This isn’t what I ordered.- Us
Lemon cake was a hot commodity on the unit. Keeping the peace as an often solo provider charged with the care and feeding of twenty people meant occasionally overlooking the particulars of medically prescribed meal plans. Adam, how about trying the meatloaf instead of ordering three deserts? Make me. He was preparing for discharge from our day treatment program which usually went one of two ways; clients showed up with their bags packed to return to inpatient or we’d sing Happy Trails, wait for their insurance to turn over and readmit them in a few weeks. Mel, why the sudden change? Your daughter’s coming this weekend and you were just saying how much you’re looking forward to it. She sniffs, Nope clutching her paper bag, stone-staring at the wall. I’m gonna kill myself when I go home. Better admit me. My daughter can visit me here. Contrary to the mandates of managed care, broken hearts aren’t cured in 6 to 8 weeks. Insurance policies ensure we stay stuck in a cycle of co-collaborative sickness. Very Important Persecuted; the system teaches people to use pain as power; give or take. In order to prevent the inevitable, sabotaging goodbyes is common. I knew this and should’ve ordered his just deserts but it was my job to set boundaries and take heat. Playing dual roles of clinician and food currier put me in an awkward position, especially regarding anyone with a condition that could be impacted by what they did or didn’t eat; a difficult kind of authority.
Adam stormed out when his tray arrived with only two of the three cakes he’d ordered. Sitting on the grass in front of the hospital lobby under a palm tree we worked out a repair. Adam, I’m really sorry crossing the lemon cake off your menu hurt your feelings. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m trying to make sure your blood sugar stays within range and we stick to the plan the doctor gave us. But I really wanted it and I felt like you were judging me. I was judging his request, 100%. No one should eat three pieces of cake. In fact, there’s zero biological reason why anyone should eat cake, ever. I hated being responsible for what other people ate. I hated being the one to monitor soda intake and walk the fine line between over-feeding clients who I knew were homeless and having to consider what constituted stealing from the hospital. I hated that my clients got two hot meals before I’d had the chance to eat anything, usually because my boss was late, sick or in the nurse’s lounge…eating. Hospital hierarchies are not hospitable to staff or guests forcing everyone to take rather wait to receive care. How patient does a patient have to be? Underneath all the hate is an ocean of empathy I once nearly drowned in. Skinny bitch aside, I didn’t want him to drop dead from a broken pancreas. I never had to say any of this because Adam, like all people, have a psychic, judgement antennae. He knew part of how I felt and was hell bent on sitting and sulking till I gave him nothing less than the apologetic truth. Adam, I was totally judging your food, but not you. I’m sorry and I don’t want you to die before art therapy cause I know it’s your favorite and we’ve got something great planned. I can’t let you eat three pieces of cake but I’ll swap out the chocolate for the lemon if you want it that bad. Deal? Success. If only all resolutions were this easy.
Leggo My Ego
It was a phrase I created while leading groups to simplify and unify a definition of mental illness. Comparative suffering and resilience are terms I created to describe a social phenomenon probably born out of capitalism. It’s essentially an attempt to justify or invalidate pain. I erased diagnostic ranking with frozen waffles. Becoming sick in our head, heart or soul is the result of trauma. Trauma is anything we perceive as having the power to separate us from love. A zit can be just as a traumatic as having a stepford mom. We agree on a handful of universally accepted hurts but the spectrum extends out in opposing directions from major to minor and everything in between. Your goldfish dying when you were 5, traumatic. Becoming a prisoner of war, traumatic. Seeing footage from inside a clothing factory in Bangladesh after launching your career as a fashion blogger; Buddha has officially left the palace. What? ‘Leaving the palace’ is another phrase meaning trauma. After living the life of a little prince Buddha is said to have snuck out of his palace one night only to encounter the horrors of humanity which challenged all of his beliefs about the meaning of life and led him to discover compassion which gave birth to his true identity as a deity leading to the creation of Buddhism. Kind of a metaphor for how we heal too, except we’re not all bald and I’ve never met anyone who floats in a lotus garden.
How we respond to various offenses is as unique as we are. Not all child stars become addicts. Not all people living on small incomes feel oppressed. Some people have car accidents and think it’s funny. Some people decline their inheritance. Our reactions are determined by what makes us crumble. As a recovering anorexic I pair many things with food, except my food plan. I pair that with anxiety and cardio. Anything that hooks our ego is a trigger; some condition or event that unleashes all our fears of being unworthy of love. Suffering begins when we not only believe the fears but also remain fixed on the fix and blind to alternatives. If I lose him there’s no one else I could possibly be with out of the 8 billion people on planet earth. I won’t let go till I get justice. I can’t be happy till we get pregnant. I’ll not speaking to her till she admits what she did wrong. Trauma can also be a rational response to having our lives, sanity, dignity and safety threatened either once or repeatedly over a period of time. Some wounds linger and lead us to believe relief won’t ever come. When I find myself stuck I imagine crowds of people running towards and away from each other holding their ego’s over their heads. Mine! Mine! Mine! It helps me remember the answer; let go.
*Adam’s real name isn’t Adam. He was a delight and we did have a food fight which was mostly my fault. I did apologize and I’m pretty sure he forgave me. Also managed care sucks. xo
ps: Have you ever made food art for a post before? I love my ketchup heart.