So you’ve been discharged. What now?
A friend inspired this post when whilst chatting about her recovery and her imminent discharge from the EDU she has been in for several months, she mentioned that her relationship with food was still far from ideal. She didn’t say it in so many words, of course – it slipped out – we’d been talking about what she liked to eat and she mentioned she had got really into Angel Delight recently. She liked to have cheese or ham sandwich at lunch and then have some Angel Delight. ‘But then sometimes I’ll have ham and cheese. If I have both then obviously I can’t have the Angel Delight.’
So I said, ‘Well, you can have the Angel Delight even if you have both sandwich fillings!’ Her face said it all and she shook her head. The concept of ‘going over’ her given allowance was too much and there was still immense pressure there to keep strict control over what she was eating – the fear of going over the specified amount.
This all worries me massively because after 6 months of intensive therapy and close monitoring, the core issue is still very much present. This isn’t her first time in an EDU, either. It makes me feel as though we are possibly not approaching this in the right way, as in an ideal world a person suffering from Anorexia wouldn’t be sent to fend for themselves when they are still struggling with the demon in their head which still likes (and is able) to take over. I feel as though my friend is being consistently let down, even though I realise that the longer you suffer with Anorexia, the harder it is to recover – as to put it very basically these are now habitual beliefs and behaviour which are hard to break one year in, let alone several. I realise that.
I can’t speak from experience on this one, as at the time of my illness, there were no specialist facilities I could go to – which is why I had to get better on my own with the help of my family. It’s daunting to say the least starting life outside the relatively safe confines of an EDU when you’ve still got that demon in your head knocking about somewhere. You’re only just aware of various strategies and disciplines which might help you to cope and to feel better.
So, I want to share some of the things I talk about in Tough Cookie here with you. When I thought about my recovery in depth later on, I realised that these were the things that had changed my perspective and ultimately changed my life, helping me to eliminate Anorexia for good. These are just short descriptions with bullet points which I hope are helpful – but if you’d like to learn more, you can see the book here.
– Focus on what you want (goals): To overcome Anorexia, you have to regain the goals it’s thrown away. It’s fine – you can retrieve them – they’re not gone forever! This can feel difficult when you have been so consumed with Anorexia for so long, however with a little help from others and a little consideration you can rediscover the things you wanted before you were poorly. I’m a visual person – so the best way to do this for me is to do a brain-storm or board on Pinterest or on large paper to properly see where I’m going and what it is I want to do. Have one list for short-term goals (attending a party, going on holiday) and another for long-term (having a relationship, getting a job, finishing your degree).
– Don’t be hard on yourself (or allow others to be): There’s an untold pressure on you to now recover or to ‘be better’ now you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in an EDU. Of course you and I know that this is a journey which is constantly evolving and can’t be defined as ‘Anorexic’ and ‘Better’. It simply just doesn’t work like that. You might experience pressure from family and friends who are so keen to see you well that they want to believe that this is the end of the road. You may also be putting pressure on yourself – but don’t forget that pressure was probably a contributing factor to your illness. Try to distract yourself with positive things and explain to family members and friends that this isn’t something which goes away overnight – and in fact the true ‘battle’ begins when you are back in your own home, as you are not supported or watched by EDU staff.
– Find some fabulous distractions: I talked above about ‘distracting yourself’. It’s a tactic I’ve used throughout my life for various reasons, and it’s a good one. What’s more, it helps you to feel mentally and physically better and can even get you working towards your goals. You may have forgotten the things you once liked, but have a think about some activities you could do which fill your days. There’s nothing worse than sitting around alone all day – that’s a recipe for Anorexia to creep back in and it’s frightening. Whether it’s reading a book, writing a novel, sketching, taking an arts or music class or watching a film with friends, make sure you’re slowly starting to fill your life with the things you love. Even better, spend time (no pressure!!) working towards one of your goals. For example, if you are still studying, spend a little time doing some research you feel you’d like to do or find interesting. If you want to start a blog, start drafting a few posts. If you’re into photography, research some books you could buy and a camera you could get to start on that path. Whatever your passion may be, fill your time with it.
If you’ve just been discharged from an EDU or are about to be discharged and are struggling, afraid you might relapse, then please continue to read the blog and don’t be afraid. You might feel alone coming out of an EDU – but you do have the support of me and Tough Cookie and the things you may have learnt during your time spent at the EDU. As always, if you have any questions you can always contact me.