Finding 'Hope' After Years of Hospitalizations
The last couple years of my life are an absolute blur. It’s as if someone took my brain and all of the memories it held and mixed them up in an incomprehensible sequence. When I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and see my friends from what I call my “previous life,” my heart drops and aches for what could have been. And almost always this pain would be turned inward and twisted into anger at myself. But as I sit here today, I can say and start to believe I am not at fault.
At age 11, I was diagnosed with anorexia. I went to outpatient therapy for the next four years until it was determined it simply wasn’t enough. My sophomore year of high school, I was sent to get an evaluation. I entered a day program for a week when they realized I needed an inpatient program.
The day after Christmas, I entered my first inpatient program on an eating disorder unit. I figured it would be quick. I figured it would suck but then I would return to my normal life.
But I never did return to the school. And I never did return to my life.
As I entered treatment, the painful events of my life unfolded. Trauma came out. My depression took over every fiber of my being and my anorexia became my best friend. I was lost and scared. The next four years I spent in and out of this hospital, a residential program, other hospitals, two rehabs, a halfway house and two sober houses.
As I did better with my eating disorder, my addiction would come out in other ways. I was impulsive, I self-harmed and I eventually began shooting heroin. When I blocked my impulsive behaviors, my eating disorder would entirely take over.
I continuously put myself in situations that destroyed any sense I had of who I was. I allowed myself to be a victim. I allowed many more traumatic things to happen to me. I allowed my life to end in a way. I spent four vital years of being a teenager trying to kill myself in anyway I could. I hurt everyone around me just to prove to myself there was no reason to stay. My parents watched as the daughter they raised and loved disappeared before their eyes. They tried everything. Medication, electroconvulsive therapy, ketamine infusions. You name it, they tried it. And they watched as nothing worked. As their daughter became unrecognizable. As she moved place to place, hospital to hospital. My mother would tell me she was preparing for my funeral. And the last time I entered rehab, my mother simply said: “Hope, you are going to die.”
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
But here I am, four years later, age 19 and alive. Today I can say I am sober. I am celebrating six months sober in a couple of days. Today I can say I graduated high school. Sure, not in the traditional way or at the “right time,” but I did it. And with honors! Today I can say I got into every single college I applied to. Today I can say in two weeks I will be starting at my dream school with a $20,000 scholarship per year. Today I have a boyfriend who loves me and isn’t abusive. Today I have my parents’ trust back. Today I want to live. I truly crave the feeling of being alive.
No, I am not fully better. I am actually in treatment for my anorexia right now. However everything is so different. As I entered treatment this time, I went in voluntarily. I went in to prove to myself I could do it and do it right.
As I saw myself slipping, I normally would’ve let it go until I was legally being forced into treatment, but this time the real Hope came out. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and I allowed myself to feel. I went in more scared than ever because this time, I was leaving something. This time, I had a home. I had friends who would do anything for me. I had a sponsor who loves me endlessly. I had a boyfriend who would support me in anything I did.
This time as I left inpatient, I truly felt I would never return. As I beat myself up for being in my 19th hospitalization in four years, a staff member I have known the full four years came up to me. She shared with me how she has watched me grow. She reminded me how far I have come. She listened to me and empathized with me. She reminded me today I am a real person and if I allowed my inner demons to take over again, I would be sitting here next year saying the same exact things. This time around I started to actually listen and trust.
Yes, I got angry about my weight and my doctor not giving in to my eating disorder, but I learned so much. As my discharge from day program is approaching within the next two weeks and I am about to start this very new, but also scary chapter in my life, I strangely feel at peace. A feeling I have never experienced. I feel different. And I can look in the mirror at myself and can be honest with myself.
But most importantly, I realized a few short months ago this would not have been a possibility for me. Being a human and a member of society was not a possibility. But today on this cold January night in the year 2017, I want to tell myself something. To the girl who has spent her life in and out of treatment. To the girl who could not stop flirting with death. To the girl whose demons had nearly taken over. It’s going to be hard and you’re going to want to give up. But please, do not give up. Prove yourself and the people who doubt you wrong. Because you my dear, are a wonderful arrangement of atoms. You are a very interesting soul. You have more to offer this world than you can realize right now. Don’t let this continue to be your life. Stop being so afraid, because this isn’t living. And you deserve to live.
Please believe me. I have been there. “Impossible” should not be in your vocabulary. Because you can start to live. And as exhausting as it is to keep fighting, as tired as you are, there is no better feeling in the world when you start to realize you are blooming. When you realize you are more than existing. You are slowly, but surely, making it.
If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
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