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To the Girl Spending Her Holidays in the Hospital for Eating Disorder Treatment

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To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital:

It’s me, the girl who was in your position this time last year. Instead of decorating the tree with my family, I was decorating my arms with scars. Instead of eating Christmas cookies with my cousins, I wasn’t eating at all. Instead of spending the holidays at home, I was confined to the four walls of a hospital where I was being treated for my eating disorder.

Growing up, I took for granted waking up in my own house on Christmas morning, wearing new pajamas with a sense of excitement for what would be under my tree. In the hospital, there aren’t Christmas trees because they think you’ll take the ornaments off and try to hurt yourself. There isn’t family, aside from the 6:30 to 8:30 visiting hours.

There isn’t happiness. There aren’t presents under the tree. There are only four walls, blankets that aren’t warm enough and breakfast that comes to the dining room in a cart. The only sound of Christmas is from the radio, and the only sight are the crafts you make in your art therapy group.

To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital, I will be honest with you, it won’t be fun. It will be hard, very hard. The work you’re doing on and for yourself will be difficult, but I promise it will be worth it. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, but it will also be the most important. You will make meaningful bonds with the other patients, who will become your family Christmas morning, and who you’ll sing carols with over meals. The life you will gain outside of your eating disorder will be better than any wrapped box or present in a bag.

When I found out I would spend Christmas confined in a hospital, my heart sank a little. I didn’t have “Christmas cheer.” I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t singing, “Here comes Santa Claus.” I was singing “99 bottles of Ensure on the wall.” I was afraid, thin and broken. I was empty, physically and metaphorically. I was dying.

To the girl who is in the place I was last year, I believe in you. I never thought I would be able to handle the treatment process, especially after not sleeping the first night, then being woken up by a nurse at 4:00 a.m. for a finger stick. For the girl who is crying, as her mother tells her she will finally enter treatment, I know your tears all too well. My tears, a sign of fear and relief, came in waterfalls, came in rivers. I know it is not easy. I make no promises that it will be. I promise it will be worth it, and you’ll start living again soon.

For the girl who is spending her holidays in the hospital, you are strong. I have no doubt you will enter treatment and return to your life healthier and hopefully happier. Healthy comes before happy in most cases, and for me, I’m still working on happy every day. I’ve been admitted to the same hospital twice, and I am still working on myself each and every day. For you, and for me, it is a process.

To the girl who is spending her holidays in the hospital, please don’t give up. I want you to know that you can do this, even when it feels like you can’t. I want you to eat your food and to learn to enjoy it again. I want you to hold onto hope and to stay brave. I know where you’ve been. I’ve been where you’ve been.

To the girl spending her holidays in the hospital, go kick ass in there.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

 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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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 9, 2016
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