I went through boxes of stuff I might not have even looked at since we moved into our house nearly 4 years ago. I found some things that are really interesting to me, including the handwritten notes from Walt’s chart dated 2/1996 – 6/1998. That was good stuff, and the changes in my medication and my mood swings are all documented. Along with other things, such as drugs I admitted to using. I’d thought those notes were lost forever.
It was almost equally exciting to find handwritten stories I wrote in 1998 that described events I wrote about in Magical Shrinking, but in much greater detail. In fact, I clearly didn’t remember some important details in a few cases. What’s funny is that in real life things were even crazier than I document in the book.
I went to eating disorder treatment in October 1997 because I was bulimic. The bulimia wasn’t the usual, though, it was designed to kill me more than help me lose weight. I wrote this back in early1998 about the experience. Names used here are the same I used in Magical Shrinking.
"If they mentioned that Remuda was a Christian treatment facility during my three hour phone interview, I don’t remember. I was sitting on the step outside the sliding glass door while I was on the phone. Really I was in no condition to remember anything – at that point I was fairly ill from lack of nutrition and purging, sometimes ten to fifteen times per day. I wanted it to kill me. I was actually hoping that my esophagus would tear, or my stomach would rupture, or my heart would start beating irregularly and not return to normal. I just wanted to hurt myself, to kill myself, and I know that not eating, and vomiting every time I did eat, would kill me eventually.
I felt so much pain, and I couldn’t identify where it originated, but when I purged in the morning, in the afternoon – times when I hadn’t even eaten, I was purging the feelings of pain, hopelessness, utter despair. I didn’t care what sort of facility Remuda Ranch was so long as they could help me get rid of that pain.
It didn’t help that I was perpetually stoned. Just stoned all the fucking time. From my “wake n’ bake” in the morning to that last joint before bed. During the day at Charter PHP sometimes I even got stoned between groups and/or at lunch. I was terrified of bring sober because the pain was even worse when it wasn’t dulled by pot.
I wanted someone to take my control away – I didn’t think I deserved to be in control of my life. I was making a terrible mess of it, and I didn’t understand why Michelle didn’t see why I couldn’t take responsibility for myself. Wasn’t it obvious? We talked often, and I told her that I didn’t think I could stop purging on my own. She would say, “Chris, you have to take control of yourself.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted her to agree that I needed to go inpatient, and I was incapable of seeing where she was coming from. Now I can’t imagine wanting to give up responsibility for myself – in the sense of not being allowed to eat and not be monitored, giving up my freedom, being locked up. However, at the time I just wanted someone to take care of me, because I felt I was doing a shitty job.
Remuda was in Arizona, and I wanted to go to Arizona badly. I decided that I wanted to live, and I was honest in my interview. I wasn’t too sure about dates – when the bulimia began – but I was as honest as I could be. I remember I was dying to get off the phone so that I could smoke a joint. I was going to ask Elise to bring a joint outside to me, but with my asthma I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop coughing – my cigarettes were making me cough as it was.
Once it was all set up and I knew I was leaving I felt like a major burden was lifted from me. I continued purging until my mom and I walked out the door to go. My last day of partial was an emotional one. Especially when I had to say goodbye to Dr. Bennett. I felt like I was constantly letting him down, and I wanted to cry when I finally saw him for the last time. It was hard, but I wanted to get well for him, for Elise, for everyone in my life except for me. I still didn’t care about myself but I figured there must be something worthwhile about me if all these people cared. Why couldn’t I care about myself?"
Michelle was a nurse who worked in the partial hospitalization program (PHP) I attended on more than one occasion. She was so cool. But I can’t emphasize enough how crazy it seemed to me in October 1997 when she said I needed to take control of my life. I didn’t even believe it was possible.
It was almost exactly two years later when I stood in front of my parents’ house and vowed to take control of my life, to “make” a new life for myself.
Since leaving Remuda after being there only a week, I’d taken my life to depths I’d never thought possible in those days in 1997 when I wrestled with giving up control and wishing for death.
My condition 2 years later was infinitely worse in some ways, but that’s what it took to make a change. Once I saw how bad life can get, how empty I could feel, and how hopeless I seemed, that was when I was truly ready to make a new life.