The Difficulty of Recovery in a Misinformed and Uneducated Society

Author: Paige S

inshot_20160929_061855Recovering from an eating disorder is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of strength both mentally and physically. It’s also something you need to work on…every single day. 

When I was at the worst of my Anorexia, life was horrible. But, it was no where near as bad as when I first started to fight the ED. The word “uncomfortable” is an understatement as to what I would feel. When I was in my first week of Partial Hospitalization, I remember feeling as if someone was just punching me in the gut, over and over again. I would swear to have gained 10 pounds, and my anxiety was so bad that my therapist revealed to me how much weight I had gained even though we weren’t supposed to know right away. I had gained…1 POUND…1. But, my mind was telling me I was getting “fat again”. My ED was screaming because it was no longer in control. My immediate next thought was “this lady is lying to me. I look huge. It has to be more than 1. This is impossible.” Now, I know that I could not see what every one else was seeing. My vision was clouded. I was brainwashed by my Anorexia and could not think logically and realistically. The only thing I could do at that point was trust the program and pray that it wasn’t lying when it would say, “it gets better.” 

At program, we were faced with challenges every single day. Meals were hard. Everything they gave us was “unhealthy”. And, when we were done eating, my brain would spin in a thousand different directions. “How many calories was that meal? Can I walk it off later? Can I sneak to the gym? How can I prevent weight gain? How can I fight this? But, I also want to get better…but I also don’t want to be fat…but I can’t live this way…but I won’t be good enough if I gain back this weight…”

Sometimes I wanted to shut my brain off and have a moment of silence. I was tortured by my thoughts and the way I felt. I was terrified and scared that people would laugh at me after they saw I gained the weight back. As I spent more time in program and gained back necessary weight, I would be scared to go out in my own town. I felt as if people were always looking at me or analyzing the way I looked when they most definitely were not. I was paranoid. I wanted everyone to know I didn’t have a choice. If I didn’t enter the program, I would have died.

I can write a book about what my journey was like in program – both about the good and the bad. But the real challenges, the true hurdles I experienced, were outside the walls of Overlook Hospital. Being in program was scary at times, meals were difficult, but it was also a “safe zone”. I was always surrounded by support systems: therapists, counselors, and, most importantly, some of my best friends. Whenever I was upset or confused, frustrated or annoyed, I always had someone to talk to and work through my fears with. But that came to an end when I was discharged from PHP and then IOP. I was terrified. There were no more support groups. There was no one forcing me to eat. There was nothing. It was up to me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go back to restricting or old habits. But, I told myself that I was stronger than my eating disorder, and I challenged myself little by little. Instead of saying “no”, I went out for lunch. I ate sushi, pizza and chipotle. Just like they said at program, it did get easier. But, everyday could be a challenge. It would, sometimes, be VERY EASY to get sucked back into old habits. You always need to be aware of how you are feeling. 

I want to fast forward to now. September 28, 2016. I’m a year and a half outside of program and sometimes, by what I post, it may look like I’m doing amazing; however, I still have my struggles. Yesterday, in my psychology class, we were talking about nutrition, and “carbs are bad” came up multiple times. It bothered me. I was “triggered” by it and started to doubt myself. Thankfully, I was able to talk myself through it and ultimately decide to ignore the conversation. But, it’s the small things like that that can drive a person with an eating disorder insane and send them into a possible relapse. Today, I was talking to a counselor that worked in the counseling department at Middlesex, and I was telling her about my history with anorexia…what was her response?  

“Wow, just looking at you, I would have never known. You look great! Some people you can just tell you know…” What?!?!?! 

I was flabbergasted by her comment for multiple reasons. One: never ever ever say that to a person with a past of eating disorders because they can easily take it the wrong way and think that that person is calling them “fat”. 

Two: a person (like me) could have already have gone through treatment. 

Three: eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Just because you aren’t emaciated does NOT mean you don’t have an eating disorder.

Four: people with Bulimia usually are at a normal weight, so YOU WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO TELL. It truly is a silent killer. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t taken back by it at first, but I have gone through enough treatment to know she is uneducated about what an eating disorder is. What makes recovery so difficult is that the affected individual is not just fighting a war with himself, but also fighting society. The pressure to be perfect is unhealthy, and it’s something that I’m hoping can change. Because, as cheesy as it may sound, everyone is perfect just the way they are. 

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I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t take back what happened to me for a second. I have grown such a love for psychology and such a passion for wanting to help others. If it weren’t for my anorexia and all of my hardships in life, I don’t think I would be where I am today. Everyday is a challenge. Something I would say to my fellow outfielders when we would huddle up before innings is, “if you win the battle, you win the war. Let’s win this battle.” I follow these words by smiling. I follow these words by laughing and interacting with others. I follow these words by choosing to be happy and not letting my eating disorder win. I am in charge of my life, and I will never let anything or anyone take that from me ever again. 

-Paige S.

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