Today marks my first full week in recovery and I am happy to say that it has been better than I anticipated!
As expected, the first day in partial hospitalization was a bit overwhelming. After having to change into the attractive hospital robe to get my weight checked, it was time to experience my first breakfast. Although I am sociable, it was uncomfortable walking in to a group of people that I did not know and having to eat with them. On top of sitting down and eating with 7 new strangers, I had to block out the fact that a staff member was monitoring each of us.
Everyone receives an individualized tray in which everything must be finished. Frustration, anxiety, and fear are among many emotions that are commonly shown whenever food is present but it is nice having the support of others and knowing I'm not struggling alone. My meal was cereal, milk, orange juice, sausage links, french toast with butter/syrup, all of which I never have, however, ended up enjoying. They change up the meal everyday which has been good for me because not only am I practicing having normal variations of meals, but I also kind of look forward to what I will be trying next! Once we are finished eating we must get our tray checked by the supervisor and then wait for others to be done. Having our treys checked is a necessary task because although all of us are motivated to recover, it is easy to listen to ED and go to great lengths to hide or throw out unwanted food. I am guilty of letting ED win, but being able to identify that is already a step for me.
My first lunch experience was when I got very overwhelmed and was not a happy camper... With the occupational therapist we have one breakfast and lunch per week where we all get to make our own food in one of the hospital kitchens. This is actually pretty fun and nice being able to have some options, although there are still a lot of rules that we have to abide by. I was not a happy camper because I felt like I was given way too much food for my first day, didn't want that gross looking dirt cup, and was in a food coma 1/2 through my meal. During this meal ED made me lie and take advantage of the therapist who I really enjoy. I asked if there was anything else I could have instead of the dirt cup because I "didn't like one of the main ingredients" and after she kindly let me swap it out for a candy bar, I snuck half of it away when she was assisting someone else. This experience has been one of hundreds where ED has caused me to either pretend I don't like a certain food or lie to someone that I respect, but I'm glad to be destroying that. By being forced to eat everything I am given, I have finally been able to open up to new foods and re learn my likes and dislikes. I have not had things like hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders in about 4 years and within a week I have ENJOYED all!
For anorexia patients, an extra snack is needed due to weight restoration(above link has more info). This is a component of treatment where one has to basically eat an excessive amount of calories in order to maintain the same rate of weight gain. Even after weight is restored, an individual usually requires more calories than someone with out an eating disorder history, just to initially maintain weight. That being said, not only are my meals 3x than before, but I also have to eat within shorter time lengths. So when some of us are served an extra desert and milk during group, tensions get high. I can speak for those individuals and say that we usually are unhappy with the food item and the fact that we are still full from our previous meal. Snack time sometime is so stressful on someone that they will even try to somehow get rid of it. Today when I was contemplating where to hide my brownie, I realized that in this situation I had two options, recover or fail. I chose to recover.
Independent dinner (just being on our own for dinner) is when things are put to the test and we have to continue all the fighting we have done throughout the day. After an uncomfortable, long, stressful day it is so easy to give in to ED and do everything that we aren't supposed to do. This can be anything from binging, purging, over exercising, laxatives, or restricting. Consuming more calories and eating "unhealthy" foods has made me want to go to the gym and "burn off" things I ate but I have not acted upon my urges due to the ED intentions. Dinner has taken some time to get used to because I have to make my own food and it is easy for me to restrict but thankfully I have a ton of support from Kaitlyn and my boyyyy Eric. I have struggled with eating by myself and "filling my bubbles" on my food chart but each day is a learning process.
I was impressed with how well I was doing in treatment but once the weekend came I felt like I took a few steps back. Eating while I am drinking is extremely difficult for me and even though I addressed the issue prior, I still let ED win. Being discouraged by this minor set back really pushed me harder on Sunday and every day since so I am pleased with that. I need to understand that this is going to be one hell of a long journey and setbacks are bound to happen, but nothing I can't overcome. All negatives aside, I have been proud of the accomplishments I've made in just one week and I am looking forward to overcome more obstacles.
Unfortunately, many of us have had those dreadful experiences of Sunday Scaries and yesterday was one of mine. After having a fun night out in the city, the combination of being hungover, going back to school, and the thought of my first week of treatment caused me to have a very scary Sunday.
Thankfully I have a saint of a mother that said she would drive me back to school and even stay for my first day in partial hosp to lessen my fears. My whole entire family has been extremely supportive, but I have to give a special shot out to my mom who has come out to Iowa City for me multiple times already. For those that don’t know her, my mom is the type that would make a 3-hour drive regardless of its convenience, and I am beyond greatful for that.
Having my mom there for my first day is definitely comforting, however, I still have constantly been visualizing how awful my first week will be. The director of the program even told me how on my first day I will think that I made the worst decision of my life by agreeing to do treatment…Thankfully immediately after that statement, she reassured me that once I get over that hump, I will be so happy with my decision.
