Tailoring Therapy for Your Needs in Eating Disorder Recovery
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll remember that my eating disorder recovery started a little over 6 years ago when I found myself in the hospital, facing the physical consequences of binging and purging since I suffered from bulimia for most of my life as a young adult.
What I haven't focused on in previous posts, was that at the time I decided to get better, I didn’t have the resources to see a therapist, nor was our public health system available to help as I would have liked. So, not unlike many others facing an illness with a lack of adequate resources or treatment options, I did what I could on my own at first to pick myself up from rock bottom.
With time and success in both my personal and professional life, I was slowly able to improve in my recovery, little by little. Building up a network of loved ones helped, while now and then being able to afford therapy for a brief period of time, and once I was able to get even more help in that department, I eventually reached a point in recovery maintenance where I started to publicly blog and speak about my lived experience with a mental illness.
A Triggering Event Might Highlight The Need for Therapy
I was doing very well, until roughly a year ago, when I suddenly experienced the loss of a loved one. That loss became a triggering event for me and all of a sudden, for a few weeks, all my hard work over the last few years felt like it had literally never happened. Circumstances last summer taught me that I could still develop negative thoughts related to my eating habits and body image when I was faced with a dramatic event in my life.
Fortunately, at the time, my resources were very different from those five years prior. While the death shook me to my core, I had learnt to be more resourceful in my own recovery. While I still believed therapy was an expensive option, which I couldn’t necessarily afford on an ongoing basis, I made it a point to try to find viable options or alternatives when I couldn’t. I started by doing some internet and online research. This led me to an emergency program that gave a few sessions for a pressing need, which I used to vet therapists until I found one that worked for me. I then worked out a plan with her to stretch out my sessions over a long-ish period of time (meeting once every 2 weeks, rather than once a week), with homework to be done in between. I also asked my therapist before the end of the session to give me some tools which I could use on my own if need be, to reduce my anxiety between sessions during that difficult time.
Using Tools From Therapy in Between Sessions
Looking back, this last point was essential because it helped me trust in my ability to literally be the one there for myself in a difficult time, but it also gave me tricks to minimize my negative feelings in those gaps. Of course, I also knew in the back of my mind that I could call my therapist for an emergency session if needed, but because of the expense, I made sure I wouldn’t unless those tools and homework failed me in between the regular sessions.
While this method may have been a little unorthodox, it still allowed me to get the help I needed, in a way I could afford. Though it took a few weeks of therapy to figure out why, after five years of recovery, I could still find myself consumed by thoughts similar to some of my worst times suffering from bulimia, the end result was that I became that much stronger for it. I realized for at least the second time in my life that I avoided a relapse because this emergency plan ended up working out for the best due to the hard work I put in, the faith I had in myself that it would all work out in the end, and also the ongoing support of my friends and family.
Don't Be Afraid to Reach out For Help and Therapy
What this also taught me, is that even though day-to-day I felt strong enough, a consequence of having suffered from an eating disorder means that there are always potential moments where I may still need to reach out for help. Case in point, even though I internally felt comfortable doing the work in maintaining eating disorder recovery, I discovered in therapy that I had a tendency to feel the need to punish myself when I felt hurt by an outside event.
So I’ll end by saying, that while not everyone may have the opportunity to do therapy, if you can, it can be a useful tool in your arsenal of recovery. For those of you who aren’t sure you can afford it, but want to, try to think of outside the box for ways to gain access to it. If you can’t, I encourage you to do as best you can with the support network you do have, to face that issue head on -- whether it is self reflection, support from family and friends, mediation, writing or another outlet that makes you feel a bit better everyday. This experience taught me that even when we think we're at our strongest, we might still need some outside help sometimes, and that there is more than one way to get it.
Lemoine, P. (2014, July 15). Tailoring Therapy for Your Needs in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2014/07/tailoring-therapy-for-your-needs-in-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Patricia Lemoine
This has come at the right time for me Patricia, my therapist is going away for month next week and I am dreading it, have been for weeks. I feel I can manage my eating disorder to some degree because I know if things became too much for me she is there at the end of a phone, but not having that life line is pretty scary.
So reading your post has helped me gain some calm and stay sensible about the whole thing. I do a lot of sketching and pencil drawing, so I have lined up some projects to work on while she is away I am guessing that keeping my mind busy will help me get through the coming weeks.
I’m so glad you came across the post and found it helpful! I do find as well that keeping busy is very important. Having a healthy focus in mind is an essential tool in eating disorder recovery!
Thank you for writing and sharing Lindsay!