Guest Post by LM , Alsana Alumna
When I sat at the gates of Alsana waiting for them to open, I made a commitment to myself “This is the last time you are going to drive through those gates and give it your all, bare your soul and follow instructions and be honest about the struggle”. I had been to treatment before, and played the role of the compliant client, the ‘good girl’ afraid to reveal just how much I was struggling with each bite, but this time I gave myself permission to have a voice and to do it differently, because this was going to the be last time. And to the best of my ability, I followed through, even to the point I got a non-compliance form.
It’s been about 6 months since my discharge, and to say it has gone smoothly would be a lie, to say I have been able to manage my symptoms perfectly would also be a lie. That being said I have fought with all I had each and every day. Some days that looked like 100% compliance with my meal plan, some days it looked like conquering a fear food, or asserting my voice, while other days it was simply getting out of bed when I felt like I couldn’t face the world or sitting on my couch curled up fighting like hell not to run to the sink to purge or break down in tears for allowing myself to feed my body appropriately despite how wrong it felt. Most days what it looks like is “doing this recovery thing” despite every voice in my head telling me it is wrong, bad, weak (well I am sure you get the point).
There have days where I have doubted if it was actually possible to be fully recovered from an eating disorder, For me, if the ED was just about food, then I would have no doubt, because I can go for a period of time, disconnected from my emotions and body and “do recovery” eat what I am supposed to, avoid behaviors that are not healthy for me and do okay, it is when I connect to my emotions, my body and my trauma that I find it nearly impossible to stay connected AND stay symptom free. For me my trauma is so encoded in my body ( like many trauma survivors) it feels more manageable to use symptoms than live connected to the thing that feels like it has betrayed me (my body). And logically and rationally I KNOW that it is not more manageable. I worked hard during my time to counter these beliefs and try to integrate the trauma, and I made definite progress, most notably that I can now wear my hair down without being overcome with the panic I felt when it was associated with the traumas. However, life being what it is has provided many situations testing the strength of what I learned. There have been times when I feel I have failed life’s tests miserably, where I fell into the same trauma reaction or pattern, engaged in a reenactment or simply found myself paralyzed in fear. It is not as easy out in the real world, and it is not supposed to be. At times I wish circumstances were such that I could have stayed longer to process more fully my traumas and yet I know that real recovery doesn’t start until I enter back into my real life and use what I have been given, and remain honest about the struggle. For the first time ever, I actually have a full outpatient team, therapist, nutritionist and psychiatrist/ PCP. At times it sucks, because I HATE having to admit when I am not meeting a goal. I hate having to be accountable for my meal plan. I hate NOT knowing my weight… AND I know that all of this is part of the recovery process.
I walked into recovery this time knowing full well it wasn’t going to be a linear process, what I guess I didn’t expect was that even post Residential and PHP, I would have to fight like hell each day and come away with new bumps and bruises and get knocked down and then get back up and start all over again the next day. They say it gets easier, well I don’t know who ‘they’ are but I sure hope they are right, and deep down in my body I know they are, I just wish it would hurry up already!