First day back.

*Disclaimer: I will not ever be talking about patients, things that happen with patients, etc. Confidentiality is important. My reason for this post is to explain my experience and how it felt in general with being back at the hospital. Also, I know a joke about HIPAA, but I can’t tell you 😉

It was the craziest of days with emotions and everything. I’m not quite sure what all I expected, but my time so far at the hospital has surprised me.

It’s hard to explain, but once I stepped in the hospital and those doors closed behind us, it was like being transported back to 2 years ago. My heart started racing, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach. It felt a little like I was reliving my experience there as a patient. This didn’t last for a long period of time, but also recurred throughout the day. I saw all of these familiar places: the courtyard, patient rooms, dreaded lunch carts, nurses’ station I used to stand by, phones, room where ED met/ate, coloring pages (the SAME ones from before), etc. For many brief moments, it was like I was there again.

Feeling “there” is not a pleasant experience. It brought many panicky moments and racing thoughts. All I could think about was how I would be force-fed, locked out of my own room, and not let out again.  It was distracting to the point of zoning out multiple times. I had to keep repeating to myself: “I am a student. I have keys. I am free to leave.”

I only stayed inpatient for a week, plus about a month in partial (although we only went through a small portion of the hospital then). That is only a blink of time, especially compared to residential, but somehow it matters. It gives this place hold on me. I hate it, but I know it is also something I have to work through. I’ll be here the next month or so and I don’t think I will be able to gain as much from it if I’m stuck in a bad place.

There were many opportunities for me to disclose that I’ve been to FV before (not as a patient, we were asked if we have visited too). For whatever reason, I want to scream that I have been here and just let it be known. No clue where that’s coming from. At ALL. I truly don’t want my peers/prof/staff/patients to know that I was once a patient too, but it feels like I have to bottle up this secret and that I am wrong for having been sick. I obviously am not going to say anything. I guess maybe this could be related to wanting to push past stigma/show others mental illness doesn’t stop you/show my classmates they’re just like us? I have no clue and that paragraph is very embarrassing.

Lunch was a challenge. It probably helps a little that ED never ate in the cafeteria (that would be so much worse as a patient omg), but this was by far the most overwhelming part of my day. I have had the exact meal before and I saw all of the “amazing, lovely, wonderful” desserts displayed for us. Here, I was given the gift of choice: what I wanted on my burger, veggie or beef, vegetables or no, what type of dessert, salad or soup, finish everything or not, etc. Coming from an ED treatment background, this feels empowering. It made me think back to when we were handed these trays and basically forced to eat them or given an Ensure. I am thankful to not be there anymore. The meal was still scary, though. All I wanted was a support person to text during meals like I do normally if needed. There was conversation, but I pretty much made myself eat with little distraction available. This is probably not anything that will change unless I try to make it a point to get others to talk. I’ve never been very good at this, but we shall see. The worst part of the meal was caused by Ed. As per usual, sitting with a group of people led to me “needing” to eat less than everyone else. It gives me this sick satisfaction if I do “better” than others. This ended up causing me to be the only one who didn’t get dessert. Lunch could have gone much worse, of course, but I want to do better next time.

One of the most frustrating aspects of my day came at the end during our debriefing. We all met to go over what happened, get our assignments the next 4 weeks, and ask questions. My professor said this: “I do not want you working with eating disorder patients, especially not one-on-one. You could say one thing and they will crumble, completely unraveling their progress. I would rather have you stay far away, but if you do go to a group do not say anything at all.” The request here bothered me a little, but the way she explained her reasoning was what upset me most. I’m sure she was attempting to protect us from harming a patient, in her mind. I don’t agree with 95% of her statement. I don’t see people with eating disorders as weak to the point that 15 minutes with a nursing student could erase all progress made in treatment. The 5% agreement I have is over what exactly could be said. I’m pretty sure that any of us wouldn’t be oblivious enough to mention the patient’s weight, tell them they don’t seem like they have an eating disorder, or anything of the like. Those topics and others would absolutely have more power to harm. Anything else that would come up in a nursing assessment/general conversation doesn’t have that same potential really. I see those of us with eating disorders as strong, especially when facing your fears in treatment, so I am a little hurt by her insensitivity. I wish that I could let her know some truth of what this is like. I also would like to ask her rational (was it a guideline set by FV, her own feelings, etc). Maybe that will happen before the end of my time here, maybe not.

