Dear Friend of Rogers,

Haley-full-picMost of my friends call me Haley, my family calls me Hay, and my teammates call me Hals, but I have had numerous other aliases over the past few years. I have been called Superwoman, overachiever, a perfectionist, a patient, a fighter and an individual recovering from anorexia. Most of these names, particularly the last two, I answer to happily. I used to think the first three were desired titles; who does not want to be perfect, Superwoman, or an achiever?

While these were/are the names I answer to now, many of these names fell on deaf ears as my eating disorder and OCD called me different names. Before entering treatment, my critical, internal voice called me “a burden,” “unattractive,” “not worth it,” “not good enough” and “a failure.” For a long time, these voices drowned out the more caring names to which I ought to have answered.

While I cannot say I do not still occasionally respond to the names my eating disorder calls me, I can say my journey through treatment at Rogers gave me the power to stand up and tell that voice inside my head to hush up.

During my freshman year of college, I struggled with homesickness and adjusting to life on my own. Being a part of the track team helped me make friends, but I was not fully comfortable at school. Over Christmas vacation, I came down with the stomach flu and, for a girl battling an extreme fear of throwing up, this illness proved exceptionally traumatic. Upon returning to school, my weight plummeted, I had panic attacks, I became depressed, and I began seeking counseling for my OCD related fears. I did not believe I had an eating disorder. I was not like the girls I had read about in psychology class, or so I thought.

Returning home for the summer, I had many a tearful conversation with my parents begging me to eat or to go into Rogers. I dug my heels in, claiming I could care for myself. Needless to say, shortly after the fourth of July, I was admitted to the Rogers Memorial Hospital Inpatient Eating Disorder unit after having lost over 40 percent of my body weight.

Being in inpatient ranks as one of the most challenging, but valuable experiences I have ever had.

I made friends on the floor with girls like me, struggling to balance dreams with inner demons. I was placed on a feeding tube and remained on the unit for three weeks. During that time, I discovered the roots of my feelings of inadequacy, my loneliness and my anger towards those I loved.  Opportunities in art therapy, experiential therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy helped me come to grips with my illness and find my path to recovery.

Upon being released from the inpatient unit, I proceeded to the partial program in Oconomowoc for continued weight restoration and therapy. Slightly different from the inpatient rigidity, partial granted me the chance to share my daily struggles, find support in others and seek the professional counseling of my treatment team.

I was starting to make positive progress, both in restoring weight and managing my triggers, when I received the news I feared: my insurance had run out and I was to be released at the end of my second week.

At the encouragement of my social worker, I applied for a Rogers Foundation grant and was accepted. The grant allowed me to continue the nutrition and cognitive behavioral therapy I needed to solidify my path to recovery. During my extended time in eating disorder partial, I was pushed to eat more, confront my body image and learn to be honest with myself about my situation and struggles.

At the end of my four week stay in partial, I still had not restored all my weight, but I was ready to proceed to the next step: OCD partial. In OCD partial, I faced a hefty hierarchy through which to work. At the beginning, the list of situations I needed to conquer seemed impossible. Slowly though, with the help of my treatment team, I exposed myself to dirty tissues, vomit scenes in movies, disorganized rooms, and I continued working through food challenges with my dietician.

OCD partial was an animal in itself, but keeping tabs of my obsessions and compulsions opened my eyes to how much of my life I allowed my illness to control. Walking through the doors of Rogers that final day in October, after three months of treatment, I knew my life had changed.

While inpatient and partial treatment forced me to take a leave of absence in the fall of 2011 from my university, I have since returned. Last fall, I rejoined my Division I track team and competed in my first race in 18 months. I have been a runner for over 12 years and hurdles are my specialty on the track. I cannot quite express the emotions I felt getting into the blocks. My teammates cheered for me as the announcers read my name for the heat. While I did not have the best race technically speaking, I crossed the finish line knowing I had accomplished something great. My track race only places ten 33 inch barriers in my way, but my eating disorder threw many more in my path.

Thanks to the staff at Rogers and the grant I received from Rogers Foundation, I received the opportunity to learn I am worth it, I am good enough, I am not a failure (though I will fail along the way), and that I am beautiful.

Since leaving intensive treatment, I have been open, sharing my story in hopes of reaching out to someone who is still struggling. I know what it feels like to deal with that voice in your head calling you “ugly,” “a failure,” and “not worth it.” Today, I try my hardest to block this bully of a voice from my head. I choose to answer to Haley, Hay, and Hals…

I choose recovery.

Thank you for giving me the gift of a better day,

Haley