Posts Tagged ‘host family’

I guess I don’t really need something dramatic to fill up this space every time I write. I notice that is usually when I write-when shit hits the fan. I’ll write about family today, and the aspect that everyone seemed to negate in my life namely therapists.

I’d often complain or be sad that I don’t have a family, saying that’s who is supposed to help me through the rough times. Therapists always gave the generic, “Your family’s toxic, you need to find friends who you can utilize as your support system”. Then I went to Denmark, and prior to my arrival, during my last appointment with my dietician, she said I could stay here (at the treatment center) for a really long time, and that I’ve built a support system here.

I told her that I’d be living with a host family and she said, “That’s not the same, they’re not going to be your family.” Those words dug at me deep because I knew that DIS (where I study abroad) hooks students up with amazing host families and that the experience was more than a traditional host family (not that I’ve had much to compare to).

Still,  I didn’t have much to retort with to her aside from, “it’s different”.

Fast forward to four months later, my last night in Denmark before I was leaving on a short break. I walked through the doors after completing my last final exam and found that my host grandpa died unexpectedly. I felt compelled to stay and not leave the following day, though I had business to care of in the US.

Before she went to bed, I gave my host sister a present. Her mom, “our” mom Katja was around as I gave the gift.

Months earlier, Victoria had seen my harmonica and really seemed to want her own. This was the gift I gave to her that night.

Katja began tearing up, saying that her father played the harmonica. I had unknowingly kept a tradition going while making my 9 year old Danish sister satisfied.

Serendipitous moment.

What did I do wrong

What happened to my life? I started to get better over here, at least emotionally. I was welcomed by a most amazing host family, and felt a part of their home within the first 24 hours. We had ups and downs, mostly ups and downs were external forces for the next four months. We shared secrets. Then I got sick. They visited me every few days in hospital. Then I got well. Then I got sick after the first day, and was re-admitted. Fortunately, I was discharged days later after fighting a severe infection.

I moved out of the house as planned, to start another term. They had already planned on having family friends move in, before I decided I’d stay the whole year. Ever since that point, I have made the effort to go see them on at least half a dozen separate occasions, on public transportation mind you, while they own a car. They said they’d visit me and never once made the effort to do so.

Graciously they lent me their extra bike for the term. My youngest host sister and I have begun to exchange daily texts. The one I received from her today was odd. She had just asked if I was going to be coming by to see them before I leave and I wrote that I have to see her so yeah.

She responded in a rather adult way saying I have to confirm because I have the bike. The bike. Not me. Why see me? Why make an effort to come out to see me? I have not once seen them even attempt to come to where I live. Never mind the fact that finals, packing, and reverse culture shock are looming. Never mind I’ve been in hospital six times in the last four months. It’s always about monetary value, not people. People don’t matter. I don’t matter.

This is a mere extension or reflection of what I’ve been feeling over the past few weeks. Being neglected at the hospital that seemed to be the only decent one left here (I’ve been to four in this country), literally the hospital doing nothing but observation after I found blood in my tube.

The friends I’ve made where I live suddenly became absent from my life a few weeks ago as well. One, he was going through some stuff and wouldn’t let anyone in. He wasn’t responding to any of my texts and had very little contact with anyone. The other, I’m guessing it was his girlfriend who has been occupying his time over the past weeks. I just found out about the girlfriend over the past weekend at a gathering for a friend’s party.

The person who organized the party is at the same level of friendship as the person who the party was for. I hope this makes enough sense to get across. My birthday also was a few weeks ago, the organizer (friend) said we’d do something for my birthday. That never happened.I went to this party not bitterly, attempting to celebrate the special occasion for the friend. It was hard to not feel slightly jealous.

The cycle of neglect and abandonment and utter devastation surface and replay. Broken promises, broken heart, no family.

My father who only has contact with me for financial reasons as he has no emotional availability for me in his life just sent two horrifyingly nasty e-mails to my home school. You see, my home school is attempting to charge me their tuition even though I’m abroad and received a significant discount on tuition. If I don’t pay, they won’t give me my grades, will de-register me from classes in the Fall, and yes even remove my ability to check out library books. The money they want me to give them was to be my housing money for the summer. Hello homelessness, goodbye life as I knew it, for those few amazing months.

 

“It’s Just Food”

That’s what “they’d” say/ Whoever the fuck “they” are. Eating with my host family has become awkward. I love everything about them aside from the food bit. Perhaps it’s my ED talking though I’m inclined to think otherwise considering my friends here have similar experiences without an ED. It’s possible that people here are just unbelievably strict regarding food and are somewhat hoarders in the food department. Anyway for me, the unsettling feelings around mealtime began about one month ago when I was restricted to a soft-food/liquid diet. I suppose because my host family was aware of this, I wasn’t “invited” to meal times. Though I imagine they had the best of intentions at heart, they likely didn’t want to tempt me with foods I’d be unable to consume.

