I was hit with a harsh reality this evening. Just an hour ago, actually. It was the truth that, ultimately, I’m the only one who can take responsibility for my recovery.
It took me over an hour to eat my afternoon snack that should’ve taken about a third of that time.
Now, it’s not like this is completely new, or something that’s never happened before, but it hasn’t happened recently. And that scared me.
What scared me the most wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat my snack, it was that I couldn’t figure out WHY. I’d had a good day. Nothing remotely triggering had come up.
My morning started with a walk to church in the sunshine with Claire, coffee with a new friend afterwards, and then running couple errands, eating lunch, and studying. A couple hours into memorizing the process of mitosis and various parts of the body, I decided to take a little break. It was good to get up and stretch my legs, but by the time I got back to studying, it was after 4:30, and I knew I should have my snack relatively soon if I didn’t want to still be full when it came time for dinner, or be eating late into the night.
I looked at my meal plan to see what I’d eaten so far, and knew pretty quickly that with what I was having for dinner and my evening snack, I needed to have an afternoon one. But all of a sudden, it was like the ED just began to rear it’s ugly head. I felt this stubbornness arise inside of me, and immediately had resolution with the thought that I would not be eating a snack. And no, I wouldn’t be making up for it at dinner. I’d just be short for the day. An hour removed from the situation, it really scares me how at peace I felt with that decision in the moment.
Fortunately, I felt the spirit of Jesus come over me, and after about fifteen minutes, walked to the fridge, and the cupboard, made myself a cup of coffee, and decided that I could at least sit with the food in front of me and see if I could get myself to eat it.
One hour later, I’d finished.
I’m often asked to compare my two experiences dealing with recovery. The first being when I was in the St. Vincent eating disorder program for adolescents, and the second being a combination of residential and then back at St. Vincent’s, but in the adult program. I’ve said numerous times that I got much more out of St. Vincent’s the second time around than I did the first, which obviously raises the question of, “Why?”.
Sure, I took away different variations on things that helped me to cope with anxiety, stress and depression the second time than I did the first. I was older the second time around (19 versus 15), and I had a different therapist. But it’s not like there was really ever a new technique or skill developed or discovered, in the four years between my times in treatment. So why did I feel like I gained SO much more out of the exact same program?
In the end, all it comes down to is a difference in responsibility. In the adolescent program, though the structure was almost identical and the groups almost exactly the same, we (the patients) were being walked through recovering while being a child, living at home with mom and dad. We were taught to follow our meal plan, but always had mom and dad to look at it and make sure we were. Parents came to meal planning groups every week, and that was when the next 21 meals would be determined, parents included.
The second time around, though I was still living with my mom and had her and my dad’s support 100%, I was in a program that taught us how recovery would look as an independent person. Not everyone lived at home with their parents. In fact, some lived in hospital-provided housing across the street because their own home was too far away to commute each day. Meal planning was done on our own, without parental involvement, and though, granted, I would talk to my mom about what she’d like to make, I was expected to have the plans completed, turned in, and follow them 100%, regardless of whether or not my mommy was there with me to buy the groceries, cook the meal, and measure out (and eat) the portions I needed to. I had to get myself to the program every day, after having breakfast on my own because my mom had already left for work, and there was no one there to buckle me in the car and drive me up Barnes road. This is up to me. This is recovery as an adult. This is taking ownership of my recovery.
I really think that made the biggest difference. Yes, there were other blessings along the way that made the second time around even better. I met Carolyn at Canopy Cove, and formed a friendship that I know will be life-long. I bonded with the girls in my group at St. V’s, something I hadn’t really done in the adolescent program. I became more dependent on Jesus the second time around, as I realized how much I’d left Him when I was in the disorder, though He never left my side. But the greatest difference was the ownership and responsibility I had to claim over this disorder.
And tonight, as I sit here thinking about how I just ate my snack, which I so, so badly did not want to eat, I can’t help thinking what a victory it is that I did eat it. Five years down the road, is it really going to matter if I ate this snack or not? Will I even remember? Probably not. But by eating it, I set the tone for this upcoming week. For this upcoming month. For this next year. For this journey of life in recovery as a young, independent adult.
And for that, I am incredibly thankful for the ADULT St. Vincent Eating Disorder program.