Hm, I don't know where to start. It was totally different than i thought it would be.
I guess I will start with the pre-group trying-on of clothing and mini-meltdown fat attack. Say that three times fast. Well, maybeI won't go there. I think you all have been through it and know what I mean. In the end, I wore something warm, comfortable, and age appropriate. So i guess I did ok with that.
Chris and I got there a few minutes early and we were the only ones there, besides the facilitator. The group only meets once a month (lame) and the facilitator said sometimes they have as few as 2 people and sometimes as many as 12 or so. Right at 7 a teenage-looking girl came in with her parents. They told us that it was their first time at the meeting, too. Nobody else showed up, so we started.
The girl was pretty quiet and nervous and her parents didn't really know what to say, so I started off by telling my story briefly and sharing where I am at now. You know, trying to stay in recovery, motivated but struggling really hard with body image and old behavior patterns, trying to build a life outside the ED. The parents were really desperate to help their daughter any way they could and asked me lots of questions about things that had helped me in the past and I was able to relate alot of my experiences and regrets and successes. They kept saying how glad they were that I was there because it really helped them understand more about EDs so that made me feel pretty good. Chris suprised me by talking quite a bit (for him) about things he has learned as a support person and things that have helped us cope.
I talked directly to the girl a little bit. It seemed like she really did want to get better but was having a hard time getting past the discomfort of eating and gaining weight. I told her about what I know about people who have really recovered in the long term. That recovery is uncomfortable, and the only way through is to eat the food, and not purge, and sit with the feelings, whatever it takes. And then do it all again in a few hours. That really, if you are uncomfortable, you are probably moving in the right direction. But the good news is that over time it becomes easier, until you really are free, and everyone I know who has recovered is glad they did and would never go back.
I also told her that is was important to build a life outside of your eating disorder. Develop hobbies, intrests, things that you get excited about that have nothing to do with food or weight, or even recovery. Be careful to not take on the identity of "eating disorder patient".
I felt like my experience was helpful to this family and that made me feel good. But I left the meeting in a severely depressed state, and this is why:
Because it was just me (31 years old, been doing this 19 years) and her (18 years old, just starting out), I felt like i was basically an illustration of all the things that could go wrong and where her life could end up if she continued in the eating disorder. All the wasted years, the hospitalizations, the failures, the time I can't get back. It all kind of felt like a weight in my chest that over the two hours sort of sank until it sat in my stomach and made me feel sick and nauseated and I just wanted to run home and curl up in my bed.
I wanted to be her. Just starting out. And I could make different choices.
I could have had a LIFE, dammit!
I don't know if i will see them again. I don't know if I will go to the group next month. It may be a completely different experience, depending on who is there.
On a quick side note, the facilitator told us she was from Iowa City and was on staff in the ED program there. You know, the one that I love so much that i refer to it as "evil prison". Well I am proud to say that i was nice and polite and only said "hm, I have been there a few times" and held back the tide of angry bitter negative comments that was rising in my brain.
Score one for resolve and maturity.
7 months ago