Remembering with Laughter

Journal Entry December 30, 2012

I have forgotten so much.  The Del Ammo Psychiatric Hospital in Torrence, CA back in ’85, for instance.  I spent the better part of a year there.  A committed ‘inmate’ in a hospital reserved for the crazies, of which I was one of the worst.  Weighing 65 pounds and receiving ECT.  It is no wonder I don’t remember much of that black time.

But here I am, almost twenty years later, wishing I could go back.  I would be better able to do the therapy now.  Then, the battle was to keep me alive.  Therapy came second.  And I don’t remember any part of it.  I don’t remember what I did with Dr. S.  I don’t remember the countless sessions we had.  Daily.  I have little windows where I remember an event, or a person.  I remember leaving Calgary to get there, and my tumultuous first day.  I remember a few of the van rides when the psych counsellors took the ‘Young Adults’ on outings to introduce us back into a ‘normal’ world.  We were an intimate collection of people under the age of 25 who all were hospitalized in the Del Amo Psych Hospital.  There were recovering drug addicts, alcoholics, and people suffering from depression. I was the token anorexic. But we banded together and supported each other. I just wish I remembered how we did it.

Now I struggle just as much as ever. The blanket of darkness that has suffocated my soul for so many years has snuffed out most of my memories. The good and the bad. I sit here in a pool of despair with a blank mind. Why go forward? I will just forget my life as it unfolds before me. What’s the point of existence? What’s the point of MY existence?

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November 11, 2016

It is true my memory is not the greatest. Perhaps in some ways that is a blessing. But in other ways it is not. I do wish I remember the therapy I underwent. And although those times were bleak, remembering them helps me put today into perspective.

I do remember how I got to the hospital in 1985, though. One cold winter morning my mom deposited me at the Calgary International Airport. Apparently and according to her, she had been told by the South Bay Hospital in Redondo Beach, that she could not accompany me to LAX.  I had to sign a medical waiver before I boarded the plane that stated that if I died en route to LA, the airline would not be liable.  The agent gave me a pen.  He couldn’t take his eyes off my emaciated form.  I tried to hold onto the pen, but my hand shook uncontrollably because my electrolytes were so out of whack due to my starvation state.  I managed to scrawl something that barely resembled a signature and then I was assisted onto the plane.  Walking distances had become problematic for me.  My bones seemed to crunch and grind against each other when I moved, and the all too visible bones in my feet had no padding underneath to soften the blow of each forward step.

When I arrived in LA, I saw someone carrying a sign with my name emblazoned across it.  I remember feeling excruciatingly embarrassed because of the attention it awarded me.  When I got to South Bay, the eating disorders hospital, I was herded into a room and told I would be eating shortly with the other patients.  Anxiety rocketed through me as I thought about facing the arduous task of eating a meal.  A meal I would do anything to escape from eating.

I don’t remember how I got to the dining room, but when I did I nearly fainted.  The room was stuffed with severely obese people…men and women…and I felt engulfed in their presence.  I’m sure as upsetting as it was for me, it was for them, too!  I swayed in the doorway, not knowing what to do.  A nurse came over and escorted me to a seat around the large table.  I was sandwiched between two huge men, who kindly tried to shuffle their chairs over to afford me some room.  It was nigh impossible though, because everyone was squished together in order to fit, but I appreciated their effort just the same.

Little snatches of conversations began to bubble up between the patients.  I sat in a panicked silence, dreading the meal that awaited me.  Eventually, plates began being placed in front of the famished patrons.  Their plates were loaded with raw veggies, humus, undressed salad, and cottage cheese.  The amount of food on the generously sized plates made my sunken eyes bug out.  How would I manage eating that enormous plateful of food?!  I had limited myself to copious amounts of Hubba Bubba bubble gum and three pink or purple jellybeans at midnight as my daily staple for the last six months.  And now this?!  I quickly closed my eyes to try and stop the flood of tears that threatened to cascade down my face.

When I opened them again, I was faced with an even more horrific sight.  There, in front of me, on a ginormous platter-like plate, sat a mountainous slab of gooey, cheese topped lasagna, with what appeared to be an entire loaf of garlic cheese bread, and a plentiful serving bowl of caesar salad.  The croutons in the salad were the size of the giant cockroaches on the pavement outside!  This time I squeezed my eyes shut in disbelieve, praying desperately that I was suffering from some kind of delusional episode, and that what lay before me was a wicked apparition that my dwindling mind had created.  When I finally opened my eyes again, the abundant pile of disgusting food lay innocently before me.  I stared at it balefully, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole.  When I looked up from the food, I realized I was in considerable danger!  The contorted faces of my enraged fellow patients signified one thing, and one thing only.  Mutiny!  Weeks of enduring measured rations of rabbit food morning, noon, and night, had left them ravenous!  The sight and aroma of my veritable feast drove them to the breaking point.

It began with an eruption of cacophonous sound that could be likened to the multiple motors roaring in readiness before the Grand Prix begins.  Then people began standing up.  Chairs were abandoned and pushed away from the table with great force.  A couple of them even tipped over!  The man on my left grabbed the garlic toast!  He tried to make his way through the angry throng, but collectively they were too strong.  He went down, and so did the badly misshaped garlic cheese bread.

The man on my right grabbed the lasagna off of the plate with both hands and began to devour it as if it were a sandwich!  The ferocious mob became more frenzied at this unfortunate event, and they converged on the hapless lasagna man in one fell swoop!  I do not know the fate of the caesar salad, because at this point, I dove under the table in great haste.  The elephantine feet of the folk fighting for the food had all gathered at the end of the table where I had been sitting.  I crawled to the other end of the table and I slipped unnoticed out the door.  I headed back to my room, slightly dishevelled, but completely intact.  My heart began to pound less threateningly and I lay down on my bed with relief.  After a few moments, I began to smile just a little.  It had been an exhausting day.  But at its end I tasted real victory.  I was able to escape from eating another meal!

After five weeks of hell in this eating disorder hospital, sadly I cut my wrists and was taken to Del Amo Psychiatric Hospital and placed in the locked unit, where I stayed until the fall 0f 1986.  But it was there where my life was saved.  It was there where I began to recover.  And it was there where they taught me to laugh again.

I am laughing now as I recall that historic event.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at myself and the experiences I have had, knowing that I have grown and have benefited from those tough times.  How wonderful it is to be able to laugh at all!  As I am writing this, more memories of that troubled period have begun to surface.  I am glad I am remembering.  My past shaped my present, as my present shapes my future.  I have the power to make today one that I can remember with joy.  That power, coupled with abundant laughter, makes my present and future days worth living.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Remembering with Laughter

  1. I have been following your journey with high interest and am mesmerized by your account. I am also amazed at the strength snd will there must have been buried deep inside you. How else could you have made it?

    Like

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