(So many) tears of happiness

Last Thursday, I happy-cried the entire 50 minute drive to my school before IOP. I could stop for no more than a minute, then I would get thinking and waterworks started over. It seems pretty weird, right? What’s so amazing about a quick errand to school before going to eating disorder treatment for the day? The answer: everything because today, I picked up my scrubs and equipment for nursing.

If you would have looked at me a year and a half ago, as I dropped out of my first semester of school, there’s no way you could have seen this day coming. A year after that, I once again had to take time off school, this time just a J-term. Then came the absolute worst semester possible. Looking just at my academic performance and participation in school spring term, no one would think I could be allowed into the nursing program. Here I am anyways.

The first couple weeks at residential were brutal for many reasons, a main one being that I didn’t have my final grades in yet. I was accepted into the nursing program, but I had no clue if that was jeopardized or not. I was not proud of the semester and this kept me up at night. I was a wreck. I went over every moment, every mistake from the previous 4 months. The day I logged in and saw my GPA was one of the happiest since receiving my acceptance letter. I had hung on, but only by around a tenth of a point.

I am not ashamed. I never thought I would be saying that; however, I cannot keep focusing on what I’ve done wrong. I’ll admit, I’ve been a terrible student for a good chunk of my time at Calvin. That isn’t all on me though, because I wasn’t really there. Instead, my eating disorder was in control. I have spent too many years trying to live with the eating disorder when I only end up barely surviving.

I am proud of myself. I am proud of my recovery. Without this hard work I’m putting in now, there’s no way I would be starting classes in 3 weeks. I don’t know where I’d be. What I do know is that I’ve spent too many years trying to live with this disease. Now is my chance to change that, and treatment this summer is only the beginning.

I am going to become a nurse. It still feels surreal, and probably will for a while yet. I thank God everyday for all that has gotten me to this point. I know this is my calling. I almost lost the opportunity, but I am never going to stop fighting to make my dream come true.

You might have an eating disorder if… (stigma v reality)

Some of this may seem pretty darn ridiculous. This is because many people’s expectation for eating disorders is just that. I want to explore the general, uninformed thoughts of what someone with an eating disorder is like vs the reality of eating disorders. My hope is that this can help distinguish what is the truth.

Stigma

  • you look like a walking skeleton
    • Eating disorders have no weight or size limit. Have you ever heard of BED, OSFED, BN? None of these disorders are defined by weight (and anorexia to an extent can be the same). You could be severely underweight or obese and still your struggle is valid.
  • you believe you’re extremely fat
    • Feeling you are fat definitely can be a factor of having an ED, but isn’t always. For example, one study found nearly 50% of “normal” BMI women believe they are overweight. Not even close to all of these women have eating disorders, and not everyone with an eating disorder even struggles with this belief.
  • you order only salads and other”clean” foods
    • Under the premise of judging mental health based on foods people eat, every vegan or vegetarian would be labeled as an ED patient. Heck, tons of people have salads daily simply because they enjoy them.
  • you are an upper/middle class, white, adolescent or young adult woman
    • So, in order to debunk the myth about who can have eating disorders, let me give you a sampling of who I’ve met in treatment: adolescent and young adult men, people of color, a 70-year-old woman, children from 8-12, people with lower-income, middle-aged men and women. Hopefully, you get the point.
  • you are a vain person
    • The fact that some believe vanity is central to an eating disorder kills me. This has nothing to do with thinking you’re better than someone else or putting yourself up on a pedestal. For the most part, people with EDs tend to think very little of themselves.
  • you choose to have one
    • If I chose to have this eating disorder, that means someone would choose to have cancer, Parkinson’s or kidney disease. It’s clearly just for all of the wonderful attention we receive.
  • you just don’t eat
    • Finally, the “you just don’t eat” argument. Quite obviously, no one will survive if they literally eat nothing for an extended period of time, so that’s automatically false. Adding onto it, this assumes that the only/easy way to have an eating disorder is by starving.

