Long, long overdue update.

I really hate not blogging for so long (besides one off topic post), but I also needed a break. I’ve been spending hours upon hours of each day living and breathing treatment. 4.5 weeks in residential, another 3.5 in PHP, and now I’m back at IOP. It’s exhausting, to say the least, but now I am finally ready to explain the last 2+ months.

I left for residential on May 25th. Thankfully, I was able to once again be admitted into the same SoCal location as before. It felt like returning home. Around half the staff is the same, so I immediately received half a dozen hugs. Knowing everything about the program meant a hell of a lot less anxiety compared to last time. At the same time, I had plenty of worries about the other girls. The time before brought some not so great drama filled days, so I desperately wanted to avoid that. I was blessed with 5 of the most amazing women I have ever met. They made the experience better than I imagined. More importantly, though, was the staff and what happened because of them. My therapist was a perfect match. She gave me the confidence and safe space to speak about the most shameful memories and past that I’ve never talked about before. She listened and believed me. She comforted me, inspired me, pushed me, and supported me. I could not be more grateful, so I still update her now. One counselor in particular was a complete blessing to me. She’s a strong Christian and compassion just oozed out of her. I also shared some of the same things I did with my counselor, and actually with her first. There are about a million more things I want to write about regarding resi, but I’ll save that for another post (or 20 🙂 ). For now, I’ll just end with the fact that I learned more than I thought possible. I knew I would change, but I guess I just didn’t expect it as much as I should have.

I discharged from CFD on June 26th. I panicked when I first found out the date around 10 days prior. Suddenly, going home was actually on the radar. An immense fear of the same environment came over me. I felt stronger, but not enough to handle everything so soon. We had always planned on just starting IOP three days a week after. That Monday before I brought up the idea of heading to ERC’s Chicago PHP program. It was a huge risk to go there, but ultimately it’s what was best. After spending under a day and a half at home, I was off to Chicago, with the support of my treatment teams from CFD and home.

I struggled immediately after admitting to ERC. The program was completely different than CFD: three times the size, therapy just once a week, a new mealplan I hated. Those first almost two weeks were miserable. I had pretty much given up hope of gaining anything. I wasn’t open in the least bit. Something changed in me, and suddenly I wanted to work hard again. I took notes and participated and challenged my ED 24/7. I realized that the chance to come was a privilege. I could have been home, but instead I worked hard to get more treatment. My original plan was just under 3 weeks of time. I used money as the main factor in why I couldn’t stay. The team didn’t buy it, and offered financial help to keep me longer. I accepted. I ended up getting more out of the last 2ish weeks there than I imagined. I settled in, made friends, worked hard. I again am grateful for the opportunity to stepdown instead of coming straight home. I left the 24th with even more growth under my belt.

I started IOP the day after my discharge. Now I’m there twice a week for the full day and therapy 2 days. It’s been almost two weeks and I’m mostly used to being home. This certainly isn’t easy. Adjustments aren’t my favorite, and here I am with some huge ones. I am just beginning to mourn leaving treatment. I am “treatment sick” terribly. I miss it all: the support, staff, girls, safety, weather, adventure, challenges, essentially just about everything. This may be the hardest part now. I am figuring out how to do it (mostly) on my own. I want this. I need this. I will put all that I’m able so I can finally live.

It’s just over 4 weeks until nursing begins. This last bit of summer needs to have the same amount of effort as the first 10 weeks. My life, my future, and my freedom depends on it. Spending all of summer in treatment wasn’t anywhere close to what I had hoped going into it, but this has given me a fighting chance and a will to live. I am blessed.

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.

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!

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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.

First day of treatment

I seriously thought I posted this… about a week ago. Whoops. Anyways here is how my first day went!

I have tried (and failed) to write this post more times than I can count. Nearly 5 months later and I still feel an overwhelming amount of emotions every time I think or talk about my three and a half weeks there. I have never had an experience like it. It’s a very weird feeling since it is a treatment center and not meant to be a “good” experience, but I truly do miss it there and I look back on my time there with happiness. There have been many points where I wanted to go back because I felt so secure and cared about there.

I’ve decided to break this into different chunks. I honestly don’t think I could ever fill enough pages to explain everything that Forest View was. I’m going to start the very first day there. I’ll explain a bit of how everything went and then talk about all of the “firsts” I experienced.

