Thank you to all of Project HEAL’s 7000+ followers on Twitter.

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UnknownHey guys – I’m Casey Chon, & I’ve been managing @theprojectHEAL on Twitter for almost two years. I’ll be a senior at Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA, next year, and I study Arabic, history, and storytelling.

I found out about Project HEAL through LinkedIn, and was welcomed super warmly into the community by our co-founders Liana and Kristina.

I wanted to work with Project HEAL because although I had never had an eating disorder, I had a burning desire to make the world a more peaceful place. Working with Project HEAL helped me tap into the world of mental health and how people come to peace with themselves, a whole other aspect of what I’ve been doing.

When I first started managing the Twitter, to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I know how Twitter worked, but I needed to really figure out for myself how to best utilize the social media channel to Project HEAL’s benefit. Two years later, and I can say that I’ve figured out just that. Every day when I log in, my newsfeed is a mixture of so many things. Of course, there are tons of current events, celebrity news, and animal gifs (those are wonderful), and then there’s the more pointed side of the news feed, with articles about eating disorders, recovery, news from the community, etc. Connecting with our thousands of followers every day is what has made my time on Twitter so special.

But being part of the Project HEAL National Social Media Team, and also managing the Twitter, has not always been easy. Everything comes with its challenges, and for me, as a Korean-American, that was the most difficult. I actively tried to find stories and connect with people of color and underrepresented people that were affected by eating disorders to share. There have been many challenges on Twitter, but becoming a voice for minorities affected by eating disorders in any way was definitely my biggest challenge.

I’m writing this blog post as a public thank you to all of Project HEAL’s 7000+ followers on Twitter. As a rising senior in college, I no longer have the time it takes to give the Project HEAL Twitter the time it needs to grow. My time on the Project HEAL National Social Media Team has allowed me to have experiences I will never forget. Examples include going to the NYC gala in 2016 with my mom (I’ll be at the gala this May too!), and tweeting at celebrities and having the occasional response, example – Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix, whom I tweeted & is now performing at our gala! The best part about my time with Project HEAL was finding out that there was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, down the street from me at Hampshire, who was starting a chapter!

Being part of Project HEAL has allowed for an insane amount of personal growth, learning, and love. Sure, it has not always been easy, but even through those times, I’ve found so much inspiration from all of you guys in the Twitter-verse. Oftentimes, the inspirational quote pictures I post are things I need to hear in my life. I usually post them at night or in the morning, before my coffee, and when I go back to check on the Twitter, sometimes twenty people have retweeted what I’ve posted. These are the most stark reminders that we are all one giant community, and all we have to give is our kindness to each other.

As this blog post is a giant thank you, I need to thank Arwen, Project HEAL’s COO, and Liana and Kristina, our co-founders. I was welcomed into the community with giant arms, and I cannot thank you guys enough for all you do to make the world a better place.

To the 7000+ Twitter followers, I love you all. Thank you for believing in Project HEAL, being engaged, having the coolest fundraising ideas, and staying connected. You guys have made my time at the helm of @theprojectHEAL so, so wonderful.

My last day managing @theprojectHEAL is May 20. Please don’t ever hesitate to connect with me through and with Project HEAL through Twitter and our other social media channels.  Carpe diem!


DSCN0084About the Author: Casey Chon is a rising senior studying Arabic and storytelling at Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA. She loves Project HEAL and the experiences being manager of @theprojectHEAL has provided. As these are her last few days as a Project HEAL volunteer, she invites you to connect with her via email or through LinkedIn.

Speak Up – World Eating Disorder Action Day

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Project HEAL blog post world edThis post is written by co-blog manager Emily Costa

A year ago my life looked very differently. Exactly 365 days ago, I would have been sitting in Intensive Outpatient programming in Miami. Away from my family and so called “life” in NYC (by now I would have thankfully realized living WITH my eating disorder was not a life).

I would have been probably pouring a little bit of my heart out in a group right now, reminding myself that vulnerability was they key to my recovery. Reminding myself that I was worth recovery in the first place.

I was working on myself with every ounce of my being (just as I still do today) and I luckily sit in gratitude today for that opportunity to mend the relationship with myself, my body, and my mind. Especially knowing some people aren’t so lucky.

Today is World Eating Disorder Action Day and I’m sitting in a café, not focused on the croissant I ate for breakfast, or the sandwich I will order for lunch; but focused on spreading the awareness and understanding of eating disorders.

This is all foreign territory to me – advocating for something that I once felt I’d never overcome. This whole using my voice and speaking about an illness that had once controlled my every thought is scary, but freeing all at the same time.

