What One Year Out of Eating Disorder Treatment Has Been Like
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
It’s been one year since I was last discharged from inpatient treatment for my eating disorder. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by. It’s been a strange passage of time, feeling quick and dragged out simultaneously. This is the longest I’ve stayed out of treatment for several years. I’m used to bouncing in and out, making progress and then sliding back, doing well for a few months only to relapse. But this time — this time could be different. Make no mistake, I’m not recovered. I’m still riddled with fear about hitting bottom again. I make choices tentatively, not wanting to rock the boat too hard. The eating disorder still has a hand on my shoulder. I use behaviors sometimes and fight off urges to weigh myself, buy diet pills, or stare at my body in the mirror.
I am doing better. I have a job, my meds are working, I can get out of bed most days. But I’m still afraid.
This time could be different. I’ve come far enough that I can actually recognize my progress. 2017 was hard, but infinitely better than the previous year. I’ve held a job for more than three months, a milestone I hadn’t hit for four or five years. I can breathe again. My depression isn’t suffocating me and my anxiety isn’t controlling me. They are still old friends, but they don’t get to be in charge anymore. The heaviness of depression doesn’t keep me in bed most days. Instead of being trapped by a concrete slab that’s been lowered onto me, I’m lying under heavy blankets instead. The crushing fatigue has lifted a bit. Instead of wading through molasses all the time, it’s more like walking in a swimming pool. When my anxiety gets too hard to handle, I have tools to fight it. Instead of being reduced to a shaky, blubbering mess, I can grit my teeth and take another step.
My eating disorder is another battle altogether. I’m still plagued with the same thoughts, the same obsessions, the same urges as before. And I definitely make mistakes. But I’m not letting that voice be the loudest anymore. I’ve been slowly creating space in my life for other things. My eating disorder is not allowed to dominate my mind. I’m taking it back and trying to fill the gaps with family, friends, work, hobbies, etc. I’d much rather go to lunch with my mom than take my second nap of the day. I’d love to work on my photography infinitely more than pinching my thighs and crying about the size of my jeans.
So yes, recovery can be frightening and elusive. It often doesn’t feel possible, and giving up the control of an eating disorder doesn’t always seem worth it. It’s been a long, terrifying journey, and mine is not over. I still have a lengthy road ahead of me that might not even have an end point. But however difficult, I won’t get there any faster by giving up now.
I struggle. I make a lot of mistakes. I feel pain, fear and anger. Things aren’t perfect, but I couldn’t picture being in this place last December. Imagine where I could be next year.
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Getty Image via Marjan_Apostolovic