My first day in PHP was actually the second day going there. I had an assessment the day before and was told I qualified for PHP. My mom had to pretty much force me out the door that morning. I had gone from restricting meals a ton before having my wisdom teeth pulled to barely having anything. Anorexia decided the whole hurting mouth thing would be perfect to restrict even more. I felt dead. I slept probably 80% of the day. I didn’t care if I lived or died. My mom had had enough though, and so I ended up at FV. The assessment honestly freaked me out. I don’t remember much. I don’t think I talked to my mom the whole ride home because I was furious with her. I didn’t need this, I was FINE.

I cannot describe the fear going into my first day. I cried the whole way there. I faked breakfast and I still felt like throwing up. I wanted my mom to turn around and drive me back home. I was greeted by the most amazing staff, which calmed my fears a tiny bit. I received my name tag and a folder. They explained the daily routine for ED patients in PHP: check-in with all of the adults, then head to the ED unit where we would do morning snack, ED group, a second group (activity, art, or nutrition), and support lunch; then back to the PHP unit for two groups and snack. I was called out I believe four times before check-in was done. I had an EKG, met with a nurse and answered my first set of questions, met with the dietitian, then saw internal medicine. After this, I was led down to the ED unit and a world of unknowns.

First meal plan. I was given the first of many yellow slips of paper with all the categories and serving amounts I was expected to eat for each meal and snack. I don’t really want to list the full breakdown but it consists of two snacks with 1 dairy and 1 grain, breakfasts with 1-2 grains 1 dairy 1 fruit and 1 other, lunch with 2-3 grain 1-2 protein 1 veggie 1 fruit and 1 other, and dinner being the same as lunch without an other and adding a grain. As I continued treatment my meal plan was bumped up accordingly and I learned that the “huge” amount I started on was very mild compared to what could be. I also learned that my meal plan is just minimums and I was absolutely not allowed to exercise.

First snack. I was pulled out so many times my first day, and unfortunately that meant being late to morning snack. I wasn’t used to eating before lunch. I hated milk, which I soon would discover is a staple at Forest View. As I entered into a room full of other patients and a therapist I didn’t know, I wanted to cry. On top of the overwhelming fear and anxiety about being there in the first place, one of the girls (who I completely HATED that first day) called out “Make sure she gets her snack” and I could have slapped her if I didn’t already have a thousand other things on my mind. This is the same girl who, five minutes later, tattled (I use this word because I seriously felt like i was in elementary school again) on me for using “Ed behaviors.” I didn’t even know what that meant or that we had rules at mealtimes. Turns out, you aren’t allowed to break your muffin into tiny pieces and hide your bowl under the table while eating. Whoops. I finished the muffin eventually (way after our 15 minute limit I had yet to hear of) and thankfully was pulled out of group by the ED nurse. I was kind of wrong to be thankful at that point, ha. I think I had taken one sip of the dreaded dairy portion of snack so I had to bring it with me. I’ll talk more about my meeting in a bit but I still hadn’t finished my milk at the end of it. Apparently this is a huge no-no when it comes to being in treatment and the doctor threatened me with an ensure. Luckily the activity therapist let me off the hook since I didn’t know any of our rules yet.

First meeting with the Dr. and ED Nurse. Nurse Erin, bless her heart, was so kind to me. She is definitely one of my favorite people working there. She could tell how fearful I was and that I needed more of a loving touch to feel more comfortable. Her sense of humor is great and she got me to laugh a bit. Overall, I am just thankful I got to be alone with her before having the doctor come in. The doctor there is strict and cold at times. He pushed me from the start and gave no slack. I wished he would have been a little more understanding that first day but I think it did me good… eventually. He always made it a habit to threaten me with hospitalization and a feeding tube which was great. If I hadn’t had the wonderful excuse of my parents not wanting to pay fo inpatient, he would have had me stuck in there and a tube shoved up my nose after day 3. In just three days I exceeded their number of “refusals” and I was starting to lose weight. He was so angry at one point that he set the papers out in front of me and claimed he was going to call my parents. Didn’t happen and also didn’t make me want to do much better. Ah well. I was thankful for his pushing by the end of it but even moreso that Erin was always there to balance out the harshness.

