Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just a little story

They've got to go somewhere.

When I was in treatment, vitals were taken in the middle of the night, in shifts.  You were assigned to one of a few wee-hours half-hour timeslots.  I don't remember exactly what the times were, but it was something like 4:00, 4:30, 5:00. People had strong feelings about which timeslot they preferred, but it wasn't like you got to pick.  Staff would come and wake you.  Every night, in the middle of the night.  It would be freezing.  Freezing.  You were allowed to bring your blanket down with you, to wait outside the office where they did vitals.  It behooved you to get up: the sooner you were downstairs, the  further ahead in line you might be, and the sooner you might be back in bed.

So I remember a silent line of girls and women, swaddled in blankets, some lying curled up trying to sleep with their heads on their arms or the pillows they'd brought from bed, blinking and squinting in the fluorescent light of the industrial-carpeted hallway, groggy and grumpy and just wanting it to be over.

On face, this seems like an insane policy.  Sleep is important, and waking up fifty women in the middle of the night is for sure a pain, to say nothing of the weirdo hours you are foisting on your practitioners.  But it did something sort of remarkable, which was that it isolated that event.  You didn't spend the day thinking about your weight, because by the time you woke up again from your second sleep shift, that had happened yesterday, and you didn't spend your day anticipating or fearing your weight, because that wasn't until tomorrow.  And you were barely conscious of the event itself.  It was like it hadn't even happened.  In retrospect, it seems kind of brilliant.

It worked.  I don't remember what my weights were in treatment—I think I saw them at least sometimes, but I couldn't say with certitude what they were, couldn't really even ballpark them with confidence.  I don't even remember what-all information they were collecting.  Weight, pulse, other stuff, I forget.  If you were orthostatic—and I sometimes was—they would hand you a little cup of Gatorade, which is always disgusting but is particularly disgusting in the middle of the night.  I don't actually know what "orthostatic" means right this second, though I know it has something to do with blood pressure, but I remember this word and this procedure and drinking that goddamn Gatorade from a paper cup in the middle of the night.

And sitting in that hallway in the middle of the night, the silent line of half-sensate blanket piles, is one of the images from treatment that stays with me.

No comments: