I had every intention of making this writing stuff work. I had plans, charts, notes. I nabbed clients and started new projects of my own. I was motivated, despite the sunny days that called to me like a beautiful siren's song, and the ear surgery that had me immobilized at times. But I was going to push through.
And then, I received a devastating blow. My teenaged son, who'd recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, had to be sent to the hospital for treatment.
He was considered malnourished. A mere 88 pounds, yet five feet, four and a half inches tall (taller than me!). Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder had pushed everyone to their limits. Despite the meals his father and I insist he eat, his "pickiness" won over his hunger. Examples of this pickiness: "They changed the way they make those waffles. They don't taste the same. They taste stale." And: "You're serving expired food. The sell-by date was yesterday. It's gone bad." And: "I don't like the white lettuce. Only the dark green."
Over time, he'd become sick of consuming the same six foods, which were the only foods he'd eat, and slowly they disappeared from his tolerance level. "I can't eat tacos anymore. I'm all tacoed out." It came to a point where he'd have to choose the brand in order to want to eat it. And the way it was prepared. "Did you buy these carrots at Tops or Wegman's? I only like the Wegman's brand. And they have to be shredded, I can't eat the baby carrots or the carrot slices."
We worked with a dietician to increase the amount of calcium, protein, and heart-healthy fats he consumed. He filled up on donuts and cookies, pretzels and crackers. They gave him a quick fix, released him from hunger, but starved the body of nutrition. We persevered, my ex-husband cooking from his home and me cooking from mine. I even got my kids to help me prepare the food. My youngest was excited to do so, but my teen preferred lying in bed doing work on his Chromebook and chatting via text with friends.
I thought increasing the amount of exercise my son received would rev up his metabolism and get him in the mood to devour a meal. I forced him outside with his brother and me. We walked, played frisbee, went to playgrounds. And instead of increasing his appetite, it made him more tired. Nothing was working.
So my ex took him to get a medical evaluation. Although he shot up slightly in height over the last few months, he'd lost weight. And therefore they recommended immediate hospitalization before he could have organ failure as a result of his lack of nutrition and calories.
He has a 17-day stay, of which he has already used 12 days. He's been cut off from the cyber world, cut off from his friends and has limited access to family. He's undeniably angry. Frustrated. Begging to have life return to normal. He blew air into blue plastic hospital gloves and made a community out of them: a Glove Nation. He ate hospital food, and sometimes threw up upon taking a couple bites. The nurses substituted Ensure drinks for anything he couldn't eat. Honestly, the stuffing they served resembled my cat's barf. Watching him eat that both shocked and disgusted me. They couldn't serve better looking food to a kid suffering from ARFID? I wondered.
Every day I drove the nearly twenty miles to Golisano Children's hospital to see him. It's a long drive for me, and the ride plus the visit took up most of the day. I parked away from the parking garage and walked to save money, and when the hospital staff gave me free parking passes, I still walked to stay sane and calm my head before visiting my son. I contacted my biggest client to let him know I needed time to help my kid, and he understood. He was having his own tough time with a sister in hospice.
This is life, though, right? There will be wrenches in every plan. Life doesn't run smoothly. It comes with peaks and valleys, bumps and pebbles. For the first several days, I was overwhelmed. "I can't do this," I thought, panic like an air bubble popping in boiling water. How was I going to do everything I had to do at home...take care of my other son, keep the house clean, mow my lawn, drive, drive, drive. And meals...he'd receive passes to come home to eat. That meant driving there, driving back, making him a meal with all the necessary parts to it, driving him back to the hospital, driving home. I also had to make sure my youngest didn't feel left out. That I could take him to see his friends. Maybe it was a good thing that I wasn't employed by a company. I'd never be able to do all this if I were working every day. With freelancing, I could take time off as needed.
But now I had no money coming in at all.
Stress is a starving wolf. It looks for something to feed it, fix it, make the hunger pangs go away. But the hungrier it becomes, the weaker it is and the slower it moves. And the less it eats, the less it's aware of its hunger. All it wants to do is lie down and die. Starving wolves can't make it alone. They need their pack. If they can't feed themselves, they need their peers to help them eat.
My son needs this help. I need this help.
It's another glitch to my plan. I will find a way to get through it. Meantime, my son needs my help and I need to be strong enough to get through this.