Ending Treatment, Sink or Swim

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014

Yesterday was my final night of IOP treatment. As of today, I’m a free woman.

(Well, other than the thrice-weekly outpatient services that I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future…)

As you know from my earlier post, this was technically the second time that I was graduating from Monte Nido. The two departures were, of course, quite different. The first time I left kicking and screaming; this time, I chose to leave. Then, I left with a fight in me; last night, I left with acceptance. I still have further to go in treatment, and I am by no means recovered yet, but I recognize and accept that it’s time to try doing this on my own, sink or swim.

Last Thursday I asked the group therapist how we are supposed to live with the things we’ve done to ourselves. I wanted to know if it would ever get easier to reflect on the past. Because, right now, it is still profoundly painful to do so. And I don’t just mean reflecting on the traumas of childhood or the various factors that contributed to my developing an eating disorder. I mean the eating disorder itself. Now that we’ve undergone a trial separation for almost a full year, I can see more clearly what my life was like with her in it. It was not a life. It was a battle 24/7, rife with emotional, spiritual, and physical pain. I had no dreams, no aspirations, and no hope. Every day was about one thing and one thing only: chipping away at the number I’d see on the scale in the morning. On the outside, it looked as if I had everything I could possibly want: a fiancé, a job in Manhattan, academic success. On the inside, I might as well have already been dead.

How am I supposed to live with that, I wanted to know. How can I ever forgive myself for the years of abuse and torture I allowed? Do I keep processing it? Keep mentally running through the memories over and over again until I am totally desensitized to them?

No, the therapist said. You just stop thinking about it.

treatmentHer answer echoed the word that I have been whispering to myself these last few weeks, the word that has shielded me from urges that arose: Enough. Enough battling, enough straining, enough beating myself up, enough anorexia. It’s time to enter into life now. Sink or swim.

That was the moment that I knew I was ready to leave treatment. I realized during this final week that it is, in fact, possible to overthink recovery, just like I used to overthink my eating disorder and my weight loss goals and basically anything else in my life (especially anything pertaining to emotions). I realized that my mind and my reason can only take me so far; the rest of the way has to be guided by something else, something deeply and wordlessly me.

I admit, I’m afraid. Soul-quivering type of afraid. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it on my own. But when I take a breath and put a space between myself and the fear and anxiety, I realize that I have, in fact, learned enough. I’ve acquired the tools and I’ve learned the coping skills. I know what to do when my eating disorder gets loud. I know the difference between the times that I need to reach out for extra support and the times that I just need to push myself harder.

And that’s enough. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a moment when I feel fully prepared to leave treatment, whether it’s next week, next month, or next year. I will always have reservations about how long my strength will hold out and whether I can maintain a recovery mindset. But I can’t spend my life in treatment. We are guaranteed no certainties in life. We don’t know what is waiting down the road or how we will react it. But we have to trust ourselves and walk on anyway. That, I think, is the final lesson of this treatment process. That is where treatment ends and recovery begins.

So, last night, I reiterated the Eater’s Agreement that I made the first time I left Monte Nido. And I want to reiterate them now.

So, once again… I hereby agree to the following 8 Keys of my own:

An Eater’s Agreement

1. I agree to keep eating, to keep feeling, to keep recovering even when it seems like life is working against me. I will remind myself daily that feelings are not facts. Thus, even though I feel unprepared to do this without the support of a treatment program, I acknowledge that I do not need to feel prepared in order to actually be prepared.

2. I agree to find a way to exercise my body for the sake of making it strong and powerful, not smaller and weaker. I will do this to maximize my physical energy so that I am equipped to participate fully in life.

3. I agree to communicate my pain with my words, not with my body. When my voice fails me, I will write what I need to say. And when my pen fails me, I will draw what I need to say. And if none of the above is possible, then I will seek out one support and simply say, “I need you.”

4. I agree to take up space in the world. I will not let any human being, no matter their status or position of power, to make me feel any less valuable or deserving of my space. I will speak when I have something to say and not demur from the statements I make. I will respect my need and desire to be seen and heard just as much as I respect this need and desire in others.

5. I agree to let myself get depressed. I understand that this may simply be a part of who I am, but it need not have the power to become all of who I am. When it wells up and steals my voice, I will not give in to it. I will simply let it come and go, even if it means losing my voice momentarily. I now know that I’m stronger than it, and that my voice will come back.

6. I agree to feel all other feelings that comprise human life, including, but not limited to, anger, joy, shame, guilt, elation, desire, frustration, disappointment, fear, anxiety, silliness, and love. I will let them visit me when they come and let them go in an appropriate time and manner.

7. I agree to speak out against the injustices that have contributed to all of our illnesses through no fault of our own. I vow to change how our insurance providers see us and treat us so that their indifference and greed no longer pose barriers to our recovery. I vow to speak up and not stop telling our stories until this change happens.

8. I agree to do all of the above from this moment onward and to not stop until I reach full recovery. And even then, I agree to do them anyway.

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