With sharing the nine truths for World ED day on social media, I realized how much each one meant to me.

It took years to realize that how I looked on the outside did not determine whether or not I was sick – or if I deserved help. It took years to realize that my diagnosis, although hard to process, was not a definitive life sentence of struggling; and that the diagnosis didn’t define me.

It took me years to realize I did not choose my eating disorder, that I wasn’t doing it for attention, and that I couldn’t just “stop.” It took me years to realize that eating disorders affect millions and do not discriminate.

All this awareness I have today is something I wish I could have come to realize a lot sooner in my life, but I’m grateful for the acceptance I have today.

I will say that sometimes I get defeated that more don’t understand the complexity of an eating disorder or what it entails to live freely from this illness. But that alone makes me want to speak louder, fight harder and be braver.

But ultimately? I feel lucky to be living at a time where there are so many people fighting so hard to share the reality of eating disorders. And most importantly, that recovery is possible.

Take part of the action: http://worldeatingdisordersday.org

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your Project HEAL Gala ticket for tomorrow night: http://bit.ly/1PnPu2h

 

My Unopened Letter to the World

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Project HEAL Grant Recipient shares her Unopened Letter to the World

J.K. Rowling told Harvard University’s 2008 graduating class about her experience of hitting rock bottom, “I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive…And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” I didn’t come to appreciate these wise words until most recently.

dinnerwithRRIn Spring 2014, I had graduated from an Ivy League University, finished working in the most prestigious psychology labs in the nation, was accepted and worked for Teach for America, and had attained what I thought was a healthy body. Little did I know that in August 2014 I would hit my rock bottom. The years of anxiety, depression, anorexia, BDD, exercise addiction, OCD and PTSD, finally caught up with me.  I was always an overachiever-compulsive and ambitious. It wasn’t until my third doctor informed me that my health was suffering and it was time to stop and face my issues. I looked at her in disbelief. I was the first generation in my family to graduate from both high school and college. My family had worked hard to provide a home for me and my sister and more recently to put me through college.  I had now attained my dream job and thought surely if I just tried hard and kept giving more of myself to teaching my second grade class I could recover from what I thought was a nervous breakdown. After all, my career and academics allowed me to avoid my trauma and self-loathing. I did not want to confront nor change my eating disorder habits as they provided me what I thought was safety and family.

At this point, I had taken a week off from work, stayed in bed all day long, and just ate until I dissociated.  Surely when I returned to my diet again, lost the weight  I had restored, and started running again, I could save myself- or so I thought. The doctor looked at me smiling, and said, “Aww, sweetie you have never failed at anything.” Reality struck and although there was no plan B, I could not deny any longer that I needed help and couldn’t keep going. I felt betrayed by my body not being able to maintain the demands of an eating disorder. I felt exposed. Within two weeks, I resigned my job and knew I had to face my trauma and eating disorder. I had built my whole life on achieving worldly success and striving to become a human machine. When external circumstances deteriorated and were taken away, I just had myself and my own resources- realizing my worst fear. I lost everything.

I decided to live in Georgia with my sister, her husband and family. The vicious cycle of bulimia began again. Looking back now from my present vantage point, I can see that my two young nieces were my guardian angels until I could receive therapy. I would go days without speaking because the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain were too overwhelming. The only other beings I would talk to were my two nieces. After admitting to myself that I needed help, I moved back to Orlando, Florida to live with my father. I still had the belief that I could save the whole world and lived with false guilt about leaving my second grade students (even though it was the best thing for them- and me).

I accepted a job in social work.  The demands of being the lead case manager in my department triggered and intensified my struggles with self-care, exacerbating emotional and physical maladies. I had exhausted all financial means for therapy, -nutritional and psychiatric. I applied to Project Heal for outpatient support. Less than a month later, I received an phone call from Liana from Project Heal informing me that I would not only receive outpatient support but that Oliver-Pyatt Inpatient Center in Miami, Florida wanted to sponsor me. At that point, I had resigned from my job and was working in the children’s ministry part time at church.  Separated from career opportunities and the academic world, I did not know how to live or which way to turn. I knew I wanted to end the vicious cycle of my eating disorder but without knowing another way to live I kept turning back to these life-threatening habits.

