Shawna had evidently been spending more and more time on our facility the last couple months, so it was within the hour that I was called into her office with no reasonable defense for my actions other than a childish outburst I had coming.  

“You know this kind of behavior I should discharge you. Then where are you going to live? I think you know this was immature and unacceptable.”

       “Of course I do. I never do anything with my anger. It was extremely uncharacteristic, but I have no excuses.” I didn’t fight her on this one. 

“I swear, anyone else and they would be gone so fast their head would spin, but that’s what you want. But You know most people here want to be here…but I’m not going to just let you go home to keep doing what you were doing.”

        “I didn’t exactly do anything with the intention of getting kicked out for bad behavior, I was unaware that was an option. So you’re not kicking me out?”

“Don’t sound so disappointed, no I’m not- only because I talked to sherice and she said you don’t usually do these sorts of things. Actually, she was even a bit excited that you had finally taken out your anger on something other than yourself.”

    I was silent. 

“No more impulsively wrecking things. I can’t dismiss one more thing or people will start to believe they can get away with anything around here. Do we have an agreement?”

      “Yes, we do concur.”

She even had written up a contract for me to sign- she loved those things. 

“Now that pass isn’t happening for at least another month.”

       “That’s fair.”

“Your Jacob will have to wait,” she continued. “Though I still do not condone your continuing communications- much less meeting. I think it’s a terrible idea and just the little of your conflicts and conversations you’ve relayed, I think he’s going to undo everything I’ve been trying to work on with you.”

         “Thanks for your concern, but I can manage myself the imminent destruction of my limited interpersonal relationships,” I laughed. “I know I have no business in a relationship, but you know nothing lasts, so let me at least see where it goes; I usually never care about anyone, and he’ll be the last guy whose time I’ll ever waste again. ”

“Relationships aren’t a waste- I just think he in particular is damaging for your fragile condition. You already hate yourself, and he seems to be perpetuating that.”

          “Still. The older I get I think I’m realizing that I just don’t like being around people. But I’m not that fragile when it comes to heartbreak. I’ve got bigger problems than the trivial fear of ‘ending up alone’.” Big deal, I’ve already come to terms with that I’m going to be the crazy old lady living up on a mountain with a bunch of bats, or crows, or hell, maybe I’ll just go straight for the shotgun approach.”

“You just keep telling yourself that, but you don’t know yourself at all. I think you care a lot and are terrified of another rejection. That’s why you’re walking on eggshells, tolerating his shaming tactics, and hiding every part of you but what you think he won’t accuse.” 

        “I’m glad you know all about him.” I countered. 

and you defend him…”she concluded.      “but that’s not what I wanted to get into this evening. I have an assignment for discussion. I’d like you to reflect on how your eating disorder has negatively affected your life throughout the years, and try to come up with some new coping mechanisms.”

         I laughed and couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit, “Sorry, but ‘coping mechanisms’ don’t work. I think if they did I would have been able to make at least one work by now. You should know it just doesn’t work like that. That’s all just a different kind of misery.”

“They can’t work if you don’t want them to.”

        “But if the problem were so easy as to will a distraction mechanism to work better- as though I haven’t tried- it wouldn’t be such an issue would it? But how it’s affected my life? For starters I would preface any lame- ass answer with the fact that foremost: from the outside, I know it’s all fucking retarded.”

“See you’re doing it again-”

         “Come on, I mean who can’t figure out how to properly feed themselves? It’s objectively insane and I understand why most people don’t get it or why it’s so fucking hard; maybe like a migraine- you don’t know what it feels like unless you’ve had one. It’s been by far the worst and best thing that’s ever happened to me; I mean it had its benefits up until a certain age… other than a long hospitalization, It was just fine up until my early twenties where everything changes all over again and you spend a decade trying to readapt to something that will change again by the time you’ve got your head anywhere near the surface in regards to figuring out how to balance it with your life. I managed to cope just fine most of that time; while balancing work, school, a relationship, and maintain my personal peace and sanity; all that normal shit. It’s normal if you’re a teenage girl- but still struggling even worse with it a decade later is just fucking embarrassing. I can’t even live my life.”

“Well it is true that at a certain age it stops ‘working’ the way it used to; and these things do get worse with age if you can’t overcome the insistence on unattainable ideals.”

       “No shit. I’d rather eat a bullet than live another decade into this.”



        I likely didn’t last another two turns before my thoughts grew too persistent and undeniable to not show evidence on my face. 

