Welcome To Inpatient Treatment

Welcome To Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

The loud clanking of metal wakes me up from my deep sleep. I look over at my sound machine clock and the time reads 5:45AM. “I’m here to take your vitals,” the unit night nurse says. I throw my arm out of the sheets and she velcro’s the blood pressure cuff around my arm. “Good Morning,” she says and I moan back. Come into the common room so I weigh you. I quietly shuffle out of bed into the main room to see all of the other half asleep faces grabbing their hospital gowns to change into. The other nurse nurse stands next to the bathroom door while I shiver as change into my gown.

Welcome to inpatient eating disorder treatment. It’s in no way glamorous but it’s where I got stuff done. It’s where, throughout my three stays, I cried many tears, screamed in many pillows and laughed until my stomach hurt. It’s where I drank many ensures, completed countless therapy assignments and learned how to do the crazy math that was the exchange meal plan.

There are some days where I wish I could’ve been a normal teenager, but this place helped me survive. It helped me live again. I would’ve never celebrated my 19 birthday or had the chance to go to college with those cumulative 4 months I spent inpatient.

At a time where I felt no one understood me, the other women and girls I met in treatment knew exactly what I was going through even when we said no words. They made me feel less alone in my experience and that maybe I wasn’t as “crazy” as I felt. At least if we were, we were crazy together.

The first time I left home for treatment, I was only fifteen and the only times I was ever away from my family was when I went to Girl Scout camp for a week at a time. Obviously, I was terrified. Not only was I leaving my home behind, but I was going to a place that was going to force me to do what I feared most. This wasn’t camp…this was inpatient treatment. I was going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and I definitely did. However, the support I had around me there 24/7 brought me comfort in the uncomfortable situation I was in. I don’t think I really believed I would find that support until I spent a month there for the first time.

During my time in inpatient treatment, I met women and girls from all walks of life. I was able to step outside my tiny judgmental bubble I had existed in my whole life and I realized the people I encountered outside this bubble were some of the best people I’ve ever met. I met a woman from Canada, a girl my age born in Russia and adopted, a girl whose father was a minister, women in the military, women whose husbands were in the military, women with drug and alcohol addictions and surprisingly a girl just like me who went to an all-girls high-school in Louisiana. These girls saw me at my worst and are still girls I keep in contact with today.

The other patients and I shared our miserable experiences together supporting each other through it all. If you are not extremely familiar with eating disorder recovery, then you are not aware of the horrible discomfort that comes alone with re-feeding and the dreaded “re-feeding belly.” Now what I am about to describe is extremely real so proceed with caution.  During re-feeding you are sick to your stomach 24/7, nauseated and most of the time constipated. You have to force yourself to eat large amounts of food and keep it down, which is harder for some than others who may have a history of purging. Re-feeding belly is the round tummy you get from all the bloating in your stomach and you look as if you’re pregnant. It’s like a more intense version of what us Americans call a “food baby.”

Inpatient treatment is not relaxing or enjoyable. It’s hard work, but without it I wouldn’t be sitting here writing the blog post. It helped me survive. I am forever grateful for the doctors, therapists, nutritionists, nurses and fellow patients who supported me through it all. I will never forget those 4 months I spent in inpatient treatment and I will always keep it close to my heart.

Welcome To Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.comWelcome To Inpatient Eating Disorder Treatment by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

To Parents Watching Their Child Slowly Kill Themselves

To Parents Watching Their Child Slowly Kill Themselves by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

On November 6, Facebook reminded me that it was the 2 year anniversary of the last time I entered inpatient treatment. The picture that popped up was one taken by my mom when I was in our local hospital before being transferred to the treatment center. Seeing that picture my mom took inspired me to write this post to parents currently experiencing what my parents have been going through for several years.

To Parents Watching Their Child Slowly Kill Themselves,

I support you. What you are going through is probably one of the most terrifying and emotional experiences possible. I can not imagine watching something that I created and had so much hope for give up. As a daughter of two parents who went through this, I am immensely sorry for your pain. I can tell you I felt shame everyday knowing the burden I was giving my parents. They watched me deteriorate day by day and there was nothing they could do. There were times would stand in my room to watch me breathe as I slept, terrified by the notion I wouldn’t wake up. They watched me blatantly refused to nourish my body and cry over the food I wouldn’t eat. Pleading did not change anything. Arguing did not change anything. Silence did not change anything. What your child is doing to themselves, only they can change and I know that is frustrating. I can’t promise this will happen, but I can tell you it is possible. I know that you will do everything in your power to make sure you will see the life come back in them again.

As I write this letter to you, I can’t help but be upset with myself for not deciding to embrace life sooner. My parents had to watch me hurt myself for four years. Getting angry each time I regressed. I am making a promise to you and to my own parents that I will never push myself into that mindset again. There are days where consider “what if.” What if that day in 2014 I was taken to the emergency room, I never came out. What if that day I sat on my bathroom floor watching tears fall onto my knees, I just ended it. What if… What would this have done to my parents? How would they have continued on? Those thoughts haunt me every day as I continue towards recovery.