Within two weeks I was on a plane to Miami for what I thought would be a one-month stay, which stretched to four months. Ironically, the most life changing experience was not a part of my resume. It was this experience-the counseling, support and rehab available at this center. The stereotype that people who suffer from an eating disorder are superficial and selfish is erroneous. I met the most selfless, humblest girls at the treatment center. Residential treatment was the most difficult challenge for me. I had to face my demons. I had no escape, nothing to run to to avoid these demons. Even running itself was removed and not an option. I remember after a tough counseling session I couldn’t bear to stand the realization that everything that I did in the past was not going to work for me anymore. During one of my sessions in which I broke down sobbing, one of the recovery coaches said, “There’s so much more to life than just weight.”

It was a realization to me that because of family history and emotional trauma, I strove to be a people pleaser, a rescuer, and a fixer. By contrast, in the real world there are simply things that are as they are and cannot be changed. Whether ones’ parents were alcoholics, or one grew up in poverty, or there is a health obstacle a person should not beat herself up for genetics or anxiety predispositions. As a child, I did the best I could to survive the best way I knew how. With the center’s resources, I was given the choice to turn back to my old ways or move forward embracing positive outlooks and handling each emotion a day at a time.  After one particular panic attack,  my therapist said, “Remember, Crystal, an emotion can’t kill you, so keep breathing, you’re still alive.” This truth has helped me face all my emotions and experience a new way of being.

c14fc5338cc86f1321db2eb2439623b9Presently, my first priority is continued recovery. I am learning to accept all emotions. I was NOT put on this Earth to be a human machine on the road to material success. My purpose is much greater and there is no room for isolation anymore in torment. My purpose includes witnessing the pure bliss of seeing the first steps of an infant that I nanny, sharing laughter over the adventures of reading Charlotte’s Web while tutoring a homeschool student, empathizing with a friend as she cries her fears out, or visualizing myself rowing a boat in a movement class. Each day I am in the process of becoming and learning to live without an eating disorder. Three foundational basics to my recovery include 1. Believing in God, a higher being, 2. Speaking truths, and 3. Surrounding myself with positive support. A truth I repeat daily is “Never run back to what broke you” that I ironically found in a Project Heal blog. Whether it is an abusive personal or professional relationship, unhealthy habits, or negative thought patterns be encouraged to move forward by finding the support. For me, the primary impetus for support was found through Project Heal. Thank you, Project Heal! As I prepare for my second mission trip to an African orphanage this November, I hope to continue to augment my values of community, and continue steps to self-acceptance, good health, self-care, and healing so that I may better serve others.

I am forever grateful for the family and support I have discovered in Project Heal. They have literally given me a second chance to learn life skills. Through therapy, learning healthy coping skills, setting boundaries, having support through grief and acceptance, I am gradually building a solid foundation. My hope in sharing my story is to help others share their story. My therapist once said recovery is like open-heart surgery. It is messy and raw and may make you feel exposed but its only after you have gone through it that your able to create a new life. Be brave. You DO NOT have to suffer in the darkness. There is enough light in the universe to help you in the process of healing and becoming. Your footsteps will get lighter; you will love again in a whole new way once you learn to love yourself. You can learn to live with your head held high and lead life out of curiosity instead of fear. Trauma can leave scars but we are not judged by our trauma; we are truly judged by how we overcome our obstacles! Remember, YOU ARE THE SUN!

Recovery Christmas Carol

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Here is a Christmas carol created by a group of warriors, for the warriors. Sing it loud, sing it proud, and use to remind yourself that being in recovery for the holidays does not have to be one singular struggle- there are always flowers (in this case poinsettia flowers) for those who seek to see them.

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Recovery Christmas Carol

 

On the first day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the second day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the third day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the eight day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, eight friendships blossoming, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, nine wildest dreams a-realized, eight friendships blossoming, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, ten ways to reject diet culture, nine wildest dreams a-realized, eight friendships blossoming, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, eleven coping skills, ten ways to reject diet culture, nine wildest dreams a-realized, eight friendships blossoming, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

On the twelth day of Christmas, recovery gave to me, twelve assertiveness strategies, eleven coping skills, ten ways to reject diet culture, nine wildest dreams a-realized, eight friendships blossoming, seven ways to embrace my natural body, six (thousand million) genuine smiles, five yummy desserts to try, four ways to ask for help, three ED-shut downs, two self-esteem boosts and a renewed sense of energy.

 

Happy Holidays Warriors!

Trick or Treat? Surviving and Thriving in Your Recovery During the Holidays

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Holidays and celebrations can pose some significant and specific challenge to those of us in treatment or recovery from an eating disorder. Let’s face it- nearly every holiday has some sort of a core basis around food. Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, and even the Fourth of July have traditional foods that are as integral to each day as the presents and the ceremonies. Halloween is no exception. In fact, the emphasis is on candy, which can be especially challenging.

