The Hold

It’s been really warm lately, over 100º today.  Warm enough to open the windows.  Even to keep them open all night.  After months of bone-chill, this is something really great.  Except for one thing.

I wake up screaming.  Most every night, I wake up screaming.  It is not from nightmares.  I do not dream.  It is shooting pain from the nerves.  It is sudden and it is severe.

It is a big problem, this screaming.  Because the neighbors do not like it.

When it happened last summer, a neighbor called 911.  In the middle of the night, a neighbor called 911.  And without so much as a knock, the police broke down my door.

Instantly, my bed was surrounded by five over-zealous officers and paramedics.

Such a scene, maybe some girls, they would think they had died and gone to heaven.  Not me.  I have never been attracted to a man in uniform.

I told them my many and various symptoms, diagnoses, medications, and side-effects.  This information, it did not seem to interest them.  But then I fainted —

This was very bad timing, very bad, but my blood pressure is naturally very low.  Sometimes I have to take medication to raise it to a more human-like level.  And sometimes I faint.  It is really no big deal.  Except if I should be driving.

When I awoke, there was a gurney beside my bed.  They wanted me to roll onto it.  Instead, I pushed through the crowd and started to run —

It used to be that when I watched a cop show, I would wonder why the criminals try to make a break when it is clear there is no chance for getaway.  Now, I know.  It is instinct.  You do not think.  You just GO.

Anyway, I didn’t get very far.  Just to my living room.  There, the medics grabbed me, tossed me on the gurney, and bound my wrists and ankles to the frame.

Within moments, we were in an ambulance, sirens blaring, en route to the hospital.  I tried to remain calm.  I tried not to struggle.  It was very hard.  I wanted to sit up.  I wanted to see.  But the restraints so thoroughly restricted my motion, I could lift only my head, and only a few inches.

As soon as we got to the Emergency Room, the EMTs transferred me to an examination table and warned the hospital team to be careful because I was very strong.  This remark, it made me to feel very proud.

Instantly, the staff retied my wrists and ankles and cut off my clothes.  At least, I wasn’t wearing anything of particular value or special favor.  They stuck me with sensors and punctured me for IVs and shoved a catheter deep inside me.

Several times, I asked them to untie me and told them I wanted to leave.  I assured them I did not require emergency care; I needed only the sodium and electrolytes found in a good broth.  They told me I was being put on “hold” and would not be released without the supervising doctor’s authorization.

To emphasize this point, they assigned three — three! — security men to guard me.  Each one of these burly guys looked like he played tackle on some championship high school football team.

Seriously, besides being trussed up like Harry Houdini before one of his great escapes, the only thing I was wearing beneath the flimsy hospital gown was seven electrodes.  I was not going anywhere.

A parade of physicians and technicians took many samples and various images for untold, unnecessary tests.  I suppose it’s just protocol, but still…  A chest x-ray?  My cardio-thoracic condition is so excellent, G-d forbid someone you love would need a new heart, you should just shoot me in the head and take my mine.

Of course, they found nothing, or rather nothing other than the chronic conditions I had previously reported.

It was getting close to morning; I felt like I had been a good sport, and I told them it was time for me to depart.  I was still tied to the bed and the catheter was causing terrible pain with the slightest movement.

They told me I would need to urinate before there was any chance of liberation.  No problem, I thought.  If there is one task that I can perform on command, it is to urinate.

But I could not.  When I pressed down, I felt overwhelming agony.  Later, the nurse would tell me the catheter had been inserted improperly.  BTW, this is Stanford, one of the most highly regarded medical centers in the world.

Finally, I convinced them to let me use the toilet.  They untethered me, handed to me a pitcher (not one of those little cups), and sent me, along with my security detail — I am not kidding — to the lavatory.  When you enter into a hospital, you leave your dignity at the door.

At last, they released me on my own recognition.  My body was covered in bruises and the vaginal abrasions made it difficult to walk.

My trip to the Emergency Room had lasted only a few hours, but I left in far worse shape than when I had arrived.  Whatever happened to “do no harm”?

And even with insurance, the visit cost me thousands of dollars.  Not to mention the expense of repairing the entrance to my home.

I really love the fresh air at night, but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Persuasive Lips

Mrs. Townsend, my 11th grade English teacher, once defined kissing as “the uptown persuasion for the downtown invasion”.

I do not recall which great literary work we were studying at the time of this declaration.  Perhaps it was the scandalous Scarlet Letter.  I doubt it was the interminably morose Look Homeward Angel.

Anyway, somewhat more recently, though still very long ago, I attended a party at a firehouse —

In my memory it was a firehouse, but that doesn’t make much sense.  More likely, it was a warehouse.  Well, it was some kind of house.  A big one.

