15 October 2013

Once Again Spared

And so it was, that she, having waited long and endured patiently, realized and obtained what God had promised. Hebrews 6:15

                They say that when you give up everything: dreams, ambitions and all, that God then has the chance to bring beauty into your life. Why is it that we—stubborn, insufficient and wholly incompetent beings—are convinced to know best? After today, I have never been more convinced that God is in control, even if we wholeheartedly run away from His mercy in order to dwell in our sin. Through scars inflicted by legalism, I’ve always believed God would only accept me if I followed His commandments “to the tee”, living in false perfection and unabridged pride; I also believed pain was a result of imperfection: a punishment for falling short of God’s glory, which we are all destined to do. Through these scars, it’s been immensely difficult for me to accept God’s love after believing I’d never been worthy, which is true yet the reason for the blood shed on the Cross. I’ve been running away, fearing the extent of His punishment after the immense extent of my sins, when all He wants is for me to turn back, running like a little child into His loving and protective arms of love. Today, as I sat in my hospital bed, discouraged from hearing the news that I can’t yet be discharged, God showed me just what He means by forgetting our pasts and merely wanting to drench His children in love, mercy and beautiful profits. One thing I’ve been called to give up is my job as a nurse tech in the ICU, which was an amazing experience but just too much for me to handle right now, due to the high stress, responsibilities, and expectations of nursing school as well as fighting for my life against the lethal demons of anorexia nervosa and suffering physically from its effects on my body. As I waited to hear back from my supervisor, with anxiety building with each second, I was convinced this would be a disaster, affecting any future employment I may seek out. However, after listening to a voice-mail having come during my consultation with my doctor, I was absolutely blown away. The voice-mail was from my current supervisor in the ICU, saying she completely understands my situation and is willing to take me off of all schedules, without having to hand in my two week notice; she was sorry to see me go, and even offered to return my job back should I ever desire to come back, since I’d been “such a good addition to their staff with my optimism, bubbly attitude, hard work, quick learning & willingness to fulfill any task, as well as, apparently, many families and patients complimenting my care and positively energetic spirit”. I am still in awe of God’s mercy and grace, as nothing I have done is worthy of such credit and acknowledgement.

               Yesterday, as my physician came into my room to see how I was doing, she told me some immensely eye-opening facts, helping me to realize just how lucky I am to be alive. She told me that never, in all her years of practice with eating disorders, had she seen anyone so sick from anorexia nervosa; had I waited one more day to come in, I most likely would not have survived. She also said she’d never been so scared for a person in her life and hopes to never have to experience that again; she was torn as whether or not to send me to the ICU, which would only give me immediate IV fluids, or to send me to the regular floor which had less supervision should something happen but provided for a longer stabilization period. She explained to me that normally in anorexia, peripheral hypothermia and cyanosis is normal, but with me it was central, or all over (as indicated by thick lanugo covering my body, but especially my back), indicating my body was so malnourished that all systems were shutting down to preserve and shunt the energy to vital organs such as my brain and heart. She also explained that the reason my heart rate is normal when I’m dehydrated is because my body has learned to survive off of dehydration; now that they've hydrated me, my body has gone into panic mode, dropping my heart rate into the thirties. Through all of this stress I've put my body through, my heart has been affected, and so I may always have a low heart rate, averaging in the forties rather than the normal range of 60-100. My blood pressure has also failed to normalize, despite the large amount of IV fluids, re-hydration and nutrition, which is also a concern. So, I’ve been here a total of seven days tomorrow, and in order to be discharged, my heart rate must maintain within the forties, no nighttime episodes of drastic heart rate decelerations can occur as they have been, I must gain or at least begin to gain the weight I lost since being taken off of IV fluids, I must eat 100% of my meal plan (regardless if I like what they send up or not) and my blood pressure must remain normalized for 24 hours. They’ve also kept me longer due to starting me on a new med which has a high risk of toxicity, and due to my low weight, they want to monitor to make sure the right dose is found and make sure I don’t get overdosed with a toxic amount of the medicine in my blood. So, all in all, it’s not all bad; even though I’m beyond tired of confinement within these tight corners of a hospital room, staring at the same five walls for nearly seven days now, I’ve learned many irreplaceable lessons I’d never experienced had I not decided to make the right choice: no, not the easiest choice by any means, but instead the exact opposite—the choice to be real and seek help, losing all control in order to gain my life. Through this experience, I’ve seen many nurses and have discovered just which nurses I never want to be like; they've taught me how not to take care of and treat patients; but then there are others who have showed me how a nurse was intended to act: to care for patients in a selfless way, treating them kindly even if they may not deserve it, checking in frequently to see if they need anything, maintaining a cheerful attitude while serving, and doing the things most would consider lowly or undesirable. Each nurse has taught me something, both good and bad, allowing me to build upon my own nursing philosophy and how I want to treat patients and approach nursing in general. Also, through experiencing the philosophy of yet another physician, I have discovered what does and most of all, what doesn't work for eating disorders and can use this information in the future to help develop the best possible approach to eating disorder treatment.  Eating disorders still remain absolutely misunderstood, overlooked, minimized, stereotyped and belittled, so my goal as a medical provider is to use my own knowledge and experiences, combining it all with current evidence based practice in order to develop a protocol or customized approach to treatment, in hopes that eating disorders can be eradicated or at least better understood and treated. Right now, in this current day and age, as I suffer to find a treatment team that actually understands eating disorders but is also affordable, I’ve come to find that Ohio and even the United States in general really doesn't have many options, at least quality ones. As eating disorder prevalence only continues to increase, this needs to change; we cannot afford to offer poor care to suffering individuals and expect them to ever walk in freedom. What we need is a proven, conceptualized, holistic and most importantly faith based approach so that those suffering don’t have to be hospitalized time and time again, as I have experienced. We need to get to the root of the matter: the heart of the disease in order for any progress to be made. I believe God is still teaching me, through my past, current and future experiences, exactly what this approach resembles because He is, after all, the Healer of all and holds the key to all impenetrable locks. Maybe this is part of why I’ve been called into nursing: to provide care and advocate for those suffering from the life-threatening illness of an eating disorder. All I know is that wherever He leads, I will boldly follow, even if it brings me through more pain than this world may ever comprehend. The pain will be well worth it, as the empathy, compassion and knowledge I’ve gained and continue to gain far exceeds the temporary sensations of traumatizing pain. 