        “Actually, can you guys leave- please?” I covered my face, and tried my best to be polite. 

“But we’re supposed to be-” 

       “Please just fucking leave. I’m sorry… I’m afraid I’m going to be awful today. It’s a worse than the usual ‘not a good time”. I turned to look out the window, I hated crying in front of people. 

“Look honey, she’s an adult. If she doesn’t want to see us right now, we should leave,” dad conceded.

“OK. If you need your space, I guess that’s OK. I won’t take it personally.” mom said, entirely unconvincing. 

“Well before you kick us out,” dad pulled a bible out of his briefcase. “I figured you could use one- to go alongside the devil books you brought.”

       “Thanks.” The last thing I wanted to see was a bible. 

He set it on the end table beside the alarm clock as they painfully slowly got up to leave.

          I grabbed the book and returned to the back bedroom. My head had been pounding with the pain in my neck and all throughout my body since just after getting up. It seemed the days with no cessation of the nagging pain had been increasing in frequency. Jacob and I constantly tense and fighting didn’t help , but we were still planning to meet up sometime next week because Shawna had mentioned potentially giving me a pass. But even that, I wasn’t sure how I really felt about – other than nervous as hell because at the same time that I felt so strongly about him, he also made me extremely uncomfortable- like he was always waiting to pounce on something I said and pick it apart and throw it back in my face; and I didn’t feel qualified to tell what of what he said was true tough love, or just straight up cruel. I guessed we’d see how it went then, but I didn’t have high hopes considering how it felt like nothing good or even remotely enjoyable had happened in life in years. In fact, in retrospect it almost seemed a bit too coincidental the order of events in which I lost my job, schooling and career hopes, relationships,  independence, and then health- which had been continually degrading and affecting everything else. I had a roof, food, and water when my parents let me live there- so I had that going for me- but most of the time it felt like I had lost a firm grip on even my mind, constantly falling through the spaces of each day in an unsettling and unsure free fall; so I would easily have given away such life – preserving substances to someone who would at least enjoy life sometimes. I had nothing to go home to anyways but to keep  suffering, medicating, and rotting away in the routine of a responsibly selected solitude to save myself and everyone else from the futility of interaction. 

          I flipped through the bible, thinking how I already knew what it said and didn’t care to read anything. I had felt that way for too long, feeling guilt for it. Job was onto something, as well as Solomon in Ecclesiastes- but other than that I could only relate to Jonah beneath his little tree, asking to die- only I didn’t know where I was supposed to be going or what I was to be doing- I just survived and wandered on  purposelessly. Maybe God was making me wander the desert for 40 years for my bad attitude- and a thousand years may be as a day to Him- but I sure didn’t have that long, and 40 years would put me just about on my deathbed. But with my bad luck I just might live to a hundred. 

         I decided to try the cliche of setting the bible on its spine and letting it fall open, of which I then focused on a random section of the page. I recognize the bible wasn’t intended to be used as a magic 8 ball, but I had some questions- that was for damn sure. Not that I at all considered myself “righteous”, but  it only took Job 7 days to curse his birth, and I’d waited well over seven years. 

          “Why? Why did all of this befall on me? Why did I lose so much and everything that really meant anything to me? Why do I keep losing more, and why don’t you put me out of my misery? Why?”

The book fell open and my eyes first fell upon the red letters of John 13 verse 7

        “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

I was silent for a minute. “but isn’t that what You said a decade ago? I don’t have forty years to wait and wander, I’m wasting my life now.” 

          I was still angry- not angry at God, He didn’t owe me shit- but at myself and everything else; but I was basically in a perpetual bad mood. I just never did anything with it. I got up and walked over to the window, pacing back and forth for some time. I’m not even sure why there was a hammer there- I guess a worker left it there- but not even thinking about it, I grabbed the hammer and slammed it down the middle of the open Venetian blinds, and through the drywall. And something snapped that I’d been ignoring for long enough- I shattered every last piece of the blinds to splinters, and lodged the hammer back in the wall again. I tore out the  dresser drawers, hurled the few books I had brought at the wall, and sunk back down into the bed, catching myself before I went to hell for chucking a bible again. I laid down, letting it slip from my hands onto the floor. 

          Marisa walked in, pausing in the hallway entrance to give me a look that said “My lips are sealed but I wash my hands clean of this,” and turning right back around to leave. 

         “I need an answer now, not in another ten or forty years…” I  muttered. 