I’ve focused plenty on the struggles of returning to the hospital, but now I want to highlight some lighter things that came of my time there so far. Probably the biggest thing is that I have keys. I was absolutely shocked when my prof handed them out. It’s kinda crazy, right? Two years ago I was locked in and now I’m able to venture all over the hospital. The freedom is weird but also comforting in a way. After looking at patient charts to see how they lay out diagnoses, meds, group notes, progress reports, and more, I’m so curious about what mine looks like. This past time I had the psych doctor fudge my records somewhat so insurance would cover inpatient (for those who don’t know, I was admitted a week and a half before school started, so time in treatment was a huge priority). I wonder what he actually wrote down and just how nurses, my case manager, therapists, psychiatrist, and MHW’s talked about me. I’ll never get that opportunity, but it’s still entertaining to think about. One of the funniest/almost embarrassing things was when we were on our tour. She said where we were headed next without direction on which way. I remembered exactly which way it was, so I started walking towards it before I realized I’m supposed to act clueless like everyone else. I covered for it but I can imagine my classmate and prof’s faces if I had actually unlocked the door or something.

I head back tomorrow morning (at 7am, wayyyyy too early). Now that I have experienced my first day, I want to set some goals for the next month of clinicals. My hope is that I’ll be able to learn and also decrease the amount of fear and anxiety I relate to this place.

  • practice deep breathing, thought stopping, and other DBT skills in the moment when I start to panic
  • eat my correct exchanges and a freaking dessert at lunch (thanks to my therapist and dietitian for that one gah)
  • give each patient my full attention and take a few steps in their shoes
  • remember what it was like for me because it will help me understand patients more
  • ask lots of questions
  • take away as much as possible

 

Back to the hospital

Next week, I will be returning to FV in the inpatient unit for the first time in over 2 years. This time around is much different. I won’t be a patient there now (and hopefully never, ever again), but I will be completing the majority of my mental health clinical hours.

My anxiety has gotten pretty high over this. I’m worrying like crazy and trying to calm that down. After plenty of talking with some staff from IOP/friends I do feel a little better. I think what I need most is to write out some intentions so I can hold myself accountable.

What I will do

  • Act “normal.” What I mean by this is pretend that I’m just a nursing student and not a patient. At this point, it has been over 2 years since my one week inpatient stay and 3 for my PHP experience. I feel well removed from those situations and I fully believe I won’t suddenly revert to feeling like a patient once I am back in that place.
  • Cover up my scars – for obvious reasons. This will also protect me from looking like someone who suffers from mental illness. While my professor knows I have a history with mental health (no details there), the patients I interact with are not going to have a clue. I want to keep it this way.
  • Eat in the cafeteria. Gah this kills me. More than anything, food brings up the most negative reaction from things that occurred at FV. I can still picture the trays, being forced to eat things I didn’t necessarily like, those stupid desserts every.single.lunch, the staff “offering” Ensure if you didn’t eat every single bite. I realize this is going to be different. Instead of a room with just ED patients, I’ll be in the cafeteria with other staff. I will not be watched like a hawk. I get real choices to get whatever sounds best. It will be a struggle for many reasons, but I hope that I’ll realize that eating there will be a good thing.
  • Avoid VH aka Dr. VanDouchebag. If there is one person who I would absolutely avoid FV  again for, it would be him. He is the ED psychiatrist aka the guy who threatened me with inpatient, told me i would be tubed, and basically was the most frustrating hardass to work with. I will never be more thrilled that never having to see him again. Even if it was as a student instead, I just don’t wish to interact with him in any way. If only I could nonchalantly tell my prof being on his service isn’t an option, ha!