So, the band playing the party was named Persuasive Lips.

During a break, I chatted with the lead guy, and when the group returned to the stage, he called me to sing backup.  With a microphone.  A working microphone.

I sang and danced and played tambourine for the rest of the night.  It is something very special to make music with other people.  It is a joyous thing.

After that night, I formed a girl group, The Jackets.  A Go-Gos, Bangles sort of thing.  I should probably mention, this part was all in my head.

At the time, I did play the guitar.  With great frequency and enthusiasm and a very solid intermediate level of proficiency.  Now, I don’t have sufficient fine motor skills.  I haven’t in years.  To be honest, I have trouble even to make my fingers press the right numbers on the cell phone screen.

I did used to sing, too, all the time.  Bosses would tell me it was good for morale.  Strangers in stores would remark how nice my voice.  Now, people actually ask me to stop.  I just can’t seem to control my vocal chords.  Linda Ronstadt isn’t able to sing anymore, either.  But, by her, it’s a loss.

You know what they say.  It’s never too late.  Lemons?  Lemonade!

So I’m starting a new group, The Arthritix.  I’m soliciting women over 45.  Must play an instrument poorly and/or sing off-key.  We’ll practice at my place.  Bring your own noise-canceling headphones.

© 2016 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Summer Camp

They don’t let you exercise at Eating Disorders Camp.  They don’t let you do much of anything but sit around and eat and talk about eating.

And the food is really, really bad.  Hospital food bad.  If they are so desperate for you to eat, you’d think they’d give you some more appetizing options.  But they don’t.

They do give you options, but I cried “Kosher!” and pleaded “Vegetarian!” and so was able to choose the same menu every day.

For breakfast, I had raisin bran and banana and (whole) milk.  They don’t allow coffee; G-d forbid the caffeine might stimulate your metabolism a little bit.

For lunch, it was fruit plate; a soggy scoop of cottage cheese, slices of under-ripe cantaloupe and honeydew, a few red grapes.

For dinner, the cheese plate; a sleeve of Saltine crackers, a package of Kraft “cheese” squares, desiccated sticks of carrot and celery, some unspecified dip-like substance.

Of course, each meal was washed down with an Ensure chaser; a completely artificial, chemically-tasting form of liquid sustenance.  To add insult to injury, they would always bring me Strawberry, the most disgusting flavor by far.

Note.  You may be thinking I got off easy, that this menu would qualify as a weight loss plan by any normal standard, but this was not the case.  The quantity of food so exceeded even my non-anorexic diet that I gained weight at a depressingly rapid rate.

Each meal came with a paper form listing all of the items on the plate.  After ingesting what we could tolerate and rearranging the rest, an orderly would come around to complete the checklist by filling-in the estimated percentage we had consumed of each foodstuff.

If we passed and it was lunch, and only if we passed and it was lunch, we could go outside to the courtyard for the remainder of the hour.  This was a much-desired privilege; fresh air and sunshine, albeit for a short while, was a very welcome respite from the dingy, institutional environment.

During this recess, we were supervised, in order to prevent any unnecessary burning of calories.  There was a swing set, however, and on some of the days I was able to coax the Shaynas — three attractive, accomplished young women, all with the same name — to join me for a gleeful arc through the air.

Truthfully, I felt like something of a den mother.  Though past forty, I was not nearly the oldest; a few of the campers were into their fifties.  But unlike a fine wine, anorexics and bulimics do not age well, so except for the co-eds and me, the rest of our group was more-or-less inanimate.

One day, it happened they were short on staff and we were left unguarded during the after-lunch interlude.  A few of the girls took advantage of this unexpected freedom to pace the perimeter.  Others discussed strategies for making an escape, but were too sapped to scale the fence.

Suddenly, one of the prisoners called out that she had found a football.  A football?  How a ball of any variety had found its way into our gated community was a mystery of epic proportion and surely an act of subversion.  While uninteresting in any other context; to us, there and then, a football was sheer delight.

Immediately, I threw my arms in the air and shouted “Anorexics against the Bulimics!” and the girls started dividing themselves into teams according to diagnostic code.

As soon as the words passed my lips, however, I realized this was a very bad idea.  I mean, most of us anorexics could be knocked down by a mild breeze.  And the bulimics, well, more than a few of them were built to play the offensive line.

No, this would make for a very lopsided and dangerous scrimmage indeed.  It was my intention to reconfigure the field, but before I could say anything, our sentry was back on duty.  In an instant, the football was confiscated and we were led back to the sterile, florescent day room.

