Missing Peace, Chapter 10, Admit One (Only)

Susan, a perky Remuda staff member picked us up at the airport. Dad swung both of my suitcases into the back of the van, then climbed into the back seat. Irritated, I sat in the front next to Susan. The thermometer on the dashboard said it was 65 degrees.

It’s the middle of February, I thought absently, at least it’s warmer here. I tried to eavesdrop as she and Dad made small talk on the short drive to The Ranch, but despite valiant efforts I kept dozing off. My chin dropped to my chest and my head lurched violently to the side when a bump in the road jolted me awake.

“I know she’s really excited about the horses. We had a couple at home,” Dad said.

“Well, she won’t be able to go down to the barn for at least the first week,” Susan had explained. “For the first week we restrict all exercise, including walking beyond the yard, just until we have a full medical evaluation and each patient proves compliance with all the rules.”

After we turned off the last road, the gravel drive to the main lodge seemed eternally long. No trees waved, no breeze, just a blinding sun leaning toward the western horizon. Dad unloaded my bags, but Susan took the handles of both as soon as he set them down.

“I’ll help her carry them inside,” she said. “We ask that the parents say goodbye outside instead of coming into the treatment center.”

“Why?” My hope that Dad would change his mind and take me home with him was slipping away.

“It’s easier actually,” Susan said. “When we get inside we need to start the admissions process right away, let the doctor see her, check Abby into her room and dinner is in less that two hours. It’s less emotional if you can say goodbye out here.”

Five wide, sandstone steps led toward the lodge. I took the first one and turned so that I was closer to eye level with Daddy. But I couldn’t look at him. Instead, I scanned the yard. It was mostly lava rock. I recalled Daddy saying once that he wouldn’t mind having a rock yard, less maintenance. One or two cacti looked as lonely, bleak and barren as I felt.

Fear rushed into my heart, overflowing its banks and pushing the anger aside. “Daddy, don’t leave me. Please, please don’t leave.”

My usually sympathetic father kissed my forehead, drew me into his chest, whispered, “I love you,” and walked away. I watched him fold his long frame back into the van where another staff member waited to drive him to Holiday Inn for the night before he caught a 9 a.m. flight back to Oklahoma tomorrow.

“Come on, Sweetheart.” Business taken care of, a motherly side of Susan emerged. “Chad will come get your bags, let’s take you inside and get you settled in.”

Comatose, I followed her.

An eternity passed in those twenty feet to the double wooden doors that opened into the lodge. We stepped into a long, rustically decorated hallway. Along the right wall, a full length entry table held stacks of mail, each pile with a different girl’s name on it. At the far end, the entryway T’d below a waist-high window. Black, wood-burned letters above the window designated it as the nurse’s station.

A small figure leaned into the window from the outside.

“Hey! Come on it’s time for evening meds! Dani, I didn’t get my Citrucel at lunch.”

The little one had a big voice for someone so small. Lavender sweats hung from her shoulders, pooled at her ankles. I thought perhaps she was five years old. But this was an adolescent unit. No one under 12 was admitted. With a huff, the child turned around and leaned back against the window, arms crossed.

“Oh, hi!” Her friendly tone was a full octave higher than her demanding one. Chestnut colored hair swung scraggly around her face, less than half of it remaining dutifully in her ponytail.

“I’m Alicia. Are you new here?”

She moved toward me and only then did I notice the five foot metal pole that she clutched like an oversized staff in her right hand. Dangling 10 inches above her head was a large plastic bag with a tube, like an IV. It was filled with a clear fluid. The tube snaking down the pole was taped to her cheek just below her nose, then turned sharply upward and disappeared into her right nostril. I’d been threatened about feeding tubes.

Alicia rolled the rest of the way toward me and addressed Susan.

“Where are the nurses? I want my Citrucel or I’m not eating dinner. I haven’t crapped in two days.”

“I’m sure Dani will be there soon,” Susan promised. “You’re still 30 minutes too early.”

“Whatever.” Alicia turned to me. “Hi again.” She smiled a cherub smile, like the kind my youngest sister, Rachelle, gives. They light up a room and tell you that you’re the only person that matters in the whole wide world.

