Ahh, we have arrived at mid-August. It always comes, right after my birthday, whether we’re ready for it or not. (Find my birthday mini vlog below!)
Every year, after my birthday, it immediately becomes “back to school season.”
It’s like — okay, you can have the first week of August, but once it’s Monday of week two…BAM!…it’s time for school supply shopping, getting class schedules and the like.
And every year, once back to school season hits, I am reminded of my biggest recovery regret. Or, spun in a more positive light…the number one thing I wish I could “re-do” when it comes to my recovery.
And that is…
Going across the country to college so immediately after being discharged from inpatient.
I literally had mere weeks between when I got back home from the residential inpatient treatment facility where I had been for the last three months, and the start of Freshman Orientation at a college in South Carolina.
I mean, that decision itself was a last minute one. I was planning on going to the University of Southern California for their drama program, but made a last minute switch to the school in Charleston, because at the Summer Acting Program at the University of Southern California during the summer of my junior year, I was made to do a scene about an anorexic girl’s inner monologue before eating an orange…the irony right? Because at that time, I was in the beginning stages of anorexia, but my weight loss was not concerning yet — rather just seen as “leaning out.”
ANYWAY…I didn’t think it wise to go back to that environment, so at the last minute, I decided to go to South Carolina.
That was the absolute wrong decision.
I was in NO condition to go ANYWHERE.
I still had 15-20 pounds still left to gain before I reached my “healthy weight range.” Granted, I had made a lot of weight restoration progress: I started at 78 pounds, mind you. But I still had a long way to go.
My doctors, my parents, everyone was advising me to continue on to their additional 2 months of “after care” where you live with a group of 5 other girls, also in ed-recovery, in a “halfway-house”-type apartment, still connected to the inpatient treatment facility. There I would have had the support to continue my meal plan, have accountability, and the “training wheels,” if you will, for learning to actually live on my own, without slipping back into the eating disorder.
That’s what I should have done.
But of course, stubborn me wanted none of that. And wanted to go to college like a “normal kid.” I had already had to miss my high school graduation because I was at inpatient. I was not going to let this damn eating disorder get in the way AGAIN of another huge milestone in my life.
That was the wrong decision. I should have listened to those around me who cared for me.
Because what happened, practically as soon as I got to campus? I relapsed.
With no accountability, and feeling the pressure of rushing a sorority with all these beautiful “southern belles,” who I so longed to be…what did I do? I slipped back into old anorexic ways. It started with skipping the therapist and dietician appointments I had set up with the team put in place for me down in South Carolina. Then it was skipping meals. Then it was exercise. And by the time Christmas break rolled around, I went home for the first time at around 85 pounds, and my parents said, you’re not going back.
And so I didn’t. I stayed home for that next semester and actually did the work to truly get better once and for all. I gained all the weight back. I learned to fall in love with food again. I even put a plan together for a smart college experience, where, though I could “go away for college,” I still had accountability on campus with, none other than, the man I owe my life to, who, at my intervention, got me to go to inpatient in the first place. He was there with his family, and I would babysit and go to their Bible study every week.
But every year when this “back to school” time rolls around, I often think about how things would be different, had I not gone away to school right away? And I always say a prayer for those ED-Warriors, who perhaps, are facing that same decision: do I go, or do I stay and focus on my recovery?
And I always pray they choose the latter.
Though I wish I could do a “re-do,” the truth of the matter is that, God allowed me to go through that, and so therefore, I trust that I was meant to learn something from it.
There is great humility that comes from relapsing.
I always used to think of it as “failing” recovery. But that’s actually not the case at all. Around 41% of all recovering anorexics relapse within in the first 18 months.
And what I’ve come to realize is that, sometimes, it is necessary to fall down, to realize that you have the ability to stand back up again. “Failure” would be to fall back into the eating disorder and then just stay there. Succumb to it. That would be failure.
But falling down, and then doing the work to change, and reorder your life, and set off on a new path with a new determination, and now the new skills for handling adversity or temptations when they should arise….that is not failure at all. But rather, an important step in the recovery journey.
Am I saying that I wish relapse on everyone? Heavens no. But, if relapse is unfortunately a reality for you or a loved one, it’s not the end of the story. And there can be good brought about from it.
Heck, it can even set you on the path you’re supposed to be on. At least, that’s what it did for me.
Life is full of all sorts of twists and turns, detours and setbacks. Because we’re human. And we fall. And God, in His infinite mercy and love is capable of gently guiding us back on track, no matter where or how far we may veer off from the “narrow way.”
So perhaps, I need to reframe my thought about this “regret” in that, it wasn’t a set back, but rather a set up for the life God actually had in store for me all along.
How do you view detours in your life?
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