Top 10 Things To Do Before You Leave For Inpatient Treatment
Top 10 Things To Do Before You Leave For Inpatient Treatment
1. Say your goodbyes.
I put off saying my goodbyes for the longest time, and I think it was because I was living in denial. I didn't want to face the reality that I was, once again, packing up my stuff and leaving town to go to treatment. But I am so glad that I managed to see a few people before my departure. It feels good to have that human contact and get those last encouraging words from the ones that care about you. Of course, tears were shed, especially when I said goodbye to my therapist in Montreal. But at the end of the day, I'm happy that I was able to experience those emotions. Because it wasn't so much sadness as more of a longing - longing for things to get better so that I can spend more time with my loved ones.
2. Stock up on supplies.
If the program you're going to is anything like the one I'm headed to, you should know that you won't have regular access to pharmacies or shopping malls. Make sure you buy enough supplies to last you a good few weeks. I'm talking all the essentials: deodorant, toothpaste, hair removal cream, floss, hair ties, bobby pins, mascara... you name it. There's nothing more uncomfortable than entering a treatment program and not feeling at home because you are missing something. Don't be shy to bring multiples of what you think you might need. It's better to be well-prepared!
3. Pack comfortable clothes.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is a better cure for bad body image days than dressing in comfortable clothing. Whether it be sweatpants, baggy t-shirts, or sweatshirts (or all of the above!), don't be shy to pack the clothes that will make YOU feel a little bit better when you are dealing with weight gain and body changes. That being said, I sometimes bring a few clothes that make me feel good. Pretty. Outfits that I like. So that when I feel up to CHALLENGING the bad body image, I put on a nice dress, do my hair and make-up, and show that eating disorder who is in charge.
4. Be honest with your co-workers.
I didn't want to tell my co-workers that I was going to treatment because I didn't want to let them down. I felt that since I had committed to the job, taking some time off would come across as a lack of dependability and reliability. But to be honest, it felt so good to share with them that I was having a hard time. What I learned from all this is that everyone has their struggles, and it's nothing to be shy or ashamed about. Lean on your co-workers and let them support you in those weeks leading up to treatment. Trust me, you won't regret it.
5. Start the mental work.
My therapist (God bless her!) was PERSISTENT in having me start the mental work before I left for inpatient. It's simply not a good idea to put off the "work" until your admission because the adjustment will be so much harder. My biggest piece of advice is to start challenging your eating disorder thoughts before you leave. "I'm too big to get help". CHALLENGE THAT. "This extra piece of fruit will make me gain weight". CHALLENGE THAT. Even if challenging your thoughts doesn't translate into recovery-focused actions, at least you can start training your mind to not believe everything the eating disorder tells you, which will definitely come in handy when you are in treatment.
6. Buy a journal.
Journaling is a tool that I have used during most of my inpatient stays and I have found it to be INCREDIBLY helpful. It's up to you to decide how you want to use it. Do you want to chronicle every detail of your day? Do you want to simply write down advice you have received that week? Do you want to log your healthy habits? Like I said, customize your journal and make it your own. Make it your safety space to vent, complain, and even celebrate.
7. Rest and relax.
Of course, there will be many errands to run before your inpatient admission. But please find time to rest and relax as well. It's so important to take time for yourself and save some energy for the fight you're about to embark on. Plan your weeks wisely so that you don't overwork or overbook yourself. Your body has probably been through a lot (eating disorders are not friendly beasts!) so don't feel guilty about staying in and practicing some self-care.
8. Plan for the discomfort.
I can't stress this enough: inpatient treatment for an eating disorder is NOT EASY. Every day, you are facing that nagging voice in your head that is telling you to lose weight, or not eat, or self-harm in some way or another. And this voice isn't whispering in your ear; it is YELLING. You are going to be put in some of the most uncomfortable and anxiety-ridden situations so it's a good idea to plan for this. Make a list of coping strategies that will work for YOU during your moments of distress. Taking a hot shower, journaling, manicures, and listening to music are some of the coping methods that help me, but everyone is different. Don't wait until you are in an uncomfortable situation to make this list. Plan ahead.
9. Take care of your finances.
If you're someone who has a lot of financial responsibilities (i.e. rent, cell phone bill, etc.) make sure to take care of these things BEFORE you leave. Give your landlord a couple of post-dated cheques to cover your rent for a couple months. Suspend your cell phone plan if you won't have access to your phone during your stay. Take care of any and all banking issues so that you won't have to worry about them while you are in treatment.
10. Start looking forward to your discharge!
Oftentimes in inpatient treatment, we get so wrapped up in life on the unit that we forget what our "real life" looks like. Don't get too ahead of yourself, but DO begin to look forward to your arrival back home. Make a list of a couple of fun activities that you have been meaning to try but couldn't do because of your health. Think of friends you want to see, or family members you want to visit. Maybe plan a day trip or a special project you can start when you get home. Know that the inpatient work is some of the most important work you will ever do, but also know that life awaits you when you get back and it will be EVEN BETTER than it was before you left. Get excited for it.
I hope you guys were able to relate to some of the points I brought up here. Remember, everyone is different, but we do share some similarities. Don't be shy to reach out for support before your admission and never be afraid to ask for help.