My stay in the "residential living" facility in Chandler, Arizona was not quite as a positive experience as my stay at the Ranch had been. It was a pilot program and I was among the first five residents. There were a lot of quirks to be worked out and those of us that were staying there fell victim to the quirks. Staff came and went; the therapy sessions were un-organized and not very helpful. The nutritionist left a lot to be desired. We basically kind of just lived there for three months co-existing and doing a whole lot of nothing. I got a job at the photo lab at Wal-Mart since one of the requirements was to either go to school or get a job. Since the program was only supposed to last three months, I didn't see any use in going to school.
I experienced a few difficulties at this facility and before the three months was up, I ended up going home. I hadn't relapsed; I wasn't back into my unhealthy eating habits, but it hadn't ended up being what I really needed. I could have gone home straight after the Ranch and been as in good of shape as I was when I went to Chandler. However, it did afford me a few more months of time before I had to truly get back into the "real world" and test my new found knowledge of myself and my illness. (I must qualify all of this by saying that I'm sure that with 11 years under it's belt that this Residential treatment facility is now flourishing and every bit as wonderful and helpful as the Ranch itself for assisting those just leaving the Ranch.)
By this point in time, I was a healthy 115 pounds. The plan was to head back home for a couple of weeks and then head back to Kansas to go to school again. It was only October by this time, so until the fall semester ended, I would stay with the woman who had given my mom the connection to Remuda Ranch; who I had worked with at the Orthopedic Surgeons Office. I went out there to live with them, rent free, and find a job until school started in the spring.
I got a pretty good job out there working as a customer service representative for a credit card company. I enjoyed the job and it was good to be back in Kansas where my friend and roomate lived. She was now married, and I had found three other girls to room with when school started again in the spring.
However, once again, things on the school front were not to work out for me. I went home that Christmas to be with my family and while I was on the plane on my way home, the woman I lived with called my mom and told her that I wouldn't be able to return and continue living with them. One of her reasons? I left dishes in the sink rather than washing them and putting them away. They were rather OCD. I was devastated and once again felt like a failure. It was only two weeks until the semester was to begin; yet they weren't willing to let me come back for two weeks so I could go to school. I ended up quitting my job and dropping out of school for that semester, once again. Looking back on it now, I'm sure I could have found someone to stay with for those two weeks. Or I could have remained at home for those two weeks and gone back when school started. But I had taken a giant step backwards in my confidence level and felt the need to be back at home; in my familiar surroundings. Having had that blow to my self-esteem and being away from home, I could have easily slipped back into my behaviors. So I came back home. Again. I have never again heard from or spoken to the woman that I lived with and worked with and was so good to me for so long.
I ended up going to the community college for the next couple of semesters and remained at home until January of the following year when I took a giant leap and moved into my own apartment with a roommate in the town north of my parents. I haven't lived at home since.
That was ten years ago. The same month I moved in with my new roommate, I got my job where I currently work. I have not once slipped back into my anorexic behavior. That is not to say that life has been all roses since that time. Hardly. I've had a lot of things I've dealt with since that time; but happily, none of them have caused me to go back. I've had boyfriends; I've had plenty of heart-break. I've had more than one (count them four) bad roommate situations, several more apartments; financial difficulty; a "sowing my wild oats" period of my life where I decided I was tired of being the "good girl" that never did anything wrong. But through it all, I can honestly say that I have never again looked at a fat gram; or a calorie; or counted how many servings of carbs or protein or "optional calories" I've eaten. I can't remember the last time I worked out. My favorite foods are nothing you would consider exactly "healthy". I eat fries; I eat pizza; I eat ice cream; I eat chips; I eat cookies. I eat all the things that I used to consider my "fear foods" without a moments thought. Something changed in my metabolism after I went through this because I still get an occasional glance or look or "concerned question" from people who wonder if I still have that "eating problem". And all I have to say to this is: "Hey. I eat...and I eat what I want. That's all I can do". So to those people who still think I have an eating problem I say, "Phooey on you. I know where I am. And I know I eat fine. You don't believe me? It's your problem". Nothing ticks me off more to this day when people comment about my weight. Leave me alone already!! I'm not what a doctor might consider my "ideal weight". Probably about ten pounds under. But I'm fine. It's been 11.5 years since I left the Ranch.
So, where am I now? I'm 32 years old. I have a husband of almost five years and three beautiful children who I am extremely blessed to have. Not all women who come through an eating disorder are ever able to have children. I live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. I have a job in which I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary on Monday. I have friends.
