"Do you actually want to recover?"
That's one of the very first questions that my best friend from treatment asked me in our hour and a half conversation Wednesday night when I first began to tell her that I was struggling. Not what's going on, but "Do you want to recover?" We talked through a lot on the phone that night. About what my behaviors have been, what my thoughts are, what my expectations of going home for treatment were. And she reality checked everything.
I've been fighting the idea of going home for a few weeks now, mainly because I don't think that things are that bad. Denial is something that is fairly common among eating disorder patients. It sounds something like this for me:
- Everyone diets, so what I'm doing isn't bad.
- I know what an eating disorder is, and I DO NOT have one.
- What I’m doing is no big deal.
- There's nothing wrong with me physically and I'm still very high functioning academically, so obviously, I am not sick.
- I'm still eating food, so this isn't restricting.
- I'm not thin enough or skinny enough to have an eating disorder.
- I’ll just lose weight until I am X pounds and then I’ll stop.
- I am in complete control, and I could stop if I chose to do so.
- Things aren't as bad as they were in high school, so I'm obviously not relapsing.
The sicker I became, the more the excuses seemed real and the more my brain believed them. I went from eating two meals a day to only one to not taking my meds to restricting even more and limiting myself to under X calories a day to throwing up what little I was eating to abusing diet pills to obsessing over weight. And I still thought that I was fine because I hadn't seen any physical weight loss.
Then I went home this past weekend and when saying goodbye to a friend's mom who knows about my struggles with ED and depression, she said that I needed to "Stop losing weight."
"You've lost a lot of weight since I saw you last in September."
Even in that moment, it was hard to believe her. The next day, I got dressed for church in an outfit that I had worn less than a month ago. I couldn't keep my pants up and my shirt was so baggy... ugh. Unfortunately, I didn't bring a nice belt home because I didn't think that I would need one, since these pants fit a month ago, they were still going to fit.
Luckily for me, my brother had left a nice belt at home. And at first, I completely freaked out when I realized that was going to be my only option. My brother has always been skinnier than me. Always. So there was absolutely no way that his belt was going to fit me... even at the very last notch. But I put it on because I was running late for church and had no other options. I held my breath while I put it on his belt... It didn't just barely fit. It fit like any of my belts do.
Had I really lost that much weight? No. I couldn't have. I don't see it, so obviously it can't be true. This belt is probably just too big for Jacob, which is why he left it at home instead of taking it with him.
But it still bothered me. The whole weekend bothered me--exchanges with my parents, with my friend's mom, with how my clothes fit on Sunday, with my brother's belt. And when I got back to school on Sunday night, I checked my weight, hoping to ease the dissonance in my mind.
Numbers don't lie. They showed that I was X pounds under my "ideal weight range," according to my growth curve (my treatment team at home doesn't use BMI to determine ideal weight ranges because of reasons stated here).
I started to think that maybe I had a problem. Maybe I needed to go home and get help... but it wasn't that bad yet. I was still in control.
Monday night I was attempting to study for an exam and had a major depressive episode. And Tuesday I ended up talking to Dean Cole and we decided that maybe it would be best for me to go home and get some help. I called my team on Wednesday, trying to reach Katie, mainly, because I like her best (yes, I have favorites...) but was unsuccessful. Then Annie called me. I was scared, and I wanted to talk with her, wanted her to make me feel better and tell me that I was right and didn't need any more help and definitely didn't need to go home.
She called me out on all of my bullshit. She told me that I was sick, that I needed help, that I was sicker than I was able to understand. She told me that my idea of going home for a few days or a week was just complete bullshit--I wasn't going to recover that way. Maybe I would be able to keep things in check for another month or so, but I was just going to relapse again and again until I spent serious time working towards recovery.
I gave her every excuse to not work toward recovery, and each time she told me, 'Yeah, I totally get that, but here's why you're wrong...' I talked to her about school and how I was scared that I wouldn't be able to return next semester if I went home for serious treatment. Her response was that was good, that I'm not going to recover in college--no one can. That I should take the year off and reach full recovery... Something that terrifies me very, very much. We talked about maybe going to rehab (different from inpatient), so that I could work intensively on my recovery and not have the added stress of being at home. (Not to mention that it may increase the likelihood of me being able to return to Gettysburg in the Spring).
I hung up the phone with her feeling like someone had just punched me in the face. But also convinced that whether I recover or not is completely up to me and that I need to put the effort in and work my ass off in treatment so I can get better and get back to my life.