Monday was the 16th anniversary of my admission to an eating disorder clinic. I was only 21 and completely exhausted when admitted. With blood, sweat, and tears (lots of tears), the clinic kick-started my recovery, and after my five-week stay, I emerged as a grounded atheist with newfound curves and the potential for a future.
The clinic functioned on strict rules and schedules. Patients were monitored at all times — even in the bathroom. After a few weeks of healthy meals, my body began to change, but there were even more changes to come.
I met with a psychiatrist at the clinic and was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. Soon after, psychotic and mood symptoms unrelated to the eating disorder prompted a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.
With bulimia, I knew I was sick. I knew the behaviors were harmful and did them anyway. It had been going on for years. But with schizoaffective disorder, I didn’t know what I was experiencing was a mental illness.
I had always questioned the existence of god, but at the same time, I was experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations that I assumed were spiritual in nature. I thought I could communicate with dead people. I was always looking for an explanation and that’s the best I had — the only thing that made any bit of sense to me. I never considered it an illness. In fact, sometimes I considered it a gift.
I came to the clinic *almost* an atheist — I didn’t believe in god and the hallucinations were the only thing tying me to any sort of spirituality. Enter Risperdal — the first antipsychotic I was ever prescribed. It kicked in after a few days and everything became quiet and still. It felt unreal, but to my amazement, it really was real.
That was the final nail in the coffin to any spirituality I had and I declared myself an atheist. What a freeing moment.
Today I live a really normal life despite occasionally struggling with my eating disorder and schizoaffective disorder. My symptoms certainly don’t pack the punch they used to, and I can move on pretty quickly after experiencing them. I have lots of help — my family is always around and I have an amazing doctor that I have seen for over a decade.
Every year on September 7th, I find a small way to celebrate my clinic admission day. I’ve come a long way.