Leaving Inpatient Treatment: “Good as New?”
The nurses handed me my car keys, unlocked the protective large white door, and wished me luck. I thought I would be fine. I was supposed to be “good as new.” At least that is what is expected when one is discharged from the hospital. After inpatient treatment for an eating disorder, the same expectation holds true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Recovery from an eating disorder takes time. For many, it requires multiple treatments to possess the ability to finally recover.
Just “winging it” won’t work
Walking out of inpatient for the first time sent my heart racing. For three months I was in the hospital encircled by support. My days were scheduled and I was sheltered from the stress and temptations of the world. I didn’t have to obsess over skinny fashion models in magazines, watch weight loss ads on TV, or read food labels. I could control who and when I would communicate with someone from the outside world. When the time came for my reentry into society, I understood my role was to act “good as new.” In truth, I was afraid.
I had no plan of action for when the eating disorder came screaming at me again. No plan for handling overwhelming emotions that triggered me to escape to my eating disorder for comfort. I no longer had a nurse at my side raring to go with support or a hug. And, after being absent from home for so long, the rest of the world expected me to jump right back into life. The treatment center should have left the door unlocked. Before I had time to fully unpack, I returned. To me, it felt like failure.
Leave with a plan—and follow through
The first time I left treatment, I had ED (the nickname I gave my eating disorder) in my back pocket as a trump card and my battle plan was written just to appease staff and get out. I thought treatment was a bunch of fluff and the nurses had no idea what I was experiencing. The second time, I let myself trust what I learned in treatment and consciously made the decision to USE my battle plan. ED was “Not an Option.” Over and over I repeated… “ED. Not an option.” I knew I had to choose something else. Treatment gave me those other options and this time I listened. I had a choice to practice them in the real world and relearn new behaviors.
Remember, leaving treatment is not equal to being stitched up and coming out as “good as new.” Recovery is a process experienced in community with others helping you break the destructive ways of an eating disorder, one day at a time. Make sure you take the time before you leave treatment, or if you are now out of your treatment, to set a plan for a successful recovery.
Leaving treatment is not equal to being stitched up and
coming out “good as new.”
Seven things to include in your plan
It has been eleven years since I left my final treatment. Now as I live a life of recovery and help others embrace the beautiful side of life in recovery, I always recommend having the following seven things in your plan. If you don’t have them now, then prepare to incorporate them into your life. While the first three steps are similar to the 12-step program, I did not follow that plan. All of these ingredients combined together were the recipe I used to heal. I had to make the decision that I would give over the controls to God 100 percent and decide the eating disorder was no longer an option. That was my first step toward real recovery. All other times I left the door open just in case. Here are the seven things I used:
1. Higher Power
Work on powerlessness by giving the control over to a higher power. You can do this by journaling, daily serenity prayer, church, or synagogue.
2. Spiritual Food
Find a community where you can feel comfortable and be fed spiritually. Find a place to feed your soul.
3. Support Group
You need a group where people understand what you are going through. If you can’t find a group then at least solicit an accountability partner or a sponsor.
4. Healthy Community
If you want to be healthy, you need to be around healthy people. Hang out and spend time with people who are life givers, not life suckers!
Choose someone you trust and are going to be HONEST with. Try and remember, “If I knew how to treat an eating disorder I wouldn’t have an eating disorder.”
6. Psychiatrist and Dietician
If you are on meds you need to be seeing a psychiatrist that you trust and are honest with regularly. If you still need to be on a meal plan you should be meeting with your dietician regularly.
This is so important! Volunteer at a place you have benefited from like a school, spiritual center, or hospital. Getting out of your head and giving of your time is a valuable gift. By volunteering you will feel more a part of society and feel like you are making a difference.
By Lee Wolfe Blum
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Spring 2007 Volume 5, Number 2
©2007 Gürze Books
About the Author
Lee Wolfe Blum works in Minneapolis, MN, at Methodist Eating Disorders Institute and Teen Challenge as a Health Educator. She leads support groups, speaks and leads workshops around the U.S., and hopes to have her memoir published soon. Her website is www.breakingupwithed.com