.

It makes me feel....defeated. And I hate the thought that there's someone out there in the wide world who feels that they have confirmation of something bad about me, when that something is not true.

Having that happen in a rehabilitative treatment environment is mind-blowing.

What "Dr. A" said was not kind. Further, failing being kind, it was not necessary either. So, the reason for his communicating his "belief" is suspect, in my view. My point of view is that his need to say such a thing, in that way, was self-serving.

I'm sorry.

Keely said...

There are a**holes everywhere. Its so sad that they took it out on you. There was one resident that was working with my psychiatrist and after telling him that I really wanted recovery and don't want to be stuck in this cycle of hospital after hospital (you know what I mean...) and he said "pffft. Well that sounds like something you heard in a group somewhere..." like I was lying or manipulating him!!! Some people...

Tia said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through that. Nobody should have to put up with that crap. You are so brave to write this, to share this. I wish I could support you in some way, but I can let you know that I care a lot for you, even though I only know you through the internet.

Alexandra Rising said...

I don't have a long comment to write like everyone else, but: your writing intrigues me. It is so well put together and tells such a story. It's heart-breaking but you tell it from such a voice that the reader can almost put themselves in the moment and feel the situation.
Have you ever considered writing a memoir or short stories of sorts? Would it be too tough? Or perhaps therapeutic? I feel you have such a story to tell...and even if you don't feel recovered from everything you've been certainly seem SO strong to me, a strength I bet you have no idea you posses. Keep writing, Lisa; whether it is just for you or whether you choose to share it.

Okay, I guess I did write a long comment after all!