Personal · Recovery

Being Inpatient for an Eating Disorder

I was expecting to sit in a bed and told not to move 24/7.  I was expecting to have “leaves” eventually when I was getting better in treatment.  I was expecting on not seeing so many people.  I was expecting to have a doctor that was concerned for me.  I was completely and utterly wrong

Being Inpatient for an Eating Disorder

Today marks a two-year milestone that I will never forget: going inpatient for anorexia.  It was one of the most gut-wrenching times in my life.  It is something that I wish not to think about everyday but my mind never ceases to roam over to the memories of cold bedrooms, homesickness, and fear.  On July 29th, 2013, I was admitted as an inpatient for an eating disorder.

I would like to share my experience being hospitalized with you all.  I hope that it might shed some light on how eating disorders are treated in a medical facility as well as the stigma that goes with it.  

Before I was admitted as an inpatient, I was first referred to the facility by my therapist.  I was at the end of the line- it was either I chose to go inpatient or I die.  Those were my options and my counselor made that very clear to me.  {Trigger Warning} To put things in perspective, I was at a BMI of around 12.  {Trigger Warning Over} In my foggy anorexic mind, I didn’t really mind what was going to happen to me.  However, there was an inkling deep down inside that told me to keep going.  I believe that inclination was from God.  I decided to take the first initial step towards recovery- I was going to the hospital.

Before I was allowed to be admitted, I had to be assessed.  Meaning, I had to get looked over by one of the hospital employees to see if I was “qualified” to receive treatment.  (That is a whole other thing that I fume about when it comes to getting treatment for eating disorders…)  I spoke with multiple people and got weighed.  Long story short, they wanted me to go upstairs (to the ED wing) right away.  Due to financial circumstances I had to wait for the weekend.

It was an extremely long weekend.

Monday came- the 29th.  My mom took off work so she could take me to the hospital when we got the call when they had an open bed.  We waited.  Minutes felt like hours.  The clock looked like a slug while my mind was preoccupied with anxiety and fear.  I cuddled with my mom all morning while we watched Titanic.  She urged me to drink an Ensure the whole day.  Finally, my mother got the call.  She took my hand and led me to the car.

I had to get assessed again.  It took ages to finally get upstairs to where treatment would finally commence.  My mother and sister, Rachel, came with me.  We walked to the wing and sat while we waited for one of the nurses to assist us.  

This was my first encounter (and not the last) with a rude staff member.  Debbie was the first nurse for me to see.  Her nonchalance of the whole situation put my mom on edge and left me with more questions than answers in my confused little head.  She hastily told us what I was expected in the unit and told my mom what she needed to know.  Before I knew it, I was whisked off for a body check.

I felt violated.  A body check is when someone looks at every. single. part. of you to make sure you are not smuggling in things or have scars that you have not told them about.  Debbie was the one who did my body check.  She was cold and harsh when she did so.  She looked at me with eyes like ice.  I was extremely self conscious standing there completely undressed with a stranger looking at me with cruel judgement.  When it was over she gave me my clothes, told me to put them on, and walked out.

It was time for me to say goodbye to my mom and Rachel.  We held each other and cried.  I sobbed tears of fear, embarrassment, and shame in their arms.  They left and I was on my own.

I was only in one teeny tiny wing of the hospital for 2 1/2 weeks straight.  The wing consisted of eight rooms with two beds each, a nurses station, a common room, and a bathroom.  That was it.  It was a cramped area and after only a couple days I was itching for some space.  The wing didn’t just consist of ED patients, but also self injury patients.  Note:  I have not self harmed and was not being treated for it.

The first night was relatively alright.  After going into an evening group with other ED patients, we were given free time in the common room.  The unit already had dinner and all that was left was a night snack.  I met some girls and we chatted for a bit.

