Have you been in treatment? Thought about treatment? Thought about how you aren’t sick enough for treatment?
What is it anyway? What do these programs involve? How long do I have to wait? What will I have to do? Will I have to do things that I don’t like? Will I be forced to do things that I have been avoiding? Will I be expected to suddenly love my body?
This week, Dorothy shares her experience of being in treatment at a local hospital.
Be kind to yourself and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit
Treatment: A surprising experience
For about three years, people around me were encouraging me to go to treatment for my eating disorder. But I wasn’t sick enough. Yeah, I engaged in symptoms. Yeah, the symptoms took up a great deal of my time, my energy, my thoughts … but it wasn’t that bad. I was alive. I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder. So why would the hospital take me anyway. I could totally do this on my own. I could kick the eating disorder to the curb and heal myself in my way. And in my time.
I was convinced of this.
Until I wasn’t.
My illness wasn’t something I could see on the outside. Until it was. I suddenly realized that maybe there was no such thing as sick “enough”. Maybe there was just “sick”.
A facilitator at Sheena’s Place who works at the hospital day program suggested I get a referral for an assessment. An assessment would mean having someone with more knowledge than me decide if I needed treatment. I didn’t have to commit. I didn’t have to accept a spot if it was offered. All I had to do was go in and speak to the experts.
So there I was, completely convinced that they were going to laugh at me behind my back because my symptoms just weren’t that serious and I could stop if I wanted to.
Surprisingly to me (not to the people around me), I was offered a place in the program and within weeks I was beginning my journey. I had no idea what to expect. Not only are there things I don’t want, but there are things that I don’t like. Things I dislike. Terror began to seep in. But at the same time, there was a feeling of relief. A feeling that maybe this thing, this behaviour I had engaged in for as long as I could remember, was actually real and not my fault. It wasn’t a matter or willpower or self control. It was an illness. It was something that had a “cure”.
The first week was so confusing to me. I was introduced and led through the days of groups and meals and more groups. CBT, DBT, body image, behaviour change, goal setting. These were foreign concepts to me that I had to go all in. In my first week, 2 people decided it wasn’t the right time and left the program. This was terrifying to me. Would I be able to stick it out? Could I follow all the rules in the hospital and at home? What about weekends?
At first I thought about lying on my monitoring sheets. How would anyone know what I did or didn’t do when I was at home? But I didn’t. I decided that my health was important. A concept that was new to me. I was important. I was in treatment because I needed to be, and I was taking a space. I needed to dive in, head first and do everything that I was told.
So I did.
In the beginning it was exhausting and frustrating and I had more questions than answers. The dietician pushed me to do things I never thought I would do. I began to challenge my thoughts and my core beliefs. I was surrounded by people whose bodies looked nothing like mine and yet we had similar thoughts and internal feelings. I wasn’t alone.
One of the most surprising things about treatment was the lack of privacy. What was said in a group was known by all the staff within minutes of the group ending. In the next group, a different staff member would bring up something that someone had said earlier in the day to someone else. If someone was having an urge, they had to share their plan with everyone. There was more accountability that I had ever experienced for anything in my entire life.
I made it through the day hospital treatment and into the relapse prevention program.
Now the real work began. I thought changing my behaviour was hard. Now I was expected to change my thinking patterns. Seriously? I thought to myself. The homework was intense. What was the origin underlying my eating disorder? What were my reasons for recovery? How could I challenge my thoughts when they were so negative that they hurt? But I did. With guidance and an excellent therapist, I pushed through the fog and came out into the sunlight.
Over the course of 6 months, I changed my life. Things can still be hard. My urges are less intense and happen less often, and I don’t act on them. My thoughts are still there and most of the time I can challenge them. I learned that I don’t have to love my body, I just need to tolerate it as it is in this moment. I learned to accept that there isn’t a healthy way to control what my body looks like and that there are things about my body that I never change. Why spend my life hating myself? That just hurts.
Why get a referral for treatment? Because maybe you are sicker than you think. Maybe being sick is sick “enough”. Maybe you can change your life too. Because if this stubborn girl can learn to make changes, then so can you.