Tag Archives: eating disorder recovery
I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder. I’m ashamed to say that but it’s time to be honest. Not to be taken care of, not to be attention seeking but because lying and hiding does me no good. Also, it’s past time to get on track and in my case transparency has been the best motivator for that.
I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost three full years. I’ve been extremely proud of that. Extremely. In fact, out of everything I’ve done in my life I can say that this was the one thing I have been proudest of because it is the thing I have had to work the hardest for. And now? Well I can see it slowly slipping through my fingers. It’s a scary feeling for me and I know it’s a scary feeling for those around me.
What happened? I don’t exactly know. I suppose it’s been a combination of factors. Med adjustments, depression which caused loss of appetite, stressors, a lingering dissatisfaction with my body which never really went away, change and the biggest one of all – a significant trauma anniversary (which at one point I plan to write about). All of that collided and I let down my guard and the disorder slipped in.
I owe some apologies. At this point in my recovery I can’t slide back into my disorder without some awareness of my actions. There was some familiarity in the behaviors and feelings. They brought relief I was seeking but even that is no excuse. I owe apologies to my friends who fight everyday for stepping away from the battle and for leaving you to fight alone. It invalidates your struggle and for that I am sorry. And it goes without saying that I owe many apologies to those who love me.
So where do I go from here? Well, I try. I try to get back on track. I pray that I haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole and that I can still yet pull myself out. I try with every fiber of my being even with my brain screams that this is wrong. I fight the biology of the disorder with everything I have and everything I have learned. And believe that I can regain the reground I have lost and come the end of February I can celebrate my third year in recovery.
This post is a guest post written by one of my best friend’s Pam who blogs over at This Tangible Certainty. I highly recommend you check out her blog. She is a fantastic writer who has some great insights into eating disorder recovery and life in general. She’s blogged for me before which you can read here. I first met Pam at The Center for Change. The funny thing was that at the center we really weren’t that close. We existed each in our own separate dissociated world and really didn’t talk much but sometime after we both discharged we became a huge part of each other’s lives. Today we talk almost every day about everything under the sun including the trials and tribulations of recovery from an eating disorder and trauma. The post that follows is a topic we have discussed many times and I am so glad Pam chose to write on it.
Most of my life I identified myself with trying to be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect athlete. When I entered treatment at 17, that identity was gone. The only thing I had left was this “eating disorder”.
I was humiliated. I had gone from top of my class and a varsity athlete to sitting in a treatment center where I was not even allowed to walk down a flight of stairs. My eating disorder was suddenly the only thing I had left. Treatment felt safe. There were people who took care of everything for me and I really liked that.
It is an easy trap to fall into. My life outside of treatment was chaotic. I was playing volleyball and tennis year-round, I was taking 3 AP classes, involved in clubs at school, and was on the Board of Education. I have a document on my computer entitled “Checklist for Pam” that was sent to me by my parents during my first treatment stay. Here is a screenshot of the first few lines:
Is it a surprise that I didn’t want to return to this? I didn’t know how to stop. So when I found myself in treatment where it was completely okay to sleep and color all day, I was in complete culture shock. And then I realized that I liked it. It was comforting and easy. It was like I was a baby… all I did was color, nap and eat. Someone even watched me go to the bathroom.
When I got out of treatment, I didn’t know how to slow down. Slowing down was not acceptable and I thought if I admitted that I couldn’t handle the same workload, I would let everyone know that I was weak and incompetent. I didn’t have the voice to say “I need to slow down” and so relapsing became my substitute for words. My therapist likes to remind me of her conversations with my case manager and how they could not get me to calm down. I don’t think I even knew how burnt out I was. Either that or I was desperately trying to convince myself and everyone else that I could still do everything (and probably also convince them that I wasn’t sick).
I tell my experience because I want everyone to know that it is easy to fall into the treatment trap but it is really hard to get out of it. Treatment was safe and comfortable. I was in a world where it was okay to talk about feelings and fears. Outside of treatment walls, I had to invincible. I felt that in order for me to get my needs met, I had to be in crisis.
The thing with being in crisis is that the real work does not get done. Instead everything becomes about managing the moment. I have spent so much time managing a crisis versus getting into the deeper issues. Up until recently, I did not have the words to express the extent that I was hurting emotionally. I thought that if I was hurting inside, the only way to “prove” that was to relapse.
