Favorite residential memories

I was overcome with some serious CFD nostalgia while giving advice/calming worries of a girl going in there soon. Here’s some of the best moments ūüôā

Podiatrist.¬†Okay so this seems really weird, I know. Halfway through the first week I told my favorite nurse about my toe, which had been infected since before I left. We tried using neosporin and hydrogen peroxide but ultimately they sent me to a podiatry office a half hour away. I was dying to get out of the house and see San Diego so I took it. H, who would later be my favorite counselor, took me. We ended up talking a ton and joking (like how she had us walk really far across the parking lot “above my exercise level”). She was one of the first staff members I opened up more to but also it was lots of light conversation.

Equine. So each time I went to equine was well over amazing, but the first time was super special. I was the only one on a high enough exercise level to go, so it was just one of my favorite counselors, D, and I. Equine is about 45 minutes away up in the mountain(ish) of Ramona. Its absolutely beautiful driving there. I was amazed by all of the scenery: orchards, vineyards, huge sandstone boulders all over, farms, breathtaking views. It was the first time going there for both of us which made the drive extra magical. Once I was there I got one on one attention with the lovely equine therapists and the sweetest horse, No Name.That hour taught me so much about myself and I loooove horses so it was basically heaven. On the way back we nearly ran out of gas but found the one station in Ramona and always laughed about that.

NAPOLEON.¬†He is the most majestic cat ever who runs the neighborhood. We went on walks every morning and without fail, he would be there, looking like a king and bathing in the sun. We’d call him and most of the time he wouldn’t even turn his head, clearly because he was too good for us. By the way, H and I named him that since it totally fits.

Flirty creepy old dude.¬†So this may not be the greatest memory but it was still really funny. Also on our walks, we passed this guy’s house on the way there and back. Whenever he was outside or even in his car he’d go “hey ladies” or “mornin’ beautifuls” and it was disgusting. Most days H was walk us and our agreement was that we got to speed walk past his house and then slow once we were a good distance away.

Gym with L.¬†The first time I was approved to have gym time (and the only time while L was there still ūüė¶ ) was the best half hour of our lives. We played soccer and ran around and I felt like a kid again. I wasn’t exercising like I had been for years, just enjoying movement with a friend. The staff happened to be at a Christmas party in Amy’s office, so we thought it would be hilarious to throw a stick at the window then run away. Such adults, I know haha. So we did it and sprinted away, but they opened the blinds and only saw L running away. When they came out everyone laughed and we let them know I was in on it too.

A and I laughing like crazy in our room.¬†The first night we were roomies (in the bedroom on the opposite side of the house than the other two), we spent a whole hour laughing until we cried. We made our “Mama ___” list, which you would have to be there to fully understand, but it definitely had some interesting terms. Her laugh was hilarious which would make me laugh then her laugh harder. My abs hurt for two days after. It was much needed with the drama we’d had with this one other woman.

R, A, and I in the formal.¬†R was in PHP and she had a really difficult night and walked out before dinner. She came back and was struggling, so A and I asked the counselor T if we could all go in the formal. T is awesome so he let us. It started out with us supporting her and listening to everything, but not long after we began joking around. It was amazing to laugh and enjoy each other’s company after a few heavy days.

Christmas lights with M. Christmas was much different than I had initially expected (I was supposed to go home but ended up staying one more week). After dinner were able to go out to see a neighborhood that has 80 houses decked out in lights. The best diet tech M, who may be a little crazy in a good way, drove us in her Santa hat. She was a pretty wild driver and made the whole thing so fun. We actually had our phones so I have some great photos from that night. Rich people in California really go all out for thir lights!

Say anything. So one night we were really bored in the lull between the last group and dinner so D suggested a board game. There was one that looked really interesting called Say Anything. Basically you have everyone answer an open-ended question and then bet on which one you think will win. The judge then picks the one they like best. Since you get to answer whatever you want it can be really crazy and dirty too. D the counselor had the best/worst answers and it was amazing. We played nearly everyday after we discovered the magic of it. We ended up laughing until we cried so many times.

