After being given the "OK" by my nutritionist to give college a second shot, we once again packed up my belongings and headed south to Oklahoma. I was filled with fear and trepidation wondering if I would succeed this time, or if I once again would end up coming home with another failed semester under my belt. Yes, I had gained the weight that my nutritionist had required of me; I had spent several months back at home healing and relaxing. But how would I feel once my parents left me again and were hundreds of miles away from me?
I had high hopes for the semester. I had a new roommate; one I had met and become acquainted with in the two weeks I was there before; I had a few friends I had made that were anxious to have me return.
Within about two weeks of being there, I discovered that my new roommate appeared to be using me as a "learning tool" on how to become skinny. She asked me for tips, constantly ate my "safe foods" (I had gotten to the point where I quit obsessively counted the optional calories and would allow myself once in a while to partake in a Snackwells cookie or two without counting the extra clories) and began self-induced vomiting. This obviously was not a healthy environment for me to be in while I was attempting to succeed and become healthy.
I eventually got permission from the school to move out of the dormitories and move in for the remainder of the semester with my grandparents who lived only blocks away from campus. I rarely participated in any of the activities at school and after moving away from campus, found it even more difficult to do so and the motivation to try wasn't there. Although it appeared like I was going to complete the semester, my heart wasn't in it. I began communicating with my life long best friend who was going to the Nazarene College in Olathe, Kansas. I even drove out there by myself for a weekend visit with her and became acquainted with some of her friends and even met a guy. Guys had been the last thing on my mind for quite some time needless to say, so the fact that I felt interest and he seemed to as well made me feel somewhat "alive" again. As well, being with someone who was extremely familiar to me was also a comfort. By the end of my semester, I had decided that I was going to leave my current college and go out to Kansas the following school year to room with my best friend.
I don't recall much about the summer following my freshman year of college, which must be a good thing because it means that I wasn't going through anything terribly memorable. I do know that I continued to see my nutritionist throughout the summer, although with less frequency than I had before.
When the summer was over, and I packed up to go to school in Kansas this time, I had a completely different feeling. It was one of excitement and anticipation. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I would be rooming with someone I knew my whole life. There was familiarity and comfort in that fact for me. She knew me better than anyone else in my life, probably, besides my parents.
We enjoyed a great first semester together. We were inseparable. We went shopping, to Tippins restaurant to eat cornbread and chicken noodle soup; to the St. Louis Bread Factory to eat their bread bowl soup. We loved to go to movies and pick up a bag of Jelly Bellies to eat during the movie. We taped Days Of Our Lives during the day and watched it together in the evening before we retired faithfully every night at 10:00 (we were rather nerdy college students....I mean, who EVER goes to bed at 10:00 pm in college....we did!) One particularly snowy weekend around Christmas, we sat in our beds all day looking at our homey little Christmas decorated room and cross-stitched. I have very great memories of that semester with her.
Over Christmas vacation, my best friend and college roommate got engaged to her long-time boyfriend. The plan was for them to get married in the summer after that school year was over. While I was happy for her, all of a sudden I felt insecure again. This would mean that I would no longer be able to have her as a roommate. While I didn't realize it at the time, my fall back into losing weight and unhealthy eating was due to my uncertainties of the following school year; not having her as my comfort.
Over the course of the 2nd semseter, I began to rapidly lose weight again. I would come home in the evenings from classes and after work and eat half a can of chicken noodle soup. I would save the rest for the next night. I would have a couple of pretzels or animal crackers throughout the day and that was all. I began to rapidly lose weight again. My roommate was unaware of my eating habits because she worked in the evenings at a car dealership. She was, however, noticing the rapid loss of weight. She began asking me what I had for dinner that evening. Sometimes I would tell her I went to the cafeteria, sometimes I would tell her I went out to get something. Other times I would tell the truth. I didn't want to be harassed about how and what I was eating.
Eventually, my employers at the orthopedic surgeons office I worked for began to notice the weight loss as well. Word got back to my parents and they began to research what should be done for me. I don't remember how they found Remuda Ranch , but through their research, they decided this was where I was going to go. I had to go through a lengthy interview process with the admissions staff there; I had to be evaluated by a nutritionist, a doctor and a psychiatrist to determine if Remuda was the right fit for me. And it was. I was set to be a bridesmaid in my roommates wedding on June 10 of that year, and the following Monday, I would be leaving for Arizona and entering into the best thing that ever happened to me....
