There are so many things I learned, and skills I obtained while being in treatment. Some are just silly and enjoyable, others are deep long lasting skills and opinions and mindsets I acquired.
1. How to make an omelet
Ok, this one is just kinda silly, but I had been doing it wrong for years. Now, I can make beautiful omelets, that taste amazing and hit all of my exchanges. It wasn’t only learning how to make an omelet, but the bonding over meal prep and meal time. It was always a stressful time for all of us, but being able to bond, teach, learn, and make cooking something more than just a chore, was great!
2. Yoga and how freaking kick ass it is
I am very, very competitive and very into sports. Of course, I was denied exercise privilege for weeks. I was going completely insane, I would workout in my room, doing crunches on the rug, step ups on a chair. It got to the point where I was climbing the stairs almost 20x a day because I felt so cooped up and antsy.
We had yoga twice a week, I always figured that yoga would be dumb. I had no clue what the hype had been about that my aunt had told me. At first I walked into yoga, skeptical, expecting this to be a crock-a-shit. I unrolled my mat, and attempted to breathe, “sit tall”, “lead with your heart”, “clear your mind.” I could not get into it, my mind was going a thousand miles a minute. I even attempted to do six-inches while we were supposed to be doing Shavasana. She came by and gently pushed my feet back to the ground.
After a week or so, I began to really enjoy it. It wasn’t competitive, but I enjoyed challenging myself with different poses. I wanted to see how far I could go into forward fold, which eventually turned into the teacher showing me scorpion pose and letting me try that and dancer pose. Part of my disorder was definitely over exercising, so being able to do something challenging and that demanded some sort of muscle, was amazing.
3. DEAR MAN the hell out of people
You need something? Have a problem with something? Dear Man the hell out of them. I also thought this would be a crock of shit, for the first month or so of DBT I was not very receptive at all. Once I began to listen though, I realized how absolutely amazing and helpful it really is.
Describe the situation
Express feelings and opinions clearly
Assert your needs
Reinforce you are listening and being receptive to their ideas
Mindful of the outcome you want
4. Get off the train
The director is one of the greatest ladies I ever had the chance to meet, and I am so grateful she has had such an amazing impact in my life and my recovery. During my stay in treatment some of my family enjoyed attacking my progress and and making me feel like a terrible person. I received phone calls that left me in tears for hours afterwards, practically “Fuck You” letter, blaming me for everything and how I screwed up our family.
It was so ridiculously difficult for me to hear all of this and not let it effect me and my progress in my recovery. Hearing so many negative things directed at me. The director taught me to “get off the train.” Whether it was allowing all of the negative, hateful, nasty comments just float down the river and out of sight; Or getting caught in the negative comments and being trapped on my family’s bull shit train. I was taught to “get off the train.” and work on letting it continue to just fly by while you sit there and just watch.
5. Support isn’t always family
Kinda ties in with #4. Between letters, calls, texts, even emails, from some family members, I quickly learned they were ignorant, and not supportive. “You do realize walking in there they thought your mom was the patient and not you.” “How much longer do you anticipate on being here?” “You treated me better when you had an eating disorder.” “You shouldn’t take this ‘disorder’ so seriously.” “Is it because of school, you are probably just stressed out…oh, but please tell me you still plan on graduating.” Being told, once again, that what I do is nothing more than an inconvenience, selfish, etc.
It hit me hard that sometimes the people you want to be supportive, aren’t the people you NEED to be supportive. While my blood family was not advocating my recovery, I had amazing support from people. First of all, the clinical director. I cannot say enough amazing things about her. My best friend, she was there during my struggles, completely supportive of me going into treatment, and she continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders through everyday in recovery. Her parents too, were both amazing, and continue to be there for me. They know how my family have been treating me, and try so hard to reassure me that what I have been doing is worth it and is my life.
6. Self care is not selfish
Growing up practically everything I did was selfish. If I did my own laundry, trying to be independent, I would get yelled at for only doing my laundry and not everyone else’s too. If I did anything for myself it was always selfish, get myself a drink before anyone else? Selfish. Didn’t ask if my brother needed to shower before me? Selfish. I would have to call my parents for a ride home after a soccer game? Selfish and inconvenient.
Through treatment, I learned that not everything I do for myself is selfish. Taking care of myself is necessary. Without self care I would end up right back where I was. Feeling selfish, worthless, all of the lies I was fed growing up. Yes, it is polite to see if anyone else needs a drink, polite to ask if someone else needs a shower. It is NOT your responsibility to ALWAYS look out for everyone else and their needs. Taking care of myself is something that has to be done. I cannot take care of others and help them if I am not willing to care and help myself.
