Wed, 27 Jan 2016 0:00:00 GMT Marion MacDonald

Jenn's Story: Learning to Put Recovery First

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RECOVERY FIRSTIn 2012, a series of traumatic losses turned Jenn Ryan-Jauregui's life upside down. Suffering from anorexia and PTSD, she sought treatment at an eating disorder program in Oregon, where she was living at the time.

"I was in a couple of PHP programs there, and also one stint in a residential program," she recalls. "My husband and I moved here, to Tucson, in April of 2014, because we wanted to be closer to his family and some of my family, and by the time I got here I was already really back into my eating disorder."

Two weeks later she was admitted to Mirasol's adult residential program.

It's Not Just About the Food

"The other programs were helpful in terms of where I was at in my recovery at the time," Jenn says, "but this program was more helpful because of the body work component and a more individualized treatment plan. I think the thing that helped me the most was being able to work through the trauma through EMDR, and also starting to find ways to be more comfortable in my body. The program I was in before focused so much on how to have a healthier relationship with food, but not with your body. It was amazing that TRE — the trauma releasing exercises — was as helpful as it was, because it was really hard for me to do. I would dissociate completely during the sessions, but staff was very supportive and good at getting me through that part of it."

Insurance Pulls the Plug

Unfortunately, as so often happens with eating disorder treatment, Jenn's insurance company pulled the plug as soon as her health began to improve.

"I was only in residential for three weeks, I got stepped down prematurely, I ended up going to PHP and I wasn't ready for it. My therapist fought and dug her heels in, and they let me go back to residential, but only for another three weeks."

"When they stepped me down the first time, I was so baffled! I wasn't thrilled about getting stepped down to PHP the second time, either, but I made the best of it, and I felt like I had a lot of extra support from the staff at Mirasol, and that got me through."

"I was in PHP from the end of June until the beginning of September, and in IOP until the beginning of December. But when I was in IOP, Mirasol continued to allow me to receive EMDR. Since I was allowed to receive some kind of treatment for seven months, I built up a lot of skills. And I made sure I had a really strong treatment team coming out."

I think what made the difference this time is that I finally learned how to put my recovery first .... I have learned to recognize what I need for myself at any given moment and to honor that, and not care what other people think."

"I've been at recovered weight now for 18 months. I think what made the difference this time is that I finally learned how to put my recovery first. I ran into a lot of barriers. My family was upset that I was going back into treatment. They didn't know how to handle it, and I felt really abandoned. So now I have much stronger boundaries. I have learned to recognize what I need for myself at any given moment and to honor that, and not care what other people think. If I think something is going to be overwhelming, I say 'no', and I do whatever I need to do to stay healthy."

Jenn also made careful choices when it was time to go back to work.

"I knew when I went back to work that I wanted to do something related to non-profits or higher education. But I was also very mindful that the amount of stress I was under in my last position, when I was working full-time, was not healthy for me, and it helped contribute to my eating disorder."

With a strong technical background, Jenn was offered a full-time job as a business analyst, but she convinced her employer to let her work 30 hours a week.

Jenn's advice for someone who is struggling to recover from an eating disorder?

"Don't give up!"

"I felt like Mirasol was my last shot. I had been in and out of treatment at that point for a year-and-a-half before I got there, and I would immediately relapse every time I got out. I never had even a few weeks of solid recovery. So I would just say 'don't give up, give yourself another chance.'"

"I feel like I'm really blessed that I had the opportunity to go to Mirasol. It's a really supportive environment. All the staff are really compassionate and invested in your well-being, and there to help, and they treat you as an individual, and that means a lot."

"I never thought [life] could be this good. My biggest thing for a long time was that I didn't feel like I had a reason to go on living. But now I have found other reasons, including poetry."

Jenn started writing poetry — mostly mico-poetry and Haiku — in PHP, and is now very involved in a community of poets on Twitter.

"They have a whole community of poets, I follow them, they follow me, and we inspire each other. I write poetry every day. Some of it is recovery-focused, and some of it is just fun stuff."

"I feel like I'm really blessed that I had the opportunity to go to Mirasol. It's a really supportive environment. All the staff are really compassionate and invested in your well-being, and there to help, and they treat you as an individual, and that means a lot."

You can find Jenn's poetry on Twitter at twitter.com/jennfel. Here are a few samples:

Desperate, alone
Staged her own intervention
Showed up for herself

No longer imprisoned
In a cage made of sharp bones
Curves become her saving grace
Path to liberation