I made my decision. I had to get treatment for my binge eating disorder. Now. Backing out was not an option. The eating disorder center in my city offered an evening program that I could attend 3 nights a week for 4 hours after work. I had no idea what to expect.
Nervous about what I was about to get myself into, I sent an e-mail to the treatment center I had found out about in my internet search the night before. The next day I received a very friendly e-mail that I should schedule an interview with them. They also attached a packet for me to fill out and to bring with me. The following Thursday, I was standing in front of an office building not knowing what to expect. Would they accept me? Was I even bad enough? I knew that I had a problem, but wasn’t sure what would qualify me for treatment. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic. I just ate a lot, lots of times, and I couldn’t stop once I got started. I knew I needed help. But would it be bad enough?
When I entered the building, I found the suite of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver right away. Session was on that day, so when I walked in, I saw a couple of very skinny girls heating up their dinners and getting called into a room to get weighed. Woah!!! Was I in the right place?
A very cheerful therapist welcomed me into her office and we talked for an hour about my binging, the program, and went over the insurance paperwork. I felt at ease and had no trouble opening up to her. Finally, she said: “You are high-functioning with your eating disorder.” I still didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing, or if I would even get accepted. She continued, “I think we can help you get better.” I was so excited, because I knew that an inpatient treatment center would’ve been out of the question for me. Only celebrities could afford that! I had a job and a life, after all. At that point, the outpatient program was my only hope and I was going to do whatever it took to get better. “Can you start next Wednesday?” the therapist asked.
Treatment in Session
Again, I had no idea what to expect on my first evening of treatment. I was excited about finally getting help, but I was also nervous as hell. Tucking my uneasiness away, I entered the center. As I walked in, I met a few more therapists and other patients that were in the program. Everyone was super nice and welcoming. Since we were supposed to eat dinner as group, I brought leftovers with me, and heated them up. Again, I felt very much out of place, because I was the only “big” girl and at 43, most of them could be my daughters of what I could tell.
A therapist called me into an office to get my starting weight and I filled out a form to “check-in”. One of the therapists then went over the form with me, which documented how I was feeling that evening, if I ate all my meals that day, had any cravings, and what my goals were. I learned that this was a ritual we did 2 of the 3 sessions each week. Mondays was “confession night”, as we called it and we had to fill out a different sheet and share how we fared throughout the week – good and bad.
My First Meal
Dinner was enjoyable. We had a “mindful moment”, a moment before dinner where we focused on relaxing, being in the moment, and our intentions for the meal. Mine usually was to eat slow (instead of gulping) and taste my food while also paying attention to my fullness signals. I noticed how some of the girls struggled to eat their food. Not me! I was beginning to doubt that I made the right decision to get treatment at this center. I was totally opposite from them, but I hung in there. After dinner, we had to answer some questions again about how we felt, our hunger levels before and after the meal, if we had any eating disorder behaviors, or if we practiced any new skills. It was a little awkward.
I Was Wrong
After a short break, we transitioned into a class to learn personal interaction skills. That’s when I realized that I was wrong with my earlier judgement. It didn’t matter if the others were there because of their bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating disorder, or something in-between. We all were dealing with the same crap in our heads, the insecurities, the fear of confrontations, not dealing with our feelings. My mind was officially blown, as it was many times during my treatment (which I will talk about in future posts). We had the same disease, it just manifested differently, depending on how we were coping with difficult situations.
Art Therapy? Really?
Finally, our last class that day was art therapy. Okay. I consider myself an artsy person. I always loved crafts, writing, needlepoint, etc. I had no idea of what it had to do with eating disorder treatment. Were we supposed to draw food? Our therapist walked into the room and she totally looked her job – colorful clothes and very relaxed.
Before the session started, she asked us to make our mark on a sheet of paper hanging on the wall. “Draw how you feel.” Huh? I just put a heart on it, because I love hearts. To my horror, we had to talk about it, our feelings, and what we needed from the group that night. I had no idea what to say, so I just spouted something out. I guess, I did okay.
I think our assignment was to draw something that made us feel good using any medium we wanted. I drew a happy worm with dots crawling on grass with sunshine and a few clouds in the sky with smelly markers. It was fun, but when I saw everyone’s artwork and we had to talk about it, I felt like mine looked like 3rd grader art compared to theirs. “This sucks! Mine looks like scribbles…” I was so hard on myself and my perfectionism reared its ugly head. Apparently negative self-talk was frowned upon. I learned that the hard way… The therapist asked me pointed questions about why I felt that way and I realized that I actually did feel good when I was drawing it and that should’ve been all that mattered. That’s why they call art “therapy” and we found another area in me that needed some work.
What made me want to continue
Even though I was the only binge-eating disorder patient in the group at the time, I realized that just in one evening I learned so much about myself that I knew that this program was the right fit for me. I didn’t even have a one-on-one with my therapist or a session with my dietitian yet. I’ve read hundreds of self-help books in my life, but just this one night convinced me that I needed to do this if I ever wanted to be free from my cravings and binges again.
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And as always, feel free to leave comments below. Are you currently struggling? Are (or have you been) in recovery yourself? What’s on your mind? I love to hear from you!