This first list is either outside focused or under the assumption that mind-reading is possible.  News flash: no one has special mind-reading capabilities and can look into a person’s head to determine if an ED is present! An eating disorder is so much more than what you eat or look like. to me, the last three statements

Reality

  • you are a person
    • WHOA. So I’m telling you that just by being alive you can have an eating disorder?!? So weird, because you probably thought you must have some sort of obvious signs, maybe even a big blinking light. That would help.
  • you have ANY disordered eating patterns (ex: binge eating, eating in secret, eliminating all “unsafe” foods, purging..)
    • That’s right, folks. There is more than one disordered eating habit. The list here isn’t even comprehensive. Essentially, if something seems extremely out of the norm, it could be a sign of a subclinical or full-blown eating disorder.
  • your everyday existence is ruled by thoughts of food, behaviors, exercise, body image, calories, etc
    • Eating disorders are not something that only happens at meal time, while exercising, and as you look into the mirror. It encompasses your whole day (an average I’ve heard is around 12 hours a day!). Got a test tomorrow? Whatever you are studying will have the lovely background noise of the ED whispering or even screaming at you.
  • you have a body
    • Yet another mind-blowing fact. You only need a body? It doesn’t have to be a certain size or shape?
  • you have mass
    • Going along with what you look like, the amount you weigh is another false determinant for the presence of an eating disorder. EDs happen all across the BMI chart and a vast majority are in the normal-overweight range. (Another tidbit: BMI = bullshit meaningless information because it cannot begin to tell you a person’s health level.)
  • going into the kitchen creates a huge amount of anxiety
    • This is something that is pretty much a given. Whether you deal with binge eating, restriction, or anything in between, eating is a fear in some way. Since food is prepped and stored in the kitchen, it becomes a room full of all the anxiety.
  • you have different physical symptoms due to a MENTAL illness
    • I find this last one to be of utmost importance. No matter what someone may look like on the outside or even through their actions, you will never be able to tell what’s going on within. This is not a physical struggle, even though there are often physical results of the behaviors. So many people in this world have invisible illnesses – both mental and physical – that can only be seen by looking below the surface. You have to realize this when dealing with eating disorders as well.

I hope that this can serve as a (somewhat sarcastic) guide for those who aren’t quite sure what eating disorders are and aren’t. I hope that you have a few takeaways from it:

  1. Physical symptoms of anorexia are all too often used as a reference point in deciding whether someone has an eating disorder.
  2. It is way too easy to believe you can read minds and use this magical power to determine whether someone has an ED. News flash: mind-reading is impossible, even when someone shows *all* of the signs you know of.
  3. Eating disorders look different on everyone. A person of any gender, size, socioeconomic status, race, age, BMI, etc can be struggling. Never assume elsewise.

Thank you so much for reading! Do you have any others you would like to add?

Why aren’t you healed yet?

This coming summer will mark 3 years since entering into my first eating disorder specific treatment. My story has included over a month of partial, countless therapy sessions, outpatient dietitian, a week inpatient, 5.5 weeks residential, outpatient groups, and 2 months IOP.*

b87d9ae1c81560684d86d115a7b6e3fd

I experience hopelessness, guilt, shame, etc blah blah. These feelings have only intensified as I’ve heard talk of residential again. I have an overwhelming sense of failure. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours in different treatment settings. Would going back negate all I have accomplished?

It’s enough of an eternal battle I experience on the daily; however, things only increase as the judgments/opinions of others begin to seep in. I love my parents, but they do contribute. Whenever I have told them about stepping up my care, the looks on their faces kill me. Even if they were to say nothing (which is absolutely not the case) I would still be able to tell. It speaks disappointment to a level beyond anything else I’ve ever done. This Fall, I only stepped up to IOP/groups. I didn’t go away, quit school, etc, etc, etc. This still was hard for them to accept. On top of them, I will get the same signals from others who know of my journey. I find it almost a “not again” type of vibe.

What is this all telling me? There is something inherently wrong with me. I am a screw up. I will never get better. I am going to be one of those people who dies. I will never amount to anything. I am and always will be “the girl with the eating disorder.” People will see me as needy and helpless. My friends will give up on me. This list could continue all day, but I’m sure you get the idea.

The combination here drives home my own ideas while also combining them with the new ones. If I feel this way, I can just give up. Why would I need to fight Ed if it would never improve anyways?

My recovery is going to take time. I cannot begin to listen to other’s opinions here, for that will only bring about more shame. I have no idea how much longer I will deal with this, how many treatment centers I will go to, whether I’ll be on medications for the rest of my life. It could be another 6 months, but maybe 5 years. No matter what that length of time may be, it isn’t something I can afford to feel badly about. If there were a magic pill, you bet I could have taken it years ago so I could be recovered and good to get on with my life. While everyone in recovery would pay good money for it, such a thing doesn’t and will never exist. Instead, I have the job of being a badass against the eating disorder every single day and fighting to get my life back. I will. Someday, I will. It is not impossible just because I am not there today.

