I was a teacher with a closed door, a far cry from my days as an educator who had an open door and an open mind. I was stubborn, stuck in my beliefs and ultimately denial. With vast experiences as an educational leader, teacher, coach, athlete, mentor, aunt, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivor, I knew of many types of wisdom.
Classroom learning, learning from books, learning from others, learning from observation all come with the potential to grow proficiency. I believe the wisdom that stems from experiential learning, from personal hands-on experiences, instigates my deepest understanding. Learning by doing. Powerful experiences on frigid winter days as an alpine racer in search of a split second advantage, hopping a jeep along a dirt farming road learning to drive, making patchwork of my Dad’s golf-green grass learning to use a lawn mower; my deepest insights come from practicing. My individual timeline personified a learner. Life experience had taught me countless lessons yet I stoically walked into EDCare a closed book; a closed mind. I had nothing to learn.
Nothing to learn, only something to prove. I was just fine. I could flourish on my own. I had begun to weight restore, I could independently do the rest on my own and be on the next plane out of the mile high city. I was more powerful than any scale could read, stronger than any electrolyte monitor or blood pressure device could detect. No doctor could empathize, no therapist relate. I had nothing in common with other patients; nothing to connect. They had their stories, I had mine and no interest in sharing it. No innovative tool could measure what I felt was determination yet in reflection was resentment. My cup was full of bitter discontent. There was no trust in the process. I was exhausted, goalposts had been moved too many times, too many hospitals, too many opinions, not enough energy to open my mind.
Despite my exhaustion, I believed I was wise. I had intellectual wisdom: educational videos, textbooks, billboards, and unforgiving social media. I had education and experience as a Health and Physical Education student then teacher. I had acquaintances and teammates who had eating disorders. With such associations, I had what I felt was experiential wisdom. I knew all there was to know about eating disorders. I knew that I did not have one.
My TBI robbed me of my relationship with food but I did not have an eating disorder, anything in common with other patients, or reason to be confined to intensive treatment. Fear of the unknown skyrocketed following the blow to my head. My TBI escalated social anxiety and agoraphobia; it plunged my appetite. It left me with no interest in food or belief in my need for the nutrition I used to teach about. Irrespective of severe vision loss in the wake of my TBI, I could not see the strong athletic optimist withering. All I could see was the past, exactly where I wanted to be.
I longed for independence, to be alone in silent serenity. The thought of interacting with new people, doctors, support staff or anyone at all was draining in itself. Imagining the dining room, group therapy, and outings were as scary as food itself, a nightmare.