A breathed a massive sigh of relief. I had I won the inpatient tug O war. At least that is how I felt the moment Kirsten agreed to work with me on an outpatient basis, allowing me to attempt recovery from my eating disorder while still living at home. But as we began to talk logistics of what treatment would look like, I began to question if I had actually won anything. Fearing once again my anorexic brain outsmarted Kirsten the way it had almost every medical/mental professional I had seen in the past twelve years.
Despite my low weight, I was pro at presenting very “normal.” With my background in nutrition I had the ability to tell professionals what I knew they wanted to hear about improving my diet by increasing my intake of calorie-dense foods. I was athletic so appointments with my general practitioner were more about our shared love of running than my health. And when I whipped out my favorite line, "yeah, I know I’m thin, I’m working on it,” it was usually enough to appease my dentist, dermatologist, and breast doctor—averting any serious questioning about my concerning body weight. So while I was relieved when Kirsten agreed to give me a chance, I was also freaking out. I feared my anorexic brain was so sneaky it just snowed a pro like Kirsten.
That being said, the treatment plan Kirsten offered was solid. It included an individual session with her once a week, participation in a nine-month RO-DBT class which met once a week for two hours. A weekly check-in with my doctor to monitor my heart and fluid levels and weekly sessions with a dietician. I loved the plan. I loved it too much. As Kirsten was talking, the chatter of my anorexic brain, sensing a threat to its survival, began fluttering in my head like a hummingbird on crack.
Okay, Sherri, we can work with this. You can schedule the sessions and appointments around your mealtimes. You may have to change your workout routine, but you will still fit in enough exercise. Your doctor won’t push you too much. She never has. And this class sounds way more manageable than group therapy. Best part is no one needs to know. It can stay our secret. Basically you can go into “treatment” and still live your life.
While my anorexic brain assured me I got what I wanted, my healthy Sherri brain knew better. It knew that having access to exercise, my food, and my schedule was dangerous and recovery would be near impossible surrounded by the vices I have clung to for so long. Despite the firm plan, I feared it was not stronger than my anorexia.
“The next step is to find a dietician that is a good fit for you,” Kirsten said, interrupting the panicky thoughts swirling through my brain.
She gave me several suggestions of dieticians she felt would be a fit. One had a bubbly, fun personality with whom she thought I might connect. One worked in a more clinical hospital setting and one was into meditation and Buddhism. All very experienced in treating eating disorders.
I sat there, contemplating. I wasn’t just being offered a choice. I was being offered a chance—the opportunity of real recovery. So I mustered every ounce of my healthy Sherri brain, looked Kirsten straight in the eye, and said,
“I want the one I won’t be able to bullshit.“
Having access to my vices, I knew would make recovery in outpatient very challenging.