You may be wondering where I’ve been since November 30 ~ Day Three ~ of my outpatient eating disorder treatment program.
Read the comments to that last post. You’ll see some of my progress.
Since then a few things happened…
I snapped the picture you see, this morning. It’s a tight shot of my right hand.
Note the discolouration on my thumb. Not dirt. It’s a bruise, black and blue.
I am very right-handed and not, as I have discovered ~ in the least, whatsoever, in any remote way ~ ambidextrous. The plaster cast you see goes up to my elbow. It weighs “a ton.” Feels like it, anyway.
After a stupid fall on Wednesday, December 14 ~ all falls methinks are stupid, right? ~ and an x-ray revealed that I had indeed broken my right arm above my wrist, the technician in the ER fracture clinic said I would be able to have a yellow fibreglass cast in a week. Mmmmmm. My favourite colour.
So such luck for me…
The following Monday, back at the hospital’s orthopaedics and plastics centre, I saw my x-ray.
The orthopaedic specialist looked like he was right out of Central Casting. Tall, silver-haired, elegant in his crisp white lab coat, kind, gentle and twinkly-eyed behind his wire-rimmed spectacles. I felt I was in good hands. Safe. Especially with my husband Marty beside me.
“If you’re going to break your arm,” Dr. R. said, “That’s the way to do it.” He cleverly rotated the x-ray, showing a jagged line going almost all the way through my arm, about two inches south of my wrist. On the same hand I broke several years ago.”You see, no fragments. Nice and clean.”
Dr. R. then gave me the bad news. “No fibreglass cast for you. And you would be better off without that sling. (I was given a sling in the ER.) The more you exercise your fingers, the less physiotherapy you’ll need.”
My cast comes off on January 9, 2012.
So, that’s surprise number one…
I am now typing with my left hand only. My mouse is on the left of my wireless Apple keyboard. My right hand is resting on a pillow where my mouse used to be. Everything seems to work upside down. It is slow going.
I often wonder if my husband of 11 and 1/2 years would have so blissfully uttered “I Do” on August 22, 2000, if he knew then what he knows now about how challenging life with me really is. I’m no picnic, though he swears he’s never bored.
Still. Had he any premonition, I suspect he may have opted for, “I Do Not!”
Since this last mishap, for two weeks, Marty helps me to open numerous pill bottles, unscrew anything that needs screwing, including toothpaste. For the first few days, he had to screw in my right hearing aid, until I learned to do it myself. He cuts my daily luncheon sandwich, butters my bread, sponge bathes me, cuts my food, helps dress me, ties my shoes, makes the bed and assists me in the loo. That just scratches the surface.
My right hand is painful and powerless…
Marty walks our two dogs four times a day, drives me to all my appointments and does all the chores. Plus, in our double bed I keep him up half the night thrashing around with my rock-hard plaster arm. So he’s perpetually sleep-deprived.
He never complains. He’s 75 and I’m afraid I’m aging him fast. His 24-year-old daughter told him last week that he was looking older, and no wonder.
This weighs very heavily on me.
As for my eating disorders program? I’m still there…
And one major requirement is keeping a daily eating journal.
Here’s what mine looks like for today:
A pre-schooler’s scrawl?
Nope, mine with my left hand. Cute, isn’t it?
Looks more like the pedestrian scribblings of a three-year-old pre-schooler than a 63-year-old journalist with 40-years of professional by-lines beneath her belt.
And something else unexpected happened, surprise number two…
After two weeks of trudging downtown, a 90-minute commute by car and the subway and on foot each way, it was abundantly clear that I was not a good fit for this well-regarded, awardwinning Eating Disorders Day Program.
I have always been a square peg unable to find a square hole into which I can fit. This program, like public and high school, was no different.
That’s an old story.
The point is, I am just too, too different…
And so it was at my beloved ED program, where, by the way, I was excelling.
Clearly, the other patients in my group were uneasy. I was constantly being disciplined, given ultimatums, encouraged to muzzle myself by various staff. They did their best to be kind, but I began to feel like a pressure cooker about to blow my top. Swallowing my energy. It was killing me, though I refused to give in.
The team often softened their blows by stressing that there was nothing wrong with me, but I felt like a naughty child, unable to be me.
I wanted drop out, several times…
Dr. Bob just kept counselling me to “tough it out,” “play the conformity game,” and “stick to the meal plan.” Three meals a day plus two snacks. This, I did, religiously, as perfectly as I could.
His parting shot was, “you’ll be fine,” and then he had to go out of town all last week and I was high flying, without my net.
That, however, simply wasn’t good enough…
You see, instead of being withdrawn, introverted, depressed, deeply ashamed or self-blaming, between 17 and 35 years of age, though there are others, men and women outside that age demographic, clearly I was larger than life, out-there, “with no secrets and no lies,” a big, strong personality, exuberant, brimming with energy and overwhelmingly high octane. (Though a lot of that is my way of coping with the profound sadnesses I have been dealt.) Few ever figure it out. I am a very good actress. And not the classic profile of patients with eating disorders.
Still, I was very very sick, nonetheless. Starving myself.
Chronically restricting had always been my norm. I never dreamed it was in any way abnormal.
Here’s the good news…
Instead of bouncing me out and onto the street from Group 2, the small group program I was in, the wise ED team offered me a third, rather rare option.
Group 3 ~ a one-on-one approach.
You miss the Education group, the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group, the Managing Your Emotions group and the dazzling bi-weekly Spirituality group. You miss schmoozing with the brave and dauntingly courageous patients all of whom had quickly become like family to me.
We sat down together and “broke bread” together like a family.
Four times a day, we shared meals, chatted about light stuff ~ books, movies, gossip, Christmas shopping ~ anything but food, eating or body-image. We snacked with each other. We went on short walks together. The whole group, large and small.
You miss the camaraderie and collegiality with patients who share your obsessions and phobias and fears about food and eating and distorted body images, who have their own rituals which we discussed in the safety of our cloister. We were all working ourselves to the bone to normalize.
It’s the hardest work I have ever in my life done, and now, I am doing it by myself, with longer, more frequent and intense, one-on-one psychotherapy and family counselling sessions.
I think it is going to be fine…
And, hey, I’m already beginning to feel so much happier with my body and with whom I am. “Me.”
Still, there’s one more surprise and I’ll tell you about that next time. My left hand is aching and it’s time to begin thinking about dinner. It’s 7:00 p.m.
Sending hugs and hope that you enjoyed Christmas, Hanukkah or any and all your holidays, thus far.
Photo Credit ~ Sandy Naiman with her iPhone 4S on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EDST