A regular day looked a little like this:

6:30 Wake Up and Weigh-In (ED patients only)

7:30 Wake Up and Get Dressed

8:00 Breakfast

8:45 Morning Meds and Reflection

9:00 Movement Therapy

9:15 Group Therapy

10:00 Morning Snack 

10:30 Free Time

11:00 A class of some sort

12:00 Lunch

12:45 Reflection

1:00 Group Therapy 

2:00 School/Free Time

3:00 Afternoon Snack

3:30 Free Time

4:00 Art Therapy

5:00 Dinner

5:45 Reflection

6:00 Group

8:00 Night Snack

8:00-8:30 Phone Calls

9:00 Relaxation

9:15 Night Meds and Get Ready

9:30 Sleep

The day was very structured for us.  For that I was really grateful because in the beginning, it didn’t really give me time to be homesick because I was trying to get use to the new routine.  

The first couple days were extremely hard eating-wise.  I met with a nutritionist and she put me on a refeeding plan.  The goal was to introduce food into my system without my body going into shock a.k.a. refeeding syndrome.  I was not used to the plentiful portions they gave me or the amount of times I had to eat.  I ate more in that first full day than I did in probably a whole month prior.  Mean thoughts were attacking from all sides and it took everything to take the courage to have each bite.  

I wish my food looked that good.  It didn’t.

I ate all of my meals in the common room with all of the other ED patients as well as the SIRS patients.  I never ate meals alone with only a nurse by me.  I was with all of the other patients as well as a few supervisors consisting a couple of counselors.  After each meal, we had to get it checked by one of them so they can track how much we ate.  Nothing was unaccounted for.  If I didn’t finish my meal, I was given an Ensure.  If I didn’t finish my snack, I was given an Ensure.  I never could drink vanilla or chocolate Ensures after I got out of there.

My day was set primarily in the common room.  I was never alone.  None of the patients were allowed to go in their rooms to rest or just lie down.  There was one day that was utterly horrible.  I didn’t get a good night’s sleep due to my new roommate triggering my misophonia and I was completely homesick.  All I wanted to do was lie down in my bed and cry.  I am the kind of person that needs alone time every once in awhile, so I asked the nurse in charge if I could please take some time to go to my room.  I explained to her how tired and homesick I was.  I was honest and told her I just wanted to cry.  She didn’t let me in my room.  I sat there for the rest of the day fighting back tears with a heavy heart.

My family was allowed to see me twice a week for about 45 minutes to an hour.  I so cherished those scarce moments with my mom and sister.  I told them about my progress, ask them how they were doing and what they have been up to, and how much I missed them.  I was/am extremely grateful that I had people who came to see me.  

my family

Like everything else, I had no privacy when I would go to the bathroom.  We had “bathroom times” that we were allowed to go.  The nurse or counselor would stand outside the bathroom with the door slightly cracked as each of us went.  It felt a bit like kindergarten standing in a line waiting to use the bathroom.  

The staff at the facility I went to were not the kindest people.  There were two great people- looking at you Bernadetta and Maggie!- that made the stay a little less hard.  My primary doctor made me feel like I didn’t deserve her time.  She would meet with me every couple of days to “check in”.  The check ins didn’t last more than 10 minutes.  She didn’t seem to take an interest or care in my recovery whatsoever.  That was very hurtful to say the least.  

I never met with an counselor individually.  It was hard for me to open to a group of people exactly how I was feeling.  I do so much better when I can talk to someone one-on-one.  That element of individual time would have been so nice.  Sadly, the facility focuses on group based collaboration.  I feel I would have benefitted a lot more if I could just talk with someone.  I wished everyday that I could talk to Faith, my counselor from before.

recover life

There was so much to being an inpatient for an eating disorder.  I could write blog post after blog post of my experience.  Ultimately, this is what I would conclude- going into inpatient made me physically stable, but it did not really help me in regards to mentally recovering.  I am very thankful that I was able to receive the care I so desperately needed.  

I am where I am today because of God, my current counselor, and my mom.  Inpatient just made it safe for me to go home and rely on them for the true recovery to begin.  

Everyone’s experience with being inpatient for an eating disorder is different.  It varies from facility to facility and country to country.  This was just my story.

Two years later, I am still fighting every day.  I still get moments of weakness when that ED voice completely takes over.  However, I am not the same person I was two years ago.  I have come out stronger, healthier, and braver.  I enjoy the things that I couldn’t when I was inpatient like petting my sweet dog, going outside, or planning to go to college in the fall.  

