Stories of Recovery
MY JOURNEY THROUGH RECOVERY
By J. Hoffman
This is my story, my journey of recovery. I am 32 years old. For almost half my life I lived with an eating disorder. On December 2006, I somehow, someway decided I was done. I was terrified what life would be like without ED but I was more terrified that if I did not get help one day soon there would be no decision to make. I write because I want to share the possibilities of life without ED, one you too can have.
To the outside world my life was perfect, everyone thought I had it all. I always did well in school, I was often told I was pretty, I had a lot of friends, a good job, and guys were interested in me. But on the inside I was suffering. When I was 16 I was date-raped. I believe I would have developed an eating disorder despite the trauma but it certainly gave me more of a reason to be afraid of the world and want to disappear. The guy who raped me told me if I were skinner I would be his girlfriend. Back then I thought if I were only skinner he wouldn’t have done this to me, he wouldn’t have hurt me. I know now my weight had nothing to do with the rape.
I began my treatment on 12/6/06. I could not believe this was my life. It’s been 1 year, 1 month, and 13 days that I have not used symptoms. I recently had moved to Florida from New York City. I always wanted to try living in Florida, in hindsight I realize I was just running from ED. I had to stop working, stop everything I thought I would be doing as a 31 year old and enter into treatment. I could not do it anymore…the restricting, the purging, the diuretics & laxatives, excessive exercising. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus, my body hurt. I started searching on the computer for “eating disorder treatment”. I found Renfrew, and a private therapist that specialized in trauma and eating disorders. I called Dr. M that night and left a message. A wave of relief came over me when my phone rang and it was her on the other line.
I called Renfrew the following morning. Thanks to Dr. M, by the end of that day I had appointments with an entire eating disorder team, and an intake date at Renfrew. But it was the weekend and I wasn’t seeing anyone until the following week. I remember my sister asking me if I would be ok until then. I told her yes but truthfully, I did not know. I made it to my intake the following Monday. I was told that my weight bordered on the side of needing bed rest at an inpatient unit. I would have done whatever it was that was recommended but I told them I really wanted to try this as an outpatient. They let me, on a trial basis, go to their IOP program because they felt I was very motivated, having already put together an outpatient team (all people they knew from working at Renfrew in the past), and because I was medically stable.
My first night at IOP was 12/18/06. Halfway through the evening I almost left. We were on our way to the dinning hall and anxiety filled me from head to toe. Although my nutritionist told me what the meal would be like, I was frantic. I just started re-feeding, adding food to my diet that I had not eaten in years. What where they going to make me eat? I told one of the therapists that I didn’t know if I could stay, I said, “I do not want to be here”. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “NOBODY WANTS TO BE HERE.” I believe her response changed my life. She then told me she would help me get through the meal and to do the best that I could. I stayed in IOP just short of 8 weeks, the whole time I also saw my outpatient tea: my therapist twice a week, my nutritionist once a week, and my medical doctor and psychiatrist about once per month. I did nothing but RECOVERY. I read books on eating disorders, I was consistently writing in my journal, I had my “Happy List” to look at when things got shaky, I wrote affirmations on pieces of paper and placed them throughout my apartment, I cried and mourned all the years and experiences I lost due to my eating disorder. I fought urges and I made myself eat everything that was on my meal plan. My medical doctor and nutritionist had been weaning me off the laxatives. My New Year’s goal was to be 100% off the laxatives. December 31, 2006 was the last night I took one.
I sometimes think back to those first few weeks in recovery. It amazes me how different life is these days. The first several months were so hard but I just took it not even day-by-day but hour-to-hour. Over time it did become day-to-day and I started to feel physically and emotionally better. I started tasting my food and accepting that my “skinny jeans” and clothes had to go. I didn’t trust myself to get rid of them so I brought them to my therapist for her to do whatever with. There were still many days that I didn’t know if I would ever really get better.
I decided to move back to NYC and continue my treatment. It was a hard decision to make and I was afraid of leaving Renfrew and my team that helped me get to the point I was finally at. I was going to continue at the NYC Renfrew as I transitioned back to life in the city, and my therapist gave me names of recommended eating disorder providers there. I had appointments set up to meet a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, and medical doctor upon my arrival home.
It’s been over a year now that I have been working with my new treatment team as well as going to a support group every Wednesday night. It was just recently that my team and I decided to decrease my therapy to seeing my nutritionist every other week and my therapist once a week. It feels weird that my life is no longer just about recovery. I am so happy to be healthier but now I am in this place of figuring out who am I without this 16 year identity of being a sick, sad, and helpless girl. She no longer exists. I have been back at work for almost a year, I go out with my friends, I go to dinners, and I shop for clothes that fit my body at a weight that is healthy. I’m living. My treatment team tells me often how dedicated I am to my recovery, that I am like the recovery poster child. I laugh to myself, it’s so me to need to do everything perfect even my recovery:). And I think back to all those years of needing to do everything just perfect, all the pressure, always needing to look perfect and act perfect. It feels so good to no longer feel that way about everything. I am thankful everyday for Renfrew and the wonderful women there that I started my recovery with. How good if felt to be in a room and really feel understood. I am thankful everyday for my treatment team in Florida. They were the backbone of my first couple of months in recovery. I am grateful for my amazing treatment team in New York who have helped keep me going in some very hard times when I felt my recovery would fall apart. They have helped me gain a real understanding of my eating disorder and the purpose it served me, and how to cope without one. And I am so very thankful to my group-Wednesday Ladies, a smart, motivated inspiring group of women who I am privileged to know and spend every Wednesday night with. And last but very not least I thank my parents for all of their endless support and unconditional love.
I realize I still have a bit of a road ahead of me but I believe that I am strong enough to continue on a healthy path. So as I look back on this journey of recovery it brings tears to my eyes, it’s been a journey that I have pride in and a lot of protectiveness over. It has been a journey of struggles and successes, mourning and exhilaration, triumphs and tribulations. I found what I was looking for, a voice I never knew and a life without Ed.