This is a post I never wanted to write: It’s a post about relapse.
I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling so ashamed that, after months of intensive treatment in California, I’ve relapsed — badly.
Some of you may have read Sam’s blog post of my experience attempting to receive continued treatment at home. In it, he shares some of the more harrowing details of what happened to me in treatment. It feels heartbreaking that I’m in this dangerous place again, especially when I came back to New York with so much hope for the future.
But I’m not giving up.
I spent weeks in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) that crushed my spirit. But it isn’t just about me, as painful as that experience was on its own. What happened to me is what happens to people in larger bodies far too often: we are dismissed, gaslit, and denied compassionate care, assuming our eating disorders are recognized at all.
In the weeks leading up to my relapse, I was fighting tooth and nail for my recovery. I showed up, even when everything in me screamed not to. I had begun eating on my own. My purging and exercising decreased drastically, as well as how often I was weighing myself. I was eating my fear foods regularly.
Was it a perfect recovery? Absolutely not. I struggled, like anybody else who has battled this illness for decades. I had moments of fear, ambivalence, grief. There is no smooth, linear road to recovery. But I pushed through because I wanted my life back. I wanted — and still want — recovery.
As Sam explained in his post, I spent my time in PHP feeling confused and deeply ashamed. My treatment team there repeatedly told me I wasn’t trying, that I didn’t appear to want recovery, going so far as to say that I needed to “prove” that I was committed.
Having lived in a fat body a great deal of my life, this “prove you want it” mentality was first said to me in the context of not trying hard enough to be thin. For those of you who live with an eating disorder, you’re likely familiar with that little (sometimes loud) voice that does an awfully good job of reminding us that we aren’t enough.
Clinicians, of all people, shouldn’t be gaslighting their patients into believing they aren’t trying or, worse yet, don’t want to recover.
When I told my treatment team that I didn’t feel safe under their care, they told me that recovery “isn’t about safety.” In that way, they’re right — if I can’t feel safe and supported while battling my eating disorder, no, I don’t want recovery on those terms.
I don’t because I believe we deserve better than that.
I believe that patients — especially those in larger bodies who have been told too many times that they are a mistake, a failure, an epidemic, and not good enough — deserve to feel safe with those providing them care.
Fatphobia, gaslighting, pathologizing… these have no place in eating disorder treatment, or any kind of mental health care.
The truth is, I know in my heart what feels right and what feels wrong.
And nothing has felt more wrong than begging to be heard, only to have clinicians suggest that you’re too “malnourished” and “sick” to know what’s good for you. Nothing has felt more wrong than being told that you, the patient, are being “manipulative” for voicing your needs.
I blamed myself for far too long for the failures of my day treatment team, and the relapse that followed when they discharged me for “non-compliance.” I worried that maybe I wasn’t trying “hard enough.” That maybe I didn’t want it after all. That maybe my recovery was hopeless, and that’s why they were so eager to be rid of me.
But when Sam shared my story, I heard from so many of you eerily similar horror stories. Dieticians who, yes, told you to eat less than your thin peers, despite all of the ways that same mentality fueled your anorexia.
Treatment centers that disregarded your needs, gaslit you, and refused to hear you. Clinicians who saw your fat body and decided you weren’t “sick enough,” while at the same time suggesting you were too sick to know what was good for you.
I want you to know that I’ve been there, wondering if it was something that I did wrong. Wondering if, yes, maybe I expected too much, pushed too hard, spoke too loudly. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault.
When a treatment center or clinician leaves you worse off than they found you, they have failed you. Full stop. You did NOT fail at recovery. We (I’m including myself here, as hard as it is to do) did not fail at recovery.
I’ll say it one more time: We didn’t fail.
I’m so lucky to have amazing friends and a wonderful outpatient team that has made sure, in my darkest moments, that I haven’t forgotten how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve fought. And I’m not ready to give up.
If anything, this relapse has reminded me of exactly why I will continue to fight. I refuse to go out this way.
Unfortunately, I’m no longer in treatment and I desperately need help. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d agree to let my friends post a GoFundMe (link here), but the truth is, I’m desperate. I want to get the treatment that I need but can’t afford. So I’m sharing the link with you, with the hopes that you’ll donate and/or share it.
I am beyond grateful that so many of you are fighting alongside me, and letting me know that I’m not alone. I hope that as I continue to fight for my life, you’ll remember that I’m right there with you, cheering you on as you reclaim yours.
After years of secrecy, I’m so glad that I chose to share my story. Every one of you inspires me to fight, and to LIVE. I have so much life left in me. And I didn’t come this far to turn back now.