I sat in the waiting area clutching the hospital gown I had been given, waiting for one of the nurses to call my name. A shoeless girl shuffled by wheeling a pole with an IV bag dangling from the top. A long tube protruded from the IV bag, snaked down the pole, and disappeared into her nose.
What am I doing here?
One year ago today I was admitted into a residential treatment center in Philadelphia. Emotionally, I was already drained from battling just to get to the facility. I had been told more than two weeks earlier that I wasn’t making enough progress in the day treatment program and needed 24/7 care, but my insurance company did not consider me sick enough to warrant residential treatment. For 13 days, my treatment team and my Blue Cross Blue Shield case manager debated how close to death I needed to be to earn my insurance company’s approval for residential treatment.
Finally, I got the go-ahead (although I had to pay for my own room and board). I packed my bags and at 5 a.m. on January 28, 2014, my fiancé and I rented a car and drove from New York City to Philadelphia, where I would spend the next 40 days working to reclaim my life.
One Year Later
Today, my mind has periodically been transporting me back to that day, playing it for me in such vivid detail that I need to consciously remind myself that I’m not there, that it’s over, I made it through. But I can so clearly see the foyer of the old manor house where admissions took place. I can recall the tedium of telling my story over and over to admissions counselors, therapists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, nurses. I remember the sting of the needles that drew my blood, the stickiness of the EKG electrodes, the cold roughness of the scale on my bare feet as I got weighed, and then got weighed again.
I remember the tightness in my chest and the leaden feeling in my shoulders as I stood at the end of the front path, clutching my fiancé, the both of us too heavy with grief to voice the word “goodbye.”
I do feel grateful for the experience — I truly do. Residential treatment, as my therapist in the day program told me before I left, is a gift. And there are many positive emotions I’m feeling today, one year later: gratitude, relief, pride, admiration.
But more than anything else, I feel sad.
I feel sad for the girl who checked into treatment that day. She was a shell of the person she used to be. She couldn’t even see how much pain she was in, how much of herself she had lost — and not just in pounds. But from here, a year removed, I can see that pain very clearly. And I grieve for her.
I don’t blame her for how bad things got. I don’t hate her for what she did to me and to the people who love us. I understand that she was just trying to survive in the only way she knew how. I know she did the best she could. And I know she did something extraordinarily brave by leaving her fiancé four months before their wedding, traveling two states away to a place of a hundred strangers, and locking herself up willingly in a desperate attempt to get rid of this thing that had taken hold, once and for all.
I’m grateful to her for taking that terrifying risk and for working as hard as she did to make things right. I hope that in return I can help her to finally find peace. All she ever wanted was for someone to hear her, to feel with her, to acknowledge her pain. And I do. I care about her immensely. Maybe that’s enough to help her let go of whatever it is she is still holding onto, one year later, and to get some rest.
Maybe we can both finally move on from all of this.
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