To the People on My Eating Disorder Treatment Team Who Didn't Give Up on Me
When I think about how far I’ve come in my recovery in the last year alone, I can’t think of who did more work, me or my treatment team. I came into treatment last November, a total mess. I was was at a scary, low weight for me. I was suicidal beyond belief, and I was horrified.
The first thing I remember when I walked onto the unit was someone was making themselves throw up in a corner. The nurse, who was walking with me, tried to get me to walk a different way so I wouldn’t have to see. I didn’t understand what she was trying to do. So I saw it anyways, but I distinctly remember feeling thankful for her effort to spare me from that initial trigger.
The next thing I remember was when I walked into the common room to get my blood pressure taken. I saw the art therapist, who I have worked with in both an individual and a group setting in the past. I was beyond embarrassed for her to see me. I thought about how hard she worked to help me in the past. By being readmitted, yet again, I was disappointing her.
However, the first thing I noticed about her was her warm smile. She said hi to me and didn’t seem disappointed at all. This made me burst into tears. Not because I was upset, but rather because I realized how many people truly care about me enough to simply go out of their way to make me feel welcome. I had never felt more grateful. Yet that day, I was not able to be happy about it. I felt like a failure for not having realized this in the past.
The same nurse who walked me onto the unit set me up with a “modified lunch,” since I had missed the regular 12 p.m. lunch time. She tried to make it as easy as possible for me. Did I want an orange or a banana? Chocolate or 2 percent milk?
She even poured the milk into one of the styrofoam cups for me to make starting easier for me. She was so sweet and tried her best. Unfortunately, by then, I had already decided (or my eating disorder rather had decided for me) I was not going to eat.
I refused my meals that entire day and many, many days after that. One of the main reasons for that relapse was my friend had died from her eating disorder just a few months prior. My disorder told me if she didn’t get to live, then neither did I. So I continued to starve myself.
I don’t remember many things from the beginning of my stay. Yet, I remember one of the nurses sitting down with me and talking me out of a panic attack.
“I don’t think I can do this.” I told him.
“Just keep trying,” he replied. “We’ve all seen you do it before.”
Another covered me with a blanket before I went to sleep.
“I don’t think I can do this.” I told her.
“Just try to sleep,” she replied. “Tomorrow is a new day.”
The next day, I saw my psychiatrist. I was horrified to meet with her because I felt like I had let her down, too. I was scared she would be strict about starting to eat the amount of food that was expected, but she was patient and worked with me. My individual and family therapists did the same.
“I’m glad you’re here,” they both told me.
Nurses sat with me. Mental health workers sat with me. Psychiatrists, therapists, dietitians, they all sat with me as I struggled. I was still refusing meals though, even with all the help everyone offered me. The closest I got to consuming anything at that point was when the mental health worker I had worked with for years sat on the floor in the corner (where I would hide) with me for two hours after her shift was over, trying to get me to drink four ounces of orange juice. That is when I felt the most regret. I felt as though I had let everyone down, but of all the people, I did not want to let her down as well.
It wasn’t until I realized the last thing I wanted was to end my life the same way my friend did, that things got a little easier. She would have never wanted me to live (and die) this way. Nobody did.
For the longest time, I felt like nobody cared about me. I felt like I was a lost cause. But going back to the unit when I did helped me realize people would be devastated if I let my disorder win. Many people opened up to me about how my friend’s death affected them, and many told me they would feel the same if I ended up with the same fate.
I’ve written about this before, but they also helped me realize I don’t have to go back to my old life. My past does not define my future. Only I have the power to influence what happens in my head and ultimately in my recovery. Maybe I can’t control every little detail, but I can create the outline of my life.
Without all of the warm smiles, talks, tears and words of encouragement, I would not be here today. The fact that nobody, absolutely nobody, gave up on me like I asked them to countless times means the world to me. I feel like a lot of nurses, doctors, therapists and mental health workers in the psych field do not get much credit sometimes. Without them, a lot of people would be giving up every day, like I almost did.
Even though I have tried to put my thoughts into words, I was not able to share every act of kindness and attempt to help me. I will never be able to thank all of the people who helped save my life because there are simply no words to express the amount of gratitude I feel for absolutely every one of them. They are all a part of my treatment team, and they are all a part of my life.
I will never be able to thank them because there are simply not enough words. So I will leave it at this: To my entire treatment team, inpatient, partial, intensive outpatient and finally outpatient, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because I would not be here without you.
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