Join Em for the fourth installment of her writing series as she moves through a higher level of care for ED treatment.
When I started this journey 8 weeks ago, I had no desire to build connection, to continue to dive into the tough stuff that I had started with my outpatient team, to take this time to actually allow my body to rest and recover (far beyond the recovery of the eating disorder), or to develop close personal relationships and actual friendships with the people who sat next to me in group each day.I had no anticipation that I would be struggling to say goodbye to these people, these supports, this place; that has made me feel so special, so wanted, so needed, in just a few weeks. I was here to get in and get out. And now it’s really freaking hard to say goodbye.
To the milieu staff:
Thank you for pushing me in ways that I didn’t even know I needed. For challenging behaviors that I wasn’t aware existed. Thank you for redirecting me and showing me that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do recovery perfectly. I appreciate you encouraging me to explore my excuses further. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes that’s exactly what they were-excuses to avoid the hard thing. Thank you for letting me argue and push back and throw around my snark; and continuing to show up the very next moment as the same person. There to support me in my recovery journey, no matter how hard I tried to push you away.
To the staff that sat with me through my tough moments and my increasingly difficult days. Thank you for seeing and honoring my struggle. You provided me with an environment that allowed me to share secrets I had never shared before. I could be honest, I could be vulnerable, I could be broken, and I knew I was safe. I knew that even in my lowest lows, there was no judgment; no fear of who I’d become or where I’d been. Thank you for hearing what I both was and wasn’t saying. Thank you for not turning your backs on me and for continuously demonstrating that vulnerability is not equivalent to abandonment.
To my therapist:
Thank you for the constant encouragement to explore using my voice and express my developing sense of self. For sitting in the darkness with me, giving me the opportunity to stay in those moments and experience them fully, and helping me to honor the role that this darkness (and the eating disorder) has played in protecting me for so many years. Thank you for, even in that darkness, always being able to see the authentically bright side of me. The side that sparkled. The side that wants to live, to be an advocate, and doesn’t ever want to quit fighting.
Thank you for your willingness to enter the same story with me over and over. For seeing what I was missing and not giving up while you waited for me to get there. Thank you for not only helping me to re-define family, but also guiding me as I identified who my true family really is. I can never say thank you enough for the relief that has come with this. I will forever be grateful for your ability to immediately identify my fears of abandonment, neediness, and unimportance. For recognizing when I was testing you, what my true need was in those moments, and continuously showing up for me. I was able to trust you in a capacity that I never expected possible in just a few weeks.
To my dietitian:
Thank you for recognizing every little attempt that the eating disorder has made to manipulate food, hunger, body, and emotions. For questioning all of it, and getting me to where I am now in my own analysis of self. Thank you for allowing me the freedom and opportunity to explore all of this on my own, with you as a guide. I know that I learn best by doing, through challenges, and by connecting to my competitive nature. I was able to use all of these strengths and this self awareness to push myself toward continued recovery each day. And in each of those days, thank you for celebrating my wins and exploring the struggles with me.
Thank you for pushing my discomfort. By not allowing me to constantly make the safe choice or provide the expected answer. For calling out the information that I know and the knowledge that I have, but (with the eating disorder) refuse to acknowledge. Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt and allowing me the opportunity for self exploration. I have learned that within my eating disorder, every action has consequences in the form of punishment. Thank you for allowing me to stumble (and even fall flat on my face) and get back up and try again; and for helping to rewrite the narrative that everything is right or wrong, win or lose, black or white.
To the Friends that I Have Made:
This is the hardest to write. Because in writing it, I am officially saying goodbye and that’s not something that I am ready for. It’s easiest for me to abandon the hardest goodbyes, wanting to avoid the pain that comes with. So, thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me for making this goodbye so hard. I have spent the last 8 weeks surrounded by love, joy, sorrow, pain, heartbreak, sadness, celebration, and true authenticity. And I am incredibly scared to leave all of you that have provided an environment safe enough to fully experience all of that.
To those of you who sat next to me each day. We’ve developed a connection that I can never forget. We started this journey together, and it breaks my heart not to be finishing with you. Thank you for being there as strangers on the first day as we started this journey together, and now as the people that I can consistently rely on. For being those who see through my attempts to hide the pain, to call out my BS, to offer the most comforting hugs, to always be down for random adventures -and constantly encouraging my adventurous spirit, and for being there, day in and day out, to celebrate my wins on this recovery journey. I am going to miss you beyond belief and as much as this breaks my heart, I am so so thankful for you.
I can honestly say that I was wrong in my expectations of this treatment experience. I didn’t end up wanting to get in and out as quickly as possible. In fact, I have really struggled with the idea of leaving. This is an incredibly special place, with incredibly special people, that I don’t want to say goodbye to. And that’s how I know it’s time for me to continue my journey in the outpatient setting. I’ve become comfortable in the safety of this environment and these people, and I need to continue this journey on my own, for me. You will all forever hold a place in my heart and a prominent role in my recovery journey and I will always be grateful for the experience that I had. I love you all. I will never forget you. And I hope you never forget me.