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Stories of Recovery

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Andrea Simione

One year ago, I entered the doors of the beautiful Renfrew center of Philadelphia. It had been snowing for what seemed like an eternity and I had hoped, waking up at 5 am, that the weather would serve as an excuse to cancel the appointment. I knew very little about eating disorders or their treatment, but I did know that what I had been tormented with for the past three years was only getting worse every day. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my whole life. I was lucky to be accompanied by my parents who relentlessly pushed me forward after I tried every excuse in the book to cancel my appointment.

The drive was beautifully snowy from southern New Jersey to the outskirts of Philadelphia. Once I had arrived, I was immediately brought in for the assessment. As the hour passed, I began to figure out how this would end, and I was correct. With two words, "Anorexia Nervosa," my life would never be the same. The words were followed by a series of instructions and explanations, but I could not hear them. As my parents sat teary-eyed and nodding, I stared out of the window watching the snow fall. "How symbolic," I thought, "I know exactly how it must feel to be snow; cold and helplessly falling." I started the Day Treatment Program just one day later.

In my short time in DTP I met many women just like me; I was no longer alone in my dark struggles. I had, for the first time, a therapist who showed me that there is a place where I fit in and was understood. She taught me about my illness and made me feel comfortable accepting help. Unfortunately, Residential treatment was still an inevitable fate. One month later, I was back at this beautiful place, still covered in snow, and toting luggage filled with my belongings. It was the start of a one month residential stay, that had been prematurely cut short by insurance. I was still afraid, but as I entered those doors for the second time, I felt a little stronger and supported by another team of professionals who honestly cared about my well-being. Every day that followed I felt a little less afraid.

From the window in my shared room, I tried to keep a catalogue of mental pictures as the snow melted away and turned to spring. And on the day I was sent home, even though there was ice on the ground, the trees had buds and tulips were pressing determined heads from the earth. I would go on to 5 more months of DTP and IOP, before finally braving the world on my own again. It was a long and scary process, and still is. But, I continue to learn everyday that fear is a sign of change, and change is what Renfrew taught me I am capable of achieving. I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is that, it's okay to be the dead of winter. It's okay to be the snow and ice. Even though it feels like the sun will never shine and you will never be warm again, I want you to know that as snowflakes melt to water, they provide the nourishment for a beautiful blossoming spring. As you let your eating disorder become a piece of the past, you are providing what is essential for a beautiful and happy life. Thank you for teaching me this, Renfrew.

Bio: Andrea Simione is a 20 year old from Southern New Jersey and was a patient at the Renfrew Center's of Mount Laurel and Philadelphia, intermittently, from February to November of 2014. She realized, while at Renfrew, her dream of helping women who struggle with mental illnesses and is pursuing an undergraduate education in Psychology. She works at a small book store and spends her free time with her large family of humans and animals, reading, writing, shopping, and catching up with friends at coffee shops.