Eating Disorder Recovery On A Budget

Settle in, folks. This one is going to be a series.

There is a major problem with how people with eating disorders are treated. I recently read a story about a girl in the United States who died from her eating disorder while her mom was away learning to be a truck driver. It was the only job she could find that would give her necessary insurance to get her daughter treatment. It’s not an uncommon story.

In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you have insurance. There are too few resources here and, as a result, anyone without a whole lot of private funding gets put on waiting lists for 6 months – 2 years. It can take a lot less time than that to die of an eating disorder. And even if you get approved to be sent to an American treatment centre, your insurance can back out after on a technicality and leave you stuck with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Having found myself fired from my job because I “no longer met the requirements” for my job (ie. your bones are creepy, so you can’t work here any more), I had zero money and a big problem to tackle. I was too sick to work, and was on long waiting lists for treatment. I had to figure out a lot of things really quickly. This is what worked/didn’t work for me. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but I invite you to take the parts you like and throw the rest away.

  1. Decide how badly you want recovery. You’re going to have to do many things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to get really honest with people you don’t want knowing anything about yourself. You’re going to have to humble yourself time and time again. If shame is a big trigger for you (I know it is for me), get used to it. 
  2. Find any and all (legal) sources of money. Get on unemployment. See if you qualify for disability. This is the tricky one: come clean with family members about what you’re going through, and find out if they’re able/willing to help you cover costs.
  3. Try to find a therapist who operates on a sliding scale. They charge according to financial need. (If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line. I know a couple of good ones and can point you in their direction.) If you already have a therapist, you’re going to have to decide how important it is for you to stay with him/her, or if you can look for someone who charges less.
  4. Get ready to make sacrifices. Food, housing, and therapy. Those are the things you need. The rest is optional. Seriously. Get ready to dig into the back of your cupboard to use the ends of all the shampoo bottles, etc. you have stashed away. I started this in May and made it til Christmas before I had to start using Vaseline instead of moisturizer. (Do not recommend. Break-out city.)
  5. Google. It will be your best friend. Search out drugstore, grocery store, etc flyers so you know what weeks you can buy the necessities on sale. Find free festivals, movie screenings, etc. in your city so you have at least some “entertainment” options. Enter contests. You can win some fun stuff.
  6. Sell off anything you don’t need and won’t miss. Save the cash. You’ll need it.
  7. Learn to knit. It’s a great way to pass all the time you’ll have not working, not going on expensive outings, not shopping, and not engaging in eating disordered behaviors. Also, it’s an inexpensive way to do Christmas/Birthdays/etc. I learned to knit in October, and had 5 scarves ready for gifts by Christmas.
  8. Give of yourself. You may not have money, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Help people out without expecting anything in return, and karma can surprise you. Not only will you feel better for having contributed something, but I have done “good deeds” that led to jobs 10 years later, and have volunteered for things that have turned into paying jobs. Don’t do more than you are able, but know that you don’t always have to be paid “now”. Karma’s got your back.

These are the basics to start you off. Upcoming in the series: Food, Clothes, and Yoga on a budget. Anything I’ve missed?

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11 Comments

Filed under Tips and Tricks (The Healthy Kind)

11 responses to “Eating Disorder Recovery On A Budget

  1. Jennifer

    I totally agree – with all of this! As for getting honest, it was scary, but so imporant for me. I know I was terrified to tell my employers about my eating disorder, but they were wonderful and incredibly supportive. They tried to help me navigate insurance issues (which, in the end, frustratingly, refused to cover my treatment), and when I returned to work they were awesome with a gradual back-to-work schedule, which I really needed after four months away. Having the people around you know what you’re going through makes it feel like they are a part of your team, and is another step forward in fighting the secrecy and shame that eating disorders love to hide behind. Once you’ve shared, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, either. It’s your recovery, and you deserve it.

    Thanks for this post Kelly, this is such an important issue!

  2. Ryan

    This is really good advice, Kelly. I basically did a lot of the same things as you. I also stopped buying personal care products. I’m trying to do the “no shampoo” method that is so popular in holistic circles, which saves me some money, and I buy coconut oil in bulk and use it for basically everything (deep conditioning, moisturizing, etc). Coconut oil isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than buying all those products individually. Basically almost all my money goes towards rent, therapy, and food. Whatever it takes to get well, right?
    I’m going to e-mail you back as soon as I get a chance. I hope all is well on your end! xo

  3. Pingback: Eating Disorder Recovery: Food On A Budget | Be Anything But Quiet!

  4. LOVE this advice! I wish I had known better when I quit school to deal with my ED…my parents told me I had to get a job with health insurance before I would be allowed to go into recovery (bad plan, I know), so I never actually went into treatment. I’m impressed that you took things into your own hands–it’s taken me two years to get up the courage to seek change, and I’m still just as worried about my bank account as I was two years ago…

    • I understand that worry, too. The only thing I can offer is: once you’re less consumed by ED behaviors/thoughts/etc., you’ll be able to get a better job because you’ll be doing better work. Get better now, get money later. It will come. Sacrifices suck, but so does ED. xo

  5. Pingback: Eating Disorder Recovery: Clothing On A Budget | Be Anything But Quiet!

  6. Pingback: Eating Disorder Recovery: Yoga On A Budget | Be Anything But Quiet!

  7. Melissa

    This suggestion may or may not apply to people. But I really found alternative therapies to help me immensely. They add up quickly though. Acupuncture was helpful….you can attend a community clinic where everyone receives their treatment in the same room for a lost cost. I believe some of the clinics allow you to volunteer your time in return for free treatments. If you google “community acupuncture ” you should find some listings.

    If you want to see a naturopath, you can try the student clinic at the Canadian naturopathic college. They are students but supervised. If you feel like you need a massage, try a massage therapy school.

    Switch to a low maintenance hair cut. I dyed my hair to match my natural colour because I couldn’t afford to go to the salon anymore. Plus being all sickly made the blonde look bad. As shallow as it sounds, having nice blonde hair again was a huge motivator to get healthy.

    I found a forum called Smart Canucks. They tell you where to get coupons, what is on sale, you can trade coupons with others, etc. It is Canadian and offers a ton of help about frugal living. If you have questions about EI, OW, ODSP, lines of credit, you can ask away. They are super helpful.

    Get a library card. Check out your local library for different programs they run. Mine had free movies every week and meditation classes.

    • Amazing tips! Thanks Melissa! I’m back to my natural color as well. Red from a bottle never turns out right, and who can afford Toronto salon rates on a budget? And the library was my favorite when I was sick. Recovery books abound!

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