Friday was the day I officially stepped down/discharged from a higher level of care. It's been just about 4 months that I've been in treatment 5 days a week for multiple hours a day. It has been a long, difficult road to get here, and yet, I couldn't be more thankful for this experience. I thought I'd compile a list of 10 things I learned in treatment, as a little homage to the time I spent here.
1. Starting treatment is scary. Even if this isn't your first rodeo, it's pretty terrifying to go to a new center, meet new therapists and patients and commit to share everything with them over the course of the next few months. It gets easier as time goes on, but there's definitely some first day of school nerves (or full body anxiety, whichever is more your style) that happened when I was first there. It made me question everything, like, Why am I here? But I'm so glad I stuck it out.
2. Eating disorders don't discriminate. This one I already knew but have to say it louder for those in the back. Treatment was filled with wonderful men and women of all races, ages, body types, and walks of life. Eating disorders are NOT young, wealthy, white girl illnesses. Just no. Anyone can (and they do) suffer from eating disorders. This is such an important takeaway that I thought it was worth mentioning (again and again and again....)
3. There can be humor in the middle of the pain and darkness, and it can be SO healing. For the amount of times I cried in treatment, there were probably an equal amount of times I was truly laughing. For example, see my post about Donald Trump, which had me full belly laughing over with both of my therapists, in multiple sessions. Humor helped me keep things from always being so heavy, and has really helped me heal and be able to form connections.
4. The bonds you can create within 4 months will surprise you. There will be tears and sadness as you walk out of that door for the last time. Your connections with this place, the people, and the work you've done will never cease to amaze you. They now take up space in a section of your heart.
5. Your friends from treatment will get you like no one else. The shared experiences plus working through some of your hardest shit together really go hand in hand for lasting friendships. A smile or a squeeze of the hand can go a long way when someone's struggling during a group or a hard meal. A single look can also send you into (often inappropriate) laughter at these times. They just get you.
6. Speaking of friends just getting it, you'll quickly find out that just about everyone you go to treatment with can (and does) relate to the Dog on Fire Meme. It quickly becomes a short-handed, very accurate way to check in with each other and describe how you're doing. You'll even show your therapists and use it in sessions. Oops.
7. DBT will go from being a type of therapy to a way of life. I'm serious. You'll have heated discussions about whether DBT'ers are a cult or not (they totally are), start actively calling people out on using "judgements", and some will even get tattoos to commemerate what they've learned. (Not me, don't worry, Mom & Dad). Basically, DBT and being skillful will totally take over your life (in the best possible way), and you'll let it.
8. It'll become a battle of who can come up with the most obscure item you can buy at Walmart or random verb you can "teapot" with. Games will help you tremendously to get through tough meals, and obviously you will get competitive af with them. Yes, we're all here to support each other but I want to be the one who stumps everyone with what I'm thinking of!
9. Treatment will show you that you are NOT alone. You have a team of people rooting for you to succeed and kick this illness's ass. From your therapists (x100), dietitian, psychiatrist and friends, you will never, ever be alone. You have so many people in your corner, and that makes this whole recovery thing just a little bit easier.
10. You'll learn... Actually you CAN. Treatment will show you that recovery can happen. Treatment will show you that recovery is possible and worth it, and that it's possible for you.
Hi, I'm Charlotte! I'm a 24 year old navigating life in NYC and mental health recovery. I am passionate about public health and eliminating stigma.