Going to College with an Eating Disorder: The Door’s Wide Open

“Be empty of worrying.

Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?”

~Rumi

While many incoming college freshman spent their summers making lasting memories with the friends and family they would soon leave behind, I spent mine locked in a prison of great anxiety. The idea of going to college and beginning to write a new chapter in my life was something that absolutely horrified me. It seemed like every waking hour of the day, my mind was tormented with a slew of “what-ifs”.

What if my professors are heartless graders, giving even the brightest of pupils a soul-crushing mark?

What if my roommates are inconsiderate party-animals, obnoxiously making noise into the wee hours of the morning?

What if, despite my best efforts, I am unsuccessful?

WHAT IF I FAIL?

But now that move-in day is right around the corner, I am slowly beginning to walk out of the mental prison I have held myself captive in for all these months.  Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the great Islamic scholar and poet, said, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open.”  I now realize that for me college is that  “open door” that  Rūmī spoke of.  By going to college, I will finally be able to freely pursue my interests and walk on the beautiful path of self-discovery. I hope . . . no scratch that . . .I KNOW that the knowledge I will obtain during my years in college will allow me to give back to the eating disorder community. Maybe I will build the intellectual foundation I need to conduct ground-breaking research into the neurobiology of eating disorders or to create a revoluntionary treatment protocol that saves thousands of lives.

Whatever I decide to do or become, I know it will be great.

There’s no question about that anymore 🙂

photo-1446329360995-b4642a139973

How to Find the BEST (for you) Eating Disorder Treatment Center

After months, years, or maybe even decades of swallowing laxatives instead of food, torturing your weary body with endless exercise,  mindlessly devouring the contents of your refrigerator, and spending hours vomiting in your porcelain commode – you’ve made a decision.

A decision that may not just change the course of your life, but also save it.

You’ve made the decision that you are ready to salvage your moribund corpse and admit yourself into an eating disorder treatment center.

Today, there is certainly no shortage of  dedicated eating disorder treatment facilities here in the United States. Don’t believe me? Just ask your good ol’ friend Google where some facilities are located and you’ll find treatment centers stretching from east to west.  The problem is though that far too many treatment centers are doling out treatment regimens that are not just astronomical in price, but also almost completely ineffective.

So how do you, someone desperate to get your eating disorder in remission, find that hidden gem of a treatment center in a vast ocean of facilities willing to take your money, but leave you sicker than ever?

Well my friend, you’re in the right place because this post right here will give you ALL THE INFORMATION you need to find an eating disorder treatment facility that is BEST FOR YOU!

So without further adieu, let’s get started!

1. THIS IS A LIFE-OR-DEATH SITUATION, NOT A TIME FOR A VACATION.

Horseback riding, massages, yoga, scenic hikes – believe it or not, I am not describing some five-star retreat center, I am describing just some of the services that you are likely to find at a treatment facility for the deadliest psychiatric illness – eating disorders. Although this menu of luxurious so-called “treatments” may make you want to fill out the admission paperwork right then and there,  you need to remember that you are currently suffering from a serious brain disorder that has no problem with leading you to your grave.  What you need right now isn’t a spa, it’s a credible facility that focuses all of its resources on providing you with evidence-based therapies such as CBT, DBT, and Maudsley.

Still need a little more convincing that you should not be considering spa-like eating disorder programs? Well let me provide you with an little analogy. Let’s say you just got diagnosed with cancer, a merciless disease, and you now need to find a place to receive treatment.  I can guarantee you that your search would not include looking for places that offer equine or art therapy, you would be looking for top-notch hospitals that know the ins-and-outs of your cancer and offer treatments that have been shown to provide the best outcomes. Why should it be any different when looking for a place to treat your eating disorder?

2. KNOW WHAT WORKS.

Before you start searching for an eating disorder treatment center, it is CRUCIAL that you are aware of the therapies that have been shown to be the most effective at treating eating disorders. What are these treatments you ask? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

3. DON’T JUST GOOGLE IT.

Never just rely on Google to help you find eating disorder treatment centers.  Here is a list of my FAVORITE online resources that will help you locate a treatment center that fits your needs.

