My Experience in Rehab

My Experience in Rehab

An Inside Look at Eating Disorder Rehab
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I’ve thought about writing this article for a while now. I was very unsure if I wanted to share this experience with others, partly because I didn’t think people would understand and partly because I just didn’t like thinking about it that much. When I hear the word “rehab” the first words that come to my mind associating with it are “failure, loser, and weak” (side note: I really don’t want to offend anyone at any point in this article, these are just 100% my true feelings and obviously now I’ve learned otherwise). I mean, you can’t really blame me for thinking these things. The way social media portrays teens or individuals in rehab isn’t pretty or flattering in anyway. People that are in rehab are at the lowest of the low points in their lives and I always thought that I would never be a part of that group. I just didn’t. Obviously that all changed.

It took me two years to wake up from my daydream. Two years to come to a full realization that I was in some serious shit. Up until that moment I was in complete denial about my mental state. No way did I have an eating disorder. I didn’t throw up my food and I was certainly not anorexic, because I perceived myself on the heavier side of “running girls”, I wasn’t incredibly skinny. I just really liked food but I also really wanted to be skinny; to the point where that’s all I ever thought about, being skinny, eating, and losing weight. Even when I was having a conversation with someone or hanging out with my friends my body was there but my mind wasn’t. I’d be thinking about the last meal I ate, how many calories it had in it, how many calories I had to burn off to subtract that difference, and then what I was going to eat next; always making sure that what I was eating was healthy and would help me lose weight. These thoughts consumed me 24 hours a day. For a long period of time I would not let myself consume more than 800-900 calories per day while also running 7+ miles each day. I would hold this pattern throughout the school week, distracting myself with homework, but on the weekends when I had more time on my hands I’d completely fall apart. My mind would lose control of my body and I’d just eat everything that was in sight. No matter if it tasted good, if I wanted it or not. I was so hungry by this point that I would eat until it hurt. Until the point where I’d want to cry. During these binging episodes it was like I was no longer me anymore. Similar to being drunk, or high, anytime in which all your intuitions just drop. I literally would become a monster. Some people witnessed the beginnings of these episodes, but the majority of the time I would do it in private. I would wait until I was alone and then have a free for all. Then I’d feel so utterly ashamed of myself that I’d not allow myself to have any food the next day or severely restrict and start the whole process over again. I’d even run outside of practice, convincing myself it was for the athlete in me rather than the “ED” eating me.

So cut back to March of 2016 when I finally came to terms with my demons. I realized what I was doing wasn’t right and I didn’t want to be living in this personal hell I created for myself. I wanted to actually enjoy being with my friends without thinking about my weight, I wanted to be able to go through a single meal without thinking about how many damn calories I was consuming, and I wanted to see running as something other than weightless. I lost who I was through my eating disorder. It literally ate away the person I once was. I wanted her back. So in my lowest of lows I admitted myself to rehab. I requested full 24 hour stay because I wanted to get better as soon as possible and I just didn’t trust myself with less hourly care. I didn’t want to live with the devil inside of me anymore. But boy oh boy, did I not know what I was in for.

The first day was honestly one of the worst days of my life. I’m sitting in the lobby waiting to be shown to my room and am just stunned to see the amount of sick girls that are there- like really sick, like you can see their bones and everything sick- and immediately I was like “oh god I’m in the wrong place, I’m not sick enough to be here”. Within 5 minutes of sitting there I see one girl in a fetal position lying on the ground with her head tucked between her knees, but the most shocking part is everyone just walks on passed her, like this is nothing new and she obviously doesn’t need any help. A minute later a girl sits next to me wrapped in a blanket, looking not older than 15 (I later find out she’s 24) asks me about myself. I think, “finally someone is here to make me feel better”, but then she goes on talking about how she’s been in 5 different hospitals, telling me in-depth about her horrible experiences at each one and how horrible the staff treated her there, but she assured me this place was top of the line. Then before I can even process what she just said, another girl comes and sits across from us and just starts sobbing hysterically. At that moment, not even 15 minutes into my stay, I was ready to leave. Lol girl, you still have 30 more days of this to go.