 

Torrey Pines. My last ever outing it was just me, A, and H the inappropriate nurse. We really wanted to go to the beach and watch the sunset, so we headed over to Torrey Pines. H showed us the college near there, golf course, and was our tour guide explaining all the cool facts about the area. After that we went to the beach. Since we had our phones we got tons of pictures. It was a perfect night and I still have so many shells and trinkets from there.

Meditation gardens. My first outing was to the beautiful meditation gardens. I went with L and counselor D. We explored and watched the surfers and sunset from a huge cliff. That was my first time out of the house minus the podiatry appointments and I loved seeing part of San Diego.

Mama T. There is so much I could say about nurse T. She truly is one of the best people I have ever me. Her and I had long talks at night after everyone else went to bed. We grew very close and she always told me about her sons and other stories. Mama T was also the first staff member I ever checked in with and she later cried telling me I was the only one ever to do so with her. Of everyone, I miss her the very most.

Making cupcakes with A.¬†One day we found a box of cake mix lying around and decided it would be great to bake cupcakes. It was one of the funnest experiences. We let loose and enjoyed each other’s company and probably drove nurse S a little crazy.. Our cupcakes didn’t turn out exactly the pretty tie dye color we envisioned but they were darn good.

Making my famous chocolate chip cookies. I have a signature huge and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe.We (well everyone but one certain dramatic person) decided we wanted to make them for our fun food challenge. I actually led the nutrition class on baking Christmas morning and then made them together. We had them as a night snack and it was perfect. I saved some of the frozen dough and baked the others Sunday night to leave them as a going away present/thank you to the staff.

Leading all the groups!!¬†This was the best thing ever, even if the same certain dramatic/person who hated me didn’t like it. I began leading groups before I even had a Journey contract to require it. I did nutrition on baking, DBT opposite action of emotion, core feelings, interpersonal effectiveness (my hardest one), medical on refeeding symptoms, body acceptance group with I love my ___ because ___, and creative journaling with a collage. Anytime a staff member asked me to do one I would accept, even if I knew it might be challenging. I loved being a leader and helping the other girls.

CBT pictionary.¬†T was leading CBT group one night and we were’t feeling it at all. Being the awesome flexible dude he is, we decided to play pictionary with CBT terms (and lots of CFD staff/fun things). By far the most hilarious and fun group we had!

Table games.¬†All of us had a love/hate with table games. We disliked basically every single one, except tolerating “going to the movies” and “1000 questions.” R thought of the absolute best thing for 1000 questions: reflection. We ended up stumping every single staff member with it during take out lunch the next day. Our answers sometimes got a little bit out there but it was all really great.

H the inappropriate nurse.¬†She was a hoot! When I met her my first Saturday she introduced herself as the inappropriate nurse and she definitely was, in a good way. She had funny stories and used tons of tough love. Some of her favorite phrases included “don’t be a dumbass” and “please don’t die on my shift, that’s a lot of paperwork.”

Making Christmas cards.¬†For the week leading up to Christmas we worked nonstop on cards fr all the staff. We had awesome candy canes drawn by A and both her and I colored, wrote greetings inside, used glitter glue, and made sure they looked amazing. It was really nice to give something to staff members and show how much we appreciated them all. Many of them cried while reading it and we got tons of hugs ūüôā

T the only man of the house. He was the only guy staff other than the GP doctor, so of course we had to give him a hard time. We teased him every time we could and he loved it. His Christmas card was even colored bright pink and purple.

J and her heels. I have mad respect for her. She walked around in ~4 inch heels everyday! J always slayed in her outfits and shoes but holy cow. She even wore them whenever we had weekend walks.

