Six and a half weeks ago I walked into the confined halls of the EDRC completely unsure of what to expect. I was sick, scared and completely lost. To be honest, my expectations were low. Although there was no doubt in my mind that I needed help physically, part of me believed that it stopped right there. I had been in therapy for a year and half now and thought that I had learned it all. I knew my patterns, the traps that I continuously fell into and I felt like I could write a book on how to recover from an eating disorder. I had plans of getting re-fed and then moving on my way, quickly returning to the life that I had been leading. Although I entered treatment voluntarily I wasn't completely convinced that I deserved the help and was pretty detached from my reality.
The first day was difficult but it wasn't my struggles that were frightening. Here I was surrounded by a group of people suffering and battling demons of their own. It pained me to see how such lovely people were struggling with so much self hatred. I prayed that everyone there would see their beauty, courage and strength and held tightly to the belief that they would all be healed.
However, I didn't believe those things towards myself. I didn't think I was that sick. I wasn't worried about myself at all. Despite the severity of my health, I was only concerned about the impact that my eating disorder had on others. I was ashamed that it was seeping into every crevice of my life and was no longer just my problem. It seemed like the things that I cared about the most were suffering the consequences of my disorder and that was a reality that I couldn't handle.
Within a few days of being there, my MO was apparent. Even in treatment I was trying to take care of others. I wanted to be helpful and be-friend everyone that I could. I did everything that I could to listen to others and get people to like me. I wanted to show that I could be the perfect patient, the one that had it all together. Except that was so far from the truth.
I ate all of my meals, followed all of the rules and never caused a scene. I was progressing through the program, yet I hadn't even begun to address any of the issues that caused my relapse in the first place. I thought I had everyone fooled. I believed the role that I was playing, because it had been the role that I had played my entire life.
Then I was given a 4 day weekend home and my wall came crumbling down. I restricted meals, purged and isolated. I cheated on my meal plan and did what I "wanted". I had already quit my job and had no one to report to. If I screwed up, no one had to know and I rebelled like no other. I was angry, yet wasn't ready to admit it. It was go time and I had a choice to make: either continue to do what I was doing or completely let go and try something new. Until this point I continuously found external reasons to recover. My self worth was non-existent so recovery never stuck. That weekend I realized that if I took all of the relationships and things that I cared about out of my life, I didn't see the point in living and this shuck me to my core.
I continuously prayed and pleaded to God to show me my purpose. To guide me to the life that I was meant to lead. But I couldn't give up control. I didn't want to begin to believe that I had to let my guard down and share the things that I feared the most.
The following Monday I went back to the EDRC, with my head held low and more shame than I ever thought possible. I had messed up. The moment I was given some freedom, I had failed. I was consumed by guilt for having disappointed the treatment team. My self hatred and doubt was at an all time high and I couldn't handle it. Yet I also felt real for the first time in a while.
I didn't have it all together. I didn't know how to take care of myself. I didn't believe it was ok to need and want things. I didn't feel deserving of treatment or life. I didn't know how to balance anything or find the middle ground. I couldn't handle the idea of someone not liking me. I believed that it was my job to fix and help everyone. I believed that my sole purpose in life was to make sure that I made everyone happy all of the time. I didn't know how to say no. I didn't know how to create and impose boundaries. I didn't like myself. I didn't know how to begin to forgive myself for my past mistakes and the years that I lost to the eating disorder. I didn't know how to manage my anxiety without the eating disorder. I didn't know how to not constantly take on others emotions and not become totally paralyzed by their stories. I didn't really know who I was without looking to others.
I was lost, except not in the ways that I thought. From that point on my goals shifted. I wasn't sold on the fact that I deserved freedom from the eating disorder and the chance to live a happy, healthy life, but I thought about how I felt about others. I thought about how much I valued vulnerability and how courageous I found everyone around me. I thought about how I've always seen the potential and strength in others and how I genuinely believed in mankind's ability to overcome anything. I thought about my love and passion for people. For the first time ever, a light bulb clicked and I thought that maybe all of those things were true for me as well. That maybe I wasn't any different but instead worthy and deserving of love, health, help and happiness just for being alive.
It was then that the work began. I was forced to sit through the uncomfortableness of my feelings and was constantly called out on the truth. I had to face the fact that I wasn't happy all of the time and I was no where near perfect. I had to sit through the uncomfortableness of disappointing others and being angry. I had to put everyone else aside and just focus on myself and it felt like I was being tortured. I was stripped down to where I had nothing left except to trust myself and my inner guidance. God tore my heart into tiny pieces and forced me to face the things that I had been avoiding. And I had to do it all while re-feeding my body (read as constantly eating), sitting with anxiety, stuck in a room with others, where I was unable to use any of my old coping skills or pour my energy into everyone else.
Yesterday was my last day at the EDRC. When I walked out of those glass doors I was full of pride and an inner peace and calmness that I have never felt in my entire life. I want to say that I feel different but it isn't that. I feel alive and like myself. This feels normal and like the truth. I feel genuine and my heart feels full. I am overflowing with gratitude about living. I feel happy, anxious, nervous, content, excited and sad. I am also angry for all of the years that I spent believing all of the lies that I did. I feel forgiveness towards myself and others and am beginning to accept the pain that I have suffered. I'm not consumed by self hatred. Instead I am finding out new things about myself every day. My past is still existent but the memories are no longer crippling. I can handle the anxiety and the fear of the unknown. I truly believe that there was a time in my life where the eating disorder served me, even kept me alive. However, I don't need it anymore. I have faith in my ability to stand on my own two feet with guidance from above and supporting people by my side. In six and a half weeks I not only learned how to nourish my body but my soul as well and live without apology.