Of course I was surprised to happen to open to such a potentially applicable verse, but I believed that my life had been about paying for something I had done wrong- or was going to- and God or fate had nothing to do with it. Maybe that was why I was still on this planet. 

        I got up and picked up the few  things I had uncharacteristically and foolishly thrown- as though it would do anything to hide the damage I had done to the blinds and wall- and picked the bible off the ground, with a small laugh to see that when it had fallen face down, it had opened to the first page of Job. I guessed that was a decent place to start reading for as long as I was going to continue living in the stomach of a whale. 


P.56 the Last Letters

        Early evening had come around for visiting hours and I was in one of my many shitty moods; not in the mood to bug Andre, so I sat in the observation room in the window seat by the oak- which despite meaning more irritated glares from Jacqueline in the staff office- was the only place I could find some kind of silence or solitude when everyone was visiting and I couldn’t sneak out back. But that had been easier than ever since a wishful thought and the one lamp light broke and no one got around to changing it for months. I was waiting for my family to arrive so we could play the board game I had reluctantly chosen, Apples to Apples. Jacob had ignored me for a week again, but we were good for the day. Though tonight he was at his weekly meeting and I didn’t particularly feel like having my ass chewed, so I used the time to speak questions to the air for awhile, or to myself, or God, or who/whatever else was listening. Highlighter had immediately joined me outside the window I had cracked open, perched on the oak tree branch, chirping spiritedly at something.

         Some time later Highlighter flew away and I turned to see that my parents stood out in the lobby, Shawna directing them into the observation room.  I hadn’t seen or hardly spoken to my them in some weeks; I simply had nothing of any point to say to them, or to anyone really. They sat on the couch adjacent to the window where I remained leaned against the window pane. Dad had come from work, still in his suit. 

“How are you?” mom asked hesitantly, appearing wary that I would be too honest.

        “I’m fine. I’m fan-fucking-tastic actually. I mean, relatively speaking.  How are you guys? How’s life.”

“We’re fine. It’s fine. Just working a lot at grandma’s as usual. You’ll have to see all the renovations and the new furniture when you get out.” mom replied, more  animatedly.

        “Cool. Doubt I’ll want to make the trip, I’ll just be honest up front.”  “How’s James?”

“James is OK. Stressed as always. Just started a second job working for Steve.”

       “That’s gonna be trouble, those two together…” I  replied, unable to convey the appropriate humor. 

      Mom talked for a while about the work on the house and all the furnishings things she had purchased at discount as usual. I pretended to give a shit as usual.

“Have you been doing any writing?” Dad finally changed the subject, trying to ask a genuinely benign question. They knew I wrote angsty poetry and whatnot from time to time but had never read anything I’d written. Not that I wanted them to, because it wasn’t for art.

         “No. But I have stared at blank pages for hours before realizing that I just don’t give a shit.”

“Hm. Shawna told us you’re writing an autobiography for her?”

        “So she’s deluded herself. She’ll likely have to pry it out of my cold, dead soul one session at a time. I do feel bad for her, I’m not making her job easier. But hey, life’s a bitch.”

“You know, I’ve always thought you could write a book about your life. Maybe to help some people understand their own loved ones with ‘illness'” he volunteered.

     I hated when he used that word, but I knew what he meant. But maybe He was right; maybe I had just been ill, for a very, very long time.

“You know, the reason God hasn’t answered any of your prayers to die is because you have to write a book first,” he laughed. That had been a long- running joke of ours.

“Don’t say that, ” mom interjected, very hush hush. “we’re not supposed to talk about that stuff.”

       “Well then, give me a pen!” I grabbed the red pen from beside me and feigned a sudden enthusiasm.

        Shawna had specifically instructed each of us that we were to talk about absolutely nothing but small talk- Just my fucking forte. I silently set up the board and divided up the cards, too slowly because I was far, far away in my mind; drowning in all the things I could neither speak of nor resolve

I layed down the first card. “OK, the word is  ineffectual. ‘” 

Only one thing of which, I wanted to ask why they had essentially kicked me out and stranded me in a place where I had no freedoms and the absence of which over the months did me no good but harm. I wanted to know what the ultimatums would be when I did finally get out. I honestly didn’t care about anything but getting as far away as possible from that place. I don’t know why with treatment I could never seen to settle into any manageable routine in regards to my constant anxiety and pacing in my mind “like a caged animal,” Jacqueline called me.       One thing I sucked at in life was adaptation. Pathetically so, with all efforts I could rarely ever get it to happen and I’d never figured out why; as though some of the most basic normal necessities of being human eluded me,akin to needing to draw blood from a turnip. I had only gotten progressively more stressed, tired, angry, and in pain the more I was trapped in the house-cage and around people all the time. I was tired and desperate enough that I had been talking to the Catholic John Doe from the internet about possibly moving in for a while. That would suck too, but there at least I had any freedoms and choices I could execute or manage. But I felt like I was losing my mind as always, but didn’t know where I could ever find it again anyway. 

