Now, I feel I need to preface this post by saying that I’m nowhere near approaching the finish line of being recovered from my eating disorder. After suffering from this illness for six years and having relapsed four times, I’ve come to accept that anorexia is a disease that I will likely be managing for the remainder of my life. I am, however, nearing the finish line of weight restoration (my dietician said that at this rate, I’ll be done in a week), which is very exciting, especially considering that I’ve been going through the process on an outpatient basis. Each time I’ve gone through weight restoration in the past, it’s been in an inpatient setting. Outpatient, for me, however, has looked different than it traditionally does. My team (consisting of my psychiatrist, dietician, and therapist) has been incredibly dedicated to me. Seriously, I don’t know how I got so lucky to wind up with them as my providers. Normally, outpatient means that the patient sees each of their providers once every one to two weeks. Not for me. I’ve seen each of them up to three times a week, ensuring that I was being monitored as closely as one possibly could be without admitting myself to an inpatient treatment program, something I was fighting hard to not do.
My mom has also played a vital role in getting me through this process. We’ve found numerous things that worked, as well as those that didn’t, and I thought it could be helpful to others who may be going through the same process if I shared what did. For one, we are constantly communicating. I know this can be a hard concept for some young adults, as they’re struggling with finding their independence, but if there’s one piece of advice I can give to someone recovering from an eating disorder, it’s that this is not your time to be independent. This is something I grappled with for a long time, but have finally just come to accept. With a lot of hard work, you’ll get there. I’ll get there. But the time to explore your independence is not now, while you’re in the throws of the most deadly mental illness in human history.
Our constant communication looks different day to day, depending on what I might need. It may be as simple as a Bible verse, texted to me during a meal. Or, it could be a Bitmoji (Yes, my mom uses Bitmoji. She is that cool.) along with a text saying, “Snack time?”. Many times, it’s a phone call, sometimes with me crying on the other end while she prays for God to give me peace of mind, other times with me just needing to vent about how overwhelmed and uncomfortable I feel. Whatever it be, she’s always there for me to turn to, and I can’t stress enough how important it is for someone going through recovery to have a person do what she does for me.
Other things we’ve found to be helpful have been:
- Following a strict meal plan, created by my dietician, my, mom, and myself. I have about ten that I cycle through and I am allowed to change up to one meal or snack a day, but everything else needs to remain the same, and I have to tell my mom what I am changing ahead of time. This reduces the amount of preoccupation I have throughout the day around what I will be eating, because it’s already set in stone.
- Doing a daily evaluation. Every day I record in a journal my: mood (in the morning and evening), level of motivation to recover, any acknowledgements of things I restricted that day, and both my high and low of the day. This is something we did when I was in inpatient treatment that I found helpful, so I decided to do it for myself in outpatient as well.
- Reading my blog each morning. It probably sounds silly, but about a month ago, I was telling my mom how helpful it had been for me to read some recovery blogs I’d found. She kind of laughed and said, “Bridge…Why don’t you read your blog? It’d probably help you!.” And it has! I read one post every morning, while I’m eating breakfast, to both remind me of where I’ve been, and to give me motivation for where I’m going.
- Spending time in God’s word. I’m an early riser and always have been, so for me, my special time with Jesus is in the morning. I love curling up on the couch, with a blanket and my fuzzy socks before anyone is awake, reading my devotional and Bible, sipping on a cup of coffee and having alone time with my Creator. I thank Him for everything He’s done for me, and ask Him to give me strength to fight this battle today.
- Decreasing my coffee consumption. I’m an avid coffee drinker and always have been, but my treatment team wasn’t too happy when they learned I was drinking up to five cups of black coffee a day. We agreed on a compromise: One to two cups of coffee I’m allowed to drink black, and if I want any more than that, it has to be a latte-type drink of some sort, or something with a milk base. I also have to order it with whole milk.
- Going home as much as possible. My treatment team initially wanted me to move home, but I was resistant, and eventually we came to a compromise that I would be home Thursday afternoons through Monday mornings, and at school Monday mornings through Thursday afternoons. This really has been a great compromise, as it’s allowed me to have the structure and support of my mom (i.e. her supervision around meals and snacks) for half of the week, and the friendship of my roommates and “normal” life of a college student the other half. The latter is something that I really think is important for me emotionally.
- Rewarding myself. This may sound silly and like I’m just looking for an excuse to give myself gifts, but really, it’s not. Each time I have a good weigh-in (aka, my weight has gone up), I do something special for myself. A couple times it’s been getting my nails done, one week I bought myself a new book, another time I got myself a pair of earrings… The idea is that the eating disorder tells me that gaining weight is bad. With positive re-inforcement, I’m hoping to teach myself that for me, it’s good.
- Paying attention to how much activity I’m doing. My dad bought me an Apple watch about a month ago, something that was really sweet of him and that I really appreciated, as an “I’m proud of you” gift. One result of it has been allowing me to see how much activity I’m doing. I’ve had to be really careful to not get obsessive about it, but I’ve done a great job at that, I think. I only check the activity tracker to see if I’ve done more than three miles of walking that day…which, on days that I’m working, I do, easily! Some days, I’m walking up to seven miles! I had no idea! It’s amazing how quickly all those trips to take the garbage out and deliver mail can add up. It also explains why I’ve had a harder time putting on weight in Corvallis than when at home in Portland. At home, I rarely walk more than two miles a day. I’ve been adding in a minimum of one Gatorade and sometimes more food to my meal plan on days I’m walking more than three miles, and I think that’s really helped in my restoration process as well.
I know it’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. While I’m nearing the finish line of weight restoration, I’m nearing the starting line of the rest of my life. And that is something that’s just finally started to click for me. I’m hopeful that the next time I post on this blog, I’ll be weight restored…and that is something that I can honestly say: I am so, SO excited about.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, check out the Recovery Resources section of my blog.
P.S. I’m having surgery on my other hand tomorrow. I probably will not be blogging again for a little while! Have a blessed month, everyone!