Prior to June 2014, I had contacted and been for an assessment at Recover to explore eating disorder treatment.
I remember leaving the assessment and thinking that had been my only glimpse of Recover and I felt lucky just to have been given the time I had been, to be listened to.
I remember walking down the road with a huge sense of relief. For always thinking and believing I was not worthy or deserving of help, to hear the words, “We can help you” meant so much.
I remember days after the assessment constantly thinking over and over again about those four words.
They can help me? It baffled me to think not only that they could help me, but that they were offering to help. For someone who always deep down wanted help, but did not know how to ask for it and was afraid of it, I decided I have to take this opportunity. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t and it really did feel like the only option left for me.
Wanting help but nervous about accepting it
Two days before I started at the clinic I remember the phone conversation I had with Recover.
I remember deeply wanting the help, but at the same time, I became incredibly nervous about what was about to happen. I knew things would be different and changes would be made, but I underestimated how different my life would be, and it has all been for the best.
This time the conversation ended with, “We want to help you“.
By this point, it felt like I was on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, phoning a friend and being given the answer and option of receiving one million pounds. “Yes, I’ll do it”, I replied.
The night before
The night before my start date at Recover, I remember making a list of what I needed to take with me and re-reading all previous emails I had with the clinic.
It still did not feel quite real that I was actually going to start at the clinic tomorrow. I had to keep reminding myself that it was about to happen, tomorrow. It felt like I was going on a school trip, having to be up early to get the coach.
I set my alarm for 4am to embark on my trip to Portsmouth The Hard to get the coach to London Victoria.
Starting my journey at the Recover Clinic
The morning of Thursday 12th June 2014 arrived. ‘Today! I am starting at the clinic today!’
I’m not quite sure if it was complete excitement or just pure panic. It wasn’t long before the two and a half hour coach journey became time for me to second think and doubt what I was about to do.
I became incredibly scared.
I remember the coach driver stopped off for petrol. ‘Perfect! I’ll just jump off the coach and go home’.
I didn’t get off the coach. I stayed. I could picture Recover in my mind and the opportunity being given to me and I remembered all the correspondence with the clinic that I had just to get me in there.
I knew deep down I wanted to go; it was just the fear of the unknown and change that was dominant at this point.
I remember sitting on the coach, surrounded by a large family, of all different ages. They were starting their journey to their holiday destination, Paris. They were singing, laughing, talking, showing and sharing with each other items they had in their bags and photos on their mobiles.
The bond between them was so distinct. It was a beautiful thing to see, but it made me feel more and more alone.
I arrived in London Victoria and caught the tube to where Recover was situated. I was an hour early so I sat on a bench nearby with about one million butterflies in my stomach.
I remember receiving messages from friends and university lecturers wishing me luck and letting me know I was being thought of. I kept those messages close to my heart and started walking to Recover.
I got closer and closer to the clinic when all of a sudden I realised I had walked straight past the turning to the clinic. Oh my god, how embarrassing! What if they saw me walk straight past!?
I definitely did wonder whether that was a sign that I should go home, but I knew it wasn’t believable and so I made my way back, walked up to the clinic and rang the doorbell.
The door opened and I was welcomed in and taken upstairs and told to make myself comfortable.
I was the only patient there at the time and I remember really worrying about what the other girls would think of me.
I was told about what was going to happen that day and I was shown a vision board, an example of the type of work they do at Recover. I was then given a tour of the clinic. At this point, I felt like an intruder invading other people’s space.
Sitting down to Breakfast Group
The first group I had was Breakfast Group. I was faced with difficulties and challenges straight away. I started doubting my capability of staying there. I started wishing I had asked where the door was while being given the tour, so I could quietly slip out and leave.
I sat round the table with members of the team and the other girls. Everyone was so incredibly welcoming and lovely. Within five minutes, I started to feel settled in and relaxed.
Breakfast Group can be difficult for many, especially having to face fears and difficulties first thing in the morning. But it provides a calm, chilled out space, allowing conversations and light-hearted talk to gently get you into the day.
