Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is chalked up to the mind. It is clumped into psychiatric illnesses despite the immediacy and urgency of its physical consequences. I am a perfectionist, and I am unnecessarily disciplined. My mind is the spout that produces cerebral fluid, what can be considered as the water that showers the seedlings of genetic predisposition. This predisposition is then awakened; The dormant gene that has resulted in me sprouting; the disordered “Me.”
I was the unfortunate leaf in the family tree. The tree was a hybrid, the exact origin of said seedling, unknown. My father and mother attempted to locate the exact coordinates of the constellation that foreshadowed the eminent misfortune. They had, as it were, no luck.
I cannot say for certain that this enchanting disorder was a matter of luck, or chance, or cards that I have been dealt. Hell, the deck of cards volunteer services provided me with are still in their plastic shrink-wrap. I have been handed, however, legal documentation stating that I must be kept on watch with a one-to-one assigned person who works in 12-hour shifts. They’re here to make sure that I do not run off and exit the hospital grounds and instead follow their suit - card pun intended - by agreeing to go to an inpatient eating disorder treatment center. They even set one in place for me - a dual Ivy League institution. Believe me when I say that that irony was not lost upon me - dual Ivy League-degree holder myself. I don’t tire of saying this nor do I willingly avoid mentioning this because I will not be taken for a dummy. I worked too damn hard.
I am forced to converse and constantly entertain these observers, most of whom identify as Caribbean or Hispanic. I converse with them in a blend of Spanish and English. They cannot believe that I identify partially as one of them. But I am not theirs and they are not mine. I hear gossip and chatter around me but tune them out. It’s petty and I am indifferent to their incessant gossip. I don’t heed their commentary about eating a lot or how using the bathroom can make someone lose weight. I’m not so impressionable that I would have their dialogue influence my decisions.
I am in control.
And clearly, I am in control. That is what this disease is, after all.
My admission is to a four-person room on the penultimate floor - the gradbag or miscellanous unit. The young woman in front of me has a heart-healhy diet because she has heart disease. Yet I overhear her menu options and they are above and beyond what I am consuming. Her prognosis is dismal. I had thought that she was younger and perhaps she is, but I overheard that she has a small son. That resason for which she has to live and accept the prescribed operation for. She is Dominican and her all-female family members that visit cast annoyed glances at everyone, swiftly and rudely sidestepping, sideways-glancing, and cordoning off their beloved daughter.
Next to her is a Chinese woman who has dementia and is bedridden. She speaks Mandarin, on the rare occasion that she is prompted to speak,. She is in her final days. The idea of hospice is discussed. On my right is a robust Polish woman with fluid in her lungs. She coughs, hacks is more accurate, with brute strength. She gargles and spits. She roars at all hours without covering her mouth. She consumes sandwiches for lunch and dinner when the menu passes around and I cannot fathom why. One day she opts for the special ribs they have and takes a salad as an appetizer.
I hear my mama bear argue and viscerally tear a part the psych team here who ambushed me with unsigned papers. I let her continue, equally proud and prudent of the possible backlash. She rips them a part and says that they don’t know me. I am her daughter. They didn’t know me from Day 1, Day 0, from conception. They did not know what love had brought me here. I hear her and I cry inside. I cry at having hurt her. I cry at our damaged relationship. I cry at the psyche that warped my mind to thinking the worse of the two persons who love me the most.
I meet with the social work advocacy pair who swiftly come afterward. They listen, they empathize, and they advise. They vow to side with our decisions the best that they can but forewarn of the long battle ahead. This whole scenario could play out in a T.V. movie or a Grade A cinematic made for the big screens. It’s Not Without My Daughter meets John Q.
I wear a mint green hospital gown with a slurry of patterns. The next day my parents bring me food and clothes, and the next, and the next. I keep thinking that I will get discharged. They tell me I will. But the heart rate dangerously dips into the thirties in the off-chance times that I fall asleep for an hour. I’m shaken awake with a grip on my shoulders.
Electrolytes fairly balanced, the overall white blood cell count, the neutrophil count, is low. It is so low that I am susceptible to infection. I am moved to a single-person bedroom. I have to wear a mask when I exit. I have my own bathroom and fridge with windows that overlook the F.D.R. There is a T.V. that I never turn on. My fridge is stocked with protein bars and jammy eggs still in their shell and that I requested my parents boil, leave unpeeled, and bring with them for breakfast the next morning while I am here and they are working. I have a few compost trays that came with the meals served here. For me, that tray has a cup of disgusting coffee and water bottles as well as a slip of paper that lists my allergies.
The window sill is filled with disposable cutlery, toiletries, hospital socks, paper towel roll, Gilmore Girls DVD Set, my free Sephora birthday gift, a change of freshly laundered clothes for a couple of days, and a ball of dirty clothes. I took a shower under a mounted fountainhead that lacks any pressure, exacerbating the length of time it takes to bathe. The pressure from the sink is hard so the water splashes everywhere, projecting Mother Nature’s display in a man-made attempt at mocking my unforeseen entrance into the outside world.
I speak to the female psych alone for the second time. This time she doesn’t roll her eyes at me. I see warmth growing in them. And after an hour-long back-and-forth, I let the well of tears roll over in tides. She silently stands up and leaves as I wipe away my tears without so much as a goodbye. Part of me thinks she took off before tears started to fall from her eyes as well, on the sly, in secret, perhaps while walking away from my room, or on the elevator, or on the ride home. Perhaps she didn’t give a crap. I somewhat suspect her to quickly type up her observations for a future academic case-study.