Monday, September 5, 2011

Last Time In?

Sad today. Looking at all the women of various ages who surround me here in the hospital, all of them struggling with anorexia or bulimia, many of them wound tight with anxiety, many of them without a supportive family who will visit them while in the hospital, or a family to return home to after time served is up. And then there are the women who also have cuts and scars decorating their arms and legs--we're like some bizarre tribal collective, skinny-starving, manic and depressed, tattooed with cross-hatchings of self-inflicted scars.

One woman in particular--I'll call her Mimi--makes me especially sad--secret crying in my pillow at night. She must be close to seventy years old and she's still struggling with this terrible Eating Disorder, and her wrinkled arms and legs bear testimony to recent self-inflicted cuts, and her anxieties surface and wrap themselves around her, immobilizing real, healing actions. What is awful, though, is that she has no family--no one visiting her to help pass these monotonous, tedious days; no one sending her cards or books, no family that seems to want to claim her as one of their own--part of a larger group tied together by blood and history and goodwill and even, on occasion, love.

And then there's another patient--I'll call her Marion--who has been shuttled between the Eating Disorders Unit at UPMC, and more long-term "incarceration" at Warren State, the Big, Bad, State Psychiatric hospital. Back and forth and back and forth. Her entire waking and sleeping life consumed by this disease's ironic voracious ability to consume every part of your life. Of course, Warren State is the holding pen that I've been threatened with increasing frequency over the past two years. Long term, hopeless, non-rehabilitative psychiatric incarceration. That's an option that has been presented to me because I keep failing to maintain balance, keep relapsing, keep spinning towards suicidal options.

But then my kids visit me yesterday, and I am reminded that I am not yet alone, have not yet been ditched to depersonalized psychiatric care in the forbiding fortress. Sophia kept sitting in my lap, kept pressing her face into my neck and shoulder, burying herself into what is left of Momma-Love. And Alexander, drawing me pictures for my antispeptic walls--variations of the same theme: Hearts and Love for Momma. Yesterday, on his visit, he kept reaching for my hand, stroking my arm, planting determined, sloppy kisses on my mouth. My children, despite all the hell of the past few years, are still willing to claim me as Momma, as someone they love and need.

And Christopher? What I imagine: he is exhausted by me, by this never-ending re-recovering. The wedge that the Eating Disorder, the Bipolar Disorder, the Secret Self-Injury, the secret (now past) drinking. What must he see when he looks at me, wife and mother? He can no longer trust my promises to stick to recovery plans, he can no longer trust the story I tell of myself, the story that provides an autobiographical account of my days and nights. The very basic questions are suspect: Who, what, when, where, why, how? Can I be trusted to answer with integrity? Do I have any integrity left after spending the past 5 years shredding it?

I can see he is tired, can see that he might be close to giving up. And it seems I have a choice: a life behind psychiatric walls and doors and locks; a life that still promises several decades of disturbed eating, of starvation and purging, that still offers arms and legs, great swathes of skin ready under the razor.

But I don't want this life, this future. I want to return to my family, to our four-square of love. What I need, right now, is to cry--to really let myself go and cry, sob, refuse in my tears to yield to this CRAZY life that has been trying to claim me for its own, to take me from my family, and resist. Stay sane. Stay balanced. Stay still and let the love I already have inhabit me, and run riot.