My Experience In An Eating Disorder Hospital

My Experience In An Eating Disorder Hospital

I spent a month in the hospital, and it was life changing.
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When I arrived at the eating disorder recovery clinic in January, the hospital was the last place I wanted to be. Severely underweight and sick, in the depths of my eating disorder, terrified of eating, addicted to exercise, pulled from school and forced to move six hours back home, I at least hoped I could do some online classes and have a somewhat normal life. Who knows, maybe a whole semester off would finally help me catch up on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." I’d enroll in an outpatient program and spend my nights relaxing and talking to friends on the phone.

When I arrived at the hospital and found out that no, I wouldn’t be going home to my own comfy bed and Netflix, and that I was too sick and underweight to do outpatient my world shattered. No phone, no Internet, no home for who knows how long? I had never been in a hospital before, let alone inpatient at a psychiatric one, and I was terrified.

I had no clue what to expect when I got on the elevator to the eating disorder wing. All I knew was that I wasn't allowed to have any of my belongings yet, not even my underwear, my laptop and cellphone were somewhere with security, and I had never even had the chance to call my friends and tell them what was going on. Coming to the eating disorder unit was especially mystifying: What would they make me eat? What would I do in my spare time? What kind of people would be up there?

I found my answer the moment the elevators opened. I walked in, probably looking like a deer in headlights, and sat down surrounded by girls of all ages from 17 to 70. At first, I was incredibly intimidated. It felt like freshman year of college all over again; moving into a floor where I knew none of the girls. A food menu and a meal plan were shoved into my hand, and I was told to pick something that fit my meal plan, which was just a lot of words and numbers that I didn’t understand. Two starches? Three meats? What?

Luckily, it wasn’t long before girls and a few staff members swooped in to help me. They explained what my meal card meant, how dinner would go, what choices on the menu actually tasted good (or as good as hospital food can).

The meal itself was a whole new experience. We couldn’t start until a specific time, and only got 45 minutes. If you didn’t finish your food, you were given Ensure Plus, a weight gain liquid supplement. Fail to finish that, it was loss of “privileges” (the chance to go on the computer for 20 minutes, the chance to sit outside on the patio, the chance to do anything even close to fun, etc). We had three meals a day, plus an evening snack, which more often than not was more Ensure.

Meal plans were the worst, and one’s people plan progressively increased. Anytime you heard the dietician call your name to meet in her office, it was like a death sentence (actually, it was an increase in 200 calories to your plan, but same thing). I started on meal plan 5, and ended on meal plan 17. They don’t tell you how many calories your meal plan actually is, but it’s not hard to figure out the system, and let me tell you, MP17 is a lot of calories.

In our free time, we read, we colored, we watched TV. That was pretty much it. There wasn’t much therapy in inpatient; that was reserved for outpatient. The main goal of inpatient care is to get you to a weight were you are no longer in medical danger.

The mood in the clinic was constantly up and down: one moment we could all be laughing and bonding, the next, doors would be slammed and tears shed. Most people with eating disorders also deal with anxiety and depression, plus a low weight makes one extra emotional, so everyone was constantly on edge. We were being forced to face our biggest fear, gaining weight, and there was nothing we could do about it.

Despite the emotions, I still met some friends I’ll have for life. We also understood each other on a level our other friends could not, and the talks I had with some of the other patients were the first time I truly felt like I wasn’t alone.

We had some funny times, too, and I met a lot of really interesting characters. I came out of the hospital with stories I’ll never forget and will always be excited to share. In the end, I finished my treatment (both outpatient and inpatient) in mid-April, and continued to stay in contact with many of the amazing people I met, from patients to staff.

My experiences in a psychiatric hospital changed my outlook on food, body image, mental illness, and the world in general forever. I’m still not perfect, I still struggle, but I can say I’ve come far from the dying girl I was in January. I kicked, I screamed, I was miserable, and I tried repeatedly to leave, but all in all, I’m extremely glad I had the experiences I did. They changed my life, and I met the most incredible people in the world.
Cover Image Credit: Psychology Today

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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12 Simple Ways To Ease Your Anxiety

These are some super simple ways to handle your stress at home.

