Alumni Corner- The Winding Road of Recovery
Guest Post by Alumnae H.S.
I think it’s safe to say that when we enter treatment for an eating disorder, it’s really hard to look forward and see how beautiful true recovery can look like. When I entered Castlewood, and even for weeks after I was there, just thinking about a life without my raging friend of an eating disorder was next to impossible. After starting intense therapy and really starting to peel back the layers that were the foundation of my eating disorder, I continually asked myself how I would ever be able to do all of this work. How can I face these fears, anxieties, and memories? How am I supposed to feel, literally, feel emotion? And they say its ok and encourage crying? They want me to cry?! No way. Even with a wonderful therapist and stellar team, I was convinced there was no way I could do this.I decided that flight was my answer. I would run. It’s just what I did. I was running from thoughts and past trauma that I didn’t feel capable of dealing with. I was literally running from different ‘homes’, never able to decide where I really wanted to be. I finally left Castlewood for a brief period of time, and hit my absolute bottom. I thought I had already been there, but I was able to find a place even lower where I was buried in self – hate, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. These things coupled with isolation and my very active eating disorder jumped in the ‘driver’s seat’ of my life, and I willingly hopped on over to the passenger seat, didn’t buckle up, and watched everything around me crumble. I was able to return to Castlewood and was reunited with my amazing team, and welcomed back by staff members, people that were absolute life savers and really touched my life and inspired my recovery. This time, I knew I had to do the work. I knew deep down that I had people that loved me and wanted to help me, although I needed reminded of this on an occasion or two… Or twenty. Regardless, I felt that this could be my home for right now, and a safe place for me to heal. It took a lot of time and work, a lot of praying and help from God, and A LOT of patience on my team’s part. Lord knows I wasn’t always the easiest client to work with, (sorry guys!), but we did it! I was able to see the light at the end of this tunnel I had been walking alone in for years. When I finally grabbed hold of my team’s hands and let them help, I was able to help myself. I saw what my life could look like in recovery. I saw the potential that I had and all of the possibilities. If recovery was my priority, those possibilities could be limitless. I discharged from Castlewood in March of this year, knowing that I was going to experience struggle, and also knowing that these people that God had blessed my life with had taught me how to utilize tools so that I could cope in healthy ways and live free of my eating disorder. Over the first month after IOP, I felt I was living in recovery. I was using skills and not behaviors, tolerating feelings, asking for help when I needed. I experienced bumps in the road as expected, but I stayed safely buckled in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t until recently that the struggle really intensified. It was again becoming habit to use my behaviors rather than skills. I was in caretaker mode and trying to save my family while I neglected myself. Anxiety and hopelessness resurfaced. What I was mastering was hiding it. I was able to share with members of my team and my close friends, but my family and other people in my life only heard from the ‘healthy’ me. When I was asked to write something for newsletter, I was actually really excited for a few reasons. First, I believe in Castlewood and support what they teach, and also because my ultimate goal has always been work as a therapist and to use my experience to help touch others in the same way that my team touched my life. This was a way for me to start sharing. As excited as I was, I was totally avoiding it because of my current struggle. When I sat down today, finally realizing I didn’t have much time left to send it off, I cried. Yep, I cried again for a solid hour. I couldn’t do it. I can’t speak to recovery when I am struggling so much, right? While I cried, I prayed, just asking for some kind of peace. Some calm. Even if I couldn’t write anything, I just needed some calm. The amazing thing was, I found the calm and was able to regroup. I looked at an old agenda, I worked with parts that didn’t want to step back, and I took time to think about some really great experiences I had with my first therapist, other members of my team, and peers. I let myself sit with the love and care that they showed me. Certain members of my team might laugh at this, but I even looked at urge cards that I refused for a good amount of time to even write. I did some more breathing in between, and here I am… Sitting with my puppy, calm, and reminding myself even through writing this that I am capable. I can recover. I am still recovering. Things are going to be okay. I know I talk in circles at times, but I feel like it is so crucial to remember that WE ALL can experience life in recovery, and we can maintain recovery through the times of trial. Lapses happen AND we still are STRONG and can overcome this battle. My hope for all of us is that when things are easy and when they are hard, that we can hold on to the fact that we are strong and capable. We deserve to have love in our life, memories that we can treasure, good food, and a solid support. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without my support from Castlewood and my amazing, truly precious friends. Recovery doesn’t have to be a ‘what if’. It can exist in our lives if that is honestly what we desire. It’s not easy by any means, but I believe that when we decide we are ready to live life in a healthy place and surrender to the process, we can live in a world where our eating disorder doesn’t have to be our means of survival. When we can accept the love and help from God and from others, and more importantly, find self-love and self-compassion within ourselves, we can face the tough stuff. It may take time, but I believe in the very core of my being that we can watch our process unfold and take us into a reality where our potential and possibility for happiness and health truly are limitless.