I would like to thank you for being there for your child. I know that I am so thankful my parents have supported me throughout my journey. They took off work to spend weeks with me in the hospital. They drove an hour every weekend to see me in treatment. They paid for nutrition, therapy and doctors appointments and carpooled me there after school. They did everything in their power to see my recovery through. Most of all, they never gave up. I urge you to never give up on your child, no matter how much it seems they are themselves. Your support means so much more than can be put into words. Thank you mom and dad. Thank you to all the moms, dads, step-mom’s, and step-dads experiencing this burden. You are loved.

To the parents who never got to see their child whole again, I think about you everyday. I pray for you. Know that there is a community there for you in your time of intense hurt. I love you and you motivate me to continue towards a full recovery.

With Love,

Ivy

 

Here are some different parent support resources available online:  

Eating Disorder Parent Support Group Facebook

Mothers Against Eating Disorders Group Facebook

Eating Disorders and Families Information on Eating Disorder Hope 

Family Involvement in Treatment on Eating Disorder Hope

NEDA Parent Toolkit

Maudsley Approach Parents Website

Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders

To Parents Watching Their Child Slowly Kill Themselves by Ivy Souter// alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

When Weight Gain Seems Impossible

When Weight Gain Seems Impossible by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

Weight restoration.

I’ve gone through it several times but this time is different. I’m not in inpatient treatment. I have never succeeded at weight restoration outside of treatment. It’s safe gaining weight in treatment, you have support 24/7 and your stressors are few an far between. Weight gain, out here, in your life, it’s scary. At least this is how I feel.

Re-feeding belly. Night sweats. Exchange counting. These are things I’m used to. The people around me are not. I stare at my body in the mirror and it’s difficult not to just give up. I ask myself questions “Is it really worth it?”, “Am I really willing to suffer this discomfort?”, “Do I just want to be sick again?” I have to combat these thoughts several times a day.

While everyone around you talks about exercising, losing weight and going on diets, you have to do the opposite. Gaining weight can be hard to swallow for someone without an eating disorder, however, it feels almost impossible to do so for me.

There’s a part of me that wants to look healthier, be able to exercise when I want and look like a “woman.” Then there’s the other part, the part that wishes I could just stay sick because it’s “safer.” A part of me that wants a size 0 to be too big. A part of my that likes the feeling of an empty stomach. A part of me that feels “powerful” to refuse eat at a restaurant when everyone else around me “gives in.” I have to continue to remind myself that this part of me is the same part of me that wants me to die. It’s the same part of me that wants me to live in and out of treatment for the rest of my life. It’s the same part of me that left me isolated with strained relationships. I have to fight it.

So, yes I’m in a positive place, but I have thoughts daily that are hard to shake. Every outfit I put on that doesn’t include a t-shirt is something I am uncomfortable in. Every bite I eat at a restaurant is something I have to remind myself to enjoy and not count every calorie. Every time I put myself out there to go do something with friends, I probably would rather be isolated in my room. However, I do it anyway because I know that these things will lead me to the life I’ve always wanted. A future that includes my dreams. It may be hard initially, but one day I will wake up and realize how far I’ve come. In that moment I will be at peace with the decision I make several times a day to pick up the fork.

My Opinion on the Film To the Bone

My Opinion on the Film To the Bone by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

When I first heard this movie was being produced, I set my expectations for its realistic depiction of eating disorders very low. However, I was still anticipating its release. I am so thankful to say that I was surprised after finishing the movie and it seriously surpassed my low expectations. No it wasn’t perfect, but there will never be a movie that accurately depicts the struggle of everyone who has dealt with an eating disorder. It is silly to expect that.

What this film did was push eating disorders into mainstream media. It starting a real conversation. The actors, as well as, the director are well-known and it can be streamed on the most popular movie streaming service in the world. It is not some obscure lifetime movie or PBS documentary that would only be found if you were specifically searching for a film about eating disorders. Anyone could be scrolling through their Netflix cue and stumble across this movie and decide to watch it. The fact that this movie has this going for it, it was also one of the most accurate depictions of eating disorders in the media that I have ever seen.

I have to disagree with much of the controversy surrounding this film and only had a few concerns after viewing. Its accuracy is largely based on the fact that the director, Marti Noxon, as well as the lead actress, Lilly Collins both struggled with eating disorders. The film is based on the director’s own journey and treatment. Also, Project Heal, a well-known, organization that supports those struggling with eating disorders decided to back this film and help with its promotion.

A big concern surrounding the film was that Collins, who previously suffered from anorexia as a teenager, lost weight for the role. This is a common part of acting as an occupation that actors modify their bodies for roles in order to realistically portray a character. While I would never attempt this, even in a successful recovery, Collins felt that she could accomplish this without endangering her mental health and that is her personal choice. She was also assisted by a nutritionist and the weight loss was gradual. That’s the healthiest way they could have done it. Most of the appeared emaciation was done through CGI and was not Collins’ actual physique. When discussing this with my mom, she brought up the point of “Would you rather someone portray this character, who has never experienced an eating disorder, end up developing one due to the weight loss and emotional intensity of portraying the character?” I have to agree with her point and I would rather someone who has been through it accurately portray the character.