My spot. From the moment I got there, R, L, and I had our spots on each couch. We were all possessive so anytime a new client came in we would make sure to sit or set our stuff down there. We helped each other protect their turf and even the staff let others know since we had seniority.

Wall work.¬†For two whole weeks after I wrote my autobiography, C and I did wall work. She wrote down around 20 phrases when I read my autobiography. Next I free wrote about each of them. I arranged them on the wall in order from least to most significant, sorted them by main emotion, sorted again, and finally ended up with a picture of what led up to my eating disorder and my mental health issues. My one liners of my story were “I am not worthy” and “I will never be enough.” I changed them around to “I am worthy” and “I have always been enough.” It was an eye-opening experience. I had never dug that much into the causes of why I am the way I am and now I have more insight on what I need to get better.

Setting up Christmas decorations.¬†It wasn’t the same without my family, but there’salways something magical about putting up the tree and ornaments. One girl was Jewish and had never celebrated so it was cool to show her what its like. The tree became somewhere everyone woud go to feel peace and warmth.

Food prepping. I loved being on food prep. It was great wearing the fashionable hairnets and joking around with some of the best staff. I also liked that I was the onlly one other than when L was there the first few days I prepped. It helped me feel less anxious for the coming meal.

Tie dyeing. At this point there was lots of tension between may people there. We got a tie dye kit and t-shirts to use. It was really fun an everyone was happy with how theirs turned out.

Passes.¬†I absolutely loved being able to go out on my own and experience San Diego on my own. It was challenging for sure, especially the first two. I worked my hardest and didn’t use behaviors or restrict and I was proud of myself for that. I went to The Highlands (an outdoor mall), Encinitas and moonlight beach, and Seaport Village which was definitely my favorite.

Snack and meal challenge with C. It was so cool to be able to have support from my therapist when I was doing really hard foods. our first one was to Champagne Bakery where I was a hard but delicious chocolate chip cookie. The next week we went off to a mall and had Philly sandwiches while watching amazing ice skaters. She was the best therapist I could ask for at residential.

And that’s a wrap! I’ll probably add more if I think of them too because of course I can’t leave any out.

If you’ve been to residential or any other treatment, what are your favorite memories? Do you feel nostalgic about it like I do?

My body

I still wake up, some mornings, surprised by the size of my body. I look in the mirror, expecting to see less than what’s really there. I notice what I’ve lost: muscle, protruding bones, the extra space that is now filled. I’ve gained so much more.

This body doesn’t struggle through hours on the treadmill. It is not wasting away. My hip bones no longer scare my mom. It doesn’t ache constantly. I can sit and lie down without feeling pain.

My body is soft. It supports me as I go about my day. It is growing stronger. It allows me to do yoga each day simply to enjoy. It has stretch marks to remind me where I’ve been and that I have fought hard to come here. It is well-nourished and healthy. It isn’t perfect, and that’s okay. It deserves my love.

It is exactly what I feared for so many years. It is different than I expected. It is more than what I was okay with. It is more than I could ask for. It is different, but that is a good thing. It is exactly the way its supposed to be.

My body is more beautiful than ever before and I am beginning to see it.

Honesty time: coming back from a relapse

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When these words popped up on my Instagram feed this morning (via @beatingeatingdisorders) I knew I had to finally talk about what’s been going on with me lately. I hope that by sharing my story I can give hope to others finding themselves in a slump like this.

Probably around 6 weeks ago now I was struggling heavily with body image and had basically no hunger. This led to guilt and plenty of crying before/after/during meals. I felt defeated and lacked much motivation to finish everything I needed for the day. I skipped out on snacks altogether, then restricted meals. To top it all off, I saw my weight after a doctor’s appointment (here). Then I wrote about not doing so hot two weeks ago (here) but I haven’t mentioned it since.

