It was more than a threat.
My daily diet of peaches, rice and Snackwell’s cookies was not good enough for my mom. Neither were my promises to, “eat better tomorrow.” At their wits’ end, and the extent of their knowledge of anorexia, my parents called a counselor who specialized in treating eating disorders.
I wasn’t quite kicking and screaming as we pulled into the sparse parking lot. Kathy Hoppe’s pracitice was one of many unrelated business housed in a dime-a-dozen office buildings in the heart of downtown Tulsa. An indoor marquee directed us straight ahead to the reception area. The common area had all the foreboding of a dentist’s office, the antiseptic smell and placating posters of puppies and little girls smiling in fields of daisies. I wondered at the young model’s chubby cheeks, sucked mine in a bit.
“Hi, can you sign in please? Who are you hear to see?” The receptionist might have been anorexic herself, or just a starving college student putting herself through school working part-time in a random office building, answering random phones with a plastic smile and voice to match.
“We’re here to see Kathy Hoppe,” my mom said. “My daughter’s name is Abby Blades.”
“Just a moment. I’ll buzz her.” The receptionist slashed my name off a list in front of her, punched a four digit extension and waited.
Mom ushered me to a couple of chairs in the corner.
“I don’t want to sit,” I told her and leaned back against the wall near her. I braced my right foot against the wall, locked my left knee and shook my right heel. Burn, burn, burn. Calories accumulate at lightening speed when I sit, I’m sure.
“Hi! Abby Blades?” An amazon women appeared in doorway across the room. “I’m Kathy Hoppe, nice to meet you. Would you like to come on back to my office?”
Kathy had chin length blond hair, unmemorable hazel eyes and a warm smile. She wasn’t overweight, but she wasn’t tiny either. Anorexics notice things like that. If she had been chubby, I would have negated everything she told me on the spot. I might anyway.
“So, can you tell me a little bit about why you’re here?” Kathy motioned Mom and me to a full-sized, tan leather couch, then sat across from us in a cheap, plush chair. She crossed her legs and took up a notebook.
“Actually, first, let me clarify a few ground rules. Mom, you’ll be here with us today, but I’d like to speak to each of you individually at the end of our session for just about five minutes. Abby, because you’re a minor, I am obligated to share with your parents any information that I believe is important for your wellbeing. However, I guard your privacy with the utmost discretion. I won’t be calling your mom after every session.The first meeting went moderately well. Kathy sketched our family dynamics on a large sheet of butcher paper, noting my role as the oldest child. “Abby, you’re typical of an oldest child. You have very high performance standards for yourself. So you set rigid rule and imagine that everyone is watching you constantly, expecting you to fail. Does that sound right?”
It sounded familiar, so over the course of several months, Kathy pushed me break a few rules, loosen up and play more. On one memorable visit, Kathy instructed me to go down the hall to the main bathroom in the office building.
“I want you to unroll all the toilet paper. Spread it everywhere, have fun! Just do something crazy!”
It felt so stupid, so contrived, but I did it. I don’t recall any huge sense of expansion or relief. I merely had to do what she said to be a good patient.