Just over a year ago, I went into treatment for my bulimia. For the second time. That first month was more intense than just about anything I’ve ever done. From my first program, I had heard horror stories of dieticians and meal plans and food exposures, but now here I was, saddled with a treatment team, including a dietician supplying me with a meal plan I didn’t agree with (and now loosely follow) and an intern therapist that I earnestly tried to give a hard time to. During those first few weeks, I relearned how to forgive myself and how to not judge the food I was eating. I wasn’t able to do either of those right then but I was trying.
Part of the program was to go on weekly outings if you were doing well in your program or if your treatment team felt you needed to be challenged. Well, my second week coincided with my first outing and it was not for doing well. A group of about fifteen of us loaded into a bus, some of us excited to be out of the hospital and many of us nervous about what lay ahead. Typically, we weren’t informed where we were going until the last minute, presumably to prevent us from prolonged anxiety or preparatory plans of what and how to order food. That day, our therapists drove us to a local italian restaurant. Truth be told, I had been to a different location of the small chain a million times and actually really loved it. Having to go while in treatment, and thus, not being able to engage in compensatory behaviors, however, was an entirely different experience.
I was sat next to my dietician, which, when you are in treatment for an eating disorder is akin to someone staring and judging you while you eat. In other words, a nightmare. Naturally, it took many of us, myself included, an excruciating amount of time to decide what to eat -worries about meal plans and questions to the dieticians at hand flew around the table, until everyone was at least OK with their order decisions.
Eventually when the waitress came around for the third time, we ordered. As she took my order, I instructed her to go easy on the cheese for my salad (knowing, from my experience at the other restaurant, that they dump it on) and requested the dressing on the side. As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, I received an earful from my dietician about how substitutions and special instructions were not allowed unless cleared with her beforehand. Oops.
The rest of the meal was hard but luckily we had no meltdowns. And afterwards, as usual, we get to do something fun or “fun,” depending. Because my treatment program was in a hospital that was local to me, the places we visited were ones I was typically familiar with and that day was no different. We went to a pumpkin patch that I probably passed by weekly for years. And I could not have been more excited to tout my full-stomached self over there.
One reason is that I love doing things as an adult that remind me of being a kid. Not that my childhood was stellar, but maybe because it wasn’t. Also, Halloween is my favorite holiday and being able to celebrate it’s many aspects is awesome. Most importantly though, it was a bonding experience with my fellow people in recovery. A good handful of the people I went with I am still in contact with today, some I am even closer with now (Hi Sarah!), and one was someone I had been in treatment with before and already had a cool bond with (Hi Janica!). The fun that I had that day with my fellow patients was good and needed.In fact, that day is still a day that Janica and I talk about with fondness because it was a pivotal point in our recoveries and our friendship.
Sometimes solidarity with other people that understand what you’re going through can give you just the release you need. That day was the perfect example of it.