The next couple of hours were filled with nonstop tears and discomfort. I had to watch as they went through all my bags taking away anything sharp that I could use to harm myself or others. I was only allowed to get my shaver, tweezers, etc twice a week at 6am-7:15am. They took away my laptop, my cell phone, anything I could use to communicate with the outside world. They even freaking took away my pimple medication because it contained alcohol as an ingredient and people could use that to do I don’t know what, get drunk or something, I don’t know, have a blast. Meal times were just as bad. I was given a tray with my food wrapped up. I had to raise my hand for a counselor to come watch me unwrap my food, hand her my garbage before I could eat. They then watched us like hawks throughout the whole meal making sure we weren’t hiding food in our pockets or throwing it on the ground or I don’t even know what. They repeated the same process when we were leaving; picking up our plates, shaking our cups, unraveling our napkins to make sure we finished 100% of our meal and weren’t hiding it anywhere. Multiple times, I was instructed to lick my knife clean of the smudge of peanut butter or eat the one remaining piece of lettuce on my plate because that was seen as an incompletion. A freaking piece of lettuce people. If we didn’t finish, you were forced to drink an ENSURE supplement, and if you refused even that you would eventually be put on a feeding tube. The tube was inserted through your naval cavity and stretched to your stomach. It was attached to a long pole that you had to carry around with you everywhere, similar to what you see with people in the hospital who have an IV. I also was stripped of my privileges to exercise, at all, period, none whatsoever. They watched how much I walked each day and if I went over the normal amount it was deemed as “over-exercising” and I could get even more privileges taken away from me.

A basic day at rehab was similar to taking classes at school. I attended multiple seminars discussing our emotional and physical discomforts. They were designed to help us overcome the demons living inside of us. I was assigned a therapist, psychologist, and nutritionist, who were all a part of my team and were focused to getting me better. I saw each of them roughly 1-2 times per week depending on need.

As with everything else they closely monitored our weights and vitals. Every morning they would make us get up at 4AM to get weighed, get our vitals checked, and occasionally receive a blood test. If our pulse or blood pressure was deemed too low they would force us to drink a full Gatorade, wait 10 minutes and then repeat the process. This happened to me every morning, because being an athlete my pulse has always been low, but what I was unaware of until now is that is also a side effect of eating disorders. So every morning I would get up at 4, down a miracle 16oz Gatorade as they referred it, and then get back to sleep roughly around 4:45 if I was lucky, only to be woken again at 8am for breakfast and repeat the whole cycle over again.

We were only granted phone privileges at certain hours of the day, in which we had to use a phone card to make any outgoing calls. We had to be in our rooms by 11pm. People that were diagnosed with bulimia weren’t even allowed bathroom privileges. The bathroom in their room was locked and the only way they could access it was if a counselor kept their foot in the door while they were doing their business.

Rehab was draining. I was so emotionally tired that even my body began to feel physical effects. They wanted us to find the root of the disorder which was inside of us. We were constantly asked to dig into the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves revealing our worst demons. Bringing to life the things that brought us the most pain. Exactly the opposite of what any of us wanted to think about let alone share with others. They wanted us to come face to face with our monsters and fight them every single damn hour of every single damn day. Can you understand why this was exhausting? On top of it all, it would bring many of us to tears multiple times a day because the pain was too strong and we didn’t feel like we could put up a fight anymore. It broke so many of us. I watched my friends as they suffered within themselves, feeling so incredibly hopeless because I could not help them win this fight. This was something they had to overcome on their own.

The things I witnessed in there are things that will stick with me my entire life. I won’t even mention half the things that I experienced just out of common courtesy of people’s privacy. They’re just not my stories to share. All I can share with you is what I went through in there. Every single day I was forced to face my worst demons. I struggled through every meal, every session, every hour. It was hell. I didn’t tell anybody where I was. I was too embarrassed. I didn’t think anyone would understand. I didn’t want people to think of me this way, as in “weak” or a “failure”. People always told me I was strong. Even there, the girls all told me how strong I was because they never saw me cry and that was because I saved all my tears for moments when I knew I was alone. I did not feel strong. I felt so incredibly weak, I didn’t feel that I could ever overcome this. Even weeks after I was released, I still felt the same feelings of despair and hopelessness. And if I’m going to be totally honest with you, I still experience some of those same feelings even today, months after my release. It will always be an uphill battle. It’s never going to be easy, but I sure as hell am not giving up anytime soon.

















