Flashback to July: Let’s get this over with
I think I’ve drug my heels about finishing this long enough, wouldn’t you agree? I have so many other things I wish to write about, but I feel as though I can’t go on to those things until I’ve put this one to bed. Not really sure why. Not entirely sure why this is so difficult to sit down and finish either. Insights anyone?
It’s our final week down in Hershey. We arrive on a Sunday, Vale chomping at the bit to get back to Nicki, me dreading the week. In an effort to get him out of the house, I suggest we go out to dinner to this restaurant he’s been wanting to try since February. The name of it is Houlihans, and although I don’t believe he actually wanted to eat at it, he wanted to go in it, so he was agreeable. At least initially.
We arrive at Houlihans and it’s raining. The parking lot is full, so we have to park in this parking garage type facility. We step out of the van, and Vale starts. At first it’s just simple kvetching, about how many cars are in the parking lot, how cold the rain is, etc. When we actually get into the restaurant, I can visibly see him start to become unglued. ”It’s too dark in here! There are way too many people. Why is it so warm in here??”
You ever have a moment in time where you look at your child and you’re unsure as to who that person is? I was in this moment. The space-time continuum had just shifted and I was in some type of alternate universe. I started to look around to see if everyone was sporting goatees (vague Star Trek reference there). He was antsy. He was agitated. He was very anxious. He was completely eating disordered. I asked Vale if he wanted to leave and he said no, so we were given a table. Madness then ensued because they gave us the menu: it was huge and expansive. He was consumed with anxiety over how in the world was he going to order, there were far too many choices. At this point I sort of shifted into a survival mode, I suggested we leave. Vale got even more upset, he was afraid it would draw attention to himself if we just walked out now, so I thought of something to do about the ordering.
A bright spot on the menu is that they had this whole list of entries that were smaller portions of their customer favorites, so that you could sample a couple of different items. I suggested that Vale pick 2 or 3 of those, and he’d be ensured that the portions were at a manageable level. But even those 20 or so choices proved to be far too many. He did notice that someone had a french dip sandwich and thought it looked good, so I suggested that we split a sandwich and a salad. Whatever he didn’t eat, we could always take home. We had a tentatively help peace over that decision and we ordered. Wouldn’t you know it that when they brought our food they would serve it on these over-sized rectangular trencher type plates?? I thought he was going to have a fit. He did become a bit louder when he exclaimed something about the amount of food. I quickly started reducing the number of plates and divvying up our food: one half of the sandwich for me, one for him. One half of the salad for me, but no, I couldn’t put the entire half portion of salad on his plate. There were also fries, but he couldn’t stand more than 3 or 4 on his plate.
The sandwich went down easily for Vale (and it was tasty ~ if you’re even in Hershey, PA try the french dip sandwiches at Houlihans). I made a bold move and put the rest of his portion of salad on his plate, while it was somewhat cleared of food and he was okay with that. He ate some of the salad and said he wanted to take the rest of it home. Unfortunately the salad was the kind where they had pre-tossed it so I mentioned to him that if we took it home, it wouldn’t be very good the next day because it already had the dressing all over it. He sort of loudly dropped his fork and looked me right in the eyes and said, “So you lied to me.” I lied to him? About the food? Really? I had the foresight to know that the salad was going to come like that and I purposefully lied so that he had to eat it? I was dumbfounded at his accusation and I probably did some type of jaw dropping. Now he was angry and it was all directed at me. I don’t remember a whole lot about the rest of that night with the exception of that he did eat most of his salad, he wouldn’t touch a fry, and I was, apparently, the devil.
This last week at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute was originally supposed to be a short one, only until Wednesday. However, the week before, Vale had cut himself and coupled with the fact that his eating disorder is getting out of control, they decided to keep him the rest of the week. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that little tid bit didn’t I? Nicki was getting near to the end of her treatment, so the program she was in shortened her week by a day, then the next week by two etc, weaning her from the program. So the previous week, Nicki had gone home on a Thursday and Vale was distraught, not knowing what to do with himself without her on Thursday evening. If I remember correctly, I sent him to our room because he was being belligerent about something and so he used, can you believe this, the room *key* to cut himself. Okay, it’s horrible enough when he used knives and box cutters to cut, but a key? Can you imagine how painful that must have been? Of course that event left me distraught and us needing to stay for the entire week. Vale was completely oppositional Monday and Tuesday, combative, clearly not interested in his treatment and becoming worse by the minute. His eating was getting worse, refusing to eat breakfast, escalated behaviors over dinner and I finally had had it. We were leaving Wednesday, whether he liked it or not.
