Being in a 24 hour treatment center for an eating disorder is like being in a safe, yet mentally and physically challenging bubble with only extremely supportive people. I remember on my last day at the facility, on my graduation day, I felt ready to take on the world. I had been following my meal plan 100%, stepping out of my comfort zone consistently and disputing numerous self sabotaging thoughts I often faced.
However, the “real world” outside of treatment wasn’t as optimistic and recovery focused as I had glamorized it to be. My first snack out proved to be a challenge in itself. There was no one sitting with me, watching me consume every bite, and that all too familiar voice of ED became stronger. In treatment, there were so many items censored due to its potentially triggering content, such as magazines, websites, toxic people and most forms of media. But in life, there unfortunately aren’t “trigger warnings” on everything. I was blindsided by the countless diet/weight loss ads and the number of active, athletic people I saw all around me. I had forgotten what real life was like in just the couple months I spent cooped up in a treatment facility.
Even though it was quite a shocker immediately following residential, it became a normalized challenge that I began to expect; it was just another component left to battle on my journey to recovery. It is common, and actually completely expected to face lapses and slips after higher level of care. It is the only way to learn! That said, it is all the more beneficial to have a strong support system in place after discharge. Continued care has been a crucial aspect to my continuation in recovery. Whenever I had moments when the eating disorder thoughts tried to slip back in, my treatment team was there to catch me and pull me back into my wise mind. Overall, life DOES get better after inpatient care for an eating disorder. The strict rules of treatment facilities do not linger forever. It becomes a gradual process of learning to live a life true to your authentic self.