I knew I wasn’t following my meal plan all the way, but I was trying hard so it was close enough. I mean it feels like I’m eating ALL the time, so I must be way over my meal plan actually. My therapist hands me the usual check-in sheet I get at the start of every program day. It asks for the percentage of my meal plan followed. I’ll put 90% followed. Actually 90% is an A, and I don’t think I deserve an A. I’ll put 85%, that sounds more realistic. Ugh I hate these check-in sheets so much. For the next section, I honestly don’t know how to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how depressed or anxious I was over the past few days. Was it a 2? Maybe I’m going to easy on myself. It was probably an 8. Ah I’m so confused. I’ll just put down a 5. That’s neutral, can’t go wrong.
Okay, now I just have to stuff down these two fig newtons. I definitely choose the perfect, condensed snack. Two bites and I am done! Wow, this other lady next to me is so skinny. It’s a different kind of skinny though. Not the kind you see on the magazine covers in bikinis by the beach, but a strange, weak skinny. Her face drooped down and her eyes seemed tired of life. Her legs must be really tiny since her skinny jeans are loose on her, but it kind of just seems like she bought too big of pants. I wonder if she brushed her hair this morning. Maybe she did, but the thinning hair and bald spots were too distracting to tell. I feel sympathy for her; it must suck to live life so depressed.
I hand my therapist my check-in sheet. I look down and finish my snack while avoiding eye contact with the therapist. I really can’t stand the judgements that are probably going on in her head. She’s probably thinking that I have no hope in recovering, a lost cause. Whatever. I stand up confidently and throw away my snack wrappers. The other patient finally finishes and I start sharing. I answer “maybe” and “I don’t know” to every other question the therapist asks and stare down like I’m thinking during the awkward, silent moments.
After check-ins, the first group begins. It’s DBT group today and a tall, outgoing therapist is leading it. I can’t get over how vibrant and engaged she is in the lesson, despite the solemn, bored looks on my and the other lady’s face. I’m not really paying attention because most of my concentration is going to trying to keep my eyelids from drooping down and shutting. Oh wow, we still have 30 minutes of this group left. Saved by my therapist! She walks in through the back door and asks to steal me. I don’t know what its for, but it’s probably better than group. Anything is better than group. I was wrong.
My therapist walks me into the dietician’s office, and sitting there were four other members of my treatment team. I walk in like a deer in headlights. I ask if I’m in trouble, but they said no. They just want to talk. I know better – that obviously means I’m in trouble. I try so hard to sit comfortably in the chair, to mask that my anxiety is way past a 10. They tell me that I need to try harder and that I am not following my meal plan. They are honestly so stupid. I swear they didn’t actually get their degrees in anything. They’re just here to make my life horrible. They keep trying to punish me! Everything I do, they call me out on. So what if I didn’t follow my meal plan 100%? I tried harder and I deserve some appreciation for that. But instead, they just keep pointing out what I’m doing wrong. I sit there and act tough. I take in everything they are saying and want to talk back, but words just don’t come out. They tell me that they need to see improvement. I just nod, even though, deep down I know that there is nothing I need to improve on! They’re so delusional. My therapist walks me back to group, and I feel completely exposed and humiliated.
I go sit back on the couch and don’t even attempt to listen to the lesson taking place. Maybe this isn’t right for me. I don’t belong here. I am not good enough for recovery.
As I’m sitting there with my negative thoughts spiraling, the always smiling kitchen lady puts the utensils out on the table on the opposite side of the group room. Then she brings one tray at a time out. I want to look at what the meal is, but I can’t because the therapist leading the group is talking right at me. I don’t even know what she’s saying because I’m too preoccupied on what lunch is going to be today.
Oh my god, I think it’s pizza. Wait, maybe its not. It can’t be. I look again after she closes group. Yes, it is pizza. My heart sinks to my belly and my throat closes up. The tears are creating pressure in my eyes and I think I’m starting to get a little light headed. My arms and legs feel like they are going to fall off. It’s pizza. I can’t. I can’t do this. They’re doing this on purpose. My treatment team is trying to make me fail. They hate me. The dietician comes in and tells us to come to the table. I feel glued to the chair I’m on. I can’t get up. The dietician calls me over again. I get up and walk over. I ask to substitute this meal. He says no, I need to try and eat what’s presented. The tears are flowing. I tell him I can’t. He tells me to sit down and try. We sit at the table. I see the greasy, oily slices of pizza in front of me. This is unbelievable. I can’t put that in my mouth. Maybe I can stuff it down and numb out. No, it’s too hard. I think I’m going to puke. I am slouched as far back as I can in my chair. I do not want to be near that food. My eyes are turned the other way and the tears just won’t stop! The dietician asks me what’s going on and I simply tremble “I can’t”. He tells me I can. He doesn’t understand. I stay slouched back and continue crying. I don’t belong here. I am so stupid for not being able to eat that pizza. It’s not even a big deal, but I just can’t. My dietician tells me that I can’t just sit there avoiding the food. He pushes the plate closer to me and tells me to face it. I am being difficult and he is getting frustrated. I turn to look at it, and it just bring up more tears. I think I’m starting to choke. I can’t breathe. The dietician tells me that it’s the halfway time. He says that I should really get started. I can’t. I keep looking at it, but I just can’t. That pizza is so wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong about it, but it just is. It’s going to clog up my throat and kill me. I am still crying. I need to stop. I calm myself. But soon again, the tears start. This is so uncomfortable.
