Sunday, November 7, 2010

The ECT Way Out

Apparently, ECT must be working—I woke up the day after Session #8, a Session not without consequences—in a fantastic mood. Woke up, on a Saturday, pre-7am to my son’s tickles and I tickled back. I didn’t shrug him off and roll back to sleep; I didn’t snap at him or nudge Christopher to take over parenting duty. I woke up with him, happy as a lark despite the previous day’s physical hell.

What went off-track? First, a mis-threaded IV, which should have been the first signal that all would not be well. Then, for some strange reason, I seem resistant to anesthesia which meant I had to be given an extra-big dose, which may or may not been the cause of an extra-big seizure (i.e., usually the seizure lasts 45 seconds; this time? 2 minutes). When I woke up, I had pretty significant memory loss (no idea where I was or who my doctor was—you know, the things that might matter?) so I was given a drug to counteract that, which led to a monstrous headache; so I was given narcotics to counteract that; which resulted in terrible nausea and vomiting and bed for the rest of the day. Head throbbing under the covers for hours.

And I woke up the next morning cheerful? Energetic? Feelings of giggly elation? The side effects, which seem to be proving themselves considerable, still pale in the face of such mood elevation. And, my ECT psychiatrist believes that the ECT can help with the Eating Disorder, and god knows I can use it. Even while resting in this even mood keel, the Eating Disorder has me by the throat (of course, where else would it have me?).

Take today, for instance. Sunday. Family day. The day Christopher and I put aside our mountain of grading and class prep and turn ourselves over to play and love. So, in keeping with my newfound mental steadiness, I thought it would be okay to venture off the yogurt-blueberry-granola breakfast and lunch highway (the one of precise measurements and rote routine) and experiment with Come What May. Christopher suggested fried eggs and toast—organic farm fresh eggs, his homemade sourdough. After I ate it, I felt consumed by guilt. I ate 2? 2? 2 eggs? Glutton, IT said. Now you have to go walk. So, I abandoned family and took a 4 mile walk (because I'm not yet at running weight) at the gym.

Around lunchtime, we decided to take a drive out into the country, find someplace to eat, then take a hike at the Wildlife Refuge. We wound up at Jack’s Place—a cross between a beer dive/cigarette den/greasy spoon. But it was the only option for miles and, Come What May Right? Part of freeing myself from the confines of IT and the Eating Disorder is relearning how to eat spontaneously and not panicking because the food isn’t to my insanely exacting standards. So. A cup of chili, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a handful of fries. Just one meal, I told myself over and over. Tomorrow I can go back to yogurt, but today is about the kids and they’re having a blast, devouring fries and chicken tenders and slurping up their once-in-a-blue-moon Sprites.

What was I doing? Outwardly, steeling myself, staying even, not letting the panic show itself. Inwardly? Let’s just say I had to fight not to purge for our entire hike through the refuge. How absurd is that? A beautiful, sunny Fall afternoon, my kids bounding through the woods, my husband at ease because IT seems “at ease,” and all the while I’m scanning the refuge (no, don’t think the irony of that place is lost on me—no refuge for me from IT) for spots to throw up. I rehearse in my mind: behind that bush, in that thicket, into the pond. Just let Christopher get ten steps ahead and you can excise all that food that is unnecessary, that only proves you to be a fat pig.

But here is where ECT might be helping me out. Instead of giving in to my irrational, mentally-ill self, I stayed with my right mind which meant I stayed close to the kids and Christopher on the hike. Which meant that I understood that the fallout from purging would be worse that keeping the food in the first place. After all, Christopher has given me the ultimatum: anymore lying in regards to the purging and I’m out of the house. Which means no more family Sundays. Which means me left to IT and IT alone—exactly what IT wants because then what would be the point of trying to live out my life?

As I’m sitting here, writing this, Family Day is coming to a quiet, contented close. Butternut squash are roasting in the oven: Christopher is making a Butternut-sage gnocchi for dinner. Christopher and my daughter are in the basement hammering and sawing away, building a house for one of her stuffed animals. And my son? He’s snuggled up beside me on the couch, asking me a thousand questions: What are you typing? What does that word say? When are you gonna be done? Wanting my attention, needing me and only me. Momma. And so, without delay, I turn from the page, which is always waiting, to my son, who has just announced that he will hug me all night long and forever.