11 October 2013

All-Consuming Pain

“When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go, and just live in the moment” (Unknown).
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in” (Unknown).
 “You validation of beauty and sense of acceptance is not the width of your waist or the number you see on the scale” (Unknown).
Pain may be the only constant in life—the one thing I am incessantly destined for. How does it feel to live a moment without it, I continuously wonder, and sometimes am left terrified at the thought of going even one instant apart from my one lifetime companion. To some, pain may be a nuisance or even terrifying, but to my cruelly wounded mind, it is nothing but expected. As I sit here in the hospital bed, once more hooked up to a myriad of wires and tubes, I wonder how it feels to live a life of freedom—free from these chains they’ve inflicted upon me and even worse, the antagonistic chains I’ve freely inflicted upon myself. I know I’ve lived in freedom once before, but right now this pain has become so normal that all sense of freedom has been drowned out by the tumultuous noise of life.
On Wednesday morning, after sustaining multiple days of what we think to be the stomach virus which forbid any nutrients to enter my already malnourished system, I called my PCP (primary care physician) to see if, by any miracle, there would be any openings available for me to take; it turned out there was one available—within a half hour. Needless to say, I rushed into the shower, dried my hair in record speed, and threw on some clothes while my mom so graciously packed my bags for what we figured to be a long hospital stay. I was feeling so severely nauseous, lightheaded, and lethargic that I could scantly move but even a centimeter without having to sit back down for rest, making sure I didn’t lose consciousness. Once I arrived at the hospital office, I was directly sent to the laboratory for STAT labwork which would then be analyzed to determine the severity of my condition and the treatment regime indication. Once put in a room, I plopped my severely compromised body onto the analyzing table and lay in “fetal position” until the doctor came in. She entered in a hurry, along with a young male medical student, and frantically informed me I’d lost five more pounds; she then left the male student to examine me & ask more questions than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time, while the lab results pended. Once his assessment was complete and all details filled in, he and the doctor discussed the findings and came up with a treatment plan. They then entered with news that I was severely, severely dehydrated, malnourished as indicated by peripheral cyanosis (bluish purple skin), lanugo (fine hair found on premature infants) covering my body, dead skin (from my body shunting its blood supply to only the most essential organs) that just stayed on my back rather than peeling off since it took too much energy of which was already maxed out, dangerously low blood pressure (hypotension) and heart rate (bradycardia), dry skin and unquenchable cold to name but a few, and critically low electrolytes—the most important, potassium, at a low of 1.89 (normal is 3.5-5.0). They then informed me I’d have to be admitted, so I was wheeled up to the all too familiar inpatient floor of which I’ve earned my status as a regular and settled into my very own room. Immediately I was hooked up to telemetry, since my potassium was such a life-threatening low, and three attempts were taken to start an IV on my nearly nonexistent veins—all of which fell short. A Doppler was then sought after to find a sufficient vein by ultrasound, since none were visible or even palpable due to severe dehydration; once a vein was found, a 22-gauge catheter was threaded into it & maneuvered until blood returned into the hub, indicating proper placement. I nearly jumped for joy when the nurse announced she’d gotten the IV in, as they’d already blown up three veins and were running out of options. My IV fluid was changed literally ten times before determining exactly what my suffering body needed, and once the final decision was made, the bag was spiked and the line primed in order to prevent air embolism—a potentially fatal complication of IV therapy. Finally, once the IV was running and all doctors had finished their many questions, I could relax, only to be told I’d be NPO (nothing by mouth) for the next twenty four hours in order to allow my nauseous belly time to rest; this was the worst possible news, as I hadn’t been able to keep anything down for three days already and could feel my intestines churning in agony and desperation for even but a sip of fluid and my lips nearly sealed shut due to dehydration.
Finally, late Thursday morning, the Dr. allowed me to eat solid foods, but there was a catch: Id no longer be able to choose what I wanted to eat, but instead all decisions would be made by a licensed dietitian of whom had no idea what I liked or disliked; so in other words, all sense of control was stripped from me and literally no decisions to be made while admitted, which is my worst possible nightmare. Not even meal times are allowed to be determined by me, as I literally have no say in anything and have never been more frustrated; I’m supposed to gain weight, but how is that possible when the majority of the food sent to me tastes like trash? Each time the tray comes, anxiety grips me like a ton of bricks, absolute panic overtaking me only to feel as if I could literally decompose from a heart attack; the unknown terrifies me and the absolute loss of control leaves me wanting to scream, as all sense of dignity is adamantly stripped from my being. I’ve already gained over eight pounds from IV fluid which leaves me wanting to curl up in a ball and die, as this is an anorexics worst nightmare, now convinced I’ll “balloon up” after but a miniscule increase in calories. I am trying with all of my strength to fight these lies, because I know I cannot live like this much longer, but the urges to restrict just keep getting stronger and stronger. “There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore” (Unknown). When will this war end and will I able to eat half a sandwich in a normal amount of time rather than over sixty minutes? When will a milkshake touch my lips without trembling overtaking my compromised and fear-absorbed body? When will I allow myself water rather than relying on this needle in my vein for hydration? Will life ever be normal again, or will this hospital bed remain my safety net forever? When will I learn to put the needs of my mind, body and soul first rather than the happiness of others?
I recently started a job in the ICU as a nurse technician, in hopes it’d be the answer to my prayers and the key to happiness—all out of complete and absolute selfishness, I’ve been there for about a month now, but have never felt so incomplete and unsure; after about a week into it, I felt a still small voice telling me this was not for me, but I stubbornly ignored it, convinced only I knew best. However, each week I’ve found myself becoming increasingly less joyful and more stressed due to the strenuous demands of constantly lifting obese and comatose patients, running back and forth to meet each patient’s needs, wiping incontinent butts, stocking medical supplies, answering phones—the list goes on and on, yet there is only one of me. I find myself working more than I ever signed up for, with nearly no time left for schoolwork, which is my main priority, yet I don’t want to give this up since it’s good money and I’m a poor college student as well as informed a nurse tech job is the best thing I can do for myself in terms of experience. Despite all this, I now in my heart my malnourished body can’t take all of the drug-resistant microorganisms and heavy lifting in the ICU as well as the constant restriction of food and water I allow myself due to the constant chaos—my health is on the line and a decision must be made. I can’t afford to lose my health nor my passion for nursing, which I find is rapidly evaporating with every moment spent at work. God, I think I know what you want me to do, but how will I be sure? I’m terrified of losing control yet again, even though I know from the past only You bring true fulfillment and meaning. Please make certain which path to take and soften the hearts of my employers so as to understand what You’ve called me to do, if this truly is Your will. Lead me to something better and restore my joy, for its nearing nonexistence with each passing moment. Lead me to all You’ve called me to and help me to live in absolute victory and freedom. 