As soon as time is up, my dietician grabs my plate and goes in the kitchen. I know what he’s doing. He’s preparing the boost. He’s going to make me drink Ensure. I don’t care. I’ll drink the Ensure. It’s so much better than pizza. He asks me what flavor, chocolate or vanilla? I say I don’t care. He tells me I need to pick one. I tell him I can’t. He states again that I need to pick a flavor. I guess vanilla. I can’t believe my life right now. This is what its come down to. I am so pathetic for not eating that pizza. My friends will seriously think I’m psycho if I tell them. My dietician comes out with two cups, one full and one 3/4 way filled. He places it right in front of me and tells me that I have five minutes to finish. I sit there. I can’t do this either. My arm just will not move up to pick up the cup. There’s so many calories in that. He tells me that I need to start now or I won’t have time to finish. The other patient across the table is looking down. I don’t even think she’s paying attention to what’s happening at the table because she’s too wrapped up in her own mind. I pick the cup up and take a sip. It is disgusting. It tastes like 5 meals crushed into one sip. I put the cup down. I lift it up again and take sip after sip without stopping. I need to finish this. After I drink this, I’m done. I somehow manage to get the first cup finished. Ugh there’s another one. I need to, I can’t stop. I immediately take the next one and start sipping. I put the cup down. I am done.
We are told to go sit for relaxation. But I am in my own world. I walk back to the couch with tears streaming down. A chirpy therapist comes to lead the relaxation. I look down and avoid eye contact. She says to close our eyes. I don’t. Tears are gently rolling now, and my black sweatshirt is soaked. About ten minutes into the relaxation, and I am still sniffling every so often. I want to leave so badly, but I can’t. My therapist slowly opens the door and whispers something to the therapist leading the relaxation then motions me to go with her. My eyes are numb at this point. She walks me to the dietician’s office and he is sitting there as well. They ask me what happened. I shrug my shoulders. They asked me what was getting in the way of me eating the pizza. I say I can’t. They tell me I can, and I start crying even more. They don’t understand, I cannot. They ask me what I am going to do about this. I shrug. They continue asking me several Socratic type questions and without responding to their questions, I say I need time. My therapist says okay. She says I can go back to group and go home to collect myself afterwards. I walk back to the group room feeling humiliated and weak. Group is over. I grab my backpack and head out to the elevator.
I am no longer crying. Life moves on. I get in my car and put on a mask that I expect to wear the rest of the day. My mom calls. I tell her it was a tough day and that I am heading back to school. I drive in silence for the next twenty minutes. And then I turn on the radio loudly and drive more intently to go back to school on time. I can’t waste my time thinking about pizza and group. I am needed at work and I have things to get done at school. I get back to school with my sunglasses on covering my swollen eyes. I smile and say hi to everyone I run into there. I walk up to my dorm and grab my books. I retouch my foundation and reapply my eye makeup. My best friends are gathered outside the dorm hall. I stop to say hi and ask them about their day and offer them words of support for the homework they procrastinated on. I walk to class and engage in small conversations with my neighbors. We talk about going to the upcoming music festivals and start planning days to hang out. Life’s good.
The teacher begins class right on time. She begins lecturing about music and its transformative power. I sit and look in her direction and I see her mouth moving, but I am not comprehending what she is saying. My mind wanders to the day I just had at group. My thoughts begin spiraling. I cannot do this any longer. The treatment team I have is stupid and I cannot go back there. I guess I can recover on my own. I will just follow my meal plan completely. I think I will quit treatment. No wait, I really shouldn’t. My family will be so disappointed in me and I will be a failure. Oh no, the flashbacks to the pizza are coming back. Shiny slices of pizza and cups of boost. The tears are coming back. I attempt to naturally wipe away at the tears. Oh no, they’re not stopping, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It is a five minute break for class. I pack my stuff and tell the professor I am not feeling well. She tells me that I can leave, but I’m the one who will miss out on the points. I nod and walk out the door with teary eyes. I sob. I don’t know where I am going. I stop on a ledge by a bus stop and call my mom and simply cry. I give up.
It’s the next morning and I get up at 4:15am to get ready for treatment. I wish I can just sleep in and live life like a normal person, but I know I can’t. I have an eating disorder, and it’s a problem. I did not choose to struggle with this deadly mental illness, but I can choose to fight it. So I get in the car and begin the two hour drive to the hospital.