I wondered how on earth she could seem so instantly genuine to me, a stranger. The new girl. For a year now, I had been given sideways glances by those who first met me. A walking skeleton, everyone gawked as if I was a piece of angular modern art. Oh God, don’t let me get a feeding tube.

 

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No More Strip Search

At Remuda, weigh-in day involved a strip search. Every fold of clothing, baggy sweatshirt or rubber soled shoe held potential. Girls at The Ranch were receiving treatment for eating disorders. And a girl with an eating disorder is nothing if not sneaky. I learned the tricks of the trade from more experienced friends.

Wear a water bra.
Drink tons of water within an hour of weigh-in.
Some had managed to hide books in the pockets of their hoodies.
Stuff your pockets.
Put sand in your shoes.

But the staff caught on, and hence forth, weigh-in day began with a strip search. Susan, the kindest nurse I remember, always turned her back while I undressed. When I was ready, she stepped close and slid the indicator down the bar. Did I mentioned that everyone weighed backwards? Some of us tried to count the clicks as the indicator slid.

Susan was sharp. She noticed the clench of a thigh, and if I tried to sneak a toe off the front edge of the platform. “Stand still.” After the traumatic, twice-weekly event, a small clump of nervous girls trudged back to our rooms to get dressed and then head to breakfast.

Before I got sick, I only vaguely knew my weight. Who cared? Occasionally, after swim team practice, I stepped on the scale and just as quickly forget the number.

When I left Remuda and progressed through aftercare, I terminated my relationship with the scale. I don’t own one. I refuse to look at them, staring straight ahead when I pass one in the gym locker room. Until yesterday, I couldn’t tell you within five pounds what I weighed. I only knew that my clothes still fit (and I think I look sexy). I can honestly tell you that I like my thighs, my stomach, my arms. I am proud of my strength. I can even knockout more than the minimum number of pull-ups for a female marine!

So what’s the big deal?

Yesterday, the nurse at the doctor’s office weighed me. There was no fanfare, no strip search, no one aware of my discomfort with the scale. Quite casually, she pointed in the direction of that frightful piece of equipment and turned her back to make notes. Hesitantly, I lined my toes up on the outline of a foot. I tried to stare straight ahead, but my eyes fell on the digital number when it beeped. Oh.

I weigh as much as I did before the eating disorder.

The shadow of belief that I am still skinny disappeared in the light of the glowing scale display. Normal. Is that OK? Am I ready to be normal? The naked truth is that I hadn’t realized that a sliver of my identity was still lodged in a belief that it’s better to be too thin that too fat, and that I was on the ‘good’ side.

Truthfully, I think I am ready. I didn’t do a crazy, compensatory workout this morning. I still enjoyed a beer with my husband last night. I have to admit, the new knowledge has continued to linger in my consciousness.

But, yes, I can handle the truth. I personally know the Creator of this good body and I trust Him to direct me in how to care for it and to show me what size He wants it to be.

Finding Balance a Whole New Review

Hosted by FINDINGbalance, a nonprofit health and wellness organization, Hungry for Hope is the premiere Christian conference for eating disorders and body image issues. Now in its fifth year, the conference is a key equipping event for professionals, lay leaders and those seeking freedom and healing in areas of eating and body image.

If you’ve read much of Predatory Lies, you know my story. A woman once mired in addiction, fighting for the love of God to dig herself out of the muck, the madness.

For me, truth began to dawn on me at Remuda Ranch, one of the founding organizations of the Hungry for Hope Conference. Remuda brought Jesus to bear on my issues of compulsive exercise and restriction. I didn’t leave “cured” but I began to walk the life-long, narrow road of weakened self and strength in Jesus. Remuda encourages every woman who arrives to set up a solid after-care plan, so that they can continue receiving Godly counsel and accountability when they leave the treatment center. I found that at Finding Balance.

You’ve heard me talk about Finding Balance before.  They have taken the mantel of the Hungry for Hope conference and have added it to their powerful, continuous outreach from their website. I haven’t been able to attend a Hungry for Hope conference, but as I mentioned, the curriculum has my name all over it! But here’s the good part:

Finding Balance has recently revamped their entire site. On the very front page, they offer countless resources – video clips of professionals answering real questions about eating issues asked by others in your same shoes. Topics include: Ask the Doctor, Nutrition, The Road to Wellness, Freedom in Christ and more. Questions are poignant, undisguised and often painful. Answers are biblically-based, credible, concise and gentle.