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Anxiety and stress are very common problems for many of us in today's society.

Over 70% of adults face some sort of anxiety or stress in their lives.

It can really be overwhelming and can seriously affect our mood for the rest of the day.

Pushing these feelings of anxiety and stress aside and letting them build up does nothing but cause more harm to our minds and bodies.

Sometimes, we just need a quick and easy way to help alleviate some of this stress to help us get through the day and to help us feel better.

Here are 12 ways to do just that:

1. Practice deep breathing

Mental stress and anxiety can cause your body to respond in physical ways. Since it affects your sympathetic nervous system, you might experience elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness. Breathing deeply and slowly can help slow your heart and ease your body back into a calm state. When I panic or feel overwhelmed, I breathe in slowly through my nose, think of one thing that makes me happy, slowly breathe out through my mouth, and repeat until I can feel my mind and body begin to calm.

2. Light a candle or start up your essential oil diffuser

My personal favorite scent to soothe my anxiety is lavender. However, you can also try chamomile, rose, orange, jasmine, sandalwood, or whatever else might help you.

3. Exercise

This is a big one, but can also be a very difficult one. Whenever you're feeling extremely anxious or overwhelmed, it might be hard enough for you to get yourself out of bed, let alone do any serious exercising. My best advice is to be proactive and try to pay attention to when you first start feeling your anxiety creep up on you. Just go ahead and get up and go for a walk, run, or whatever form of exercise you prefer!

4. Read a book

For me, there's nothing like curling up with a good book to help calm my nerves. Whenever I am knowingly going into a situation that will make me anxious, such as traveling, I always make sure to bring a book to read whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. Reading helps me to temporarily escape my anxieties and can be a big help in giving myself some much needed time to calm down.

5. Do yoga and practice meditation

Yoga is such a helpful activity for those with anxiety and stress! It kind of is just a combination of many different anxiety-relieving techniques (exercise, deep breathing, and mindfulness). There are many different apps, books, classes, and websites you can use as a guide and help to do yoga. You can find what positions, locations, and situation are best for you. Doing yoga gives you a great opportunity to think about and reflect on your feelings and worries.

6. Spend time with loved ones (yes, even your furbabies)

Sometimes, all we need is a little love and reassurance in our lives to alleviate some of our anxieties. Spending time with your family, friends, and pets can help us to see and remember the good things we have in our lives. So many times, those of us with anxiety tend to seclude ourselves and that makes it easy to forget the good we have.

7. Drink more water

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause feelings of anxiety. It can make you feel jittery and can be a cause for elevated heart rate. Drinking more water not only helps you physically (like hydrating your skin and body), but it can also do wonders for your mental health. When your body is unhealthy and unhappy, that can be a big factor in feelings of depression and anxiety.

8. Take a short nap

If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, sometimes it can do some good to just take a short 30-minute nap. Just give yourself some time to rest your mind and body and face the issue with a new focus and fresh thoughts.

9. Journal

Even though writing down your feelings, bad or good, can be helpful, when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try focusing on the positive! Write down a few things that made you happy today or a few things that you're grateful for. Don't let yourself be bogged down by the negative.

10. Clean

This might not work for everybody, but I know that sometimes when I'm feeling restless or anxious, cleaning and decluttering can help clear my mind. Basically, it's just good to find something to put your focus on when your anxious thoughts feel like too much. Try to pick a task and focus on that until you're finished. You'll likely find, in the end, that you feel much better than before you started.

11. Listen to happy and soothing music

Listening to music is a BIG help to some people with anxiety. However, you need to be mindful of what you're listening to. Don't put on the breakup playlist you made when you were 13. Find happy or soothing songs and make yourself a playlist of songs with themes of positivity.

12. Don't bottle up your feelings

This might just be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to handling your anxiety. The worst thing that you can do is to suppress your feelings and try to force yourself to forget about them. Hiding or bottling up your feelings might help temporarily, but that will just make you feel worse in the end. Talk to someone or try one of the other methods I mentioned to face your anxiety, but don't pretend like it doesn't exist.

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