Today marks two years since I was discharged from my last IOP admission. I don’t miss the vitals/weight checks, or weekend planning every Thursday, or hospital food. However, I do miss feeling understood by others like me, the care given by the providers, and having somewhere to go every day. Before my third (and last) admission, it was easy for me to go straight back into the program. It was familiar and I knew what to expect. I wasn’t getting what I needed from my therapist at the time and I was stuck.
Quite frankly, it didn’t bother me that I repeatedly came back. It felt like an accomplishment at the time. Others like me, the “frequent flyers” often laughed about our situations. It was an attitude of not caring and being a bit obnoxious about it all. But I was stuck in the revolving door and couldn’t escape. Then, one day, it all clicked for me and I got it. It wasn’t funny to have to come back time and time again. It wasn’t an accomplishment to have the lab techs know me by name because I went for bloodwork so often.
I spent most of 2008 and half of 2009 driving back and forth to the hospital, spending hour after hour, day after day in the program. When you’re so used to that routine, it’s very hard to do anything else and move away from it. Luckily, by the time I was discharged for the last time, I found a therapist who really understood and supported me. I finally felt like there was a chance that I wouldn’t need to go back. And I didn’t.
It wasn’t easy, either. There were a few times when I was warned that’d I’d be headed back to IOP if I didn’t step it up. It was scary. I was anxious. My treatment team pushed me and I wasn’t always happy about it. But it’s what needed to happen to make any progress. Goals were set and I needed to stick to them in order to keep moving forward. I thought I could get away with some tricks…but my team wasn’t stupid and they called me out. Tough love doesn’t only work in family situations.
There are still times now when I want to give up and go back to IOP and be taken care of while I ignore the difficulties for a while. In session the other day, I told my therapist that living with the eating disorder was easier than it is now. She laughed a bit because she knew that if I really thought about it, that’s not true at all. Living with an eating disorder is not fun. You’re tired. Cranky. Zoned out. Emotionally unavailable. Constantly worried about food. Not living life. It’s an alternate reality that seems like fun, but when you’re there, it’s miserable.