  • EDreferral.com – If you are looking for an incredibly comprehensive directory of eating disorder treatment centers in the USA, Canada, or Australia, this site is a gold mine.
  • US Eating Disorders Treatment Referral Guide: This guide contains a bounty of information on eating disorder treatment centers across the United States. Each entry on a treatment center tells you exactly the conditions the center treats, what demographic of patients it treats, the levels of care that are offered, the types of treatments it uses (WHICH YOU SHOULD KNOW BY NOW IS SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO HAVE), whether or not it takes insurance, and if it accepts Medicaid or Medicare.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS.

Once you find a treatment center that you think is potential candidate, CALL THEM UP AND ASK QUESTIONS!  Don’t know what to ask? Here’s a list!

  • How long has your center been treating eating disorders and are you familiar with the 2013 Clinical Practice Recommendations for Residential and Inpatient Eating Disorder Programs published by the American Academy for Eating Disorders?  (Make sure to check out the guidelines before you call the center . . .obviously).
  • What is your belief on the etiology of eating disorders? (make sure they recognize that eating disorders are biologically-based brain disorders that are NOT choices and that they are not the fault of the patient or patient’s family)
  • What is your treatment philosophy? What treatments do you offer? How much time is spent on each of those treatments? (make sure the MAJORITY F NOT ALL OF THE TIME IS SPENT ON EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENTS!!!!).  Can you explain the science behind each of your therapies?
  • Is your program hospital-based or allied with a hospital-program sponsor? (if you want good treatment, THEY SHOULD BE!)
  • Are all you clinical staff members trained in evidence-based therapies? What are their credentials?
  • What is the training and background of the therapists you have on staff? How long have they been treating eating disorder patients? What are their credentials?
  • Who is apart of my treatment team (centers should provide the four major components of eating disorder treatment which include medical/nursing, nutrition, psychological care, and psychiatric care)? How often do I meet with each member of my treatment team?  How does my treatment team coordinate my care? Do they work together?
  • Does your center provide education for family members and family therapies? How does your center keep my family involved in my care?
  • Does your center engage in quality improvements efforts? If so, how? Do you evaluate your outcomes and if so, how? Can you provide me with data on these outcomes? (they should evaluate their outcomes and be transparent about them).

For more information on how you can evaluate a treatment center, click here!

5. RECOGNIZE RED FLAGS

As you question and investigate an eating disorder treatment center, you MUST be aware of red flags.

Here is a link to an wonderful article by Dr. Sarah Ravin, a psychologist who specializes in evidence-based treatments for eating disorders, on eating disorder treatment red flags.

Now that your armed with these helpful guidelines, BEGIN YOUR SEARCH!

Eating Disorder Treatment 101: An Introduction to My NEW BLOG SERIES!

Let me tell you the story on why I have decided to write this series on eating disorder treatment.

As most of you know, I spent the early years of my eating disorder in hospitals and treatment facilities.  Since I was so young at the time,  making my own medical decisions was off the table, and so my parents were the ones who searched for facilities and signed all the admission papers.  The first time I arrived at a facility after a hospitalization, I was just thirteen. I had no understanding of how serious my illness actually was and how medically unstable I had become.   I also had absolutely no desire to get well. Sure, I chugged my Ensures and stuffed my face with bowls upon bowls of lukewarm mac-n-cheese, but I did not actively participate in groups, I kept myself guarded in individual therapy sessions, and I blatantly refused to complete my CBT packet.

Now here I am – an eighteen year old who dreams of being able to speak French fluently, of traveling the world to visit every religion’s most sacred sites, and of becoming a health care professional who helps those who suffer from eating disorders. And I am also an eighteen year old who still can’t eat at restaurant, who still counts calories religiously, and who still is incredibly frightened of gaining even one measly ounce!

