3 months.

I’m having a hard time holding it together today. I’ve been on the edge of tears all day long (nearly cried while listening to someone talk at clinical). It could be many things: waking up at 5:45, a pretty long and anxiety-provoking day at the hospital, or the very stressful situation that came up last night. More than anything else though, it is because today marks 3 months since leaving CFD. That’s a quarter of a year (!?!?), 92 days. My feelings today really mirror what I felt back then. I want to insert my journal entries from my last day there. These will be in italics throughout this post to help differentiate.

The CFD journey is officially over. I am so blessed to have 34 days with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. This was and will always be the best decision for me. God knew exactly what I needed. This is it. 100% true to this day. I think I’m able to appreciate my experience even more now that I am removed from it.

I want to believe all everyone said. I want to remember it forever and ever. That I am: a light, the official Michigan guide, kind, RESILIENT, courageous, strong, worthy, that I have changed, I can do this, a fun presence in the house, going to recover, overcome lots of things in my time here, have a bright future, have made so much progress, have to keep opening up. 

I want to believe these things ^ More than anything in the world

I’ll admit, I’ve had a difficult time believing any of this. I think part of it is not making an effort to remind myself. My goal will be to write these down somewhere I will read it often. I want to make encouragement, mantras, and positive attributes part of my daily life as it was in residential.

J (my therapist) – if you give a mouse a cookie… she knocked on the door of all my shame but I am the one who opened up. That shows my growth. She has hope for me to continue this. I am grateful for everything she’s done for me. I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I never could have let the shame out if I hadn’t had her. Maybe I would have just carried it forever. While there will never be anything outpatient like J’s shame train (choochoo!) group, I am continuing to explore my shame. I don’t want to live with it forever. EMDR is the current answer to this. I’m hopeful.

What has changed? A LOT

  • I am using my assertive voice
  • choosing recovery over vacation, my parents, what I want my summer to be like
  • I am letting go of the shame
  • I see that my family has perpetuated the shame
  • I am nourishing my body again
  • I can be trusted to eat on my own accord
  • I am using skills
  • the thoughts don’t fully control my life and I can see beyond them
  • I know how to lean on supports
  • I am closer to who I want to be
  • I am equipped
  • I have 34 days of trials, tears, setbacks, frustration, feeling like a failure, steps backwards, resorting to old ways, giving Ed a loudspeaker and more bu also 34 days of discovery, fighting, using skills, so many successes, backing down from Ed thoughts, opening up, checking in, and getting support
  • I am the Challenge Queen

I want to recreate this. What has changed post-discharge:

  • I’m nearly a month into school and doing very well, all things considered
  • I am putting my recovery first by adding in as much support as possible during each week
  • feeling empowered enough to make strides in my recovery all on my own
  • honesty: some slippage, but this is a normal thing that doesn’t need to continue
  • being BRAVE and making strides I haven’t been able to do for a long time
  • I have been with only outpatient care for exactly 4 weeks and I didn’t start sinking right away like before
  • I am proud of my summer instead of embarrassed
  • slowly getting back into yoga
  • giving myself a break and time to rest
  • overall I have maintained the mood improvements that came in residential
  • I feel stronger than I have in a long time, outside of treatment
  • I have hope
  • I am listening to my dietitian and therapist (sometimes reluctantly)

I don’t think I could reflect on CFD without reminiscing. I miss it. I’ll think of memories and laugh, smile, cry, feel proud of myself or others, and experience pretty much every emotion out there. Residential is this life-changing experience. I get emotional thinking about it because my entire stay was full of finally feeling again. I was in a very vulnerable state while also being pushed and challenged. I haven’t ever been a part of anything like it. Right now, I can’t look back at my journal without crying because of the impact it’s had on me. I will never, ever take this all for granted. Instead, I am forever grateful for the opportunity and everyone who made my experience what it was.

These three months have been nowhere near perfect, and I am okay with it. Recovery is a process that’s led to more ups and downs than any rollercoaster. The difference now is that I am fighting like hell. My worst days still are better than any from last year.  CFD (and subsequently, PHP and IOP) helped me build a strong foundation. Now I am just building on to that and continuing in this process.

I will end this post the same way I ended my journal 3 months ago: This is the beginning of a beautiful, freer life.

The “T” word

“Am I going to be able to offer you the support that you need, or should we look at other treatment options, IOP, PHP…?”

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that one when I met with L last week. I actually haven’t wanted to bring this up on the blog, but it’s been eating at me all week so here we are.

Anyone who knows me or has read here for a while can pretty easily guess my response: “I can’t do it because of school. I don’t need it. I’m not there yet.” Naturally, I made excuses. Were they truly valid? Yes and no. It is important that I complete my classes this semester and next since I need to get into nursing for next fall. I can’t just go off to treatment and have another last year. If it really got to that point, where it was life or death and I was too sick to function, I would go.

