A few months ago, I had to make a decision. Having undergone treatment for anorexia yet still quite a bit underweight, my therapist recommended that I go to New York for residential treatment. She said she couldn’t treat me any longer because there had been no change in my condition for almost a year.
Petrified and intrigued, I began the lengthy intake process to assess if it was right for me.
On the plus side, it was a shot at a type of treatment I had not done before, it was free and, if I played my cards right, I could earn day passes to visit New York City. Even with Covid, it was tempting.
On the minus side, it would require me to leave my family for at least 10 weeks, I would be living in a hospital setting where privileges like going outside had to be earned through weight gain, and the odds of success were marginally better than the programs I had already complete numerous times.
As much as I was willing to try many things to eliminate my eating disorder, I needed to feel like the odds were in my favour. I read everything I could about anorexia treatment and recovery rates. I researched medical trials and even explored shock therapy. The more I looked and the more I read, the more convinced I became that the treatment I needed wasn’t out there – not for people like me, with severe and enduring anorexia. Not yet.
Residential treatment in NY, while more intense than any other treatment I had done, was exactly the same program I had completed at the Douglas and The Clinic over the past five years. At best, the residential program would increase my chances of recovery by a few percentage points. Not very promising when the success rate for existing anorexia treatment is about 30%.
So we made the decision to forego residential treatment for now and see how things went. If the anorexia increased in severity and my health got worse, NY would be my next step. If, however, I remained stable, we could continue to look for other clinical trials and hope for the advent of new treatment.
I went into this plan expecting the worst. For the past five years, I have ridden a roller coaster that has had me hit huge highs in early summer only to plummet into depression and severe anorexia come November. This cycle has been my pattern every year…for five years…
There I was, at the beginning of September, making the decision to give stability another try without a therapist, while starting a new consulting mandate and heading into my rocky season.
As the days passed, I became increasingly puzzled. I kept waiting for my spirit to start to weaken, kept expecting to feel like getting through the day was a challenge. At the same time, I felt true desires to see people and interact with the world – things I had not felt for years.
And slowly…almost imperceptibly, contentment started to creep in. It is almost Christmas and I have not felt the cold fingers of depression grip me. I now feel something I have not felt in 5 years: happiness….rather, sustained happiness. It feels solid and enduring rather than fragile and fleeting. It is there throughout my days, like a new haircut that I am still getting used to. I do a double take every time I become aware of this serenity.
This is deliciously new.
Even more amazingly, my eating is still ok. It is not perfect and the desire to restrict is still extremely strong. But, at the same time, I continue to find reasons to eat.
A few weeks ago, I was tempted to skip breakfast. “You can’t,” a little voice whispered. “You are hosting a brainstorm and the participants deserve your A game.”
Another morning, I was yet again tempted to skip breakfast. “Hold on,” the familiar voice said. “You are going to read a story to Zoe’s class. She deserves better than a hungry and faint mom.”
These are small wins. Real recovery will require me to not need a reason to allow myself to eat when hungry. Real recovery will see me eating because I deserve better (not just others). Still, I take these moments as victories because, not too long ago, no reason was good enough to eat.
So, while I know this is not the end of my story, I feel like the journey of the last five years is coming to a close – this Blog along with it. I want to thank everyone that supported this journaling catharsis. You gave me hope and strength, and allowed me to feel seen.
Am I recovered? No. Do I have the perfect job, body, personality? No. Is anything in my life, perfect? Hell no!!!!
But I am happy. And I cannot think of a better place to start my new Chapter.