Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alms for the Paranoid

Sunday night at the eating disorder clinic was a real hot spot. The nurse would pick a film and we would all gather in the lounge with our ice water to partake in an evening of cinematic wonder. We were just getting into the good part of "The Karen Carpenter Story"  when a panicked voice came over the hospital intercom. "CODE BLUE, ER. CODE BLUE, ER" is what we heard and it got the staff moving quicker than I'd seen during the six eternal days I'd been there. Especially Lynn the male nurse whose job rounding us up seemed to really be no job at all. Mostly him lying down on the couch in the TV room close enough to the nurse's station until dinner. Then it was go time as he walked the perimeter of the room looking for signs of junkie behavior. Amanda the anorexic, endlessly trying to sneak food into her napkin.  Barbara with the beard always asking " are you gonna eat that?" even though it was forbidden to share or trade. We were on "food plans" all of us little nutpacks, and no squirrel was allowed an extra almond or turkey slice or plain yogurt cup. Period.

I used to think I was in control and I liked it. I now understand that is not the point of rehab. Every morning I would tell them I was taking my shower downstairs (only 2 on our wing) next to the cafeteria. I'm sure it never occurred to them, because it was closed until 7 and it was only 5:30, but the vending machines stood sentry outside the locked doors waiting to give a girl what she needed and there was a Snickers breakfast every morning before the Grape-Nuts.
My life. My rules.

The disembodied voice was panicked as it turns out, because a very upset man whose wife had died recently as the result of what he deemed to be the hospital's ER negligence, was unkindly shooting people to death three floors of unlocked doors below us. It's a fun short story that ends with 11 white girls huddled together in the one room that had a (puny little push)lock uncertain if our last meal on Earth was really going to be water-poached snapper and some grapes. What cruel God would do that to someone whose life revolved around chili fries?
The sniper was killed, the smoke cleared out and I called my mother screeching at her to "Get down here and GET ME NOW!! RIGHT NOW!!!!!! "

"Oh, Marisa" came the response, "You're staying right where you are. What are the chances of that happening again?"

This is the same woman who once told me we were going to Fosselman's for ice cream and instead took me to Ingleside Mental Hospital because she thought I had issues. (HELLO? MC FLY? mayhaps YOU'RE my issue????) so my hope for Carol Brady to come through for me was a little far-reaching, but still.
She turned out to be right however, and the rest of my time there was spent without incident. Or weight loss. Those Snickers add up.

23 years later, we're playing Vegas odds again and I keep hearing that conversation. If you've had a stillborn, I don't care who says what Deepak Chopra-like thing, it is impossible to be anything but freaked out every single minute of every single day. Since I'm only sleeping about 4 hours, these days are ETERNAL. It's up to me to be optimistic. Not Nick or Evan.  Not the dead baby or the live one. Me. My uterus doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the molecules. And whatever comes out of me in 6 weeks is a figment of all of our imaginations.
Will lightning strike twice? Doesn't matter and if it does I guess I cry for three more years and consider myself lucky the universe thinks I'm so magnetic. I got this.

"Life is a struggle, so go hard in the paint" - Eddie Huang