I would like to apologize for my disappearance on my blog. This fall semester with my course studies along with an Intensive Outpatient Program demanded so much of my time; I needed to concentrate on my most important priorities: my health and my course work. Not to mention, the Holidays have been and still are in full swing and—from my husband and I coming from divorced parents with one living out of state—there are a lot of get-togethers and a lot of meals.
Though, being honest, I have genuinely missed attending to blog and giving it the effort that I finally have a chance to now. I love my network of followers—though small—it’s amazing on how a little encouragement can really change my day for the better. I also desire and find so much fulfillment when a post of mine helps someone else out there in a positive way. I appreciate the positive coping tool of my blog; it has been one of several tools that have helped me redirect my focus from food and the desire to return to eating disorder symptoms instead of choosing recovery. ‘Redirecting your focus’ is a topic I intend to discuss on my blog, but first, I’d like to give a condensed summary of my IOP and the three most vital things that I took away from the experience.
Learning to label, explain and feel your emotions
I know that I wrote an entire post regarding emotions and recovery on the blog sometime in October—but goodness!—learning to navigate emotion really is a huge part of recovery. I realized how much I snuffed my emotions, both the good and the bad, with my eating disorder. Of course, the resurfacing of some of the good emotions wasn’t too much of an obstacle; however, the bad emotions were a totally different beast. This is where IOP really helped me out. The topics discussed and the exercises performed gave me novel ways to handle all of the unpleasant areas of my life that I refused to acknowledge and process. More importantly, I realized the importance of allowing myself to feel. Allowing myself to—for the duration of the emotion—to feel it. In other words, my automatic tendency was to distract, restrict, or push the emotion away as fast as I could—I did not want to feel it for any amount of time. Just learning to allow myself to feel and ride the wave of the emotion was a big step for me and something I am still working on.
You cannot do recovery alone
As much as I firmly believed that a support team and the inclusion of the loved ones around you wasn’t a vital ingredient to making progress, having a support system really-truly-honestly provides a tremendous help toward making and maintaining progress in recovery. One day of the IOP was set-aside for ‘family day’ where you invited the people around you that you felt needed (not wanted) to come to be educated and to engage in a safe discussion of needs and boundaries. I cannot put into words how nervous I was for family day, I was scared. But, my goodness, I would have to say it was one of the days where I felt I learned the most in the program. I invited my mother and my husband; they now have a deeper level of understanding and have such a better idea of how to help me through my journey. I plan to discuss more of this in a later post. So stay tuned because I am back with my blog.
You will not be magically healed come the last day of treatment
As much as people on the outside looking in may hold this assumption, it really is not the case. Even for me and the other individuals in the program had to accept this fact to a certain extent. One thing that that me and one other woman realized was how we both had our own expectations of where we thought we would be, come the final days of the treatment and where we actually were. Setting expectations can be helpful, but they can also breed disappointment and discouragement. What’s more important is that you note and credit yourself for the progress that you have made and are making and take each day one at a time. Compare where you are and where you want to be, and you will get nowhere. Now dealing with the people who will think your eating disorder will have vanished is a different struggle. This is where communication is important and another reason why educating your support team will help ease future anxiety and misunderstandings.
There were so many things I learned during IOP and those things will definitely arise in subsequent blog posts. But I really wanted to review the main themes I found from reflecting back on my treatment in the program. And again, I am sorry for my absence; I definitely will be more consistent with posts now that I’m on winter break from college.
I hope everyone has, and has had, the happiest and most pleasant of times this holiday season