Welcome to a series of stories that basically make up my autobiography. It’s not entirely thorough, but I’ll do the best I can with the memories locked away inside my head. Could be therapeutic for me. Could be humorous for you. Either way, enjoy…
Previously on Life Story… My counselors made me wet my pants during a group therapy session because taking me to the bathroom was inconvenient for them. As you can imagine, that did wonders for my self-esteem.
My time at the hospital was coming to an end. I didn’t think things could get much worse for me. I was under constant supervision in case I decided to make myself vomit (which I never did). I was forced to drag around a machine that fed me through a tube that ran through my nose and down my throat. I was given a cocktail of drugs that consisted of at least two anti-depressants and one anti-psychotic. Things were not good.
It was January of 1995 when rock bottom kicked me in the face. I was not allowed to see my parents. That was my counselor’s latest tactic. Eat your meals without vomiting for so many days and we’ll allow you to see your family again. I don’t like ultimatums. But it’s not as if I had a choice. I didn’t want to die of starvation, it’s not like I was consciously deciding that I didn’t want to eat. As I’ve said a number of times in these stories, I knew I had a serious problem.
Sidebar: if my eating disorder was a symptom of some kind of depression, did they really think it would help by sending me into a deeper depression by denying me the opportunity to have my family visit me? Good thinking, therapists.
But I did my best. I ate my meals. I kept my stomach settled. This was not an easy thing to do when, at the same time, Sustacal was being constantly pumped into my gut. If you’re not aware, when someone changes their eating habits, specifically the amount of food they eat, the stomach changes size. I’m not talking about getting a gut when you eat too much pizza, though that does seem to happen. But the actual organ, the stomach, is pretty elastic. When you eat less and less, the stomach shrinks. When you eat more, it enlarges. It’s almost like training your internal organs. So my stomach was about as small as it could get. Yet I was expected to eat real food, drink real beverages, and still receive a constant flow of nutrition drinks. There’s only so much room. Eventually, something had to give.
My parents were scheduled to come visit me on Saturday the 14th of January. I had been successful in eating and keeping my meals down for whatever amount of days I was supposed to. And then, tragically, the night before their long-awaited visit, I threw up. Middle of the night. Nothing I did to start the event. It just happened. As an added bonus, the feeding tube came up, too. Wrap your head around how uncomfortable that little scenario was. I mentioned in a previous post that I was on “one-on-one” with someone watching me at all times. And yet, somehow, the consensus must have been that I stuck my finger down my throat in my sleep. Maybe they were hoping to write a journal article about a new condition that would come to be known as Sleep Purging.
So what was supposed to be a great day turned into a nightmare. The counselors didn’t bother calling my parents to tell them not to make the 45 minute drive from Roanoke. Instead, they waited ’til they got there to turn them away at the doors. Disappointed, my parents got back in their car and made the drive back to Roanoke.
But, then it happened. At lunch, I was depressed. I was trying to eat the really crappy hamburger that was sitting in front of me, but it should come as no surprise that I had no appetite. It was hard for me to care anymore, now that I had nothing to look forward to. I remember staring at the burger on my plate, and then I was lying down on the bed in my room. I was staring up at the ceiling, confused about how I had gotten there. I was just eating lunch, how did I get in my bed?
I had blacked out. I had a seizure. I had fallen out of my chair at the dining table and had begun convulsing on the floor. I was rushed to the medical hospital in an ambulance. My parents met me there. It was the most confusing few hours.
This was before cell phones became such a common thing in our lives. So the good people at St. Alban’s had to call and leave a message for my parents to receive when they finally got back home from the long drive, only to turn right back around and come back to Radford.
In the ER they ran a lot of tests on me, trying to determine exactly why I had seized when I had no history of seizures at all. My blood work showed a magnesium deficiency, but they weren’t sure that could be what caused it. They gave me a supplement anyway, just in case. Looking back, I have a hard time believing that anything in my nutrition could have caused the seizure. Yes, that’s what all the doctors at St. Alban’s wanted to blame, obviously, because I wasn’t eating enough to get proper nutrition. But even when I wasn’t eating all of the food I should have been, they were constantly feeding me a nutritional drink that would have met every one of my nutritional needs. I was getting better nutrition in those few weeks at the hospital than I probably had in years back at home. So if I was deficient in one particular mineral, why wouldn’t I have had a seizure long before then?
No, my theory is that all those pills they had me on affected my brain chemistry in a way they couldn’t have predicted. As I said, I was on at least two anti-depressants (one of which was Zoloft, the other I’m not sure of) and one anti-psychotic (Haldol). During my time there, they tried out several other medications to see how they would affect me. I have no proof that these things caused the seizure, but you’d have a hard time convincing me otherwise.
Yes, it was another
bad horrible day. But I’d soon learn that I wouldn’t have to endure this personal hell much longer.