Reflections on the New Patient Handbook at My Eating Disorder Clinic

by Shannon Frost Greenstein


Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders


When you are wracked with existential pain, convinced of your own worthlessness;

when the silent voice of your Anorexia dictates your every choice;

when you’ve known self-loathing for so long you cannot remember otherwise…

it’s probably time to admit yourself into your local eating disorders clinic.

Dear New Patient, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you!

When you have said goodbye to your husband and the new kitten you will not see for months;

when you wake up in a strange room, surrounded by 60 women sharing your emotional agony;

when you have to re-learn how to think, how to feel, how to manage, how to live…

you have to accept that you are about to lose control of your life.

The purpose of the level system of privileges and limitations is to provide structure while you are in treatment. Factors used to determine your level include weight, vital signs, laboratory results and your cooperation while in treatment.

When you are hysterically sobbing over a plate of pancakes;

when a lifetime of trauma finally catches up to you;

when you understand you can only be rebuilt if you are first broken down…

it might be helpful to trust the clinicians.

      • To support patients who are having difficulty, bathrooms will be locked
      • All sharp items will be confiscated and locked in the nurses’ station
      • No R-rated videos, DVDs, or TV shows
      • If you are found with contraband, you may drop a level or be asked to leave the program
      • Food and liquids are not to be taken from the dining room
      • You will be supplemented if you do not finish you meal
      • Dress in a manner that communicates you are prepared for a day devoted to therapeutic work

When a season has passed while you are cloistered away;

when you feel foreign in your skin and no longer recognize your body;

when you have the skills to tolerate the distress of a world without an eating disorder…

you might be ready to go home.

The Aftercare Coordinator works with your treatment team to set you up for success in recovery. Our commitment to our patients does not stop at discharge.

When your husband comes to pick you up;

when you exit the locked door into springtime;

when you are newly committed to health because you want to have a baby…

the hard work has only just begun.

We recognize the complexity of the biological, social, and cultural contexts within every woman’s life. We recognize the healing potential of healthy interpersonal relationships.

And, when it is six years later;

when you’ve had two babies and the kitten has grown up and your family is complete;

when you still struggle every day but also feel joy, and pride, and overwhelming love…

you might finally be grateful for the whole process.


Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her children, soulmate, and stubborn cats. She is the author of More., a poetry collection from Wild Pressed Books. Shannon is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine, and a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, STORGY Mag, Lunate Fiction, Door Is a Jar, and elsewhere. Follow Shannon at or on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre. She comes up when you Google her.


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