Residential Treatment: A Personal Story

Trigger warning: self harm, blood, suicidal ideation, drugs, alcohol, pills, disordered eating

I’d been seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for six years. I’d tried so many medications I couldn’t name them all. I was cutting myself so frequently that my partner wouldn’t sleep because he was afraid I’d hurt myself. The cuts got deeper. Each time I hoped I would bleed out and be free from this world. What else could I do? How could I find hope again? How could I stop ripping myself apart?

After some deliberation, I decided to go to a residential treatment facility. Time to focus on myself and my recovery was exactly what I needed. My sweet boyfriend came with me to Chicago so that he could visit me on weekends and support me throughout my stay. 30 days. I could do it.
Upon arrival I was given the run down and said goodbye to Adam as the staff searched my luggage. The luggage wasn’t the only thing to be searched, I had a body check next. So much for comfort and privacy, I’d chucked that at the door. And what would medical treatment be without a long, unnecessary wait in a boring room by yourself? Finally a woman came in, introducing herself as Asia. She walked me to my lodge- Maple- and found me a lodge buddy to show me around.
Samara was my assigned lodge buddy, a beautiful young woman with long brown hair wearing sweats and a large plaid flannel shirt. After receiving an overwhelming amount of information, I went to my room and unpacked. And probably cried a little.
After the first few days of being on lodge restriction, I was finally able to go to the cafeteria with the rest of the women. It had been decided by the nutritionist that I’m not great at feeding myself, so I was on a meal plan and at a special table for those of us with eating disorders. Two staff members always sat with us and if conversation dwindled, they would start a table game so that we would hopefully be distracted enough to eat our food. At the end of each meal we “FAF-ed,” (food and feelings.) Each person had to say how their food was, how they were feeling, and one thing they were grateful for. Weird as it was, it quickly became routine for me. 
One fun surprise at the treatment center was getting to have my blood drawn nearly every morning. Bruises marked my forearms for days. Another fun part of treatment was med line. The dreaded med line. We were all, of course, on at least one medication and the nurses seemed to make it a point to take as long as possible popping out the pills for each person. They’d ask us about our poop. Every time we got meds we had to tell the nurses when we last took a shit, and being in the room closest to the med line my roommates and I got the privilege of hearing about everyone’s bowel movements or lack thereof. Med line wasn’t all bad, though. It was a time to chat with everyone, or read, or color, or sing, or whatever. 
There were lots of “classes” and meetings we had to attend, which were assigned based on what we were there for. AA for alcoholics, NA for drug addicts, DBT (dialectal behavioral therapy) for everyone. There were anxiety, mood, and eating disorder classes, as well as art therapy. Occasionally we would get pulled out to meet with our therapist, psychiatrist, or nutritionist. In DBT we practiced various techniques for distress tolerance like distraction and self soothing. In our ED group we talked about our strengths and struggles. We decorated scales, and eventually smashed them with sledge hammers. It was pretty gratifying, taking out all the anger and loathing on that stupid scale. 

At night we held our own 12 Step meeting for everyone who wasn’t allowed or didn’t want to go off-site. We took turns hosting it, and the topics varied from eating disorders to addiction to whatever recovery-focused topic we wished to discuss. Sometimes people got up and shared their story. Those nights were my favorite. I was surrounded by so many incredible, beautiful, strong souls. 
The real therapy happened on the smoke deck, where there were no staff, no professionals, just us. We talked and laughed and cried out there. Even the non-smokers sometimes came out to be with us. The smoke deck was where the party was at. 
We all struggled with different things and living in a house with 35 women in different stages of recovery and crisis was no easy task, but we gathered around one another, encouraging and lifting each other up, giving each other hugs (only after asking, of course.) I’ve never felt so loved and connected to a group of women. We were there for each other. We still are. I know if I need to, I can call any of the, and they’d love and support me from wherever they’re at. I made some truly amazing friends. 
I ended up staying longer than expected- about a month and a half. But I had something to look forward to when I got home. Not only did I finally get to reunite with my beloved, but I was also getting a puppy! And man, he has been such a point of joy and light in our lives. I’m so incredibly grateful for them both, my sweet, loving family. 

Transferring back to my treatment team at home, I felt solid, like I had my feet back under me and skills to fall back on when I was struggling. It was hard to adjust to the isolation. Being by myself most of the time was strange. No one to smoke with, no one to talk to, no one to encourage me while I was eating. I transitioned to a partial hospitalization program for a couple weeks and then I was back to once a week therapy and the occasional visit to my psychiatrist. 
For a while I was doing really well, but having just recently moved from Omaha, Nebraska to rural central Texas, I’ve been sliding back toward chaos and darkness. It’s a rough adjustment and, I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. But so far I’m still self harm free (for eight months now. I’ve been losing weight, which is concerning my doctors. They may take me off one of my meds if my weight continues to drop. Either way I need a med adjustment to get out of this hole I’m in. I’ll be straight with you, I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless. But I’m trying my hardest to hold on to hope, work toward my goals, and spread love wherever I go. That’s all I can do, right? 
How about you? How are you doing? As always, feel free to message me if you need to talk, want advice, or whatever else.


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