Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Julie

Goodbyes are really hard for me--always have been. I remember leaving to go home from visiting family and being absolutely miserable because I wasn't going to see them for another few months. Every summer, saying goodbye to my campers and staff was always the hardest part; I missed them almost immediately. And when I graduated high school, I said goodbye to many close friends who I loved dearly and we all went our separate ways. Some of these people I rarely talk to anymore. 

The past few months have been a time of farewells for me. In September, I said goodbye to my PopPop when he lost his battle with cancer. In November, I said goodbye to Gettysburg to come home and get treatment for my eating disorder and depression. In January, I said goodbye to day treatment and IOP as I transitioned to outpatient programing, leaving behind wonderful staff and supportive friends. In February, I officially said goodbye to Katie, the nurse practitioner who had worked with my ED doctor; she was my salvation in high school as I fought against Maudsley therapy and she saved my life in the most literal way. And today, I had to say goodbye to Julie, my dietitian, who is one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. I didn't know she was leaving until today. 

I originally met her in day treatment. She would fill in for Christina on the days Christina wasn't available to check meals. I loved her for how laid back she was about everything. She was really responsive when I told her that standing behind me made me nervous, and when I hadn't seen her in a while, she gave me a hug on a day that I really needed it. When I asked Julie if she would see me for outpatient, she was so excited to work with me, which made all the difference to me. In her nutrition sessions, I learned so much about why dieting is bad, why all foods are good foods, and what normalized eating looks like. 

Working with her in outpatient, I learned so much about how to take care of myself and I was always supported by her in everything. In one of our first couple of sessions, she told me that she thought that my brain had caught up with its health, but that I just hadn't decided to be kind to myself yet. She took the time to explain what that meant--being kind to myself meant being my own friend. How if I was talking to a friend, I would tell her not to use diet pills because they don't work, only give false hope, and are bad for her heart. If I was talking to a friend, I would tell her she needed to eat because food keeps her alive and functioning. And Julie told me that I would tell a friend all of her good qualities and say she was beautiful inside and out and she should accept herself the way she is because she can't change who she is. She can't change the body she was given. And in that conversation, I could tell how much Julie meant all of those things for me and how much she wanted me to believe them. 

"I came to love her the way you love someone who saves you from drowning."

It was always so easy to talk to Julie, even when things were hard. She let me talk about my body image issues, which are really hard for me to even talk about with anyone. And she was really comforting in those moments. She reminded me that I am stuck with the body I have--my shape, my height, my hair color, my skin complexion, etc, and that I might as well accept it and love it because its not going to change. She reminded me that I was more comfortable in my ED body than my weight restored body because I was comparing myself to a 12-year-old's body. She encouraged me to start loving my body now becase it is going to keep changing as I get older. And she was always really honest about her own body image struggles, and Julie always stressed how important self-care is in helping her on those days. 

But there were also times in outpatient when I was really angry with her, like in February when she told me that I basically needed to get my shit together or she was going to not see me until I was more willing. I was so angry with her about that. She told me that she can only do so much for me and at some point, I have to make the choice to listen. Julie also said that she gets offended when she spends time working with clients and they don't listen to what she's saying. I was really upset about this because I felt like she was just giving up on me, even though she told me that she cares about me, worries about me and wanted to keep working with me. She could be really harsh when I needed it to get back on track... Like the week that she threatened to send me back to day treatment for two weeks. 

As harsh as she was when I was struggling (and when I really needed a kick in the butt to get me back on track), Julie was incredibly encouraging and gave lots of praise when I was doing well. It always made me uncomfortable when she told me I was "rocking it" or some other compliment because I never really felt it, but I have no doubt that she believed it with all her heart. Today, after she gave me one last hug, she told me that she had complete faith in my ability to recover and stay healthy. She told me that she believed I could do anything that I put my mind to and that I was going to do great in college. Julie told me that she does not doubt my ability to succeed in anything. 

I don't know how to say goodbye to someone who has challenged me and changed my life forever. I don't know how to express my gratitude for everything that she has done for me or how to tell her how much I'll miss eating snacks with her or looking at pictures of her kids. 

I have no idea how to say goodbye to this woman who has helped to save me from myself.

Goodbyes are hard. I wish this one didn't have to happen, but I know it was inevitable. In a few short months, I'll be saying more goodbyes to people who saved my life and have changed me for good, and I'm not sure how I'll manage it.

How do you say goodbye to someone who you basically owe your life to, knowing that you'll probably never see them again because that's just how these things are? How do you let go? How do you find closure when the relationship ends? And how do you be okay when someone who saved your life is suddenly gone?