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  • Em R

A Letter to Myself: As I Stabilize in Outpatient Care

Join Em for the fifth installment of her writing series as she moves through a higher level of care for ED treatment.


You packed your bags, said your goodbyes, made the drive through Snoqualmie Pass, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, and Iowa. You’ve been home for weeks, but didn’t know what to say to yourself. The idea of trying to sound hopeful, excited, motivated in your recovery felt inauthentic until now. So you focused on doing what you needed to survive-because as much as you missed your outpatient team, your partner, and your ‘real’ life; the safety of the treatment environment was stripped away and life at home was so much more difficult than you remembered.

Let the difficulty you experienced in this transition act as a reminder to give yourself grace. You expected to come home; immediately returning to life as it was before. You know that wasn’t working for you. That life is [part of] the reason you were in treatment. The need that you felt to constantly be pushing yourself to do more, to be more was not sustainable. It is okay to ask for a break. It is okay to need time to transition. It is okay to miss the safety you found in the consistency of treatment. It is okay to want to go back to the ease of the structured environment where you could take the time to focus on the authentic you. The transition back to a place that doesn’t allow for this freedom, doesn’t encourage personal expression, and doesn’t create space for rest, wasn’t going to be easy. It's okay if it continues to be difficult. Remember to give yourself grace in your struggle.

You are not broken for missing the treatment. For weeks you had professional support and accountability six hours a day. When you weren’t in programming you went “home” to an apartment filled with people who just got it. Who got you. You didn’t have to verbalize your need for help, because every single moment was filled with people who were familiar with your experience. You didn’t have to worry about scaring people away with the depth of darkness in your thoughts (or actions). But, now you know that you have people here too. People that will love you through everything and who want to support you in whatever way they can. You have to let them in. You have to let them know when it’s hard and you have to ask for help. Your friends, your siblings, your partner, your coworkers, your care team-they are all there for you and it is okay to rely on them for support. Recovery is still possible, even with more flexibility and less accountability.

When you feel overwhelmed by everything that you need to do, remember the joy you found in relaxation. It is okay to take on less. You are still on your recovery journey and some days will be harder than others. You don’t have to manage it all alone. Here is your permission to take time to rest and recharge. The frequent internal dialogue is exhausting. Therapy is exhausting. Challenging eating disorder behaviors is exhausting. Choosing recovery every day is exhausting. Find time, even just a moment, each day to do something to disengage from productivity. Incorporate the ‘Art of Nonproductivity’ into your daily living. Draw. Write. Bake. Paint. Read. Do whatever you need to recharge. And in those moments, when you’re finding it more difficult to choose recovery, you don’t have to do this perfectly. Sometimes you just have to choose the next best thing.

Your energy to continue recovery is also found within advocacy. Sharing your personal story and speaking for change is invigorating. You write vulnerably, honestly, uncensored. And on the days that you feel stuck and you think you’ve plateaued and can’t push yourself any further in recovery, focus on the strength of this ‘why’ when you were in treatment. You thrived because you felt like you had purpose. You were motivated because when you told your story and you felt heard. You wanted to make a difference in the field of eating disorder treatment. Your story is still important here in the outpatient setting. You may have to work harder or speak louder to be heard, but that’s where you can make a difference. Keep working for your ‘why’.

There is more to life (and you) than the eating disorder. Yes, you are an advocate for change, but you are also an adventure seeker. You love trail running, hiking, travel, eating new foods, meeting new people, and authentically experiencing life. Yes, you want to utilize your experience in recovery to impact the treatment field. But, you were also meant to do this because you are passionate, empathetic, compassionate, and genuine. The eating disorder , your struggle,and your recovery; they are all a part of your story, but they don’t tell your whole story. You are you, not the eating disorder.


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