A Different Type of Scale

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By: Eva Romanoff

When I was nine years old, I asked my mother if I could buy a new sweatshirt. They were this new brand that were super soft, and each one was unique with a special design and color. My parents gave it to me for my birthday, but as my mom placed in my excited hands, she said that, while it was a very cute sweatshirt, she didn’t think it was like my style had been in the past. The next day at school, my friends and I all obsessed over our new sweatshirts, until a week later when a girl bought a new type of backpack. Then I wanted that. I didn’t particularly like the bag, but I began to think, if my friends all liked it, then they wouldn’t like my bag if it was different, and therefore wouldn’t like me. A perpetual system of self-doubt and comparison began to form. At twelve years old, my friends began to diet. I had worried about eating certain foods in the past, but I had never followed a strict meal plan. When my friend group at school began to diet together, I assumed I should join in, because what if they resented me for eating “junk” food in front of them while they were eating “healthy” food? At thirteen, when my friends began to work out intensely, my actions immediately followed theirs. What if their bodies began to change and mine didn’t, what if I stood out too much? My eating disorder, the loudest voice in my head, was shouting that I should follow the other people in my life.

For me, my anorexia focused my thoughts on my general body shape and appearance rather than specific weight and numbers. Instead of counting calories or weighing myself, I placed my life on a different scale, those of my peers. If my friend dressed a certain way, I mimicked her style. If my sister cut her hair, I scheduled an appointment at the salon immediately. If my friend talked to a boy with a certain attitude, I needed to talk to a boy and use the same attitude. I needed to be the best, the first, the most accurate. I placed myself on a metaphorical scale of self-worth and comparison rather than pounds. I was able to deceive myself, convincing my brain that these weren’t connected to my eating disorder, that these thoughts were normal and consistent with teenage life. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. Without realizing, my eating disorder voice crawled into my common sense, and they morphed together to sway me against my values. My goal had always been to be my individual self and to hold true to my values, yet my brain was telling me that acting and looking exactly like my friends were my values. The scale that my eating disorder forced me onto wasn’t just about weight or appearance, but included weighing my intelligence, my emotions, my athleticism, and my personality against the people around me.

When I went into residential treatment at fourteen, we did a group activity about two months into my stay. We gathered around a scale, wrote the cruel things that our eating disorder told us on the plastic in a big sharpie, and then took hammers and smashed the scale until it was screws and broken pieces. My therapist called it “scale bashing” and it was a way for us to visibly take power away from our eating disorders and the pressure to be a certain weight. I had a difficult time with this exercise though, because what if my central problem wasn’t my weight? What if it was the weight of my values? How did I bash that scale? I grappled with this for months, even after I was discharged at a much healthier place, and especially when I was reintegrated into school and my social life. My eating disorder voice and my healthy voice were separated, and my healthy voice was winning each daily battle. Yet the squeaks of my eating disorder that I still heard were centered around comparison. It wasn’t about being the funniest in the world, but simply the funniest in my friend group. It wasn’t about being the smartest girl in the school, but just in my grade. My obsessiveness around food was gone, yet here lingered these thoughts of comparison. After dealing with these ideas for the better part of my freshman year of high school, I realized that my eating disorder hadn’t morphed into a new disorder, but rather the core of it remained. It was like an apple; the skin and flesh of the fruit were about food, weight, and appearance, but the core was based on my position within a larger group of people. This isn’t how everyone experiences their eating disorder, but for me, the revelation that it hadn’t been about food was life changing. I didn’t need to bash a real scale, as much as a needed to bash the scale of my self worth. What I began to understand was a simple concept that I had never previously grasped; respect for oneself cannot and should not be based on other people’s life and actions. It should be based on your own perspectives of the world and your own opinions. My experiences are what should shape my values, not my friends experiences. This shift in thinking was my first step to understanding the personal scale I had built for myself. I didn’t need to ‘fix’ myself, I needed to change my focus from my friend’s opinions to my own.