01 August 2013

Once Again Captive

“Relapse is inevitable. It will happen. It is a normal and necessary part of recovery. I made it a point to learn something from each relapse, and I grew stronger and stronger. I had many relapses and I am still not perfect. Ed will not let you walk away easily. But no matter how hard he fights, you can walk away. When he blocks you, step around him and keep moving” (Jenni Shaeffer, Life Without Ed).

As much as I want to deny it, or run away in absolute shame, I know that I must embrace reality, no matter how painful, in order to move forward. This gruesome battle between good and evil seems to increase in intensity within the realms of my overlooked and abused mind, convincing me I will never walk in true freedom, no matter how relentlessly I fight against the hater of my soul. As previously mentioned, I was admitted to the hospital on my twenty-first birthday for severe symptoms related to anorexia nervosa, including but not limited to severe dehydration, dangerously low serum potassium and other electrolyte levels, heart rate in the forties rather than the minimal standard of sixties, etc. Five days of stabilization, requiring close monitoring during the adamantly tormenting process of refeeding, as well as frequent drug administration and IV therapy to achieve hydration became “the norm”.
Weight gain was inevitable, no matter how hard my determined and stubborn self fought against it. As horrific as each hospital stay was, a part of me longed for its very presence because I was no longer the one in charge—the one fighting against ED. Each calorie didn’t have to be counted, meal plan manipulated, or meal cooked because that was all done for me; all I had to do was eat. Another perk was the constant attention, care, and pampering of the nurses who reminded me I am worthy of being cared for, no matter how doggedly I believe elsewise. The constant attention was something I craved, as in my eating disorder I’d become invisible, and only longed to become more nonexistent as each pound rolled off my skeleton-like physique; the constant assessments of the doctors and nurses reminded me of how sick I truly had become, even though ED tried to convince me I was in perfect health & they were only exaggerating. The pain of an IV filtrating into my veins was only but a reminder of the exhaustive thirst I’d endured up to this point, as well as the unrestricted hunger I’d become accustomed to as well as longed for. How could my mind be so twisted yet make sense all at the same time? Anorexia nervosa is a disease which still mystifies professionals, as it truly does make no sense to the human mind; once a person becomes entangled in its deadly web, it becomes nearly impossible to break free—especially on your own, as I’ve come to experience. As shameful as this is for me to admit, I must unveil my most hidden secrets in order to walk in freedom; two weeks ago, after neglecting my body’s vital needs for far too long, I was hospitalized yet again at my lowest weight since Remuda Ranch, of which I was nearly dead. 

During the heat advisory, I’d failed yet again to listen to the expert’s advice and refused even a sip of water because I was determined to lose weight, even though my body was already shutting down and literally eating itself. Lanugo (fine hair) covered my nearly nonexistent frame in order to keep my emaciated body warm during the scorching hundred-degree weather, and goose-bumps camouflaged the paper-thin layer of skin covering each bone. Why would someone so severely malnourished and obviously compromised want to lose even more weight; this is the confounding mystery anorexia nervosa presents—the mystery of why no weight loss is ever enough. Part of this may be because one entrenched within its grips can no longer see themselves accurately but instead sees an entirely distorted image staring back. Another reason is due to the undernourishment, the mind can no longer think straight but rather becomes chaotic and the urges nearly impossible to silence; the more one gives in to the urges, the harder it is to break free.
 