But I didn’t even want to be anywhere anymore, I didn’t want to bullshit up waiting to see hope in the distance anymore; because as much as a weak, self- defeating cop- out as I know it sounds, I absolutely didn’t believe whatsoever that I would ever get “better”. After over a decade of trying to get “better”, I had only gotten much, much worse in every regard. No amount of treatment programs, drugs, or talk therapy alleviated the constant inner war; and I knew I would never outrun what always came right back no matter where I went or what I tried- I knew I’d always fall back into old ways because nothing else felt any good either, or it felt worse. Surely this all was putting me through unnecessary additional suffering.                          But I knew to say such things was arrogance, despite that I still believed it with every fiber of my being; but I was the only one who believed it, so I was powerless and again being forced into what was “best for me”, still even as an adult.

          I wanted to scream all of these things at my undeserving parents in front of me; how at this point I prayed and wondered every hour why I had been born- called out of the nothingness. I needed to scream for every burden for which there was no relief, for every thing that was misunderstood; I wanted to destroy everything in the room and then destroy myself. But no one would ever know just how much rage I held inside. I never showed it; Because the only person I was angry with was myself. Because I was a fragile, addicted, selfish, hopelessly miserable failure that was beyond help if I couldn’t even imagine a future of better, because all I’d seen better to be was just a different kind of misery, tolerance, and compromise for all the things I hated but lacked the strength to change. I’d rather the devil I knew  until I was finally dead- to do and take whatever the fuck I wanted until it destroyed me; and that was my plan- to hit the wall at the highest speed possible to ensure my  oblivion. Because there had accumulated too many problems with no solutions- so particularly agonizing that it seemed they had been designed for me; perhaps its simply that what you avoid controls you. But I had already tried everything else and beyond a reasonable doubt I had concluded that ending myself was the only way to end this battle of attrition of which I knew there was no  winning, and I didn’t want to be around when it came time to lose for the very last time. 

Of course I recognized that this was the still young and immature part of myself that wanted to actually say any of these things. Objectively I knew that it all would sound lame and melodramatic were I to say it aloud; but I suppose the cliches are cliche in that they are commonplace in truth; but I still despised cliches. But all of these things continued to chew at me as they had every waking moment for a time experientially longer than fathomable.  

“Kat…… KAT,” my dad’s voice broke into my deafening world. “It’s your turn.”

        I looked back at the seven cards in my hand, considering which word I thought best fit the description “mythical”. Between  thunderstorms, Nicholas Cage, my love life, zippers, lethal injection, oxygen, and Samuel L. Jackson; “my love life” was an easy choice. 

“That’s terrible,” mom  laughed.

      “Generational curse,” I fake smiled.    I grew even more frustrated as I could feel the tears threatening my eyes again.

“Are you OK?” she asked. 

        “I’m fine.” I drew another red card.

“OK the word is ‘imminent,'” dad read. 




     “Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds.. ”

       I was awoken a minute early again to the lyrics of a song I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. I didn’t quite know the words, so I waited and listened for them to fill themselves in in my head.

 “Try and keep your head up to the sky.                                                 Lovers, they may cause you tears,     Go ahead release your fears,      Stand up and be counted-               Don’t be afraid to cry”

    Marla began the wake up calls. 

“Herald what your mother says, Read the books your father read;    Try and solve the puzzle in your own sweet time.”