When I realized this was the root of my eating disorder, I began to look at the larger picture. Throughout my life, I was raised with the same set of children surrounding me. My best friends, my sister, my classmates and my acquaintances. I had spent the last fourteen years of my life with these people, and we had essentially raised each other. How was I supposed to find my own voice when the people I loved seemed to be expressing kind and helpful things as well? Why did I need to have my own values when my friends believed in kindness and acceptance too? I grew to understand that my friends and family could have good values that I related to, and they could guide me in my own journey, but the end result had to be discovered on my own. I couldn’t blindly follow others opinions just because, I had to analyze the purpose of my perspectives before I could connect them to myself. Through discovering my own thoughts independent of others, I am able to engage more fully in vibrant discussions, and hold true to my own personality, something that was previously hidden beneath the scales of my eating disorder.

About the Author:  Eva resides in New York City. Eva is a high school student who works with other teenagers to instill a sense of hope regarding the possibility of full recovery, as well as what that means and what that looks like in a teenager’s life.  At Project HEAL, Eva is dedicated to providing others with a sense of community and security throughout the process of recovery, spread education and awareness to fellow high school students, rand to promote a healthy lifestyle that allows everyone to discover their true selves and purpose.  She is passionate about horse back riding, learning about history, and spending time with friends and family. Eva’s favorite ice cream flavor is coffee ice cream with chocolate chips and caramel sauce.


A Recovery Pledge

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By: Amira O’Kelly

Today I will not punish myself. I will not eat to fill a void or because I feel like it is my only chance to have the thing I want before I have to restrict again. Today I will not binge and purge or make excuses for why it’s necessary to empty my body. I will remember all the effort I put in to make my metabolism work again to go to the bathroom naturally again. I will remember purging will lead me to my grave – even if on the worst days when I feel like there is not a reason I want to live or be here. I must remind myself I don’t want to die kneeling over a toilet bowl and lying on the floor of the cold tiles in the bathroom. I will remember the panic attack I had on the train when I became too afraid to eat dinner. When I pulled my hair out because I had  over my limit for the day.

When the calories spun around inside my head torturing me for hours upon hours and days upon days weeks upon weeks and months upon months. I will remember the Father’s Day I ruined because I was not eating and too weak to enjoy an outdoor fair because the whole time I felt like I needed to faint. And when I got angry at my dad for stopping to eat because I could not stand the thought of putting anything into my body I will remember the nights I’ve hung out with my girlfriends but was too weak to enjoy anything. When I cried looking at the menu because I did not know the exact calorie count or kind of oil they cooked their vegetables in. I will remember to truly trust my hunger signals and eat only when my body needs it not when I am bored lonely happy or emotional. I will remind myself that no matter how powerful I feel when I starve myself, it always leads to a road of self-destruction. I will remember not to be weak at night when I feel as though I’m completely alone – food will not fill that void and will ultimately lead to over eating or a binge which then leads to a purge. I will remember the days and nights I felt happy to be alive. When I have a truly amazing laugh with my girlfriends, when I do a good job at work and get a lot done, when I get my favorite breakfast every morning, when somebody I love hugs me. When I am distracted from the constant validation I need from my eating disorder brain. I will work out and not become obsessed, but I will do it because it makes me feel sexy and powerful. I will nourish my body and remember the only reason I feel so lost is because my eating disorder still lives inside of me.

About the Author: Follow Amira @amiraokelly

How I Told the World About My Eating Disorder

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By: Gabriela Mischel

A few weeks ago I could easily count the number of people in my life who knew about my struggle with anorexia and depression. That is no longer the case, because last week I released a video with my story to the world. 

For years, I was ashamed and embarrassed about my struggles with mental illness. I hid that piece of my life from everyone around me for fear of what they would think. I thought if I shared my struggles I would be viewed as weak and unstable. Most people didn’t know about that piece of my life and I had every intention of keeping it that way.

