Wow. It’s my last week of treatment at my eating disorder clinic. I discharge in three days. What a long ride it’s been. And how strange to be leaving a place I’ve come to find comfort in. It’s funny thinking of it as comfortable, considering what has happened in those four walls over the last 5 months. I could say so much about my time in treatment- and I’m sure I will, eventually- but these are the memories, thoughts, and feelings that stuck with me:
On my second day of program I was in the bathroom before morning snack, texting my parents that I was going to leave. (This was after an early morning discussion in which I told them I wasn’t even going to show up for day two. I did.) Before snack I was still incredibly full from breakfast, and my body was making the adjustments it naturally makes when you start feeding it after a long period of starvation. I wasn’t going to tough it out, I was convinced the program wasn’t for me, that my eating disorder wasn’t as bad as everyone else’s, and that I didn’t need to be there. I told them I’d go to a less intense program. Something better suited for me. I sat in that stall and cried and cried. My mom told me to call her, but as I was being supervised in the bathroom, I didn’t. What came next was an avalanche of encouragement from both parents. My dad ended up telling me what I used to survive some of the hardest moments of program: taking it one minute at a time. One bite at a time. If I could conquer the next five minutes, I could do anything.
And here I am, one week left and still taking it bite by bite. It’s how I got this far.
I remember thinking that when I was done and discharged from program, I would be 100% better; “cured” from my eating disorder. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But don’t flinch, I didn’t say that was a bad thing. You see, I have made significant progress in my time here. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. And other times, it’s really hard and I feel like I’m starting back at square one. What I’ve learned is: that’s recovery. It’s messy and difficult and nonlinear and a constant battle. It’s how I fight the battle that marks the progress and proves that I’m walking the road to recovery. It’s a long road with a lot of potholes and the sun beats down on you, but at the end of the day, I have the tools I need to be successful in my recovery. That is what I am choosing to focus on in these last three days.
I experienced the widest range of emotions in this program. The many meals I sat at the table in the dining room and cried into my lap, not able to look at the meal I couldn’t complete. Feeling shame as my peers would walk past me, exiting the dining room, and some squeezing my shoulders; a reassurance that only caused me more shame. They got to leave, but I couldn’t. They were watching me struggle.
And from there, the bonds deepened. On my darkest days I was seen. On theirs, I could see them. We never left each others’ side. Always hoisting each other up, carrying one another from one mile marker to the next. We were going to cross that finish line, and we would cross it together, whether we did that physically or otherwise.
Not only was there anguish, but there was intense joy. We all rooted for one another; when someone overcame a major barrier in their disorder, we were elated. Nothing will compare to when one of the younger patients, a dear friend of mine, found out he got accepted to NYU in the middle of program. That night, while checking out, everyone in the room listed him getting into NYU as their best moment from the day. Even now, I beam whenever I think of it. We are a family. When we struggle, we support each other, when we celebrate, we hoist each other up.
I still have tough meals (and tough days) despite being in my last week of program. And each time I struggle, I look around at the room of people, who understand what it’s like to struggle with something that comes so easily to everyone else, and find comfort.
I may be a warrior princess, but it’s only because of the army standing behind me.
To my friends in program: I will miss you all so much. Each one of you is so special and so beautiful, and I am privileged to know you all. Never stop fighting. Never stop putting down the rope.