After staying out in the scorching heat for far too long, without even but a sip of water or single crumb to eat, my body went a-wire & extreme nausea, lightheadedness as well as other symptoms overtook me; I could no longer walk without darkness veiling my eyes nor stand up without extreme nausea gripping my vacant stomach. After seeing my primary physician, she merely had to open the door to see how miserable I felt; afraid to move me, she ordered for a wheelchair to be brought and a room prepared as soon as possible, before I passed out or even worse, suffered a heart attack. As I limply lay on the exam table, anxiety gripped my heart at the thought of the upcoming horror story that’d now become my life: hospitalization and loss of control. Yes, a part of me was relieved to be stripped of control, but the other part was going crazy at the thought of the rapidly approaching weight gain I couldn’t escape. Once the nurse brought the wheelchair into the room, I was hauled up to the sixth floor to what would become my home for the next five or six days; as I rode along the halls, familiar faces greeted me and I only wanted to fade away into the atmosphere, as absolute shame overtook me. My presence had become familiar, as the nurses now knew me by name and I’m sure knew my story by heart through the countless hospital admissions I’d endured. After changing into the “designer” hospital gown, I crawled into the bed, which had never felt so good to my lethargic self; countless questions were asked in order for a history to be completed, even though the majority was already in the computer system due to past hospitalizations. Once a physical was performed, an IV was strategically manipulated into my withered veins and a blood sample obtained to determine the exact extent of harm I’d so mercilessly inflicted upon myself. 
Normal saline was given at the maximum rate my gaunt body would allow, and a dietitian requested to monitor and increase my nutrition. Once the lab results came back, potassium was administered into my diminished veins, as well as countless oral medications administered to begin to resolve the highly concentrated serum osmolarity resulting from dehydration and malnutrition. Calories became mandatory, no matter how much fear each thought brought to my ravaged mind—the battlefield of this disease; each day called for a slight increase in calories in order to slowly reefed my impoverished body and avoid refeeding syndrome—a potentially lethal occurrence. The dietitian then entered with a set meal plan for me to complete, but no matter how long I glared at the menu, nothing sounded desirable but instead entirely repulsive. A psychiatrist was consulted to evaluate and prescribe medications to aid in the thought distortions and urge severity, since those I’d currently been taking were no longer effective due to being underweight; while evaluating me, the psychiatrist informed me I possessed the makings of “the perfect anorexic as well as the perfect nurse” since those two were somehow intertwined through the extreme perfectionism I’d retained.

Once my body reached homeostasis, around five days later, and eating somewhat normalized, I was released to do the work on my own, in the luxury of my very own home, which was anything but easy; two days after being released, I was given a checkup which would later become my breaking point. After being congratulated by my treatment team for my hard work and weight maintenance, I caught a glimpse of the anxiety-provoking and worth-determining number: my weight; once the horror of such a rapid weight gain somewhat faded, the all-consuming cycle of weight loss and manipulation began. A week later, after doing everything within my power to lose this weight plus more, I stepped backwards on the scale only to do so a second time to make sure the number was indeed correct. The dietitian, formidably alarmed, ordered for vitals to be taken ASAP while she attempted to solve this seemingly impossible mystery of drastic weight loss. Suddenly, all of my hard work turned into regret, as I embraced the possibility of yet another hospitalization and unadulterated embarrassment; razor sharp bones protruding through the paper-thin layer of skin no longer sounded appealing but rather shameful and demoralizing. Somehow, I managed to avoid hospitalization, which leaves me where I am now: stuck. I want so badly to recover, but the weight gain required and meal plan designed seem insurmountable; food has once again become my enemy and the feeling of razor sharp bones my pride and joy. Surrender is the only way for this disease to be reversed and freedom possible; I must surround myself with God’s truth and demon-fleeing presence of which holds the key to freedom. In order to complete nursing school, I must first take care of myself, which seems to be the hardest part; I’ve been struggling on my own to figure out how, but have come to realize that I was made for accountability and am praying for a consistent therapist to encourage me with truth on a weekly basis. We need each other in this battle against good and evil, and I am certainly no exception. So now, risking rejection, I have shown but a glimpse into the deepest hidden parts of my soul, consumed by shame; I pray that through my vulnerability and brokenness God would bring freedom and grace rather than punishment and captivity. “Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in never having been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places” (Unknown).
On the bright side, maybe this brokenness and pain will be used to make me into the best nurse possible-- a kind, compassionate, empathetic and selfless nurse who sees life through the eyes of a grateful and awe-inspired child. "The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all" (Walt Disney Company). 

25 April 2013

The Thorn in My Flesh

“I am forever engaged in a silent battle in my head over whether or not to lift the fork to my mouth, and when I talk myself into doing so, I taste only shame. I have an eating disorder” (Jena Morrow, “Hollow: An unpolished tale).