As I’m pulling myself out of this, I realized that this most definitely was a relapse. I ran full-force back to my eating disorder and went from engaging in some restriction but not a ton ¬†to extreme restriction and compulsive exercise. I also isolated, hid everything from my mom, felt very depressed, slept a lot, and was plain miserable. My dietitian appointment last week Tuesday, I was doing so badly that she set my minimum meal plan at around 1/3 of what I left residential with. The next day I went into therapy and just cried. I felt¬†extremely hopeless and I didn’t know how I was supposed to do this all. I was struggling, my dietitian and therapist were worried, and I had little motivation to change.

Last Thursday came news that has created a complete change in mindset for me. I will talk more about this soon (its very, very exciting I promise!). Suddenly, I had something to look forward to in the near future, as opposed to becoming a nurse years from now. I could never do this thing if I’m still sick. My motivation for a new shorter-term goal has grown to cover my entire life. Living with anorexia is not living at all. If I’m stuck in this place forever I will miss so much. I could die or at least feel like dying every second. My eating disorder is not worth having to give up all of my goals and hope for the future. I need to recover for me, simply so I can have everything I deserve.

I’ve made a promise to myself that I am going to fight with everything to stay in recovery. My whole life is ahead of me and for the first time in years I am genuinely excited and thankful for that. Anorexia is NOT holding me back!

Yesterday I was able to go into therapy as a completely different person than I was the week before. I left the session feeling proud of myself, thankful for her support, and in awe of my own power/motivation. I met with my dietitian today and that appointment also went so differently than either of us had expected the week before. We found a meal plan that will be so much more nutritious and talked about making sure I honor my hunger. My progress between this week and last is probably the largest positive change I’ve seen in myself. It is so much more than just eating again.

Going back to the words above, the eating disorder really does have a way of pulling you in with temptations of relapse. Since leaving residential I’ve somewhat been waiting for it to happen in a way. After coming out of this now, I never want to go through this again. The memories of your time in the ED is so different than reality. The misery comes right back and takes over as relapse begins. It hurts so much.

If you end up beginning to slip back into your old ways, take a moment to pause and think about where this could end up. You follow the eating disorder that either leads you to death or feeling like you’d rather be dead. You fight, which is much harder, and have the rest of your life, full of possibilities. You are worth recovery. Find some things to live for, create future goals, follow your dreams, but most importantly choose recovery for YOU.

The Freshman 15

We’ve all heard of it. Many teens going into college have this as one of their biggest fears, right along with how hard classes will be and getting along with your roommate. The first mention of the “freshman 15” was in¬†Seventeen¬†magazine in 1989. Back then there was absolutely no medical proof to back it up, and that stays true today. This is a complete myth that so many allow to rule their lives. In fact, the real average weight gain (if there even is a gain) is around 2-3 pounds, not even 20% of the false belief.

Freshman year and getting adjusted to living away from home is hard enough on its own, yet so many go above and beyond and make weight maintenance or loss top priority. Lets examine that for a moment. Is gaining weight really the worst thing that could happen to you, even while knowing that it most likely would be less than the infamous 15 pounds anyways? I know it seems like the end of the world. I’ve been there and I’m still trying to shake off the lies. For me, making a list of all my priorities/goals for the year any other than weight loss has changed my focus significantly.

You may be wondering what’s so bad about dieting and exercising in order to keep those pesky pounds away. The most serious and very common consequence of trying to lose weight is developing an eating disorder. The average age of onset is 19, right around freshman year of college. Students are at the highest risk of eating disorders with 25% struggling. Adding to all of this, a huge chunk of eating disorders begin with the innocent act of going on a diet. Beyond the risk of eating disorders, restriction takes it toll on the body and mind. If you’ve ever seen the Snickers “hangry” commercials portraying what its like when you skip eating for a while, you know what I mean. You are left with little energy, poor concentration, feeling week, moodiness and irritability, and the risk for mood disorders like anxiety and depression. We simply cannot function well missing body’s essential nutrient requirements.