I spent my teenage years consumed with feelings of not being worthy, deserving, or good enough. I had convinced myself that I needed to be perfect, so I set impossible standards for myself. I wanted to fit this ideal I had created in my mind, and I nearly let that kill me. While most people my age were worrying about first loves, graduating high school and other teenage concerns, I was worrying about how many calories I had consumed or how much weight I had gained. I was stuck in a world that revolved around numbers. I spent years going through the same cycle of relapse, recovery, relapse, recovery, on and on. It consumed my life for years.

When I finally got to a place where I was able to hold a job and lead what would be called a more “normal” life, I never once considered telling people about these struggles. These aren’t things you can just waltz into an interview and share with people. Mental illness is often misunderstood, and I was scared of being labeled a certain way. So I kept my past to myself and that seemed to be working.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to land a job at Jerusalem U, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of film to educate and strengthen the connection of young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity.

Although I built close friendships at work, until a few months ago only one coworker of mine knew about my struggles with mental illness. And I’ll tell you a little secret, that coworker happens to also be my mom.

But then something changed. A few months ago, I was casting for a short video series and we hit a wall. We were producing a series about personal journeys from despair toward empowerment and self-love. The idea was to feature people with a range of stories, touching on different issues. Right off the bat we had a few topics we knew we wanted to cover, one being mental illness.

This immediately struck a chord with me because of my own personal experience with mental illness. I knew that I was going to put everything I had into this series. We had an opportunity to make a difference, and I was excited.

We started casting for the series, but we were struggling to find someone to go on camera and discuss their struggles with mental illness publicly. I couldn’t blame anyone for making that decision — I was doing the same thing. After hitting a few dead ends, we began wondering if we should give up on the mental illness angle and look for another story instead. It was an important topic to talk about, but we couldn’t tell a story we didn’t have.

As we discussed this issue, I would think to myself, “I could talk about this topic,” but I kept pushing the thought away. I had worked so hard at hiding that piece of myself, and I wasn’t about to get on camera and tell my story now. And then one night I jolted awake at two in the morning with the realization that I had to tell my story. The opportunity to make a difference was right in front of me, and I was going to look past it because I was scared.

I realized that if I let my fear of being judged keep me from telling my story, I was no better than all the people who made me feel I needed to hide that part of myself. The next morning I called the director and told him that I was going to tell my story on camera.

For so long I had feared telling people about my past, but as soon as I started, I realized how wrong I was. They didn’t judge me or perceive me as weak. Learning about my struggles made me stronger in their eyes. I was so sure I was going to be judged that I didn’t know how to react to all the positive feedback I was getting. I know that without their support, I would not have been able to follow through with telling my story on camera.

When the day came to film my story, I felt ready. I’m a naturally shy person and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But as soon as it was over I knew I had made the right decision.

My goal in sharing my story was to help other people know they’re not alone. It’s hard to share our struggles and stories, but if we don’t, people going through similar experiences might never understand that others have walked this path, and it can get better.

My struggles and my past are a part of me. Obviously it sucks that I struggled with mental illness, but it made me into the person I am, and that is something I can live with. I hate when people tell me that what they went through is nothing compared to me. Anyone who is able to overcome their struggles is a hero in my eyes. The scope of your struggles isn’t what’s important. If you overcame the cards you were dealt, you should be proud of yourself.

Life isn’t always fair and unfortunately many people learn that the hard way. I was one of those people. I spent years living in a dark place and thinking about how unfair life was. It was not a way to live. If all you see is the bad, you won’t ever be happy. It’s not always easy to find the good, but it’s so important to remind yourself that there is good in the world, even if it’s just the small things. At the end of every day, I try to think of two good things that happened that day. They can be anything — I smiled at someone, I liked my outfit, I had fun, I love my family, anything. It forces me to remember that there is so much good, even when it feels like everything is bad. I hope that by sharing my story I can help other people remember that there is good out there, and that they are not alone.

This post was previously published here

About the Author: Gabi is a survivor of an eating disorder, a pastry chef extraordinaire, and a film producer at Jerusalem U, where she is thrilled to be creating movies that make a difference in the world.

