The title of this blog posting will come as quite the shock for almost all of my readers. I suffered with an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) eating disorder called “pica”. (Sounds like formica)
According to Wikipedia: “Pica is characterized by an appetite for substances that are largely non-nutritive, such as paper, clay, metal, chalk, soil, glass, or sand.”
“The scant research that has been done on the causes of pica suggests that the disorder is a specific appetite caused by mineral deficiency in many cases, such as iron deficiency…Often the substance eaten by someone with pica contains the mineral in which that individual is deficient. More recently, cases of pica have been tied to the obsessive–compulsive spectrum, and there is a move to consider OCD in the etiology of pica. However, pica is currently recognized as a mental disorder by the widely used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).”
I shamefully hid the fact that I ate paper for over 8 years. It started in 2008 (I think) after I got robbed at the Giant Eagle Getgo gas station. I was working at The Wasserstrom Company during the day and Getgo at night. I was rinsing my hands in the utility sink near the door that enterered into the “employee only” area. The door was partially cracked open when a man came barging through and guiding me around the corner and in front of the cash register. He “gently” pushed me down to my knees in front of the safe and wanted me to open it. I advised him that we don’t have access to the safe, so he moved me back up to the register & I gave him all the currency we had. I think it was less than $100. If it had been more (I think $125 or higher) I would have been fired for not dropping the excess money into the safe. It was over so quick that I didn’t even know he was grabbing packs of cigarettes from the shelves behind me. He ran out the door and I called the police and locked the door.
Yadda, yadda, yadda the police came to Wasserstrom (maybe it was 2007?) down on Front St and showed me a lineup of pictures. After carefully studying them, I pointed to the man who had robbed me. It turns out he was known by the Grandview Heights Police department. He had recently gotten out of jail/prison and had a drug problem. I later found out that his own family had turned him after seeing him on TV for robbing the UDF (United Dairy Farmers for everyone else) down the street. According to his family, he could not have robbed me as he was home trying to detox (my word). I think they said he was home trying to “get off the crack”. I think he went to jail, but I was scared shitless as I always worked by myself from 6pm-11pm.
After a short time I asked for a transfer down to the Giant Eagle store. I worked as a cashier, but after a while I went back down to the Getgo because I really loved how easy the job was. I started eating paper at some point (either before I went to the store or when I went back to Getgo). I would get it out of the printer tray or take it out of the pack of printer paper (the kind from OfficeMax® Office Depot®). I would tear it into strips and then small pieces and pop it into my mouth and chew. I would swallow (keep your minds out of the gutter LOL) and then do it all over again.
I got to the point that I would also eat lined notebook paper. I’m sure the ink wasn’t good for me, but I couldn’t stop. I got so desperate that I would find any piece of paper and tear off the part that had printing on it and eat it. The only time I got “busted” was by my old supervisor Jeff Evans (at Wasserstrom). I had just put some paper in my mouth when he came into my cubicle. He asked if I had just put paper into my mouth and I told him that it was gum. This shame didn’t deter me.
On January 23, 2009 I was one the first three people laid off from The Wasserstrom Company. We were told the reason was due to the “economy” and not because of anything we had done. Shortly after that I met Brian Sexton (who would become my husband 2 1/2 months after our 1st date).
I hid my pica from him for quite some time, but I don’t know exactly how long it was until he “found out”. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. He was worried about how it would affect my health…he really cared about me and was genuinely concerned about me. He urged me to tell my family doctor and I did.
Dr. Weiss said it was pica and probably due to an iron deficiency. He put me on a slow release iron tablet, but I hated that it made my poop blackish-green. Also, I missed eating my paper, so I quit taking the iron. The pica got progressively worse and I got up to the point where I was stealing paper from work or from our home printer to “support my habit”. I ended up needing to make sure I’d have paper wherever I was going. I secretly started buying the packs of paper at Target and keeping it in a bag in my car.
