Cody: A Bigger World in Recovery
Hey all at ACUTE, those who helped me and those fighting for your life:
I hope you never give up on the most “resistant” patients because I was one of them. Although I’m not quite thriving in the way I wish to be, I am worlds away from where I was only a year ago. I’m not going to sugar coat things. I’m going be real, raw and honest. Recovery is hard as hell and there are days where I fantasize about going back.
Despite that, I have found a team that reminds me that the eating disorder voice is a liar whenever I get to point of thinking “Well when the eating disorder numbed me out, I didn’t feel pain in the same way.” When we are entangled in its grips, the pain an eating disorder brings is awful. I like to say its focused pain, pain that we might think is easily measured, but it is indeed brutal. It’s an awful pain and it’s lying to you if it says that you feel numb because you absolutely do not. You do miss your family or chosen family, your friends, activities you have a say in, hiking in the woods with your dog, being a mutual friend and being able to be there for your friends when they need you. You miss joy and games and sports; at least those are some of the things I remind myself that I miss when I’m starving myself and avoiding true existence.
A year ago I was dying, but now I am in a completely different place. I want to remind both patients and providers that change and growth is possible. Today – a year from my admission to the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders and Severe Malnutrition and on Thanksgiving morning – I’m well enough to run a local turkey trot with a friend. I woke up extra early to eat a good breakfast. I drank a tall glass of water. I had a good dinner last night (sushi and dumplings, my absolute fave). I enjoy food even though there are moments of guilt and doubt still. I’ve made solid new friends. I’m job hunting and about to start volunteering at an animal shelter after going through a thorough interview and orientation process, things that would have seemed impossible a year ago. I’m working on accepting that I’ll be 8 months weight restored in December. It’s not a walk in the park, but my body and brain are so much healthier, and my world is so much bigger and more fulfilling.
I have a phenomenal team and therapy is sometimes extremely difficult. Working on the underlying pain and trauma can feel impossible at times and so, so painful but it is setting me free. My therapist is incredible, and while we have bumped heads a lot, I think it’s because she’s challenging me in a way no one ever has. She’s honest when she calls me and my eating disorder out and she’s described things in ways I’ve never heard before. I’d like to share it because it’s been helpful:
Every 3 weeks now I hit what she’s defined as an “extinction burst,” when my eating disorder rages and tells me things like “I can’t face the real pain, I want to numb out. Sometimes I even reach the point of saying things I absolutely don’t mean like “I want to die; this is too hard.” What we do is ride the waves. We hang tight, we watch Disney movies, snuggle under warm blankets and hang in there. I lean on loved ones and my phenomenal therapist who offers phone coaching. We practice skills to soothe because the burst will die down eventually and with every extinction burst there follows a new view of understanding what I’m up against and afterwards I feel a strength and understanding I couldn’t have imagined feeling while stuck in it.
So, am I home free? No way. Do I still fight the evil anorexia voice? Yes indeed, but I am stronger and surrounded by love and support, and getting more equipped with skills to fight these “extinction bursts.” I feel pride that I’ve survived something I probably shouldn’t have and I believe I have for a reason.
I’m writing this for those in the grips of an eating disorder and for those helping them. Do not give up on even the toughest patients. Underneath their disease may lie the power, strength and insight they need to find like I did. I’m sending love, light, support and strength to all those who feel scared and tired. This disease is absolutely brutal, but moments of joy await after the pain and we can hang onto the hope that things can get better.
So, today as jog my turkey trot with my new friend who has helped me so much I’m almost overwhelmed with tears and gratitude for my body’s strength and those who have helped and are helping me beat this disease. Some days are so painful and brutal and will continue to be, but I now have a say and a choice. Today I’m choosing life. With all its messiness, I’m grateful for it.
Again, sending warmth, love and light to those in the trenches. I do believe anorexia doesn’t have to be a death sentence. We are all so strong, we are warriors and survivors; those fighting and those helping those fighting right alongside us.