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Alumni Corner- a few years later

Kimi- a former Castlewood client shares about her journey in recovery several years after treatment.

I sit here tonight, a junior in nursing school, at a top 3% nursing school in the nation, finally feeling like I am truly doing what I am supposed to be doing and living my life to the fullest. Tomorrow, I start my first day of clinicals in a psychiatric unit. I had to do a reflection on what I was expecting. I found myself drifting back to the months I spent at Castlewood. The most life changing months of my life. I can’t believe it was 4 years ago that I was in the depths of my eating disorder. Everything I did, everything I thought was consumed by my eating disorder. The feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness resonated day in and day out. The happy, outgoing, involved, fun-loving girl that my family knew and everyone else thought I was slowly disappeared. I look back now and am speechless. I was so incredibly sick. If anyone had told me then that I would be healthy today, I would have laughed. I was certain I would eventually die from this horrible demon that had taken over my life. I had honestly lost all will to fight. My parents thankfully stepped in and brought me to my saving grace, Castlewood. I can still remember driving up to Castlewood in my pink sweatshirt and jeans feeling nothing but numbness. Little did I know, my life would never be the same. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is the truth.

From the moment I walked in, I was greeted with warmth and love. I was suddenly terrified. My parents were dropping me off with a bunch of people I didn’t know and leaving me. How the hell was I going to get through this? The first week, I just went through the motions, certain that I could beat the system and get out of this place as soon as possible. I did everything I was supposed to do, just like the perfect student I had always been. I needed to impress the staff, to make them feel like I was going to be their prodigy. Then, after listening to another patient share her story, that struck close to home, about “working the system” and in essence just going through the motions and doing that for years and continuing to relapse, I had a break down. This was MY LIFE, my FUTURE that was at stake. Did I really want to live with this demon for the rest of my life? Did I want to let it control my happiness and my health? I realized that was the opposite of what I wanted. But, it wasn’t that realization that made me crumble. It was the fact that I had to give up my comfort blanket, the protection that was keeping me from FEELING and dealing with the traumas I had experienced throughout my life. What was I going to do? I remember laying in the hallway sobbing, feeling more powerless than I had ever felt. I went to bed that night and realized my journey was just beginning. That treatment wasn’t the end of my journey with an eating disorder, but the beginning of a new chapter- recovery.

I’ll spare you the details of the long weeks of treatment. But, what I will say is that I learned more in those weeks than any education could ever give me. I don’t mean to sound conceited, but I am much wiser than most twenty year olds. I’ve seen things and experienced things that I would NEVER wish on anyone else. People have asked me, if you could go back knowing what you know now, would you change it all? No. I would never trade my experience for the world. I am who I am today because of my experience with Castlewood. My interactions with the staff, my amazing therapist, Theresa, helped me get my life back. They helped me gain insight that I never knew would be so valuable to me. As I am in nursing school now, I have wisdom and experience and understand what it means to have a meaningful relationship with a patient. I have that because of Castlewood. No words can explain my gratitude for the staff.

Recovery isn’t easy. It’s not a linear thing, its ups and downs, and all arounds. It’s messy; it’s hard; it’s a fight. I am a fighter. I will continue to fight for my health for the rest of my life. I don’t wake up everyday and think how much I love myself. There are still times where I struggle with depression and body image. But, I have the tools I need to stay in recovery. As luck would have it, I was diagnosed a few month’s ago with Celiac Disease. For those of you who don’t know what that is, long story short, my body has an immunologic reaction to gluten. Gluten is found in almost everything! Wheat, flour, barley, and rye. I can’t have any of those, which is extremely ironic for someone who for so long restricted what they ate because of anorexia. I know my family was worried about this. Would this hinder my recovery? It might have, if I hadn’t had 3 years under my belt and a whole lot of support from not only my family and friends but the staff at Castlewood. I knew that if I needed anything, or was having a hard time, I could call on any of you. Now, it’s time for me to go on my own journey, as a nurse, and hopefully make as big of an impact on the lives of patients as you have made on mine.

I know not all stories of people with eating disorders going through recovery are happy. Trust me. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. But, I do want to say thank you. Thank you for helping shape me into the beautiful woman I am today, inside and out.

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