Hello world!!! After 17 weeks, residential, day treatment, and intensive outpatient, over 400 meals and snacks, groups and therapy and pep talks from some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, and a LOT of tears later, I am FINALLY graduating from treatment today!!!!
First things first: what does this mean?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean I’m cured. I don’t just get to leave my eating disorder at the front step of the Renfrew Center. But it means I’m a whole lot healthier and happier than I was when I started treatment, and honestly, than I’ve been since my eating disorder developed years ago. It means I’ve gone from 24/7 care to 5 days a week of 5 hours of program to 3 hours a week of 3.5 hours of program plus appointments (and a lot of driving) to only having therapy, a dietitian appointment, and a support group weekly. This probably still sounds like a LOT but I can’t tell you how relieving it feels to have time back in my life to do regular college things, instead of spending time in treatment.
Second: what’s changed?
My therapist asked me this yesterday and I was having trouble thinking of a list, but I’m going to toot my own horn now. The obvious: I’m weight restored, I follow my meal plan and exercise restrictions, and I no longer have a list full of eating-disordered related physical complications. The less obvious: I’m motivated. I have a whole, big life in my hands and I’m doing everything I need to do in order to keep the possibilities open. I’m excited about my future and I have more plans than I have time for (don’t worry Mom, I’m still sleeping 8 hours a night!!!). I understand the purpose my eating disorder served. I know how to reach out when I need support. I’m honest and I don’t lie about when I use my eating disorder behaviors. I feel my ~feelings~ even when they suck, instead of numbing out. I’m able to recognize that yeah, sometimes life is really shitty. But it’s also pretty fucking great. I’m invested in my life and my future and I am so full of love for the life I have now and my support system that helped me get here.
I look back on the day I admitted to treatment in Philadelphia and I’m in shock at all the changes I’ve made. I never ever ever thought I’d be here, but I am so incredibly thankful. Recovery isn’t easy by any means. A lot of the time, it’s feeling pain really intensely and being really uncomfortable. It’s eating even if I’m not hungry and it’s learning to live in a body I’m really uncomfortable with. But these days, I’ll take all that if it means I get the really wonderful things too- like hiking with friends. And happy hour. And being able to do social things that involve food, and having the focus in class to pay attention and learn, and be excited about internships and my future, instead of sitting in class counting calories and having my entire life revolve around my eating disorder. I show up to life, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Instead of hiding, I’m showing up now. My favorite writer (she has a wonderful TED talk too) Glennon Melton says it best- “I talk about my addictions and illnesses because everything beautiful in my life right now came out of the ugliness back then. And still does. I talk about my diseases because I didn’t become strong and peaceful until I learned to surrender to my weakness and mania. I talk about my intolerance and jealousy and sadness and neurosis because those things make me HUMAN and I think that being a messy hypocritical, busted up human is a brutiful honor.”
Brutiful is the idea that life is brutal and beautiful, all in one. And I’d choose a beautiful and brutal life over life with an eating disorder ANY DAY.
PS- here’s Glennon’s ted talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHHPNMIK-fY