         I pulled my phone out from under the mattress and read Jacob’s last message. A long, fairly irritated one. I had been able to manage to keep my phone to listen to music at night and since he worked Graveyard, we had gotten into the habit of texting most of the night until I fell asleep. And I had fallen asleep in the middle of yet another heated disagreement; but I didn’t know anyways what I could say that wouldn’t get turned around on me. There was no doubt I was crazy about this guy but the closer we got the more we were fighting about every little thing, but I don’t think it would be honest to omit that he was always instigating and I couldn’t ever seem to say the right thing. Of course, because of his  intelligence, intuition, and simply how much I liked him; he also had a way of completely disarming me and stealing some of my common sense, but in mere weeks we had fallen into a consistent pattern of misinterpreting or turning around everything the other one said, him getting mad and ignoring me for days; then trying to work it out with likely unequivocal apologizing. Then I would eventually in a sleepy stupor say something perhaps lame but rather benign, he’d get pissed off and attack, then we’d repeat the make-up process all over again in endless repetition the next day.  But I could never get mad- much less stay mad at him. But I also sucked at feeling at angry at anyone other than myself.

 Jacob was a “sober alcoholic” who had just gotten out of treatment, and was living in a transitional home. So I thought he might somewhat understand the kinds of things I felt, dealt, and struggled with. But I guess we would find out that we only thought we understood eachother, and that was the primary source of the fighting; as though he was convinced he knew me and what was necessary for me to be doing or not doing in my situation, better than I did; given he was a few years older, but in a different  situation, and he was forgetting I wasn’t dealing with a substance abuse that I could simply try to entirely walk away from and not use; I was dealing with battles that resided, originated, and manifested in my skull and skin. 

       The more time we talked the more we realized that though neither of us were prone to dillusions, we seemed from the beginning to have some kind of inexplicable connection- I hesitate to use the word psychic- but you could call it projection in that we began to experience coinciding thoughts, dreams, feelings, and physical states from the distance of some cities. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before, but having just begun studying quantum physics, some of it was perhaps explainable through those means, but I’d never been one to believe in the fantastical regarding human relationships, but many things were simply too freakishly coinciding.     

 We also however quickly came to realize just how starkly we contrasted in virtually every moral, lifestyle, and spiritual value; so we started setting  compromises, but which quickly multipled to the point that we were having to change our convictions and possibly who we each were in order to try and make whatever it even was work. But it hadn’t stopped us from continually going back to how we felt about eachother, regardless of how unrealistic and increasingly infeasible it may have been becoming for anything serious; because the closer we tried to get, the more problems arose. I could only imagine what in person was going to be like- but we had at that point been trying to figure out how to meet up with neither of us having a drivers license; as it were I would have to wait until I was able to gain the ability to get a pass to leave the unit for a few hours. Usually it was supposed to be only with family, but perhaps I could talk Shawna into something. 

        Today was visiting day, my parents and dad’s mom were evidently coming, and we were expected to play a board game together. I could hardly wait… Additionally, that afternoon I received an unexpected phone call from an old friend, who wanted to come and visit me when he somehow heard about my being in treatment again. I had not wanted to have any visitors, but if Nick Vujicic wanted to take time to visit, he was perhaps one of the few people on the planet I could not tell no. Though it felt pretty lame that at that point he was traveling the world as a motivational speaker, helping millions of people- and I was just in treatment again for the same old shit as a decade ago when he last visited me. I remember he even brought a bouquet of flowers, because I’d never been given flowers before or after- never really cared for the sorts of things; But there were Stargazer Lilies, which had always been my favorite since I saw them in bouquets my mom worked on as a kid. But I knew it was no show, Nick was the real deal with a bigger heart than most anyone I knew- despite his circumstances; Which is partly why I still felt so much shame, because I always thought of him and knew that my problems were comparatively nothing; but I still could never seem to get out of them. 


           Sabrina was 19. She lived in LA with only her mother, who was also in the final stage of a very rare form of cancer, and had just lost her ability to even walk. Sabrina and her brother were the only ones really around to take care of her, but her brother didn’t live there so the weight of the responsibility fell on her, and had been so for the last couple years; leaving her with no time, energy, or will to properly take care of herself. She doodled nervously in the sketchbook in her lap  discussing the details of how all these things had affected her and had brought her to now being clearly far older than her age. She had been in the day program for some months to no avail before sent here after collapsing there. She didn’t really see any people or have any relationships other than one a couple years ago, the nature of which garnered too much disapproval to last. She felt extreme guilt about being in treatment instead of at home taking care of her mother, who had only a few months left to live; blaming herself for being selfish and not simply “just eating” so she could be well enough to make up for the help they could not afford not having insurance, barely able to even afford medications to ease the suffering of her mother’s slow passing. 

        But regardless, Sabrina was still the most animated and entertaining of us, often going off on long rants about the enormity of the universe and how much that freaked her out. I can recall only a couple other people whom I have come across in my life who could actually make me laugh so much. But like all of us, when she was dark, she was very dark; and it was reflected all throughout her sketchbook, which once looking through was every corner full of brilliant macabre sketches very similar to Shawn Coss.