My life is by no means perfect. Whose is? But I feel blessed to be where I am today. Blessed to have what I have. Blessed for all the people who got me through this ordeal that now seems light years away. Blessed to have found Remuda Ranch. Blessed to have life. It's been quite a ride thus far.
Thanks for taking time to read my story. If it has helped, inspired, or encouraged even one person, then I'm happy that I took the time to write it. It's been quite an experience re-living it all, and I thank you for reading it.
He is able more than able
To accomplish what concerns me today
He is able more than able
To handle anything that comes my way
He is able more than able
To do much more than I could ever dream
He is able more than able
To make me what He wants me to be
© 1989 Maranatha Praise Inc.
The first day we walked into chapel at Remuda Ranch during Family Week, Kristen was the designated song leader. She stood up there leading this song, and I will never ever forget it. Every time I sing that song in church, or it runs through my mind, I realize how very true it is. The words have also helped me through many other subsequent hard days.
When her time at Remuda was completed, DC and I went out there to move her to Chandler. This seemed like an exciting option and the perfect solution to the next step. It didn't work out that way, as Kristen related. Being the guinea pigs for a new program was not the best situation. She had some fun, gained some independence, made a little bit of money, and bought her first car (unfortunately, she was taken for the young inexperienced shopper she was and it wasn't such a great deal!). I flew out in October to drive home with her. She headed back to KC to get a job and get settled in and ready for the next semester of school.
The next blow to her self esteem came when the people she lived with would not let her come back. The lady had called me at work the day Kristen was coming home for Christmas to tell me she couldn't come back. I was left with the task of telling her this news when she got off the plane and we were on our way back home. That was one of the hardest conversations I ever had.
Our trip back to pick up her things and drive them home turned out to be another great adventure. We were delayed in taking off and didn't get to the KC airport until after midnight. It was too late to get her car, which had been left in a Park and Ride. The shuttles to the parking lot were not running that late. So we spent the night in a very deserted, very cold airport, trying to sleep with our heads on our carry-on luggage. It was a very long night. We then went to the two places where her things were stored (very awkward time getting her things from the house where she had lived), and then on to the dorm where she expected to live. At approximately noon, we headed back north on the freeway to an unknown future. Kristen actually posted about the experience we had on the way home that day. We feel certain we were visited by angels when we fell asleep and drove into a ditch. You can find that story in Kristen's post of 9/6/06, if you have time to go back to her archives and look it up.
Taking some classes, working in various jobs, trying to find her new niche in life was another difficult period. She landed a job at the university where I work in short order after she applied, and has been there ever since. If you have followed her writing, you know of her desire to complete what she started and have a degree under her belt.
Life has not been easy, but we know that surviving anorexia was an amazing blessing. Not all are so fortunate. Not all are so determined. Not all are so blessed to find someplace like Remuda Ranch. Very few have Dr. Phil taking them under his wing and sending them to the top facilities in the country. We are blessed to have her healthy.
I am probably guilty of being one of those who wishes she could put on a few pounds, but as she said, she eats anything and everything - that is a blessing to this mom's heart. She was able to bear children. She is back singing, which has been such a big part of her life.
Kristen mentioned her experimentation on the darker side of life - not being the "good girl." That is another whole set of chapters in this life story. So much of it has to do with what our family was going through with her brother at the same time. One day my co-worker and I were talking about our children and how we wished they were young again so we could control their lives again. She said, "Yes, but it's out of our hands." I said, "I know, but it's still in my face!" She said, "That's the name of your future book! It's Out of My Hands, But it's Still in My Face!". I was told by someone near and dear to me that it seemed like a negative title, leaving God's power out of the mix. But to me it just meant that I had to give up what I cannot do any more, but that the consequences of actions still affect us. And it is so true - they still are.
If you've been reading me long, you know that I came into this blogland at the time that Kristen's brother was coming back from Teen Challenge as a new person, an overcomer, delivered from a road on the way to death and destruction. I hope someday he and I can do something similar to this series.
I trust it has blessed someone, given hope to someone, encouraged someone, challenged someone. If so, then it has been time well spent.
Following is a photo journey from the trip to college through Remuda Ranch.
First Sunday at College
(Don't you love the glasses??)
Comic Relief - Dad missing Mom at the Valentine Banquet
While Mom was at Mother-Daughter Week-end
Heading off for new college try
Good times with roomie and her boyfriend
Bridesmaid - heading for Remuda the next day
Family week at Remuda Ranch