Image Source: Redd AngeloAnyone that has been to an eating disorder treatment center of any kind knows the horror of waiting on the insurance company to decide if you are healthy and ready to go home and face your demons alone…because the insurance companies know best. (Sense the sarcasm?) My therapist Dr. Genie Barnett warned me that coming home from treatment would be much like stepping off a plane into a busy airport. The plane (representing the treatment center) is a safe, enclosed, controlled environment with rules, people to support you, and you don’t have to be in control- the pilot has the wheel. Then, the landing gear comes out, you hit the runway with a jolt, and the doors of the plane open and you are pushed out into the hustle and bustle of the insane airport (representing home) where you are responsible for getting your bags, finding your car, driving home, and getting settled back into you routine. Well, for those of us whose old routine was killing us, this is a terrifying transition. Here are some of the ways I coped with stepping off that plane:
1. Find Support
If you are blessed enough to be in an area or can afford to go to a step down program of any kind- DO IT! Trust the process… there is no timeline (even if insurance thinks so) for any one person’s recovery. We are all unique in our journeys and our needs. If there is not a step down program available, make sure to stay connected with your treatment team- therapists, psychologists, physicians, dietitians… whomever you need to keep a professional eye on your continued recovery. They can also serve as part of your support system. One of the most important parts of sustained recovery is whom you surround yourself with on a daily basis and how open and honest you are to them. Family, friends, loved ones, other survivors you met in treatment, your pet(s)… They all play a vital part of your recovery. Allow them to help you; being vulnerable is scary, but there is beauty and growth in the breaking down of walls.
One of the most important parts of sustained recovery is whom you surround yourself with on a daily basis and how open and honest you are to them.
2. Honesty is the best policy
No one recovered by cheating the system or simply people pleasing… I say this because I was the queen of saying “I’m fine” to make others feel better and “Sure I ate lunch today! (fingers crossed behind my back)” to keep my ED behaviors intact. I tried this method for about a year after I actually admitted I had a problem. I can tell you from experience, sickness grows in the dark. BE HONEST! Once you have created your support system, you have to be honest with them about how you are doing and how they can help you. I had my husband make my meals and eat with me even at 5:30 in the morning before we had to go to work for the extra accountability. I had my best friend Kristen to call and cry about my changing body because she would always have the right thing to say to make me laugh and keep things in perspective. I vented to my best friend Jackie about the stresses of the overwhelming amount of hats I had to wear on a daily basis while still keeping ED at bay long enough to heal my body. When I was having ED thoughts, I spoke them out loud to one of my support people who were ready and willing to help 24/7. When I wanted to use a behavior, I used opposite action to prove to myself that ED did not have the power over me anymore. I was also honest about my life prior to treatment where ED did have control over me. It was not a life. It was a prison. Honesty meant that I had to accept the new road that was laid out before me; even though it was unknown, it held promise. If ED crept in my head to tell me otherwise, I had to shut that voice down immediately.
Once you have created your support system, you have to be honest with them about how you are doing and how they can help you.
3. Make a physical change to your old surroundings
Like most people that suffer from an eating disorder, I was a creature of habit. I had not moved a chair, painted a wall, or made any physical change in my home for a long time due to the fact that I liked the comfort of familiarity. I even had what I call sick clothes that I measured my body by since high school (I am 32); this was a problem. When I got home from treatment, my husband had thrown away ALL my old clothes, painted the dark red kitchen a bright shade of blue, and moved furniture and tables and pictures around so when I came home, it was a whole new house- a fresh start. Now, we did this on a very slim budget, and I am very aware of the financial strain that comes with treatment; so even little changes can help you restart your new life without ED. Even moving food and plates in your cabinets can help you redirect your brain and kick your old bad habits. Try it- one of my fellow warriors hated the idea of this change, so she just placed her shoes in a different spot in her closet. Not all her shoes, just one pair. Now, months later, she is able to face bigger change with an ease she never thought possible! Baby steps are still steps.
When I got home from treatment, my husband had thrown away ALL my old clothes, painted the dark red kitchen a bright shade of blue, and moved furniture and tables and pictures around so when I came home, it was a whole new house- a fresh start.
When you step off the plane into the concourse of life, remember this- anything worth having is hard work. Recovery does not just happen; it is created by the person who truly believes that it exists. If you are not there yet, it is okay. Be who you are and where you are today; but believe me warrior, keep fighting. The other side of an eating disorder is joy, and joy is so worth it.