Finding Self-Worth and Self-Compassion in Recovery

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By: Leilani McIntosh

In honor of my official discharge from my (almost) 4 year journey of being in all different levels of treatment, I want to repost an article I wrote for an awesome online magazine, “Be Wise”, started by my beautiful friend and role model, Ceciley Hallman.

I spent the majority of my high school experience in treatment for my eating disorder. Strong people fight cancer. Brave people fight in war. Educated people fight within a justice system. I fight with myself. I fight a battle inside my head every day. It is not easy, nor enjoyable, and it is certainly not a choice. A common phrase one might here is, “You are your own worst critic.” Analyzing the world around us, why shouldn’t we be harsh on ourselves?

Women and men are bombarded with guidelines the world has laid out for us. For example, a common expectation is to look like we always have everything together. Mothers are supposed to be holding the world on their shoulders, smiling, without breaking a sweat. Men are coached to show no sign of weakness. One’s manhood is threatened when they choose to open up to someone. The world has also given men and women guidelines on what the ideal body looks like. Men are supposed to be built and muscular, when women need to be skinny yet curvy. Women are taught they need make up to look beautiful… the list goes on and on. So how does that impact our lives?

Step back and ask yourself: What do I see when I look in the mirror? Am I happy? Am I comfortable in my own skin? Do I immediately find a quality that I wish I could change about myself?

I started nitpicking about myself in the fourth grade. People started commenting on my body and I became very self-conscious at a very young age. I started talking about diets and was worried about exercising. As I got older, those thoughts turned into my reality. Through my high school years, I went through many trials which I didn’t know how to handle. Some people cope by drugs or drinking, which turns into an addiction. I coped through eating disorder behaviors, and it became my addiction. It took me going to treatment to realize how unhappy I was.

Often I listen to the seconds of the clock ticking away… physically I think I am alone until I listen extra closely. I hear a voice. A clear voice who knows exactly what I am thinking. It is a voice who I am so familiar with that I don’t even notice that it is around. It is a voice whom I can find being my best friend and advocate, but it is also a voice who is my worst nightmare. My frenemy is the voice in my head.

When I went away to residential treatment, I felt stuck for a long time. I was just sitting there, following the rules, not speaking to anyone, and keeping to myself. When I had therapy appointments, the first little while, I kept things very vague; until my therapist asked me, “Do you love yourself?” The question brought me speechless. I ended up just shaking my head, no. She continued on, “Do you believe you have self-worth?” To be honest, I had no idea what she meant. The dictionary defines self-worth as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.” Your self-worth is commonly used as a synonym for self-esteem; but I have found it goes much deeper than that. Self-esteem is usually measured through one’s actions, when self-worth is valuing your own inherit worth as a person. It is about who you are, not what you do. My therapist told me that I needed to find what makes me worth it as a person, before I could love myself; so the journey of finding my worth began.

The first step to building self-worth is to stop comparing ourselves to the world and being overly critical about every move we make.  Easier said than done, I know. To be able to conquer the challenge of caring what everyone thinks, we need to challenge our “critical inner voice”. With these internalized conversations of thoughts, or “inner voices”, it undermines our self-worth and may cause destructive behaviors and may make you feel worst about yourself. Dr. Lisa Firestone explained in her article “7 Reasons Most People Are Afraid of Love:” We all have a “critical inner voice,” which acts like a cruel coach inside our heads that tells us we are worthless or undeserving of happiness. This coach is shaped from painful childhood experiences and critical attitudes we were exposed to early in life as well as feelings our parents had about themselves. While these attitudes can be hurtful, over time, they have become engrained in us. As adults, we may fail to see them as an enemy, instead accepting their destructive point of view as our own. As we challenge these critical thoughts, we will be able to see who we are and what we are capable of.

Find self-compassion for yourself. Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would treat a friend. I often resisted having self-compassion because I didn’t want to be conceded. WRONG. That was just an excuse my critical inner voice told me. Having self-compassion is a form of self-care. I learned three steps that helped me to have self-compassion.

