One of the most important lessons I've learned in recovery is that no one can recover from an eating disorder alone. I would know; I’m an anorexia survivor. Without hospitalization, residential care, the support of health practitioners, and other resources in the community, I would not be in the state of health and vitality that I am today. Truthfully, I might not even be alive.
My hospitalizations, the shortest of which lasted three months, were an essential part of my early recovery from anorexia. Under the acute care of an eating disorder specialist and a team of nurses at Lions Gate Hospital, my vitals stabilized and my body weight returned to normal. My physical health, which had reached near critical condition, was restored. However, the anorexic obsessions in my mind remained relatively unchanged over the course of my hospitalization. I left the hospital physically better but with the same devil on my back that had landed me there in the first place.
That mind-body disconnect was the key difference between hospitalization and my experience in residential care for my anorexia. While the hospital focused primarily on physical rehabilitation, my treatment in residence took a holistic approach. I lived in a beautiful home with a number of others whose bodies were no longer in critical condition, but whose lives were still being ravaged by eating disordered obsession. With my fellow residents and the guidance of a dietitian, counselor, and psychologist, I learned to plan and prepare meals, dine in a social setting, cope with overwhelming emotions without turning them on my body, and ask for help when I needed it.
The residence provided a safe place for me to address the many underlying issues that perpetuate my anorexia, without using anorexic behaviours to cope. Finally, I could share openly about both my struggles and breakthroughs without fear of judgment or abandonment. With the one-on-one support of a counselor, I also learned how to shop for groceries—a simple task that up until then had rendered me paralytic with fear and anxiety. In this way and many more, I regained the skills and tools to reintegrate into everyday life. For the first time in years, I could shine with authenticity untainted by anorexia and engage with the world in a way I had never believed possible.
Today, my recovery is by no means perfect. But my life is no longer ruled by anorexia or compulsive exercise. Thanks to what I learned in residential treatment for my eating disorder, I've learned to read and trust the signs my body gives me, and to address them appropriately. I've also discovered a new compassion for those who still suffer, whether from anorexia, bulimia, addiction, or other mental health issues. Residential treatment and the unbelievably patient practitioners that worked there, did for me what I could not do alone.
Truly, all I had to do was ask for help. I've realized how much can be gained from shelving both my pride and my fear, and reaching out for the help I never thought I deserved. To this day, my recovery is the greatest gift I've been given—and I'm immensely grateful for the support that has made it possible.