Without breakfast group, I would have never been shown and told how to make a cup of tea!
Exploring my spirituality
I then had Spiritual Group. I remember when I received my program via email before starting, with the times and groups I was scheduled to attend, having no idea what Spiritual Group was, “I know! Spirits. We are going to be contacting the other side”.
I was slightly on edge about this and was confused as to how that would help us. I remembered being told I had to be willing to try new things, and so I told myself that contacting the other side may not all be that bad.
We all walked up the stairs, along with candles and blankets.
We all sat down and were prompted to shut our eyes. I then heard soft, relaxing music being played.
I remember repeatedly opening one eye, just to see what was going on. I had never been in this situation before. I remember thinking, if only my friends knew what I was doing right now, they wouldn’t believe it.
Spiritual Group has been, and always will remain, one of the safest groups I have been in. It allows you to collectively join together as a group, listen to music and meditate.
It provides a space for discussion on relevant topics such as spirituality, higher power and what it means to be a woman.
It gave me an opportunity to write a bucket list of things I would like to achieve. It’s a chance to turn inwards and really see what your beliefs are and who you really are.
Learning to Love Lunch Group
It was now time for Lunch Group. I really started to worry and started to feel so nervous. I remember starting to shake and become panicky, but I was reassured that I would be ok.
Lunch Groups are supportive groups, in which you, as a group, assist and help others while they experiment and try different foods.
Just like Breakfast Group, the group is kept chilled out and conversations include what we have planned for the weekend, and catching up with each other. If changes are desired, lunch groups provide a safe space to discuss them.
Finding my core
After Lunch Group, I then had Core Group.
I again had no idea what this group was about and what I would be expected to talk about.
I didn’t even know what a core was. All I knew was that I had heard that Core Group was the most difficult group at Recover.
This really worried me. I had just had Lunch Group and it gets more difficult?
Core Group remains one of the most difficult and challenging groups for me. It is about looking at your core (in other words, your identity), and figuring out who you really are.
This can be done by looking at external factors, such as, family, friends, school, college, expectations. When all you can see is evil about yourself and no goodness in you, Core Group allows you to look within and see the light, that is your core, and know that underneath all the evil and hate you believe to be there, there is goodness and love.
After Core Group it was the end of my first day at Recover and it was time to go home.
I closed the door behind me. I had a huge sense of relief. I had got through my first day, and it was honestly nowhere near as scary as I imagined it to be.
I remember having to ask myself whether it had all really happened, but one thing I knew I was sure about, is that I was looking forward to returning to Recover the next morning for my second day.
I returned to the clinic the next day and started with Creative Group. I started feeling really embarrassed about going to this group because I was no good at art. I only did Graphics GCSE and it was not art based. I already started to feel humiliated. I imagined walking into a room, with a set up resembling Art Attack, aprons, paintbrushes, desks and A3 sheets of paper. ‘I’m going to get such a bad grade for my work’ I thought to myself.
However what I learned was; everyone can be creative. There is no one set way of being creative. Creative Group allows you to explore and express, through art (whether it be crayons, pencils, charcoal, oils, clay etc), without being judged. No one forms an opinion of how good of an artist you are or how good your drawing is. As a group, you look at each others work and unravel the meaning and thought processes being each one. Creative group helps express thoughts and emotions that are sometimes too hard to express verbally.
Self Care Group
The next group I had was Self Care. I really didn’t think I needed to be in this group. Perhaps I was mistaken at my assessment. Maybe they accidentally put this group on my program instead of someone else’s. The reality is that I do need to be in self-care, because the meaning of self care is so different and includes so much more than I ever imagined. I believed self-care was only about physical injury or illness, when in fact self-care involves other things such as self-compassion and sleep routine.
Self-care is about asking yourself every day what you need and making sure you get that. We are set tasks each week, which mean we have to carry out our self-caring acts. We also discuss our plans for the weekend, so we can leave the clinic for the weekend feeling safe with plans in place. The essence of self care is ensuring you not only look after others, but also yourself. It’s about treating yourself with compassion, respect and kindness.
