The Day I Was Discharged From the Eating Disorder Unit


I woke up this morning knowing the fate awaiting me, the highly coveted discharge send off, paperwork and surveys. I have been through this process once before, as it was six months ago since I last discharged from the same program at the same hospital. I must say, leaving a place is always bittersweet, but this time, it was more sweet than bitter.

I remember the last time I discharged, part of me was sad to leave the staff, the new illicit friendships I made with the other patients and the excitement over decent therapeutic lunches and winning at Bananagrams. At the time, I was still teetering back and forth between fully embracing recovery and holding onto just enough of my disease to validate to myself I had a problem. In six months time, I found myself back at the starting point of recovery after losing all of the weight I previously gained in treatment and taking too much of my pain out on myself.

I woke up absolutely exhausted this morning. There is still speculation as to whether or not it was a function of nerves, the impact of the refeeding process on my body or the medication that still isn’t high enough to slow my head down. I got out of bed, changed into a T-shirt dress, white vans and a pair of socks that read, “You’re beautiful. Don’t change,” as a small piece of motivation to get through my final day on the unit.

I arrived at the hospital, grabbed my purse from the passenger seat and walked up to the door for the last time. I think somewhere in my head I was trying to remind myself this really was the last time and coming back was not an option to be entertained. The nursing staff always tell us, “If you need to come back, then it’s OK.” This time, it wouldn’t be OK. From what I’ve noticed, frequent flyers of the unit tend to get comfortable, whether that be comfortable with a break from their “real world,” more comfortable with acting on symptoms or as my charge nurse said this morning, “Some people just like us too much.” I refuse, from this moment on, to settle for comfortable when it comes to my eating disorder.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

I changed into my paper-napkin gown, carried my clothes to the treatment room and answered the same questions I get asked every day during processing. No suicidal thoughts? No self-harm? No acting on your eating disorder? For someone who struggles with her confidence, I confidently could answer I didn’t have any issues and was feeling good and ready to discharge. The nurse told me she was looking forward to seeing my doctor’s order for discharge in the computer.

Breakfast came and went, as did supplement and water break.The mental health worker knows my supplement flavor of choice. We were able to share a laugh when she spilled a cup of water, not only all over the floor, but all over her scrub pants. It wasn’t after long that I met with my doctor, someone who had both frustrated me immensely on occasion, but gave me more time off the unit than I ever imagined having in such a short stint of treatment. She told me I didn’t make weight this morning, leaving me horrified for her next statement. Yet, she still went with the original plan of discharging me. She ran through my diagnosis list, one that sometimes feels as though it’s a mile long, without an end in sight. We discussed my follow-up care plans and ended as she did every meeting, “Thank you very much.”

I jumped for joy in my Occupational Therapy Task group, which over time became known to me as the group where I just make bracelets, but my favorite group nonetheless. I constructed three bracelets, but the most meaningful bearing the word, “Be.” After my last discharge and falling into the depths of anorexia again, one of my support figures looked at me and said, “You can’t be the woman you’re going to be if you’re still trying to hold onto the girl you used to be.” This idea stuck with me so much so I used it as my senior quote, forever a reminder of the battle I endured and of the recovery I hoped to maintain.

Groups finished for the day right before lunch, a meal I jokingly referred to as my “last supper.” When the meal came to a close, I signed my discharge paperwork after reading through the diagnoses and medications that the doctor previously discussed with me. Signing the paper this time felt just as good as it did last time.

My doctor put in an order for me to be dismissed from the program at 3:00 p.m., a time I couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on. When the time came, reality did too, as I realized what discharging truly means. Discharging means freedom, freedom from the confinement of the unit, the rules and the sometimes less than sub-par meals. Discharging means flushing my own toilet (as weird as it sounds, it is something I can truly appreciate after being hospitalized), walking around in socks without grips on the bottom and being able to have laces in my shoes. Discharging means leaving, leaving the place that helped to get me healthy but also leaving the disorder that destroyed me from the inside-out at the hospital. Discharging means the physical contact of a hug, the sweet scent of sunflowers and being able to just, be.

Image via Thinkstock.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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