Relapse: Return to Treatment

Posted by on Jun 20, 2015

I had a dream a few nights ago that I was on a ship docked in a harbor. It was an overcast morning. I was leaning on the railing, watching other ships passing through the harbor as I waited for us to embark.

Suddenly, a ship across the way overturned and sank. As the passengers near me on the deck began to panic, the crew assured us that everything was fine and told us to stay calm. It’s better to remain where we are, they said. But I became terrified that our ship was about to go down, too. So, I turned and ran, determined to find a way off.

It’s not uncommon for me to dream about turbulent water whenever my eating disorder acts up. Usually, the dreams are about tsunamis. A giant wave is on the way, but by the time I realize it, it’s too late to run from it. As the wave hits, I survive by holding my breath and swimming below the wave, where the current is not as strong. When I emerge, there is massive damage in the tsunami’s wake. The loved ones who are with me often don’t survive.

What was unusual about this recent dream was that I anticipated the danger and escaped. I knew what was coming. Or I at least knew what could happen. Either way, I didn’t want to hang around to find out. My therapist said she thought the dream was hopeful: I’d made it off the sinking ship before it was too late.

treatmentAfter several months of my eating disorder very slowly and insidiously creeping back, I’ve decided to return to treatment for a third (and, hopefully, final) time. I’ll be going back to Monte Nido, this time in the partial hospitalization program. I start as soon as I’m medically cleared and can wrap up some loose ends at work — at the earliest, Wednesday, and the latest, next Monday.

It was an absolute nightmare trying to get into the program, since I have new health insurance with United Healthcare. To be honest, I’m so exhausted by the insurance issues that I don’t even want to tell the whole story. (Highlights of this particular battle include being told that I haven’t been “denied” treatment, but rather, that I am “choosing” to not use my out-of-network benefits—namely, United’s generous offer to pay $138 of my $600-700 daily cost. I have to keep in mind that healthcare is a “shared” cost, they said. They ignored me when I pointed out that my share is more than 6 times theirs, not including what I pay monthly just to have health insurance.) All I’ll say is that I have a few guardian angels out there who helped me get approved despite United trying its darndest to keep me out of treatment.

I’m nervous, of course. I don’t want to take another medical leave from work, or have those awkward conversations to inform people that I’m going back, or even fully acknowledge to myself that I have to re-learn yet again to eat. Naturally, there is a part of me that feels like I’ve failed, even though I know relapse is part of recovery. And it’s all too easy to tell myself that things aren’t that bad, I’m not that thin, I’m not as symptomatic as I once was. Maybe — but the fact that I am symptomatic at all is, indeed, bad enough. Moreover, I know where this road leads. I’d rather turn back now.

All the discomfort and difficulty to come is worth it, though, if I can get back into—and this time remain—in recovery. I am so done with having an eating disorder. I got a glimpse last autumn of what life in recovery is like, and it was as good as people assured me it would be. I want that back. I want to have the energy for work and school. I want to devote my time and talents to helping the eating disorder community. I want to be a mother.

And I want my husband to have a wife. He has endured his own circle of hell throughout this experience, and I can’t stand anymore to think that my actions cause him pain and anxiety. I may not feel fully ready to say goodbye to anorexia, but that’s what I’m going to do — for his sake, for my sake, for my future children’s sakes. And for all of you, whom I genuinely care about, but to whom I feel as though I’m lying if I myself am not healthy.

I’m doing this, and I’m going all in. I want this to be the last time I’m in eating disorder treatment ever. This means that I need to devote all of my energy and attention to recovery for as long as I am at Monte Nido. As a result, I’ve had to make what are, for me, big sacrifices. I dropped the graduate class I was supposed to take this summer and rearranged my schedule for the fall. I turned down the junior board position at the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, which I had just accepted last week. I told my editor at Proud2BMe that I would need to go dark for a bit. I had to force myself to say “No, I can’t right now,” to other people who have asked me to write for them in some capacity.

And I may need to take some time away from this blog. I don’t think I will stop posting completely — after all, this online community is legitimately helpful for me. (I would not have been able to go back to treatment if it weren’t for the help many of you offered.) I’m not sure what my posting schedule will be like — I may write some posts during treatment, or I may just provide brief updates. I’ll have to see what it’s like once I get there.

I guess what I can say is this: Treatment has to come first. That may mean less presence on social media and here on this blog.

But I WILL be back, healthier than ever — I know that for a fact. My motivation is the highest it has ever been. So, please, do keep visiting this site and keep commenting — it’s been hard to get back to comments lately, but I read and cherish all of them. Your words really do mean a lot to me.


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  1. Best of luck to you. I have found your blog to be helpful to me with my own issues. I very much appreciate your honesty in showing the ups and downs of your process.

  2. I appreciate your honesty throughout the process. Your blog and your openness have helped me and encoraged me so much. I am proud for you.

  3. you are strong and courageous. i will be wishing you well.

  4. Thank you for your website. I wish you all the best in recovery. I am also in the same situation so your honesty really is comforting to me. This journey is so difficult but like yourself I am determined to beat this. Would be really grateful for any correspondence. AN can be a very isolating illness.

  5. I’m glad you managed to turn your relapse to a positive thing towards your recovery. I used to suffer bulimia and i also managed to be free from it for 20 years now. The inviting feeling of relapse is always there but I just shift my thinking and use my imagination to inspire on my bulimia freedom. Read my life with bulimia and how I managed to end the eating disorder in my life. bulimia help