To the Woman Who Left Eating Disorder Treatment After One Day
I think of you often, sometimes daily.
I tried looking you up on Facebook, though I never friend requested you because I didn’t know you that well. But in a sense, I feel like I do know you in the way one person with an eating disorder knows another.
I hope wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you are OK.
When I say the word “OK,” I actually mean “alive,” because we are hauntingly reminded over and over that eating disorders kill, through personal experiences and awareness efforts.
Our stories tend to start the same way — “I was a happy and healthy girl,” so I wonder, where did that girl go? I hope you will come to find her. Maybe you can remind yourself how worth-it and lovable you are, just as you might tell that little girl you think you lost.
As much as I wish you had stayed and gotten the help you needed and deserved, I understand the choice to leave. I understand because letting go is so hard, and it’s scary to have to look inside yourself so deeply. It is scary to learn to speak up for yourself and even eat when you live with an eating disorder. It is scary to sleep in a bed that isn’t yours, especially when you know so many other girls have laid in it. I used to lie awake at night wondering how many of those girls are even still alive.
It is scary to choose life over death, because what the hell does living even mean? It’s scary to give up control and learn to ignore all the numbers and statistics. It is scary to face your biggest fear — the thing you hate most — six times a day.
You had so many possibilities on the horizon for you. You were a medical student, and the irony of that is not lost on me, as I am sure it is not lost on you. You had just gotten a new dog and when you told us all, one of few times you spoke up in group, your eyes sparkled. You lived on campus where eating disorders run rampant. You were surrounded by the daily pressures like learning the next new diet trend. You have two kids whom you love dearly. You went to my high school and you lived 20 minutes away from me. You had been a lawyer for 20 years and chose to go on a family vacation instead of staying in treatment because “mother just doesn’t approve.”
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
You love, and you are loved. You have hugged other people, you have kissed those you love, you have given words of wisdom, spoken advice, all the while talking about how you don’t matter, but you do. You have so many futures out there waiting for you.
When you sat down for the first meal with us, I could see the pain in your eyes as well as the fear. I could see you pursing your lips, just as someone who who might be holding back hurtful words in an argument. I could almost hear that battle in your head. My thoughts mirrored yours because I get it. So does every other person with an eating disorder. So why then, do you feel so alone?
I understand that too — the loneliness.
You were so adamant about leaving treatment. Several of the people who worked there, and all of the patients tried to talk you into staying. We told you to give it a few more days before deciding, we reminded you about why you came in the first place, and we plead with you to stay in the fight with us. I don’t know what the therapists said to you, but there is a look in a professional’s eyes when they realize they can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.
We talked about you after you were gone. The unit had this sadness in the air, and because we were always encouraged to say whatever was on our mind, we spoke about you. Of course, because of confidentiality reasons, instead of your name, we used your initials. And we talked about how we wished you had given it more time.
I still wish you had given it more time.
Now when I still think about you, I hope you gave yourself another chance. And I hope those pictures you post on Facebook of you smiling and looking so happy are real. Even though you left after just one day, I hope you got some kind of benefit from it.
I hope you get to live through to your future, and I hope you get to find a life without this eating disorder. I hope you are, and will be, OK.
I will continue to think of you and send you positive vibes, just as I often think about the many people who left treatment before they could fully get help.
Because this letter wasn’t to just one of you. This letter was to all of you, and unfortunately, there are just too many of you.
Keep fighting the good fight.
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