My Eating Disorder Story Part 2
Updated: Apr 21
WARNING: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN TRIGGERING INFORMATION MENTIONING CALORIES, WEIGHT, BODY IMAGE AND EATING DISORDER BEHAVIORS. IF YOU FEEL YOU ARE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU ARE NOT READY TO PRESENT YOURSELF WITH THIS INFORMATION PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE READING OR STOP READING AT ANY TIME
The week following my hospital visit was hell. Within a few days, I packed my things, cleared out my dorm, and headed home. From there I entered University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Eating Disorder Program. The second we got there I refused treatment. Putting my foot down, I explained I would not be cooperating with partial hospitalization treatment. My doctor gave me an ultimatum- either you gain one pound this week and you can be put into outpatient treatment or if your weight stays the same you will be placed in PHP. I took on the challenge of gaining one pound, thinking in the long run this would give me full control over my treatment by just going to treatment during the day. I was still in denial I had an eating disorder and 100% confident I would be attending my two week mission trip to Honduras in just three weeks. I figured I’d play along for a while, make everyone satisfied, and then go back to living my life how I was with my eating disorder in control.
Well, life for me took a complete 180. At U of M, I went through the Maudsley Method and Family Based Therapy. I was a patient at U of M for roughly three months where my parents were in control of practically everything- from cooking meals, grocery shopping, time of meals, what I would eat, my exercise, my daily activities, etc. I had absolutely no say in the food I would be presented with. Obviously, my parents weren’t going to feed me foods that I hated for 18 years of my life, and were encouraged by my treatment team to feed me foods I had grown up eating with my family in order to return to my “normalized” way of eating. I was fucking pissed, or rather my eating disorder was that I had to consume over 3,500 calories a day. Whenever I was presented with a “fear food” I fucking lost my shit. For the past five months, I had been so consumed with this idea that there were “good” and “bad” foods- I had practically eliminated all foods from my diet with the exception of fruits, vegetables, and yogurt. I threw food on the floor, hide food in my clothing, smashed it on the floor, left the house, screamed until my throat was raw- ultimately became unrecognizable to myself and my family and threw tantrums you’d only see in a two year old.
I kept to myself for most of those months, unable to make sense of what I was going through- I was mad, really fucking mad that I somehow brought this upon myself. I was on a pretty rigid schedule of eating and was not allowed any physical activity.
I went to U of M three days a week for half a day. There I would have breakfast and a snack. Again, I was not in control of the meals my parents chose for me and each day presented a new challenge. The one part I loved about treatment were the people. I adored my team and the other patients there. They were kind and compassionate and interested in learning about me outside of my eating disorder- which helped me feel more like me again. The patients there with me are some of the best people who I still hold near to my heart to this day.
At first, treatment was so fucking hard. I felt completely alone and had no idea how to restart my life. I do remember my first glimpse of recovery and life outside of an eating disorder. It was when I truly laughed for the first time in months. It was a deep, abs hurt belly laugh. I knew that laugh could only be caused by nutrition, improving brain function, weight gain, recovery. So I pushed. I reminded myself every day of what my eating disorder took away from me- college, friends, my 19th birthday, laughter, food, running, trips, going to the mall, coffee. I had PLENTY of setbacks, but each time I laughed I felt more like myself and craved the feeling of spontaneity, college, and friendships.
Recovery is not linear. Some days I experienced major setbacks, but I had an amazing support system that pushed me forward when I took a step back. When I left treatment after three months, I was 100% on board with recovery, ready to jump back into my “old” life. It was a quick turnaround for me, as I pushed myself to make leaps and bounds in my recovery so my family would feel comfortable and confident sending me back to school in the fall. And I believed in myself. I wasn’t faking it- faking recovery I mean. But I was pushing myself as hard as I could- trying to make recovery for myself linear, when factually, it’s just not.
When I returned to school, I found my university to be a useless support system. At my university, students are only allowed 4-6 counseling sessions (which include therapeutic, nutrition, dietary, eating disorder care, etc.) for a student’s entire college career. That’s 4-6 sessions over the course of 4 years. Whether they’ve changed that since 2014, I have no idea. But, back when I was diagnosed with anorexia in the previous semester, I had already used up around 3 sessions, with only three left.
My plan for going back to school was to rely on my university’s wellness center- their staff was great and understood eating disorders- but I couldn’t possibly continue my recovery with only 3 weeks of therapy and support.
For the entirety of that semester, I searched for therapists and treatment centers that would fit with my personality, experience, and school schedule, but had no luck- the options are slim even in a big city. Without professional help, I slipped into a mental relapse, keeping my weight relatively stable but not quite high enough, and had to return home and take a semester off.
While I was home, I decided to really focus on my recovery journey with a therapist- and to me that took the form of learning with ways to cope with my stress, balance my academics, activities, social life, learning to hold myself accountable, and learning to practice self-love and positive body image on a daily basis, as well as working two jobs.
When I returned to school AGAIN, my roommates made me promise I would find a dietitian before school started. Although I felt as though I was “recovered” I needed to do this to keep up my mental health and for the comfort of my friends. I found an amazing dietitian, whom I saw for the next two and a half years. She kept me sane and called me out on all my bullshit. It’s so important to find someone who you click with and understands your personality. I had times where I didn’t think I’d be able to move forward without my eating disorder, and in certain moments of my life I’ve felt it creep back in, surprised and unsure of how to shake it.
That’s when I know I have to tell someone, distract myself, and push through the thoughts and do exactly the opposite of what my eating disorder wants.
I believe there is not specific criteria anyone has to meet to be considered fully recovered, but rather each person has their own definition because no recovery journey looks the same or has the same timeline. I think I just got to a point where I was able to look back on my journey and experience, and just felt that I had made it.
Within the years since my diagnosis, I’ve been able to advocate for others through National Eating Disorders Association and Project HEAL. I’ve been able to run marathons- allowing myself to find my strength and passion in running again. I made it to graduation and so many other great milestones- ultimately unsure of the road ahead of me, but proud of the road thus far I’ve paved for myself without my eating disorder along for the ride.
All the love,