Having the facts about the freshman 15 is just the beginning. Everyday you’re going to hear people talking about diets, restricting, and complaining about how “fat” they are. Instead of focusing so much on size and weight, we should build an environment where confidence comes first. Believing it yourself and measuring your worth by who you are and not your appearance is just the start. Also think about this: do you pay attention to whether your friends or anyone else is gaining weight? Is their size even something that crosses your mind? Do you judge them by it? If the answer to those questions is no, its safe to assume that no one else is judging you either. College is supposed to be an amazing time so why would we want to waste it on some myth made by a magazine nearly 30 years ago?

When you leave residential ED treatment

You dearly miss the people at first and later the support you had.

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You will eventually lose contact (minus social media) with those you were in with.

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Everyone on the outside will have unrealistic expectations.

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You may have unrealistic expectations.

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You’ll wish you could add all the good staff on Facebook.

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You’l miss all (or most) of the staff and maybe even write them letters.

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You’ll be so grateful for the simple freedoms. Hello shaving when you please, long showers, flushing your own toilet, going to your room whenever you want, and leaving the house at will!

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You’ll be completely lost at times and wish you could give those freedoms right back.

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You will absolutely need a good support network of friends – not just your treatment team.

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Suddenly talking about bowel movements and GI issues isn’t acceptable.

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You’ll find the real world to be a scary place and forget how you ever lived in it.

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It will feel strange not having or being able to share your thoughts and feelings constantly.

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There will be bad days and lapses and relapses but this is normal, expected, and okay. What matters is that you get back up and continue to stay in recovery.

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You will get “you look healthy” all the time.

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You will also get comments on your body. Ignore them.

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The worst possible advice will come from people who know nothing about recovery from an eating disorder.

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You’ll begin to find success in the little things, like having one snack, rather than only becoming proud of yourself when you have the huge fear food ten times and go 1000 days without behaviors.

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You’ll realize all those “dumb skills” actually work in the real world.

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You will need all the support you can get. Take the PHP/IOP, extra therapy appointments, and support groups. Not all of us are so lucky.

 

Yes, people will stop asking where you were (especially if you shared it on Facebook).

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Its healthy to distance yourself from sick people – even those you just met in treatment.

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Every single example/memory/funny thing you think of will be residential related.

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You’ll oddly miss vitals checks. Yes there’s something satisfying about staff doing BP, HR, temps and asking you 10,000 times to rate your depression, anxiety, etc.

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You’ll be able to recite any DBT concepts without missing a beat.

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You will miss process group even though they almost always sucked.

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There will be a zillion and one mixed feelings about your time in treatment.

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You’ll wish for more time to explore whichever city you were in.

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The recovery high does fade eventually which makes things difficult.

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Some days you want to go back and others you wouldn’t without a tranquilizer.

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The scale is never a good idea.

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Diet talk is E V E R Y W H E R E outside of the treatment bubble.

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You’ll spend a very long time wondering if recovery is really worth it. (Hint: it is!)

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You’ll miss every single part. (Yes, even the poop checks, being forced to face your biggest fears 6 times a day, and extreme boredom.)

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You’ll realize that you CAN do this!

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Acceptance

For a long time I grappled with my mental health issues. Some were easier to deal with than others, but I still couldn’t stomach it all. I truly believed that somehow, somewhere I had just screwed up or thought too much about different things and that one day, it would be gone. I was embarrassed that I needed to see a therapist, start medication, and later enter into treatment. I’ve felt so many things regarding my diagnoses and tendencies: disgust, shame, disbelief. I’ve wanted them all to go away. In the past month or two that’s all changed.

I no longer wake up and hope or wish to be “normal.” My mental illnesses will always play a part in my life, whether that be big or small. They have shaped my past and will affect my future. I see them as a part of who I am. I can genuinely say that I am okay with all of this.