School is pretty darn valid. I’m not so sure about the other half of my argument. Last year at this time I was barely functioning. I have little memory of the entire month before I left for residential. I was so sick and stuck in anorexia. It wasn’t just that I needed more support. No, I needed a complete overhaul, accountability, 24/7 support, a variety of health professionals weekly. Sitting in PHP groups half the day or being stuck inpatient wasn’t going to cut it. Residential made sense, complete sense.

Looking at the present I just don’t meet these criteria. I could certainly use more support: therapy every week for starters. I wouldn’t be able to justify the time and money required to do PHP or IOP. I’m not eating enough but I am eating. Yoga is my form of exercise which is used in a (mostly) healthy way. I do not need a more intensive outpatient approach.

Selfishly, unrealistically, I want to get back in treatment. What I would give to have another week with the staff at CFD. What I would give to be around people like me. What I would do to get away from this new story of hell I am experiencing currently.  But I can’t, and that’s it.

Life After Residential – 6 months out (!?!?!?)

Holy cow. 6 whole months since I signed papers, hugged the staff and friends, and stepped on a plane to enter back into the real world. It feels like just yesterday and a million years ago. There isn’t a moment where I’m not thankful for all I learned during my time at CFD, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Realizations in the past sis months:

Motivation for recovery lessens when things start to get hard after the “honeymoon phase.” Much like the spiritual high you receive coming back from church camp, the recovery high after residential fades away. Real life doesn’t come with 24/7 support, a ban on any diet/food/calories/exercise talk, distracting table games, lack of mirrors, others who 100% understand you, and therapy every single day. Without the extra push to recover it has been hard to keep at it. I start shifting toward using exercise to cope and believing a little restriction is okay. Thankfully I’ve now learned to keep motivation up by focusing on my goals and doing recovery for me.

I can get out of a relapse. I feel stronger than ever since beating my first relapse. Seeing my weight was a huge trigger, one that could have sent me into a deep pit I couldn’t get out of. Fortunately, I found my strength in myself through Him. I deserve recovery and I have so much life ahead of me. I don’t need to turn to my eating disorder to deal with things. I can fight urges. In previous relapses, I never wanted to or thought I would be able to fight. There was an entire year spent on the edge of being forced into treatment, FV round 2, and residential. I was sick and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. A huge factor now is knowing what recovery is like: freedom, joy, truly living, despite struggles.

I am capable on my own. I have relied on therapists, dietitians, friends and mentors, the entirety of treatment staff. While that was absolutely needed during residential and as I transitioned back to life on the outside, it isn’t at all realistic or healthy long-term. At some point I had to take control and responsibility for myself. I can’t have therapy everyday. Sometimes I have gone two weeks. Sure I have had days where I needed someone to rescue me, and then I did get support from others. As time has gone on that hasn’t been the case. I journal, manage my emotions in a healthy way, fight urges, talk to friends about anything but my eating disorder. Heck, today in therapy we didn’t focus solely on the ED and I was able to work through anxieties and other things. I really can’t explain how amazing and empowering it feels being able to stay healthy mostly on my own.

I can share about my eating disorder in a way that isn’t a sad story that I feel is burdening others. Before, I told others about my ED and MH issues out of necessity. I needed support and for people to avoid diet talk. Some relationships were built and consumed by my sickness. I felt guilty for sharing my story because I was broken. I haven’t actually told anyone new in person about this yet, but I am planning that very soon. I’ve prayed about it, and I am going to tell my favorite from work. She has noticed the difference in me now and I want to let her in. I feel such joy about all I have accomplished. Why wouldn’t I want to share openly how I have become resilient through God’s strength? Instead of “look what I am going through” it is “look at what I’ve conquered that’s made me into the person I am today.” I am blessed by this change.

There is no perfection in recovery; I am a work in progress. This is kind of cliché but also true. I have had countless slip ups, even in the past two months coming back from my relapse. Just like my self harm recovery, I have days where I follow urges and compulsively exercise/restrict. These things are normal. I can’t expect myself to be completely recovery-minded 110% of the time nor allow others expectations to affect me negatively. I have learned to forgive and accept my failures in the same way I celebrate my successes. It isn’t a linear process in the slightest.

I am different from the girl who left treatment 6 months ago. (Not talking about my body here). My dreams have multiplied as I realize how much more I am capable of now. I am working very hard to not let food be the main focus in my life. Sure, I probably think about it more often than the average person, but it in’t anywhere near when I first left treatment. Until a month or so ago I was still counting exchanges and being rigid in my diet.I have conquered many fears since coming home. Some examples: being able to eat a healthy amount around basically everyone without struggling (much), trying former fear foods, openness about my story, looking at my body in the mirror. I feel so much joy. I never expected or dreamed of this. I wake up happy, enjoy my job, talk with people, find happiness everyday. I definitely had more a more positive mood coming out of resi but not like this. I have grown in self-love exponentially. Overall, I have been able to discover who I really am along this journey (not what the ED made me).

