We Met Ten Years Ago... And Now We Are In Treatment Together
Here is our story.
I met Florence ten years ago, when we first started treatment in Montreal. We had both been struggling with eating disorders for awhile and made the brave decision to seek professional help. I was hospitalized as an inpatient, and Florence was taking part in the Day Hospital. Both programs take place in the same house, separated only by a wall (and a door that can be easily walked through when groups aren’t in session).
Ten years later, we entered inpatient treatment together on the same day. How did we react when we found out we would be hospitalized together? How has our relationship evolved? Are we competitive in our recovery or do we act to lift each other up? Read our interview to find out - and check out Florence’s blog to follow her journey!
Florence’s answers are roughly translated from French.
Describe how you met and what your relationship was like in the early years.
Meghan: I think you were in the Day Hospital and I was inpatient. But the first time we officially hung out was when we went for coffee? But I didn’t really hang out with just you, it was always us and our other friend. I remember going to see your apartment once…
Florence: Yeah, when I was neighbours with (our friend)! I remember that.
Did you keep in contact throughout the years?
Florence: Not really. Indirectly, yes… I read your blog a lot, and all that, but we didn’t see each other in person.
Meghan: Yeah we didn’t do things together, but I do have you on social media, on Facebook and Instagram… I would always watch your Instagram stories, and I would read your posts.
Florence: We would also cross paths here (at the outpatient clinic), but it was always kind of uncomfortable!
Meghan: Yes! Because I still recognized you and knew who you were, but I was too shy to say hello.
How did you react when you found out you were being admitted on the same day?
Florence: It kind of stressed me out, because I didn’t know if it would stress you! Because we hadn’t talked about it… I hadn’t told you that I was getting admitted too.
Meghan: So I saw on your Instagram that you were packing your bags, and I knew that someone else was being admitted the same day as me, so when I saw you were packing, I was like: “oh my gosh is it her?”. But I wasn’t stressed. It’s always awkward when you know somebody in treatment, but because we were not that close, I knew it would be okay.
Florence: Yeah. And when we spoke, the day before, it reassured me. I found it nice that we were texting the night before…
Meghan: Yes! Encouraging each other to stay up a little longer, and not go to bed too early because we were nervous!
Florence: Yeah, we were looking forward to going to bed to get the day over with! So yeah at first it stressed me, but once we spoke, and I knew that you were okay with it, it really reassured me and I was happy.
Meghan: Me too. And I think we’ve matured over the years, too, so it helped a lot.
What are the “pros” and “cons” of having a friend hospitalized with you?
Meghan: For me, having someone you know is nice because you get to see a familiar face; it can be very intimidating if you go into treatment and you don’t know anybody. You have to learn to know the other patients and what they like and don’t like, and what kind of personality they have. So in that sense, it’s kind of nice to already know someone.
Florence: But I think it also depends how well you know someone… like, in our case, it was perfect because we didn’t know each other too well. So, we could still learn to know each other, but at the same time, we knew where we came from. I think when you know someone too well, it can almost ruin a relationship because you can get on each others’ nerves. Especially with our behaviours… they can be irritating to others…
Meghan: Yeah I think there are some people who I consider very close friends… people I love… but I would never want to be hospitalized with them because I think it would take a toll on the relationship and on the friendship. So I’m happy we knew each other, but not so well that it would interfere with our friendship. I think our friendship is growing but it’s not at risk.
Florence: Yeah, I’m not worried that we will hate each other at the end of all this! Even though we’ve known each other for ten years, we were not that close… but after treatment, we will be close and consider ourselves as friends, eating disorders aside.
Meghan: Yeah the same thing kind of happened when I was looking for a roommate. There are certain friends that I love that I would never want to live with because it would be too difficult. So yeah, I think our relationship was at the perfect level - it was comforting, but we knew treatment would not influence our friendship in a bad way.
Is there any competition between the two of you?
Meghan: I’d say no. I feel like our eating disorders are similar in a lot of ways but also very different, so we have different things that affect us.
Florence: Yeah I would say it’s the opposite of competition. Like, I look to you for my rhythm when I eat, because I find you have a good pace. We don’t compete - we help each other. You come to sit with me, for example.
