One year ago today my life began.
At the time, however, I didn't exactly see it as a new beginning. One year ago today my parents drove me to an intensive inpatient eating disorder treatment facility in Grand Rapids, which is where I spent the following four weeks (before my 6 month stay at another facility in Toledo).
That first day is somewhat of a blur in my memory. As I hugged and kissed my parents goodbye the reality of my situation finally hit me. Yes, I knew I was sick, but I did not think I was that bad. Through the admission process I quickly learned that the number of personal items I was allowed to keep with me would be severely limited. During those four weeks I went without internet, a cell phone, bobby pins, make up, coffee, my sock monkeys, and any form of privacy. The only form of contact we had with the outside world was a 10 minute phone call each day in the common area. Our time outside was also limited and we were not allowed outside of a caged-in area.
Because this was an intensive facility that also dealt with other mental health patients, we were placed on twenty-four hour watch. Every fifteen minutes someone with a clip board was spotted walking around checking us off on their list if all appeared to be going well - even while we slept. If we wanted to shave, we had to have one of the workers stand outside the shower and watch us to be sure we did not self harm with the razor. Worst of all, we were not allowed to use the rest room until two hours after we finished a meal and even then we had to have someone flush for us to make sure we weren't purging.
Talk about humiliation. It felt like I as in a madhouse. I was stripped of everything that made me feel like myself. I felt like an animal. I was completely exposed without an escape. Never in my life have I been so afraid.
My first meal was an open-faced turkey sandwich with lettuce, a slice of tomato, and no condiments. On the side there was a pile of mushy, greenish-brown green beans that smelled awful. New patients start out with a small amount of food and gradually work their way up to higher calorie meals. It may not seem like much food to an outsider, but between the chaos of that first day, being stripped of my identity, strange people constantly staring at me, and then being forced to eat, I completely lost it. As I took my first bite with tear soaked cheeks and trembling hands, I knew this was just the beginning of many difficult meals to come.
Thankfully my second meal of the day was consumed with the rest of the eating disorder patients. Even though it was still beyond overwhelming to eat for a second time that day, being surrounded by others in the same horrific situation eased my pain a little bit.
Without the other patients I would not have survived those four weeks. One of the first girls I met coincidentally lives in the next town over and we have remained really good friends ever since. She was admitted just a few days before me, so she is also currently experiencing her one year anniversary. I know the one year anniversary might just seem like another day, but it's actually a pretty overwhelming time. All day long today and for the next four weeks, I will be reminded of the traumatic things that took place one year ago.
|Kenzie and me happily celebrating our big anniversary :)|
Today and the next few weeks will be filled with a wide range of emotions, but I am lucky to have my dear friend Kenzie to share this time with. We are both living proof that one year can change everything and that life really can begin again.