1) Acknowledge and notice your suffering.

2) Be kind and caring in response to suffering.

3) Remember that imperfection is part of being human and something we all share.

By challenging your inner voice and stopping to compare yourself to others, you can begin the process of recognizing your own self-worth. You can push the way you see yourself from just an average, or below average, to a worthwhile person in the world. Developing my self-worth is something I work on every day.

This is my battle, and it is not easy, nor does it happen overnight; but it has truly changed my life. You do not know how your subconscious or present thoughts about yourself, truly affect your and your everyday choices and lifestyle. You can’t control many things in your life, but you can surly control your thoughts. It is hard to dig up uncomfortable feelings about yourself, and it may bring up a lot of emotions; but I promise you, it will change your life, because it has changed mine. Don’t let that inner voice stop you from becoming the best person that you can be. Don’t let others bring you down, because my friend, you are worth it.

About the Author: Blogger – NYC Based – Trying My Best In Recovery, Project HEAL volunteer. Follow her journey @leilani_mcintosh

How Lady Gaga Concerts Are Helping Those Struggling with Mental Health Issues

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By: Meg Burton

Looking back at my journey through my eating disorder recovery, there is a clear thread of having to become resourceful. Because I didn’t have access to treatment that supported me in the way I needed to, I had to create what I needed for myself. It didn’t feel fair. It wasn’t easy, and it often felt like that’s just how things worked in my life. But thank goodness I kept fighting. There was some small, tiny ember inside of me that refused to give up and whispered to me, “It gets better. I promise one day it will.”

Finding music, books, characters, and people I connected with were all things I used to keep me afloat when I didn’t have many resources. Monday night I had the “epic awesome,” as the three year-old I take care of likes to say, opportunity to volunteer for Lady Gaga’s non-profit, Born This Way Foundation, before her last North American show in LA. I look up to the work this organization does so much and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have been a part of spreading kindness and bravery for the evening.

One of my favorite parts of the night was being able to interact with her fans and hear how Lady Gaga has become a resource for them. I was taking a fast break, trying to get a hot dog, and was not emotionally prepared for people stopping me when noticing my volunteer shirt, and telling me how Lady Gaga had saved their life or their students’ lives. Lady Gaga became their “unconventional” help. She was the beacon of hope, the words they needed to hear, and the example they needed to see. She’s been my beacon of hope in all these ways as well. A lot of people with eating disorders struggle with sexuality in all of its different forms and I’ve definitely looked up to Lady Gaga in that regard. At the beginning of Lady Gaga’s documentary. “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” she talks about turning thirty and how she doesn’t feel insecure how she is as a woman anymore. That she feels sexier and sexual. (Hell yeah!)

I sat there and cried. Because at twenty-five I do not feel that way and I hope to dear lord at thirty I will. I bawled while watching her performance at the Oscars when she sang “‘Till it Happens to You.” Her performance was a precursor to the “me too” movement, where for the first time, I sat there feeling less alone and understood by somebody I greatly admire. (Also because I could not have been beaming with any more pride in the entire world when a friend from treatment in high school joined the stage with Lady Gaga as a survivor of sexual assault. You could not imagine how far she has come.)

As I stood in The Forum on Monday night, this beacon of hope was emanating like crazy throughout the whole concert. I kept thinking how empowering, supportive, and caring Lady Gaga was throughout the show. I couldn’t get over how similar it felt to what group therapy can feel like. For a lot of people in that room, that’s probably the first time they’ve felt that. Maybe the first time they felt safe. The first time they felt understood and heard.

What an amazingly beautiful and unique thing that is. Not only did I get to be in the same room with somebody who has unknowingly helped me simply because she has done her own work on her own issues – but I was standing with 17,000 people with the same look on their face that I had.

In Lady Gaga’s own words,

“Take my hand, stay Joanne

Heaven’s not ready for you Every part of my aching heart

Needs you more than the angels do Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?

