Connections are hard to make especially when you are constantly thinking about how to avoid situations where there will be food, convince people you’ve eaten even though you haven’t, and trying to get rid of anything you’ve had to put in your body by any means necessary. That doesn’t foster connection with friends and family, it pushes people away. Being connected to your eating disorder feels like all you need anyways, it’s the only thing that makes you feel safe.
So of course the first thing they want you to do in treatment is connect. Connect to your therapist. Connect to your dietician. Connect to your psychiatrist. Connect to the nurses. Connect to the other patients. CONNECT CONNECT CONNECT. So you connect and you connect deeply because these people learn more about you during intake/first sessions/group therapy then most of the people you love have learned about you in a lifetime. Your therapist will know you better than your mom. Your nurses will know you better than the primary care doctor you’ve seen since you were born. The other patients will know you better than your best friend. Hell they become your best friends.
Honestly I’ve come to the conclusion treatment professionals do this on purpose. They want you to feel so connected especially to staff members you most likely won’t see outside of the treatment setting because eventually you won’t need treatment anymore and ultimately you will have to say some hard goodbyes. This is totally intentional and serves as an opportunity to practice saying “healthy goodbyes.” Healthy or not goodbyes suck, they hurt and avoiding pain is a major reason people engage in eating disorder behaviors. Basically this is a test to see how you will handle stressors, will you hide from the pain with in the confines of your eating disorder? Or will you use the adaptive coping skills you learned in treatment to get through?
I recently went through this when the treatment facility I was a patient at closed at the end of October. I was really close to basically the entire staff but there was one staff member in particular that I felt a deep connection to, she was my nurse and I absolutely loved her. I still do. Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a very long time. The first few days after I wished I had never known her because I was so sad and I missed her. Then I thought to myself how lucky am I to have found something that makes saying goodbye so hard. I am so blessed to have known this woman, she instilled in me a strength and power that I would not possess if I had never known her. She will always hold a special place in my heart and I know we will meet again one day when I am fully recovered and thriving.
Until then though, my outpatient therapist (who also worked at the treatment facility) is relaying letters to her for me. It’s not the same as being able to have a real conversation with her but I’m trying to make the best of the minimal options I have and I think I’m doing pretty damn good!
To end this extremely long post. Yes connections are hard to make and yes sometimes they hurt but please don’t be afraid to love and connect deeply. As humans it’s in our nature to give and receive love, to be connected to each other. Eating disorders keep us all disconnected and completely isolated. From family, friends, and from life in general. So choose recovery my friends. Choose connection. Ultimately please choose life.
All my love.