Now that I have come to full acceptance, I want to be clear on what this doesn’t mean:

  1. I am giving up hope of a better future. I know my mental health will always be clouded with irrational thoughts and behaviors. This does not make me hopeless, but realistic. I do have hope that things will get easier with time and hard work. I so desire that for myself and will do everything I can to get there.
  2. I define myself by my mental health. I am not the anorexic, depressed girl, anxious freak, compulsive exerciser, perfectionist, or self-harmer. I struggle with all of these with varying degrees of severity. They shape my actions and thoughts each day, but I will not be victim bound by labels. I am so much more than my diagnoses. I am Emily the college student, photography lover, girl in recovery, future nurse, etc.
  3. I am¬†helplessly¬†controlled by my disorders.¬†Acknowledging the impact these have on me and that they won’t go away in no way leads to this belief. I have the power to recover and work towards quieting the bad thoughts. At times this may seem grueling and near-impossible, but I am never powerless.
  4. This is all the only/most important part of my story.¬†Of course everything related to my mental health have significantly impacted my life. How could it not when I’ve spent the majority of my days battling irrational thoughts? Significance, however, does not mean governance. Playing soccer, attending the school system I went to, early college, and my faith are just a few influences unrelated to any of my MH struggles. They are important too.
  5. I will let any of this hold me back from my dreams.¬†I will become a mother. I will work as a nurse. I will help support others who have the same struggles I do. I will move away from my family and other physical support one day. I will travel the world. I will create and keep meaningful relationships. I will have a better relationship with food and exercise. I will own prairie dogs, a papillon, an emotional support animal, and whatever other pets to make my heart content (not all at the same time aha). I will grow my faith. I will write a book or two or three. I will earn at least my master’s degree. I will love life. No mental illness, negative thinking patterns, or self-doubt is going to stop me.

Acceptance feels good. Its a starting point of understanding how I can manage all of this for the rest of my life. I feel so much better now. The weight of denial, uncertainty, despair, and shame have lifted. Yes, I struggle with mental health issues. Yes, I am going need constant self-monitoring and then working through each dark time I experience. Yes, I accept myself and how my mental health struggles have shaped me. I am okay with it all.

Not doing so hot.

If “doing cold” were a thing I certainly would be there or very close. This is the worse I’ve been behavior and thought-wise since before I went to treatment. If it continues I could be back there. That’s scary.

Even a few weeks ago I was at a¬†much better place with behaviors, but I can also see that many of my thought patterns began well before my actions changed. My body image has grown worse over time since discharge. That alone is¬†a huge part of my downward slide. My appetite has been wacky and near nonexistent for well over a month now. That’s made me much more prone to guilt and not wanting to eat. Seeing my weight last week really started the behaviors again and multiplied ED thoughts.

I have been restricting heavily. I haven’t met close to what my meal plan is, or even the 75% goal my dietitian gave until my hunger cues normalize. In addition to that I started exercising again in a very compulsive way. Because of these things I feel weak, exhausted, dizzy, and just out of it a good majority of the time.

Its amazing how incredibly addicting my eating disorder is. I feel so high when I’m restricting or exercising, just like before. The ED is enticing. It reminds me of all the reasons I should choose to use behaviors and let thoughts grow. What I see in the mirror is constantly growing closer to something I can be okay with, so long as I continue following the eating disorder’s ways.

I know what happens down this road. It feels great, oh so wonderful, at first. You become delusional and hold on to that feeling while your entire life spirals out of control. I am not going there again but I need help.

I reluctantly emailed my dietitian the truth today. I see her Tuesday but I wanted to hear any suggestions when it comes to food and getting exchanges in somehow. My therapist has been sick. I met with a different one at Broene yesterday briefly. He encouraged me to go back to all of my skills again. I am hoping to meet with S tomorrow. I really need her no-BS push in the right direction. I have been honest with a few people. My last two days at school before the weekend wont be as secretive as it has been.

I have work to do if I’m going to move out of this cold spot. Recovery is never easy in the least bit and its like I’m just now seeing that for the first time.