First time admitting I had an eating disorder. In the short time I was actually in ED group that first day, I had to do one of the hardest things of my entire treatment. I never said the word out loud. I knew, deep down, I had a problem. I never said the words out loud though. Since I was new, we went around the table and introduced ourselves and what we struggled with (anorexia, bulimia, or both). When Hannah (ED therapist) got to me I couldn’t say it. Holding back tears and mind racing, I squeaked out that my name was Emily but then burst into tears. The first piece of advice from her came then: say it out loud, because the more you admit you have a problem the more you can try to fight it. So I did. It took a few tries and what felt like forever but I said it for the first time ever: “I have anorexia.” It felt real at that point. I wasn’t okay. I didn’t fully agree I needed to be at FV, but it was a start.

First time hearing meal rules. That first lunch, it all seemed incredibly complex and confusing but by the next week I already had them memorized and even wrote them out for one of the activity therapists. Only two glasses of water/other beverage per meal. Jacket/sweatshirts must be removed or the pockets checked after meals. No bathroom use for two hours after. Don’t compare with others. It is expected that you finish the entire meal or will be given a supplement. No talking about food, calories, weight, etc. No looking at nutritional info for foods that have them. No cutting food into tiny pieces, counting chews, etc that would be considered ED behaviors. Napkins will be checked after meals. You cannot exchange food with others. Only one of each condiment can be used. Try to support anyone having a hard time. If there is anything wrong with your meal (mainly dealing with allergies or one of your 3 dislikes) you have to say it right away or you’ll be forced to eat it anyways. Well maybe not with allergies but definitely with dislikes (learned that one the hard way, yuck). You get 15 minute for snack and 45 for lunch. You have to fill out an eval after meals. Do the board before and after.

First time doing “the board.” Oh goodness was this weird the first few times. I found it helpful, well kind of, eventually but before then it seemed pointless. We would put an affirmation (hated that part), rate our hunger, and write an emotion (which couldn’t be anxious or nervous or anything related to food, dang it!). After the meal we would again rate hunger and emotions. I see now it was a good way to gauge how the meal affected us and what our bodies were telling us, but I hated it back then. I swear I put the same emotions most days because I was pretty numb before most meals and disgusted, uncomfortable, discouraged, etc after. I actually still go through the checklist now, especially on hard days.

First support lunch. When the activity therapist plopped my tray down in front of me, I wanted to run and hide. It seemed huge and impossible. All I remember from that meal is that it included an italian sausage and bun, veggies, fruit, and, luckily for me, no dessert. For anyone not in their first day, a dessert during lunch was mandatory. I didn’t cry or talk. I ate safe foods first (veggies and fruit). I took one tiny bite of the sausage and nearly threw up. I gave up. After the therapist realized there was no way she could get me to finish, she got out our meal sheets and prepared to return us to the inpatient or PHP units. She also informed me I would be receiving an Ensure.

First taste of Ensure… and first “refusal.” I’m not quite sure what I expected Ensure to taste like, but I certainly didn’t see it tasting that disgusting. To this day, my scale of taste for food is 10 to Ensure. I can still taste it if I think about it hard enough or if my mom happens to try to freak me out by bringing me one at the store. It is that bad. I was given a choice of vanilla or chocolate, then she emptied an entire one into a foam cup. I was immediately nauseas at the smell but she forced me to take a sip. I couldn’t stand it. I’m not sure it was entirely it being disgusting, because the thought of all the calories in those little bottles made my head spin too. I think I made it to two sips and then declared I couldn’t do it. She actually let me off pretty easily that day, as everyone had been. I had all of the terms of refusing explained to me and that if I were inpatient or got put inpatient 3 refusals meant a feeding tube. I really didn’t listen that much and just wanted to go back in the PHP room with everyone else.

First adult PHP groups. I think I missed 75% of the first one and about half of the second, so I didn’t learn much from these that day. I also was just so confused and scared and everything that I couldn’t focus anyways. To be honest I don’t remember or acknowledge 90% or more of our adult groups anyways, most just weren’t that applicable or meaningful.
First accidental-on-purpose skipping of afternoon snack. Being in PHP we are “privileged” to have more freedoms like going outside during breaks, no bathroom monitoring while in the outpatient unit, not being forced to attend all groups, and no afternoon snack monitoring. I was informed about snack a little late because I got pulled out for something, and right after that I met with Hannah so my snack ended up in the garbage. Not going to lie, I threw out at least half my snack each afternoon.

