They told me if I could get through the first seven days of residential treatment, I would make it. They were right. That first week was probably the hardest of my life but that does not go to say the next were that much easier.
I had put a lid on my emotions at least a decade ago, sealed it tight and kept it closed. One of my brothers described me as a "skeleton with dead eyes." Sounds brutal, I know but he was exactly right. It took about three weeks for the team of therapists and Patient Assistants to help me pry that lid off and holy shit, I was not prepared for what was coming!!
First it was tears. When I left a group and went out to the deck and actually sobbed, the PA said, "Thank God! We've been waiting for you to do that." Waiting for me to cry? But wasn't it wrong for me to cry? I was so embarrassed to be crying so hard in front of someone. "You can't be the perfect patient, Katie. There is NO such thing." Really? Huh. This was news to me as being the perfect patient was my plan. I ate all my meals and snacks, no matter how full I was, participated in groups and supported the other girls with genuine empathy and a smile of my face. Perfect - to a fault. I had to work on me and that meant letting go and being imperfect. Feeling emotions again. It was beyond uncomfortable. I laughed, cried, sobbed, got super anxious (a totally new emotion for me) and got angry. Anger was and still is the most uncomfortable.
I had to learn how to ask for help. This took me at least a month and a half. Admitting I needed help was such a foreign concept to me, I wasn't even aware I could do it. One day, when I was in the outpatient therapy program, I pulled my therapist and dietician aside and asked to speak with them about something with which I was having trouble. "Look at you!! You just asked for help!" They cried. "I did? I did!!" It's okay for me to ask for assistance and support when I need it. The fact that I can do it now has helped me so much and has made me feel humbled by the generosity of others.
A strange thing happened. Once I began to feel, I began to see. I noticed the beauty of my surroundings - I was in Southern California and it took me weeks to notice how beautiful it was. I could look into the mirror and not hate my face. I saw the internal beauty in others and opened myself up enough to trust them. I can't remember the last time I really developed a trusting relationship with a female. Now I have many and the ones I had before treatment are even better.
I could go to the ocean, close my eyes and just breathe in that beautiful air. In my opinion, nothing smells as wonderful as the ocean. I could sit with myself and think peaceful, healthy thoughts and not want to crawl out of my skin. I learned to meditate. That one took me a long time and they are right when they tell you it takes practice. I fell in love with yoga as it gave me an true appreciation for the amazing things my body can do, despite the horrible, awful way I treated it for so long.
I have a long way to go and so many more stories to tell. I still struggle, very badly some days but I will never forget the night in SoCal when I looked up and, for the first time since I can remember, I saw stars. Tears of gratitude ran down my face as I thanked God for being alive and in that wonderful place. I viewed the sky, I cried, and I saw stars. Amazing.