Well, I gave it a go. Five weeks in a group home. Pretty sure I always knew that it wasn’t the right eating disorder treatment setting for a fifty-four-year-old extreme introvert. So much of my life can be compared to that Fisher Price toy where you try to match up triangles and diamonds and push them through the corresponding slot in a larger spherical object. The circle can never be jammed through the square space, no matter how hard you push, no matter how many times you rotate it. I’m a shape—something more complex than a circle, something with more jagged edges—that has yet to find its slot in the bigger sphere of life. Shrug, shrug…
Maybe somewhere down the line, weeks or months from now, I’ll feel some regret that treatment didn’t work. Maybe anger and resentment will surface. Why only one model of intervention? Was my perennial “misfit” stance only a convenient cop-out? Did I have one foot out the door during my entire stay?
Wrong program? Wrong time? Both? Yeah, probably both. There is plenty of time to process things. Later. For now I am greatly relieved. I’m thrilled to have my freedom back, my autonomy. That includes my disordered behaviors: my opportunity to exercise more, perhaps excessively; my ability to restrict food again for large chunks of the day; my chance to lose another pound and a half. (Yes, there always seems to be weight to lose. Couching it in small amounts helps me minimize that this is probably a bigger problem.
The fact that my weight falls within a “normal” range is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s been very frustrating to open up to people about my struggle and have them seem to offer their own diagnosis: “You don’t have an eating disorder.” So much for the opinions of psychologists, psychiatrists and dietitians. Eating disorder behaviors are typically done in secret. I don’t exhibit the signs, nor does my body seem to show the effects. That last part is the good thing about my situation. I’m not in any danger of dying. I’m like a frustrated dieter: all my efforts to slim down are for naught. My doctor gives me a clean bill of health on every visit. He consistently says I’m incredibly fit and all is good, physically at least.
Out of program, I’m right back where I started. I’m greatly relieved, in large part because I’m out of a group environment that didn’t suit me. But I’m also relieved that I can go back to being me. No more meal plan that makes me feel like I’m being force-fed. No more activity protocol that leaves me feeling guilty over stunted workouts and sends me into a panic that I’m losing muscle and gaining fat. No more babble about coping mechanisms and thinking traps. Hello again, cottage cheese; so long, peanut butter. I’m happy that I can feel hunger again instead of being constantly bloated.
I’ve spent the past twenty months half-heartedly trying to overcome my eating disorder. The nagging worry when I began was that maybe help was coming too late for disordered ways of being that I’ve relied upon, off and on, for four decades. When I was discharged from hospital in late May completely unchanged, I had an overwhelming, crushing feeling that I failed. It’s a small victory that I’m not so critical of myself this time around. Wrong program, wrong time. Nothing to beat myself up over. I’m free again. I can go back to focusing on losing that last pound and a half. Or maybe more. I keep telling myself I’ll know when to stop.