Thursday, July 25, 2013

Personal Responsibility in Recovery

Dr. P got me thinking about this a lot after my appointment on Tuesday. We had been talking about how I feel SO awkward and nervous going back to College City ED Treatment Clinic. The only person I still see there is my psychiatrist Dr. L, and that's only once every few months for a med check. But every time I have to set foot in that building, I get super nervous and fidgety and anxious about running into R, my old therapist who I dumped unceremoniously last spring, or J, my old dietician, who I simply stopped seeing. Probably could have handled both of those better....

Anyway, I was stressing about this with Dr. P because I had an appointment with Dr. L (whom I ADORE, and who is the only person for whom I would suffer through the potential awkwardness of running into R). We kept coming back to this question of WHY I feel so darn guilty and ashamed and generally terrible about the time I spent seeing Dr. R. And yeah, I was bratty and difficult and stubborn and uncommunicative. Most of the time, I had zero intentions of following my meal plan. I was the opposite of motivated for recovery. I didn't open up about stuff that was really bothering me. I cried a lot but refused to say why. I lost a not-insignificant amount of weight within the first few months of starting to see him. It was very obvious, from very early on, that things were Not Working.

But I stayed for a year and a half, and now I view a lot of that as wasted time. What a waste to have all this access to treatment, and not take advantage of it. What a waste to spend my hour-per-week of therapy sitting silently with my arms crossed, pouting about my weight, glowering at R across the room, daring him to antagonize me. Which he did. Usually unintentionally, but he did.

I blame myself for a lot of that wasted time, but Dr. P said something interesting: "You were twenty years old with an illness. It wasn't your job to find the right evidence-based treatment. It was his job."

In part, I think she's right. It was his job. But it was also my job, just because that's the way the world works. It was my body, my brain, my life. No, maybe I didn't have the perspective or maturity to realize that hey! my illness is interfering with my ability to accurately assess the situation, and I should really trust this professional sitting in front of me—who charges $XXX per hour—to steer me in the right direction; but I did have a choice to try or not try. And a lot of the time, I wasn't even trying.

Now, I am seeing a whole new side of recovery. I am weight-restored. I eat a healthy diet. As of a few weeks ago, I am finally, finally able to exercise again. Starting out, I had the best intentions in the world of upping my calories and limiting my workouts to under XX mins, Y times per week. I swore I wouldn't go to the gym two days in a row. And absolutely, positively no running.

But then I actually started working out again, and remembered how wonderful and terrible it is to be addicted to exercise. And how powerful it is, even knowing what I know and what the consequences can be. "XX minutes" of biking became XX + 5, and then XX + 10. Then "Y times a week" became Y + 1, and then Y + 2. "No running" became "only running on the days I don't bike."

Then, for the first time in about a year, my period was a week late.

Yes, the ED started to take over and yes, I'm still a little bit sick and yes, I'm not fully responsible. But I don't have R to blame anymore; I have a wonderful therapist whom I love, and I have a wonderful doctor who promised that I would be okay eventually as long as I laid off the exercise and let my body heal. Yes, it's Dr. P's job and Dr. A's job and Dr. L's job to fix me, but I'm not a cardboard cutout and at the end of the day, it's my job. I'm the one who has lived through it, and will continue to live through it until I pull myself out with every next right choice. Some things are out of my control, but not this.


  1. Kaylee, this is a wonderful post - thank you.

    For the record, I think it's possible to take control of your recovery now without beating yourself up for anything that happened in the past. Dr. P is right: treatments fail patients, not the other way around. If nothing else, your time with R taught you the lesson you shared in this post. I suspect it's a lesson most people in recovery have to learn at some point, just as most people go through a pout-deny-antagonize stage, too. Anyway, I love the realization that you've made. And I especially love the idea of "every next right choice." Making those choices can be really empowering, and it's one of the most important things we can do.