Why I Am Choosing to Go into Residential Care

In my article from two weeks ago, “Mental Health Care is a Privilege, It Shouldn’t Be”, I mentioned that I had chosen to get a referral for an Eating Disorder residential treatment program. The program is four months, and I will have to take a semester off to take part in it, halfway through my final year in university. Despite this, I know that this is the right decision for me at this moment. Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

In choosing to move to a higher level of care, there was one specific question that I was always asked: are you doing this because you are getting worse, or are you doing this as the next step towards recovery? And the truth is, I had no answer for this other than it could be either, or even both. I am not necessarily getting worse or better right now. I have taken steps forward in my recovery, and I have taken steps back. What can be said is that I am at a point in my life right now where I am ready to deal with my anorexia and all the other issues that come with it, and that has not happened until this semester. It took an unbelievable amount of time to get that point.

I have had disordered eating in some shape or form since I was 11. On my birthday, June 2019, I will have spent half my life struggling with some form of an eating disorder. I desperately want that celebration to be one of recovery, and I know that if I continue in the same way that I am now, juggling school, recovery, work, and grad applications, I won’t be at that point. I may be moving forward with recovery, and I may still be fighting my anorexia, but I won’t be in a position where I feel that I have recovered. That being said, this program won’t magically cure me. It will take a ton of work both during and after in order for me to be in a place where I am at peace with my illness. But it will offer me an opportunity to be in a place where I am working towards being at peace with my illness, rather than trying desperately to stay afloat.

Unfortunately, the demands of school and my own high expectations of myself in university are also a major part of why residential care is necessary. University is one of the best distractions from taking care of myself that I have, and at this point in recovery it can’t be. University takes up all my time, and getting that 80% is so important to me that eating often doesn’t even come into the equation. It was only at the beginning of this semester that I realized that my recovery at this point in time was not possible in a university setting. I had spent the last year attempting recovery on an outpatient basis, and it was working to some extent, but I found I couldn’t keep it up with the levels of stress university presented me. This was particularly clear, right before the beginning of this semester when, while working for the university, I had to take several days off because my lack of food was causing me to become sick. This occurred twice this semester, and I knew then that if continued like this, I would be worse off than if I took the time off to recovery.

I wanted to feel well enough to be capable of all of the challenges and opportunities that university offered me. At the beginning of this semester I was juggling a job, school, grad applications, and recovery, not well perhaps, but I loved what I was doing in both school and work, and I wanted to continue both. But because I wasn’t able to fully take care of my own health I knew I wasn’t able to continue the job with school as well, so when my contract ended I decided not to renew it. I realized the only way I would be capable of everything that I wanted to be was if I was properly nourished, and I knew that I wasn’t in a situation where I was able to get myself to eat.

Residential care offers me a way to take full responsibility for my recovery. I am at a point in time where I am fully prepared to take that responsibility. I hope that if you yourself are struggling with any mental illness, that you can also begin to face your mental illness, but if you can’t that’s fine too. It took me 10 years to be ready to take this step forward for myself, and I am so proud of myself for taking it. That being said, every person’s movement towards and through recovery is different. Above all just be kind to yourself, acknowledge when you’re struggling and need a step back, and give yourself that step back. Give yourself that break.