One specific concern I had was that the way eating disorder treatment was portrayed was very unique and atypical. My personal treatment experience had some similarities, but was also very different. However, I respect this portrayal because this is what Noxon, the movie’s director, personally experienced. It was her story to tell. It is often referenced that this way of treatment is radical. I do want everyone to recognize this. In the beginning of the movie, we see Eli in a more typical treatment center that she ends up being kicked out of due to her refusal to comply with treatment, which actually does happen. They also reference other forms of typical treatment such as Maudsley and a popular treatment center with locations around the United States, Renfrew. I suggest you do research on the more typical forms of treatment if you wish to understand what daily treatment is like. However, I did say there were similarities and there definitely were. Morning weigh-ins, locked bathrooms, dramatic family therapy sessions, refusals to eat, NG tubes and emotional connection and support between patients. I very much recognized the parallels of my own time in inpatient treatment.

Although the main character was a typical of societies idea of eating disorders looks like, young, thin, female and white, other diverse characters were shown in the movie. Including a male supporting actor who suffered from anorexia for who I was so happy they included. I was nervous that they were going to do a typical Hollywood storyline and make him somehow “save her.” Thankfully they did not go that route and showed the idea that he could save her was unrealistic because he was sick himself and the only person who can really save you is YOU. Her doctor outright tells her this. In the end, it is what she decides to do. I also like the way they ended it with her accepting death, but then realizing she had the courage to fight this so she decides to go back to treatment and put her whole self in. I was grateful they showed the hope of recovery and they didn’t go for the perfect happy ending or the shock factor of her dying. In my eyes, it was great.

This movie had many literal and figurative parallels to my story including the divorced parents. I think this was the most accurate portrayal of eating disorders we have in the media. I look forward to the dialogue it will open up and has already opened up, as well as, setting up for future accurate portrayals in the media. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet, get no recognition. It’s about time they do. So thank you Marti Noxon, Netflix, Project Heal, Lilly Collins and everyone who participated in the production of this movie! I definitely recommend viewing it. Just view with caution if you are still suffering or in a vulnerable place in your recovery.

My Opinion on the Film To the Bone

An Open Letter to The Boys Who Bullied Me in Middle-School

An Open Letter To The Boys That Bullied Me In Middle-School by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com

I know this is a solemn way to come back from my long hiatus, but this letter is something I have been wanting to write for a very long time. The reason why it took me so long to write because it is very personal and I was afraid of being judged but it something I wish to share because I know I am not the only person who has been bullied. Many people are bullied in their lifetime some more intense than others. The way I was bullied wasn’t extremely blatant to me at the time to be labeled as bullying. The things said to me were blunt and rude but always done in a joking way. It wasn’t until I sat through several therapy sessions that I realized I was bullied and it had significantly impacted my body-image and self-esteem. Writing has been a way for me to say things I could never say in person. It is time for me to let this go. I will never forget it, but I need to forgive them for my own sanity. So, these are the words I want to say.

To the Boys Who Bullied Me in Middle-School,

Yes, I still think about the things you said, even though you probably didn’t give your words a second thought. They have haunted me for a long time. I would have never called you a bully at age twelve because you were a boy. You were someone I was taught to impress. You called me fat. You called me ugly. You made fun of how slow I ran. It wasn’t creative, but it didn’t have to be I equated all of those words with worthlessness. Those words automatically translated in my mind were: you are worthless. Society taught me to pretty and thin to attract the male gaze. Just becoming a teenager, I began to find boys attractive. At the time, I may have thought some of you were cute and all wanted was your approval. A smile. A compliment. You called me names. While the other girls received your “googoo” eyes, all I could think of is I want to pretty and thin like them so boys would like me. I would finally feel worth something. It never ended. In high-school, I received some taunts from you still when we crossed paths but they slowly faded away as I faded too. I became nothing in hopes of impressing you and every other boy I knew. Finally, when I saw you nothing happened. You probably matured and realized your stupidity, however, I thought it was because I was thin and thin was beautiful. I went into treatment for my eating disorder and realized that the only person I need approval from is myself. I have to love the person looking back at me in the mirror. The things you said to me didn’t mean anything. You probably weren’t even thinking when you said what you said. You were ignorant middle-school boys. It wasn’t your fault that society didn’t teach you to hold your tongue. If you read this, I hope that you realize that what you did when you were young significantly affected me and you can teach your children not to say mean things to others because words actually can hurt. Your words still affect me today. Being in college, I now stand next to boys pre-occupied with the idea that they disapprove of the way I look. Our negative relationships in middle-school now cause me to feel significantly uncomfortable around guys since the one’s I’ve known since I was young constantly reminded me of my worthlessness. No this isn’t the sole reason why my self-hatred developed along with my body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorder but it definitely impacted it. It will take me a long time to fully internalize the facts I stated earlier. I can’t wait for the day I feel comfortable in who I am and I no longer seek validation from others especially men. Lastly, thank you for making me stronger. I have come a long way since my self-loathing middle-school self and one day I will be where I want to be.

An Open Letter To The Boys Who Bullied Me In Middle-School by Ivy Souter // alwaysfullydressedwithasmile.com