There is a residential treatment center located thirty miles from my home. This facility helps individuals who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa. I knew I wanted to work there.
To work there, I had to go through a two-step interview process. The first part is a face-to-face interview. Of course, I sailed through the meeting.
(To learn my interview techniques, you can read about them HERE.)
The Clinical Director invited me back for part two of the process. I was simply to arrive at 11:45, eat lunch with fifteen patients, and leave.
I had no worries, this lunch meeting should be easy, I love to eat.
I arrived at the facility on time and the Recovery Coach on shift gave me instructions about mealtime.
“Lunch starts at noon sharp and ends at 12:30 on the dot,” she began.
“You have to eat every bite of food on your plate. Every bite.”
“I understand,” I said.
“We are role models for these women who starve themselves.”
My nerves were bubbling, containing myself from smiling too big. I couldn’t wait to meet the fifteen patients and be a great example.
The recovery coach repeated herself, “you have to eat every bite of your food.”
I hoped there were no onions, peppers, olives, mushrooms, garlic or anything else with a weird taste or texture or smell.
Maybe I have an eating disorder.
The Recovery Coach and I walked into the dining room. I smelled the delicious aroma of food drifting in from the kitchen.
Seventeen plates with food were already placed on the long, board room style table. At one end sat two plates, squished close together, one for her and one for me.
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
Great a hamburger. I love hamburgers. Easy Peasy. I got this!
I sat. All fifteen girls stared at me. “Hi, everyone. I’m Kail.” I smiled.
Silence, dominated the room. I received a few weak smiles. A few ladies were crying because they had to eat and others wore angry expressions.
Are they mad I’m here?
The Recovery Coach announced to the group, “Your thirty minutes starts now.”
I looked down to grab my hamburger. What! Wait, what is this? This is not a hamburger.
I lifted the top bun to see what it was. I felt the Recovery Coach elbow me. I dropped the bun.
What is this? I never saw this before.
One of the ladies began to talk about the Portabella mushroom sandwich on her plate.
Now I knew what it was.
Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash
Portabella Mushroom sandwich on a hamburger bun. Yuck!
Oh my gosh, what am I going to do? I can’t eat this. No way, no how!
I have to! If I don’t eat this Portabella Mushroom, I won’t get hired.
Quickly, I came up with a plan.
I took a bite, chewed the hamburger bun around the mushroom and swallowed, then I took a sip of water and swallowed the mushroom whole.
Three bites into the sandwich I began to sweat. The lady sitting next to me must think I had some weird eating habits.
Take a bite, drink water, take a bite, drink water, take a bite, drink water…
What I wanted to do was take a bite and spit the mushroom into the napkin, but I was scared I would be caught.
Phew, my plan was working. I’m at the middle of the sandwich.
Uh oh, this also meant I was in the middle of the mushroom and the middle was an inch thicker and fatter than the edges.
Sip more water, gulp, gulp, gulp.
The texture was gagging me, the taste was horrible.
I can’t do this!
I have to, but I can’t. Only half more. I drew encouragement from the people who ate weird items on the show of Survivor! If they can eat bugs, I can eat a mushroom for goodness sake.
And, these girls, they seem to love this Portabella Mushroom sandwich. Good for them! But, not me.
Another bite, another gulp of water.
What? I’m out of water! Now what am I going to do.
Photo by Roger Bradshaw on Unsplash
I have a quarter of the sandwich left.
Quick. I need a different strategy because there is no way I can sink my teeth into this mushroom and chew.
I’m starting to feel nauseous.
I know what I will do. I will swallow the mushroom whole.
With my new strategy in place, I took a large bite (thinking the larger the bite, the faster I would get through this) and I swallowed my bite whole.
That was too big of a bite. How stupid of me. My eyes watered, I began to choke. I felt heat rush to my throat. I told myself don’t panic. I had zero water.
I coughed hard into my napkin and I was able to un-lodge the mushroom. I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I looked around the table, only a couple of women noticed. The others were too occupied with the amount of food on their plate. I understood!
I knew from now on, I must take smaller bites.
Bite, swallow, bite, swallow, bite…
The lunch interview included table games to keep the ladies distracted while they ate their food. I was thankful for the games because the people around the table were more interested in the game than what I was trying to choke down.
The recovery coach sitting next to me leaned closer to one of the women and told her to please finish what was on her plate. I looked at her plate and there was a pea size crumb left.
I looked at mine.
Thirty minutes ended and I did it! I ate the whole mushroom.
I was hired that night. I started my new job as a Recovery Coach after I completed a drug test, TB test, and filling out paperwork.
And this was the beginning of my journey learning about recovery centers, eating disorders, and the mental health industry.
I’m best known for my appearance on the CBS Big Brother season 8 reality television show. Since then, I have gone on to earn my BS in Psychology and own and operate a 5-bed residential mental health recovery center in Oregon.
You can read Part One HERE about my journey on CBS Big Brother, “My Tell ALL Secrets About Reality Shows They Don’t Want You to Know.”
Thank you! from the bottom of my ❤️ for reading my article.
©Kail Harbick 2022. All Rights Reserved
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