The night before I was admitted into The Warner Center my parents and I stayed at a motel in Miami. On the plane ride down I was forced to get an extension for my seat belt because my size didn't allow the standard belt to close. When the flight attendant handed me the extension and I watched as my parents tried their best to hold back their "oh, my poor baby" faces, I thought, I'm going to get help, I'm going to lose weight, I'm going to get better, I HAVE to. And when the familiar tinge of doubt started to settle in, I chose for the first time to ignore it.
It wasn’t until we were in the lobby checking into the motel that I realized we were all sharing a room together. My parents had been divorced for ten years and the idea of all three of us staying together was super weird and awkward. I was uncomfortable, but didn’t have a choice. I did this, I brought us here. It had been almost three weeks since I had tried to kill myself and the horror and exhaustion ran deep in the newly formed lines on both of their faces. They had agreed to put aside whatever anger, resentment, or hurt that was left between them in order to support me. So I had to put aside whatever weirdness I was feeling and just be grateful I wasn’t alone.
As the sun set that night, we sat around the pool, feeling very Floridian, surrounded by palm trees and pink and green balconies. It was kind of hilarious that on such a serious occasion we were staying in a place that screamed Miami Vice. Oddly, it created the perfect backdrop. The reflection of the lights rippled in the pool below us as we discussed the opportunities of this new beginning and the past we all prayed I would leave behind. We were all nervous and excited, it may not be Chestnut, but it was something -- something that had the potential to finally give me the help that I so desperately needed.
In the morning my dad called a cab to come pick us up from the motel and drive us to my new home. The cab driver was an old man who had retired to Florida years ago from Garden City, the same town my mom grew up in. He chatted up my parents while I stared out the window and dreamt about Michael Pitt** and whether he could fall in love with me, despite my weight, once he saw how deep and wounded I was. When we pulled into the parking lot I began to wonder if the kind old man at the wheel had any idea of where he was dropping us off. Did he feel bad for me? For my parents? Was he just smiling out of politeness? He waved enthusiastically as he pulled away and I imagined him excitedly rushing home to tell his wife about the nice couple from Long Island he had just met and their poor fat daughter who was being committed.
Warner was shockingly beautiful. It’s campus was like a tropical fairyland with palm trees, and gardens, and tiny squirrels running around. The vibrant pink and white buildings were filled with giant windows and were no taller than two stories. It was as though they were trying to trick you into thinking you were staying at a spa on a mental health retreat. Oh how relaxing this will be! The facials and massages I shall get! My parents and I fell for it. We were overwhelmed by the environment and the opportunity that it held yet at the same time felt almost relaxed. It really wasn’t until I was standing next to my new plastic covered twin bed, watching two overweight nurses wearing latex gloves search through my belongings, that I remembered why I was there. This fantasyland was just a facade.
That morning seemed to simultaneously last forever and speed by too quickly. The three of us were shuttled from building to building answering questions, filling out tons of paperwork, and being given the grand tour. By the end of it I was exhausted and ready for lunch. We set ourselves up on the patio in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows of the cafeteria. My lunch was already prepared for me and wrapped in cellophane, so I sat outside nervously shoving food in my mouth while my parents waited on a lunch line like they were in high school again.
While in line, a patient turned to my mom and introduced herself. Her name was Rachel and she had been living at Warner for a while now. She reassured my mom that she had nothing to worry about and told her that I was in the right place. Warner would provide me with the help we had been looking for. When my mom came back outside, lunch tray in hand, she was smiling for the first time in three weeks.
Our meal was spent mostly in silence, taking in the scenery, taking in everything that had happened and everything that was about to happen. I knew that as soon as we were finished eating my parents would have to leave, and even though I felt like I would be okay once they did, I was dreading it. A squirrel scurried up and down the white wooden column next to our table, bringing twigs and anything else it could find to what we could only assume was a nest it was building. On Its fourth trip down it disappeared and then jetted past us with its baby in its mouth. We watched in awe and laughed as a huge feeling of relief came over all three of us. After everything we had been through in the last year we finally felt a sense of genuine hope. Everything was going to be okay. This was where I was meant to be.
**Michael Pitt was my #1 dream boy crush. If you don't know who he is watch Hedwig and The Angry Inch immediately or early seasons of Boardwalk Empire, but really Hedwig. And again, you're welcome.