I did it.
Today I close the chapter on this phase of recovery, as I am now officially discharged from eating disorder services after 18 months.
I have been coming in and out of this building for nearly 10 years for assessments and outpatient appointments and therapy and day patient. But I think this is the first time, in all those years of treatment, that I have a little bit of belief in myself that this might be the last time I need the service.
Anorexia has plagued me for what feels like my entire life. Will I ever be entirely free of it? No, probably not. I suspect this is something I will always need to ‘manage’ – after so many relapses I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot let my guard down and assume I am safe, because that’s when it snares me again. I think I will always be vulnerable to relapse during times of stress or when feeling a loss of control, but knowing that means I can do something about it. Perhaps it will always be background noise to me, but I would take background noise any day over having my brain and life taken over entirely.
Although I have been frustrated with them at times over the years, I cannot recommend this service enough and I have no doubts they have saved me, helped me avoid another inpatient admission and given me my life back. I know day patient services are scarce across the country and to live walking distance from one is a luxury I don’t take for granted.
It’s hard saying goodbye to people who have supported you through some of the darkest times of your life, and it feels strange closing the door on this chapter knowing I might never step foot in this building again, one that I have been so vulnerable in both physically and emotionally – from standing on the scales in my underwear to talking about my deepest fears.
Thank you for everything, April House. For everyone who hugged me through pizza meltdowns and wiped away my weigh day tears and made me feel like there is more to me than an eating disorder. For knowing that I could be more than just a bony shell of myself on a scale, and believing in me when I had no hope for myself.
Thank you to my second therapist, who many years ago gave me the foundations to build my recovery on this time around. Thank you to my keyworker and the best hugger out there. Thank you to my nurse, who always knows exactly what to say. Thank you to my dietician, who knowledge knows no bounds. And biggest of all, thank you to my case manager and therapist, who never once gave up on me and always managed to get me to push myself when I felt like I had nothing left to give.
This last couple of years or so have been some of the hardest of my entire life, and I never want to relive this experience again. I have gone through treatment too many times and spent too many years of my life putting my body and mind through hell just to become a smaller version of myself. Anorexia has served a function for me and in some ways has ironically perhaps kept me alive at times, through giving me a focus and a sense of purpose. For making me feel like I was good at something. But I am moving on, and maybe I don’t need it anymore. My purpose is to be in a happy relationship, have a successful career and build new experiences with my friends. It’s to see more of the world and learn more in further education and continue the fight against mental health discrimination. I have learnt that being sick isn’t the only thing I am good at. Each time I have had treatment I’ve gained more layers of understanding myself to build my recovery upon. I now feel like I know why I developed an eating disorder, and why I keep going back to it. And for the first time I feel like I know how to stop that happening again.
There is an element of grief that comes with recovery. Anorexia has been a part of my life and my being for as long as I can remember, and it feels like saying goodbye to a friend. It’s reliable, consistent, and always there when I need it. But I guess what I have learnt over the last year is that maybe I don’t need it anymore. I think I finally feel ready to say goodbye to it now.
It’s time to move on.