Tuesday evening I had him retire to the room early and we packed. We took stuff down to the car and I happened to walk through the main eating area and found Nicki, another mother and her daughter sitting around the table talking close. I walk toward the room and the other girl started frantically started making faces at Nicki to be quiet. Obviously they were talking about me, and it wasn’t pleasant. How in the world did I become the bad guy? I wasn’t ‘in the world’ so to speak, around people who didn’t know about what was going on with him or what it’s like to have an eating disordered kid. Why in the name of anything sacred weren’t these mothers on my side. Now for her part, Nicki was a 16-year-old girl with a mad crush, I can understand why she was so unhappy with me keeping the two apart. But these other mothers should have been standing shoulder to shoulder with me… I’m still baffled. Fortunately, I’m not a parent who seeks popularity, I do what’s right for my family and I kept on packing.
Vale didn’t say goodbye to Nicki because I didn’t tell him we were definitely leaving until we were up in our room. The next day I kept him busy up in the room until after 8:30 so he wouldn’t have time to see her then either. In retrospect, I toss that around as to whether I should have done that or not. But in the end I ask myself, what good would have come from him sharing a tearful goodbye with this girl? I also wholeheartedly admit that part of me just wanted to cut this thing right off. He was not happy with me and he pointedly asked me if I planned that on purpose, to which I replied honestly that I did.
During that last week, I made an appointment for Vale at the eating disorder specialist. This time we didn’t see the doctor like we usually did, we saw his physician’s assistant and that was a godsend. Vale had, surprise surprise, dropped weight. Apparently Vale didn’t keep his cards too close to his chest while he was in with the PA, asking if Nicki was there, was she alright, could he see her etc. Of course the PA couldn’t tell him squat but she could see where his entire thought was bent toward and she got rather tough with him. In short she threatened him that if he didn’t start getting with the program she would take action. And no, despite what he thinks, she would never put him in a partial program there, to be around the girls, he would go in a lock down. She then walked him through what a program like that was like: they would tell him when to wake, when to sleep, where he could go, when he ate, what he ate, how much he ate, whether he could see or talk to his family or friends, what privileges he could have, when he could leave. She didn’t paint a pretty picture at all. Vale was rather shocked by the entire conversation, but I was delighted. This PA was taking the bull by the horns, something the doctor never seemed to do, and I was so relieved.
I don’t remember the ride home quite well. I don’t think it was pleasant. In fact, I don’t think we spoke to each other the entire 2 hour trip. I’d like to tell you that within a few days he was back to himself and we started progressing back toward recovery again, but that would be a lie. He kept up his restrictive eating. He was ignorant and unkind toward me and the entire family. He moved like a ghost through the days thinking only on his ‘lost love’. He contrived how he was going to see her, talk with her, be with her. He vandalized a restaurant bathroom, carving her initials into the stall. That was a delight, let me tell you, and I made him tell the manager and fork over $60 in reparation. We went to see a nutritionist who concluded that this wasn’t the time for him to be working on his eating disorder, because it was blatantly obvious he had no interest in recovery. The nutritionist spoke with the PA and both agreed that Vale had too much therapy types and he was learning how to work it all, they suggested that we pick one and work with them and then slowly add others as he got back on track. I agreed with them, that things had shifted into madness and we pared things down to just his Biblical counselor. I think the kicker was that of the entire summer, which included a week-long vacation right on the bay in Delaware, his fondest summer memories were of the time in Hershey, with Nicki. I wanted to kick him when he said that. The time that cost us the most, that was so ruinous, painful was his favorite moments of the summer.
Why was this so hard to write. Is it because I question myself? Was it really the right thing to take Vale down to Hershey? Was I foolish? Should I have ended it sooner? In the short-term it caused us so much pain and was so damaging to Vale’s recovery. But as I look back on it 7 months later and see Vale’s progress I wonder if it didn’t come in part because of this time in Crazyville. Is it possible that he is more solid now because he knows we’ll do anything to help him, to listen to him? If it isn’t, will you at least not tell me. I need that one small bit to keep from despair about that whole thing. Placate me, okay?