“Congratulations on getting through the first stage of treatment,” Barbara said. So far, she hadn’t kicked Joel out of the exam room, and he was thankful for that but confused, especially after Winnie raised her chin and smiled as if she’d done something monumental.
Joel had basically forced her into staying in the hospital and forced her to walk in this eating disorder treatment center. Her heartrate was barely above fifty and fluctuated when she tried to stand up. They’d used a wheelchair to get through the airport and had special handicap accommodations everywhere they went. He had to carry her up and down any set of stairs, she slept most of the day and needed help to shower.
“What stage of treatment is she through?” Joel blurted out, trying to keep his voice monotone and not show his frustration.
“She was medically stable enough to leave the hospital,” Barbara said in a pleasant, upbeat, comforting manner.
“Barely,” Joel said, shifting in the tiny chair, at least the chair felt tiny for his football player sized body.
“Well barely was enough to get her out of the hospital and into our residential phase.” Barbara’s voice had taken on a warning tone as if Joel needed to pull back his frustration in support of his wife. “Here we’ll be able to focus on the underlying psychological aspects of treatment, to go beyond just medical stabilization. We have support groups, individual therapy, and an entire treatment program dedicated to working on some of the possible precursors to the eating disorder. It’s like a medical stabilization program in combination with a psychiatric program.”
“Psychiatric?” Winnie interrupted. “Do you think I’m insane? I don’t need a psychiatric treatment center.”
“We don’t think you’re insane, Edwina.” Barbara turned her attention back to Winnie. “Psychiatric is just talking about things pertaining to your brain and thoughts rather than the physiological aspects of your treatment, your heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, that kind of thing.”
“I’m just fine.” Winnie folded her hands across her chest. “I don’t need any of this.”
“I’m glad you feel fine,” Barbara said with a smile. “Our treatments are focused on helping you feel even better than just fine. We want you to feel great.”
“I’m never going to feel great,” Winnie grumbled.
Joel took her hand in his and winked at her. “I’d like to help you feel great.”
“Take me home and make love to me,” Winnie said through clenched teeth. “That will make me feel great.”
“You’re not quite healthy enough for that, babe.” Joel leaned forward and kissed her lightly. “But maybe we can make that our goal by our anniversary, okay?”
“How long have the two of you been married?” Barbara asked. “When’s your anniversary?”
“Not quite a year,” Joel said. “We were married last year on December twenty-seventh.”
“Two weeks from now?” Barbara’s voice squeaked and she looked Winnie up and down. “And you think she’s going to be ready—” She must have realized what she was saying in front of a patient who was in complete denial of her severe medical condition.
“Let’s make that our goal.” Joel glared at her, trying to convey with his pointed statement that he realized the thought was preposterous. But Winnie needed to believe she would be healed quickly. Once she was locked safely in this facility, time would be irrelevant.
“Right.” Barbara wrote something down on the pad of paper in front of her. “I’m glad we have a goal in mind. Edwina, I heard you mention something about a dance studio. Is that another goal you have? Do you like to dance?”
“I’m a prima ballerina at a prestigious theatre in New York City.” Her statement, combined with the lift of her chin, came across as haughty but confident. “I’d like to get home to my job as soon as possible.”
“Wonderful, now we have two goals.” Barbara wrote that on her notepad also. “Anything else?”
“I want my husband to be able to return to medical school.”
“I’ve already decided to take classes remotely for a few semesters, so don’t worry about me.” Joel squeezed her hand. “Let’s get you healthy before we think that far ahead.”
“Still, it’s another goal.” Barbara wrote that on her list. “Also, something about spending time with your mother-in-law?” She raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“I want to spend time with Lynnette,” Winnie said. “She understands me.”
“That’s wonderful to have a family support system,” Barbara said. “Perhaps Lynnette will be an integral part of helping you transition back to full independence.”
“We’re staying with my parents right now,” Joel said. “They have a full lower level that they keep referring to as our honeymoon suite. It has a family room with a wet bar, a bedroom with a Jacuzzi tub and a sliding glass door that walks right out to the beach. And my mother can do all the cooking upstairs.”
“That sounds like a wonderful place to spend your time in recovery,” Barbara said. “As soon as we’re ready to begin a transition to outpatient treatment, we’ll bring your family in so they can all get involved in the treatment plan.”
“Lynnette’s wonderful,” Winnie said with a sigh. “You’ll love her.”
“I look forward to meeting her.” Barbara smiled at Winnie. “For now, let’s focus on getting you medically stable and feed that brain of yours so we can dig into the mental and emotional aspects of cognitive work.”
Wow, this woman’s good at her job, Joel thought. “Thank you so much for your help, Barbara.”
“Yes, thank you,” Winnie said, following his lead, as he predicted she would.
“Let’s get your vital signs and start into the exam, shall we?” Barbara stood and walked to the sink to wash her hands. “Are you afraid of needles, Edwina? I need to draw your blood.”
“No, I’m not afraid of needles.” Winnie sat up and held out her left arm. “I am right-handed, though so we should draw blood from the left.”
“Great idea,” Barbara said, grabbing a paper towel.
Joel sat back and let the woman work her magic. This treatment plan was going to help his wife heal. He just knew it. His smile faded as he realized that for Winnie, the worst had yet to begin.
Book Club Discussion Questions: What do you think Joel's referring to by "the worst"?