In residential eating disorder rehab,
there’s a lot of things
you’re not allowed to do.
24/7 therapy is intended,
just like Pavlov intended,
to repair the most badly damaged;
to reprogram those individuals
who fight that ancient Darwinian drive
to rehabilitate the ones
who just want to be less.
But due to the ferocity of eating disorders
and the nature of behavioral conditioning,
the unintended result of this treatment
is a complete loss of personal autonomy
in order to rebuild a life worth living.
You’ve forgotten how to eat, but you’re not allowed to not eat.
You’ve come to loathe your body, but you’re not allowed to self-harm.
You want to punish your physical self, but you’re not allowed to exercise.
You don’t know how to cope, but you’re not allowed to implode.
You’re not allowed to throw food away.
You’re not allowed to climb stairs.
You’re not allowed to have your cell phone.
You’re not allowed to wear shoes.
And you’re not allowed to stay sick,
but you don’t yet want to be well.
So when you try to build a pillow fort
on the floor of the common room
with dozens of women who share your trauma,
you will immediately be reprimanded
by the ever-vigilant staff.
It’s because you need to be watched,
because the omnipresent eyes of the doctors and nurses
must always be upon your ravaged body
lest you continue to self-destruct.
But as you clean up the pillows in time for a dinner
you’re not permitted to refuse
it just feels like one more thing in your life
you are not able to control.