1493563

*I realize that my struggle may not be as “chronic/severe/bad” as others (or perhaps I am “worse” than some. Either way, it is my own and I am not willing to make comparisons.

I know EXACTLY what’s coming

*please note, there will be some cursing due to the emotions/thoughts coming through in this subject

Psychiatrist, May 2014: “I want to talk to you about this place called Forest View..” –> Began PHP at FV July 31, 2014

Therapist, almost all Summer 2015: “We need to consider returning to FV so you can get into a better place by the time you go to Calvin.” –> IP at FV end of August 2015

Therapist, November 2015: “You need to really consider a higher level of care. I cannot let you continue in this semester if things don’t change very soon.” –> residential November 19, 2015

Same therapist, Novemeber 2016: “You’ve gotten to a point where I am no longer able to see you. It’s time for a specialist in EDs.” –> new therapist, then groups, then IOP

Dietitian, April 2017: “You aren’t there yet, but if things keep going the way they have been we might want to consider some other treatment options over this summer.”


The very first time a higher level of care was mentioned, I was not expecting it whatsoever. For one, I didn’t see him often and had only had him as my psych for around 3 months at the time. I had little ability to judge his level of concern. It didn’t help at all that my therapist (in the same office, mind you) was basically the opposite of concerned. Side note, she didn’t know I started PHP until afterwards when my mom called (pissed aha) to cancel all future appointments. Anyways, I’m sure that there were some subtle signs I simply missed back then. That first time became a learning experience.

I had been seeing J for nearly a year before FV was brought up. I had numerous “scares” where I could sense that I was slipping into the too-sick-for-outpatient zone. Each time, I would convince myself, and ultimately her, that I was able to do this on my own. If anyone has read my posts from my year as a youth leader, you would have seen this in  action. I could barely take care of myself for long stretches of the year, let alone my 4 main girls. It was a mess that should have been taken care of much earlier. By the time youth camp was over, so was any grace for falling more into the eating disorder. It was crunch time, just a month before college. Every visit, I would deteriorate while J’s face filled with more and more concern. I knew something was very wrong, but couldn’t see it clearly. I wasn’t in much shock once FV was mentioned. It made sense, given all of the concerns she had voiced. Realizing what was coming ahead of time led to compliance and a readiness for what was to come (although this was also met with crazy amounts of anxiety/fear).

I didn’t get very far into the semester before my new therapist at school showed the signs. Even though I hadn’t known her long, it was easy to tell when she was either shocked or significantly concerned with what I was saying. Don’t get me wrong, I was still surprised to a degree, but that wore off almost immediately. Things moved quickly after that, and I was off to California in (what seemed like) no time at all.

Round two of my therapist at school recommending higher treatment was less of a shock than the fall before. First of all, she had very limited availability. It was obvious that therapy every other week for maybe 45 mins wasn’t cutting it. Once the topic came up, I actually thought that I would be sent straight to PHP. Thankfully that didn’t happen. I called the very next day to get things set up, and began my journey from groups to IOP and back again.

When “more treatment” was brought up a few weeks ago, I almost laughed. I only somewhat noticed that our sessions were heading in that direction. R does a damn good job at hiding when she sees things going downhill. I sat there just staring. How the hell was I there yet? Honestly, I mostly pushed it off. This wasn’t anywhere near as severe as the other times. Her words were so vague, and I believed that “more treatment” just meant IOP, aka not a big deal.

Expecting these conversations ahead of time did little to reduce the denial that comes when anyone tells me how deep I am into my ED. Acceptance is the last component that comes before I finally am able to make a change. Sometimes this comes shortly, like before residential. I was at CFD just two weeks after I had the first conversation with S. The first and second time, however, denial led to avoidance of treatment for weeks/months. Unless there is a way for me to be forced into treatment, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to enter it until I start to see how much of a relapse I am in.


The above was written earlier this week, but Tuesday my suspicion became more true.

Dietitian, April 26 2017: “You are declining fast. If you continue this way for the last 4 weeks of school, you will end up in residential. You may not be “underweight” BMI-wise by then but that won’t change the fact that you need help. We could end up petitioning you, if necessary.”