Where do you think you’re goin’ Goin’, girl?”

So please stay. Heaven is not ready for you yet. Look for help wherever you can find it. If you can’t get professional help right away, get lost in Harry Potter and adopt Mr. and Mrs. Weasley as your parents (Dumbledore can even be your grandfather if you would like). Blast Lady Gaga. Or blast someone else who reaches your soul. Read about your personal heroes and know that everything they have inside of them is inside of you too. Don’t give up. There is always an ember flickering inside and soon somebody will be there to help you learn to ignite it. “Stay Joanne.”

About the Author: I first began working with Project HEAL in 2012 where I started as their PR intern. I was going into my sophomore year of college at Cal State Fullerton where I still felt like a fresh transplant from Northern California and didn’t quite feel like Orange County was my home yet. Transitions often trigger eating disorder behaviors so I was on high alert to maintain my recovery. I was trying to find resources to surround me with support during this transitional period and I was astonished to find that my college not only did not provide any resources for eating disorders, but didn’t even “deal with the issue.” This is when I decided to do something.

If there weren’t any resources, then I was going to provide the things that I wished were available to me. I moved from a PR intern at Project HEAL, to helping found the Southern California chapter. Working with Project HEAL has been a dream for me. I don’t want anybody to go through the painful process of trying to get help and being denied from insurance and/or being able to attain the care that they need.

If I can take the experiences I went through to help another person in their healing process then I can find the meaning in all my struggles. We’re not meant to walk through this journey alone and I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that is here to hold your hand if you need it. In my free time I’m a wanderluster. I love traveling, going on crazy adventures, sitting in coffee shops, practicing yoga, reading, and going to concerts. I’m absolutely obsessed with Harry Potter and Florence and the Machine. If you’ve talked to me for more than fifteen minutes then you’ve most definitely heard a camp story from me. Recovery has made me become a connoisseur of many foods so if we get to hang out lets go get chocolate milkshakes. 🙂

A Thank You Letter to My Therapist

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By: Ericka Christina

To my therapist,

After almost eight years of working with you, I can say we have established a pretty solid relationship. We’ve worked through so much more than just my eating disorder symptoms, and we have uncovered layers of trauma to reveal a strength I never imagined I could possess. There have been highs and lows, and I’ve lost count of how many times I think you have saved my life.

Today, during my session, we talked about my progress, and the option of coming to therapy less frequently or even stopping all together. While I consider myself stable right now, stopping is not an option. I value the time I have with you, and it is the highest form of self-care for me. As I reflect on the years of work we have done together, I am in awe of the progress and changes in myself. Last year, I didn’t have to schedule an emergency session to figure out how I would cope with a Thanksgiving meal, and I didn’t need to have my phone with me at the dinner table in case I needed to send an SOS text. For this, and so much more, I’d like to say thank you.

Thank you for all of the hard work and dedication you have shown me through the years. There are countless examples that come to mind, but some stick out more. You listened with support when I blamed you for taking away the thing that meant the most to me, and then, you let me grieve that loss (over and over again) before helping me to see that I no longer had a need for the eating disorder. Thank you for having me set a phone alarm to text you daily when I needed encouragement to complete meals. I labeled the alarm as a “reminder that someone cares,” and though it is no longer an active alarm, I’ve kept it on my phone.

Thank you for signing into Recovery Record, reading my food logs and leaving feedback. It made me try harder to “do the next right thing” because I knew there was accountability. Thank you for collecting my scales (yes, plural!), storing them safely away from me and for showing a genuine happiness whenever I had meal victories. For what may seem like little things (but to me, made a world of difference), thank you.

From writing encouraging letters for me to save to read when I needed a boost to preemptively supporting me during holidays and transitional periods by sending a quick text, I appreciate every bit of it. You were never afraid to promise me that I would be OK and because I trusted you more than I trusted myself, I chose to believe that. It became a reality. You relentlessly worked to help me discover my self-worth and reminded me of reasons to recover. Most of all, thank you for giving me the constant reassurance that no matter what, at the end of the day, I have a person in my corner and I’m never alone in this recovery journey. Even though I don’t see you as often right now, you will continue to be the voice in my head that helps me to choose recovery every day. For this, I am forever grateful.