The weeks dragged and I didn’t get much from this supposedly salubrious setting.  The counselors weren’t terribly engaging and the campers were dreadfully disconnected.  Anyway, my issues were already well-understood, and in all honesty, dangerous as my disordered thinking might have been, I just really, really liked being anorexic.

Turns out that not eating was almost effortless for me.  Friends from shul would confess they couldn’t possibly fast a full day for Yom Kippur.  One day?  Please.  I never counted calories or looked for “thinspiration”.  I just ate very lightly and exercised very vigorously.

Most women have no idea how good it feels to go by the Macy’s Petite department and find a size 0 is too big.  I could do yoga like nobody’s business; it is very easy to twist about when there is nothing to get in the way.  My mind was free, no longer needing to worry about my weight all day long.

And the positive reinforcement was out of this world.  In the locker room at my gym, women — women! — would come over to say I had a beautiful body or to ask if I danced ballet.  Men appreciated me in a way I could never have imagined prior to achieving this sylphlike status.

Though I did not enjoy the constant medical attention, it was very convenient not to get my period.  Also, there is a slight light-headedness that comes with malnourishment that is surprisingly pleasant.  The euphoria overwhelmed the fainting spells, serious symptoms, severe side effects, and well-intentioned interventions.

While this was a miserable way to spend the season, my doctor had decreed the cost of my liberty would be 100 lbs.  It was an exorbitant price to pay, seemingly impossible, but like so many others sent to summer camp against their will, more than anything, I just wanted to go home.

© 2016 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The First Time

You get to a certain point in life and there aren’t that many “first times” left for you to experience.  You’ve already had your first day of school and the other milestones both significant and unremarkable that define a life.

And as you reach the middle ages, you realize there are a lot of “firsts” you are never going to experience.  If you haven’t yet danced the lead in The Nutcracker, well, your calendar probably won’t be filled with rehearsals and fittings come the fall.

To everything there is a season.  And that isn’t necessarily all bad.  I mean, I am not exactly crushed by the knowledge that no matter what terrible things happen in the world, there is no chance — none — that I would ever be drafted into the military.

Anyway, despite the many medical diagnostics and interventions inflicted upon my various body parts, I managed to reach a rather mature age having had no more than a cursory acquaintance with the dental profession beyond the biannual cleanings.

Some people don’t believe, but I never even had a cavity.  For this we can thank twice daily brushings and fluoridated water.  Don’t tell the kids, but it is only on rare occasion that I bother to floss.

Full disclosure, in my late 20s, the dentist did discover an impacted wisdom tooth.  Only one.  Did I not mention I am a highly evolved being?  In extracting the vestigial molar, however, the oral surgeon put me under a general anesthetic so it’s like it never happened at all.

In actuality, I wanted more dental attention.  In a rare moment of vanity, I inquired about braces and whitening and other ways to smarten my smile.  But the dentist suggested that if I would like to spend more money at his office, I should simply drink more Coca-Cola.

So, at my recent checkup, it came as quite a shock to learn that I had not one, but two cavities.  To be clear, these particular pits were not the result of tooth decay, to which I remain immune, but rather “abruxion”.  Grinding.

The development of these dents really should not have been a surprise.  After all, I was diagnosed with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) several years ago and have been wearing a mouth guard for more than a decade.  Still, the cavity-prone years have long since passed.

There was no point to delay, so I made an appointment and earlier today, I had the cavities filled.  I relaxed in the chair and declined any numbing agents.

I was not apprehensive.  I mean, it’s not like going to the regular doctor where you have to remove your clothes.  I did not need to worry they might think I was too fat.

Dr. Choudhury, who is not my regular dentist, approached me from the right and rear and put her arms around my upper torso, kind of like she was going to teach me to knot a necktie.  My head, she cradled against her ample bosom.

Now, keep in mind that my mother did not hold us.  Even had she had been so inclined, she lacked sufficient body fat for growing a bust.

So this was another first, this head against breast sensation.  It did not bother me, but neither did it provide the comfort of resting my head against the firmness of a man’s chest.

On the one side, Dr. Choudhury triggered the drill.  On the other side, her assistant started the suction.  It felt a lot like a teeth cleaning, what with the whirring sound and excessive salivation and flying flecks.  Except this time, it was not speckles of industrial toothpaste shooting through the air, but rather particles of my damaged denticles.

Though Dr. Choudhury and her staff complimented me on my bravery and fortitude, it didn’t feel like such a big deal.  Maybe I am highly accustomed to pain and discomfort, but like so many other first times, I left wondering why so many people make so much fuss.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Mad World

Last couple of days, my urine is kind of green.  With a slight phosphorescence.  Something like a dilute antifreeze.  Me, I don’t run to the doctor for every bodily quirk.  Heck, I don’t even run to the internet.  So many maladies, so little time.

