I am not trying to compare what happened to me vs. anyone else. I know that the game of who is/was sickest definitely exists and is a significant problem within the community of people with eating disorders. However, EVERYONE with an eating disorder is as sick as the next person. This is a mental illness with medical symptoms or complications.
I am writing this post about my personal experience because I want to give others an inside look at what it is like for eating disorder patients. My motive is to help others understand and to see the physical damage up close by hearing my story.
I vaguely heard what the doctors were saying, but I did not know if I imagined things or if they had actually said I was going to the ICU. I was so terrified since it was my first time in a hospital and I had no idea what was going to happen. That night I battled to fall asleep with an IV in my arm, multiple blood draws waking me up, and the machine constantly taking my blood pressure. My dad slept on uncomfortable chairs during the night in my room. I woke up, and thankfully one of the coolest nurses walked into my room. I forget her name, but it was great because she had recovered from anorexia. I felt a tiny bit of hope seeing her and getting to hear about her story. The stupid phlebotomist came again to draw my blood. I had a giant bruise on my arm from the IV, and all the blood draws. I was anemic, so it was very easy for me to bruise. I was in the ICU all day and then they finally took me to the general medical floor. I had an IV that gave me medicine and fluids. It was annoying because they made me have to pee a lot which meant unhooking the EKG machine leads on my body and having someone pushing the IV pole behind me so I could walk.
Social workers and doctors came into my room. They explained how the hospital’s psych unit worked and suggested that I came to theirs. They told me how they were a voluntary unit and other hospitals had both voluntary patients and also committed people. I signed myself into the ward. Eventually, I met Laura. She was a dietitian who worked on the psych floor and she came to visit me before I went up to the unit. I loathed seeing her, and she made me so mad. She explained how the meal plan worked and what it would look like when I went to the unit. She asked me about the eating disorder behaviors I had been using and told me that I had been officially diagnosed with anorexia. I wanted to scream at her that I was fine.
I met my psychiatrist Dr. S, and it was so scary, but he seemed pretty nice. He went over my labs with me and told me all the abnormalities in my blood work and urine test. Dr. S explained to me that I had ketones present in my body. I had no idea what he was talking about, and he went on to explain that the higher the ketones got, the more I could have seizures as a result. Well, shit that was/is so terrifying. I met with him and Laura daily. I filled out my menu’s and ate to leave. Well, that did not work because two, and a half weeks later I was back in the hospital.
This time around I could not manage to eat, and I was given an NG tube for the first time. It was awful. It disrupted my sleep, hurt my nose, and eventually made my throat hurt so much because the tube rubs on your throat. I was so miserable. I returned again in a few weeks because I had been lying to my therapist about how much I was restricting. Once again, I got tubed, and it was awful. My blood pressure became dangerously low, once dipping down to 53/18. I passed out frequently and was put on bed rest in the mornings. Dr. S tried to force me into a wheelchair because I was so weak. I refused to be in it because I am so stubborn. I ended up being stuck in the unit for 30 days, ugh.
Thankfully, the fourth stay was only two and a half weeks. However, my electrolytes werethatmessed up and they called rapid response on me. I have barely any memories other than hearing voices in and out of full consciousness. I woke up the next morning with an IV in my hand and the nurses are explaining what had happened. It was so scary to hear what happened and I was really lucky the nurse was during vitals right when my heart started to freak out! I am lucky and blessed that I was in the hospital or I could have/would have died from it. Thankfully, my heart got back on track, and we figured out the right medication for my heart.
However, I stopped taking my heart meds before I was in the hospital back in Jan/Feb. I started out OK, but then I was passing out every single day. Dr. S gave me no choice about being in a wheelchair. He told me it would only be a day and was no big deal. Well, that was false because I continued to have bad vitals and I fell trying to get into my wheelchair. Once again, rapid response was called on me, and they did a lot of checks on me. The next few days I had to have neurological checks where they shined a flashlight in my eyes and had me squeeze their hands and push against them with my feet. Funny story, one day I forgot to lock my wheelchair. I went to push on Sam’s hands, and I went rocketing backward. We laughed a lot at that moment. What is not funny is that I ended up being in the chair for a week and a half. They tried to have me drink more fluids daily and it just was not working. Finally, they decided to try me start a medication to help my blood pressure stay up. It is somewhat of a risky medicine, and it was a final hope. I still have to take it three times a day, so my heart stays working and healthy.
The fifth time I also had to have an NG tube. It was horrible because I had been restricting really badly before I was inpatient. This meant that I had to go through refeeding syndrome. I was bloated, in pain, and felt so I could have thrown up. Once again, the tube hurt so badly, and I hated it. Also, it hurts like a bitch being put in. Poop on the guy who put it in for saying it did not hurt. The reason why it hurt more than the first time is because I have damage to my stomach and GI track from purging so frequently. See, the damage had increased more and more and it made me body worse and worse. I also have horrible GERD and have to take prescription Prilosec which only manages it to some degree.
So, there it is. My truth about how much this has screwed up my body permanently or semi-permanently. It is scary, and it is real. Other people had medical complications in other ways. But, this is my truth and experience.