About the Author: Yogini. Social Worker. Avid napper. Recovery Warrior.

I Didn’t Think Recovery Was For Me

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By: Anonymous

I never thought I would recover. I wasn’t sure if recovery from an eating disorder was even a real thing. Let alone possible for me. I never thought I would want to recover even if it were a possibility. I remember leaving a clinic that I didn’t want to go to in the first place; I was supposed to go get my things and come back in the morning to start inpatient therapy. I wasn’t ready. Are we ever really ready? I guess that the answer must be yes, or at least that we must kind of want to try, anyway. But not yet. I had to get worse before I got “ready.” Because eventually, I had to decide — did I want to die or not? I wasn’t really sure if I cared anymore. That’s the decision that it ultimately comes down to if you let it. Or it did in my case anyway. I’ve never felt more alone or more ashamed. And I’ve never liked myself less. And my family was worried about me, and I hated myself for making them worry.

Eventually, I started to worry about me too. “Do I have electrolyte imbalance(s)? Am I going to lose consciousness and wake up in a hospital? Do I have osteoporosis? Am I infertile? Does it even matter? I can’t even take care of myself; how could I ever even think about taking care of a child?” I didn’t know what to do. But it seemed I had learned exactly what not to do. For a while, I actually I thought I was in control. I thought had such great willpower. And I guess it did start out that way. If you can deny yourself a basic human need, what can you not do?

But somewhere along the way, I lost that control. I remember seeing a photo of a note on the inside of a toilet lid that said “who’s in control now?” It really stuck with me. Looking back now, I feel confident I will never go back because I see now that there is no winning. No end goal. No staying in control. No being perfect. I would never be “good enough.” I remember setting and reaching weight goals, and I never felt even a little better. Not once.

I never thought I’d be here today. Here, drinking coffee that’s not black, studying so that I can try to figure out how to help others like me (or unlike me). I never would have considered that my thoughts or my story may be worth sharing. I never thought I’d talk or write about this. But what have I got to lose? If it helps anyone, it was worth it. And I like to think it couldn’t have all been just for me. Now I even have a recovery tattoo, for myself, and for anyone else who may need it. To remind myself how far I’ve come. And that there is hope. And to know that I am not alone. None of us are alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Recovery is possible. You are more than enough.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Forgiveness

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By: Jeanine Cardamone, LMSW

My name is Jeanine. I’m a 35 year old female that has lived on Long Island, New York all of my life. I grew up the youngest of three girls with parents that remain married to this day. My sisters are both health professionals and I myself am a Licensed Social Worker. Sounds almost perfect right? What could I have to complain about?

The thing is, no one is perfect and no one has a perfect life. We all struggle. For as long as I can remember I have been depressed and when I was twenty one I turned to bulimia for answers. I thought purging would solve my problems. A few years later anorexia took front stage and I no longer recognized the person I was on the inside. The person I was on the outside however, looked no different to me but definitely did to others. I still felt miserable. I still felt like everyone was judging me for what I looked like and I still felt like I didn’t look good enough. And it hurt! Years of individual, group, and some family therapy was taking place.

My boyfriend (now husband) stood by me every step of the way. I went into inpatient facilities, IOP, etc but it all just turned out the same. I wanted help but I couldn’t escape the voice that continued to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. Over ten years later I still hear that voice today. The one thing that has changed is that I’m beginning to forgive myself. I forgive myself for not understanding that when I was a child I didn’t realize that when my parents needed to be by my ill sisters side while she was hospitalized for months, that it didn’t mean I was not loved then and that I’m not loved now. I forgive myself for isolating myself during my most anxious times when I had to break plans with friends to provide myself with some self love. And most of all I’m working on forgiving myself for hating myself and my body for so long because I didn’t deserve the emotional, physical pain and neglect I put it through. So now, today and the days forward, as difficult as it may be, I will continue to forgive myself and fill myself and those around me with love.