Anyway, this vivid anomaly reminds me a mid-90s film called The Madness of King George.  Set during the American Revolution, the English monarch was excreting blue fluids and behaving in a rather silly and eccentric manner.

Madness?  Viridescence?  Hmm, if the shoe fits…

Perhaps everyone should have such a colorful life.

Or then again, maybe not.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Staying Frosty

My thermostat’s busted.  It’s a medical thing.  Always I am cold.  Three hundred and sixty five days a year I am cold.  But today I am especially cold.  Exceptionally cold.

Never mind that it is sunny and 56° outside.  This information, it doesn’t make me to feel any warmer.

I am wearing four layers.  It is not enough.  So I get into bed, adding three more — flannel sheet, Polartec blanket, feather comforter.  It is still not enough.

So I get the portable space heater.  I fumble both knobs to the maximum and I aim it directly it at my core.  But even this is not enough.

So I take the space heater and I put it on the bed.  Then I think better and I put it under the covers.  Finally, a hint of relief.

It would be at least ten minutes before I could hope to fully feel my fingers or toes, much less make them bend, wiggle, or grasp.  Still, the shivering soon ceases and I feel grateful to have averted a full-blown attack.

The crazy thing is that an article in the latest edition of The Atlantic describes people who make themselves cold in an effort to lose weight.  They make themselves cold.  On purpose, they make themselves cold!

They wear ice vests.  Can you imagine?  Ice vests!

The idea is that in order to maintain a normal temperature, the body would need to expend more energy and therefore burn more calories.  The inventor claims 250 calories an hour.  Compared to the 2,500 calories burned for running an entire marathon —

That doesn’t seem right.  An entire marathon and you don’t even lose one pound?  Clearly I am wasting my time at the gym.

Anyway, I am thinking maybe to design a heated vest.  But then I remember the dreaded incident of the heated mattress pad.  All over my body, third-degree burns in the double helix pattern of the heating coils.

Frostbite or contact burns?  Hmm.

© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Coffee Cleanse?

So I go to the kitchen to get some breakfast this morning.  But when I got there, the cupboard was bare.  Literally.

The pantry?  Coffee.  Coffee filters.

The refrigerator?  Skim milk.  A few adalimumab injection pens.  A box of Arm & Hammer.

The freezer?  Ice.  Plenty of ice cold ice.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but I am not.  Whatever it is that normal people keep in the house for emergencies, I don’t know, but I am fresh out of food.

Maybe you think I trashed all of the comestibles.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Maybe it wouldn’t even be the hundredth time.  But it would not be the case this time.

Tonight it’s the new year.  A time to wash slates.  Maybe this is a sign.  Maybe I should take a coffee cleanse.  Is that a thing?

© 2014 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Dumpster Diving

As you may know, I am a rabid recycler.  Even before it was fashionable, I was a fanatic.

Maybe you have seen my home-based sorting center.  It rivals in scope many a big city waste management operation.

Heaven forbid these renewables should rot — or worse, not rot — in their final resting place when reincarnation to a second — or third — useful life awaits!

Alas, the Palo Alto curbside collection program does not meet my exacting standards.  So, when I happen to be in the neighborhood, I drop my convertible waste by the Stanford recycling center.  Such was the case this afternoon.

Feeling virtuous as I pitched my papers and plastics to their respective receptacles, I froze suddenly upon realizing I had deposited my magazines into the mixed paper bin.  Horrors!

In an instant, I found myself standing at the bottom of said dumpster.  The very bottom.  Besides me and my outdated New Yorkers, it was completely empty.

Somehow my body had taken flight.  I really don’t know how this could happen.  I can hardly hobble these days, much less hop.  But there I was and out I wanted.

Standing on tippy toes I could see, just barely, beyond my prison cell.  There were no workers, recyclers, or scavengers in sight to throw me a rope.  Not that I would know what to do with a rope, anyway.

I would just need to vault.  But there was no pole.  My crutches were in the car.  There was no cushion.  Only the hard pavement.  It’s OK, I told myself.  Just do it.  On the count of three…  One…  Two…  Three…  The moment came and went and I remained still like a statue.

Aha, I thought!  A better plan!  All I need to do is…

1.    A Salamba Sirsasana headstand
2.    Hinge my legs over the side
3.    Pull myself to a vertical sit-up
4.    Grab the top of the dumpster wall
5.    Lift myself to be seated on the edge
6.    Gently lower myself to the ground

So simple!  Why didn’t I think of it in before?  Why?  I’ll tell you why.  Because the days of my pretzel yoga party tricks are long past.  The only asana I can manage lately is Savasana, more commonly known as the corpse pose.  That’s why.

