Over the first four years of my recovery, I was hospitalized five times.

hospital-hallway

Believe me, I’m not proud of that statement.  Each time I was confined to the same pediatric ward for atIV drip least three months (my longest stay was close to five or six), and each time I started pretty much at Ground Zero.  Five times I returned to a routine of 4am blood pressure checks, nightly heart monitors, twice-weekly weigh-ins, locked bathrooms, urine measurements, supervised baths (not showers), regular bloodwork and ultrasounds, dry and ruthless air conditioning, mechanical refeeding, cups of coloured pills, and sterile grey lifeOver and over again – borderline insanity by definition!

Don’t get me wrong – I needed to be there, and I can’t thank the people who put up with me enough.  But life in hospital sucks.  I can definitely relate to Grey Thinking’s post about the dark side of inpatient treatment.

hospital hallway bwHowever, while the hospital routine never really changed much, the people –  namely, patients – did, and as a direct result, so did my overall experience.  Yes, during one of my stays I was surrounded by GT’s worst idea of “the sickest of the sick” -  girls who were uninterested in treatment, and even went so far as competing with each other in self-sabotage.  It was hell, and it made the already excruciating process of recovery even more unbearable.

But on other visits, things were different.  The treatment atmosphere on the ward was, at times, unexpectedly positive, my fellow inpatients miraculously dedicated to (even if not always enthusiastic about) recovery.  Life wasn’t only “out there” to look forward to, but also right there in our shared room, as we each in turn dropped our guards and showed some personality.  The truth was, we all knew how to have an eating disorder, we had nothing to prove – except that we had much better things to do than waste away in hospital.

daffodil pairOne girl had an extraordinary talent for sketching, and she drew an incredibly  realistic portrait of me that to this day sits framed on my mantelpiece.  The same girl spent an hour plucking my sheepdog eyebrows while we watched  yet another episode of Prison Break.

Another of about 25 showed the rest of us how to decoupage a pair of shoes – high heels, in her case – or any other fashion accessory.  She brought in all sorts of amazing art supplies with which we passed the times of boredom.

One time, when I panicked because I’d ran out of the apples that were a mandatory part of my mealplan, the quietest of all the girls smiled shyly and gave me hers because she was “ready to challenge a banana anyway”.

daffodil right I remember being completely blown away by one girl who confided in me that her motivation for recovery was driven most by the fear of infertility; she wanted more than anything to be a mom.  She was 12 or 13 at the time.

Yes, there definitely can be a dark side to inpatient treatment – and GT’s argument that it can make patients worse is understandable – but not every treatment situation is the same.  It would be unbelievably ungrateful and downright dissentient of me to forget or deny the times that hospitalization, and those involved, reawakened me to life, rather than taking more of it from me.

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