Where I’m at – end of exam week 5/17

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I’m feeling vulnerable and raw, so here goes. This picture is real life right now. No filter, no editing, no posing to make things seem better than they are because it really has been a shitty time.

It’s not quite 6 am. I have been up basically two days straight, minus a few broken hours of sleep Monday night. I have barely eaten with all of the stress I’m under.  I am studying for my exam at 9 and attempting to work on a week overdue essay. I still have one more exam tomorrow and the task of moving out my entire dorm by 4ish.

I question myself constantly: how did I, a once straight-A, hardworking, enthusiastic, and successful student come to this point? The answer (almost solely): my eating disorder.

I always assumed that nothing could possibly get worse than Fall of 2015, before residential. I struggled hard my first semester at Calvin, but I gained so much momentum in recovery through treatment. Things went well up until the end of this past Fall; then enter IOP and groups, improvement, and once again relapse. I have never been so low on motivation, dealt with this amount of stress, had my depression and anxiety affect me quite this way, or relapsed so significantly so fast. This combination naturally compounded into a miserable experience, particularly the last 2 months or so.

I am surviving and that is it. I feel like giving up most of the time. My behaviors, thoughts, lack of following my mealplan, etc have lead to a pretty desperate situation. I had two choices: gain motivation and stay outpatient or enter a higher level of care. Nothing seemed to help where I was headed. Everything only intensified, leading to pretty drastic (to my treatment team) weight loss. Last week we made an agreement that I reluctantly obliged to: lose absolutely no weight through the week/in the future or I would be forced to have a phone session with my mom. Monday that’s exactly what happened.

The conversation itself didn’t end terribly. She was upset with my lies and hiding everything, but also offered her support. We mentioned a higher level of care, but she did not know I had already contacted CFD and found answers. Through the remainder of therapy and my dietitian appt my concern only grew. It clicked that even with my mom’s support I no longer felt confident in my recovery. I made the decision that afternoon to return to residential. I called her that night and began the truly difficult conversation.

Residential feels like giving up in ways. I hate knowing I need more help.. The one thing that has brought comfort is the support from those at treatment. My therapist and dietitian both are happy with my decision, although they wouldn’t make it for me. Group was also very affirming today. It is the right choice. There will never be a good time to go away for treatment, but this is my time. I am too exhausted, too sick, struggling way too much to function. It’s time to put recovery first and begin to break free once again.

 

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.

Favorite residential memories

I was overcome with some serious CFD nostalgia while giving advice/calming worries of a girl going in there soon. Here’s some of the best moments 🙂

Podiatrist. Okay so this seems really weird, I know. Halfway through the first week I told my favorite nurse about my toe, which had been infected since before I left. We tried using neosporin and hydrogen peroxide but ultimately they sent me to a podiatry office a half hour away. I was dying to get out of the house and see San Diego so I took it. H, who would later be my favorite counselor, took me. We ended up talking a ton and joking (like how she had us walk really far across the parking lot “above my exercise level”). She was one of the first staff members I opened up more to but also it was lots of light conversation.

Equine. So each time I went to equine was well over amazing, but the first time was super special. I was the only one on a high enough exercise level to go, so it was just one of my favorite counselors, D, and I. Equine is about 45 minutes away up in the mountain(ish) of Ramona. Its absolutely beautiful driving there. I was amazed by all of the scenery: orchards, vineyards, huge sandstone boulders all over, farms, breathtaking views. It was the first time going there for both of us which made the drive extra magical. Once I was there I got one on one attention with the lovely equine therapists and the sweetest horse, No Name.That hour taught me so much about myself and I loooove horses so it was basically heaven. On the way back we nearly ran out of gas but found the one station in Ramona and always laughed about that.

NAPOLEON. He is the most majestic cat ever who runs the neighborhood. We went on walks every morning and without fail, he would be there, looking like a king and bathing in the sun. We’d call him and most of the time he wouldn’t even turn his head, clearly because he was too good for us. By the way, H and I named him that since it totally fits.

Flirty creepy old dude. So this may not be the greatest memory but it was still really funny. Also on our walks, we passed this guy’s house on the way there and back. Whenever he was outside or even in his car he’d go “hey ladies” or “mornin’ beautifuls” and it was disgusting. Most days H was walk us and our agreement was that we got to speed walk past his house and then slow once we were a good distance away.

Gym with L. The first time I was approved to have gym time (and the only time while L was there still 😦 ) was the best half hour of our lives. We played soccer and ran around and I felt like a kid again. I wasn’t exercising like I had been for years, just enjoying movement with a friend. The staff happened to be at a Christmas party in Amy’s office, so we thought it would be hilarious to throw a stick at the window then run away. Such adults, I know haha. So we did it and sprinted away, but they opened the blinds and only saw L running away. When they came out everyone laughed and we let them know I was in on it too.