He makes recovery possible. I have struggled in my relationship with God, especially during my darkest points in my eating disorder. I felt abandoned and unworthy of His love. I am just now seeing how wrong I was. He has been there since Day 1. My faith and relationship with the Father is my number one now, not my ED. It is such a blessing.

It’s crazy to think of all the progress these 6 months have brought. I learned how to deal with everything in a healthy way and without relying on the ED in residential; however, this time has been applying those things. Each day I continue on my recovery journey which all began at a house in San Diego.

Life After Residential – 2 Weeks Out

Wow wow wow! I’ve made it two weeks, which at one point seemed impossible. This time outside of CFD has allowed me to practice what was taught and also learn even more.

I can do this on my own!!! Why yes, this needs exclamation points. Part of me totally believed I would walk out of CFD and fall flat on my face. I doubted I would last longer than a few days without freaking out and using behaviors or maladaptive coping skills again. It hasn’t been perfect , of course, but I can honestly say I’ve done really well!

Skills work. Oh gosh, I never thought I’d say this. All those dumb skills I hated before in different treatments have become my best friend. I loved the DBT corner at residential so much that I created one here. I have kinetic sand, wax melts, lentils, frozen oranges and clementines, scented play dough, coloring books, stress balls, my recovery buddy, and essential oils. I use them at least daily, usually more. Just ten minutes ago I got done playing with the kinetic sand. Its funny because using skills has become something I do without thinking. I love it and I’m really glad they forced us to try out skills at CFD.

I can transform how I act in different situations. One of my biggest fears coming back to the real world was how I would react to being in the exact same places as when I was sick. All parts of my life were intertwined with the ED before. Although slowly, I am transforming what these things mean to me. Yoga isn’t about burning calories anymore; I do it for well-being, enjoyment, and healing. Going to the dining hall doesn’t mean getting some small variation of the same restrictive meal. Instead I reach for variety and what I want in that moment. Weekends at home don’t have to be full of restriction and lies. I spend the time enjoying my family.

I’m not where I was, and that’s a GOOD thing. Its easier for the ED to take control an begin comparing where I was and where I am now. If the ED thoughts had their way, I’d be on a one-way train to relapse and, maybe this time, death. I am not giving in to my disorder or any negative thoughts it brings. I am healthier, happier, more alive, closer to the real me, a better friend and daughter. Yes, I’m not as skinny as I was, but I’m also not living such a miserable existence anymore either. I am giving up this disorder to get everything recovery can give me, and that should be celebrated.

Part of my heart will always be in California. A good portion of my time after CFD has been spent mourning the time there. I still miss it. It was the best experience of my life, so it makes sense. I will always have love for those people, the adventures, struggles, challenges, successes, weather (really really miss that since its currently below freezing and snowy!), inside jokes, growth, all of it. I’m convinced I will be back, and the next time not as a patient. Until then, I can remember it all fondly, give staff updates, and keep in contact with my lovely friends.

Home.

There is so much I can and will say about my time at CFD. I want to share all of it. The thing is, right now I’m not at CFD. I am home and trying to adjust. Life after residential is hard and confusing.

I spent the last week of treatment dreading the inevitable goodbyes that would come. Each and every one broke my heart. The staff and other residents did so much for me and leaving them behind is so sad. I know I’ll see some of them again but that doesn’t take away from how dearly I miss them now.

Monday was insane. I packed snacks and lunch before heading out in the morning to the airport. I hugged my amazing therapist goodbye and headed in. Everything went smoothly until we got on the plane. There was snow and ice in Chicago so we had to wait two hrs on the plane before finally taking off. The flight was okay but then we waited another 1.5 hrs to get into the terminal. My connecting was cancelled so my dad and I drove the four hr ride back to home. I was so exhausted and stressed by the end of it. The good news though is that I didn’t use. Behaviors or restrict at all!!

Since the flight drama I’ve been having tons of mixed emotions. It’s nice seeing my family and all but I really miss treatment. It was my home. I wouldn’t be here in this mindset had I not gone. One thing that really hurts me is knowing they go on in the house without me. I mattered when I was there just the same but I also am moved on. Regardless the lingering thought that I’m not enough is still loud.

Readjusting and change is scary. I didn’t expect a lot of these feelings. The thing is, I know I deserve to feel my emotions. I can’t hold them in anymore. I have skills to use. I can reach out. I will be more than okay when this is over with and always remember CFD as the place that changed my life and helped me discover my own self worth.

I’m going to keep doing what I need to do. I can’t expect perfection but I can accept the fact that I’m not perfect. I have so many successes each day and I have to hold on to it.