He tried to be gentle. A nurse stood by one side of the bed, holding my hand as I anxiously eyed the hollow tube that would soon be placed inside my nose and down my throat, snaking its way through my body and into my stomach, ready to continously feed me 24/7 until I was able to feed myself.
It was the throat part that broke me.
Slowly the tube was inserted into my nose. Then it hit my throat, and gagging and wretching, I threw up on the floor, the nurse's shoes, and in my hair.
At least I know bulimia's not in my future. I hate to throw up.
The tube was again pushed down into my throat and I started crying as I again retched, leaned over and puked.
Third time. The tube again was gently pushed down into my throat - it had to go in there; it needed to reach my stomach to feed me.
This time I didn't move quick enough to throw up on the floor. The bile - there wasn't much in my stomach, anyway, after a month of starvation, landed on the pillow.
Shaking, I wiped my lips with a tissue. I swallowed hard and breathed slowly, nodding that he should continue to push in the tube. Gulping, gulping, I ignored the gag reflex, albeit with a lot less ease than I am able to suppress hunger.
The tube finally made its way to my stomach, but a certain part needed to open to allow nutrients to flow through the tube and into my stomach.
It wouldn't open. They said I needed to relax in order to allow the tube to enter its final destination.
Relax? I just puked three times, I was shaking and crying, and I was still trying to cough up the tube like a cat coughs up a fur ball.
So the nurse and the technician started using imagery, as in imagine I am in Tahiti and there is this handsome man with a tiny small bathing suit and I am being fed some luscious tropical fruit . . .
STOP! Fruit? Food? I hadn't eaten more than about 100 calories a day in more than a month, I'm still terrified of food, and the thought of anything luscious made want to hurl a fourth time.
Poke with the tube. The stomach wouldn't open. Wiggle the tube and poke some more. The stomach still wouldn't open. Threaten to leave me to go watch the Super Bowl and come back tomorrow . . . I grabbed the technician with both hands, pulled the front of his shirt and dragged him toward me, saying through a gagged throat, "We are staying until you get this damn tube in my stomach, I don't care how long it takes. Forget the Super Bowl!"
Finally, 45 minutes later, he placed a thinner wire through the tube, nudged and prodded, and the tube slid in.
I could be fed and he could go watch the Saints triumph.
The tube still gags me and my nose runs constantly, trying to dislodge this foreign object out of me. But for some reason, it has given me an odd sort of permission to eat. I'm told that happens to many anorexic patients; maybe it's a breaking down of defenses, maybe it's just a sheer desire to get the damn thing out.
I'm still eating what most people would consider minimal. I have been told they don't want to shock my system with too much food too soon. It takes my one hour to eat a simple meal. Small bites, chew until very soft, swallow and gag it past the tube. Then repeat about a thousand times.
And that's eating anorexic-style.