After winning the battle against my insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield (which I wrote about in my last #AfterAnorexia post), I was granted ten more days in intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment. The reversal came as a huge relief to me, because I had been cut off very suddenly and without any time to make a discharge and after-treatment plan with my team. These ten days could give me the opportunity to tie up loose ends and start thinking about life after treatment.
So that is what I decided to do. Rather than waiting to see how those ten days went and then deciding whether to ask for more time from my insurance company, I decided to use my remaining weeks to transition out of treatment. As of today, I have three days left. After that, ready or not, I will conclude a yearlong journey of intensive eating disorder treatment and continue my recovery journey on the outpatient level only. This means going from 18 hours per week of treatment to just three hours a week divided among my therapist, nutritionist, and an outpatient support group.
I admit, as my discharge date draws closer, I feel increasingly afraid. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to find as supportive a community as the one that exists in treatment programs, where you give and receive support from the same group of patients and the same therapists. I’m afraid that I haven’t learned enough yet. I’m afraid that if I slip and don’t have the comfort of knowing that my next meal will occur in the safety of the program, then I won’t be able to regain my footing quickly enough.
Most of all, though, I’m afraid of myself. I have been in treatment programs for nearly a year straight now. I’ve never had to do the hard work of recovery or battle the eating disorder voice in my head without the support of a community. What is waiting for me on the other side of this treatment experience? Can I really make it on my own?
But when I take a step back from the fear and anxiety and trace my journey over the course of this year, I realize that I have learned enough — “enough” being the key word. I have the tools and I’ve learned the coping skills. I know what to do when my eating disorder starts to make noise. I know when it is that I need to reach out for support and when it is that I need to just push myself a little harder.
And that’s enough. I don’t think I’ll ever leave treatment feeling fully prepared, whether that’s next week or next year. I will always have some reservations about how long my strength will hold out and whether I can remain in a recovery mindset, especially when I will be spending more time in my own head than in a support group. But I can’t spend my life in treatment. At some point, I need to take the leap and trust that the wings I’ve been growing will carry me.
That, I think, is the final lesson of mental health treatment: There are no certainties in life. We don’t know what is waiting down the road or how we will react it. But we have to trust ourselves and fly anyway.
About Joanna Kay
Joanna Kay is a writer in New York City and is recovering from an eating disorder. She is the author of The Middle Ground, a blog that deals with issues that impact people midway through the recovery process. You can follow Joanna on Facebook and Twitter, and additionally you can check out her blog The Middle Ground. Follow her HMC posts on Twitter with #AfterAnorexia