A and I laughing like crazy in our room. The first night we were roomies (in the bedroom on the opposite side of the house than the other two), we spent a whole hour laughing until we cried. We made our “Mama ___” list, which you would have to be there to fully understand, but it definitely had some interesting terms. Her laugh was hilarious which would make me laugh then her laugh harder. My abs hurt for two days after. It was much needed with the drama we’d had with this one other woman.

R, A, and I in the formal. R was in PHP and she had a really difficult night and walked out before dinner. She came back and was struggling, so A and I asked the counselor T if we could all go in the formal. T is awesome so he let us. It started out with us supporting her and listening to everything, but not long after we began joking around. It was amazing to laugh and enjoy each other’s company after a few heavy days.

Christmas lights with M. Christmas was much different than I had initially expected (I was supposed to go home but ended up staying one more week). After dinner were able to go out to see a neighborhood that has 80 houses decked out in lights. The best diet tech M, who may be a little crazy in a good way, drove us in her Santa hat. She was a pretty wild driver and made the whole thing so fun. We actually had our phones so I have some great photos from that night. Rich people in California really go all out for thir lights!

Say anything. So one night we were really bored in the lull between the last group and dinner so D suggested a board game. There was one that looked really interesting called Say Anything. Basically you have everyone answer an open-ended question and then bet on which one you think will win. The judge then picks the one they like best. Since you get to answer whatever you want it can be really crazy and dirty too. D the counselor had the best/worst answers and it was amazing. We played nearly everyday after we discovered the magic of it. We ended up laughing until we cried so many times.

 

Torrey Pines. My last ever outing it was just me, A, and H the inappropriate nurse. We really wanted to go to the beach and watch the sunset, so we headed over to Torrey Pines. H showed us the college near there, golf course, and was our tour guide explaining all the cool facts about the area. After that we went to the beach. Since we had our phones we got tons of pictures. It was a perfect night and I still have so many shells and trinkets from there.

Meditation gardens. My first outing was to the beautiful meditation gardens. I went with L and counselor D. We explored and watched the surfers and sunset from a huge cliff. That was my first time out of the house minus the podiatry appointments and I loved seeing part of San Diego.

Mama T. There is so much I could say about nurse T. She truly is one of the best people I have ever me. Her and I had long talks at night after everyone else went to bed. We grew very close and she always told me about her sons and other stories. Mama T was also the first staff member I ever checked in with and she later cried telling me I was the only one ever to do so with her. Of everyone, I miss her the very most.

Making cupcakes with A. One day we found a box of cake mix lying around and decided it would be great to bake cupcakes. It was one of the funnest experiences. We let loose and enjoyed each other’s company and probably drove nurse S a little crazy.. Our cupcakes didn’t turn out exactly the pretty tie dye color we envisioned but they were darn good.

Making my famous chocolate chip cookies. I have a signature huge and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe.We (well everyone but one certain dramatic person) decided we wanted to make them for our fun food challenge. I actually led the nutrition class on baking Christmas morning and then made them together. We had them as a night snack and it was perfect. I saved some of the frozen dough and baked the others Sunday night to leave them as a going away present/thank you to the staff.

Leading all the groups!! This was the best thing ever, even if the same certain dramatic/person who hated me didn’t like it. I began leading groups before I even had a Journey contract to require it. I did nutrition on baking, DBT opposite action of emotion, core feelings, interpersonal effectiveness (my hardest one), medical on refeeding symptoms, body acceptance group with I love my ___ because ___, and creative journaling with a collage. Anytime a staff member asked me to do one I would accept, even if I knew it might be challenging. I loved being a leader and helping the other girls.

CBT pictionary. T was leading CBT group one night and we were’t feeling it at all. Being the awesome flexible dude he is, we decided to play pictionary with CBT terms (and lots of CFD staff/fun things). By far the most hilarious and fun group we had!

Table games. All of us had a love/hate with table games. We disliked basically every single one, except tolerating “going to the movies” and “1000 questions.” R thought of the absolute best thing for 1000 questions: reflection. We ended up stumping every single staff member with it during take out lunch the next day. Our answers sometimes got a little bit out there but it was all really great.

H the inappropriate nurse. She was a hoot! When I met her my first Saturday she introduced herself as the inappropriate nurse and she definitely was, in a good way. She had funny stories and used tons of tough love. Some of her favorite phrases included “don’t be a dumbass” and “please don’t die on my shift, that’s a lot of paperwork.”

Making Christmas cards. For the week leading up to Christmas we worked nonstop on cards fr all the staff. We had awesome candy canes drawn by A and both her and I colored, wrote greetings inside, used glitter glue, and made sure they looked amazing. It was really nice to give something to staff members and show how much we appreciated them all. Many of them cried while reading it and we got tons of hugs 🙂

T the only man of the house. He was the only guy staff other than the GP doctor, so of course we had to give him a hard time. We teased him every time we could and he loved it. His Christmas card was even colored bright pink and purple.