Saying I am scared for my first day of treatment is an understatement. I don’t envision any of the therapy being too difficult, but being forced to eat what they give me will be hell. I have been eating the same foods everyday while incorporating a long list of rules and tomorrow I will have to break all of that. Although I want to be free from my rules and my bad relationship with food, I am not looking forward to the foods that I will have to eat and knowing I will be gaining weight each week.
Side note: Many times I have listened to people say things like “you need to eat more” or “just eat a cheeseburger (or whatever junk food)” and I want everyone to know never to say that to someone who has an ED. Saying things like that is undermining the disorder and making the solution seem so simple. It is out of one’s control, just like a cancer patient can’t choose whether or not they have cancer.
Anyways, this is why treatment will be beneficial because they will focus on the psychological aspect that I need help with. Obviously if I really wanted I could eat a cheeseburger but all of the thoughts that would attribute would make it not worth it. So as I have just been avoiding these foods, I will now have to expose myself and fight the irrational thoughts. Food has such control over me that I have literally avoided food for years since that seemed easier and as some might see that as just being healthy, it is actually unhealthy and an unenjoyable way to live.
Tomorrow there will be a lot of tears from all of the fears but I know at the end of this it will all be worth it. Although it will be scary, I cannot wait to be free from this disorder.
(No idea why the title keeps getting partly cut off but it is very annoying)
People might wonder how or why I would want to make my struggles public and I want to share my reasoning behind it. As many individuals have reached out to me( or commented on my post) about my new blog, I have recognized that almost every single person stated how they had no idea that I was struggling with an eating disorder still. Obviously that is on me due to the fact that besides eventually telling a few individuals, I kept things to myself.
Finally being able to share what I am going through with anyone and everyone, was beyond a relief. I have been holding in a big secret that has taken control of my life and by revealing it, I have more acceptance over my disorder. When ED has control over you, there is not a minute that goes by where it is not in your head. That being said, although people might not understand it, I am more comfortable having people know that I am still struggling.
It would be simple to continue covering up my disorder and pretend that I am not going into treatment, but I do not see any good in that. My issues are present regardless, so I look at treatment as an opportunity I have been blessed with. I am accepting of the reality of my situation and that is why I can so easily talk about it. Talking about everything is very beneficial for me and I want everyone to be comfortable talking about this topic whether it is over text or in person. As many might want to just shy away from the topic, showing an interest or checking in on things speaks more to me.
For anyone bottling things up or hiding specific struggles, I highly encourage opening up to individuals that you trust. I assure you that not only will you have a sense of relief, but that you will receive some type of support.
It might come as a surprise to see me blogging again and to be honest, I am just as surprised. Although I knew I was not fully recovered, when I stopped blogging two years ago I felt that my eating disorder had less control over my life. In my "about" section, I quickly recapped the last two years leading up to now, but my intent is not to focus on the past.
Leaving home and coming to college was a scary thing for me and I never really expected that I would actually come to Iowa. My transition here was far from easy and countless of times I questioned if I would make it. Along with trying to adjust physically, emotionally, socially and academically, my health seemed to be another concern. It was clear to friends, family, and even myself that I had lost an excessive amount of weight and needed to get help. As time went on I felt that the help I was getting was not beneficial and managing school with all the different appointments was just causing me more stress and anxiety.
When I was seeing one of the doctors she told me about an awesome ED program here at school so I decided to take a look into it. The reason why I pursued more help was because I knew I wanted this illness gone but I just felt incapable of doing it on my own. Therapists, doctors, and nutritionists would tell me what I needed to do but I could never get myself to actually do it.
Last week as I was studying for my three midterms I received a call from the head of the ED program telling me how much I would benefit from all of the treatments that they provide. There were three different types of programs and I did not expect to be a candidate for the higher level treatment. As you can imagine this was overwhelming and made studying even more impossible.
Once I failed all of my midterms (jk), I was able to think about my options and figure out what was best for me. I came to the realization that this illness has had control over me for too long and that I needed more intense treatment that you can't get from a weekly counselor and dietician. My mom and I met with the director and we were amazed by the compassion she had and most importantly, the amount of help I would be getting.
I still had a lot of thinking to do as this program would be 8 hours, 5 days a week, for 4-6 weeks and clearly would effect my academics which was one of my biggest concerns. Having to drop a class or two this far into the semester would really stink but in the big scheme of things is not a big deal and my health takes precedence. That being said, this is what I have to do if I want to recover.
Monday will be my first day in partial-hospitalization as well the start to my recovery. I am beyond greatful to have been given this opportunity to receive treatment while continuing to be a student here, as well as to have such supportive family, friends, and new boyfriend:) I know this is going to be very difficult but it is already such a relief knowing that when I come out of this I will finally be free from an illness that has had control over my life for years.
I already know there will be so much that I will learn from this and I am looking forward to sharing my journey.