The words, innocuous—even inviting—leapt off the page and hit me like a viper’s nest in the face. “Meet the Treatment Team,” it read. The paper had been photocopied so many times that the edges of letters were worn and blurred, like windblown hieroglyphics. They set off a Bobby Brady firework explosion in my brain, none-the-less.
I had a Treatment Team. Me.
I’m on a Treatment Team at the Residential Treatment Facility (Y’all would call it a mental hospital—we call it a behavioral health hospital. I’ve seen mental hospitals. Ours is much prettier.). I know what it means, from the other side of that “Meet the Treatment Team” paper. If you’re reading ours, it means something in your life has become unmanageable, or you have, and now you need our help. We don’t look down on anyone, if anything; we look up to them for their forthright desire to deal with their lives.
Thanks to my recent decision, I now know what it feels like to have a Treatment Team. You’ll find out why I have one in a bit. First let’s talk about my feelings.
Failure IS an Option
-Sam Beckett, Quantum Leap
Still, my first thought was “Oh, crap. I’ve really let things get bad. Real bad. Medical bad.” I have 6 brilliant people on my team. At that time their brilliance didn’t matter; I felt like an irresponsible idiot. They have a long track record of huge successes. Their successes didn’t matter; I felt like a failure. They have documented evidence that they know the path I should walk and will teach me how to walk it. Fine, whatever. At that moment I was afraid that I couldn’t walk it.
I felt like a “patient.” I am a patient. And I’m growing to be a proud patient. Shrinking, actually. Two weeks ago I checked myself into the medically supervised weight loss program at Abington Weight Management Center. My endocrinologist is one of the head MDs there and it was at his suggestion. He’s been gently suggesting many diet changes over the past two years. He’s listened to my frustrations with weight loss, tailored my insulin regimen, and been patient, himself. Finally, at my most recent quarterly check-in he said, “You’re seven pounds up. Wanna talk about what happened there?”
Pride and Prejudice
“That’s just pride *#@king with you.”
-Marcellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction
I had told him the story over two years. I’ll tell it to you in two sentences: I’ve always been over-weight, and always struggled with it, except the times when I just gave up. I’d been learning a lot about myself, my unhealthy habits and making tiny changes doing Weight Watchers for four years but the weight had not been consistently coming off. So, I finally said “I’ll try anything” and the doc said I should come to an information session.
The process of letting go, of Asking For Help, of being willing to try anything, of admitting I was powerless to stop myself alone, took either four years or my entire life. But, suddenly there I was. When I was asked which diet I wanted, I chose their Decision-Free Diet. “I don’t have confidence in my decision-making yet,” I said.
It turns out that had been a great decision.
That’s how it happens for my patients, too. One good decision, then another, then another. But that happening starts when all their decisions are given up. No more outside world, not for a bit. No more total freedom. I can come and go as I please, but right now I’ve given someone else control over what I put in my mouth.
For me, the biggest barrier to doing so sooner was pride. I always wanted to claim, even if only to myself, that “I don’t need a weight management center, I can do it alone.” I had Weight Watchers to go to, and their program is great. It is. I hope to go back to Weight Watchers in my maintenance phase. But first I needed to admit I had a problem and allow a complete emotional, mental and behavioral purge from which to start over.
I can’t help but think my patients seek the same thing, and may share my pride barrier. Or, to be candid; my prejudice. I wanted to feel like “one of the strong!” That may mean that I first looked at those in programs as weaker. Which would mean then, that I had to re-learn something which I first learned when I became a Christian; A weak person is actually unable to turn over control of their lives to another—be they God or doctor. Only a truly strong person has the power to do so. Even if they don’t feel it at the time.
My Report Card
-Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons
I may do another article like this, but for now, here are some things that I’ve taken from this brief phase of my very long journey.
Pride, once overcome, comes back double. I have new things to be proud of which are not based in prejudice, like sticking to the program totally for going on three weeks. Also, weekly meetings with my Endocrinologist are tailoring my insulin regimen in new, crucial ways. I can’t overlook being 22.4 pounds down so far. That’s the cat’s meow.
We should always think in terms of “Do fun stuff” not just “Eat tasty things.” I had to come to grips with the fact that food was my major dopamine dump and I triggered that button all the time. I’ve begun to seek out the pleasure stimuli from outside the kitchen and there’s a whole world of fun that doesn’t come in a crinkly bag.
We all deserve breaks. This is a break for me from the oppression of my issue with food. I’m gaining new strength in the fight. We all deserve the opportunity to be free of our issue and have a team help us solve it.
It’s not over. I’ve learned this lesson in new ways throughout my life. We never need to stay where we are, how we are—even who we are—if it’s hurting us. The fight against my weight will always be a part of me. In fact, my very first post on the internet of my very first blog, Synapse Crackle, Pop Culture (cringe!) was on my fight against my gut. But, just because the fight is forever, doesn’t mean I’ve lost or that I need to fight it the same old way. It’s never over.