Living with an eating disorder can be exhausting, overwhelming, and paralyzing. But so can choosing to dive into the unknown waters of treatment and recovery. Deciding to seek help is not an easy step.
Many paths lead to entering treatment. Maybe you were confronted by terrified parents, friends, or loved ones, had the harsh reality of your disorder thrown in your face by a well meaning medical professional, or were given an ultimatum by a loved one, employer, or school. You might feel like you really do not have a choice. Or perhaps you simply decided you could no longer live constantly at war with your yourself.
Regardless of what led you towards recovery, that space between deciding to enter treatment and actually beginning it can feel like the most terrifying space to navigate through. Time seems to stand still as insurance companies authorize, paperwork is completed, a space is secured, and medical stability is established. And, of course, absorbent amounts of funds have to be secured.
So what happens during that waiting period- the in between when time passes so slowly it seems the hands on the clock are actually moving backwards? The time between deciding to seek help, and actually getting it.
Every person will have a different experience, and yet the more I talk with warriors in this place, the more I recognize common threads…
Here Are 4 Things To Expect Once You Have Decided to Seek Help:
1. Just because you have agreed to go to treatment DOES NOT MEAN you will really want to go.
It is 100% completely normal to fluctuate back and forth between feeling like you are ready to accept help and feeling like you don’t even need help. Any and all feelings are normal. Vacillating between terror, anger, hope, and hopelessness is not only common, but also another signal that it is time for some outside help.
Do NOT make the mistake of waiting until you feel “ready” to get treatment. Because you will likely never feel 100% ready to let go of your eating disorder. It has served you in many ways and helped you cope up until this point. It is the nature of an eating disorder to feel torn between wanting to choose recovery and wanting to sink back into the familiarity of an eating disorder, no matter how destructive it may be.
2. Fearing you are “not sick enough” is probably one of the MOST common fears that heightens prior to entering any level of treatment.
I was told once by the director of a facility, “The fact that you think you aren’t sick enough to be here tells me you need to be here.” Honestly at the time I didn’t understand his comment. Retrospectively, I see that if a professional (or group of professionals) has deemed it necessary for you to receive treatment, it means they are basing their opinion on their professional training and experiences. They believe you need to be there and they can help you. They also have justified your need for treatment to an insurance company (which is no small feat in itself; even when treatment is VERY NECESSARY it can be difficult to get coverage). Bottom line, feeling unworthy or undeserving of a treatment that professionals have prescribed is actually a symptom of the very disorder that needs treatment. Even at our lowest, worst place, an eating disorder tells us we do not deserve or need treatment. That is eating disorder thought at play.
3. It is common to fear you will be different from everyone else in treatment.
Maybe you fear you will be older, or sicker, or more complicated and hopeless. Perhaps you believe treatment works for others but it will not for you. Very likely you will fear you are going to be larger than everyone else. Perhaps you will be. Eating disorders thrive on comparison.
And people with eating disorders come in ALL shapes and sizes.
Eating disorders also distort our perception so our view of our bodies are likely inaccurate. But one thread common to ALL people entering treatment for an eating disorder is the fear that they don’t belong in treatment. While I never met another person in treatment with the same exact path or story as mine, I did find that I connected with the other warriors on various levels in a myriad of ways. Eating disorders take on many different shapes and sizes and affect people of all ages, genders, socio-economic statuses and races. Deep down, I have been able to connect and relate to so many other warriors and there is something truly magical that occurs from sharing experiences and healing on this journey. Nothing can compare with the support of other warriors who understand.
4. It’s Okay To Have Doubts
Deciding to accept help and go into treatment can feel like the scariest mountain you have ever faced, and it is normal to think to yourself, “I can’t do this.”
You can do this.
The idea of giving up control feels counter-intuitive to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. The very disorder that is focused on controlling everything also destroys your health, your connections, your goals, and your dreams. Despite your fear- YOU CAN DO THIS.
And in treatment you will receive support to help you achieve what feels impossible. That moment before entering treatment can feel like the end of your life, and in some ways it will be the end of life as you have come to know it. But in reality, it can be a new beginning and a coming back to the person you have always been deep down below the eating disorder.
When you choose recovery, your life opens up and the possibilities become greater than your wildest imagination.
When in the depths of an eating disorder, this will all be very hard to believe and accept. Know that it is completely normal to think none of this applies to you. Know that you CAN do this anyway, despite your fears and doubts.
Take A Breath, And Be In The Now
For now, just focus on the next step. It all feels too big, too scary, too overwhelming and too impossible. I know. Take a deep breath. Put your feet on the floor. Notice three things you hear or see around you. And ask yourself what is the very next right thing you need to do. And do that. I promise you can do it. And if you keep doing that, taking every single terrifying moment at a time, one day you will look back and be so grateful you are no longer in the spot where you have chosen to accept help. And you will be even more grateful you went through it.