Immediately my thoughts began to race:

  • Shock. What the fuck??? How did I get here? There’s no way this is true. R is wrong; everyone is wrong. She’s just overreacting. This is insane. Anyone could look at me and think I’m fine. My weight has NOT gone down, no fucking way.
  • Anger. How could she do this to me? How could I do this to me? Why am I so stupid? Why didn’t I fudge my logs and [insert other behaviors here that would increase weight on scales]?
  • Disbelief. She’s just lying to me so I’ll eat and get scared. There’s no way she is right. I don’t believe anything she’s saying right now. I didn’t lose weight; the scale at home proves so. Maybe I should get a new scale just to prove her wrong.
  • Fear. What if they can actually force me into residential? Is that really a thing? I mean I know I can be kicked out of treatment I suppose or placed into inpatient if it ever got that bad.. If everything is really crashing down on me, I am screwed. What if she contacts my parents? Dr. C? Oh God no. What if this jeopardizes my summer or nursing school?
  • Acceptance? Okay, so what if she is telling the truth? That means I really am falling fast. It would mean Ed is lying to me, nothing is as it seems, I’m not really in control. Could this actually be the start of a relapse?

I am currently living in a world full of denial, rationalizations, disbelief, mistrust, etc. None of this could possibly be true. I just don’t see it. The eating disorder is not as big as she made it seem, even Dr. C agrees! My therapist hasn’t mentioned much. My behaviors are not that bad. I am not losing weight, not even a possibility. The supposed “facts” have no real weight right now. Maybe it’s the ED talking, maybe I am worse off than I believe (and that very small concerned voice is right). Either way, I am where I am. I have choices right now, and my end goal is to never hear the suggestion of residential again. Ultimately, the conflicted and confusing thoughts/feelings need to be sorted somehow to make that happen.

What this backsliding has brought

  • The words “we may need to think about higher treatment if..”
  • Crying during or after more meals than not.
  • Hating the person in the mirror. She is too much, too large, yet not enough in every other way.
  • Doubting my treatment team all over again.
  • Temptations leading to urges leading to actions leading to guilt.
  • More and more of each day being consumed with ED thoughts.
  • Not even having to think before using behaviors; being somewhat scared over how automatic it’s become.
  • Every dietary suggestion feeling impossible.
  • Excuses, excuses, excuses.
  • Avoiding church when I once attended 1-3 times a week.
  • The immense pain a forced smile or “I’m good” can bring.
  • Basic self-care as an afterthought, if at all.
  • Near absent motivation for school, to the point of some failing grades and flat out skipping assignments, classes, etc.
  • From “stuck” between ED and recovery to dipping another toe into the ED world.
  • Isolating – coming out of my room for treatment, classes, and not much else.
  • Another semester of missing out on all things that scream “normal college experience.”
  • Cutting corners in all aspects of life because there’s no energy to do otherwise.
  • Not remembering the last time I talked to a [school] friend outside of class.
  • The numbers obsession multiplying every moment.
  • Seeing “that face” on the ones who hear the truth.
  • Ever-consuming numbness.
  • Giving in to cognitive distortions and irrational thought.
  • “In my head” most of the time.
  • So many wasted hours – spent on nothing of substance whatsoever.
  • Guilt for how I’m really doing then lying/hiding it from others.
  • Emotional, physical, mental exhaustion that nothing will fix.
  • Spiraling out of control faster than I realize.

Nearing the end of my time at IOP, I began slipping back into the ED some. I never truly 100% completed my meal plan, not ever since before I even started treatment. I was doing much better and then shit happened. I’ve been overwhelmed by ED thoughts, anxiety, and depression which has led to more behaviors than I even anticipated. This is going to be a reminder, the reasons that full-blown relapse will not serve me. I can still come out of this. I need to.


Well, it’s been over a month. Plenty has happened, and a myriad of things have kept me from blogging (school, finishing up IOP, stress of all lovely sorts, depression/anxiety, and not much energy or motivation for anything. I’ve hated the break but it was probably necessary. I hope to be back now. I won’t promise any schedule, but I have over 30 drafts sooo there shouldn’t be a lack of topics to write on.

 

Climb on?

I went into my appointment with Dr. C yesterday with just one objective: get approval to start rock climbing.