Meghan: I think five or six years ago, if we were in treatment together, it would have been a different story. We’ve matured a lot over the years.
Florence: We’ve evolved a lot in our eating disorders, too. Yeas ago, it would have been different. Today, I know that you can’t move forward if you are always in competition with others. The goal is not to be the sickest.
Meghan: You’re right, and unfortunately, that’s something that happens a lot in treatment. People compete to be the sickest or the one who is the “best anorexic/bulimic”. And yeah, a couple of years ago, I did have that mindset when I would go into treatment. Not always, but sometimes it was there. But I think now we are both just so fed up of this illness and we help each other. You know, if I see you sitting, I’m like: “I should stop standing and go and sit too”. We encourage each other and are there for each other.
How has your eating disorder evolved over the years?
Meghan: Before, it was a lot of competition, and getting in each other’s business in terms of who is doing well, who is not doing well, and all that. For me, I feel like I have enough issues of my own now… and it’s not that I don’t care about anybody else, but the real goal is to focus on myself.
Florence: Yeah, I don’t need anyone else to trigger me, I trigger myself and need to work on that.
Meghan: I have my own triggers too and I don’t need to look to anybody else for that. I think in treatment, you learn not only to manage your eating disorder, but you develop who you are as a person. I’ve become a lot more independent - the first time I was away from my parents was because I was in treatment, so I’ve learned to take care of myself.
Florence: The reasons for an eating disorder evolve too. When I started to become sick it was more of a question of physical appearance, whereas now, it’s mostly control and managing anxiety. It’s not only about being thin.
Meghan: There are so many factors that go into eating disorders and definitely mine has evolved. I started to lose weight because I wanted to get in shape and look good for the summer and now I have a lot more obsessions and compulsions and anxiety. So yeah, with each relapse, there’s a different reason for my eating disorder.
Florence: For me, now, it’s kind of the same thing all the time - in the last year, it’s been about managing my depression by running excessively, but most of the time, I start to train because it was summer, I wanted to get in shape, and eat well, and it derails from there. It’s like we never learn from our errors! We tell ourselves it’s going to be different, but now I realize I can’t do that stuff.
Meghan: We are too vulnerable.
Do you see recovery happening for yourself?
Florence: Um, no. Not completely. When I relapsed last year, I found it incredibly difficult to deal with the fact that I relapsed after four years of being well. For four years, I was convinced that it would never come back. But the eating disorder did come back, and quickly - and I understand now that it will always be a part of my life. And I think that’s an important step - to not judge yourself if it will not go away completely. Because then you will feel disappointed if the eating disorder remains. The tendencies might always be there. You know, like reflexes to do certain things with food, or the fact that sports will always be complicated for me. But I am confident that I will be able to lead a normal life.
Meghan: I’m the same way. I think because I’ve been sick for so long, it will always be a part of my life. At least for the first ten years, where I’m just going to have to manage it. There are certain situations… you know, if I’m going out to eat with friends, or to a restaurant - I think there will be anxiety there for a long time. People always mention full recovery and I think it’s hard to define that.
Florence: It’s not like if you had a broken bone, and would completely heal… there’s no test that says you’re cured. But you can always identify your red flags.
Meghan: I think we can get our actions to become healthy, but I think the thoughts behind our actions will be there for a long time. I don’t like to say fully recovered, because I don’t think the illness will go away completely for me, but I think I will be able to manage it in my everyday life so I can lead an everyday life without entering treatment again.
Do you plan on staying in contact after you get discharged?
Florence: Of course!
Meghan: I would like to. I think especially because we’ve known each other for so long. And being in treatment with someone, you are basically living with someone for months.
Florence: You can develop friendships in treatment in 2 months that you might develop with someone you see less frequently over the span of a year. We see each other so often, and we have a lot in common. We like going to markets, we like coffee… I think you will become a good ally for me.
Meghan: Yeah, especially because our relationship here is so positive, so it would be good to continue to encourage each other even if we are not in treatment together. I think it’s a good plan - we will update you (our readers, followers, friends, and family) in a year!