There is also a paid portion of the website, $5.99/month, that provides many deeper resources, an interactive community, and access to lessons from Constance Rhodes’ curriculum called Finding Balance With Food. This portion of the site, called The Gathering. even includes printable worksheets, making the study more involved and impacting. Participants are encouraged, though not required to build a small group of people who are excited to grow together.

After last year’s Hungry for Hope conference, some of the lectures were recorded and added to the paid portion of the website. Hopefully, they’ll do that again this year, so I don’t miss anything!

I’m  excited to share Finding Balance and Hungry for Hope with you. Recovery from anorexia has been one of God’s sharpest tools in training me in righteousness and drawing me to Himself. He has used Finding Balance over and over to reinforce the truth.

Prove God

Journaling – heals human relationships

My dear mother-in-law wrote several journals for each of her children, recording the good, bad, the ugly and the wonderful.  When Patrick and I got married, she copied every page and bound them for me.  Patrick deployed two months after our wedding, so I opened those spirals and got to know my husband in a deeper way than I might have if we had simply carried on daily conversations.

 

I have come to know myself in my journals.  Crawling out of the dregs of an eating disorder, I credit my recovery to journaling as much as to any counselor.  I go back and read about the pain that I survived before – I find strength to face today’s battle.

 

Journaling has proved God’s word to me.

 

“And we know that all things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

Some of my journals are from the months that I spent at Remuda Ranch.  I wrote angrily about being forced to eat foods that I hadn’t touched in years.  I fussed about not being allowed to simply walk down the path to my counselor’s office – exercise restriction.  In my journal, I cursed the dietician who refused to let me see the hideous numbers on the condemning scale.  Now when I read those entries, I see that I not only survived, but that I am happier and healthier.  Surely, I can face today’s obstacles and trust that ultimately they are from a loving God for my good.

An excellent journaling resource that I stumbled upon is Create Write Now.

About me: God’s gonna give up on me

On a chilly day in February, I emptied my rusty locker in the basement of Hillcrest Baptist Church.  Tiny Trinity Christian School used the church for classes.  Being one of the eight girls and 12 total high school students at the private school, it hadn’t exactly been the social pinnacle of my life.  I wasn’t really going to miss it, but I would have preferred to just disappear, rather than go through the motions of leaving.

“We’ll miss you!  Hurry back.”

“I’m praying for you,” faceless platitudes, because my eyes were swimming with unshed tears.  I refused to let them know that I was going against my will, that I was out of control of my own life.

I felt my goosebumps double in size as I stepped outside and headed to my mom’s waiting car.  I was bundled in long john’s, a sweater and my wool coat.  They failed to ward off February’s chill, because I had worn all those layers during class, too.  I was never comfortable anymore.

Teeth chattering and lips blue, I slid into the seat next to Mom. I ignored her tearful smile and knee squeeze.  She was shipping me off.  She was ready to be rid of the emotional baggage and physical liability that I had become.

***

Exactly one week later, I sat in the sunshine on a wooden bench in balmy Arizona, wearing nearly as many layers on my skeletal frame.  The treatment center’s tutor, Fred, looked like a shaved Santa Clause.  He smiled a genuine smile and said very little, letting me sulk.

Remuda Ranch invested three months into my recovery from anorexia… once…twice.  I passed the “recovery” test once, twice, tipping the scale at a safe weight.  I learned the healthy-talk that impressed my counselors and stretched the limit of my parent’s budget.

But I wasn’t ready to trust that God was in control of my life.  I liked believing the lie that I was the sculptor of my body, my destiny, my relationships.  So I made the same mistakes all over again.

***

I made the same mistakes all over again, over and over again, for the next ten or so years.  Even I was getting tired of my self.  Once is a mistake, twice is a slow learner, three times and more?  that means I just stupid right? a lost cause? a waste of time?

I even began to wonder if God was going to pull the plug on me, simply decide that I wasn’t worth His effort anymore.  Honestly, there were days when I wished He would.  But, praise the Lord, He is not easily deterred.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we have been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”  Romans 5: 6-10

Finding Balance, Faith Like A Child