Cover Image Credit: http://www.pitara.com/science-for-kids/science-news-for-kids/how-does-the-lotus-flower-clean-itself/

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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The Things Nobody Told Me About Depression, But I Really Wish Somebody Would Have

I was diagnosed with depression six months ago. These are some of the things that I wish I had known sooner.

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There are a ton of things about having depression that no one will tell you. For example, something that no one ever told me about depression is that I have it.

I was diagnosed with depression in December of 2018 - just six months ago. But my therapist tells me that, based on what I've said about my mental state, I've likely had depression since elementary school, if not earlier.

The fact that I've had depression for so long and not know about it only goes to show how easy it is for one to live with mental health issues and never know it.

The fact that I apparently developed depression at such an early age only goes to show that mental health issues do not exclusively affect people only after they have lived and experienced all that life can throw at them.

The fact that I have had a pretty good life - a loving family, success in academics, never experiencing severe poverty - only goes to show that mental health issues are not always caused by shitty life experiences and traumas.

These are all things that no one ever told me about depression, and things that I never knew until I got to college and took a psychology class focused on mental health issues.

I did not know that depression can hide for years without you ever knowing about it.

I did not know that depression can manifest even in young children.

I did not know that depression can affect even those living happy lives.

These are things no one tells you about depression.

These are things that I had to learn by myself, and things that I am still learning how to compromise with the reality of my own life experience.

It's no one person's fault that I didn't know these things, it was the fault of a societal system that didn't know it needed to be concerned with such things. The early 2000s, when my young brain was developing and learning how to cope with the world, were not exactly focused on mental health in children. By the time people realized that children were suffering from depression and anxiety at earlier and earlier ages, I had already been living with my own issues for years, and I thought that my experiences and interpretations of the world around me was normal - that this was how everybody felt, that this was all normal. I didn't think that the symptoms that our counselors and teachers warned about at the beginning of each school year applied to me.

Nobody told me that depression isn't always sadness and crying.

Nobody told me that sometimes depression is a creeping grey numbness that clouds your brain. That sometimes it is a blurring and a muting of your emotions until you feel nothing at all. That such nothingness is worse than any level of sadness you would ever feel.

Nobody told me that depression isn't constant.

Nobody told me that I would have good days amid the bad ones. That every now and then, a day in a week or a day in a month or a day in a blue moon, I would have all of my emotions sharp and bright and my smiles would be as soft as they were genuine and I would relish the taste of the air around me. That these good days don't invalidate the bad days and mean that I don't have depression after all.

Nobody told me that once I was diagnosed with depression it would simultaneously feel like a weight had been lifted and like a punch to the gut all at once.

Nobody told me the relief that I would feel at the explanation and the knowledge that I might not always have to live like this. That I would also feel my understanding of my life flipped upside down, because if the way I have been experiencing the world is because of a disease, then what does that mean for the validity of my life and who I am?

Nobody told me that there would be a part of me that feared to get better, because who would I be without depression? Without this parasite that has somehow been such a constant throughout my life?

Nobody told me that I would begin to question which parts of my personality are "real" and which parts of me are the depression?

And if those two things can even be separate? And if so, will I ever be able to say I am better, if these parts of me developed through depression are still a part of me once I am "recovered"?

Nobody told me how scary that thought would be.

But what people have told me is that recovery is possible. They have told me that life gets better. That those good days that I used to find - unexpected yet welcome - could become my normal day. That I can be my own person, separate from my depression, and I can grow stronger, and happier, and more vibrant and more driven and MORE.

These are the things that people have told me, and these are the things that I remind myself of.

Nobody told me how lonely depression can be, but I hope that this article might make you feel a little less alone, and a little more prepared, and a little more understood.

I am not an expert. I still do not know everything, and my experience is my own, and in no way represents a majority or speaks on behalf of everyone out there suffering from depression. But I know now that I am not alone in my own experiences, and I hope that whoever is reading this, if you need it, maybe now you can know that you are not alone in yours.

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