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Recovery blog

Gratitude

By: Julie H., Renfrew Alumna

Posted on February 05, 2018

I saw so many posts about 2017 being the worst year for many of my friends, and for the first time in years, that wasn't the case for me. I can't help but recognize how tumultuous this year has been for me, and also honor that it has without a doubt been the best year of my adult life.

At the end of November 2016 I voluntarily went to The Renfrew Center for an assessment and was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. This is something I had been battling for over five years. In early December I traveled to Florida and was admitted into residential treatment. After a month of residential treatment, I stepped down to the partial hospitalization treatment just in time to start my master's in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling in early January. This is a career choice I have always felt drawn to and passionate about, but avoided because I didn't know if I would be able to recover, and for many years I wasn't even interested in recovery. During the first semester I spent my weekdays, as a patient in treatment and my evenings in class learning to be a counselor. It was exhausting.

Fast forward to end of June, when I finally exited intensive outpatient treatment and officially went to outpatient services. This was HUGE. The growth that happened in the first six and a half months of 2017 is rather indescribable. Treatment was rigorous, but in the process I became medically stable, began healing my relationship with food, normalized my eating patterns, learned how to feel again, figured out what love actually is and how it works, learned how to ask for and accept help, practiced A LOT vulnerability, tackled some other hard shit, and reconnected with the person I was before I learned how to over-program myself, function in autopilot mode only, and emotionally and physically starve myself to earn my enoughness. All of this was nowhere near easy, in fact it was the hardest thing I've ever done, but thankfully I had a support system and a team to hold me up and/or push me forward when I lost motivation and wanted to give up.

The final six months of 2017 were filled with so much chaos, that one would automatically think it could be best described as terrible. I had a pretty significant relapse, and I'm still in the midst of a five-month battle with gastritis. It complicates things, but doesn't make them impossible. In early November, my sweet friend was removed from the transplant list and sent home on hospice care. This has been devastating and left us scrambling to make the most out of the final few weeks of 2017. All of the above has been difficult, but made me so thankful I spent the last year learning how to accept help, normalize emotions, and feel love. The end of 2017 was filled with so much of all of these things.

Additionally, I have grown... oh how I have grown. I completed my first year of graduate school. I have secured my spot and foundation in recovery. I've learned what it's like to give a damn about myself. I said goodbye to the scale (aka my three scales) and knowing my weight. I learned to feel again and have possibly felt every emotion under the sun. This is a luxury I have worked hard for. I also started openly rejecting diet culture and the myth that my worth is attached to my outward appearance, or a number on the scale. Most importantly I have found security in who I am... I have learned to accept the many parts of myself, both light and dark, that make me, me. I still see a counselor and dietitian weekly and I'm working to optimize my recovery, with much more room to grow. But I no longer walk in shame, or fear I am inherently not good enough. Self-love and the willingness to be vulnerable are arguably the most powerful and vital components of happiness, and surviving this so called life. And what I wish most is that everyone would be able to experience it as well.

Eating disorders are no joke, and the recovery process has been the most painfully rewarding journey I have ever embarked on, but as I'm currently watching it begin to come full circle, I'm so glad to have experienced all of the pain because I now know it's been worth it.

Why am I sharing my story, you ask? First, I'm really proud of myself and deserve the freedom that comes from sharing it. I also have chosen to share because my eyes have been opened. Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness, and they're everywhere. When I began sharing with my small group of friends, I found out four of my friends also had some form of an eating disorder. Even if you don't have an eating disorder, it's likely you still understand the silent pressure to be a different size than you currently are, or your body wants to be. You also likely understand the pressure of what it's like to have your worth placed on your outward appearance, and have also battled the monster of negative body image. I speak out to let you know that, though it takes work, there is freedom accessible to you. This freedom is exhilarating and life-giving. Finally, I speak out to remind you, or maybe even tell you for the first time that not only do you deserve to love who you are, but you are enough simply because you are you.

I closed 2017 with so much gratitude, for my family, my friends, and my team(s). All of which, continued to give a damn about me, my health, my safety, and my future when I refused to. I am hopeful that my 2018 will be so much different and better than any year of my life thus far.
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