Eating Disorder Recovery — I survived Christmas in treatment.

Last December I was admitted to a treatment center for eating disorders. I spent the holidays there and was discharged in February. I want to share with you my journal entry for Christmas Day. As an atheist, I don’t give a fuck about Christmas but I do give a fuck about spending time with my family and that just wasn’t possible last year. 

Just a few days before Christmas there was a Covid outbreak at the treatment center and we were quarantined in our apartments just a few blocks away. Our groups and appointments were done virtually. All of our meals and snacks were delivered to us and we ate on camera. 

Christmas was like any other day as far as treatment was concerned. We had groups and supervised meals all day. 

I often took notes in my journal during group therapy sessions and I decided to leave the notes in this entry because I thought they were interesting. We discussed anger and judgment on this day. I wrote down a few quotes that day as well.

Christmas was surprisingly hard.

 

12/25/21 Day Ten

I am slipping – with my meals and my attitude. I’m feeling hopeless. I fantasize about the day I’m discharged and get to go home with my family but there’s so much work ahead of me to get to that point that I don’t know if I’ll ever get there – or even if I want to.

This morning I’m doing a video call with my family to watch Karly open her gifts but I’m thinking of texting my husband to cancel. I’m already a mess and I don’t want Karly to see me so sad. Christmas should be happy for kids.

I didn’t think Christmas would bother me but this sucks so bad.

I texted my husband and he said the right thing – “Okay if you’re sure. We love you so much!” We’re going to talk later in the day.

I feel bad for feeling hopeless earlier. Time is going fast. I need to put in the work. I sure as hell don’t want to go back to feeling sick all the time. That’s why I’m here. I need to take advantage of this opportunity – even if it isn’t quite what I thought it would be. I know I can try harder.

Do I have too high of expectations for my recovery right now?

I’m still tearing up thinking about not seeing Karly today. This is going to be a long day. Tomorrow isn’t going to be any easier – it’s my wedding anniversary.

“I confuse familiarity with safety.”

If I was with my family on Christmas, I wouldn’t actually be there. This is where I need to be.

“You can feel multiple feelings. They can coexist.”

“Loneliness is an invitation for self-care.”

Can you dip grilled cheese in ranch? I’m afraid to ask. I really wanted the leftover ranch from my carrots. I was going to stick my fingers in it but I didn’t.

Meals have been rough today. An apple and part of a banana for breakfast, pretzels for snack, and grilled cheese for lunch. I gagged and spit the grilled cheese out. I tried so hard and took several bites. Is it okay to just not like things? I’m forcing myself to like things and it doesn’t seem to be working.

 

Purpose of Emotion Group: Anger

What does anger look like? How do you know you’re angry or that someone else is angry?

Cry
Need to get out – visceral feel
See things through a different lens
Smallest thing bothersome
Don’t communicate
Irritability
Yell
Shut down
Harder to use direct communication
Body gets hot
Shake
Feel the need to pace/move
Fall asleep, escapism
Crossed arms
Short responses to questions
Impulsive
Affect relationships
Antagonize others
Catastrophizing
Take it out on myself or others
Core beliefs
All or nothing thinking
Taking sides
Bursting – no longer holding it in
Racing thoughts
Social media, angry scroll/post
Reinforce labels/stereotypes
Red hot anger
Lose control
Feels unheard
Feels invalidated
Scream, trying to be heard
Punish self
Overexplain, need to prove
Tunnel vision
Mask
Not responsive, shut down
Sarcasm, using humor
Cold
Norms may be different

Anger Iceberg

Embarrassed
Hurt
Worried
Offended
Regret
Disappointed

Emotions you’ve noticed under anger –

Fear
Hurt
Out of control
Helpless
Powerless
Hopeless
Scared
Frustration
Confusion
Low self-worth
Anxiety

Benefits to anger –

Feel powerful
Release
Tell us something, morals and ethics
Passion
Shows who/what we care about
A way of taking care of yourself
Reaffirming
Validating
Social justice movements
Protective
Tell a story
Can be empowering
Make changes

Cost to acting on anger – not underlying emotion

Reacting instead of responding
Losing relationships
Increase in depression, SI
May not help situations

How to honor underlying emotions –

Speaking the truth
What is this telling me?
How is this emotion serving me?
Using coping skills
Not masking or bottling up
Being honest with self
Valid feeling, choose how to express it
Self-compassion

Anger is a spectrum, not necessarily bad or just one thing.

Anger is a secondary emotion.

 

Group: Judgment and Nonjudgmental Stance

What does judgment look like?

