By: Anonymous, 34 of Philadelphia
Nine months ago, I stepped into a room knowing that for the first time, I was going to sit face to face with other people diagnosed with eating disorders. I knew that throughout my life I must have met many people struggling in the same ways as me, but it was never an acknowledged fact. All I had ever heard about support groups or treatment facilities were how “triggering” they could be, so it was with great faith, and quite a great deal of fear, that I joined the Project HEAL program. I was also skeptical about the mentorship program. Having lived with a restrictive eating disorder for over 20 years, the thought of true recovery seemed altogether impossible.
I am elated to say that after only a week as a Project HEAL mentee, I knew that recovery was not only possible, but was inevitable for me. My mentor, Jacqui, was an invaluable source of support, guidance and reassurance during the first few months of recovery. There was nothing I could say that she hadn’t heard, or felt herself. She introduced me to Carolyn Costin’s 8 Keys book and workbook, which is filled with countless stories of recovery, and a clear roadmap to follow. Setting weekly goals that I shared with my mentor for behavior change and self-care was so important at the start of recovery.
However, I quickly learned that healing from an eating disorder is so much more than learning new behaviors; it is learning how to live. I never realized how isolated I felt my entire teenage and adult life until meeting other girls who had the same thoughts and fears, and often, similar personal histories that led to their eating disorders. Project HEAL brought me out of isolation and into a community of others who not only understood me; they accepted me wholly, without reservation, or shame.
I have made friends for life through the Project HEAL group. Every time I felt overwhelmed by the path ahead of me, my mentor or the support group would inevitably pull me out of my tough spot and reignite my recovery fire. While everyone recovering from an eating disorder ultimately has to do the work for themselves, I believe that my mentor and friends I met through Project HEAL helped me finally believe that I was worth the struggle. My life is now so much more than the cage I had constructed.
I will never forget my time as a Project HEAL mentee. I am committed to staying involved in Project HEAL. My greatest wish is to become a mentor myself in the future. I would recommend Project HEAL without reservation to anyone who is ready to open their hearts and minds to the possibility of freedom from a life of being “less”.
What is Communities of HEALing?
Communities of HEALing is a brand new pilot program, launched by Project HEAL in 2017, and currently being studied in partnership with Columbia University, designed to explore the ways that peer support and mentorship can help individuals to fully recover from an eating disorder. The program includes several separate components: weekly support groups in local communities, possible 1:1 mentorship for those newly out of treatment, other facilitated experiences, and in some cases social support in the form of group outings like going to a movie together!
Am I eligible to be a mentee?
Study participants must meet a specific set of eligibility criteria in order to participate. Participants must be between the ages of 14 and 45, have been discharged from treatment for your eating disorder at a higher level of care (hospitalization, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient) in the last 6 months. All participants must also have a current treatment team. If you are interested in participating, these and other criteria will be assessed during a series of screening calls with the research team.
If you do not meet the eligibility criteria, we still want you to be involved! You can learn more about our local support groups, which are open to anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder, here. Please also feel free to reach out to us to learn about other volunteer opportunities.
How do I join?
If you are still interested in receiving mentorship through Communities of HEALing, and in participating in the study, the next step is to call the team at Columbia. Their staff will be able to assess whether or not your are eligible to participate, and answer any questions you may have about participation.
To express interest in participating in the study and receiving mentorship in your recovery, please call (646) 774-8066 and indicate that you are interested in participating in the Communities of HEALing study.