A few weeks into residential, my therapist and I were discussing discharge plans. She asked whether I would be able to head back to Forest View’s PHP, then step down to IOP, and eventually go to therapy twice a week with a dietitian, etc. Right away I told her none of those things were possible. I started school the week after I left resi. PHP (and IOP) is 45 minutes away from home, and although it’s close to my school, I didn’t have a car at the time. Of course there is also the issue of school. I had to sign papers that I would come back for interim or forfeit enrollment at Calvin. There is no way I could give up my college career. Her concern immediately grew. Instead of having a month or more of step-down care, I went from 24/7 support to therapy once a week, and no dietitian for the first few weeks.
This was a hard pill to swallow. I knew all along that step-down care wouldn’t ever happen, but being so close to discharge it started to sink in more. I changed and grew immensely at residential, more than anyone expected. I was the girl I had never seen before in my sickness. Even so, the real word is scary. You aren’t in a bubble with people to help you through urges, meals, meltdowns. I no longer had groups with others who understood exactly what I’m going through. I dropped from a safe place into a world of triggers and little help.
I tried to be as optimistic as possible as discharge crept closer. There were looming fears I couldn’t shake: dining hall eating, being back at school in general, the food police, being so fat/bigger than before. I was originally going to leave the Monday before Christmas. That caused me the most worry of all. How would I be able to jump right back into a holiday after only four days out of treatment? My therapist pulled me into her office the Wednesday before I was supposed to discharge and gave me the best news possible: insurance approved an extra week. I cried feeling so blessed by this opportunity. We had to share my decision with my parents. That was a difficult conversation and is still full of negative emotions on their part. I mostly ignored it because to me getting the most time at residential as possible was going to add more confidence and motivation to my recovery.
Unfortunately, nothing CFD did to prepare me for the real world could fully do so. Coming home meant uncertainty and outcomes both good and bad. If I gave up or gave into anorexia I would just end up back where I started. On the other hand, finding the strength to fight with all I am meant finding the girl I had lost so many years ago.
Leaving residential and going straight back to completely outpatient has been challenging. I no longer had the cushy protection to help me not use behaviors or restrict. I wasn’t in treatment for 8 or 4 hours each day. No one was there to ensure I ate enough.
The thing is, by much less support (and more of a drastic change because of it) after residential I have had to own my recovery. Sure, I still had people cheering me on and did therapy, but that was only an hour of professional and then the meals I had with my family, as far as physical support goes. I so appreciate everyone who has been there for me; however, it never will be the same as being in residential or treatment in general. I completely am on my own now.
I have grown but also struggled these last almost 10 months post CFD. I miss it, or at least some aspects. Groups definitely top that list. I feel more alone now that I don’t have people to understand me. (Luckily that is changing as I attend 2 support groups now). I’ve looked through my journals and pictures from residential sometimes and just bawl, longing for any part of that program to return. About a month ago I drove to Forest View and sat in the parking lot. I so wanted to have the safety, support, and even the dreaded ensures. Also, and really surprising/confusing/weird, I miss Dr. VH?!? He was a hard ass and somewhat mean but holy cow do I miss him telling it like it is and threatening me. I honestly thought about checking myself into inpatient and just riding it out for a week so I didn’t have to face reality. I know that’s really not how I felt about inpatient at the time and I don’t plan on returning ever. For whatever reason sitting there brought up all of the good things about my time in that building and blocked out anything bad (aka most everything I experienced). More than anything it was be realizing I was so close to what parts of treatment I missed the most: groups, 24/7 care, supervised meals, being with others the same as me.
I am currently taking some steps backwards as the fall goes on. My thoughts are very negative and consumed by ED, depression, and anxiety. I am doing my best to take care of myself by going to support groups, spending time with people I love, taking another try with a dietitian, relaxing some, and eating as well as I can. Realizing all I have and haven’t done since discharge gives me motivation to keep going. I haven’t had any sort of treatment other than therapy/occasional dietitian, and I have done well without it. I haven’t needed to return to treatment. I have had so much more energy and don’t look or feel like a zombie.
I am very proud of myself for this progress. I’m in no way saying that I’m better than someone who has had step-down treatment after residential. I wish sometimes (especially during lapses in recovery) that I would have been fortunate enough to. I felt that was unfair for a long time. Now, my feelings are very different. I am glad that I came right out. I am continuously choosing and working towards recovery each day because I want it.
I was so certain I would end up back inpatient or residential without any good aftercare plan., but I didn’t. I survived each day and made it through on my own. I continue to do this all on my own. Little by little, I am finding strength on the hard days because I came home from residential and went straight back to real life.