Criticism (from self and others)
Disapproval
Rejection
Quick decision
Labeling someone as their actions
“Right way”
Should statements
Unempathetic
“No excuses”
Backed by past experiences

Benefits to judging –

Can keep me safe
Reading a room
“Is this okay?”
Brings awareness
Helps me create boundaries
Gathering information
Protective
Starting place for insight
Impacts worldview
Honest

Costs to judging –

Past can keep us stuck
Might not get to know others, assumptions
No benefit of the doubt
Jumps to conclusions
Isolating
Comparing
Increase in insecurity
Increases anxiety
Lack of curiosity

Skills for nonjudgmental stance –

Differentiating between “I did a bad thing” vs. “I am a bad person”
Look at your own biases
How could this be serving me?

It’s easier to have a judgment than to sit with the unknown.

Can be a filtering system

 

Is it weird that so much of this relates to my relationship with food? Maybe that’s my relationship with myself? Core beliefs?

Maybe that’s ridiculous. I don’t know.

I judge food and my eating habits as well as others’ eating habits.

Food scares me if I’ve never tried it.

 

I’m having an urge to binge. I had a blueberry muffin and it was fantastic. Now I just want more.

Today has been so hard. I don’t give a fuck about Christmas but I do give a fuck about my family. I’m sitting on my bed letting myself feel my feelings for a minute. I was going to say I’m a mess again, but that’s not fair. I am a mother missing her child and a wife missing her husband.

Tomorrow is going to be hard – it’s our wedding anniversary.

Today is Saturday. I haven’t left the apartment since Tuesday. Everyone keeps saying that it’s quite a bit warmer than usual outside. I wouldn’t know. I keep saying I’ll be good and go for a walk, but I really don’t want to. I thought that was one way I could lose weight while I’m here, but I just can’t get off my lazy ass and do it.

I’ve also had a headache for the past few days. After program, I just want to lay around the apartment.

I really enjoyed the group on anger today. My anxiety often manifests as anger. I get irritable and impulsive, and the underlying emotion is fear.

But sometimes the underlying emotion to my anger is feeling unheard. People know me as quiet but I’m quiet because I feel like I’m never given a space to speak. I feel people view me as childlike and therefore my opinions don’t matter. It hurts. Maybe that’s why I like writing so much – I can say what’s on my mind and no one can stop me or interrupt me. I’m not exactly sure how to fix that. I could try to speak up more but sometimes I think it’s better just to write more.

Feeling unheard makes me feel powerless which feeds my low self-worth. Writing gives me back my power and raises my self-worth. I’m proud of the projects I’ve worked on. I’ve grown as a writer over the past year and that also improves my self-worth.

It has to be me because I feel unheard in many different situations with lots of different people. The anger sits with me and I think my core beliefs come into play –

No one likes me.
I’m not very smart.

Sometimes I feel I am ambitious so I can use my successes to prove that I’m worthy. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone cares or is paying attention.

I looked at everyone’s body here and compared them to mine. I can’t help it. I’m relieved that I’m not the fattest person here. I’m somewhere in the middle. I wish a dress code could be enforced because I’ve been triggered by what some people wear.

God that sounded bitchy.

How is this judgment serving me?

I’m insecure and don’t want to stand out in a negative way. I need reassurance. I want people to like me and think I’m pretty.

For some reason, that’s all important to me.

I shouldn’t want people to see me as pretty. When this is all over I want them to see me as resilient.

Costs of this judgment?

Assumptions, increased insecurities and anxiety. Eventually I think no one likes me and I isolate.

I survived Christmas.

It was an introspective day. I’m fucking up pretty bad with my meal plan but still feeling okay physically.

It’s pretty amazing sitting here by the window twenty-five floors up in downtown Chicago. I can see in the windows of hundreds of apartments. There are lights, people, Christmas trees. It’s just this tiny glimpse into other people’s lives. I don’t know how anyone lives here but I’m still curious.

 

Staying in Chicago was hard. Being away from my family was even harder. I survived Christmas but shortly after I was moved to a higher level of care. I will share more on that later.

Eating Disorder Recovery — A Little More from My First Journal

I want to share a little more of my first journal. This entry was written two days after I found out I was going to a treatment center in Chicago and four days prior to my admission. I was starting to prepare to leave. It was incredibly difficult dealing with insurance and admissions but now it was becoming real.

12/12/21

A couple of days ago, my husband said he doesn’t know anyone who obsesses about food like I do.

He’s right. It’s an obsession, addiction.

 

3:30pm — Ordered Tropical Smoothie Cafe (again). Got the same wrap and smoothie. 

Couldn’t finish it even though it was the first time I’ve eaten today.

We order from Door Dash almost every night – mostly because of me. I don’t want to cook and fast food is gross. It gives you a lot of selection and variety but I tend to order the same things over and over.

