You are a work in progress and that is OK! Recovery from an eating disorder is progressive and every person's journey is different. You may feel there are times when each day has been more difficult than the last. You may also find days when you're feeling on top of the world. The important thing to understand is that recovery isn't linear. There are ups, downs, good days and painful ones. They all lead you to a place you never thought you had the courage to go: RECOVERY.
As you move through your residential or outpatient treatment, you may be unsure, or even fearful, of what's on the other side for you. Doubt, worry and anxiety are very real emotions you may be experiencing.
The important thing is to keep going, even when you don't feel like you can.
Here are five things that can help you navigate your transition from treatment to real life.
Stay Connected for Emotional Support
Having a good support system in place is crucial to keeping you grounded and focused. Joining an eating disorder support group can be a helpful and breaks the feelings of shame and isolation. Being with people who have shared experiences can help you feel like you're not alone. Go to support groups even when you don't feel like you're in the mood. Everyone in the group has been where you are now. Allow yourself the gift of receiving support from others. You are worth it.
Your treatment team is well equipped to help guide you and recommend support groups and other opportunities for added emotional support. There are also many groups and meetings all over the country, and even internationally, for support.
Here are several great resources for finding group support in your area: http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/recovery/support-groups
Self-Help Strategies -- Being Prepared for Possible Triggers
After treatment, returning to the day-to-day life that may have triggered your eating disorder can prove challenging. Utilizing the tools and skills you have learned during treatment can be a lifeline as you move through this transition. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Having the tools and resources you need for your journey can help you maintain your recovery from an eating disorder, even through transitional phases.
In those moments when you don't have a coach or counselor sitting right in front of you, being prepared for possible triggers can help keep you on course. During treatment, you uncovered and began to shed light on the situations, circumstances and emotions that triggered your eating disorder. Now that you know what the triggers are, you are empowered to face them head on with healthier coping skills. Keep a journal to document when feelings of uncertainty arise. In your journal, you can re-visit the emotion or situation that is triggering you. Documenting your feelings will help you claim it so you can tame it.
Structure, Boundaries and Having Fun
Stick to the plan! Following your meal plan, even when you don't feel like it, is crucial. Developing routines and a daily schedule in your life can help reduce anxiety you may feel and limit situations that can trigger your eating disorder. Establish good boundaries around you and your life. Setting limits and saying no will help keep you on track.
Staying on the schedule your treatment team developed for you is very important. Equally as important is allowing yourself to enjoy your life. Staying home and isolating yourself can be a trigger for your eating disorder. Make plans with your friends and family. Get outside and allow yourself to have fun.
Know the support options available in your area. It is important to build a support system you can rely on when you return home following treatment. Aftercare treatment can help you bridge the gap between treatment and real life, keeping you accountable and on track through your recovery. Often this type of support is crucial in putting the coping skills and strategies learned in treatment into "real-world" application.
Relapse may happen. As difficult as it is to even consider the possibility, it is a natural aspect of recovery. Be aware of the symptoms of relapse, but don't let them paralyze you. If relapse occurs, take a moment to regroup, then return to your recovery plan. Establishing a relapse plan is like establishing an emergency plan. When you are feeling helpless and unable to work through the emotional triggers of your eating disorder, have a plan for what to do. If there is a trusted person, mentor or counselor you can call, plan for it.
Here is a great worksheet for developing a relapse prevention plan:
Never lose sight of how very far you have come.
Authored by Greta Gleissner, LMSW and Co-founder of Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists (EDRS). EDRS is a nationwide meal support and coaching program that provides services alongside treatment programs and outpatient providers. EDRS specialized in meal coaching, clinical coaching, in-home cooking, and therapeutic exposures 7 days a week; days, evenings, and weekends. In recovery since 2001, Ms. Gleissner has firsthand knowledge of the challenges individuals face in the eating disorder recovery process, particularly during transitions.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.