Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg Arizona is where I began my journey of anorexia recovery. Remuda has a reputation for being one of the best residential eating disorder treatment centers in North America. The program is faith-based, and they welcome people from all religions. This helps to provide a diverse, loving and supportive treatment community.
After going through the necessary paperwork at Remuda Ranch Admissions, I vaguely remember being taken to the Main Lodge around 7:00 or 8:00 pm to begin my anorexia treatment.
I say that I vaguely remember because I was quite sick, despite the fact that I appeared to be a highly functioning, happy individual.
In fact, one of the side effects of anorexia for me was loss of memory or "losing time".
When I arrived, the nurses and mental health technicians (MHT's) were so sweet to me. I worked with them to complete the obligatory luggage check and full medical assessment. Oh, and of course they made sure that I ate something for dinner :)
It was fairly late in the evening when everything was finished. It was then that I fully realized that the biggest battle of my life (and for my life) was about to begin.
While I was at Remuda Ranch, my day began at approximately 5:00am.
We were all required to be down at the Main Lodge by 5:30am. Each day the nurses checked everyone's vital signs and kept a record of our weight, which was never revealed to us. In fact, we were weighed backwards so that we couldn't see the numbers.
As much as part of me wanted to know my weight, not having to worry about it 24 hours a day was somewhat of a relief. Still, the anorexic part of me was devastated at the thought of suddenly having no control over "getting fat".
Breakfast was at 7:00am and we took turns doing "chores" - such as setting and clearing the table.
Each table was assigned a nurse or a mental health technician to provide support during the stressful time of eating. It was also their job to correct any harmful food rituals that anorexics are known to have. These corrections were often met with a certain degree of hostility, as you can probably imagine.
The rest of the morning was spent doing either one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy with my Primary Counselor (Krystal), or in a group therapy. Both individual and group therapies are daily events at Remuda Ranch.
I know there are some facilities (especially in Canada) that do not offer individual counseling at all. The entire treatment is based strictly on working in groups. For me, this would have been disastrous.
Given my extremely high levels of anxiety, group therapy would never have been effective if I wasn't allowed to process things on a daily basis, one-on-one, with Krystal.
After lunch, the afternoon schedule was the opposite of the morning schedule. In other words, if you were in group therapy in the morning, your afternoon session would be individual therapy, or vice-versa.
Group therapy begins with a check-in process to get the session going. One of the goals of treatment is learning to identify and name your emotions. That's exactly what we did: "I feel sad, angry, lonely" is what was required.
It seems simple enough, but trust me, when you've been numbed from emotions for years on end due to severe food restriction, this is a difficult and grueling process.
That pretty much opened things up for discussion and our group sessions lasted 90 minutes.
Unlike any eating disorder treatment facility in Canada, Remuda Ranch offers treatment for co-occurring disorders such as anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even major depressive disorder.
You can be treated for any of the above disorders (and probably others as well) at the same time as your eating disorder treatment.
This is a big deal because normally you'd have to enter a different program for each diagnosis. That's how it works in Canada. It's a real mess trying to come up with a treatment plan.
At Remuda, I had two "spare" hours in my day - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sometimes these were taken up with visits to the medical doctor or Psychiatrist (especially early in my stay), but eventually I was allowed to sign up for extra group therapy, such as anxiety treatment.
That's how Remuda is able to individually tailor their treatment programs specifically to you and your own needs. It's not a "cookie cutter approach" to treatment at all.
I definitely felt as though I was an individual with my own personalized treatment plan, goals and needs. That's something that Remuda definitely respects (and even encourages).
Equine Therapy is part of the eating disorder treatment program at Remuda Ranch as long as the treatment team finds you to be medically stable.
Canine Therapy At Remuda Ranch
I personally did not participate in the Equine program, but opted to take advantage of Remuda's Canine Therapy instead.
Still, you have to wonder how riding horses can facilitate eating disorder recovery, but it does.
I also think it's much more than simply riding horses.
During my stay, I learned that the grooming procedures, plus physical interaction and non-verbal communication with the horses fosters self-confidence, reduces anxiety and promotes a new kind of self-awareness.
All of these can be much needed areas of work with regards to anorexia recovery and bulimia recovery.
It's my understanding that Canine Therapy offers many of the same advantages. For me, it was also a case of finding my voice, learning to be more assertive and getting used to "being heard".
Canine Therapy was a great self-esteem builder and of course, the dogs were adorable!
Art Therapy is another important aspect of the program at Remuda Ranch. It's mostly used in conjunction with body image counseling, but patients are always free to ask for extra trips to the art room with a nurse or mental health technician. We often did this on weekends when there were fewer structured programs going on.
For some real fun, we all had a chance to try the Challenge Course. Participation is optional and it's definitely a challenge, especially for those (like me!) who are not exactly comfortable with heights.
The challenge course is a series of interwoven ropes and logs. Some of these are suspended anywhere from 4 feet to 5 stories high. Some are stationery and others will almost move out from underneath you as to try to maneuver around.
It's pretty intimidating, but communication with your teammates and therapists is crucial in these exercises.
Remuda calls it "challenge by choice" which means that you decide for yourself if or when you will participate. They will never force you or coerce you, and there's no penalty or reprimand if you opt out.
With Remuda Ranch being a Christian eating disorder treatment program, Chapel is integrated into the end of each treatment day, just before dinner. But don't worry - it's not the "bible-thumping church time" that you may think it is.
I personally experienced it as a time of sharing, reflection and peace .... and let's not forget the awesome musical talent! It was a great way to end the day.
Sprinkled throughout my eating disorder treatment at Remuda were relapse prevention techniques.
Although relapses are a common occurrence in the anorexia recovery process, it's good to prepare yourself and have some idea as to how you might handle a relapse if it actually happens.
The first order of business it to make sure you don't consider yourself a failure. It's difficult, but they teach you to try to pick yourself up and move on from where you left off.
It's much easier to accomplish this if you have a steady support system in place. At Remuda, you are required to have appointments set up with your out-patient team before you are discharged. Typically, your team would consist of a medical doctor, a therapist, a dietitian and perhaps a psychiatrist.
Remuda is able to make referrals to professionals near your home. Time is set aside for you to research and make calls to therapists and doctors if you do not already have them.
Once your appointments are booked, the Remuda team will contact each person on your out-patient team and bring them up to speed on your progress and make recommendations for on-going treatment.
As difficult as it was to enter an anorexia treatment program, I'm glad I did. I'm still in recovery, with a long way to go, but I have a pretty solid foundation on which to build, and I have the wonderful people at Remuda Ranch to thank for that :) Thanks guys!!
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