But it’s very expensive. My husband said they’ll save money when I’m in treatment and not ordering Door Dash.

 

My Amazon packages came – new jeans, long shirts to cover my butt when I wear leggings, and extra toiletries. I still need to do some shopping locally before I go.

 

I’m still waiting for something to blow up – something has to go wrong. Finding treatment has been an absolute rollercoaster and I don’t think the ride has come to a complete stop yet.

I’m getting ready to go but I’m cautious.

I’m so nervous about having to eat food I don’t like.

My daughter is starting to get upset. She knows I’m leaving. She mentioned it a couple of times today. She cried a little this afternoon and tonight she said she wants to go with me.

Deep down I was thinking she’s closer to my husband so it won’t be as big of a deal if I leave.

This might be harder than I thought.

 

My eating disorder is so ingrained in my life and it has been for years. I don’t know how I’m ever going to overcome it. It’s every day – every meal.

I feel I will be focusing on minimizing symptoms rather than doing away with them.

 

I keep thinking about how I’ll introduce myself once I get there. Of course I will tell them about my family. Do I tell them my age? Do I tell them I’ve been through this before? Do I tell them I have schizoaffective disorder? I mean, they’ll see the muscle tremors from the lithium. I definitely want to tell them I’m a writer.

 

7:30pm — Got to get high now! I won’t be able to do this in treatment.

 

9pm — Ordered Pizza Hut. Had four slices and two breadsticks. I still want more.

 

Leah left a voicemail – possibly Thursday at 9am?

Will it be worth it? I’m going to be putting my whole family under a lot of stress in order to get treatment. It better pay off.

At the time I wrote this I was at a point where I knew I was really sick and I also knew if I ate I would feel better but my hunger and satiety cues were completely gone. Most days I felt nauseous. In addition to recreational use, I would often use weed to have an appetite. I would get high, eat, and for a couple hours, I would feel normal.

I had no idea what was in store for me at treatment…or that it would change everything.

Eating Disorder Recovery — Sharing a Little Bit of My First Journal

I started keeping a journal a little over a month before being admitted to the treatment center. I was seeing a local therapist every other week at the time, but my eating disorder soon became too much for outpatient appointments. There was definitely a point of no return where I knew I couldn’t go on – I had to get help. When I made that realization I felt I slight boost of energy – a slight glimmer of hope – that helped me get to where I needed to be. I needed it because it took some work to find the proper treatment for my symptoms. 

The door’s been cracked.
I can see light peaking through.
That slight glimmer of hope
is holding my head above water
for the moment…

 

I was constantly sick and on many days stayed home in bed. I missed my family’s Thanksgiving celebration which was the event that set the ball in motion. I knew I needed help at that point.

11/25/21

I’ve been very sick lately. It was like having the flu four times in two months. I went to my therapist crying. I knew something was really wrong. She said I needed to go inpatient. I’m still trying to figure it all out.

In middle school, when I started a habit of bingeing and fasting, the 6th grade me didn’t see our future. Deep down I know I’m a smart woman and I never meant for this to happen.

 

I felt I needed to make some notes to prepare for my phone assessments with two different treatment centers.

11/28/21

List of Symptoms

– Gag and spit out food at almost every meal.

– Sometimes vomit

– Very, very picky. I won’t eat fruits and veggies and I don’t like the taste of meat. Things I used to like don’t taste good anymore. The selection and variety of foods I’ll actually eat are getting smaller and smaller.

– I skip meals. Sometimes I eat one meal in the afternoon.

– Sometimes I eat food out of the trash.

– Sometimes if I find a good I really like I’ll binge because I don’t know the next time I’ll find food I like. I find comfort in eating a lot of the foods I like but it always leads to me feeling out of control.

– I eat the same foods over and over again. Right now I’m stuck on turkey sandwiches – as long as there’s a lot of mayo or dressing so I can’t taste the meat.

– I’ve been feeling very sick physically for the last two months. I see a GI doctor and he’s done lots of procedures and tests (endoscopy, colonoscopy, bloodwork, stool sample, ultrasound and MRI of abdomen) and hasn’t found any medical causes for my illness.

– I feel my hunger signals are messed up right now. Sick or hungry?

– My weight is affecting my health (high blood pressure and cholesterol) 

– Diabetes has been ruled out with recent bloodwork.

– I’m overweight and upset about it, but I feel more afraid of food than I am of gaining more weight.

What I Want From Treatment

  • Stop feeling sick
  • Regain control
  • Lose weight

What I Fear About Treatment

  • Getting even fatter
  • Not getting better/unwilling to make changes
  • Family unwilling to make changes

Tuesday 1:30pm – assessment

 

Finding the proper treatment was even harder than I thought.

