After more than 2 years, 3 countries, 7 hospitals, I was dropped at Denver airport with no direction. 70% blind, it was up to me to create a vision.

Petrified, I sobbed, begged and pleaded with R to let me heal in the comfort of his cozy basement. While he fought to save me, I put him through hell. During my very dark time at Homewood, I was twice taken by ambulance to two different, more medically intense facilities who turned me away, only reaffirming my belief that I was a misfit who no one knew what to do with. When Homewood conceded that they could not provide the specialized treatment to keep me alive, I was medically transferred me to the Eating Recovery Center (ERC), a highly specialized facility in Denver, Colorado.

Desolate as R had Power of Attorney, the authority to act on my behalf for all legal and financial matters; I had no autonomy, no control, no hope. A sweet, empathetic nurse wheeled me onto an airplane destined for yet another foreign facility. Too weak to walk, I struggled physically, emotionally and, a nightmare patient, was not willing to comply with doctor’s orders. Tampering with feeding monitors, poking holes in feed lines and pulling tubes from my nose, I resisted treatment. My electrolytes continued to drop and plummeted so critically that I was rushed to the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders at Denver Health; another ambulance ride I do not remember.

Transition to ACUTE is nothing but pea soup fog. Unable to lift a leg to 90 degrees, stand in the shower, or ever be unsupervised, this horrifying mountain would never lead to a worthy view. Dependent on a gastro-jejunal feeding tube, I am left with another consequential TBI scar. For better or worse, a hole in my abdomen will forever remind me of what I have survived.  With a more thorough analysis of my symptoms and behaviours, the world renowned medical team at ACUTE changed my anorexia diagnosis to Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), characterized by my persistent starvation due to the disinterest and avoidance of foods since the trauma.

As I became more stable, my cognitive deficits began to be addressed and, with that, harsh reality and frustration. I could see less than half of what I used to and felt like a different person with an inept ability to think, plan, concentrate, or remember. My processing speed rivaled a turtle; the capable, clear thinker I once was an utter stranger.

After significant weight restoration and medical stabilization at ACUTE, I returned to ERC and battled yet another change. Due to the nature of many eating disorders, movement is strictly prohibited at ERC. The lack of activity heightened my disgruntlement and anxiety as I struggled to settle and comply with the rules of the pacing police. I needed to feel like I was on a trail that, despite my disability, was leading to the return to my active lifestyle. Time to find my voice, time to advocate.

Acknowledging my active lifestyle, along with my budding effort towards recovery, my Primary Therapist agreed to contact the Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDCD) which had a specialized rehabilitation track for athletes. Though I did not feel enough to even be considered, I waited with bated breath. Inspired and motivated, for the first time in two years, admission acceptance felt like I was finally en route to a trail that could lead back to my adventurous lifestyle.

My trail was headed towards recovery yet challenges continued around every corner. My American visitor’s visa expired, I was locked out of my German bank, my apartment was given up and my European residency was revoked all while I struggled to get back on my feet. For months, the EDCD team paved a path for me to start to build the broken relationship I had with myself and prepare for challenges waiting beyond hospital walls.

Making my way to Denver International Airport, I breathed freedom yet unbeknownst to anyone, felt lost. Following more than 2 years, 3 countries, 7 hospitals, and interaction with hundreds of medical practitioners,  I was dropped at an airport left to figure out which direction and where to go with what little vision I have. I point no fingers of blame as I represent a complex case considering the comorbid impact of my TBI combined with international insurance and lost European residency. Though friends and extended family with open arms, I did not have a home base, any housing arrangements, a family doctor or outpatient team to be discharged to the care of. Eyesight aside, it was up to me to create a vision. What could I make of this clean slate; how could I take on the mountains of my mind?

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  1. ISD Students says:

    Dear Mrs. Wheatley,

    We are from a 9th-grade Lifeskills class and we are very thankful that you were brave enough to share your inspiring story with the world. Your story was really touching and heartwarming and we hope you are doing better.

    Regards, 9th-grade students

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      Namaste from Nepal ISD 9th graders ~

      Thanks so much for connecting to my site. I hope that as you read you will recognize that, despite adversity that there is always an opportunity to learn and grow through and from challenge.

      Please keep following and let me know if I can help you at all.

      Carpe diem,