We made it through the winter with Kristen showing some improvement. She was anxious to prove that she could handle school again, so we took her back for second semester. She roomed with someone she'd met in the dorm and on campus early in the first semester. She seemed like a nice enough girl - until they moved in together. Oh, my word! This girl was disaster personified. We had sent Kristen with what she considered "safe" foods, which she kept in her dresser on her side of the room. Every day she would find these foods missing. This was very distressing, because she really wasn't "well" at all, just trying to make it through her freshman year with grit and determination. This girl had so many personal problems, and as Kristen said, she decided to make Kristen her role model for an eating disorder - asking her to help her remember to purge! It was horrendous to Kristen, who was trying to become "normal" again.
In February, the school held Mother/Daughter week-end. I was so excited to go back to my alma mater and spend time with my daughter. But I knew the minute I got there that it was not going well. The final blow was when her dorm resident assistant called me into her apartment that Sunday before I flew back home. She told me that Kristen was in bad shape and she didn't know if we should leave her there. I told her that if we took her home again, she would never survive the feeling of failure. It wasn't long after that when my parents took Kristen to live with them for the remainder of the school year. There was nothing better than Grandma and Grandpa loving her to help her make it through that year. In spite of all this trauma to her body and her psyche, she maintained a very good grade point average. The year finally ended and she came home for the summer.
It was at this point that I discovered Chris, the nutritionist. I don't remember how we found her, but she was a life saver. As I said before, there were no good therapists in this area at the time who had a clue about treating this disorder. Incredible, but true. Kristen called her the "top nutritionist" in the area, but the truth is, she was the ONLY one. She worked out of an office in the hospital and she was wonderful to Kristen. We kept in close contact with each other and to this day, we have never received a bill from her. Someday I'm going to look her up again and show her pictures of Kristen's girls. One of the side effects of this disease is the inability to conceive and carry a pregnancy. God worked miracles in Kristen's mind and body in so many ways.
At the end of that summer, Chris released her to go back to school, armed with some good tools. You can go to Kristen's latest episode for the story of that year with her best friend from church - nursery through high school. I remember her coming home for spring break and looking once again gaunt and unhealthy. It was at that point that I knew we had to do something drastic.
It was shortly after spring break that I received a call in my office one day. Shockingly, it was Kristen's supervisor at the nice doctor's office where she worked in the afternoons. I could tell she was having a hard time broaching the subject she needed to discuss with me. I helped her by letting her know I knew why she was calling. She had a daughter with bulimia who had been helped by a Minrith-Meyer clinic in Dallas. She suggested I look into this organization. When I called and started the process of discovery, I was told that there was a clinic in Arizona called Remuda Ranch. It was no longer one of theirs, but they recommended it highly. The SAME DAY, Chris called me to tell me of a place she had just learned about - Remuda Ranch. Coincidence?? I don't think so!
I immediately got in touch with this wonderful place. We'll be telling you a lot more about it in the next episode, but suffice it to say that God had gone before and prepared the way. Chris told Kristen that she wouldn't force her to go right away if she would promise to go the minute her roommate's wedding was over. Oh, my, those wedding pictures haunt me to this day - the dresses were low in the back and her little bones just protruded so that it made my heart hurt as I sat in the church and witnessed the wedding of these good friends. Remuda Ranch had a bed opening up on the Monday following the Saturday wedding. Coincidence?? I don't think so!!
As she said, Kristen had to be evaluated by several "specialists." After her long conversation with the most wonderful woman, an admissions counselor at Remuda (who became a good friend of mine over the months ahead), we located a psychiatrist who had to certify, for insurance purposes I suppose, that she was a good candidate and needed to be in this treatment center. This guy was unbelievable! He probed into her past and learned about a sleeping problem she had in junior high. That's all he wanted to talk about. He told her to go home and eat M&M's - to cut them into smaller pieces, if necessary, when she had trouble eating. HUH??? I had to clue him in on the fact that this disorder has very little to do with food and everything to do with control. I can clearly remember the letter I wrote to him, objecting strongly to sending the check I had enclosed because his help was non-existent, and in fact detrimental.
This facility was very costly, but we had wonderful insurance at the time. Our insurance rep at DC's company became a friend as we worked through this crisis. The coverage was 90%, which was unheard of even then, and most likely nonexistent now. Many of the women there had no coverage whatsoever. She also connected us with EAP (Employee Assistance Program), which discounted the cost to about 2/3 of what it would have been. Amazing act of God!
We'll resume coverage beginning with the trip to the airport in the next episode.