In a desperate situation, dignity is the first thing to go.  Imagine the sight and sound of a puppy climbing out of a box.  Whimper.  Claw.  Flop.  Slide.  Yelp.

© 2014 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

My Gym Gigalo

Upon concluding the thrice weekly IVs of the past three months, I relapsed immediately into an addiction I thought gone for good.  Within mere hours, I re-upped the old daily habit.  Soon, the side effects of my excess were back.  I was dripping sweat.  I was hyperkinetic.  I was in a fervor.  I could not stop.  Excercising.

Instead of repatriating to my former gym, I decided to make a fresh start.  Spread the calories around, so to speak.

It’s okaaay, but already I can tell the new place is never going to feel like my home away from home or even my best and favorite hang.  Then again, my old gym only felt like my own personal “Cheers” until a particularly mean mean-girl turned it into my own personal “Jeers”.

Given the cards in hand, I won’t be getting too attached to any person, place, or thing anyway.  So I soldier on, this army of one.  I quick-step the elliptical.  I strong-arm the rower.  I keep my iPod shuffled and my big mouth muffled.

Even so, there is a man who chats me everyday.  He is very young.  He is very fit.  He is very handsome.  He is very charming.  He is very Fernando.

He tells me he is most impressed by my form.  He tells me he likes my energy, my attitude.  He tells me that my body is like a machine.

Now, Fernando is not the first man to compare my anatomy to a finely tuned apparatus.  Back in the day, my boyfriend from graduate school often called me a machine.  A sex machine.  He was not complaining.

These days, well, the only machine to which my body can claim any real kinship has got to be the Yugo GV, a mid-80s subcompact from the communist bloc.  No speed.  No power.  No stability.  No reliability.  Literally falls to pieces when put to motion.

But I digress.  Back to Fernando and his flatterings.  Clearly, he wants to be my gigolo.

After all, I am a woman of a certain age.  I live in an exclusive neighborhood.  I hit the gym at an hour of leisure.  I have that je ne sais “ladies who lunch” vibe.  I wear no gold around my finger.  I fit the profile.

Hey!  Get your mind out of the gutter!  Yes, he wants to be my gigolo.  My gym gigolo!

See, the fitness employees, they don’t make a lot of money for desk duty and group classes and such the like.  Personal training, this is the best way to score some shekels.

Alas, Fernando is not my type.  No, my trainer of choice specializes in Pilates and Barre.  Core of steel and heart of gold.  Her name is Jenny and she is “The Reformer”.

Even though Jenny is on sabbatical, Fernando will not be my trainer.  But somehow, I don’t feel any great urgency to tell him the bad news.  I should interfere with the right to free suave?  I don’t think so!

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

We Got the Beat

In his new book The Anatomy of Violence, Adrian Raine discusses the relationship between physiology and behavior.

It turns out that people with a very low resting heart rate are actually the most fearless among us.

Sometimes the absence of apprehension can lead to extraordinary acts of bravery.  The specialists who diffuse explosive devices in war zones tend to have unusually lethargic heart rates.  Obviously this is a job requiring superior cool, calm, and collectedness.

But sometimes a lack of trepidation can lead to heinous acts of violence.  Ted Kaczynski, aka “The Unabomber”, ticks in at a modest 54.  Guess a person would have to be pretty composed to get away with a serial bombing campaign for almost twenty years.

At my recent EKG, I scored a 49, well below the normal range of 60-100 thumps per minute.  Seems my heart rate is the only thing about me that could possibly be construed as “athletic”.

Anyway, the theory goes that we slow beaters need an extra large dose of excitement just to feel normal.  This explains a lot about my makeup.  I have frequently said that if I don’t feel my heart race every day, I simply do not feel alive.

The crave wants satisfaction.  The heart wants to hammer.  But what to do?  No excess of exercise will nudge the needle.  No overdose of caffeine will prime the pump.

Even an out-of-this-world experience is not guaranteed to make the heart take flight.  His cardiac monitor showed that Neil Armstrong’s sinus rhythm did not rocket the moment he set foot on the moon.  How can those of us confined to life on earth expect to top that kind of adventure?

These are desperate days.  Even so, I am not inclined to seek the dangerous sort of thrill.  Fortunately, the stimulant that works best for me doesn’t cost a dime, is completely legal except maybe in some of the Red States, and is even a mitzvah when practiced on Shabbes.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.