Two years later. Two years older. Two years changed. Two years different. Two years stronger. Two years braver.
It’s been two years since I first began treatment. Two years since I shuffled through the doors of Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders. Two years since that became my home away from home. I remember that first day, like it was yesterday. Walking in to unfamiliar faces. Having to sit down with these strangers and face the unthinkable. Then being forced to talk about how it went. Did you enjoy the food? No. What did you not like? All of it. Were you afraid? Uhhh…yes, out of my mind. Did you use any behaviors? Of course I did. I didn’t finish that disgusting cottage cheese that you evil people are trying to make me fat and ruin my life with. That was the gist of that first day. Curled up on a chair in an “illegal” position, journaling my fear and hate while avoiding having to speak.
Life for the first several weeks was rather ugly. Blind weigh-ins. Blood pressure monitoring. Constant meals. Never ending FOOD. Exhaustion. Insomnia. Coping skills torn away from my tightened grip. Trying to put on a strong front, while wanting to disappear every moment of every day. I got good at pretending and making people believe I was doing better than I really was. I think it’s part of the territory.
Needless to say, two years ago my life was a wreck. Not in school. Not living at home. Not on good (or even speaking) terms with my family. Anxiety and panic attacks sky-rocketing. Depression chronic. Anorexia raging. Pretending my way out of questions and consequences. Pushing everyone away, except my “chosen” few. My body eating itself until it shut down so many processes that living “normally” was getting hard. My brain on one track and one track only: restrict until you’re worthy, until you disappear, until you’re enough, until the anxiety & sadness go away.
I entered the anger phase of treatment. Anger coursed through my being. Why do I have to eat? Why is everyone forcing me to eat? Why does my body need it? I was angry that I had to succumb to such weakness (eating = weakness). I thought I should be stronger than food. I should be above it, above the physical need for it. I hated food itself and anyone who made me touch it. I even hated myself for needing it (for some reason I thought I should be the only human ever that didn’t need to eat…like what?). Every meal I battled for control. Less food means more control. More control means less fear and unworthiness.
Everyone around me that was trying to save me, were (in my eyes) trying to kill me, ruin my life, take away everything I loved/needed while giving me absolutely nothing in return except weight (i.e. fat, because to an ED patient all weight is fat even though most of it is bone mass, organ mass, heart/brain mass, water, etc).
Part of an eating disorder is suppression. Suppression of appetite, hunger/fullness cues, emotions, thoughts and feelings, even reality. Treatment is designed to trigger the release of that suppression, so at some point you become a ticking time-bomb. You become a walking volcano of everything you’ve been suppressing. If you’re like me, then you still suppressed things in public, but trust me, my journal and my therapist got spewed on daily, many times a day.
I remember the day that Taylor and I saved the day…or something like that. Bathroom buddies are totally a thing in treatment and so is asking a fellow patient “are you puking in there” and then going to get help because obviously that’s a no-no.
I remember the day we smashed scales in the parking lot with huge hammers and released balloons with notes inside about what we need to let go relating our disorders. Smashing the scale was smashing the lies, the standards, the expectations, the anger, the fear and everything else. Plus it was a great stress reliever and we got lots of weird looks which was funny.
I remember the day we made puppets and talked down our eating disorder voices. I watched light bulbs go off around me. I remember watching now friends and recovery partners throwing clay as hard as they could at the wall and yelling at their ED voices. I remember when we had hard days where abuse was spoken of and people wanted to jump out windows and tears were shed by all and families gathered. I remember family therapy and letting a little bit of my shield down. I remember the day I finally opened up to one of the therapists and she hugged me and thanked me. I remember the new faces as well as the old. I remember saying hello as well as goodbye. I remember the worry when people discharged against doctors recommendation without a trace. I remember arguing over who was going to go see the psychiatrist first and making faces at each other across the table at food we didn’t like. I remember the day we all cried over chef salad and didn’t leave a man behind. I remember the video we watched on wolves and everyone trying not to burst into laughter during the pointless session about that wolf video. And of course, I remember that Prince George was born while I was at Renfrew.
Most of all I remember the complete hopelessness, the desperation, the lack of purpose. I believed I was worthless & unlovable so I lived that way. I remember the anxiety and anger, the withdraw, the avoidance. I also, remember the subtle shifts, the changes. I remember the first day I felt hungry. I remember the first day I asked for help. I remember finding my voice and asking questions that we all were thinking. I remember being challenged in my faith. I remember the ups and the downs and all of the things I learned.
I learned to sit with hard emotions instead of act upon them.
I learned to use my voice.
I learned that my body is an awful lot better at knowing what’s best for it than I am.
I learned to trust the professionals around me.
I learned that my family is for me, I just needed to let down my wall and allow them to come in.
I learned to say, “I have anorexia” instead of avoiding the question or making excuses.
I learned to say “this too shall pass” when uncomfortable emotions and anxieties threatened to send me into a panic.
I learned that I have so many people on my side, praying and battling on my behalf when I was too sick to do so.
I learned that I don’t have to be happy all the time.
I learned that self-hatred was killing me and I was letting it.
I learned to put myself in positive, healthy places with people that speak truth.
I learned about my core beliefs and how everything stems from them.
I learned that though nothing will ever feel as comfortable and safe as my eating disorder did, things willbegin to feel okay, even good.
I learned that change is scary as it ever was, but it’s also so so good.
Moral of the story is, treatment is hard, recovery is just as hard, but God is good and He provides, sustains, empowers and encourages. He does incredible works through the most incredible pain. He never stops or disappears even in situations where He is (seemingly) nowhere to be found. He moved mountains for me and still is. He gave love where I gave hate. He gave grace where I needed it most. He gave courage when I was about to give up. He showed me what redemption looks like. He gave me reasons to live, to mend, to hope, to love.
Two years ago I was lost, hopeless, afraid. Two years later I am a different person. Made new, new life and hope. Given passions to pursue and relationships to foster.
Two years later. Two years braver. Thank you Lord, for these two years.