7. You are worth it
You may not think you are, you may not feel like you are… feel again. I believed I wasn’t worth it, wasn’t worth the time, effort, attention. I walked into treatment because others were much more concerned about me than I was. I didn’t believe I needed help, or to be totally honest, I didn’t think I deserved it. My self worth and esteem were practically non existent. I was told, “If you aren’t ready to do recovery for yourself, then do it for your little sister.”
Honestly, that worked. Every time I wanted to give up, or not take another bite, or just walk out, I pictured her. In my mind my sister was right beside me asking me what I was doing, why I was quitting. I visualized telling her I was coming home and her responding with such excitement, “Yay! Are you better now?”. I would have to look into her young, beautiful face and tell her no. Even if you don’t feel like you are worth the shit to be shit on, there is somebody out there who has faith in you and believes in you.
The director sure did. She believed in me on a daily basis, even when I wasn’t able to believe in myself, she was there for me.
8. Hugs are pretty great
I hated hugs. I had a bubble. Nobody was allowed in it. Hugs were for the weak, the sissy, the girly. I didn’t want to mentally, emotionally, or physically allow anyone close to me.
That too changed, I would receive two or three hugs a day. They meant a lot to me. A demonstration that they cared. Even those few seconds of embracing, that was time they could have been answering their phone, meeting with a resident, typing an email. That time was time they agreed to allow me interrupt their schedule and acknowledge me.
9. Be open, honest, and vulnerable
One of the only saving graces I was able to stay in treatment so long was because of the honesty I possess. I was known around the facility as the honest one. I despise lying, hate being sneaky, plus, if I am going to treatment to get help, I need to be honest. Upon admission and for the weeks to follow, I was involuntarily throwing up food because my body wasn’t use to the amount I was consuming. I was throwing up at the table. I would receive a text from family, I would voluntarily purge in the bathroom. I would come clean, express aggravation, discouragement, regret. I felt like a lost cause with all of my slip ups. I was honest though. I told them when I made a mistake, I wasn’t being sneaky, and there was still a part of me that wanted to recover.
Being vulnerable was something I was never good at. The director looked my mom straight in the face when she came once and told her, “It has taken us nearly 5 weeks just to get anything out of her. We weren’t getting anything besides sarcastic comments and snarky replies.” Piece by piece though, I was being chiseled away, opening up about my family, assault, my disordered behaviors. I was ready for help and guidance.
Once I left treatment, I continued to be honest and open. Telling my best friend when I skipped, if I purged, she would check in with me. Honesty is key.
10. The sky is not purple
Growing up, if my mom said jump- I jumped.
If she said we had a yellow dragon named Frank. Then by God, we had a yellow dragon named Frank.
I defended her and my family, regardless.
The problem? You can only be told the sky is purple for so long until you begin to believe it. Whether it is being told you are stupid, lazy, selfish, fat, etc. It begins to stick with you.
I am learning that if my mom says the sky is purple, I am allowed to politely disagree and have my own opinions separate from her. Pretty sad it took me 22 years to realize this.
11. Trust the process
You may not understand the process, you may not WANT to believe in the process (I sure didn’t.) No matter how many times you fail or fall though, just continue to trust the process. It never set me astray, or messed my progress up.
Was eating 6x a day really necessary?
Not being allowed to work out, are you kidding?
I didn’t believe in any of it. I quickly learned that it isn’t my place to understand it or question it, but to just accept it and trust it.
12. Stick to the meal plan
This is so ridiculously important. I am still eating 6x a day even though I have been out of treatment since late February. It is a struggle everyday and I still fight the thoughts of restricting. I tell myself that the meal plan didn’t fail me for the past 3 months, why would it start failing me now?
I still don’t WANT to eat so often, and stick to ALL of my exchanges, but I do it because I want recovery and refuse to let 3 months go down the toilet.
13. Do the next right thing
I will slip, I already have. The key, is to not let one slip snowball into relapse. Recovery isn’t a poof situation, it is a process and a journey. When I purge, spend too long at the gym, or restrict. I don’t allow that one circumstance to impact my next day, or even my next meal.
Get up, dust yourself off, do the next right thing. Eat the next snack, meet your exchanges. A slip isn’t a relapse sentence.