What I will stay away from

  • Telling my professor about my eating disorder. Maybe this seems counterintuitive. To me, it’s not. I don’t wish to be treated differently because of my past. I hope to have an experience there that will help me learn the most. I think her knowing about the ED would cause her to keep me off of 1-2 units out of 5, which would definitely hinder my experience.
  • Disclosing of my history at FV. I think this would be just as harmful, if not more, than talking about my eating disorder. I have a feeling she wouldn’t feel so comfortable with me doing clinicals there. (Fun fact: I specifically chose this site so I could experience the hospital from a different light)
  • Ask to change placement in the hospital. I don’t want special treatment and asking to change where I am assigned to would do just that. Dr. C is especially concerned with this. After needing it last year with missing classes, she doesn’t want a repeat. She believes it would negatively affect my nursing experience. There is no good reasons for that to happen, except…
  • Let my recovery be jeopardized. If it becomes absolutely necessary, I will reach out. I can’t see that happening at this point, given I’ve been in treatment for a million hours this year and am completely used to hearing potentially triggering things. In the minute chance it does occur, I will find some sort of excuse before I would actually disclose personal information. No clinical experience would be worth slipping backwards in recovery, especially considering all the hard work I’ve put in.
  •  Say hi to staff (unless alone/away from my prof and fellow students). There is one staff member I particularly love. She has worked during IOP as well and was there during the time I got accepted into nursing <3. I would absolutely love to update her and chat for a bit. I do plan on this if at all possible. On the other hand, I’m thankful for HIPAA and the fact that any staff who remember me cannot say a word. It will fully be my choice to acknowledge that past relationship or not.
  • Tell any fellow patients from my time there that I remember them. Unfortunately, these relationships aren’t really protected by anything. If someone recognizes me they have all the rights in the world to ask me about how I’m doing, say hi, etc. This one somewhat freaks me out. While I definitely care about them, talking to them for reasons other than a therapeutic one would clearly let on that I was a patient once too. I really hope to protect that information and not be the broken/unstable student.
  • Provide care for anyone I have talked to outside of treatment. I mostly doubt this would happen. I am not in contact with 90% of those I was at FV with. The ones I do still talk to are not there currently. Even if they became patients again I would probably see it first on Facebook or something. Still, I am prepared for the slight chance of this happening. I wouldn’t even have to disclose why or how I know them here, just that I do and therefore cannot be involved with their care. If there is a case of recognizing them without seeing them outside of treatment, that wouldn’t need to be avoided unless they would be uncomfortable with it.
  • Let my adviser (who isn’t the prof for clinicals) know about my treatment and struggles the past year. She is aware of my eating disorder and the fact that I went to residential. The last time I mentioned it was right after, so around a year and a half ago. I’ve considered talking about IOP, the semester from hell last spring, and the fact that I spent the vast majority of my summer in treatment. While this has been a significant part of my story, it really shouldn’t affect anything if she isn’t aware (at least I’m telling myself that). I can imagine Dr. C’s disapproval if I asked her advice on the subject. She would call that special treatment that would follow me through the next 2 years.

I’ll admit, I am uncertain about some of these rules I’ve made for myself. It bothers me that I can’t predict the future of what will happen the next month and a half. It could go fine, but it may also mean everything I’ve set up will be challenged. All I want is to get the very most out of my time at FV. I’m trying to believe in myself and my ability to make returning to the psychiatric hospital a nonissue.

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.

Back to Forest View and I (voluntarily) drank an ensure

First off, no I am not yet again a part of FV’s treatment program. Despite how much I love and appreciate a lot of the staff there, I hope to never be again. Secondly, no I was not drugged or suffering from a psychotic break when I drank the ensure. These two things actually go together.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, I can talk about what led me to FV. B, a sweet lady from Forest View round 1, messaged me on Monday afternoon and asked if I would like to come to the ED support group. I’ve known about it since last summer but thought of many excuses reasons not to go. I also never had a ride. A main thing I was afraid of is how I would feel being back. I was ready for a full emotional breakdown. (side note: we were on the partial side but if we had been in the “ED room” I would have lost it). I also assumed I would be huge compared to the other girls and would feel judged for it. Even with all these things keeping me, I decided to be brave.

I still teared up walking into the building. I was also extremely nervous and didn’t want to talk at all. There were six of us and I knew both B and S so that was nice. I also got to see Karen (the best activity therapist at FV) and Hannah (old FV ED therapist) which was the best.

Group was almost as amazing as they were at FV. We supported each other and it made me feel less alone again. Also, it was freaking hilarious. L came in late and Karen had her do a motion for how she felt and she flipped her off and then proceeded to make that her favorite answer to anything all night. We had so many jokes and they were perfect. Karen was informed about the “Wack Shack” and had the best reaction. Our next meeting in two weeks will be our “fancy ass tea party” and I’ll just say I am pumped.

After a tough day with food and therapy, group was the comic relief and support I needed. I talked to S and Karen afterwards and, even though I am wholeheartedly #teamnoensure, decided I needed one.

I’ve had a pack of ensure in my dorm since school began. I also have been at a place of needing them enough to have gone through a case by now. Why haven’t I used up a case or even one before monday? I am stubborn and listening to the ED.

Anyways, I got back to the dorms and went to go find my suitemate/RA B. I knew I was not about to finish an ensure on my own. I told her I needed to drink one and asked if she would check on me in 10-15 minutes and keep the bathroom closed so I wouldn’t dump it. I got down a few sips by the time she came back. She gave me a little pep talk and had to leave. I am not going to lie, doing it on my own was HARD. I wanted to dump the rest and fake it so badly. At that point I knew I deserved to fuel my body in some way and this was what I got because I basically skipped dinner. I spent about an hour making small progress and finally finished it. I cried/had terrible thoughts/felt sick and miserable.

Both of these things were steps towards recovery, even if I truly didn’t feel like doing either. Like Sheri says, sometimes I have to push myself to take action even when I don’t feel like doing it or the ED is loud. After all, it’s not one giant leap to recovery but many small steps, detours, pot holes, setbacks, and, in the end, freedom.

So close yet so far.