J and her heels. I have mad respect for her. She walked around in ~4 inch heels everyday! J always slayed in her outfits and shoes but holy cow. She even wore them whenever we had weekend walks.

My spot. From the moment I got there, R, L, and I had our spots on each couch. We were all possessive so anytime a new client came in we would make sure to sit or set our stuff down there. We helped each other protect their turf and even the staff let others know since we had seniority.

Wall work. For two whole weeks after I wrote my autobiography, C and I did wall work. She wrote down around 20 phrases when I read my autobiography. Next I free wrote about each of them. I arranged them on the wall in order from least to most significant, sorted them by main emotion, sorted again, and finally ended up with a picture of what led up to my eating disorder and my mental health issues. My one liners of my story were “I am not worthy” and “I will never be enough.” I changed them around to “I am worthy” and “I have always been enough.” It was an eye-opening experience. I had never dug that much into the causes of why I am the way I am and now I have more insight on what I need to get better.

Setting up Christmas decorations. It wasn’t the same without my family, but there’salways something magical about putting up the tree and ornaments. One girl was Jewish and had never celebrated so it was cool to show her what its like. The tree became somewhere everyone woud go to feel peace and warmth.

Food prepping. I loved being on food prep. It was great wearing the fashionable hairnets and joking around with some of the best staff. I also liked that I was the onlly one other than when L was there the first few days I prepped. It helped me feel less anxious for the coming meal.

Tie dyeing. At this point there was lots of tension between may people there. We got a tie dye kit and t-shirts to use. It was really fun an everyone was happy with how theirs turned out.

Passes. I absolutely loved being able to go out on my own and experience San Diego on my own. It was challenging for sure, especially the first two. I worked my hardest and didn’t use behaviors or restrict and I was proud of myself for that. I went to The Highlands (an outdoor mall), Encinitas and moonlight beach, and Seaport Village which was definitely my favorite.

Snack and meal challenge with C. It was so cool to be able to have support from my therapist when I was doing really hard foods. our first one was to Champagne Bakery where I was a hard but delicious chocolate chip cookie. The next week we went off to a mall and had Philly sandwiches while watching amazing ice skaters. She was the best therapist I could ask for at residential.

And that’s a wrap! I’ll probably add more if I think of them too because of course I can’t leave any out.

If you’ve been to residential or any other treatment, what are your favorite memories? Do you feel nostalgic about it like I do?

When you leave residential ED treatment

You dearly miss the people at first and later the support you had.

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You will eventually lose contact (minus social media) with those you were in with.

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Everyone on the outside will have unrealistic expectations.

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You may have unrealistic expectations.

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You’ll wish you could add all the good staff on Facebook.

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You’l miss all (or most) of the staff and maybe even write them letters.

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You’ll be so grateful for the simple freedoms. Hello shaving when you please, long showers, flushing your own toilet, going to your room whenever you want, and leaving the house at will!

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You’ll be completely lost at times and wish you could give those freedoms right back.

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You will absolutely need a good support network of friends – not just your treatment team.

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Suddenly talking about bowel movements and GI issues isn’t acceptable.

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You’ll find the real world to be a scary place and forget how you ever lived in it.

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It will feel strange not having or being able to share your thoughts and feelings constantly.

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There will be bad days and lapses and relapses but this is normal, expected, and okay. What matters is that you get back up and continue to stay in recovery.

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You will get “you look healthy” all the time.

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You will also get comments on your body. Ignore them.

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The worst possible advice will come from people who know nothing about recovery from an eating disorder.

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You’ll begin to find success in the little things, like having one snack, rather than only becoming proud of yourself when you have the huge fear food ten times and go 1000 days without behaviors.

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You’ll realize all those “dumb skills” actually work in the real world.

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You will need all the support you can get. Take the PHP/IOP, extra therapy appointments, and support groups. Not all of us are so lucky.

 

Yes, people will stop asking where you were (especially if you shared it on Facebook).

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Its healthy to distance yourself from sick people – even those you just met in treatment.

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Every single example/memory/funny thing you think of will be residential related.

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You’ll oddly miss vitals checks. Yes there’s something satisfying about staff doing BP, HR, temps and asking you 10,000 times to rate your depression, anxiety, etc.

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You’ll be able to recite any DBT concepts without missing a beat.

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You will miss process group even though they almost always sucked.

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There will be a zillion and one mixed feelings about your time in treatment.

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You’ll wish for more time to explore whichever city you were in.

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The recovery high does fade eventually which makes things difficult.

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Some days you want to go back and others you wouldn’t without a tranquilizer.

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The scale is never a good idea.

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Diet talk is E V E R Y W H E R E outside of the treatment bubble.

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You’ll spend a very long time wondering if recovery is really worth it. (Hint: it is!)

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You’ll miss every single part. (Yes, even the poop checks, being forced to face your biggest fears 6 times a day, and extreme boredom.)

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You’ll realize that you CAN do this!

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