My friends, I am still very ill. Sure, I’ve made progress over the years but my eating disorder has yet to go into remission. Now I live with the regret of not taking advantage of the intensive treatment I was offered.

And that’s exactly why I am writing this new series on eating disorder treatment. I do not want anyone making the same mistakes I made. I want to help you, my fellow eating disorder sufferer, find and get the best treatment you can possibly receive and to take advantage of everything treatment has to offer.

So you may be wondering what exactly I am going to cover in this series. Lucky for you, I’m a meticulous planner and I made a list of the every single one of the topics you’ll see here on Forever Going Forward.

  1. How to Find the Best (for you) Eating Disorder Treatment Center – March 7th, 2016
  2. Packing for Eating Disorder Treatment? The Ten Things You Must Bring!  – March 14th, 2016
  3. How to Get the Most Out of Eating Disorder Treatment -March 21st, 2016

Alright you guys, I hope that sounds like a good plan!

Now before you head on off to work or school or whatever you do at this time of day, I want to remind you guys to check out my new Q&A YouTube video and after watching it, please leave a comment in the comment box below about your experiences (good or bad) with family or friends who don’t know anything about eating disorders. I’d love to feature some of them in my next YouTube video, “How to Deal with People Who Don’t Know Anything about Eating Disorders.

Have a wonderful day and you’ll hear from me soon!

Eating Disorder Q&A Video! : Vegetarianism, Bodychecking, and MORE

Hey Everyone!

I am pretty excited because guess what, I JUST posted a NEW Q&A video!  My next video is going to be on how to deal with family and friends who don’t know ANYTHING about eating disorders. I would love to have your input on this video, so I would like to know how you deal with people who know nothing about eating disorders. What is your game plan?   Also, I would love to hear your stories about encounters (good or bad) with folks who are still in the dark ages when it comes to EDs.

 

If Only I Had Known

With each beautiful memory, I could feel myself drowning in an ocean of regret. For far too long I hadn’t any one-on-one time with my grandparents at their home in the serene Michigan countryside. Why? Because my eating disorder kept me locked in my house – a place where everything consumed could be under its strict control. . .

The first thing I did when I came home yesterday afternoon was collapse on my rat’s nest of a bed. Though I had done nothing but sit in a cramped Ford for eight long hours, my body felt like every ounce of energy had been drained out of it. My muscles felt as wobbly and weak as jello, my brain felt cloudy, and my eyes fluttered like the delicate wings of a baby robin as I fought to stay awake.

As my exhausted sunk into the comfort of my mattress, memories of the past eight days played like a film in my mind’s eye. There were images of summer sun dancing on my grandparents’ crystal clear pond at their farm, images of my aunt’s face beaming with excitement as she fed a llama at the zoo, and images of my grandparents waving goodbye at the crowded McDonald’s where my mom picked me up to take me home.

With each beautiful memory, I could feel myself drowning in an ocean of regret. For far too long I hadn’t any one-on-one time with my grandparents at their home in the serene Michigan countryside. Why? Because my eating disorder kept me locked in my house –  a place where everything consumed could be under its strict control.  My eating disorder was well aware that if I were to go to my grandparents’, I would be forced to eat at unfamiliar times and ingest items it had forbidden to enter my mouth.

Now that I have grown older and stronger, I wish I never let my eating disorder keep me away from the love of my grandparents. Every moment I spent trapped its prison, was a moment I could have spent with listening to the song of my grandma’s laughter or seeing the infectious smile that always lights up my grandpa’s wrinkled face.

Please take it from a girl whose lost more than half her life to an eating disorder and go and see your grandparents. Don’t let your own eating disorder scare you out of it because if there one thing I wish I would have realized, it is that life doesn’t last for eternity. One day the flesh that has been loaned to your loved ones will have to be returned to the Earth  and their souls will vanish into an unknown realm, their presence only to be seen again when you too must go.