I was admitted inpatient at FV last Friday and initially planned on an overview post of that, but then packing/savoring the last moments with my family/college orientation got in the way. I will definitely talk about my experience because I want to share it so others will know what to expect. For now my week in a few snippets: I needed it. I met amazing women there. I wound up with a lot more support coming out. Dr. VH was NICE to me this time!!! Art therapy is love. #teamnoensure for life.

It completely blows my mind to think that last week I was in Forest View and today I am moved in at Calvin. I’m just 2.8 miles away from the place I called “home” for a week. At this point, I’m almost more familiar with Forest View than I am Calvin. As the title of this post implies, even though I am geographically near FV I am living so differently from then. I thought I’d do some quick comparisons.

FV: basically no more than an hour in your room from 8:30 am – 9 pm because of bathroom locks. CC: no time in room because of packed orientation schedule – bathroom usage is free though!

FV: meal plan that you’re unable to stray from without offerings of ensure. CC: having to keep track of my own meal plan, which is actually going okay.

FV: support everywhere – staff, other patients, group therapy, etc. CC: no support. No one who even knows anything about my struggles. Not even therapy for a whole week.

FV: see the outside for ~15 minutes per day. CC: outside a good part of the day, even in the heat and pouring rain.

FV: support meals and eating snacks with others. CC: meals are with other people but not following the rules like at FV, snacks I’m all on my own.

FV: people know to stay away from triggering things for the most part (except in groups). CC: people talk freely about diets, ways to lose weight, good and bad foods, etc.

FV: feel like part of a group, not weird, supported, etc. CC: feel alone and like the only one with these problems.

Both: God is by my side and recovery is possible.

Here we go again…

The last 37 hours have been… hellish, scary, disappointing, life-altering, emotional. I’ll try to go through a quick run down before I head to sleep.

Yesterday I went into therapy, knowing that Jenny wouldn’t be happy. I slipped even more since her warning last week. We considered our options and she called FV. It was decided I would go today for an assessment with hopes of being put inpatient. That alone was SO hard.

I had to tell my parents about everything. They had noo clue of this relapse so to find out that I was sick again and also needed treatment right away was a shock. I thought after all of it that my parents would never love or trust me, but thankfully they’ve since calmed down.

Today I went to my assessment. The intake social worker was nice and told me I needed IP. She had to call the doctor and a protocol and he said PHP is all he can offer. At this point I was so tired and finally found home in treatment. For any reasons PHP isn’t going to work. I need something more intensive.

Tomorrow I go to PHP. The doctor can and hopefully will step me up to IP. I know I need help this time around.

Hospitalization.

That word I’ve been avoiding for the past year (yes even while at FV I somehow convinced the doctor PHP was enough) has crept up on me yet again. This time, I was not expecting it at all. In my mind I’m not even close to needing PHP let alone forced hospitalization.

How did I come to this, exactly? I’ll admit, I haven’t been doing great as college comes closer. I have a million anxieties and I don’t do well with change in general so its been tough on me. My recovery, mood, and outlook on the future has shifted. eating’s wavered and on a scale of 1-10 (1 being basically no food and 10 as my best moments in recovery) I’m a 4 or 5. In my mind not terrible. That’s not Jenny’s concern, though. She says its depression, but either way I just feel down and like I can’t possibly recover while also going to school. I have no motivation to even try treatment, and barely enough for therapy. I don’t think its worth the effort when I could very well be like this forever. This is where her concerns lie.

I made a list of what I currently want to do next year vs what I could do recovery-wise. Its quite triggering, but I’ll just say that the left side worried her and the right side doesn’t seem possible to me. Because of all of these thoughts, behaviors, and how melancholy I am in general, Jenny brought up hospitalization.

I don’t agree with her one bit. I don’t feel it will help and the possibility that I could be forced out of school scares me. At this point school is the only thing that has any kind of pull to keep going in recovery for me. I don’t have a purpose like being a youth leader to push me forward in recovery. So if I were put inpatient and then was declared too unstable to continue school, what would I do? I don’t see any good coming from that. I also have 21 days until move in and I need every second I can get to prepare and pack. Treatment is NOT an option. Not at all.

I seem to be the only one who doesn’t think that. As Livvy put it, only people with my last name (ie my parents and I) would disagree with Jenny. Kim and Lily and Olivia all think hospitalization will help and that only makes me want to scream.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’m dreading therapy next week, but I also dread the way my life is going. I guess we’ll see what happens this next week to change or confirm my hospitalization fate.

One year.

What better way to start off this post than share what I posted earlier on both Instagram (piece o cake) and Facebook (SCARY!!!).

