There are so many moments, experiences, and emotions intertwined in someone’s recovery process that no one knows about, hears about or understands. When I started working in Behavioral Health, I was under the impression I was informed about most topics, such as treatment, medication, potential relapse, and therapy modalities. However, when I first started visiting the actual centers, I learned the emotional truth behind it: the only way out is through.
At first, this idea may seem daunting. Getting “out” ignites a specific negative connotation towards recovery and treatment, but in this case, we’re talking about getting out of your mind. Conquering recovery, mental health conditions, and other co-occurring disorders takes patience, understanding oneself, and accepting the past and the promising future ahead of you.
I hadn’t thought about this statement until I met Emily – one of our recovered alumni at Eating Disorder Solutions. Emily had painted this expression on a smooth stone about 3×2 feet long that helped border some plants around the facility. It was her last day at the center. As a symbolic gesture for other clients creating their path toward recovery, all alumni have written inspirational or motivational quotes, ideas, or drawings on random stones placed around the outdoor pathways. It was now Emily’s turn to leave her mark.
With the sun shining and a calm breeze on the front porch, Emily and I had multiple discussions regarding recovery, treatment, and life in general.
She recalled her eating disorder first surfacing when she was in high school. She was an all-star athlete, so she knew that training, working out, and nutrition were crucial aspects of competition and being successful. She enjoyed playing sports, but she felt a lot of pressure within them, as most young athletes do. Expectations are always high for athletes; one mistake can make you feel like a failure.
Emily began noticing her relationship with food slightly changing as she went through high school, manipulating how she started to see herself in the mirror and her mind. But she pushed through because she enjoyed playing sports, and her weight wasn’t fluctuating too severely at the time.
Once Emily set her eyes on college, she realized she wanted to retire from sports. She had become so invested in her sporting events that she had missed out on some of life’s other experiences and opportunities. She was yearning to explore more about who she was and discover what she truly wanted in life, leaving sports in the past. However, once she began college, just as many college students feel, the new surroundings, intense academic schedules, and the attempt at creating a social life were not easy to balance. It always felt like she had to sacrifice something, and she hated feeling like she had no control over her emotions or thoughts.
Her eating disorder exposed more of itself, and not only was that causing her turmoil, but she was also feeling the loss of identity that came with no longer being an athlete. Alcohol became a crutch that aided her in the confusing walk of life she was trying to make sense of. At first, it was just at parties, but the euphoric feeling of being able to shut down her emotions from time to time became addicting.
Emily’s Recovery Process
Fast forward a few years, Emily tried multiple eating disorder treatment centers but always found herself conflicted, confused, and reverting to her comforting yet unhealthy behaviors. Emily is originally from Kentucky, but after doing some research, she realized she wanted to take a step away from everything she knew – she chose to be uncomfortable so that she could heal with purpose. Then, she found Eating Disorder Solutions. She explained how coming there felt – excruciatingly painful and stressful because she didn’t believe that recovery was possible after so many failed attempts. In addition, she said she was nervous because she didn’t want to be judged for her past mistakes. However, the second she stepped through the doors, she explained that she felt “safe, comforted, and accepted” as she entered the home-like center in Weatherford, Texas.
Although battling raging emotions, turmoil, and the unknown, Emily could focus on herself, her healing, and her mind within the walls of the center and the fresh air of the outdoors. She explained that Eating Disorder Solutions enabled her to become comfortable with herself again, acknowledging that a massive transformation occurred during her recover process. She was able to take her entire being into account, allowing her to work not only on her eating disorder but her co-occurring condition as well.
“There were a lot of times that I gave up hope or thought that it was a worthless venture that I was going on, yet I discovered this time that with the right people around and the absolute willingness to make a change, recovery was possible. I did come to the right place because I realized that I have a lot of life left to live – I thought this would have a hold on me forever, but I have so much hope and optimism for my future.”
While I had the opportunity to speak with Emily, it became a natural response to beam with pride and love toward her. When I initially met her, she was shy, quiet, and wearing baggy clothes to protect herself from scrutiny. This time, she was wearing something more comfortable to her personality and feelings, and her face lit up while talking about the changes she saw within herself.
I observed how she carried herself now, her behaviors and demeanor, and her vocal inflections. They looked and felt more positive, hopeful, and earnest. That was her reality now; she had created that path for herself with help from the supportive and determined team at Eating Disorder Solutions.
Choosing to Heal
Our treatment is centered around a holistic, comprehensive approach that considers the entirety of each person’s soul, body, and mind. We cannot defeat what is controlling us if we cannot accept that it’s there. Focusing on healthy coping mechanisms and using other techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy help eliminate negative thought patterns and establish healthier boundaries for your mind and life. These methods and procedures, including others, helped Emily overcome the intrusive thoughts that eroded her positive outlook on life in her developmental years.
Our brains and our experiences forge our mindsets. And although that may seem trivial to mention, when we think of the grand scheme of life, our minds and thoughts are the only things that truly make us who we are. If your mindset is negative, the only outcome will be negativity, even if you want to be more positive. So when we finally attempt to understand our traumas, conditions, emotions, and more, there’s always a sense of hesitation and fear. Naturally, the trepidation comes from wanting to stay as far away as possible from our uncomfortable thoughts and emotions; hence the unhealthy coping mechanisms we create for ourselves. However, as Emily said, you must go through it to get out of it.
With any form of mental health condition, you have to be able to put your time, energy, and grit into changing your life for the better. It won’t just happen, and it can’t be given to you through some form of medication, even when it’s a prescription medication from a clinical nurse practitioner. The problem begins in your mind, and it also ends there. Allowing the uncomfortable feelings to surface will be difficult, but if you’re already in hell, why stay there? Why stay there when you can change your mindset? Why stay there when you can put effort into becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be?
The meaning of “the only way out is through” is not meant to be a scare tactic of any kind or an aggressive form of support. Instead, it’s there as a reminder that you CAN get through hard times and challenging moments in your life as long as you’re willing to do the work. Emily taught me that; she radiated a healthy and calm aura while I sat next to her, and the beauty of that can’t be adequately conveyed through my simple words.
Healing is a breathtaking experience – the hours put into therapy, journaling, practicing mindfulness, participating in group sessions, and being uprooted from everything you know can instigate a feeling of terror. But when you can see the success that comes out of it – the natural, unfiltered, raw side of the story – it’s easier to understand that although treatment can be difficult, it will forever be worth it.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible; but you must go through it willingly and with determination to come out on the other side.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, recovery is 100% possible. However, you don’t have to conquer your mind or your condition alone – supportive, compassionate team members are waiting with their arms wide open to guide you in your recovery process. Call today at 855-808-4213 or contact us online for more information on our treatment, team, and mission.