When you decide to go in for treatment for an eating disorder, they tell you that you won’t succeed in treatment unless you’re ready for it. The thing is, I was ready for it. I was ready to finally let go of anorexia after years of fighting, but treatment did nothing for me. I went through 8 weeks of daily treatment and I wasn’t allowed to go to work or school. I put my life on hold for two months for something that made me feel worse and gave me nothing to work with. I realized that treatment isn’t for everyone – it wasn’t for me, and that’s totally okay. I had to learn how to get better on my own, and it was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not fully free of Anorexia, but trust me, I’m way further on my path to recovery than I was after being in treatment.
1. There was no compassion in treatment.
The staff at the treatment center I was at made it clear that they were just there to get paid. Do you know how in the movies about mental health treatment the nurses are the nicest people? That wasn’t the case at mine. There, I was seen as a patient, not as a person, and it really deterred me from wanting to get better on my own. I would mention to the therapists there that I was in ‘anorexia recovery,’ and they’d tell me I wasn’t allowed to say that because I was in treatment, not recovery, and those conversations stuck with me because I realized that they didn’t care about my journey once I was out of there. The lack of compassion in treatment made me realize that if I wanted to get rid of my anorexia, I needed to find people who genuinely cared enough to actually help me while I helped myself.
2. You can’t base your progress on how many worksheets you complete.
I have a binder in my closet filled with every single one of the worksheets they made me fill out in treatment. It was as if my entire recovery was dependent on whether or not I was able to finish the worksheets we were given. If we had a problem, we were given a worksheet on problem-solving. If we needed to combat a negative thought, there was a worksheet for that too. Eating disorder treatment is not, and cannot be dependent on the worksheets that they gave me in treatment. The progress that I’ve made on my own, I did without filling out the same generic worksheet twice a day. Don’t get me wrong, writing things down on paper is truly a life-saver for me, but there’s a difference between organizing your thoughts in order to get better and filling out a worksheet because a doctor thinks that that’s the only way to help you.
3. I needed to figure out why I wanted to get rid of my eating disorder.
My entire path to recovery was based on the fact that I needed to get better so that my family and people who loved me wouldn’t have to see me suffer anymore. It wasn’t because I wanted to get better for myself. Using other people as motivation to get better might help a little bit, but I definitely believe that you need to realize that you need to get better for yourself. Treatment, for me, endorsed the idea that I needed to get better for my family and my boyfriend, and less about myself, but once I left, I focused every aspect of my self-taught recovery on me, and I think that’s really important.
4. When I was in treatment, there was a constant fear of getting kicked out.
I hated this so much. I couldn’t do anything without the fear of getting kicked out of treatment. When you’re mentally ill, you don’t have as much control over your actions or your moods and in treatment, they expected us to be the perfect patients or else we’d get discharged early. We couldn’t miss a day due to depression or a migraine without getting kicked out. We weren’t allowed to live normal lives outside of treatment or else we’d be reprimanded. I went out with my friends, followed treatment guidelines 100%, and still got in trouble. It was the most normal I had felt since I got there, but it wasn’t good enough for them. I couldn’t get better like that.
5. I had to learn how to listen to my body.
This was a big one for me. When I was in treatment, they really enforced the idea of having a routine and mechanical eating, which I totally get. But I’m also a really intuitive person, I live better when I do things as my body feels the need to – it’s just more natural to me. In treatment, I basically had to ignore all of the things my body was telling me. If I wasn’t hungry, I had to eat, which totally makes sense since I was being treated for Anorexia. But if I was still hungry, I wasn’t allowed to eat, and I thought that was super weird. I wasn’t allowed to do yoga to help with anxiety, and my whole body-to-mind connection was thrown off. I had to learn how to listen to my body, and let it guide my actions (within reason, of course), and it honestly helped me so much.