I’m doing this all on my own.

A few weeks into residential, my therapist and I were discussing discharge plans. She asked whether I would be able to head back to Forest View’s PHP, then step down to IOP, and eventually go to therapy twice a week with a dietitian, etc. Right away I told her none of those things were possible. I started school the week after I left resi. PHP (and IOP) is 45 minutes away from home, and although it’s close to my school, I didn’t have a car at the time. Of course there is also the issue of school. I had to sign papers that I would come back for interim or forfeit enrollment at Calvin. There is no way I could give up my college career. Her concern immediately grew. Instead of having a month or more of step-down care, I went from 24/7 support to therapy once a week, and no dietitian for the first few weeks.

This was a hard pill to swallow. I knew all along that step-down care wouldn’t ever happen, but being so close to discharge it started to sink in more. I changed and grew immensely at residential, more than anyone expected. I was the girl I had never seen before in my sickness. Even so, the real word is scary. You aren’t in a bubble with people to help you through urges, meals, meltdowns. I no longer had groups with others who understood exactly what I’m going through. I dropped from a safe place into a world of triggers and little help.

I tried to be as optimistic as possible as discharge crept closer. There were looming fears I couldn’t shake: dining hall eating, being back at school in general, the food police, being so fat/bigger than before. I was originally going to leave the Monday before Christmas. That caused me the most worry of all. How would I be able to jump right back into a holiday after only four days out of treatment? My therapist pulled me into her office the Wednesday before I was supposed to discharge and gave me the best news possible: insurance approved an extra week. I cried feeling so blessed by this opportunity. We had to share my decision with my parents. That was a difficult conversation and is still full of negative emotions on their part. I mostly ignored it because to me getting the most time at residential as possible was going to add more confidence and motivation to my recovery.

Unfortunately, nothing CFD did to prepare me for the real world could fully do so. Coming home meant uncertainty and outcomes both good and bad. If I gave up or gave into anorexia I would just end up back where I started. On the other hand, finding the strength to fight with all I am meant finding the girl I had lost so many years ago.

Leaving residential and going straight back to completely outpatient has been challenging. I no longer had the cushy protection to help me not use behaviors or restrict. I wasn’t in treatment for 8 or 4 hours each day. No one was there to ensure I ate enough.

The thing is, by much less support (and more of a drastic change because of it) after residential I have had to own my recovery. Sure, I still had people cheering me on and did therapy, but that was only an hour of professional and then the meals I had with my family, as far as physical support goes. I so appreciate everyone who has been there for me; however, it never will be the same as being in residential or treatment in general. I completely am on my own now.

I have grown but also struggled these last almost 10 months post CFD. I miss it, or at least some aspects. Groups definitely top that list. I feel more alone now that I don’t have people to under­­stand me. (Luckily that is changing as I attend 2 support groups now). I’ve looked through my journals and pictures from residential sometimes and just bawl, longing for any part of that program to return. About a month ago I drove to Forest View and sat in the parking lot. I so wanted to have the safety, support, and even the dreaded ensures. Also, and really surprising/confusing/weird, I miss Dr. VH?!? He was a hard ass and somewhat mean but holy cow do I miss him telling it like it is and threatening me. I honestly thought about checking myself into inpatient and just riding it out for a week so I didn’t have to face reality. I know that’s really not how I felt about inpatient at the time and I don’t plan on returning ever. For whatever reason sitting there brought up all of the good things about my time in that building and blocked out anything bad (aka most everything I experienced). More than anything it was be realizing I was so close to what parts of treatment I missed the most: groups, 24/7 care, supervised meals, being with others the same as me.

I am currently taking some steps backwards as the fall goes on. My thoughts are very negative and consumed by ED, depression, and anxiety. I am doing my best to take care of myself by going to support groups, spending time with people I love, taking another try with a dietitian, relaxing some, and eating as well as I can. Realizing all I have and haven’t done since discharge gives me motivation to keep going. I haven’t had any sort of treatment other than therapy/occasional dietitian, and I have done well without it. I haven’t needed to return to treatment. I have had so much more energy and don’t look or feel like a zombie.