        It was a particularly sobering hour of hearing her account, but her story and the soul with which it was relayed stood out to me more than most others’, particularly the love that was evident between her and her mother; in the way she looked and how she spoke about her mother, and the pictures I later saw- Though also because I personally did not understand the type of connection. 


       Shawna slowly paged through the weighty photo album I reluctantly had sent from home, acting as though she was legitimately interested or intrigued by remnants of my seemingly irrelevant childhood photos. 

“What do you see Kat?”

           “A little kid….” 

“Yeah, but it’s you.”

          “No shit Shawna.”

“Hm.Do you remember this?” she pointed to a picture of me with my parents when I was about 6. 

        “Nope. Should I? That’s too young to remember.”

“Actually, it’s really not for most people. How about this? Any of it?”

      “Nope. But it’s obviously right there, so I don’t really need to remember.”

“Hm.” she continued through each page, as though looking for something. “Interesting.”

             “Interesting? Looks to me about as boring as it gets. Just an All American Family.”

“Perhaps it would appear so, but in over twenty years of doing this with clients I’ve never seen this kind of dynamic before that I’m seeing in most of these pictures. ”

         “like what? Like the energy or reading eyes or something?”

“Huh? No I mean in every picture, all the way back to as a baby, you look not only terrified, but are either trying to get away from your mother or look like an entirely independent entity from the rest of the family- you only look present when you’re with your brother, and even here he looks a bit stand-offish and detached as well. Look, here and in every picture you’re faced away from your mother, ever when she’s holding you.” she turned another few pages. “But it almost looks like you’re trying to avoid eye contact, which is particularly interesting considering the significant role eye contact with the mother plays in the development of the prefrontal cortex and limbic system. Furthermore, and even more interesting is how those parts of the brain are implicated in mood and thought  regulation, interpretation of reality, and general will to live. 

          I laughed. “Well that would explain a lot. But if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that when it comes to parents, you get what you need and then get the fuck out. I don’t think she scared me so much as maybe just disgusted me and constantly made me feel like she was gonna give me an ulcer or something like that. But now that I’m an adult- and not even a functional one at that- I understand now why parents are always in a bad mood, yelling and stressed out.”

“Not all parents are like that.”

         “But it’s not a family if you’re not throwing shit at eachother,” I laughed facetiously. “OK, so maybe I learned that not ever family is like that in my early twenties. But when I first started dating Caden and spending time at his house, I eventually said to him that he and his family could stop pretending to be nice and like eachother just for my sake. He claimed that that was how they actually were most of the time, and I didn’t believe him until a year or two later when I never saw otherwise. Like they would sit around and watch tv, and talk to eachother and laugh, or even play lame- ass board games or video games, and looked like they actually enjoyed each other’s company. Needless to say, I started spending a lot of time there. But it felt foreign, because it felt safe.”

“Your family didn’t play games together? What about watching TV?”

         “Hell no games. And watching TV was used as a punishment for me because I thought it was absolutely mindless, boring, and I just didn’t want to be in the family room. I don’t know why. But not that I’m complaining, but my brother and I realized when we were in our twenties that not only did our family not get along, but mom didn’t play with either of us once our entire childhoods- even with my spotty memory, it’s consistent with his. But dad played with us often, but then mom would get mad and we’d have to stop because we were loud or roughhousing.”

“Seriously? Well I know what you guys are going to be doing next family visit then, playing a board game.” Shawna had made at least family visits essentially mandatory for me, because I didn’t care to see anyone.

        “Oh God no Shawna! That sounds awful…      But really it wasn’t just the not wanting to be around mom though, or her being all business- she really was legitimately busy, I think like most adults. She started and ran her own company from when she was my age, a “Forever Florals” bouquet preservation business, it was hugely successful and she did work for all kinds of celebrities who would come over. So we spent every weekend and many weeknights in the back seat of the car, begrudgingly dragged to wedding after wedding. I remember there was never anything to eat those nights but Ritz crackers and granola bars, so I never ate one again. But then she blew out her back  when I was maybe 10 and was in bed for nearly a year, wearing this gnarly back brace and sometimes walking with a walker. She had to sell the business not long after that, and retired when I was 11.”

“Oh wow- is she OK now? I mean, she looked OK.”