I sit here in complete confusion, wondering how I let myself get this low again. As I look at the IV in my left forearm, feeling the intense burning of a high concentration of potassium diluted IV fluid flowing into my shriveled veins and looking at the monitor showing each beat of my overlooked and abused heart through the five leads placed on my chest, I wonder how I could do this to myself once again? My mind had forgotten the tormenting and nearly unbearable pain re-feeding requires—there’s no way around it, as hard as I may try. Extreme bloating, a desiccated stomach now stretched to its limits, stomach pains from a body so used to starvation and unsure of what to do with the now foreign food, orthostatic hypotension (blood pressure drop and subsequent heart rate increase upon standing up), constipation, and infinitely more complications overwhelm my frail body. Why would I do this to myself after knowing from previous experience the absolute torture called re-feeding? The torture doesn’t end there, as it’s not only a physical battle but also emotional. Raising the fork to eat seems far beyond my ability as I glare at the food with eyes that could pierce through the strongest tower, thoughts race through my mind reminding me I’ve failed to meet my (ED’s) goal which only increases in unrealistic expectations, forcing myself to swallow seems impossible yet I have to do it—there’s no other choice but a NG (nasogastric) tube forced down my throat directly into my stomach. Why does food—even the very thought—bring such engrossing fear to my emaciated body? Why does the sensation of piercing hunger pains and the feeling of razor sharp bones piercing through the paper thin layer of skin bring satisfaction to my twisted mind?  I see the doctors pacing the floor and the nurses pushing carts with electronic health records, reminding me I am safe—I don’t have to count every calorie, plan every meal with absolute perfection, or measure each ounce to the tiniest mill equivalent because it’s all done for me; all I have to do is eat, which seems to be the hardest part far beyond my own insufficient power. How did I get here, in this prison once called home—hooked up to innumerous cords and wires camouflaging my wasted body?

Monday morning, I awoke with excitement to turn twenty-one years old, but this excitement was superficial and short-lived after recalling I had yet to get through an exhaustive nursing exam. Days upon end had been spent studying for this comprehensive exam yet I felt as if I’d learned nothing—my malnourished mind failed to retain the information to its optimal ability since I failed to feed it for days upon end. How much more of a hypocrite could I be: instructing patients to take care of themselves, therefore promoting optimal health, while at the same time intently abandoning and even compromising my own health? Once the test was done, I could finally breathe—the crippling stress once sucking the life from within me now vanished. There was one more thing I had to do before celebrating my long-anticipated twenty-first birthday: see the doctor for a physical exam. Due to the constant stress of nursing school as well as tightly-gripped perfectionism and perpetual sickness from a compromised immune system, I have lost a significant and absolutely unhealthy amount of weight, which has consistently only kept dropping; to help me gain back the weight, which is further compromised by a history of severe anorexia nervosa, I have been seeing a primary physician and dietitian weekly but setbacks seem more prominent then progress. After my vitals were recorded and my weight confirmed, the doctor entered the room with a sense of urgent alarm encompassing her voice as well as expression: I’d lost even more weight, which seemed to be the continuous trend we’d been trying to avoid. After admitting my anorexic behaviors, I agreed to hospitalization since I so obviously needed help, for gaining weight was too much for my weak and vulnerable mind to embrace. As much as I wanted to celebrate my birthday, I knew my health was far more important and undeniably at risk. Immediately after I agreed, a room was prepared and all plans cancelled; memories of the past flooded my mind as I relived a past far too abominable for this world to ever know—a past devoted to the demon of anorexia nervosa residing within my vulnerable body. Upon entering the hospital room I’d call home for the next five days and reliving countless hospital admissions in that very room (or at least nearby, within the very same hospital), shame gripped my heart and fear overwhelmed me: I’d have to face head on the excruciating pain, both physical and emotional, of re-feeding once again and the absolute shame accompanying my condition. After being asked an illimitable amount of questions, I was admitted, for the first time in over two years, for the life-threatening disease of anorexia nervosa—the thorn in my flesh. Immediately, an IV was inserted into my truncated veins and blood was drawn to determine the exact extent of harm I’d inflicted; IV fluid was immediately hooked up and administered at a maximum pace to get some form of nutrition into my malnourished and dehydrated body. Once a steady infusion was being administered, a dietitian was sent to see me in order to promote adequate food intake by allowing me to partake in meal planning (undeniably my least favorite thing to do); the dietitian entered with a set format for each of the six meals required daily and gave me a menu to pick what I wanted to meet each requirement. My eyes, filled with adamant fear, glared straight through the menu and my mind whirled with anorexic thoughts as each food choice overwhelmed by compromised mind—why was this such torture? After managing to plan a day’s worth of meals, she decided to come back the next day since I was so obviously vanquished (mentally defeated).