I was first introduced to climbing last fall via my roommate. We are blessed with a huge rock wall and bouldering area here at Calvin. Around one night a week, all year long, I went climbing. I grew stronger and fell more in love with it. The huge sense of strength and power continued to bring me back. I was able to challenge myself with the continually changing routes. It certainly isn’t easy, especially with Ehlers-Danlos, but I made it work. The minor (and one majorish) injuries were worth it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the wall much this last semester. My eating disorder played a huge part in this. When I wasn’t isolating, I usually felt too weak to climb. I still pushed myself when I probably shouldn’t have. This leached some of the fun away from an activity I enjoyed so much.

I’m not in a perfect or great place now, but I am more than mentally ready to tackle climbing again. I crave another way that I can appreciate my body and have fun with friends. I was relatively optimistic heading into my appointment. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been, not at all. I am better than the end of less fall. I am off medical leave. I am handling the semester thus far. I am not, however, at a healthy enough place to take on such a physically demanding task.

I grew the courage to ask for Dr. C’s approval towards the end of my appointment, to which she answered, “Absolutely not,” in a solemn tone. I immediately questioned why and hoped for a compromise. Her concern is my heart. I am not allowed to belay (hold the hope taught as your partner climbs) because she is afraid I will pass out and put someone else’s life on the line. While not ideal, I could technically still climb but need to have one other person belay my partner. That idea lasted for about two seconds before she gave her reasons why I cannot climb. One is that I would pass out at some point during my climb. Assuming I had an experienced and focused belayer, I would be okay. More serious than this, she believes there is a chance that I could collapse or even have a heart attack. If that were the case there isn’t any guarantee someone would be able to help  or even resuscitate me in time to prevent serious damage. Minor issues with climbing include broken bones (due to possible osteoporosis/penia with my ED), dislocations/subluxations (thanks EDS), and in general injuries related to the way I am inadequately nourishing my body.

I’ll admit, I do understand some of her worries. It isn’t a great idea for me to try this without following my meal plan. If I was restricting that much I probably would be too weak to even hoist myself up the wall. It’s happened before. I don’t agree with most of the heart stuff. I frequently get dizzy and sometimes feel like I’ll pass out. This mainly occurs if I’m going from sitting or lying to standing too fast, or when I am not hydrated. I could easily be careful enough to prevent this. There is no way my heart is “bad” enough to cause me to collapse or worse. I have no special restrictions otherwise for the abnormality. Mainly I just need to ensure I hydrate and feed my body. Easier said than done, but something I would work on the days I climb.

Part of the reason she is so worried about my heart is because she believes I may have Marfan Syndrome. I am missing nearly all of the markers minus my PE, hypermobility, and vision (eg: not tall, no long and skinny limbs/feet/fingers/etc, no mitral valve prolapse or aortic root dilation, none of the facial features, lack of family history). If I did have it there would be an increased risk for multiple heart conditions much more severe than what I am dealing with currently. I still need to wait until I see my pediatric surgeon in a few weeks (more on that soon), but I can almost guarantee he will rule it out. Once that happens I may be able to negotiate with Dr. C again. Side note: I’m looking forward to picking his brain on EDS and hopefully, maybe getting referred to someone who actually gets it.

As much as I disagree and discount her concerns, I will listen and resist rock climbing for now. The tone she used scared me. We have spent two months now talking about my heart and how imperative it is that I start nourishing my body to prevent damage in the future. I can’t easily forget or play my symptoms off as absolutely nothing no matter how hard I try. It isn’t normal for your heart rate to increase 30 bpm when standing and as much or more practicing gentle yoga. I shouldn’t, at 21, be plagued with symptoms, an abnormal echo, and worry. And yet, here I am.

This conversation we had is about far more than just rock climbing. Her goal isn’t for me to increase my food intake so I can have her blessing to get back on the wall. This is about taking care of myself. If for nothing else, I need to repair any of the damage I’ve caused before it gets any worse.

I didn’t get the answer I had hoped for. I don’t agree with some of Dr. C’s reasoning. I am still resistant, making excuses, and defying her (and everyone else’s) requests. I have started to realize the bigger picture here. That’s a step in the right direction, one I don’t want to take, but a step nevertheless. One conversation at a time, I am getting there, even if it means getting motivated about renewing my rock wall privileges.

 

Where will you be in 10 years if you follow Ed?