July 31, 2014 was by far the scariest day of my life. I entered into eating disorder treatment at Forest View, not knowing what would come of it. I trusted that somehow, within those walls, I would find help and begin to change. The next 3.5 weeks were HARD. There is nothing that brings terror like being forced to eat so much food (including ensures!) and attend groups where you were expected to actually talk about everything going on in your head. I came back each day anyways, because something within me wanted the freedom and type of life recovery promised. I wasn’t healed by the end of my time there, but it was the reason I continually worked to recover this past year. I am healthier and happier than I ever imagined. God knew FV was exactly what I needed to get to where I am today. I am so grateful to not be the same girl who entered treatment a year ago.

I also want to add how thankful I am to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, offered advice, or just showed they care this past year. I truly appreciate each one of you. You’re all a huge part of why I’m here today as well!

235c8936-aef6-4c9a-8e8a-4f61631ba10b


I look back on this past year and it feels like I was just entering Forest View yesterday but also a thousand years ago. I love to think of all the good experiences I had there and it chokes me up a bit. I so wish I still had that amount of support each day and the other strong women to talk to. At the same time, I realize that the fact that I’m not in that place anymore is a very, very good thing.

Jenny was more than elated when I shared what today marked. Knowing me like she does, however, she gave me a challenge right away. It’s so easy to get stuck in comparisons, where I am now vs last year vs where I want to be. I’ve tried to own the notion that “comparison is the thief of joy,” but its hard. I think its our natural tendency to compare ourselves to others and our own expectations. It also happens to be one of the ED’s favorite ways to shoot down any positive thoughts I’m having. Jenny realizes all of this, so she came up with a way to make this day a positive one: pay it forward. Do something nice for a stranger, write a note, do a post on social media, and take someone special out to lunch were a few of her ideas. At that point I kind of halfheartedly said I’d do it but didn’t truly follow through.

I was going through some old verses I’ve marked off in my Bible later that day and suddenly I knew. I wanted to write letters to the most important people in my life: Livvy, my mom, and Jenny. I wasn’t going to stop with that, however. I thought my mom and Livvy deserved something more because they were there for me from Day 1. I’m not sure how or why I thought flowers, but I searched online and found a bouquet to deliver to each in addition to the letters. It hasn’t been easy to deal with everything that accompanies having your best friend or daughter struggle with an eating disorder. They along with others deserve appreciation and recognition for this past year, too. Lastly, I chose to share the above post on social media. It was hard to go into that much detail, especially on Facebook. I actually cringed when a few coworkers liked the post. At the same time, I don’t think this year is something I should be so ashamed of. If someone is going to really judge me for being open and honest about one of my hugest struggles, I don’t think the problem is me. I should be proud and open about this year and my recovery in general. It’s my story to tell and its one that should be shared. I always pray that it will help someone, someway.

All of those things I’ve done today muffled almost all thoughts of “I’m too ___ now” or “I wish I was like ___” or even “I wish I was still that sick.” I wouldn’t be as strong in my faith, working this summer, or headed to college in the fall is it weren’t for my progress over the year. I can’t compare myself to the false picture of happiness I think of whenever my mind says “thinner.” I am changed. I am different. That doesn’t mean bad though. To probably everyone BUT my ED, this past year was a huge success. I want to believe that. I choose to try.

I want to end this post with some encouragement for those in various place on this recovery journey. It gets better. Maybe not today or next week or in a few months but it will get better. Treatment is the strongest thing you can choose for yourself. Take everything a moment at a time without worrying excessively about the future. Ask for the help you need and deserve. Don’t be terrified of recovery. Most importantly, recovery is the only way you will live a happy, free, fulfilling life (note: not could but will).

9 months out: what Forest View has taught and continues to teach me

Going into treatment, I naively assumed I would get everything I needed to recover right away, then go home and apply it. Treatment is supposed to heal you, right? I can laugh at my false expectations now. A huge chunk of all I’ve taken away from my experience never came to me for days, weeks, and even months. I am continually learning more than I could have ever imagined. Although it feels like it sometimes, treatment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 9 months out, here are some new takeaways from my experience at Forest View:

The goddess game. I was the only one who didn’t absolutely hate this activity. Maybe it was because I alone got my wishes granted, or that I knew/thought it had nothing to do with real life. The game went like this: Hannah, Liz, and Karen were the goddesses. We each got 5 wishes and had to rank them in order of importance. Next we took turns reading them off and the goddesses would determine if our wish would be granted. If yes, we kept the wish and otherwise would have to crumple it up.The first few girls had theirs denied, and then it was my turn. I still don’t know exactly why I chose it, but “recover from my eating disorder” was my first choice. They quickly accepted and granted my wish. As we continued through rounds, every single one of my wishes were granted while others were rejected. They seemed hurt because so many of theirs were beautiful dreams: start a large foster home, find a love like my sister’s, finally be content with life, move to the Florida Keys. Afterwards, Hannah explained the point of the activity. You have to choose to recover first or nothing else you dream of will ever happen. Just in this past week I’ve thought about what the game truly meant in regards to recovery and life. I found the meaning cheesy and not helpful at first. I can see now that isn’t the case. I’ve tried to go on living without putting my all into recovery. Sure, I finished this year of college and had some good accomplishments, but was I happy, healthy, at peace, faithful? Not at all. God isn’t exactly like the goddesses were. He doesn’t choose not to bless me because I am in Satan’s grasp with this eating disorder. However, every day I stay here being sick I am consequently choosing to miss out on whatever other blessings God has for me. I can still do my best to honor God and be his servant, but I can’t give Him my all. Until I put recovery first and push Satan away I’ll never be able to live the full life God has for me. I will instead be stuck, surviving but not at all thriving. I don’t want that fate. Instead I will choose recovery and reap the blessings.

Recover now, not later. Nearly every woman I met spent longer times being sick with their EDs, 5, 15, even 30 years. They all gave me the same advice: work towards recovery NOW so that I can be free in the future, not in and out of treatment for the rest of my would-be miserable life. I didn’t believe them. I felt I could gain some weight, enough to get out of treatment, then go and continue to be in quasi-recovery indefinitely. The past 9 months I have spent a majority of my time in this “recovered” state, a few months in relapse, and very little time in true recovery. I’ve found that every time I go back to disordered thoughts and behaviors it becomes easier to fall back into the ED ways and harder to bring myself out. Its like having a sort of disordered muscle memory. I constantly find new ways to sneak and prove to others I’m doing great when the opposite is true. In my moments of clarity, this is what scares me the most. I could very easily end up a repeat offender, spending my whole life in and out of treatment. I could be like the other women and put school, love, dreams, happiness, faith, and hope in order to pursue my eating disorder. I could lose everything. I could even die. I no longer see these warnings as misplaced or unnecessary. I need to remember that every day I don’t put my all into recovery I am digging myself a deeper hole that I may not get out of.

 Looking sick. I remember the first day T switched to PHP. As she came that morning, the first words she heard were “You look so much better now.” A man who had been inpatient with her but switched out a week earlier said them, meaning it as a compliment.That comment was extremely triggering for her and I couldn’t exactly grasp why. Having now had those same words spoken to me I completely get it. People think they’re helping, and I get where they could assume that but it does the opposite. We arent healthy the second our bodies begin to look “normal.” You cannot tell if someone’s doing better/worse mentally because of weight lost or gained in recovery. The first time i heard the “you look healthy now” spiel I wanted to scream.  I remained cool and collected on the outside but internally I was a mess. It ended up leading to my first lapse in recovery. I couldn’t  comprehend the word healthy. Certainly what they really meant was fat. That’s what the ED took it as so it let to obsessive and self-depreciating thoughts of how huge I’d gotten and how terrible I looked. Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with these comments as often anymore, since I haven’t been “sick” looking in a long time. I still do get it sometimes though, and it tends to send me backwards and ignite the ED thoughts. I could go on and on about how important it is to NOT mention body size, shape, how sick someone looks, etc to someone who’s recovering from an eating disorder. Whether you mean it in the nicest way possible or not, it is most-likely going to hurt them in some way. Also, a reminder: just because someone with cancer grows back their hair doesn’t mean the disease isn’t wreaking havoc on their body anymore. Same goes for ED sufferers.

Resilience. My second day at Forest View Jared gave us a lesson on resilience. I was still in complete shock of even being there. It was afternoon group and I was mostly just happy I wouldn’t be asked to eat anything or talk about my feelings. I had so many thoughts racing through my head that I didn’t really listen to him. He handed out a thick packet of papers. I don’t know that I opened it while there, but the quote I wrote down, “Resilience doesn’t always mean you get back up and back to normal, it can mean keep being here during hard times,” and picture on the packet of a small plant growing through a crack in cement both made an impact on me. The image has become a symbol of resilience for me. Against all odds, even with a huge block of cement in its way the plant still managed to grow. I’ve learned so much more about resilience since FV, including much from the packet Jared made. Above all, I constantly remind myself to get back up and grow out of whatever situation I’m in, just as the plant did. (Fun fact: a few weeks after this I ended up photographing a very similar scene which remains my personal symbol of resiliency to this day)

I can get through hard things. I remember the wonderful sense of triumph after finishing the hardest meal I had at Forest View. I finally believed that maybe, just maybe, I could do this. I didn’t think anything could get much worse than that lunch. I was so very wrong. I have faced incredibly worse situations than that meal. I’ve fallen into relapse more than once, cried my eyes out over meals or how huge I’d gotten, dealt with refeeding symptoms (as if side effects of recovery wasn’t already enough), had suicidal thoughts and plans, felt like my whole world was being turned upside down, battled anxiety that kept me up for over 24 hours, felt emotional pain far worse than any physical. It hasn’t been an easy road at all. Doing these last 9 months with only outpatient therapy and the love of my support and savior and without dropping out of school or putting my life on hold has made me STRONG. I am strong. I wouldnt be here right now if I wasn’t. Going to FV in the first place was scary, hard, bold, but continuing to fight every single day is so much more than that. I may not have the greatest attitude or drive for recovery all the time but I am giving it one hell of a fight regardless.