I am very proud of myself for this progress. I’m in no way saying that I’m better than someone who has had step-down treatment after residential. I wish sometimes (especially during lapses in recovery) that I would have been fortunate enough to. I felt that was unfair for a long time. Now, my feelings are very different. I am glad that I came right out. I am continuously choosing and working towards recovery each day because I want it.

I was so certain I would end up back inpatient or residential without any good aftercare plan., but I didn’t. I survived each day and made it through on my own. I continue to do this all on my own. Little by little, I am finding strength on the hard days because I came home from residential and went straight back to real life.

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 – 1 month out

Well at this point I can definitely say it feels simultaneously like I was in treatment an hour ago and also that its been years. Today I will be sharing my accomplishments, set-backs, and what I’ve learned.

Accomplishments:

  • Followed 99% of meal plan
  • Use skills at least once a day
  • Attending social events at college
  • Finished interim and did well
  • Handling all of the change (dietitian, school, coming out of resi, therapist)
  • Using exercise in a good way
  • Surviving first sickness in recovery
  • Working on asking my needs to be met
  • Haven’t died of hypothermia yet in the not-California temps 🙂

Set-backs

  • Home life = meh
  • Not sleeping well
  • Finding it hard to get out stress
  • Body image making it hard to eat
  • Not good with boundaries

Life is full of surprises. Cliche, I know. This month of my life has been so messy. There have been lots and lots of blows. I was shielded from it in treatment. At the same time, the little unexpected joys make this worth it.

I have to put ME first. Okay so this one I’ve learned but have not put into practice. I realized that doing things for others and putting my own safety or recovery at risk never should happen. I deserve to say no.

College doesn’t have to be the same as last fall. God was I worried about this. Entering into the same place where I was on the path to dying is hard. Being in hose dining halls, with complete exercise access, and without supervision can be tempting. I don’t want that life back. I look at pictures and I see an already dead girl. I am worth more.

Not all ED effects will go away. My cognitive function, my brain, the reason I was so good in school, even following a conversation, they’re all difficult now. I’m not starving! This should be going away. I have to prepare for the worst thought and right now its where I’m at.

Its less shameful not hiding it. I am always worried how someone will react when I tell them about my ED. I’ve gotten a range of responses, mostly good, but the anxiety is usually most overwhelming. Since posting on FB and talking openly if need I feel so much better. I tell the parts of my story and move on. I try not to care what they may think.

I need to share my story. I am so itching to speak about it! I feel like I could help other while also giving me a reason to keep going. No one should have to feel alone in this. I also really want to lead a group or something like that soon.

Today is going to be a great day! Today I will focus and think clearly because I will nourish my mind. Today, I will remember that I am stronger and smarter than I think. I am not my eating disorder. Today I will flourish.

This is what dreams are made of.

Two months ago, I sat in residential with the assignment of writing my goals for treatment and the future. I had so many hopes. I would have been absolutely elated if only a few ever came true.

College was something I so desperately wanted to change. I lost all of my fall semester to the eating disorder. I didn’t get to build friendships, learn deeply, or simply have fun. My days were centered around food, restriction, deceit, and exercise. I honestly don’t know how I managed to go as long as I did. My hope was to one day experience college for real. I dreamed of staying up with friends late at night, engaging fully in my learning, enjoying random food, and being totally carefree.

Well, tonight and Saturday night I checked off part of that dream. Saturday I went skating with the floor at 10 pm and then out to get donuts and hot chocolate(!!!!!!!). Tonight, my friend and I spent our bonus bucks and drank hot chocolate together.

Never did I think back at CFD that I would have been able to do this by now. I allowed myself to enjoy the time with friends. I didn’t freak out even a little over the spontaneous food (and one fear food). Just like my other friends that were with me, I ate and drank and soaked up every moment.

Sometimes progress in recovery is big, but often its the little things. Warm drinks, good company, and a little hot chocolate with sprinkles.

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.