This weekend I am revisiting my treatment center from 2008. I don’t even know where to start writing about this, but I expect that it will feel like I’ve seen a ghost. Seven years ago, I was starving my body and mind, spending the majority of my day over a toilet or trashcan, and isolating myself in total darkness. Why would I go back to the place that held me at rock bottom?
Because I need to feel triumph.
I have a friend who is back in treatment after some time, so after much thought, I made the decision to go visit her. I knew that this meant going back to the place where I was so sick and that I might run the risk of being triggered when I go there. But after working from home in freezing temperatures while my husband works long nights and my parents and siblings are so far away, I decided I needed a reminder of how far I’ve come and that this point in my life is far from bleak.
I have worked with my therapist for the past two weeks to prepare myself for the trip, and I’m trying to remind myself that seeing the sickest girl in the room at this treatment center does not mean I need to compete with her. Instead, I need to breathe deeply and remember that ED stole so much of my life from me, so much of my youth, and that the last thing in the world that I want is to be back there. I should be there to inspire these girls and to tell them that, yes, a fulfilled life is possible and you will not think about food all day long your entire life. Promise.
Still, I am scared to go back, and all the conversations in the world with my therapist cannot prepare me for this emotional journey because I’ve never done anything like this before.
I am staying with a close friend of mine as I take this trip, and my husband has asked that I check in regularly, and after the trip to really dial in to how I’m feeling.
If I notice myself ramping up the exercise or restricting when I come back from this visit, I need to understand that that is how I cope with stress and that this trip sparked some kind of stress. I need to remember that relapse takes moments and all of the sudden you’re back where you started and you don’t know when you first started slipping. I need to practice really, really solid self care.
I was really amped up when I first talked to my therapist about it – clearly anxious and wanting her to affirm that I had made the right decision by purchasing the plane ticket. I had all of the plans to write about everything I was experiencing during my journey… but my therapist stopped me. She said that maybe I won’t feel the need to delve into everything all over again. Maybe it will be something that is more private and that if I just want to read a book or take a nap or listen to music in order to process, that I should allow myself to do that, too.
Because even as I was trying to think of an image for this post, it was too hard for me to look at photos of myself from that time, so I decided against posting an image at all. Even if an image would up my website traffic.
I may not want to inspect all the details of my past all over again after I take this trip, or I might. What I am certainly going to do is be there for my friend who is very needing of a visitor at this moment in time, and whom I have not seen for seven very long years. I will hug her and comfort her and remember all of the things I needed when I was there.
She is currently in an environment where all of her privileges are taken away and everything (meals, showers, bathroom visits) is monitored, but I am confident she is getting exactly what she needs. She is well taken care of by the staff there, and by being separate from the rest of her busy life, she is able to focus 100 percent on her recovery. That is a gift that some people never get to experience.
But I know firsthand how angry you are when you are in eating disorder treatment, so I am here to listen and to learn more about her, and myself in the process. Wish me safe travels as I embark on something unknown!