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How Trusting My Eating Disorder Treatment Team Changed My Recovery

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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.

I didn’t trust people. The only things I trusted were my scale, nutrition facts and drinking buckets of caffeine. I only trusted my eating disorder (ED). Multiple times I went into hospital-based treatment, sat down for my first meal, and was reminded just how ambivalent I really was. I had people telling me how that piece of paper with my meal plan spelled out on it would help lead me to a healthier version of myself, that I needed to believe and trust in my treatment providers. I needed to surrender to the process. But I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t believe that anyone would be able to change my mind about stepping on a scale in the morning, or opening my fifth can of diet soda.

It took me many years, many different therapists, multiple different admissions and many long cry sessions to get to a place where I could trust a treatment team over my eating disorder. And honestly, to this day, it’s still hard sometimes to believe that happened. But it did.

I started recovery somewhere around six years ago, and within those years I’ve heard the phrase, “You need to trust your team,” from so many different people, so many different times. And on most of those occasions, it didn’t mean anything to me. I simply didn’t know how to trust anything other than the overpowering, overbearing eating disorder voice that followed me everywhere I went. That statement overwhelmed me and frustrated me, because I just didn’t know how to do it.

But one admission, I found myself surrounded by people I didn’t know, staff I’ve never met, and my thoughts were louder than they were in a long time. I looked around me and it sunk in that there was no easy way to get around the obstacles recovery has. I realized I couldn’t half-ass it anymore. And I didn’t have any energy to try and weasel my way out of treatment because I was scared. So I stayed. And I ate. And I went to group. I don’t want to say “and then I did it,” that’s too much of a blanket statement, because recovery can’t be simplified like that. But it was the first true moment where I realized I couldn’t keep doing recovery with one foot in and one foot out. It wasn’t working for me anymore.

I was so sick of going in and out of treatment, and I told myself every day when I was there that I needed to keep pushing. I needed to try my absolute hardest to make that my last admission. I needed to not be ambivalent anymore and choose recovery over the rest.

That wasn’t my last admission, but that attitude I found during that admission has stuck with me and has helped me to keep pushing myself forward. There were a lot of things I did during that hospitalization that were different than what I ever did in the past. Including the fact that I gave them my trust. I followed their program and woke up every day reminding myself of why I came to treatment. I told myself I just needed to do it, recovery was my only option, recovery was the best option. Even when I didn’t want to finish a snack or do an exposure, I did it anyways — I didn’t let myself quit. 

Before, I wasn’t ever able to trust a team without feeling like my body was rebelling against me and nobody was doing anything to help stop it. I used to feel like a prisoner, like nobody cared what I had to say, like I was doomed to excessive weight gain forever and that nobody cared about how miserable that would make me. But with open communication and my team being willing to keep me informed with my progress emotionally, mentally and physically, I calmed down. I saw that nothing extreme happened when I did what they said would help. And by trusting them to let me know where I was at, and by seeing that what they were saying matched how I was responding in all aspects of my recovery, I learned to trust my body as well as them. That is something I never imagined would happen. This was vital to my progress, because not trusting my body was one of the major things that kept me stuck in a recovery versus relapse state.

For me, I allowed myself to move forward when I did something different. I didn’t trust the treatment team right away — I didn’t know them and meeting a whole new team of people was scary. But one thing I did do was stop trusting my eating disorder. I knew that following my eating disorder’s demands wasn’t working for me anymore — I tried really hard though. But I picked the only other option I had left. I chose recovery, and kept choosing every day I was in treatment, and every day afterwards.

When I realized I really had just two options — living or my eating disorder — I had to trust someone who knew ways to help me break away from living a life I didn’t really want. When I used to hear “trust your team,” it would confuse me. I think it confuses a lot of people. I didn’t know what to do or how to go about doing that; but now that I have, I want to tell people to trust their team over and over again. It was one of the hardest things for me to do.

I not only learned how to trust somebody else and doubt my eating disorder’s voice, but I learned how to trust myself, too. And that has changed everything. Now, my team is different than the one I had during that treatment stay. Those treatment providers saw me when I was in a bad spot. Those who I see now see a different girl, and I think it’s special that you get to meet people at different times and points in your journey. If I didn’t meet the treatment team I had in the hospital when I was in a bad spot, I might not be where I am right now.

I think when you’re able to move to a spot where you can trust someone else, other than your ED, and trust their opinions wholeheartedly over ED, that is truly special. I was lucky enough to have found that, even if it was just for a brief hospital stay. I am in search of that again. I think, for me, I reached a point where I was sick of being sick. I didn’t want to align myself with that or see myself in that anymore. Now, I want to be better and to be recovered so much more than I want to be trapped with ED. And some days are not easy. Some days ED whispers to me and says whatever he says, but the difference is that I am finding strength in new things and I am building myself up in ways I haven’t ever done before — in ways where ED can’t get to me again.

I believe finding a treatment team who you can trust is super important, so if you don’t trust yours, it’s OK to look for providers who may be better suited to meeting your needs, because you deserve recovery just as much as anybody else.

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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Originally published: April 27, 2018
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