I am the kind of person that cannot trust that those who are trying to save me from myself will not abandon me. It started out at a young age but intensified with my first treatment team. I was always honest about my eating disorder and behaviors but quickly realized that I was not part of the team. I had signed contracts on a weekly basis, I was told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, and if I refused, I was threatened with hospitalization and being dropped by my team. After many inpatient residential stays and medical admissions, I started to hide my behaviors. I fluid loaded and wore weights to get weighed because I was forced to weigh four times a week, and I lied about my intake; by the end, I didn’t know truth from fiction. Everything became a power struggle, and I was going to win; however, I became extremely ill, and no one would believe me because I had lied so much. I knew I was dying, and I decided I would no longer keep “secrets” and was doing everything they told me to do, but at that point, it no longer mattered. My team dropped me after I was admitted with a potassium level of 1.2, and while in the hospital learning I was truthful about following my prescribed meal plan. My GI tract could no longer tolerate anything, and yes, I am sure it was from all the abuse I placed on my body. For the first time, as a team, we knew we did not trust each other. The decision to make a transition was mutual, but only because I had no choice; it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not, but also realizing I needed a team that specialized in eating disorders.
The Transition: Giving up the option to die
It was terrifying knowing I was going to a team that specialized in eating disorders because I would no longer be able to get away with what I was doing. But, was I really getting away with anything? Yes, in my head I was going to die without committing suicide. My children would at least not have to live with the thought that their mom left them on purpose. I knew I would either have to take my life or give up the option to die, but when faced with death I fought for my life, so there was and always has been a healthy version of self. While the choice to die stayed with me for a long time after I made the transition, I knew the minute I met everyone on my new team that I trusted them. I would not let them know that at first, but right away it was clear that not only was I a part of the team, but I was also the driver of my recovery journey. However, the fear has stuck with me throughout the years, even though I have made significant progress, I have not been able to turn control over completely to regain control of my life.
Trust with Caution
I have never lied to my second team, but I still do not give out information unless they ask. I have no contracts, I have stopped all behaviors including loading, but in turn, I have refused weight checks. There is always one area where I need to retain control, so I give up one and add another, which has been a vicious cycle. With these cycles, I continue to sink further into the dark hole because I still have not opened up about my past. The fear of being dropped after divulging the horror I went through as a child and adolescent is still too great of a risk because I blame myself. My team supports me in every way, whether I can meet the intake goals or not, and even refusing to weigh, although they do not particularly like that idea. They have never once said they would drop me, so there is no evidence to back up my irrational thinking, but the fear and anxiety continues to control me and leaves me with doubt.
Turning over Control to Regain Control
What I failed to realize was, while I am not new in my battle to beat my eating disorders, my mindset has remained stuck in the all or nothing, black or white thinking, while my treatment team fights like hell to show me there is a gray area. That gray area scares me because I have never lived without my disorder. So, my team watches me sink into the quicksand quickly closing out any light that had once flickered until they can’t sit back and watch anymore. They throw me a rope that I have now shredded to the last thread and pull me back to the ledge, thus keeping me from submerging further into the hole I dug for myself.
Once pulled back to the ledge, I find that strength and motivation again to fight, and this time it will be different.
- I am going to talk to my therapist about my demons, nightmares, flashbacks, and as soon as I get to a session, I shut down because the “What ifs” are a bigger monster than my past in that moment.
- I have the motivation to take control of Ed, and this time I will eat the recommended meal plan. However, once I get to a session with my RD, what we discuss, although accurate, rational, and logical, as soon as I leave my head tells me it’s too extreme or unfair, and it will cause a binge.
- When I see my medical doctor, I go in with the intentions of telling her everything, and I freeze because the unknown of her reaction takes over.
After every appointment, I end up sitting in my car crying because I know again that I will fail. No, I will not cry in front of any team members because it shows weakness, and I want so much to prove to them I will do it right this time, but each time is a rerun of the last session.
At some point, I need to come to terms that to climb out of the darkness for good I have to take the hands of those who care for me more than I care for myself right now. I have to trust that it is in my best interest to turn the wheel over to my team of experts before I can take the wheel again and drive my own recovery.
Commitment to Recovery is a Choice
I choose to stay in treatment because I still have hope that one day I may break free and have the courage to climb out of the hole, out of the darkness, and into the light; thus, turning over control to reclaim my life, confront the past, and let it go. There are times I want my team to take over, no options, no questions asked, and tell me what to do, but then I remember what that did to me the first time around. I can sign contracts and have “consequences,” but it does no good if it brings about power struggles, while I continue to do it my way. I acknowledge and take full accountability that my approach does not work, and I know my team is for me, not against me, and only wants me to live to my fullest potential. That cannot happen unless I am 100% committed to recovery because it is my choice, and not just what my team wants for me. What I have learned is that my team wants recovery more for me than I want it myself, and only I have the power to make that change. They can guide me in the right direction, but I need to follow that direction. However, I steer off the road and often end up hanging over the cliff. While I have helped many people make positive changes in their recovery from an eating disorder and or addiction, I am not an expert in my own recovery. I am an expert in keeping anorexia alive and thriving. I am an expert in enabling my disorder to lead me to believe all my fears will come true, and I am an expert in not allowing those I trust the most to guide me to full recovery.
Recovery is a Full-Time Job
Recovery is a full-time job that I keep placing on the backburner because it is so much harder than when I needed to start a new life after my injury by going back to school for my degree in Psychology, Human Services, and Addictions. School provided me an escape, but also an escape from the reality of where I am at in the recovery process. I have achieved a lot and have conquered many obstacles, but I do not give myself credit for what I have accomplished because I have not been able to turn over control to divorce Ed for good. Commitment is a choice, and I am choosing to give it my all for the next 365 days without judgment or hesitation by using my recovery journal that I am completing shortly. I cannot ask anyone else to commit to a one-year journey if I do not undertake it myself. Blind trust is hard, but sometimes in recovery, you just have to close your eyes, trust the process, and keep pushing forward.