First meeting with Hannah. I really, really liked Hannah from the start. She is the first therapist who truly helped with the ED and a huge help during my treatment. Most of our first session was answering the same 50 questions I already was asked ten times that day but we did get into real talk towards the end. She made me feel a little better about being there and gave me hope that I could get something out of it.

Overall, my first day was a whirlwind. I came home that night exhausted and scared for what the next few week would bring.

Dear Ed,

Last night I did it. I wrote my second letter to Ed. I was crying the entire time (after a fight over my eating/exercise with my mom). It feels just as raw and powerful as the first one. I’ll post both of them.

The first one we were told to write as a breakup letter during my second week at PHP. I was at a very different place in recovery than any of the other girls, so mine wasn’t exactly a breakup but I was still really proud of it.

The second one, Jenny didn’t give me a format at all. She wanted me to read my last letter and write Ed again like I would write a note to a boyfriend or whatever. I really like how it came out.


Dear Ed,

     The time has come. You have been a part of me for way too long. You have promised me so many things: thinness, beauty, acceptance, worth, love; but you left out the fact that getting those through you is both impossible and self-destructive. 

     I am just beginning to see what you have really done to me. You have taken my zest for life.You have wreaked havoc on my body and mind. I have lost focus on the things that truly matter because all you let me think of is food and calories and exercise and being thin. I only have you to thank for my weight loss, but I’m starting to see that shrinking my body didn’t do me any good in all the areas you promised it would. 

     I have you to thank for all the bad. Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed. My once healthy hair has fallen out and become thin. I am constantly cold from all the fat you said needed to go. I have isolated myself because going to any social event would mean having to eat. I worry all who are close to me with my eating and appearance. I am so physically and mentally exhausted everyday that all I am able to do is please you. I have lost all ability to concentrate on anything else at all. You have taken over my entire life. I want to take it back.

     Maybe I don’t fully believe that recovery is possible for me right now. Even with so much uncertainty of what I need to do, I see that I need to change. I want to truly live again. If it’s even possible, I want to one day say I love myself and mean it. I want to be able to go through a day without worrying so much about food. I want to be able to accept people’s compliments and not automatically discredit them. I want to feel confident. I want to be happy. I want to have a healthier body. I want to look in the mirror and not be disgusted. I want to be free from you.

     I don’t think I will ever be 100% ready to let go of you, but despite that I am going to try. I don’t want to be stuck with you the rest of my life. I deserve to be free and recover. This isn’t goodbye yet because I am simply not ready. The day for goodbye will come, but until then I will try my best to push you away.

Emily

Written August 6th, 2014


Dear Ed, 

     It has been nearly a month since I last wrote you, and a lot has changed since then.

     You told me from the very beginning that Forest View was a terrible place and wouldn’t help. You are a liar. I have gained so many tools to use against you. I feel stronger. Of course, even now you point out I also had to gain weight. It’s hard to deal with but maybe not as hard as living with you. I have a LONG way to go, but FV has put me on that path.

     You have made my life hell since discharge. Every moment of every day is a constant battle. I want you out of my head now! I want to be able to focus on other things and not feel so terrible about myself. I want to get through a day without lying to my mom, throwing away food, calorie counting, overexercising, or any of the other behaviors you still make me do today.

     I know the last time I wrote I didn’t know if I could say goodbye yet. Today I still feel that way. Yes, I wish I could not care about food or weight or any of it, but at the same time it DOES feel good restricting and seeing myself lose weight. 

     I want to get rid of you. I want to be me. I want to think for myself. I want to not be depressed or anxious or withdrawn.  I want to be happy and you won’t allow that. Pack up your bags and prepare yourself, because soon you will be evicted from my life.

Emily

Written September 4, 2014


As I reread and compare the two letters, a glaring fact is that I have a long way to go. I don’t want to focus on that though. As Hannah taught us in PHP (a good story for another day, maybe I’ll do lessons a learned from PHP post soon), you have to work against that perfectionistic piece of your mind that says “you should be better and you should do xyz” and realize that while you may not be where you want to be you have made progress and you continue to make progress. So where I stand tonight is I have worked hard this past month. I can’t let go of Ed yet but the things I have learned and will continue to learn in therapy are helping me fight to be free again. I am not better yet and I am okay with admitting it because I realize how much work there is to be done.

One month

Exactly one month ago today I was admitted into FV’s partial hospitalization program and its been a week and a half since I was discharged. I can’t believe how fast this month went and how much I’ve changed.

