This is what you would have witnessed had you come with me to get my exploratory esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) this week.
“Put these on” she said as she reached into an old blue locker and handed me a plaid pastel hospital gown and a pair of aqua socks, “I will be back to get you in a minute.” I waked into a small pastel carpeted stall, and drew the pastel curtain closed behind me. There must have been a sale on pastel décor when this office was being furnished; nearly everything looked like an Easter egg. With my body resting on the pale blue wall and my black hair covering my face, I offered up a prayer. I did not know exactly what to pray for; I did not want them to find anything wrong with me, but, on the same token, I wanted answers. Sometimes you do not have to know what you want when you pray, because God knows and will work it out for His good.
After I changed, the nurse came to take me to my bed. This is when the terror started to sink in—this was happening whether I wanted it to or not. The nurse tucked me into the white sheets like some sort of sterile burrito, hooked me up to a computerized blood pressure cuff, slipped a heart monitor on my finger, pulled up the railings so I did not tumble out of bed, and started an IV in the crook of my arm. Then came the questions:
“So, why are we doing the EGD today, Rhea?”
Is it not on the paper? “Well, my food has been ruminating, I have had horrible heartburn and the belching makes me sound like a dirty trucker.” I often find myself using humor to disguise my fear and shyness.
She laughed, “OK, well, I am going to go through a list of symptoms and you stop me when one of them applies to you. Heartburn?”
“Excessive gas or bloating?”
“Nausea or vomiting?”
“Well,” I hesitated, “I have an eating disorder,” I hate saying the words out loud. “And one of the behaviors associated with that is purging. Plus the whole rumination of the food thing I have got going on here.”
“So you’re bulimic?”
“No, I have a diagnosis of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I purge, but do not binge. I restrict, but I am not underweight. I do not fit into a specific label of eating disorder as most people would view it.”
“But that isn’t active anymore, right? Like, you’re not doing that anymore?”
I cannot understand why, but I got very defensive of my ED at that moment. I felt stereotyped—which is something I find that I often feel due to my EDNOS diagnosis. For so long I felt like a fraud as an eating disordered person due to my EDNOS diagnosis, and assume other people feel the same way about me. My ED brain immediately fed me the message (pun intended) that she asked if my ED was still active because I was so fat; like it was unbelievable that I would have an ED. I replied, “I am in recovery, but it is still very much an active part of my life that I am trying to stop.”
“But you see someone for that right? You’re getting help?”
No lady, I thought I would give it a go on my own…seriously? No one can go it alone when recovering. “Yes, I see a therapist every week and it is going quite well.” I was so upset at the way I perceived I was being treated that I do not recall any of the other questions. I know the questions stopped however, because she laid a warm blanket on me, closed yet another pastel curtain around me and called the doctor in to explain the procedure.
Next, my doctor pulls back the pastel curtain and sits on the end of my bed. “So, what are we doing today?” he asks.
Really? No one here knows why I am here today? Do you not write things down in that chart you carry around? Again, I explained my symptoms and why the test was being done. I said, “My food is ruminating on its own unrelated to my purging.”
“So you’re bulimic?” I just gave up on explaining and said yes. Why would it matter anyway? Clearly no one here understands EDs. The nurse stayed after the doctor left and started in with more inane commentary.
“If only we could get you to like yourself. Then you wouldn’t have to do this” she said, clearly referring to my eating disorder, “I wish I had enough willpower to have an eating disorder, but I love food too much. And this is coming from a fat person, but you’re not fat. I hope you’re seeing a professional about this. This isn’t something you can do your whole life. If you would just accept yourself this could all be behind you.” She went on and on without much acknowledgment on my part. Finally she got the hint that her insensitive comments and incorrect perceptions on EDs had struck a nerve and I did not want to talk about it anymore. Rather than let us sit there in silence waiting for the doctor to return, she decided to strike up another round of thrilling conversation. After rechecking the blood pressure cuff that was cutting off my circulation, she grabbed my wrist. “Whose initials are those?”
“No one’s actually. I think it is somewhat tacky to write other people’s names on your body. That word is oo-do-ge. It is the Cherokee word for hope.”
“Oh are you Cherokee?”
No lady, I just thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to put Cherokee words that do not mean anything to me on my wrist? So I did.” I nodded and thought it was good that she did not see the NEDA symbol on my ankle.
“That’s cool. Do you know you can get scholarships for being Indian?”
“Yes, unfortunately, I do not have a record of my Cherokee lineage so I was unable to apply for those scholarships despite my being 1/8th Cherokee.” The angrier I get the more technical my vocabulary gets. I tend to try to stay level-headed during arguments by trying to find the right words to express my anger in a productive way.
Finally the doctor came in, gave me the sedation and I did not have to listen to their conversations anymore.
I woke up in yet another pastel room sitting next to my cousin Kylie. She, thankfully, was able to take me home that day and get me out of that doctor’s office.
I do not remember the doctor coming in after the procedure thanks to the drug induced stupor into which I was put. However, he gave me a paper with some pictures and said there was nothing wrong with me. The paper read “It is likely that her history of bulemia is contributing her to symptoms.” Seriously, bulEmia…he cannot even spell it!
So I left the office with a huge medical bill, doctors/nurses who do not understand EDs, huge blood bruises on my arm where the blood pressure cuff was too tight, and no answers as to why my food is ruminating. On the bright side, nothing is wrong with me.
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you”