This time last year, as my semester of college wrapped up, I was packing to head home for an entire month. Why? Because I was entering treatment for my eating disorder.
I was at a point where I couldn’t fix myself. And the people I had reached out to were out of resources to help me.
Four days a week I went to intensive outpatient treatment. I received an intense meal plan for re-feeding and robotically ate six times a day in hopes of restarting my metabolism. I cried with strangers over my struggle in hopes of finding someone who could relate.
Other times, I curled up in bed with stomach pain so severe I wasn’t sure if I’d get to sleep. I listened to others tell me I wouldn’t get better unless I really put myself into recovery.
Putting my health first
At the end of four weeks, my therapist recommended I stay home for a semester. She wanted me to take medical leave and enter day treatment to fully recover.
I decided against it. I didn’t want ED to win.
If I took a medical leave from school, it meant that the eating disorder had conquered me and was controlling my entire life and future. So, I made the bold (and the unpopular) decision to head back up to school. I was determined to get my life back.
My parents and I found a center that offered a similar night program that I could continue while attending school. I desperately emailed professors to rearrange my class schedule so I could attend all the sessions, as the deal was my recovery had to come first.
Hours at my job were rescheduled. I made plans with my mom for accountability checks. Doctor appointments were made to get necessary blood work to transfer to the program.
I saw my new weight and all the progress I made, but also the extreme amount I still had to make. I promised myself I would continue putting my health first, even with my busy school and work schedule.
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Work in progress
As I approach the one-year mark, I am smiling knowing I succeeded at putting myself first. But as always, I am reminded that recovery is not linear. Yes, I have made great strides towards gaining my food freedom, self-confidence and health back. But I’m still a work in progress.
I made another bold decision for my health at the end of this semester: I quit my job early so I could have a real winter break. One where I could rest, refuel, and refocus on recovery before my full-time student teaching practicum next semester.
I made a list of all the things I have wanted to do this semester that I have put on the back-burner because of school and work. And I am committed to getting this “me list” checked off.
For example, I’m sleeping in an extra hour because my body needs it. I’m assisting in my classroom placement extra days because being in the classroom and teaching kids is what brings me true joy. And I’m making more time for journaling and reflecting on this year to decide what I want 2019 to look like.
I’m freeing myself of the need for a rigid, jam-packed routine.
The difference is this decision was entirely voluntary. I saw the need for self-care in my life. I saw myself slipping a bit.
But thanks to the treatment and work I did last year, I was able to catch myself and recognize what my mind needed. While I am eternally grateful for all that both treatment centers taught me, I have no desire to go back anytime soon. So here I am. Relaxing. Refueling. Recovering.
Thank you for being so brave and transparent in sharing your eating disorder. My daughter is 16 and struggling with and Eating Disorder as well. She also has depression and anxiety with ED and along with that, there is a voice in her head she hears. And lately she screams when she eats foods that she has been restricting. We are headed for an outpatient treatment program. Can you shed any information about a voice in your head about ED. This is so new for our family and we are trying to understand so we can be very supportive.
So glad that you are doing so well and you are right we are all a work in progress.
Thanks for sharing,
Gin- I can relate to feeling like there’s a voice in my head. The part that helped me with accepting help and committing myself to recovery was reminding myself and those around me that ED is a separate person. The things that ED “tells me” involving “bad foods” or “not allowed decisions” were things I was convincing myself of based on what my mind was telling me. Once I opened up and shared these two different personalities (mine and EDs) wothmy support group, we were able to begin deciphering my responses and facing ED’s thoughts head on. She needs to understand that the disordered thoughts are not hers, but ED’s. Most people think the idea of ED is dramatic or “unreal,” but I can tell you with confidence that ED is real and he will continue existing in her brain until she can isolate his thoughts from her genuine thoughts.
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