Saturday, August 18, 2007


I wont paint a pretty picture of the scene. Colorful? yes. The people are very much so... Its an on-site treatment center for eating disorders and addictions. I find myself here for a week, listening to people read, in their own words, their life stories --sob stories, war stories-- some meticulously sculpted over the years into self-gratifying accounts. Some still in the developmental stages, someday to be ostentatious recollections of hardship and misery. Still yet, there are a few whose stories were simply facts and feelings. Earnest narratives, humble introspection.
One man treats it as a confessional, baring his soul for the rest of us. He is a slave to narcotics. He tells of his struggle... periods of self-control, falling hard into relapse. He tells us not only the pain he has suffered,but the burden he has been to his family and loved ones. His need for a fix outweighed his conscience when he opted to buy drugs rather than clothe and care for his family. He shakes with remorse, chokes on apologies, then lulls into stiffled sobs and takes his seat.

Next a girl shaking with anxiety. She begins by recalling her earliest memory of body image, how she wanted to be "perfect". How she started by denying herself exorbitance. Then weeded out any nonessential nurishment, and gradually began totally depriving herself of necessity. Hyperphagia. She is disgusted with herself. Ashamed now, having achieved her goal. Tired of abusing her body, now longing to be the normal girl she once was. Feeling as far from perfect as she could possibly get. She just wants to rid herself of her behavior, but doesn't know how. Another story of drug addiction and manic depression. Soulless numbness. the fault, she says, is her mothers, for urging her to lose weight, buying her the diet pills that got her hooked. Her mother is sitting in silence, hands limply resting in her lap, tears flowing in silence. She nods in agreement. She makes no verbal response, just internalizing this experience.

Now here is a girl, she is strikingly beautiful. She is here for a few reasons, the first of which, I learn, is addiction. "recreational" drugs and binge drinking. She recounts her adventures with complete impenitence. She is far from ready to forsake the lifestyle. I'm offended to have to sit in audience of her boasting. She cites a few escapades, debacheries. She is redirected by her councilor after a few of these accounts. Several others give her feedback about how they felt to hear her unapologetic account.The session ends after readings from a few others, and we are dismissed for the evening.

In the morning it is more Story Hour. Each of the "patients" will be adressing a different addiction or dysfuctional behavior today. The humble, middle-aged drug addict today confesses sex addiction, as well.
Now, the footloose girl from yesterday. She stands and is betrayed instantly by her emotions. She is here to confront her eating disorder. She is bolemic. She starts into a vivid account of her experiences, and at first I hear the same old bid for attention that I'm beginning to callous against. but her composure is a stark contrast to yesterday. She is crying out for help. She painfully tells how she hates herself. She doesn't want to retire this lifestyle, either. the girl is beautiful, yet her eyes are fixed on the floor. she quivers and cringes to be before us now, after being in treatment for long enough to restore her from emaciated, to bearing a trace of babyfat. I am blown away by the idea that she cannot see her own innate beauty. My throat lumps up and I feel total bewilderment on her behalf. Her mind treats her self image like a carnival fun-house mirror, bending, stretching, distorting. Yet, thats all she can see.
I spent the rest of the morning dealing with the realization of that, and the feeling it instills in me. I do my homework, assigned by one of the councilors. And a few hours later we met back in that semi-circle to give our feedback to those who had spoken. Me, with my collage of magazine cut-outs. Words taken out of context to reflect my impressions from the past two days.
when it becomes my turn to get up and explain my peice of art. I told everyone, trembling (I don't do public speaking I could think of little more than searching out the words beauty, beautiful, gorgeous...) that I scattered these words around on the peice of posterboard to represent the people in the room, theres alot of beauty in this room that I thought needed to be pointed out.
the therapist interjects with her words of reassurance "theres alot of power in those words, I would encourage you to expound on them...."
For a moment I'm ready to just walk back to my seat in silence, but I can't. I decide to continue, but I can't. I don't remember what I ment to say. At long last I was able to relay them, in fragmented circumlocution, that they were some of the most beautiful people I had met. Then I choked up and sat down....

later I wrote this.

look into the mirror
I wish you could see
yourself a little clearer
the allure catching me

I think it's the sparkle in your eyes
that blinds their own perception
and though it's dear, it makes me cry
to see the shame in your expression

something I always ment to say
in my silence, I made you this way
you've blessed the rest of this world
you're such a beautiful, beautiful girl

I think its the sparkle in your eye
that burns your self perception
and though its hard to hear, you live a lie
when you see your own reflection

1 comment:

Kelly Jo said...

While I was in California I took my sister to a drug treatment center twice a week. I can't say that I understand your feelings, but I can say that I have a few of my own. Honestly, it's difficult to internalize the experiences you have there, listening to people literally rip themselves apart. It seems you should try & learn something from the just don't know how to do it. The self-hatred you witness is unbearable. It's not something you can categorize or even identify & put away in your brain. It's just there. It's always there and it bothers you. One thing i have learned is to go easy on myself. The people there showed me that it's okay to take things one day- even one minute- to the next. No high expectations; just do your best.