April 15, 2016—the day I was told that I had to enter inpatient treatment.
April 18, 2016—the day I received my Carolina House admit date.
April 22, 2016—the day that I was pulled out of school.
April 25, 2016—the day that I was supposed to admit to Carolina House for residential eating disorder treatment (that they then kept pushing back due to current patients not discharging).
May 4, 2016—the day I did a phone intake with Eating Recovery Center + was in the middle of booking a flight to Denver when I got a call from Carolina House saying they could finally admit me the next day.
May 5, 2016—finally admitted to Carolina House and my life changed forever.
This time of year is the weirdest/hardest/best. I wrote about it last year, and honestly I thought the feels of reliving the past would be gone by year two, but wow, they are just as strong.
Each day this month it seems like I tell my friends, “oh this day two years ago I was doing _____!” because I can remember everything about the month leading up to Carolina House. Everything that happened was necessary, but oh man, it was brutal.
I remember being told that I had to go to treatment. I remember going to the doctor for a weight check, and they removed my mom from the room as my doctor and nurse both confronted me, saying that even though I was 18, they were going to push extremely hard for me to go to treatment. I remember walking back out to the waiting room and telling my mom and boyfriend what they said. I remember my mom telling me that she was going to call Carolina House once we got home.
I remember going to the play at school the next day to watch my two friends make their musical theater debut. I remember sitting in the plastic chair and my boyfriend having to go get a sweatshirt from the car for me to sit on because I was so bony it hurt to sit against the hard chair. I remember going to my favorite restaurant for dinner afterwards and actually trying to eat (an attempt to prove that I wasn’t sick), but my stomach being so shrunken that I could only manage a few bites before I had intense stomach pain and nausea.
I remember texting my mom while I was at school the following Monday, continually asking if she had heard back from Carolina House yet. When she finally told me that she did, I remember immediately checking myself out from school and going home and laying in my bed, refusing to talk to anyone.
I remember freaking out that night, screaming at everyone who tried to talk to me or comfort me. I remember trying to break up with my boyfriend as a “punishment” for making me go to treatment, and I remember screaming and crying and begging my parents to let me stay home because I promised that I would eat. I remember never feeling any panic like that before and feeling like everyone hated me and just wanted to ship me off.
I remember going to school on my last day. I remember my guidance counselor calling me to her office and showing me that I had approval from all of my teachers to leave my coursework as is and not require me to do any make-up work while I was gone. I remember being pulled out of class to go take pictures in my cap and gown since I was going to miss the class picture day. I remember the looks of all my teachers, unsure of what to say, but aware that it was going to be the last time they saw me. I remember emptying my locker, and getting weird looks from classmates who didn’t know I was leaving. I remember hugging my friends goodbye in the parking lot, crying and not knowing if I’d be back for graduation.
I remember the week and a half that I was out of school before I admitted to treatment. I remember the frustration and anguish I felt each day when Carolina House called saying they had to push back my admit date another day. I remember thinking I wasn’t sick enough to go, so that’s why they kept pushing my date back. I remember laying on the couch all day every day, watching Lifetime movies while my parents were at work and all my friends were at school. I remember taking at least two naps a day because my body was so exhausted. I remember my dad coming home from work early everyday so that he could spend time with me because we had no idea how long I would be gone.
I remember doing an intake with Eating Recovery Center. I remember them telling me that they could admit me in just a few days, so I was about to book my one-way flight to Denver, Colorado. I remember my dad running upstairs to tell me that Carolina House called–they were admitting me tomorrow. I remember throwing a few last-minute things in my already packed suitcase. I remember saying bye to my dog and friends and leaving within an hour of getting the call and driving halfway to Durham.
I remember waking up in the hotel room in Greensboro the next morning. I remember trying to pick out what the best “first day of treatment” outfit was. I remember wanting to make sure that I looked thin, but not sick (lol). I remember the quiet drive to Durham. I remember not knowing what to say to my family, and thinking that the downpour outside was a good representation of my mood inside.
I remember pulling up to Carolina House. I remember heaving my heavy suitcase out onto the pebble parking lot. I remember walking up to the house, taking notice of the rocks that said “hope” and “where miracles happen” on them. I remember feeling hesitant to ring the doorbell. I remember the RPA answering the door and saying, “you must be Sarah Beth, right?”
I remember sitting on the couch, playing with a fidget toy while we waited for all the patients to go to nap time so we could get a tour of the house and fill out paperwork. I remember saying goodbye to my crying parents and boyfriend, trying to not cry with them because how dare they know I had emotions. I remember being led to the kitchen after I said goodbye, watching my family through the window as they walked back to the car and realizing that there was no longer a way out. I was in treatment.
These memories haunt me. Each day it feels like I’m almost reliving these things.
Today? Today is two years since my original admit date.
These little mini anniversaries are the weirdest thing. So much hope and despair all at the same time. But I’m holding and honoring both feelings.
What happened two years ago was hard as hell, but it saved my life. I’m no longer in that place anymore, so I can rejoice over the mountains I’ve climbed and valleys I’ve walked through since then. But I can also mourn the girl that I was, the sickness and frailty that I made my life for so many years. I can exist in both emotions surrounding these dates.
Hope, because I am no longer there.
Despair, because I once was there.
These anniversaries are hard. I don’t know if April 25 will ever be just another day to me. But I do know that I have space between now and April of 2016. And so much beauty has happened in that space.
It’s hard to sit in memories of April. All I feel is hopelessness and pain when I think about who I was then. But I do know that May 5 is coming. May 5 is a day I can celebrate and feel good about. May 5 is a day where I know how to mask the ugly and pain with the beauty of surrender and recovery. It makes sense like that.
But it is also hard to look forward to the joy that is May 5 when I have to recognize all the hardships that led up to it. May 5, 2016 wasn’t a pretty day–I cried a lot, refused fajitas at dinner, and didn’t understand what was happening or why someone had to watch me pee or how to make friends with all the other patients. May 5 itself wasn’t glorious, but the surrender and life that came out of it make that day glorious.
Nothing pretty came out of the days leading up to treatment. They’re just a lot of crappy feelings and memories and experiences I’d rather forget. I’d rather forget all the talks and looks and tears of my loved ones. I’d rather forget the turmoil my eating disorder was putting me through mentally. I’d rather forget the tired body that could barely do anything anymore. I’d rather forget all the doctors appointments and blood draws and weigh-ins. I’d rather forget it all.
But today I’m choosing to be thankful for those moments. They shaped me, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. They were hell, but they led to some really beautiful things.
So today I’m choosing to exist in the in-between. The memories are hard, but they are also strangely beautiful. Because I know that life is coming. True joy is coming. Hope is coming.
What’s coming next is awesome. I’ll exist in April because I know May 5 is coming!!
Two years of recovery completely astounds me. I don’t know how we got here, but I am #BLESSED. So many ups and downs. Victories and relapses. I am thankful for the beauty and pain and glory that these past two years have been!! I’ve truly lived life for the first time ever and just WOAH how did I miss out on this for 18+ years!!!!! So much joy. Hardest journey I’ll probably ever be on, but the most worth it for sure. I wouldn’t trade a second of it. I have passion and joy and life inside of me that I never knew existed. Thankful. And strong. And so, so worthy.