If you are considering getting help for an eating disorder or any illness, I ask you, no… I implore you to get the help you need whether that be checking into an inpatient facility, finding a counselor or nutritionist, or reaching out to someone you trust.

If you have any questions on being an inpatient, recovery, or anything, please do not hesitate to ask!  I am here if you need to chat.  You can always email me at or find me at any of the places down below.

Take such great care,

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16 thoughts on “Being Inpatient for an Eating Disorder

  1. I am thrilled you grew strong enough to leave inpatient, however, it is true, eating disorders are a lifetime sentence, but you really don’t have to let it control you! As long as you continue to focus on the goals you have set for yourself in life – you will be okay! At least you can also see when you have set backs!


  2. Alison— My heart is breaking as I read this. I am so sorry that your experience being inpatient was far from mentally and emotionally nourishing. It’s great that they took care of you physically, but I wish they realized how much people with EDs need emotional support and care just as much, if not more so. You are incredibly brave, and I am in awe of your strength and courage. Keep on keeping on. I’m here for you ♥ Much love to you, girl. xoxo


  3. This breaks my heart because I went through almost the exact same thing. I know you’ve read my post on it, and I am glad you are sharing yours with everyone as well. While my stay was the farthest things from an ‘enjoyable’ experience, it definitely seems like a whole lot better than what you were put through! My doctors definitely spent time with the patients and although we has some crazy nurses as well, there where some that made the experience a little bit better. I am so incredibly happy that neither of us have to ever set foot into such a place again, and that we are able to take care of ourselves and live life much more freely and happily <3.


    1. Even though it was not a good experience, I am thankful that I was able to receive care. Thank you Niki for your kind words! I am so proud of what you have accomplished thus far. You have a very bright future ahead of you ❤


  4. As someone who has battled an eating disorder for many years, I’m glad to hear that things have gotten better even though ED’s voice gets to you at times. I’ve spent the last year in recovery and have been in OP treatment. It is possible to recover. I’ve never been IP, but I thank you for sharing a part of your story and keep fighting!!! Don’t ever stop 🙂


  5. Alison, I found this SO interesting. I never was admitted to an inpatient facility, and as I look back, I wish I had. I needed it both emotionally and medically speaking. Thankfully, I am in a great place now regarding my recovery, but I think it would have done me a lot of good to have experienced treatment.

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. I cannot imagine what you went through, but I am glad to see the progress you’ve made. I know you will continue to thrive, sweet Alison. ❤


    1. It definitely was beneficial for my recovery. Being inpatient, it definitely forces you to gain weight and fast. I admire you Julia for recovering by yourself. Choosing recovery is hard enough, but having the strength to recovery by yourself is astounding and incredibly admirable. I’m glad you found this insightful! Take care, lovely girl ❤


  6. Wow, this makes me so sad… 😦 My heart really hurts that you had to go through this experience, and it also makes me want to truly design a way, a place for girls who are recovering from eating disorders that is safe, comfortable, secure, and a place to open up with your vulnerabilities, not a prison camp? That’s what this kind of sounds like. I am glad that you are recovering now sweet friend and praising God that you are opening up the hurt to share with others. ❤ You are a treasure. Truly. <3333 HUG.


  7. My IP experience was unpleasant, but I mostly blame myself for that. The staff was firm and attentive, but with the amount of distrust they had for me, it made it hard to have a positive relationship. If they didn’t watch me eat, I would have certainly found some way to manipulate them. We had wonderful occupational and recreational therapists, so that was good. I was so depressed and hopeless, I am thankful they didn’t give up on me. I can’t believe you never met individually with a therapist- that seems so counterproductive. Yet, God is faithful and He was able to deliver you from your darkest moments. I believe that God had lead me to a life recovered and I believe He will do the same for you. Much love to you!


    1. Inpatient is definitely a place where you have an internal battle with yourself. I experienced that as well. I’m so glad that you had caring staff to aid you in your recovery. I know, looking back it seems incredibly stupid that not one of us met with a counselor individually.
      You are right- God is so good! Blessings, dear Kate ❤


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