12/3/21

The steps to recovery
are covered in mud,
there’s no handrail,
upper floors don’t exist,
and the climb is steep.
I’m out of breath
and wearing the wrong shoes.

 

This is part of a letter I wrote when one treatment center suggested outpatient due to my rumination disorder:

Thank you for taking the time to do my assessment last Tuesday. However, I feel like I am screaming out for help and no one is listening. I am desperate.

My eating disorder has consumed me. It is an everyday battle that I am losing. It has negatively impacted my functioning and relationships. I have missed work and family gatherings. My husband has become somewhat of a caregiver and my impressionable young daughter is watching me suffer. Everyone in my life is worried.

I am very sick and very miserable right now. I am losing weight and am concerned about my health.

I have started looking for a dietician and occupational therapist like you suggested, however, I don’t think outpatient is going to cut it at this time. I need daily help to get me back on track. 

Please help. I am really struggling and I’m begging you to reconsider.

Thank you,
Megan Rahm

When I wrote that letter I felt absolutely desperate and thought it was a long shot. However, that letter is what got me the treatment that I needed. I learned to advocate for myself which can be extremely important when it comes to healthcare. This is literally what saved me.

Prior to writing this letter, I was turned down by another treatment center also for rumination disorder. They said it would trigger the other patients. I thought I was running out of options so when I got a response to my letter I sobbed. I couldn’t believe it worked and that I would finally get treatment.

 

12/6/21

Went to my therapy appointment. We talked a lot about how anxiety, OCD, and grief all contribute to my eating disorder. She said I’m holding a lot inside.

She’s probably right.

Treating my eating disorder is going to be a long and difficult process. I feel like going to the treatment center when I was 21 was merely putting on a band-aid. There’s a lot of work to be done yet.

I admitted to my therapist that I held back when I saw my GI doctor last week. They asked if I had been feeling sick (nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea) and I said no. I thought – what’s the point? I’m getting treatment for my eating disorder soon.

I hope my writing will expose the process of getting treatment – just how difficult it can be, all the hoops you have to jump through when you already feel like shit. It takes a lot of strength and courage.

My therapist said that story needs to be told.

This was my second round of treatment – nearly twenty years after the first – and I documented every minute of it. 

From time to time I will be sharing bits and pieces of my journals here.

A Couple of Journal Entries: Looking Forward to Discharge (Eating Disorder Recovery)

I wrote constantly during my latest round of treatment for my eating disorder. I have several journals from the experience which I am now typing out to use for a later project. The journals can be hard to look at – I experience a range of emotions. Sad because I remember what that hopelessness felt like. Empowerment because look how far I’ve come. Guilt because I left my family for two months to get treatment four hours away in Chicago. I just wanted to go home. This was written on 1/26/22:

Have you ever been away for so long that you swear you’ll never take your home for granted again?

I’ve been feeling that way lately.

I love my family but now I’m going to show them I love them even more.

I love my city but now I’m going to be the proudest Toledoan there ever was.

I’m going to play with my kitties.

I’m going to water my plants the perfect amount.

I might even clean my house.

I just want to be home.

It was very exciting when I was finally given my discharge date and had something to look forward to. It was definitely a light at the end of the tunnel.

On 1/28/22 I found out I would be officially discharged on 2/13/22.

This was written on 1/30/22:

Things I Want to Do When I Get Home:

  • Put more effort into my job. It has its moments, but for the most part, I really enjoy my job and I work for people who genuinely care for me. I have the potential to do some great things and really help people. I need to make it happen. I need to show the higher-ups that my program is important and that the grant that funds it needs to be renewed every year.
  • Spend more quality time with my daughter. There are so many times we are in the same room together and I’m not even paying attention to her. That’s got to change. My daughter needs her mom and now I see how much she misses me.
  • Take recovery seriously. I need to get connected with an outpatient team because it’s going to be really hard not to fall back into old habits and there’s no fucking way I’m going through all this again. When the thirteenth comes I’m getting the fuck out and I’m never coming back.
  • Write! Write! Write! That goes without saying. I need to give my blog more love!

Also, when I get home I’m going to be all about personal care. I’ve only shaved once in the past six weeks. I haven’t had a bush in a long time and now I’m pretty hairy. I’m going to moisturize and wash my hair. Pluck my eyebrows. I’ve really let myself go while in treatment and I know I will feel better once I do all of these things.

I can’t wait to take a bubble bath!

I recently found these two entries while typing up journal #5 (of 8) and I just thought they were a lot of fun to read now that I’ve been home for a few months.

Have I kept my promises? For the most part, I have! (Except for the house cleaning part.)

I still struggle in recovery but these journals are proof of the progress I’ve made.