I started living with my parents again after I was discharged from treatment for an eating disorder. My first month I was at home, with mom or dad driving me to treatment. I left each three-hour session too emotionally drained to safely drive home.
During that month, my parents were a lot of things for me: my rocks, my police officers, my shoulders to cry on, my cheerleaders, my challengers, and my nutritionists. Some days were amazing and we all celebrated my victories together.
Other days, when ED was especially loud, I screamed at my mom as she did her best to keep me on my food plan and help me fight the behaviors I was exhibiting. It was a roller coaster of a month.
But more change…
After a month, I transferred to a center by my university so I could return to college. This was a big step, as I was continuing my recovery journey without a strong support system at home. Actually, I would even go as far as to label my living situation during this time as toxic.
I clung to the support that I could from my parents who were now hours away. My parents still checked in with me daily, drove three hours to attend parent nights, and waited for my nightly call on my drive home from therapy. It is safe to say that I would not have been able to do this without them.
Back to living with my parents
When I was getting ready to discharge, my parents came to me with the idea of moving to Orlando. It had always been their retirement dream. Now they wanted to expedite the plan so they could support me at home again for my final year in college and my first year discharged and on my own. I agreed.
A year later, as I pack my bags to move out, I find myself reflecting on all I’ve learned about myself, my eating disorder, and my recovery needs from living with my parents.
The year spent working on myself with my parents’ support was truly life-changing. And it prepared me for the next chapter of my book.
Here are the three biggest lessons I learned from a year at home:
1. The eating disorder will find ways to reappear even when you are surrounded by people that believe you are “fully recovered.”
For me, ED wanted to graze at night, but this option was challenged in an apartment where my parents spent nights in the living room/kitchen with me. Having this open floor plan encouraged me to challenge this desire to graze and focus instead on eating full, satisfying snacks at night before bed. This helped me reduce my grazing, honor my cravings and be more in tune with my body’s needs and hunger cues.
2. Your inner circle wants to see you recover and come out stronger than ever, BUT they’re also afraid to speak up, trigger you, or say something that rubs you the wrong way.
My mom occasionally asked me if a meal was an appropriate serving, if I was avoiding my fear foods, or if I was exercising solely because of a bad body image day. She also sometimes asked if I was still incorporating variety into my diet. I had to take a step back to realize that she was asking these things out of love, concern, and support. She was not to attacking me or calling me out. Parents have it hard. Looking back, these comments were good checkpoints for me and kept me moving forward.
3. Each person has different food preferences, eating routines, and lifestyles; you cannot compare yours to theirs.
I hated snacking when no one else was. Why was I hungry but they weren’t?
I learned to remind myself that my schedule and job leads me to eat more frequently throughout the day. Because I am on my feet all day and am active, my body requires plenty of fuel in terms of nutrition.
I need to stay focused on my own body’s needs. What I don’t need to focus on is what my parents, boyfriend, coworkers or friends are eating around me.
It is important to push yourself. Find somewhere where you are comfortable but that challenges you to discover new strengths that you hold. For me, I felt ready to take on living on my own because of the discoveries and growth I made with my parents.
Find your support, appreciate them, and let the relationships open your eyes to all that you can be.