On my first day I was scared out of my mind. I was pulled out a couple times in the morning but nobody from the ED unit told me what was going to happen so I was extremely anxious when we headed over there. The first thing they did was give me a snack and I had a really hard time. In fact, I had to bring my milk with when I met with the nurse and doctor the first time. He was intimidating and told me I needed an ensure for the milk I didn’t finish. Luckily I didn’t get one that time, but by the time I got back to group it was almost lunch. I didn’t get anywhere close to finishing and got my first run in with ensure (absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, maybe I’ll make a post about them one day). After lunch we went back to the PHP groups. The first few days I was having such high anxiety that I didn’t get much out of them. I didn’t want to recover. I didn’t want to really be there.

By my third week I was able to finish lunch. I encouraged other girls. I was getting so much out of ED group and the adult ones. I had grown so close to the other girls. PHP was saving my life and I didn’t want it to end for school. I wanted to try to recover. I could see a glimmer of hope and what life could be like without Ed.

I truly believe I wouldn’t be here without going to PHP. I certainly wouldn’t be in college. I would have ended up very sick. I am so thankful for everyone there and everything the staff did. They are amazing.

I am not 100% pro recovery. It’s been a lot harder than I anticipated. I have more reason to try now though. I don’t give into Ed as easily and I don’t follow those thoughts as fully as I did. I call that progress. I’m very hopeful to continue this progress as I start therapy this week. I have so many resources and support people and a great treatment team. I am going to beat Ed one day.

My Story & Why This Blog

My name is Emily. I am currently fighting against anorexia as well as anxiety and depression. I have dealt with both anxiety and depression in some form since I can remember. Both have worsened in recent years but I am hopeful that with hard work on my part, therapy, and medication I will get better. I honestly can’t pinpoint when my eating disorder started. I have had low self esteem (including thoughts like “I’m too fat”) forever, but the behaviors really didn’t begin until about two years ago and intensified last fall. Last year was my senior year of high school and I was taking college classes. It began when I developed a fear of eating lunch at the college. I started eating less and less and eventually skipped lunch altogether most days. After fall semester, I had to eat at the career tech center instead. For about a month I did well but then it got worse and I ended up skipping lunches again. It felt like a huge spiral and suddenly I was in a world of calorie counting and weighing myself fifteen times a day and exercising whenever possible. It was extremely miserable but I couldn’t stop. In April I started seeing an “ED” therapist (I went to a different therapist from October till then and she helped with the depression and anxiety) and she helped a little initially. I don’t give her much credit because to be honest she said a ton of hurtful things and couldn’t do much for me, but it was like a band-aid that helped me get through senior year. This summer was HELL as far as the eating disorder goes. I went to Disney in Florida for HOSA Nationals five days in the end of June. It was an amazing experience ruined by my eating disorder. I honestly have no clue how I managed to avoid passing out because I didn’t eat anywhere near enough. Also, how the other two girls I roomed with or my instructor didn’t notice is beyond me. My mom tried to get me to eat more once I came home, but I spent the majority of the summer lying to her and losing weight. My mom and dad were both fed up with it at that point. I didn’t realize how much it was in control until I got my wisdom teeth out towards the end of July. I was in a lot of pain after it and that gave me a very valid excuse to restrict as much as possible. I don’t know exactly how much I lost during the first week after, but I know it was pretty bad. When I saw my therapist that week and she was shocked about the weight loss it kind of clicked in my head that I needed help. I had received a brochure for a treatment center near me from my psychologist in June and I started looking into it. My mom called and the next week I had my evaluation. They decided I would be admitted into their partial hospitalization program. I went very unwillingly at first. After two days the first week I saw that I needed to be there. I spent 16 days in PHP total and it has changed me. The girls there and the staff are amazing. I made many friendships and I gained not only weight but also a new view towards life. I am not even close to being recovered. I don’t choose recovery everyday. I am not committed to it by any means. With all that said, PHP has made me see why I need to recover. It’s given me hope. I do want this for me most days. That in itself is huge. I’m not perfect and everyday is a huge struggle, but I believe in myself and I know I will beat Ed one day.

This blog is going to be a diary of sorts. I want a place where I can write everything I’m feeling and look back on things I’ve overcome and struggles I’ve faced. It is 100% for my own healing and benefit. I also will continue to post on my Tumblr, but this blog will contain more personal posts and possibly triggering information at times.