I remember over the weekend feeling like I had imagined the past few days. It seemed like such a surreal experience, and it often still does. It felt like the slowest, yet longest two days, but being only less than a week in at Recover, I was already feeling relieved to be back on Monday morning.
Social Issues Group
The first group on Monday morning was Social Issues, which I had been curious about. Is this a meeting where we all sit around for one a half hours and have general conversations and report back any problems faced? Do we leave the clinic? Is it about issues with society? What does it even mean to be sociable?
Social Issues is a space to explore any issues you are facing in social situations, for example, within relationships. It allows you to discuss past events and receive views and opinions about what could have possibly been done differently. It allows you to discuss future events and talk about any anxiety or nerves you are having about the event.
Being in social situations can be considerably overwhelming whether it is a friends birthday outing in the town, or a family gathering. Social Issues allows you to talk and deal with any worries you may have to allow you to approach and have a more enjoyable and relaxed experience at future social events.
After lunch group, I then had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I remember hearing CBT being mentioned in the news and reading about it online and so unlike the other groups, I did actually have some kind of idea what this group was about. I was worried however, in case it was a way of tapping into your brain and whether it would mean we all left the group thinking the same things as each other. CBT is about looking at your thoughts and challenging them through questioning how true they may be.
The saying, ‘Change your thoughts, change your world’, best applies to this group. It is so easy to frequently think different thoughts and believe they are true, but when you actually look at them and explore other meanings that could be attached, you begin to question how true what you think is. It focuses on the impact our thoughts have on our everyday lives.
In the evening, I then had Movement Group. I was so apprehensive of this group. I have done dancing in the past, but the concept of moving in a group made me feel really anxious. I knew it would involve moving, but how would we move? What movements would we be made to do? What if I am judged for the way I move? I really started to feel even more self conscious about the thought of moving in a group in front of people.
Movement Group is now one of my favourite groups. Yes, it is a different group and very different to the other groups Recover run, but it is an opportunity to try to connect to your body. It can involve speaking about how your body feels and then trying to explain how you feel about your body using an object or image.
It allows you to move freely in a space, together as a group. Recently, reflexology, Qigong, and touch therapy has been incorporated in to the group. It is a great opportunity to try different things and lets you leave the clinic in the evening feeling safe, supported and more relaxed in your body.
In addition to the groups, there are also One-to-One sessions. This is where you meet individually with a member of the team. I was really nervous and apprehensive at the thought of one to one sessions at first because of the idea of it just being me alone. There wouldn’t be any escape for me to hide away from any thoughts of feelings I may be experiencing.
The One-to-One sessions are highly valuable and are necessary as part of the treatment at Recover. It resembles the big brother diary room in that you are given the space to talk freely about what is going on for you, knowing you are not going to be judged.
No matter how unsafe I may be feeling, once the session has started, it’s as if Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is covering the room, and I no longer feel unsafe. One to ones are difficult as it is where you open up and talk about some really difficult things, but with help, you are able to start processing any experiences, thoughts and emotions. You walk in the session feeling alone, but walk out feeling so much stronger. You are listened to, supported and respected.
4 months closer to recovery
Now, four months after starting at Recover, I feel one of the luckiest girls in the world to be a part of something so wonderful. To know you have Recover and all the people in it there for you, is one of the best feelings in the world. There is a strong community spirit at Recover, and everyone is made to feel welcomed and valued. Although it’s only been four months, it feels like I have known everyone at Recover for so much longer. When you feel you don’t believe in yourself, the belief that the others have in you, is sometimes what keeps you going. Each day I am grateful for being given the opportunity I have and being a part of something so precious. Through good times and bad times, everyone at Recover is there for each other. That you can count on.
We’re on a journey of discovering who we really are, through life, together. The work at Recover isn’t easy and there are many difficult times, but there are also many good times too, including smiles and laughter. Recover consists of girls of different ages, each sharing a part of themselves which connects everyone together. The bond and ties at Recover are strong and it’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of. Just like the family on the coach. The only difference is that, we’re not going to Paris, our journey is much greater.