        “Well you of all people should know that looking OK means little to nothing. But yeah, she’s been fine for almost a decade. It took a bunch of doctors who all couldn’t figure out why she was in so much pain until a Dr. Grossman noticed that she had no vertebral disks at all in various places- just a minor detail for so many doctors to somehow fail to notice. But she had a double or triple spinal fusion and after recovery, her back is good.”

“OK, I’m glad to hear that. So, what is the first memory you do have?”

         “Easy. I was seven and I was being wheeled into the operating room, because I had to have double abdominal hernia surgery. My brother had just given me a plush ladybug he had gotten from the hospital store. I can see the oxygen mask on my face, administration of the bubblegum- flavored anesthesia, and looking up at the surgeons wondering how long it would be until I would be asleep. But I guess the red ladybug was the first thing I remember in life.”

“Two hernias at only seven?? What in the world from?”

         “I don’t know. They said probably congenital; but maybe from always carrying things that were too heavy for me.  I haven’t as much as thought about it since then. But then I got another hernia when I was an adult, a different kind though. I’ve had a couple practitioners suggest that perhaps something with my digestive system got messed up with the procedure, but I think that’s unlikely. ”

“I’ll bet. What seven year old carries things that heavy? But you had the two from in womb.”

       “I guess.”

“Funny, five minutes ago you said you always felt like she was going to give you an ulcer or something.”



      “OK. Hi, I’m Leo” he waved, facetiously emulating AA. “I’m 28. I grew up in Inglewood with my mom and two siblings. I’ve had depression, anxiety, anorexia,  and bulimia since I was 17. I moved a few years ago to Washington; I live with my fiance Phil. I attend a university there where I’m obtaining my Master’s in Law, and hoping to run for Senate in the next 5-10 years.” he was speaking a bit slow today- perhaps on an anti- anxiety med. He continued to fidget with his eyebrow ring, as he did when he was thinking. “My fiance felt that my eating disorder and depression had become unmanageable when I started collapsing at work. I was manager at the GAP, until I passed out, hitting my head, getting a terrible concussion that I dealt with for the next two years and have suffered a series of seizures. My insurance didn’t cover anywhere in state that wasn’t shitty, I had read about this place, and I figured I could see my family again for a while: but Phil said he was going to leave me if I didn’t go through treatment and try to get help because it’s hindering our life. I’m not sure if I want to get better or if I can, it’s been so long I don’t think it will ever go away.” he looked down at his boots. 

         “Thank you Leo.” Shawna looked to Melisa.

“I’m 27. I live in Washington on SSI with my mother. She is dying of end- stage lung cancer. My older sister Tisa lives there at times, but it’s stressful because she’s in and out of rehab for heroin, as well as other law- involving affairs. I came here after being in the hospital for a while because I had not eaten or drank for 5 days. I was on a feeding tube there, until I decided I couldn’t handle that anymore and when I was strong enough came out here to get far away from my mother and Tisa. I felt taken advantage of. That’s all I have to say.” 

       “Kat.”she skipped back to the window. “please join the group on the couch.” 

      I jumped over the back of the couch and thought for a moment what to say. 

“I’m 24. I live with my parents just half hour from here, I’ve had depression, anxiety, and anorexia since I was 14. I have not regularly attended any schools or colleges. I’ve never held a consistent job and have been entirely unable to work since 21. I have had long hospitalizations before, but the eating disorder I juggled with my life until it became unmanageable when I was diagnosed with evidently untreatable hypothyroid at 21. After reaching a “normal” weight,  I’ve mostly been starving myself for the last three years just to not gain more weight. I got tired enough of that and always feeling like sh- crap,  and generally hate every part of life; so I first began seriously  considering, planning, and a few half-assed attempts at suicide over the last couple years, until I almost hung myself a couple months ago. My therapist recently had reason to believe I was on the verge of succeeding in my attempts, as well as still eating so little, that she 5150’d me. I was at BHC Alhambra psych ward before this. I agree with Leo, it’s all been so long and gotten so bad that I don’t believe it will ever go away, or get better with all the treatment in the world. But I guess you guys are my babysitters anyway.”

     “Thank you. Amberlyn?”

She didn’t say anything. 


“I’m here because my parents put me here and I’m not old enough to sign myself the hell out of here.” she seethed. 

     “A little more…”

“I’ve had anorexia practically since I was born. Such a shame… The being born part I mean.”

 Lizzy interjected, “Just let her be, she obviously doesn’t feel well. I mean that’s practically already half of what would be my college thesis right there.”