Once the results of the blood test came back, I was confirmed severely hypokalemic with a serum concentration of 2.0 (the minimum range for survival is 3.5), as well as deficient of all other electrolytes. Extremely alarmed, the doctors decided to perform an EKG to evaluate my heart rhythm since it was very possible for an arrhythmia to be present, not to mention cease to beat since electrolytes are required to reside within a very small inflexible range for survival. The EKG came back positive for arrhythmia, so a Holter monitor was ordered to constantly monitor my heart rhythm, allowing for quick detection of any further abnormalities. Upon re-feeding, a dangerous heart rhythm began to appear on the screen and the doctor rushed into my room with alarm covering her face; my heart rhythm was severely abnormal, forming a nearly flat line which further indicated a compromised ability to pump blood to the rest of the body, which was also confirmed through decreased vital signs and cyanosis (blue skin color). Potassium was ordered in the highest concentration allowed in an IV (causing an intense burning/throbbing pain in my arm, where the IV was infusing) but could only be administered at a rate of 80 ml/hr. due to my malnourished condition; I was then ordered to eat 2 bananas and threatened to be directly sent to ICU had I not. After plugging my nose, I managed to get both bananas down to then avoid admission into the Intensive Care Unit but anger and fear overwhelmed me at the thought of consuming two bananas more than my planned 2200 calorie diet required. The dietitian also required me to eat at least one fun food (to an anorexic, there’s nothing fun about them) a day, so a mini birthday cake was ordered for me to enjoy, or more like antagonize over Constant medicine, obtaining vital signs every four hours, as well as frequent blood draws have been only but a glimpse of my reality these past few days: confined to a bed and enclosed within four walls of prison. The nurses here are absolutely outstanding and leave me longing to be one of them. As a student nurse, I find myself closely evaluating every aspect of my care, well on top of why each aspect is performed/included as well as alert to any mistakes. It’s strange to be the patient rather than the provider, as I’ve gotten so used to caring for patients during clinical practice, so a part of me is going stir crazy within these four walls, longing to be released.

These past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride, leaving me on stress overload due to the fast approaching nursing finals. Stress seems to bring out the worse of anorexia, as I’ve struggled to force even a crumb into my mouth without all-consuming fear overtaking me. The more weight I lose, the harder it is to think straight, so school only seems to get harder thus adding more stress—creating an overwhelming downward spiral I can’t pull myself out of; indeed, I’ve tried but things only seem to get undeniably worse since the war is far beyond my own feeble strength. The devil attacks me with relentless aggression, leaving me desperately gasping for breath within the whirlwind of his lies—why me? Ever since I’ve agreed to publish my story, he attacks me with daggers far too sharp for this world to comprehend, leaving me near nonexistence. A part of me has been angry God would allow such aggression, pain, and temptation, but I know that there is a purpose for every aspect of it and I must lose sight of the shore before I can cross the ocean. Whether I like it or not, I have to swim with all my might, upheld with the right hand of the One who holds me up. 

18 March 2013

Gain My Soul




"In my distress I called upon the LORD, Yes, I cried to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears.” 2 Samuel 22:7
Life is a battle field and I am in the center of it, surrounded by my enemies as they gruesomely fight for my soul. I’ve come to realize the devil absolutely hates me—in fact, this does not even begin to do justice what he truly thinks of me: a Beloved Daughter of Christ. His lies convince me I have nothing to offer, which in its truest essence is reality—but he’s forgotten the One who dwells within me, sustaining my feeble legs from absolute destruction. With Him by my side, I shall not be shaken but will run the race with unceasing and relentless determination because the world needs His love; I will not give up until my last breath has left my lungs because I was made, indeed created, to love—the most fulfilling duty of all. I know without a doubt the devil will relentlessly try to knock me down and annihilate my innocence but this does not stop me—I am not afraid when the God of Creation walks by my side 24/7. Time and time again the enemy has tried to kill me—to steal the very breath from my lungs—but has fallen short each and every time. Anorexia nervosa came close to stealing my life countless times, but God had other plans; a negligent semi driver nearly took the life from my hands merely weeks ago but I left the scene with only but a small abrasion—just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace with not even a scar. God’s plans are beautiful, no matter how dark they may appear on the outside because the darkness is only but a glimpse. I know without a doubt that the enemy is terrified of God’s story in me; as I write what God has brought me through, never in my life did I expect him (the devil) to attack me with such annihilating daggers—daggers too gruesome for this world to ever know, which is why I need God to fight for me—to shield my heart from absolute destruction. 

As I’ve already mentioned, several weeks ago I became the na├»ve victim of a gruesome car crash and was forced to say goodbye to my faithful car of five years, Duke. I’d been praying for a paint job for Duke, as over half of the paint had already effortlessly peeled off due to the scorching Florida heat we’d bought it from. Not only did I get a new paint job, but also a new car—one far superior to what I will ever deserve. For weeks, I searched hour upon hour for the right car within my limited price range but each time we viewed the internet images in person, reality hit—they were not in nearly as good of shape as previously claimed by the retailers, which brings to light the absolute deception of this fallen world. After giving up hope, God literally laid into my hands a car better than my greatest expectations—a deal that really was too good to be true. It took a lot of patience on all of our parts—my entire family and I—since we only had 2 vehicles to drive so subsequently had to rent a car I couldn’t even drive (no matter how much I begged) because I’m not yet 25. The wait and inconvenience was well worth the wait and I would gladly take being hit by a semi once again if it means drawing me back to God and experiencing His miracle-providing presence. This is proof that nothing—not even a semi—shall separate me from His perfect love. 

