Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letter to the Inpatient

Hi, All,

I'm a bit tardy with this blog - sorry. Time snuck by me again, as I'm sure each and every one of you can attest to with your own life.

I wanted to address someone enduring inpatient care, and share a few tips on what helped me get through, so here goes...

When I went back and forth from inpatient, to doing well, to inpatient, to doing well… I felt not only ashamed but also a bit embarrassed and hypocritical. Here I was doing well after my first hospitalization, and now only months later I was back to square one. I felt I had disappointed the many people who supported me up to that point, especially my parents. I was so frustrated, more at myself than anyone else. Why did this have to happen to me? How long was this pattern going to continue? Why did I keep allowing myself to stay stuck in old unhealthy patterns? How come I kept listening and believing that “IT” (shame) voice in my head that said I was incapable, not worth it, a waste of time, unable to make the necessary changes to be happy and healthy and whole? How do I get rid of this “fat” feeling that seemed to invade my body? Why can’t I just be “normal”?

But, somehow, deep down inside, I continued to cling to the hope that the caring professionals in my life knew what they were doing, and had been through this before with thousands of other ED patients similar to myself, and that they helped them become successful at beating the odds. Trust was hard, because I had grown accustomed to only trusting myself. And now even that was jeopardized.

It was hard, because I had to admit (though I didn’t tell anybody this) that I liked my “second family” and care I received during my inpatient experience. I liked that it was different from home, unique to other people I knew. But on the other hand, I missed my old routine at home, my control. I liked it, but then again I didn’t like it. It was confusing.

I’m not sure how you feel towards your ED, but it was my best friend. I felt proud and strong that I could discipline my body, mood, and choices more than my friends, family, teachers, coaches, etc. I wanted to be the skinniest, most disciplined person on the face of the planet. I used to repeat to myself that I was a Navy SEAL or a Green Beret in physical training rituals. Yet, in the same breath, I’d consider myself a failure, and not as good as what I thought I was, or what I thought others wanted me to be. I hated exercising and dieting and just wanted to be normal like anyone else, and be able to sit down at a meal without the threat of guilt or feeling fat after those agonizing bites of food.

I’m not sure how you choose to handle the daily grind of inpatient treatment, but the following helped me in my quest to discover recovery…

1) Accept that it’s okay to struggle, to make mistakes, to not be perfect or “the best” at something. It was okay to find my own unique niche and go with it.
2) Try everyday or most days to do something different in my routine that would spur me on to health. This meant challenging myself in little ways (big to me, though). Examples: eat one more spoonful of a food that scary to me; exercise five less minutes; say “hi” to one person I normally didn’t acknowledge; memorize and repeat to myself a favorite scripture verse or affirmation…the list goes on according your own unique battle and creativity.
3) Talk to someone I trusted about how I genuinely felt.
4) Try to pamper myself in some small way during the day.
5) Journal, draw, paint, sculpt, build, or do something “artsy” to express my true inner self or emotions.
6) Imagine that a little boy who was in the beginning stages of an ED approached me and was sitting in a chair next to me. He was scared, confused, upset, and fearful. Write a letter to him or privately have an imaginary conversation with him.
7) Tell someone I disagreed with them, in a respectful way.
8) Involve myself in a conversation with another patients. Try expressing my sincere thoughts and opinions to the person, without tying to say things I thought they wanted to hear.
9) Pray to God. I liked doing this via a journal (i.e., a letter to God)
10) Mix up my eating routine and rituals (eating the food in a different order).
11) Say “no” to the urge to exercise in secret or hide food. Carry out a conversation with the “voice” about how I would feel afterward and why it wouldn’t help my situation. Again, this could be done through journaling.
12) Listen to my body. Imagine what it was trying to say to me and talk to it.
13) Play a board game with a staff person or patient (I loved Scrabble!).
14) Chew gum.
15) Examine my fingers, arms, legs, feet, toes, stomach, waist, and other body parts and think about how God chose to give this particular body to me and only me for a distinct purpose. And no matter how much I chose to hate my body or beat and shape it into something I thought would be better or make me happier, He was still very excited and actually (the Bible says this) danced over His wonderful and awesome creation he made in me.

As you can probably see, I was encouraged to examine my distorted thinking patterns. Sometimes I struggled with this because I couldn’t identify them or understand how they were distorted. But the staff helped me process these thoughts, which helped.

I have talked to many male and female ED patients over the years, ones that have recovered and made their lives more livable and enjoyable. Yet they are not perfect, and they still have struggles with shame-based thinking. But they’ve accepted their circumstances and vowed to not let things control them anymore. They practiced “letting go” of the things they couldn’t control and let God worry about that, which is what He wants us to do anyway.

'Till next time--hopefully sooner.