       “Alright, Lizzy?

“I’m 19. Canadian. Anorexia, bulimia, drugs.  My parents kicked me out. No I’m not a citizen yet but I am going to. I’ve been im treatment nearly nonstop for over a year; partly because I don’t have anywhere to live. I’ve been to BHC- that place is awful. Tried overdosing a couple times on Oxy. Don’t do it. Stomach pumping is not fun…One year clean of heroin and one year sober. Yeeaah! Andre made me a purple cupcake for it! Yep. That’s about it. Oh and don’t do heroin, like ever.” 

       “OK and Sabrina, the rest is all your time.”

“Oh I’m going to drag this out as much as I can to pay you all back for fucking- I mean messing with my bunny slippers…” Sabrina asserted. 


          That afternoon was a once- monthly group involving everyone that was led up by Shawna. Style- wise it was very similar to the AA meetings we had been attending each week; a type of quick orientation for any new admits that month. After a quick go-around the room, each person taking perhaps five minutes tops; each time a different person had the remainder of the hour to share their life story up until what brought them there, of which I had heard today was Sabrina’s turn. 

Shawna led up the group, but had forewarned us that she needed to have a “talk” with us all before starting group. I arrived second to last in the living room, taking my usual place sitting against the window. Amberlyn stormed into the room, threw her hardcover textbook at the white bookcase, flopped down onto her spot on the couch, and hid her face pretending to be engrossed in something in her treatment binder. Sabrina looked like she was in no better of a mood than Amber or anyone else for that matter. Melisa and Amber were silent as usual.  I guess it was just one of those days where everyone had their own personal rain cloud.

      “I’m guessing that means Lauren is here today…?” Leo whispered. 

          Lauren was the dietician, aka the person we all spent the most time disagreeing with; though for different reasons. She was very friendly and peppy, but as it were, nobody liked being told their meal plan was going to be increased, but I had to eat by far the least of the lot, so we mostly only disagreed over opposing stances in diatetics in general; as I suppose it would be fair to say that I studied nutrition and worked in that field for years. Debating was sometimes interesting, but ultimately she subscribed to USDA guidelines and I was more Weston Price. 

         Shawna finally arrived, fashionably late as usual; with her famous grin like she was about to subtly kick all of our asses. 

       “So before we get started, I printed up a new copy of the rules for each of you.” she passed a stack of spiral bound books around the room.            “Since some of you seem to think that the rules don’t apply to you… Not naming any names…” she glanced at a few of us. “But I thought I’d make the house rules bit a more easily understood.”

 “Hey it’s not our fault they weren’t specific enough…” Sabrina said. 

“Holy shit, it’s a fucking novel!” Leo laughed, tossing it slightly up into the air to emphasize its weight.

         “And there’s another thing I wanted to address-” Shawna continued. “the language. Between you, Lizzy, and Kat; I swear you guys make sailors look like Saints. This is unacceptable for the kind of facility I choose to run; so I’m going to start docking half an hour of cell phone time for every profane word I hear. Unless you’re Kat, of which I’ll take one of your two 6oz coffees.”

“That’s low Shawna…real low…” Don’t get me wrong- coffee was the only love of my life- But I hadn’t told her yet that I had actually been texting someone. 

“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Leo exclaimed.”Six ounces isn’t even a cup according to the standard American unit of measurement. I mean six ounces, that’s just wrong- that’s like only foreplay!”

       “I’m sorry did you just compare coffee to-”

Lizzy’s unmistakable laughter drowned out Shawna’s disapproval. 

“yeah, that’s just wrong! I protest! I’m leading a hunger strike! Who’s with me? ” Sabrina jumped up from her corner of the couch, throwing her tiny fist in the air. 

     Lizzy’s laughter was still undying. 

A faint smile played at Melisa’s lips. Amberlyn had yet to look up from her binder. I think because she was crying. 

        “So while I’m glad to have such a lively group that seems to get along so well, but I never thought I’d have to rewrite the rules for it. I’m serious however, no more loopholes. No more profanity.”

“Call me Mother Theresa,” Sabrina saluted. 

“Profanity? Dear no, who would use such distasteful verbiage?” I added.

Yes Boss Mom…” Leo rolled his eyes. 

Lizzy echoed his reply. 

         “OK, so now on to orientation and life stories; today is Sabrina’s turn. Obviously our newest admit is still Kat; So starting to my right, Leo will you please begin.”