Emily*, a 27-year-old in the medical field, had struggled with an eating disorder for most of her life. She faced some of the darkest days of her eating disorder before deciding to pursue treatment at Alsana. One year ago, Emily was discharged from Alsana and is living a full life in recovery. Hear Emily’s story — and learn why Alsana was where her recovery began.
About her eating disorder: “I have pretty much had an eating disorder my entire life, since I was a young child,” Emily says. She considered it “issues around food,” she says. “I never thought of it as an eating disorder.” She later was diagnosed with both anorexia and anxiety. As an adult working in the medical field, Emily began seeing a therapist. “I’d had intense anxiety my whole life and things just spiraled from there.”
How she made her residential treatment decision: As things became more challenging, Emily was losing weight rapidly. “My therapist told me I needed a higher level of care and I didn’t know what that meant. I was living on the East Coast at that time. I said, I can’t leave my job for treatment, this is crazy.” Her therapist gave her an ultimatum — pursue residential treatment, or check herself into the hospital.
Why she chose Alsana: Initially, Emily looked for treatment centers on the East Coast, near where she was living. “But my therapist recommended Alsana, and she really wanted me to go there,” Emily says. She completed her intake process on a Friday and arrived at Alsana’s St. Louis location on Monday.
Facing her challenges: “I left Alsana and St. Louis after the first few weeks because I was so ashamed,” Emily recalls, thinking back on one of her lowest moments. “I didn’t want my family to know I was there, I needed to get back to work . . . I left before I should have, with my eating disorder totally in tact. I planned to just keep living that way, but it didn’t work. My eating disorder just got worse and I ended up relapsing even harder. In the moment, it was awful. I was learning the hard way over and over that it wasn’t working. I got to a place where I was the sickest I had ever been and my outpatient team would no longer see me unless I had a higher level of care.” Emily returned to Alsana in St. Louis, Missouri, for treatment.
Emily’s turning point: “My turning point was probably when I began to realize that I couldn’t get away with not doing the therapy work,” Emily says. As she progressed through all of Alsana’s levels of treatment, from residential to IOP, she gained crucial understanding of the role her eating disorder played in her life.
The therapeutic difference at Alsana: “I got a lot of insight into what my eating disorder is about and how it has followed me through life,” she says. “Initially, it was having the insight into how secure attachment related to my eating disorder — realizing how the eating disorder develops to protect you, but how it actually works through disconnection.” She also valued her group therapy experiences. “Seeing reflections of yourself in other people, whether it’s something that you value or that you are ashamed of, is one of the biggest things that was helpful to me in treatment.”
Emily’s life today: One year after her time at Alsana, many things are drastically different her life. “I have insight into what a full life can be, and what I want in life has completely shifted. I feel less hopeless for sure. My lapses don’t turn into relapses, and I’m more able to pick myself up when I am struggling.”
Finding joy in recovery: As a result of her time at Alsana, Emily finds joy in many aspects of her life. Now living in Chicago, she’s back to work in the medical field. “I adore my job, I love being a nurse and I just started graduate school,” she says. “I have people close to me — I’m much better at letting others in and being true.” She also credits her outpatient team for her ongoing growth.
Alsana’s legacy: “I’m very happy that I was able to go to Alsana and that I had the experience I did. Alsana gave me the insight to rescue myself.” She is particularly grateful for her Alsana treatment team. “A handful of really incredible people who worked there really connected with me, and made treatment much more manageable. They gave me an idea of what life could look like outside of an eating disorder and it was motivating.”
Her advice for someone facing an eating disorder today: “I was horrified by the entire idea of treatment initially. I felt that it wasn’t for me, I felt I didn’t belong there,” she reflects. “But ultimately, the insight that you will gain from going to treatment is worth going. It’s going to be endlessly hard and it is worth it.”
If Emily’s story sounds like yours, contact Alsana. If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, reach out for help. Call us today for a confidential assessment: 888-822-8938.
* This Alsana client requested anonymity because of her profession in the medical field.