A few weeks ago at IOP, A allowed us to forego process group and instead we had a very extended game of “Recovery Jenga.” It’s essentially normal Jenga, but all of the pieces have a question written on the bottom of them. These had a huge range: coping skills, one way you can take care of yourself this week, list positive traits, what is something for/against recovery you’ve done with week, triggers, and some fun ones thrown in. It was more of a light-hearted get to know you, until this question came up. Both the question and answer immediately changed the tone completely (which makes sense considering this is what EDs do as well).

Answer: “Dead.”

This question was given to A,who is recovered from an eating disorder herself. From this viewpoint she can look back on all Ed did to her and how we are affected as well. Her explanation was that if she was still stuck in her eating disorder there was no way she’d make it ten more years. Hearing that was sobering. This isn’t some doctor or dietitian who has only worked with eating disorders. Sure, they could tell you statistics and whatnot, but they haven’t been there. A has and that makes this answer more impactful to me.

Continuing this life if relapse and trusting in Ed for ten years would be miserable. Each day all of my energy would be put into my eating disorder. Presumably, it would require me to give up any and all dreams. The health complications would compound and eventually leave me very sick. Chances are, I would succumb to my eating disorder before the end of a decade..

I am not on my deathbed now. Because this is true I will always have the chance to turn things around. I can fight. I won’t allow myself to be a statistic who gets swallowed up by this disease. It’s time to take back my life and find hope for the future.


Since drafting this post over 2 weeks ago, a sad situation has transpired that makes her answer all the more real. My closest friend I made in residential is currently on the edge of death due to anorexia. It’s hard to comprehend that the hilarious, sweet, spunky, and sarcastic girl I met is quickly fading away. Right now I am praying for a miracle, for anything to get her into recovery.. ❤

Eating disorders kill. Don’t give yours that opportunity.

Where I’m at / where I’ve been

It feels like ages since I’ve updated here, really “just” 3 weeks, and it has been (at least by my standards). Technically I last posted 3 weeks ago, but I also have drafted at least 4 posts since then. I am a serial drafter, I believe. I only have 36 currently. My ideas for topics are never-ending, so I start one post only to succumb to perfectionism and quit early. Anyways, I don’t have a great reason as to why I haven’t pulled the trigger and published something. Most likely, it’s a combination of writer’s block, feeling overwhelmed, and low motivation.

The past three weeks have been ROUGH treatment-wise. I feel for the staff at IOP, because I have been stubborn as hell and somewhat defiant. I feel pretty bad looking back at some of the conversations I’ve had. There are multiple factors behind this, which I will explain in a post soonish. A quick rundown: fear , being stuck between full recovery and Ed, lack of motivation, depression, and plain not wanting to give up my eating disorder. I am doing somewhat better now. I am trying to trust this process and not my disordered thoughts. Easier said that done, but I think/hope it will happen.

Last week was my first back at school. I am taking psychopathology, american literature, world history, and spanish. I am most excited about psychopathology. Lit seems like a great class too, especially with a friend (and fellow nursing student!) and wacky/amazing prof. My psych prof is also wonderful. I actually don’t mind the history class content-wise and the lectures and are relatively interesting. Spanish is with my same professor (thankfully). Overall, it isn’t crazy yet. I am beginning to feel more stress and worry over how things escalate the next few weeks. Hopefully I can keep my sanity, but time shall tell.

Because of school, I’m obviously not able to do IOP 3 times a week. My schedule wasn’t exactly made with that in mind, so getting there is kinda tricky. On Monday’s, my last class ends at 2:20. I am able to get there within 20 minutes and get to attend half of process, snack, and art therapy. I stay until 5 and head back, usually stopping at Meijer first. Tuesday’s I have class until 1:20. I again leave right after and arrive at 1:40ish. This is halfway through the first group (typically this is experiential). We have another group following which is activity therapy of some sort, sometimes an outing. Process group is after snack and we’re done at 5:30. Thursday’s I only have 2 classes, psych in the morning and spanish 12:30-1:20. The issue with my schedule is that I wouldn’t be able to attend the full day of IOP at all, unless I skip spanish. After advocating for myself I got approval to do so. After last week, I am appreciative of my professor’s support of my treatment. I need this, at least for now. I am not ready to step down entirely yet, and now I don’t have to.

Going from complete boredom and feeling stagnant for over a month to a hectic schedule is stressful, to say the least. I haven’t gotten a hang of this yet. I’m hoping to move and grow through this period of change, not become overwhelmed by it.

There is much more to be said about my thoughts now and even more so my time in IOP. I promise that will come soon!

