There is no way to know where I would be right now if it wasn’t for you, but I don’t want to know (my eating disorder does, but that’s just because she’s a royal bitch). Eighteen months ago I texted my mom asking if it was okay for me to go back to therapy. I was tired and I was scared. I was spending so much of my time acting like nothing was wrong, but living in constant, agonizing pain.
I have this vivid picture in my mind of the day I finally cracked. It was mid afternoon and I was trying to study for a test.
Studying for a test is really hard when you haven’t eaten anything all day and you are spending 70% of your brainpower deciding whether or not you can eat and if so, what you will eat. I “cracked” that day and ate an apple with peanut butter (a wonderfully balanced snack) and I lost it. I couldn’t focus because I could suddenly feel every ounce and calorie moving and growing in my body (a feeling I still get today and despise more than anything). This feeling is overwhelming and utterly distracting. When you can feel every movement happening within your body, it’s a little hard to focus on anything else. This feeling always brings me to tears. It’s such a helpless feeling to feel as though your body is running by its own rules and you can’t trust it. If you’ve never felt like you can’t trust your own body take a moment to appreciate that.
Anyways, summary up to this point: one day in September I’m studying and eating and I lose it. I can’t remember exactly everything that was happening, but those details don’t matter. What matters is I hit my breaking point. For whatever reason on that day I couldn’t handle it all.
So I texted my mom and asked her if it was okay for me to go back to therapy. Of course she said yes because my parents are fabulously supportive even when they don’t know what to do or say (and even when my eating disorder made me a raving lunatic who was immensely rude, selfish and broken). So I hit the Internet because, how else do you find a therapist when you’ve had a bad experience with the services at your school and no one else knows about your disorder so you can’t ask for advice?
This is how I found you, C.
My favorite thing about you is that you never hesitated to tell me the insights you found in what I said, how I acted and my behavior use. The first thing you told me was that it was obvious that it took me a while to open up and trust, even if I wasn’t aware that I was being reserved, it was my minds go to protection mechanism. I had been hurt, by myself, by the world, by whatever it was that triggered my eating disorder in the first place. But I grew to trust you. You helped me learn that in order for me to open up myself, I need the people around me to open up first. Every story you told me about your life, your college years, your daughter, your eating disorder, made me more comfortable to tell you the darkest, nastiest, heart-wrenching things that ran through my mind every single day.
You pushed me when I needed it and were more gentle on the days when I was so angry with the world that it took everything I had just to walk in your door.
You watched me cry. And cry. And cry. And cry some more.
I didn’t always understand what we were doing. I’m not the biggest fan of looking inward and deciding how each inch of my body feels, smells and tastes or whatever crap we did sometimes. So I would just shut down. You’d ask me what I was thinking and the answer was usually “I feel nothing.” But just having the space to feel everything and not have to deal on my own was everything to me.
I’ll never forget the day we say in your office. It was January. I came to you at 11 and then went straight by my internship starting at 1 PM. I don’t remember what we were talking about. I don’t remember why this came up. I don’t remember what I was going through, but I think it would be safe to say that not much had changed since the day I decided to go back to therapy. I was going through the life every day, constantly fighting myself, regretting every calorie I put into my body, punishing myself by waking up early or staying out late to get time in at the gym, using laxatives to flush the overwhelming fullness and guilt out of my body. I was showing up to therapy, but I wasn’t doing the work.
All I remember about that one January morning was I was anxious as all get out. I couldn’t be still. I was hyper focused on my body and you have to pull me back out of my head piece by piece. I felt so out of control, like my body was sensing some threat that I couldn’t even fathom, let alone name. That was when you said the words that made my stomach drop. My heart pound. I lost every bit of courage I had. “I think you need to do a higher level of care.” I felt lost.
Honestly, my eating disorder was happy. YES, finally someone is acknowledging that I am real, acknowledging the work I have done, the power I have. I am real. I am real. I am real.
But me, the real Kristin, I don’t know if I have ever felt so lost. At least not up until that point in my life (treatment is a whole different story).
For the next two months I kept this secret to myself. You told me to tell my parents. You offered to have them come in to talk about it (the beginning of my hatred for family therapy), you told me they would be supportive, you promised you were on my side and that I would be better off for everything in the end. You were right, by the way, but that definitely was not something I could believe at the time.
Anyways, you know the story. Life happened and I had to tell my parents…crying….in the woods…..EATING DISORDERS ARE SO GLAMOROUS, Y’ALL.
My parents came in and we chatted and you dropped the Carolina House bomb, and from then on, it was out of my control. I fought it every step of the way, telling myself I wasn’t sick enough, didn’t deserve it blah blah blabbbity blab blab. Of course, you know all of this because you say across from me every week as I listed every horrible, repulsive, sickening thing I thought about myself for an hour.
You pushed the doctors to move up my appointments. You spent weeks filling out my intake forms as I dictated because the idea of writing all the things I had done seemed unreal and impossible. You sat there as I yelled and cried and told me I needed this. You listened as my eating disorder raved and ranted and was a MAJOR BITCH (sry bout that). You never let me give up. You never wanted me to doubt my own strength.
Without you, I never would have gone to Carolina House. I didn’t need to be led, I needed to be straight up SHOVED in that direction, but you did it.
Let me say this again one more time,
If it weren’t for Carolina House, I don’t know where I would be. If it weren’t for you, I never ever ever ever ever ever ever would have even considered treatment, let alone actually gone. If it weren’t for my parents doing all of the heavy lifting, being crazy supportive and never letting me give up on myself I don’t know where I would be and you did that.
I know you had so many other clients, but you always made me feel like you cared about me the most and for that, I am forever grateful.
I’m sure you asked me, in one of those first appointments, what I wanted in life. Beyond my eating disorder, my depression, my anxiety; what was the life I wanted? What was the dream? And (as you pointed out to me many many times, I get my validation and self worth from my work, whether it be school, career, anything that motivates me). So at that time I probably told you that I was majoring in PR and wanted to work in the music industry in Nashville.
Eighteen months after we first met, a year after you told me I needed a higher level of care, 10 months after I started my paperwork for residential treatment, eight months after I graduated college and admitted into Carolina House, almost 5 months after I discharged treatment, our time together came to a close. Our time together came to a close because I was doing it. I was moving to Nashville. I was moving to Nashville because I finally could. Because I finally have some control over my life, and not the obsessive, life-threatening, confidence-killing, destructive kind of control. The recovery kind of control.
When I first came to you I was broken, but I had been broken for years. When I first came to you I was shattered beyond recognition. I no longer knew which way to go. I couldn’t sustain the destruction I was creating. The thing that I was using to destroy myself physically had finally taken the last pieces of me mentally and I was gone.
When I first came to you I wanted to move to Nashville and work in the music industry. Because of you, after years of struggling, I finally have a hold on my life. It’s not perfect, my recovery has been far from perfect, but I have at least one foot in reality, one foot in my wise mind, at all times.
When I first came to you I didn’t want to deal with my demons, but I wanted the happy ending anyways.
When I left you I had dealt with my demons, looked them straight in the eye and said, “you don’t get to tell me who I am anymore,” and I walked right out of that life and into my new one, in Nashville. Because of you I have this chance. I always wanted it, but never could have done it without you.
It will never, ever be enough, but thank you.