Three Years in Recovery
Yesterday was my “re-birthday.” That was the term a friend used recently to describe the anniversary of the day she entered treatment and began the process of recovery.
Three years ago yesterday — December 11 — I entered treatment at the Renfrew Center in New York City for the anorexia and accompanying mental health issues that had gone undiagnosed for more than a decade.
Those early days were disorienting. I remember how numb I was when I left my intake assessment. I arrived thinking I needed a nutritionist, and left having been told I needed intensive treatment — now.
I remember my naïveté about the process, telling my boss that I would need a four-week leave from work and ultimately needing four months.
I’ve come a long way in three years. I’m in good health. I’ve graduated from three treatment programs and am decreasing my use of meal support (a quasi fourth round of treatment I began earlier this year). I’m making my initial steps away from a meal plan and toward intuitive eating. I’m finding my voice in my relationships, in therapy, in my writing, and in the world. I’m learning to love myself.
Since I began this blog in June of 2014, I’ve written at length about the middle ground of recovery. I still consider myself as an inhabitant of this confusing middle territory between recovering and recovered, but with every milestone, I come to believe more assuredly that full recovery exists.
Recovery is Real
I usually write posts to mark both this anniversary and the anniversary of going to residential treatment (“More Than Weight Had Been Lost,” in 2014, and “More Than Weight Has Been Gained,” in 2015). This three-year anniversary snuck up on me, partly because 2016 has brought new circumstances that make writing difficult. In September, I became social media manager at the university where I work. My new job takes up more time and psychic energy than my previous role as a writer. I’m still working on creating a healthy boundary around the amount of worry I expend.
Because of that transition, I neglected to write about an incredible experience I had this fall: in October, I was awarded the National Eating Disorder Association’s Volunteer of the Year Award, which was presented in Chicago at their annual conference.
The conference as a whole was enriching (I wrote about it here for Proud2BMe). In addition to learning more about eating disorders and their treatment, I reconnected with old friends and came home with many new ones (shout-out to Angie Viets and Alison Smela, whose writings — here and here — I strongly recommend).
The award was presented on the final morning of the conference, during which I offered some brief remarks, which I’d like to share with you here. (Now is as good a time as any, right?)
In a way, the NEDA conference felt like the culmination of these last three tumultuous years — even more so than the arrival of another December 11. Being there — there, in Chicago, surrounded by hundreds of individuals touched in some way by eating disorders — felt like an improbable turn of events. Just three years earlier, I was lost in an illness I didn’t even know I had, and now I was being identified by terms such as “advocate,” “blogger,” and “recovering.”
So, once more, a sincere thank-you to NEDA for the opportunity to be part of this year’s conference. And thank you to all of you, my readers and fellow middle ground travelers, who have been walking this path with me. I appreciate your company and your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings, as well as your patience during the times when I’ve had to take a step back from this blog.
Recovery is real. Don’t stop striving for it.
The 2016 National Eating Disorders Association Conference Remarks
October 1, 2016
The very first time I connected with NEDA was three years ago this month. I had emailed the general info account to say how much I appreciated their social media presence, because it made me feel less alone. At that point, I had been sick for eleven years with anorexia.
The writer in me cringes to say a phrase like “I never thought recovery was possible,” but it’s the truth. I never thought I had a chance. I used to read the Stories of Hope on NEDA’s website and wish I could somehow find help to get rid of this terrible burden, this heavy weight I was trying to remove by making my body lighter.
I was a sick young girl when I first came across NEDA, and today I am a woman in recovery. I wish I could have known three years ago that not only would I get treatment, but I would walk in the New York City NEDA Walks with hundreds of women and men just like me. I would travel to Albany and Washington to speak with our representatives about eating disorders and mental health parity. I would sit with other young adults around a table at Gracie Mansion and tell Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York, that there are literally millions of us out there who could do so much for the world, if only we could access the care that can help us become our best selves.
Volunteering empowers me. It provides a platform for the voice I’ve reclaimed from anorexia. It is a way to make meaning of a dark and demoralizing illness. Most of all, it is a privilege to do some small part for this organization.
I am deeply grateful to NEDA for this kind recognition, and I want to make it known that in recognizing me, you are also recognizing the Renfrew Center, Monte Nido, Aurora Behavioral Health, Columbus Park Collaborative, [my therapist], [my nutritionist], and [my Renfrew PHP therapist]*—in short, the people who quite literally saved my life.
The work you do is a light for all of us who have gotten lost in the dark. Thank you for being my light. Thank you for your kindness today. I look forward to many more years serving this remarkable community.
*names removed for the sake of privacy
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