Sometimes being close to someone who’s struggling is more harmful than good. The staff at Forest View always discouraged patients making contact out of treatment. I thought they were just being mean back then, but now I see why. Being close to someone who’s in a bad place with their eating disorder is draining, triggering, and detrimental. Its so hard to recover when the other person keeps you in that disordered place. The disorders tend to feed off each other, making both parties worse. Personally, I’ve found that there’s a very thin line between helpful and harmful when it comes to these relationships. I’ve had experience with both and I’ve learned I need to set boundaries and take it slow. I have never had an issue with the three women i still am friends with on Facebook. We message each other about once a month but never get into our struggles other than to ask for prayers. Its very healthy and nice. I had a completely different story dealing with my other friend who also had an eating disorder so I know I have to be careful if I meet another sufferer in the future.

You have to save yourself first. This goes along with not allowing unhealthy relationships to last. Hannah had the most perfect analogy for it. In an airplane, they always announce to put your own oxygen on first and THEN help your neighbor. Recovery and life in general are so like that too. You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you’ll go down. I’ve learned how true this is. I tried to deliver my friend and fellow ED sufferer from her demons for months. I was more invested in her recovery than my own and I began to spiral. I ended up being led back to those words Hannah spoke at FV. It was painful and one of the hardest decisions to make, given my tendency to fix people, but I ultimately had to sever the relationship. I can’t be a good friend if I’m not here because I let this disorder kill me. Instead of always serving others first, I have begun to heal my own wounds. (Note: I feel my relationships with people who may struggle now are not in any way inhibiting my recovery. They both push me to do better as I push them. It’s perfectly balanced and healthy! 🙂 )

You can’t choose recovery (long term) for anyone else. One of my first days I was asked why I had come. It was a valid question and one I couldn’t fully answer. My mom was the one who called and set everything up, so she was a good excuse even if I technically could have refused. Honestly at that point it was probably for my family and a few friends. I even stretched it to say I did it for Paul. I used basically any reason other than “for me” because it wasn’t for myself. I was in such a dark place that I would have been okay with dying a slow and miserable death from anorexia. Right away, Hannah called me out on my justification for being there. She was happy I came to treatment at all, but she warned me that doing this for others would quickly wear thin. That it did. Not at Forest View or even weeks after, but eventually I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to recover. I could care less about myself. I had so many other people and outside reasons that were completely valid but it still wasn’t enough. I didn’t want recovery for myself one bit. I hated myself. This threw me into relapse where I finally saw truth in Hannah’s warning. Even if I still have my bad days or weeks, I choose recovery each day because I want to get better. I have a thousand other reasons as well but my main propellant is recovering so God can use me in the future and so that I’ll be here for it. I have worth and I deserve to live. I may get discouraged but the only way to make it through is by saving myself.

Positive spin. Hannah was a stickler on this. My second day was preceded by a very hard night. I couldn’t come close to my meal plan and I thought I was a failure for that. During check-in for ED group I mentioned how I could only manage ¼ of my dinner. She immediately told me to stop and not say another word until I put a positive spin on it. I changed it to “I tried my best and had ¼ of my dinner.” I was annoyed and very skeptical. My dad already gave me the “think positive” speech about 2314 times so I had extreme doubt this could work. How would switching around a few words change a thing? Regardless of how I felt, I quickly learned to say the positive side of things, no matter how bad it was. I dropped this habit after FV, only picking it back up after my most recent relapse. I’ve realized how a small positive spin can change my thinking and ultimately the outcome of my day. If I’m stuck in the “I’m a failure” mindset I often give up on recovery. Believing I’ve done my best and that I’m a work in progress leads to more success and energy to fight. It sounds silly but it helps me!

No “good” or “bad” foods. ALL foods fit into a healthy meal plan. I was so angry at Ludie when she explained this concept. Not only did I not believe her, but I was truly upset by it. How could pizza or ice cream or white bread be HEALTHY?!?!?!?! My eating disorder convinced me she was a liar. I completely agree with her now though. The best days I’ve experienced are not where I only have fruits and vegetables. I enjoy life so much more when I venture into the forbidden food options. I remind myself often that plenty of healthy, balanced people have a cookie every once in a while and aren’t focused on eating “clean.” It’s still hard on most days but I am beginning to see past the eating disorder’s lies in this area. I never would have gotten here without all of the unwanted “there are no bad foods” talks at Forest View.

