When the World Becomes Your Treatment Center
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Guest blogger Claire Klaisner, 18 years old, was diagnosed with an eating disorder at age 12. Passionate about spreading eating disorder awareness, Claire started a blog (http://www.forevergoingforward.wordpress.com) that chronicles her journey with the disease and regularly post videos on her pro-recovery YouTube channel.
Treatment—it was something that completely consumed my life after being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of twelve. After my diagnosis, my life instantly became filled with frightening emergency room visits, traumatizing inpatient admissions, and emotional appointments with therapists, dietitians, and physicians. But despite years of intense nutritional rehabilitation and cognitive therapy, my eating disorder refused to free me from its grasp.
By my senior year in high school, I had lost faith in my future. I believed that I would forever be held back by anorexia—the potentially fatal disease that had already ruined so many aspects of my life. But in the middle of the year, things suddenly began to change when my dad told me he wanted to take me on a senior trip to Ireland and France. Immediately when he said this, I felt my stomach flip upside down and my heart pound as anxiety rushed through my veins. I couldn’t imagine going abroad and having to consume unfamiliar and possibly frightening foods.
Somehow though, I found the courage within myself to say yes to the trip and on May 15th, I boarded the airplane to Europe. Throughout the two weeks I spent in Ireland and France, I meant some lifelong friends, got closer to my dad, and (amazingly) ate successfully at several restaurants. Now I am not going to lie, there were many times during the trip where my eating disorder screamed at me, trying with all of its might to keep me trapped in an anorexic mindset. But I didn’t let my disease stop me and every time it tried to bring me down, I fought back. By the time I returned to the states, my eating disorder’s voice was much softer and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I actually had hope that I would eventually achieve full remission from my eating disorder. Although I still have a long way to go before my outpatient team considers me in remission, my adventure overseas gave me the strength and courage I needed to begin my healing process. Going abroad was the best form of “treatment” I ever had. It forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and confront my fears head on.
This trip taught me that the best way to fight your eating disorder is not by stepping on a scale at your dietitian’s office or passively listening to your therapist’s advice, it’s by taking action and forcing yourself to do the things your eating disorder has stopped you from doing. If you want to get well and achieve remission, you must challenge yourself and play an active role in your treatment. It will be hard and it will be scary, but sometimes the hardest things in life are the things worth fighting for.