When I decided fuck what the doctor says, I’ll eat whatever, things were still weird. Most nights I’d be around I wouldn’t be “invited” to dinner and meals were not cooked for me as had been in the previous weeks. I got sadly and uncomfortably use to this process and resorted to eating alone later, snacking on foods in the basement where my room is, or just not eating and missing meals.

Tonight, when I came home, I was asked if I’d be eating with them and I responded that I would. About 30 minutes later, I heard the usual plates clanking and laughter coming from upstairs. I believed that even though they acknowledged my presence for the meal, somehow they had forgotten. I began to snack on pretzels and cheese dip. About ten minutes later, my host dad opened the basement door and pops his head through, asking me if I was coming up to eat. Startled, and with half a pretzel stick in my mouth, I shook my head “yes”.

I was mortified, to the point that you’d think he caught me doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, or something horribly inappropriate (insert fantasy here). Knowing or thinking that the adults upstairs (we have guests over) would be at least slightly inebriated (judging by sounds and speech heard), I decided that in order to be present at the table in the least uncomfortable way, I’d chug some sparkling cider alcohol prior to making my way upstairs, ease the nerves a bit you know?

Problem is, I don’t have a drinking problem, and rarely have I used alcohol to make myself feel better. The fact that I thought about drinking and followed through with the act makes me a bit uneasy, not now at least emotionally but in my logical mind. I felt embarrassed to be indulging in food that I “fixed it by indulging in alcohol. That does not clear things up. It’s just way messier. That is not normal, and it is not ok that I feel entirely embarrassed caught in the act of eating.

If only it were that easy. I finally have a family I believe would understand what I’m going through. My host family cares about me more than my biological family can and ever will. Friends and mental health professionals have suggested I open up to them and tell them that I struggle with eating, well that I have an eating disorder. It’s not that I’m afraid they won’t get it. It’s that I know it hits too close to home for them. My host brother (who lives away from the house with his fiance and son) had a serious girlfriend a few years back who struggled with what sounds like anorexia. When my host mom began describing the situation a few months back, I felt her heartache for her son and this girl. Things didn’t work out between them, I believe because of her eating disorder.

When I began treatment this summer a few occurrences are necessary to mention. Days before entering my first treatment facility, I had an anaphylactic reaction. At the time, I didn’t panic; it was actually a nurse at the school health center who flipped out more than I did. I calmly reassured her as I swallowed allergy pills (of course that day they didn’t have Benadryl or the like).

A few days later, I was admitted inpatient for what was supposed to be a short (2-3 day stay) to make sure I was stable before heading to a residential facility for eating disorders connected with the hospital. About three days after the anaphylactic reaction and one day into treatment, the allergy resurfaced, my leg and throat swelled yet again. In my first eating disorder treatment, I was constantly utilizing liquids to meet my nutritional needs. I was given excessive amounts. If I finished any less than 100% of my meal, I was given one Ensure Plus (I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re a pro on calorie content, and there’s no need to trigger someone even more). If I finished less than 50% of my meal, I could look forward to having to down 2 Ensure Pluses. It was certainly not a liquid calorie for solid calorie equivalent. It was unfair and I was often noted as “not-compliant” with the meals and told I’d stay longer because of this.

Insurance company wasn’t on the same page as the treatment center. I wound up remaining inpatient for 9 days which I know isn’t long but remember I was only supposed to be there 2-3 days and then transfer to a residential facility. Upon an immediate, abrupt and unexpected discharge, (thank you insurance), I went to an extended day program not connected with the facility (since insurance refused to cover residential at that point) and began my journey there. Liquid supplements occurred every so often for me.

My body seems to always have expressed itself more than I can express my emotions. Lo and behold, I developed a bizarre condition where it felt like food was getting stuck and backing up in my throat. Like any “decent” treatment facility, a group therapist prompted our group as to if anyone else has experienced such a phenomenon and if so, raise hands. Every hand in the room was raised. It was all I could do to not scream out, “this is different, I just know it”, and so I sat silently, knowing within me that it was.

After weeks of having most meals finished with a Boost or Ensure Plus (this facility does calorie for calorie exchange so that’s a relief), the directors prompted me to seek medical advice. Not knowing where to turn, I decided if the problem’s in my throat, let me go to an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) doctor.

Upon seeing the doctor, he noted inflammation in my esophagus which he could tell by bubbling forming in the back of my throat. He sent me for a liquid swallow study. After the results came back, the doctor said there didn’t appear to be anything acutely wrong, yet referred me to the gastroenterologist. I scheduled an appointment for the following week.