 

IOP: a fate more difficult than residential

By Thursday, I still hadn’t connected with my emotions, broken down, or processed the fact that I am on medical leave with mandatory (if I want to stay out of further treatment and continue school) IOP. I had so much on my mind that I couldn’t handle it. The time came when I was meeting with the new dietitian. I was randomly called out in the middle of AT/process after lunch. Being under the impression that I was able to continue with L made it a surprise, one that I never wanted. I finally broke over the change and lack of control in my life now. It was then that new L (to make things more confusing of course, ha) confirmed what I had already been thinking about, “this is going to be harder than residential.” We talked about how much of an uphill battle I’ll be facing these next few months. I cried from being so completely overwhelmed. This is a harsh reality to face.

This may seem odd to anyone who has never experienced multiple forms of treatment. Residential means being stripped of your freedoms, weeks or months away from home, and a complete overhaul of your behaviors. It certainly is hard to make an abrupt change and carve out the time to do so, however, one that’s just as cushy as it is drastic. You are stuck in this place that has all of the support you could possibly need, 24/7 to be exact. It’s actually pretty difficult NOT to experience at least some growth, even if that may be forced.

IOP is a 180 from residential. In my case, I will got 3 times a week (M, T, R) from noon until 5-5:30. We have 3 groups plus lunch/snack each day, along with weekly individual therapy and dietitian appointments. The entire rest of the week we are solely responsible for following meal plans, avoiding behaviors, and applying all we’ve learned. There is no one to check in on us multiple times a day or monitor our meals. If I didn’t finish a meal in residential I would only get a supplement. On the other hand, not adhering to my meal plan or otherwise slipping backwards now can lead to forced inpatient or residential and medical leave. I have major work to do and much to lose.

I always assumed my time at CFD would be the most challenging thing I have ever done treatment-wise. How could it not? I traveled across the country and gave up school. Adjusting to the new life that is residential was unlike anything else I’ve experienced. As much of a struggle this all was, it really was the best environment for recovery. In no way is recovery ever easy, but the amount of support in residential makes it significantly more attainable and manageable.

I can fully see how different IOP is. The effort to show up for my recovery is substantial. I have just 15 hours a week in treatment with 3 meals and 3 snacks. I need to make every single second count. The work doesn’t stop there. I cannot go home and just return fully to the ED. Motivation is key and if I fail to find it I am looking at IP or residential in the very near future. No one can make me recover now.

Where do I go from here? I could become consumed by fear and hopelessness, knowing of what’s to come. Giving up is absolutely the easiest option; however, it is not the one I choose to make. I am going to fight. I’ve been through years of struggle – times where I never believed I could make it through, but I did. IOP seems impossible right now and this may be my hardest battle yet. Even so, I will hold on to hope for a healthier future.

 

When treatment (and ED) multiplied

Two months ago, I only had therapy every other week.

Just over one month ago, I saw a dietitian weekly and therapy biweekly.

One month ago, I added a doctor to the mix. Around that same time, I switched therapists and began attending one group per week.

Two weeks ago, I attended a couple more groups.

Last week, I had activity therapy, R’s group with snack, art therapy, nutrition and yoga, and another therapy group with R over Monday and Tuesday.

This week, I was placed on medical leave, attended my first two days of IOP, and had to switch dietitians without any prior knowledge or choice.


It has been an absolute whirlwind. I remember thinking at so many points that I didn’t need this next step, I wasn’t sick enough. I argued, deflected, begged, hid the truth, ignored, and did everything to fight hard against any extra treatment.

I can’t fight this anymore. In fact, if I do fight it will end with me being forced to leave school and in residential or inpatient. This is serious. If I continue to follow my eating disorder it’s going to do a lot more than send me to a higher level of care.

Where I’m at now is a crossroad. I know what will happen if I continue with the eating disorder. It’s safe and familiar and easier. I’ll have the control I crave, watch my body shrink down to an “acceptable” size, and be able to cope with everything in a my life (albeit in a rather unhealthy way). On the other hand, recovery is the unknown. I’ve had some glimpses, but going full in is scary. It could mean a full life where I can become the best me: a nurse, wife, friend, mother, and person, all without Ed. The question now is this: do I stay in the familiarity of my eating disorder and fight all forms of treatment or trust in recovery by fighting my eating disorder? I think I need to at least try option #2, because I can always go back to the ED (as I have now) while recovery will only become less attainable as time goes on.