Nursing school has been as hectic as ever but lately my body has been to immunosuppressed to handle the all-consuming stress, which was most likely the initiating factor of my illness. For weeks on end my body has struggled to fight off disease, whether obtained from the clinical environment or my own home, and I am finally remembering what it feels like to be healthy again from the inside out. The flu has been deadly this year, but had I not been so sick, I probably wouldn’t have been able to receive the rest my body so desperately needed, which I fought against even then since taking it easy is absolutely foreign to me and what my stubborn adrenaline-filled soul hates most. This winter has been one of the most difficult ones yet, but through it I have learned countless lessons and received unending blessings. I recently applied for the Accelerated Nursing Program which would enable me to receive a Bachelor’s degree in three rather than four years but there was a catch—only a maximum of ten students could be accepted. My class, being the over-achievers that we are, set a record of the most applicants to the program, leaving me absolutely discouraged and hopeless—assured there was no chance of me getting in. After surrendering my selfish desires to God and accepting that this program wasn’t for me, I received a letter yesterday from the head nursing professor, congratulating me on acceptance as one of the top ten students into the Accelerated Nursing Program. It all seemed too good to be true: graduating nine months earlier than originally planned and spending next year working as a registered nurse—it all sounded intriguing but ultimately scary. In order to make this “dream” come true, I’d have to sacrifice everything: a job, friends, time, sanity, exercise, camp, summers, and ultimately…God. Nonstop stress and studying would leave little if any time for God, which I am not willing to sacrifice. Even though ultimately I would love to graduate nine months earlier, it’s not worth risking my life which ultimately is the case—risking the life of my soul destined for eternity. This decision to decline the opportunity is a beautiful story I want to share with you, so please read on! 

After telling God He could have everything—even my very dream of finishing school early—I was given a choice which tore me to pieces. Honestly, I had no idea what to do.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:15-20).”
Sunday morning, after hours of attempting to hear the still small voice within my heart, I requested prayer for my dilemma; immediately after my friend asked God to show me what to do, I heard a still voice saying, “Don’t do it, my child; you are too fragile—the unceasing stress will overtake you. Anyway, what is the rush—why are you always in such a hurry? Take time to enjoy life and to do what you love—to take time for you. When is the last time you’ve done that?” I was convicted—everything He’d just said was undeniably true: I have become a victim to the tight grips of speed, seeking its ever-present adrenaline rush rather than that of God. I am still young, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, and have my whole life as a nurse ahead of me—why rush into it? I want to be the absolute best nurse possible and cannot risk losing my soul—my sanity. As the world flies by around me at an absurd pace with stress overtaking, I am choosing to stay separate—to take my time and drench myself in knowledge because I’m only given one life to live, which has already been spared countless times. Rather than spending the summer with my nose in my nursing books, I am going to spend it at God’s feet, serving humbly in missions & strengthening my inner character—ultimately gaining my soul.