I went to a therapist who said it was a form of OCD and that I’d need Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy/CBT. See link for info: http://ocdla.com/cognitivebehavioraltherapy
I didn’t have the money to pay for this and my health insurance wouldn’t cover it, so I looked into checking into an inpatient program at OSU’s Harding Hospital. They offered help to people with anorexia, bulimia, etc. but nothing for pica.
I then went to Overeaters Anonymous meetings and at first it was freeing to share my struggles with people who accepted me (and didn’t judge me). But as time went on, I felt the program (and rightly so) was focused on people who had issues with food. I also had a problem with being overweight, but I had progressed to the point that I would rather eat paper than have a piece of Godiva® Chocolate Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.
Next, I tried hypnotherapy at Positive Changes Hypnosis of Columbus. I put the $800 fee on my credit card and was very open to this. I was able to be hypnotized and I was able to quit eating paper for 5 weeks. Since I couldn’t afford to continue going I had to quit. Guess what happened next? You guessed it…I started eating paper again! 😦
In 2014, I finally confessed to my wonderful dentist (of 13 years)Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs about my pica.
http://www.camelotdentalgroup.com/ I was embarrassed because I thought I was possibly damaging my teeth with this 8 year habit, but I still couldn’t stop! I was in constant turmoil about being so weak and having a disorder that isn’t widely recognized by the general public. I was now up to about 20+ pieces of printer paper a day and was eating more paper than food as it filled me up.
Remember when I said I stopped taking my iron supplement because I didn’t like having blackish-green shit? At this point, I was constantly constipated because I was consuming more paper than regular food. I almost didn’t want to stop because I was at my lowest weight of 238 pounds. I was so fucked up that my brain seemed to tell me that it was better to eat paper than to gain weight!
I was working through Intellisource Staffing at a warehouse for Zulily. I started doing put away of items and then I moved to the picking area (picking items not my nose). 🙂 I was working (4) 10 hour shifts Wed-Sat and along with my diet of paper had maintained 238 pounds with no additional exercise outside of working hours. We walked about 8 1/2 – 9 hours a day, so it was quite the workout. Then everything changed on December 17, 2014.
I had REALLY been struggling to make it through the day at Zulily. I had started my shift that Wednesday morning at 6am and by about 8am I could barely push my cart and do my job. I found my lead Demba and told him I was going to the Mt. Carmel East emergency room. I also had pain in my abdomen from one side to the other. I called my husband and drove myself to the hospital.
Long story short…I had a CT scan, x-rays, 2 kinds of ultrasounds (transabdominal and transvaginal pelvic). The latter are definitely my favorite kind because the technician hands me a giant dildo (with lubricant on it) and I get to put it into my vajayjay. Of course they found ovarian cysts, but I’ve always had them so I wasn’t concerned. Then the pièce de résistance was the upper endoscopy. Wait!!! I almost forgot about the transfusion of 2 units of blood!
I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and we don’t believe in blood transfusions. I used to carry a card stating my refusal to ever get one.
Even though I haven’t been a part of the religion since I was 18 years old (I quit and wasn’t dis-fellowshipped), I still seriously considered whether or not to get a blood transfusion. From www.jw.org
“This is a religious issue rather than a medical one. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29) Also, God views blood as representing life. (Leviticus 17:14) So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life.”
So it turns out that I had a bleeding ulcer. The doctor told me that I needed to stop taking 3200 mg of ibuprofen a day. Towards the end of my hospital stay I received an IV infusion of iron. After three days of being in the hospital, I was ready to go home and sleep in my own bed. I was to return to work on December 20 but I ended up getting a new doctor’s excuse from the hospital that allowed me to take one more day off so I could rest.
At that point from December 17 and forward, I never ate another piece of paper again! As of yesterday on September 3 it had been 260 days. I don’t really have the cravings anymore and I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, September 9 as the iron prescription by Dr. cauldron for me was the way less than milligrams than what the hospital had prescribed.
So this is been a very long blog and I hope I haven’t bored you too badly. I have my Dragon naturally speaking voice recognition program up and running. I bought it about six months ago and never used it, but now that I have this blog I’m going to be using it a lot more. And remember…
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