Seven Hundred and Thirty Days in Recovery
Submitted by Florence T., an ERC alum
I still remember the phone call to admissions. I was sat next to my bed, swaddled in my duvet. I remember my questions; I remember their answers.
The next thing I knew, I was in front of my parents telling them, not asking them or seeking their approval, that I was going to travel over 3,000 miles to treatment. That I didn’t want them to come with me and needed to do this alone. I remember them telling me they’d just fly there with me and wouldn’t come in. I remember thinking “Phew. Thank god they are coming with me,” yet I remember saying “no.”
Seven hundred and thirty days later, I’m living in two surreal situations: a global pandemic and recovery.
There has not been one day that I don’t think about ERC. Some days it is a fleeting thought, like how in the U.K. our chocolate-covered almonds suck compared to those in the U.S. Sometimes I will drive by a shop that has a Colorado jumper in the window, or I will meet one of my dogs’ friends called Denver in the park. On days like those, Colorado and ERC flash before my eyes and a smile appears on my face for just a second. On other days it dominates my thoughts and decisions.
During these last two years, the days that ERC has been on my mind are for so many different reasons. Within the first six months (thankfully they are getting far fewer and further between), ERC was on my mind with every decision: What to have for breakfast, whether to pour milk freely into my coffee, or whether to use a fork. And did I always pick the ERC choice? Heck no. My recovery was not, and is not, perfect — which meant although I had the support and the right intentions, the action did not always match.
I don’t think a day has gone by within the past seven hundred and thirty days that I have not spoken to a soul friend I made during treatment. I remember on the airplane seven hundred and thirty days ago thinking (even writing it in my journal), “ I will not make friends in treatment. This is time for me, I don’t want to make friends, I don’t like making friends, this is my time.” Yet, life had other plans for me.
To the friends I made in treatment, I thank you, because 730 days would not be 730 days without you.
It’s funny, isn’t it…eating disorders are competitive, they thrive off beating others like vultures on their prey. But within minutes of walking through those double doors, within minutes of stepping out of the lift (I’ll come back to this one), I knew that whether I wanted it or not, some of those people would be in my life forever. Turns out, no matter how high you build your walls or how deep you dig your moat, some people still kayak on over and scale the wall; I also learnt that in therapy.
And the lift bit I said I would come back to: A common saying that emerged was language barrier. Turns out we may all speak English, but they are very different things.
Me: Do we go in a lift?
Them: You mean an elevator?
Me: When do we get post?
Them: You mean mail?
Them: Are you anxious about thanksgiving?
Me: Well no, considering this will be the first one I’ve ever had.
Some days, ERC has been on my mind because I feel homesick for it. For the love, for the care, for the laughter and even for the tears. Being at ERC often felt like being armoured, in the middle of tens of warriors (probably knitting), being able to say, speak, cry, scream without anyone asking why because they just already knew.
I never thought I would miss treatment like this. I thought I would miss having people worry and care about me, but I didn’t think I would miss laughing that turned into crying, and crying that turned into laughing whilst lying on a cold stone floor staring at stars and listening to country music through one headphones shared with a soul friend. I didn’t think I would miss shouting out “contact” over a burger and being more concerned whether I got the word right than whether there was cheese on it.
I didn’t think I would miss it like this, and I also didn’t think I would thank it like this. I didn’t think I would thank it for some amazing soul friends, for some hilarious anecdotes, for new favourite foods. I didn’t think I would think about it every day for two years, but now I know those memories aren’t going anywhere.
Recovery is surreal situation one. The second is a pandemic.
When I left America, I was worried because in recovery you bond over shared experiences, whether side by side in the “café,” in the line waiting for blood tests or tums, or in crying over phone calls home. I thought suddenly my friendships would evaporate because all of a sudden, our lives were different, we had different worries and different fears. However, in the seven hundred and thirty days that I have been home, the whole world, but in particular America and the U.K., have shared a whole lot.
The pandemic, which is of course catastrophic, dire and devastating, has meant that when talking to people we can all share this experience. No matter how different someone may be from you (for example me, a 25 year old British teacher and the Pakistani grandfather who moved here six years ago to be closer to his grandchildren who he now can’t see, who stands behind me each morning in the line for a coffee, two metres apart, with face masks on), we can know more about each other than we ever could. None of this would have happened without COVID.
Having shared experiences with others around you is not something I take for granted. In recovery and in the state of the world right now, being able to say with your eyes that you don’t want to talk today, or a second lockdown coming in and suddenly the grandfather isn’t there anymore, is a luxury. It means that you are not alone and not forgotten, and you are indeed cared about.
When I left, I hoped I would never think about my eating disorder again. Unrealistic, I know. Now I hope not a day goes past I don’t remember how much ERC gave me, and that doesn’t just mean 30 crochet blankets.