27 February 2013

In a Matter of Seconds


I’ll be honest…I’ve been running from God—running out of adamant anger & fear because I hate His plan; the inconceivable joy once inside me has vanished, with life-stealing perfectionism taking its rightful place. I know I shouldn’t, but a part of me is angry He’d call me to something so significantly over my head—then I hear His still small voice saying, “Chelsea, I have not called you to do this on your own; when you do, absolute frustrations and burn-out are well within your reach because you are not the exception, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself elsewise”. I’ll admit, I do like to think I am the exception to all the rules, as obvious in my quick return to competitive sports short after a seven hour spinal fusion and many other things I’ve so taken for granted; my stubborn will is my absolute downfall. As I see countless patients holding, indeed grasping desperately to the last speck of hope left, I question “Why me, God? What can I do?” As I devote all my time to studying yet my test scores seem to show elsewise due to the reality of many possible “correct” answers but only one chosen as the “most correct”, I wonder “Why even study?” Through today, as my life flashed before my very eyes, I am reminded that this life was not meant to be easy because if it were, there’d be no need for God; when life is comfortable & I feel I can get through it on my own nearly nonexistent strength, that’s when there’s a problem. God has not called me to live comfortably but instead recklessly devoted—yes, fully surrendered to Him.
God has strange ways of calling us back to Him but in all honesty, I don’t mind because at His feet is where I belong. This morning, as I prepared to receive my last required shot for clinical practice, never once did I anticipate what was about to happen. On my usual drive to the well-known Akron Children’s Hospital, the day seemed to be going smoothly—first red light that something must be wrong. It may have been pouring rain & utterly miserable outside, but I was used to these roads & thought nothing of it—just to be more alert. As I turned onto the last bend of the route I’ve worn a path on through my countless visits to Akron Children’s Hospital, it never occurred to me that I was about to literally leave my mark along this road. A huge semi with a flat bed and monstrous “backo” or “cherry-picker” strapped atop was diagonal to me in the other lane when before I knew it, he was crashing into my little and oh-so-faithful car Duke—the impact driving my head into the nearby window/dash where this truck & I had become one. The first thing that ran through my mind was, “No God, not now! I cannot afford to buy a new car with all of the skyrocketing nursing costs” & "I don't have time for this, but have to get home to finish my homework" (obviously oblivious to the fact He'd just spared my life); then fear overtook me as I’ve never been in an accident of any sort (aside from crashing our four-wheeler into a tree—oh yes, and the dreaded water pipe) and my family is literally thousands of miles away on vacation. Oh yes—and I was sitting along the dangerous streets of Akron, alone and vulnerable without any means of escape, and a large rough looking man heading my way. Shaking, I exited my car—the one he’d so effortlessly driven into & even atop the curb—with absolutely no idea what to do. I told him I’d never had anything like this happen before but I knew we needed to exchange information, so I got mine out & convinced him to do likewise; it was definitely no coincidence I’d stopped at Dollar General merely minutes prior to this event & happened to pick up a journal (ironically, on the cover it read, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”) of which was now becoming drenched as I scribbled in the rain. He proceeded to tell me that his company had him working long hours & he had no idea where he was, so had been consistently looking for places to make a right hand turn in attempts to find a coffee shop—I guess this is what caused him to merge into my lane without any fore-warnings (I still wonder if he even looked since it happened so fast) and drive me into & above the curb just before a local business. After receiving my information and taking pictures of the car he’d trashed without any signs of concern, the man informed me he had to leave to deliver his equipment on time—I guess my health was the least of his concerns—and that I could drive my car home, despite the fact it was so obviously totaled. Knowing I couldn’t force him to stay and quite frankly being afraid to attempt to do so to such a large man, I somehow drove my car into the driveway following the curb he’d pushed me into/atop.  As I sat in the parking lot, alone in my un-drivable car with the rain pounding against us, all I could do was stare; once reality hit, I pulled out my cell phone and first dialed Akron Children’s Hospital to let them know I would be late, if not absent & why; as I explained what happened, tears welled up in my eyes as they calmly told me it’d be alright and that I should come to the Emergency Room to be checked out due to the hard impact, pounding headache and elevated abrasion covering my forehead—as much as I knew what may have been wrong, I refused to go by insisting I was fine & it was only a slight headache and bruise—after all, it couldn’t be that bad if I was able to walk. After hanging up, I proceeded to dial 911 for the first time in my life & began sobbing as they answered; I told them I’d like to report an accident & apologized for bursting into tears, after explaining I had no idea what to do, & they proceeded to ask where I was—the worst possible question for a person as bad with directions as I; I told them where I was, along with the local surroundings, & then waited…and waited for an officer to arrive. Upon waiting, I called the insurance agency & gave them the info I had, all the while sobbing yet again only to be comforted over the phone by the kind soul of an angel; she told me everything would be alright & said it wasn’t my fault (even though I was convinced elsewise)—that she’d do her best to take care of me. I could not have been more grateful for her inconceivable kindness—in fact, for everyone else’s throughout the day. Then I called my parents, despite the fact they were literally thousands of miles away, & began sobbing yet again as I told them the dreaded news...I'd been in my first accident; contrary to what I expected, they told me they were just glad I was ok & not to worry about the car--that it wasn't my fault. I am blessed with the absolute best family, who despite all of this informed me they were proud of my perseverance & taking responsibility, as well as just "being me". Upon hanging up, I then called my aunt, saying “You’ll never guess what just happened”—she guessed and so selflessly agreed to pick me up, since no one else was around, despite the fact she was in the middle of her work shift—yes, that’s how cool she is! As I put down the phone, noticing it’d been over thirty minutes since I’d dialed 911, a wild idea came to my mind: I knew very well where I was—merely several miles away from the place I’d once called my habitat for survival—so why not walk to this hospital & get my own cop? As I got all of my belongings out of my car, I locked it up & took off for my next adventure to Akron Children’s Hospital, alone & sopping wet along the streets of Akron—not my best move. As I power-walked along the side of the road, I came across an old African-American man (fear overtook me as I remembered where I was) who asked me how I was; I replied, “I’m alright—how are you?” only to hear him say “absolutely wonderful”; after rejoicing with him, I then said I was just in an accident & he so kindly said, “”Oh, that’s terrible; I am so sorry--that must have been traumatic” and that accidents happen all the time where it’d occurred. Once we parted ways, I walked through the ER doors of Akron Children’s Hospital & made my way to security to plead my case, only to be told they couldn’t help me. So, I ventured back into the pouring rain along the freshly trodden sidewalk, which seemed to only get longer as the seconds passed by. After arriving once again at my car, with no police in sight, I got in & started sobbing: how could anything else get worse? I decided to call 911 yet again, since there were no signs of any cops and my own attempt had fallen short—they immediately knew my crazy voice & said the cop hadn’t been able to find me, so I explained my surroundings yet again, since there was no address on the local building. Shortly afterward my exceedingly selfless aunt arrived, beckoning me into her heated vehicle with arms of love; seriously, at this moment a familiar face could not have been more needed! Being the go-getter that she is, my aunt courageously went into the building I’d been parked in front of, only to come back out with good news—there were people in there who could help! The owners/workers of this business absolutely overwhelmed us with hospitality and compassion, offering chairs & internet access as we waited—they even pulled up the “hit and run line” which we then called to once again report the accident as well as the information for the company the faulty driver worked for; shortly afterward, the kindest cop I’ve ever met arrived, making the experience even more beautiful—yes, I did say beautiful. As I gave him all the info I’d received, my aunt proceeded to call the company this man had been driving for in attempts to see if they knew his name; getting nothing out of them but the fact that he worked there & other things not worth repeating, I was left alone to write my “statement”; the cop was an absolute life-saver and without him, as well as my aunt and the kind business owners, I very well may have lost my sanity. The day ended alright & I even received several calls from Akron Children’s Hospital out of concern, reminding me yet again why I will always undoubtedly love this place! Akron Children’s Hospital—you will always hold a special place in my heart and for your unceasing kindness as well as quality care I will forever remain entirely grateful; one day I pray to do for others what you have done for me! And yes, I will be seeing you in a matter of hours, as I have agreed to come in (against my pride) to be checked out! “If God is for us, then what could ever stop us; if God is with us, then what can stand against?!”Through this all I am reminded that life truly is but a vapor & can disintegrate at any moment, so what am I living for? What really matters? If God has called me to a reckless life of abandon, even that being the medical field, then I will go because without Him I am nothing and entirely miserable.