Open Letter to my Eating Disorder

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By: Anonymous

An open letter to my eating disorder:

Dear Eating Disorder,

I know we have a love-hate relationship. I know that since we met four years ago we’ve had our share of ups and downs. We’ve had seasons of being the best of friends, and seasons of being frustrated and angry with each other.

It started out well, our friendship- it started out with you promising me that if I listened to your “requests” that my life would be better for it. I believed you wholeheartedly, and now? Now I regret it.

Friendships are not supposed to cost me time with my family, enjoyment of holidays and birthdays, happy memories, being able to work and live on my own. Friendships are not supposed to send someone to the hospital because their “friend” is slowly killing them. Friendships are not supposed to be one person giving in to endless cruel demands of the other. But that is what was happening.

Eating disorder, you are a liar. You feed me lies and convince me not to feed myself, and for a long time it has worked.

I am writing to you today to say that I am done. I am done listening to you, even though I know you won’t stop speaking to me, and likely that you will be trying to sneak back into my life persistently. I am done listening.

Dear eating disorder, you’ve had control over me for far too long. That ends now.


Someone who is no longer, and never again, your friend.

The Evidence Base: Eating Disorders and DBT

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By: Melissa Gerson, LCSW

There is a growing base of evidence supporting the effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) with certain eating disorder patients.

DBT has its roots in treating borderline personality disorder (BPD); in fact, the American Psychological Association lists DBT as one of the best empirically supported treatments for BPD1.  At its core, DBT teaches patients skills to help them better manage their emotions.   Because many patients with eating disorders experience this kind of emotion dysregulation, DBT has been studied as a treatment for anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

A recent paper in the American Journal of Psychotherapy2 reviewed the research on DBT for eating disorders.

Here are my key takeaways:

  1. There is good evidence to support the use of DBT skills training with bulimia and binge eating patients. The evidence on anorexia is less compelling, but encouraging.
  2. There is promising evidence to support the use of DBT with any eating disorder patient who also has BPD. According to one study, about 20% of eating disorders patients have comorbid BPD3; given the effectiveness of DBT with BPD, it makes sense that DBT would be effective for this subpopulation.

These findings mirror what I see in practice as the Clinical Director of an eating disorder treatment center.  We generally start our co-morbid BPD patients with DBT early on; improved emotion regulation makes treatment more effective for these patients.  We also turn to DBT when patients treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-E) get stuck because of significant mood-intolerance component.

If you are seeking a DBT resource for an eating disorder patient, there are key components to look for:

  • Skills Training Group. These group sessions are where the core skills of mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance are taught.
  • Individual Therapy. These one-on-one sessions help patients apply skills to their personal situation.
  • Telephone Consultation. These brief phone calls are designed to help patients deploy skills in-the-moment, when they’re experiencing distress and/or facing obstacles. At Columbus Park we find this component particularly helpful; over the phone, the therapist identifies the problem, evaluates the skills the client used already, and then offers additional skill options for managing the struggle.  This intervention helps clients replace emotion-driven, impulsive behaviors with active, competent self-directed skill use.
  • DBT Consultation Team. In a comprehensive DBT practice, providers meet weekly for DBT consultation. These team meetings are a critical component of effective DBT practice as they are designed to support each therapist in his/her work while encouraging constant growth and learning for the group as a whole.  Patients benefit in turn from a strong, committed and motivated team of providers.


1Oldham JM: Guideline Watch: Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2005

2Wisniewski, L & Ben-Porath, D. D. (2015).  Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders:  The Use of Contingency Management Procedures to Manage Dialectical Dilemmas. American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol 69, No. 2, 129-140

3Milos, G. F., Spindler, A. M., Buddeberg, C., & Crameri, A. (2003). Axes I and II comorbidity and treatment experiences in eating disorder subjects. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 72, 276-285