Refeeding. I’ve mentioned refeeding and my experience with it some, but I don’t believe I ever spoke of what I was warned of at FV. Everyone there, most specifically Ludie and the doctors, warned us of refeeding. I watched T go through various symptoms like bloating and edema. II even had a little phosphorus scare my first week. You’d think I would have listened and prepared myself for the refeeding that was sure to come. Instead I lived in denial for months. I truly wanted to die the first time I experienced it. I felt I was being punished for choosing recovery and became discouraged. Ludie’s words rang through and were the only thing that helped: be gentle, keep eating, don’t be discouraged, treat yourself with love. Refeeding is not a myth. Don’t ever believe you’re invincible to it as I did.

Get off the scale. The Forest View staff were very adamant in having every patient stay away from numbers, specifically or weights. They weighed us backwards each morning and never gave out numbers (except to S who somehow found out she only gained a pound in her first week). All I knew during my time in treatment is that my weight stabilized after I lost five days in a row. My parents kept me off the scale for about a week after FV, then lost interest in monitoring me. I don’t get how that was ever a good idea, but the second they stopped watching I stepped back on. My addiction to the scale escalated even more after treatment. I went on it first thing each morning and up to 10 times more through the rest of the day. My mood, eating patterns, and self worth all depended on that number. I wouldn’t allow myself to gain more than X pounds during a day. If I didn’t lose weight I felt like a failure. If I gained I would restrict heavily and exercise. I spent a huge majority of the last 9 months being trapped by that scale. In my moments of real recovery I saw how damaging it was. I still didn’t want to give it up, however. Only since I smashed my scale last week have I seen how right everyone at FV was. I no longer have to start my days with that terrible habit. I thought it would be scary not to know what I weigh constantly, but instead I’ve found a freedom that I never want to go away.
Recovery is still so hard a lot of day and I’m nowhere near recovered, but I am finally at a point where I know the truth and see through the lies this disorder has fed me. I thank God for my time at Forest View and all I’ve learned. Recovery is a long road but one I am going to continue on thanks to the staff at FV, Jenny, my support, and mostly, my wonderful Savior, and mostly, my own strength.

Chance encounter? I think not.

Before I get to what happened today, I have to add the back-story of what the past month has entailed. Trust me, it shows how much a little thing like today can mean a lot more to someone in a depressive/bad state. My thoughts have been terrible. I am not exaggerating when I say this but they are the worst I can remember (depression wise) ever. I honestly can’t remember ever feeling so bad about myself. Something as small as accidentally bumping into someone or having my mom get irritated at me causes crying spells and a flood of bad thoughts. I can’t find things I like about myself. I don’t have confidence in anything I do. I am paranoid about every friendship I have and feel like a burden constantly. I can’t begin to describe how much I hate my body, the things I do, who I am, and myself in general. I will spare the exact thoughts because to be honest I am too ashamed to share them. I’m sure even without them it’s apparent how I’ve been.

That brings us to today. I have had a really crappy day. I didn’t want to wake up or go to school. I skipped Christian Fellowship because I feel like I’m too broken/bad lately and I don’t deserve to have support or love from them. I had lunch Erin and restricted pretty heavily (while tricking her into thinking I am fine). I’ve missed Forest View so much. I wanted to come home and do more self-destructive things. I was going to until my mom and I happened to go into the grocery store.

A lady from our old old church (who I haven’t talked to in gosh like 5 years?) stopped us as we were passing by. I was kind of confused at first when she started thanking me for sharing my stuff on Facebook. Then she started asking about treatment and I realized she was actually talking about all of my posts for NEDA week. I think the rest of the conversation was spent with my jaw dropped because I couldn’t believe any of it. She told me she knew someone who wasn’t doing well and struggles with an eating disorder. I had nothing but praise to give her about Forest View. I have never talked so openly to basically a stranger about this stuff before. I offered to speak with the person she knew if needed. After thanking my mom and I for our help, we went our separate ways.

I have to admit the conversation didn’t suddenly convince me that I’m a good person or anything, but it brightened my day. I helped someone. Sure it’s in a really indirect way and I may never actually know the results of it, but i did it. I shared my story with hundreds of near strangers. I opened up the opportunity for others to come to me about similar issues. I mad a difference in a tiny way.

I’m still dealing with a ton of thoughts I’d rather not have right now. It’s still a hard day. BUT, I know I would be much worse off if I hadn’t had that short encounter today. God knew that I needed to hear something like that today. It wasn’t chance that we crossed paths. He wanted to show me love someway today because I needed it badly. I am so thankful for that.