 
Awareness and planning is vital to staying strong and focused in your recovery during any holiday. Planning ahead, practicing, and seeking out support can make the difference between an enjoyable day and a potential relapse. Hence it is absolutely vital to develop a very specific, detailed plan for managing any and all stressors that may occur throughout the day. This may involve pre-identifying triggers or triggering situations that may occur. Write them down, and then write down how you will ideally handle the situation in a recovery-focused manner. Also be sure to write down triggering thoughts that you may have- then be sure to write down challenging statements to those thoughts. The more specific you are in this journaling process, the more likely it is that you will be better prepared to defend against these irrational thoughts on the actual day.

 
Make sure to only say “yes’ to gatherings or events that you feel confident in attending. Also, if it helps, RSVP with a time limit. For example, say, “Thank for inviting me. I can make it from 4:00-8:00.” This will take some of the pressure off, because it provides firm boundaries, and an opportunity to leave if the anxiety becomes overwhelming.
Write down your favorite coping skills on a notecard (or in your cell phone) and make sure to keep them close by throughout the day. This way, you will have concrete examples to turn to should you become overwhelmed or upset. Also, write down three things that you used to enjoy about the holiday. You can use these to remind yourself of why you are trying, should you become upset or negative during the event.

 
Talk to your supports. Identify those people in your life that feel safe to turn to with struggles and let them know about your concerns. Brainstorm ways to make sure that the day goes well together. Tell them specific ways that they can support your during the event/gathering. These things are not always obvious to our loved ones, and chances are they are eager for information on how they can help in any way.

 
If you have a meal plan, make sure that you plan out how to attend the gathering/event and still make your meal plan work. Ask ahead of time about what type of food may be available. Make a commitment to yourself to follow through with your specific goals. Avoid getting into any type of “bargaining” with yourself about swapping out food. For example, during Halloween, this detrimental bargaining could manifest as “I will have some of that candy but maybe cut back on my dinner.” Chances are, if you make a commitment to hold yourself accountable ahead of time, you will be more likely to follow through.

 
Lastly, remember that the holidays are meant to be fun. Being in recovery does make them trickier to navigate, but this does not mean that they are unmanageable, or that they should not be attempted. There are many ways to make the holidays easier on yourself, so take advantage of them! And finally, remember that holidays, much like ourselves, are not meant to be perfect. People will spill drinks, burn cookies, and talk too close to your face. Family members will step on the dog’s tail, music will be played too loudly, and friends will show up late and early. Find a way to embrace the mess, in all of its perfect imperfection, and you will find yourself at peace. Because, after all, embracing imperfection is one of the most important pieces in the journey to recovery.

Thankful Thoughts: The Healing Power of Gratitude in Recovery

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They say your worst days in recovery are better than your best day in the disorder.  Along with a multitude of other positives, eating disorder recovery brings a renewed sense of gratitude and zest for life. I believe that this is one of the most important gifts one gives oneself when deciding that one is worth recovery- turning the struggle into something beautiful.

 

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I am an advocate of the practice of gratitude journaling, for the simple reason that it is a quick and easy reminder of all that there is to be thankful in one’s life. Some things that I am grateful for in the moment?

 

  1. Enery: I went for a run this morning, up and down the hilly streets of Baltimore. My strong legs are able to do this because I have the energy to be able to go-go-go when I am motivated!
  2. Dogs: My dog Ollie is such a sweet, goofy little love bug. I’m grateful for his (admittedly slimy) kisses and absolute exuberance every time I walk through the door.
  3. Summer: I know it is August already, but the warm weather is still here, hence I am still thankful for it! Summer mean airy dresses, freckles, long walks as the sun goes down, fairs, pools, sandy toes, ice cream, need I go on?
  4. And while I’m on that note… Ice cream!
  5. Blogging: I am so incredibly grateful to be able to co-manage this blog with the beautiful Emily Costa. I will speak for the both of us when I say we feel so blessed to be able to share in the pro-recovery message of Project HEAL weekly!

 

So there you have it. Such simple things that one might pass by if not for the effort of gratitude journaling.  I encourage all of you to search for the good in life (and maybe even start your own gratitude journal!) Embrace a life beyond your wildest dreams, trust your own journey, and never forget that full recovery is possible for anyone. If nothing else, recovery is truly, truly a second chance at life. And who wouldn’t be thankful for that?

 

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