I have been stable for quite some time now. I am not yet recovered, but for once I can truly say that I am in recovery. In a recent session with my therapist she told me that I was being “weirdly quiet”. When I reminded her that I refused to talk for the first two years of therapy she responded; “Yes, but that was before you had a voice.” In thinking about that comment, she is completely right. I never knew how to articulate what I needed or how I felt. I would spend my sessions memorizing the order of the “How Are You Feeling Today?” poster leaned up against the wall (it has now been removed from her office… oops).
There are still some things that I have a hard time saying. The difference between now and two years ago is that now, instead of using my eating disorder to express them, I work through the difficult stuff with my therapist and she is working on learning how to read my mind (just kidding).
Part of being in recovery is giving up the eating disorder identity. It is not defining your days by how well you stuck to your meal plan or how long you stayed on the treadmill. It is reaching out, talking, and not using behaviors to express what is going on. It is okay to be hurting emotionally yet not take it out on your body. The real work does not begin until you stop trying to “prove” that you are sick enough to deserve help.
Being in a treatment center will never teach you how to live a normal life and a treatment center will never help you achieve full recovery. Treatment centers are great for learning skills, getting stabilized, and starting to do really hard work, but they are not a substitute for real life. Real recovery is about going out into the world, making mistakes, working through them, and realizing that it is okay have a full range of emotions and experiences without using your eating disorder to express them.
It is definitely not easy. Everyday I have to go about my day as a regular 22 year old but I also have to fight negative thoughts and behaviors. It is like living two lives at the same time and having equally demanding responsibilities in both. There was a time where I could not promise you that fighting was worth it. Now, even on my hardest days, the alternative is not what I want for my future. The alternative does not even give me the option of a future.
At some point I stopped counting the months. At some point I stopped celebrating them. The first year I was home from CFC I celebrated (and usually blogged about – check the archives if you are interested) each month I was home from CFC. One month, I would type into my faceboook status leaving the world to guess. Two, then three and finally the big one SIX MONTHS HOME IN RECOVERY. I shared then because I had stopped hiding behind any facades. I had a two year gap on my profile from when I was in treatment, no answers from well meaning (or not so) people when they asked what I was doing (I actually started spouting off ‘finding myself’ if I got too irritated) and of course I’d started this blog. Hard to hide when you have a blog with your real name attached …And that was just it I didn’t want to hide anymore. So I didn’t. And I shared each of those milestones on here….seven months.eights months. nine months….ONE YEAR.
And after a year I continued celebrating. I didn’t count the months on facebook or on my blog. In fact, I didn’t count them for myself unless I delibratingly stopped and thought. There was a rough patch. A long one right after six month mark and into the year and a half mark while I waited for Benny to arrive. It’s seems like I spent more time in the psych. hospital than out while we tried to get me mentally stabilized and diagnose me correctly and a short stay at a trauma facility. But I never relapsed back into my eating disorder. I came close a couple of times but somehow I kept a hold of my recovery.
And then this year I celebrated my two year recovery anniversary – this past February actually. My parents and I went out to dinner (how appropriate and wonderful way to mark a recovery from an eating disorder). They gave me a sweet gift and so did Ben (:D).
And so I’ve continued. I’m not counting the months anymore. I suspect I’ll always mark the year. Maybe not publicly Maybe not with anyone else but to me February 22nd (or aroundish there) will always be a day of rebirth. But the moments, the minutes, the months that I stay in recovery? Oh, I let those fly by.
Except I stopped the other day. I was handing cash to a person in a drive-through and I looked down at my left wrist where I have a tattoo that says hope with the o replaced by the eating disorder recovery symbol and was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. And as I drove away from the drive-through I replayed it in my head. Slowly.
I. Am. In. Recovery. From. An. Eating. Disorder. That. Almost. Killed. Me.
I’m here. Handing cash to a person through a little window. Driving with the windows down and a dog’s head stuck out the back. Bad music coming from the radio. Not in a sterile hospital room. Not running laps around the block. Not dead. I am in recovery.
There are a thousand other scenarios that could be taking place today had I not stumbled onto hope and held onto it and let it lead me into recovery. But I did hold on. I did make it here. And I realized that yes, I do celebrate my recovery once a year perhaps it is something I should remind myself more often how precious it is. Not only is the reminder tattooed on my wrist it is around me in every way. All I have to do is look.