Things were progressing pretty well in treatment, I was bringing up traumas and feeling them a little bit emotionally. This occurred after weeks of narcoleptic fits or “seizures” after delving into something emotional (I now can attribute this to traumatic stress release and the shaking wasn’t actually a bad aspect, it was my body’s was of discharging the negative energy). One night, after progressing to a lower level of care in IOP (Intensive Outpatient), I was having a regular conversation with other clients. I had switched mainly to liquids for the rest of the meal. This was a common occurrence and o one thought much of it at this point. As I was mid-sentence, I felt something come up my throat. At first, I thought it was something that used to occur. When I was 14/15, I would often have a clump (sorry for graphics) of what appeared to be semi-solid mucous come up my throat. I attributed this to anxiety at the time. However, as the object of this night was traveling up my throat, I quickly realized this was not the same. It was almost as if someone or something was trying to force me to vomit. Let me clarify- I have never engaged in vomit behaviors. I always knew my throat was sensitive and in this disorder, I wasn’t trying to kill myself.

I quickly got up from the table to find something to spit this into. Bathrooms are locked during meals, so I found a tissue and spit the thing out. Only later did I realize that it was undigested food. I sat weeping the rest of the meal, alone (as I was always a slow eater) and by then, people had finished their meals. My dietician happened to be sitting at the same table as me that night and said I should get an appointment with the gastro earlier than a few days from then. Long story short, after many procedures (some traumatic, some not), it was found that I have Jackhammer’s Esophagus or Hypercontractile Esophagus. Essentially, peristalsis doesn’t function as expected and succinctly for me as it does others. My esophagus contracts so frequently that it doesn’t allow food to move down as needed. The radiologist performing and evaluating one of the studies said “we don’t see this pattern of swallowing in your age group, we see it in 80 year-olds”.

I don’t feel special. I am quite certain (whether wishful thinking or not) that my physical problems are mostly related to the excessive traumas I’ve endured. It’s interesting to me that I develop a motility disorder while undergoing Eating Disorder Treatment. Rather than put my thoughts and feelings into words, my body speaks for me.

I care so much about my host family and how they’d be affected and perceive my eating disorder, that I can’t bear to let them in on this. They’ve already adjusted much on my motility disorder and buying foods I can bear with. At least, they managed that for a week or two. I feel like a burden already. I don’t want to hurt people who’ve shown me the most kindness anyone has ever shown me for extended periods of time.

So, I sit here and write this post as I hear the dishes clanking and the laughter emanating upstairs.

 

Considering I’ve never been a fan of lying, I have to set some things straight on here. I’m currently studying abroad and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve dealt with some major issues, all within the first few weeks of arriving. To make this readable, I won’t include the gritty details right now. I will sum it up as such:

-I found out the day before coming here that my brother was going to have brain surgery in a few weeks.

-Right before his surgery, my biological family insisted that I see him, didn’t believe I was studying abroad and harassed me about not seeing him.

-I asked my biological father (the only person I talk to on occasion to not tell anyone that I was here as I didn’t think it would ameliorate the situation.

-Said person did in fact break his word and tell people I was studying abroad. His relaying this fact did more harm than good as I had initially suspected.

-Prior to the surgery, my grandpa became sick suddenly and died. When I asked my father if I should attend the funeral, his e-mail reply was “no need to disrupt school”.

-No one told my brother about my grandpa dying until after his surgery. My dad didn’t even make it to his own dad’s funeral.

It’s no surprise that my motility disorder only worsened throughout my time here. I fucking hate food. Every single time I eat I either become nauseated, regurgitate food, throw up (unintentionally) or have gurgling in my esophagus and stomach indicative of the spasms.

Over the break, I hope to see some therapists and doctors that I had over the summer prior to coming here. My friends already say I should be in treatment again. I know that I do not want to end up in the cycle of treatment. Plus, I’ve been offered an amazing opportunity to extend my studies here doing a neuroscience internship at a hospital. These sorts of opportunities don’t just happen upon someone in the States, they are hard to come by. When presented with the possibility that I could become sicker while here, my honest response is “so what?”.

Bluntly put, I’d rather die at least trying to get ahead in life then return to my basically nothing life in the States. I’m sick of missing out on opportunities because I’m physically or emotionally unwell. I crave having a family and the host family I have here is the closest thing I’ve experienced to a “normal” family. I just have no desire to appear sad in front of them or express my negative emotions. I judge myself, thinking that they expect me to be level-headed because of my age. After all, their two older kids are younger than me and out of the house and supporting themselves from what I know. One even has a two year old. I believe in my twisted world I must come across as stable and without issues and this is how I portray myself to most everyone.

Sometimes, I see the school psychologist and lately she’s been questioning my mood. I know she can pick up on my sadness even though I assure her repeatedly that I’m FINE. FINE = fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Yeah, I’m fine. I don’t want my experiences to be halted by psychiatric treatment. Not here, not now. I just don’t know how much longer I can keep this jig up.