Walking to End the Silence

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“With the NEDA walk coming up in Wilmington, NC, it is great to see the support our wonderful community is showing in response to the growing epidemic that is eating disorders. So much these days we wake up to bad news, such as another school shooting or a robbery down the street. It is refreshing to see a community that cares so much about something that needs more light to be shed upon it.

When I found out my wife was suffering with an eating disorder, I responded in the same way as our community is now, with compassion and love. When Amy and I were able to open up to our families, though maybe there was a lot of unknown, they responded with love and helped in any way they could. The community and the nation have begun bonding over issues affecting many more people than surveys are saying. Neighbors and strangers have to come together in a time of need to provide much needed financial support to those who otherwise could not afford treatment. That not only warms my heart but gives me hope that there may be an end to violence in our backyard, the drug and gang activity, and to eating disorders. As a community we can stand up and fight against those things that hurt the individuals.” –Colin DiPaola, Project HEAL Wilmington, North Carolina Chapter Co-Leader and Co-Founder

Celebrating Life as Me

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imagexBy: Amy DiPaola, Wilmington NC Project HEAL Chapter Leader

Recently, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to celebrate life as a young woman recovered from a nine year struggle with anorexia. I appreciate the life I have a million times more now.

My husband and I are celebrating our 4 year marriage anniversary July 30th (we have multiple anniversaries we celebrate). In fact, the entire month of July we make it a point everyday to do something special for the other. Colin and I don’t like being confined to one day to honor our love and life together…we would rather celebrate everyday!

This got me thinking, people put so much effort into celebrating specific days through the year, but why can’t we celebrate life every single day? As the beautiful, amazing, unique men and women that we are, we should be celebrating our selves, our bodies, and our lives every single moment we are here experiencing this life.

As someone who struggled with an eating disorder, honoring my body was a foreign thing until I chose recovery (and I do believe recovery is a choice). I remember the terrible things I believed about myself. The demeaning thoughts I had about Amy. My mind was so consumed with Anamia, my eating disorder. But things changed because I wanted to change. I wanted to truly celebrate holidays, my anniversaries, birthdays and other monumental moments that Anamia never let me experience. But most of all, I wanted to look in the mirror every morning and celebrate myself and my body. I wanted to love who I am.

A year ago I was learning to love Amy. Today, I love Amy each and everyday. I make it a point to say nice things about myself, just like I make it a point to do nice things for my husband on a daily basis.

So as I sit here and enjoy the wonderful anniversary cake I made for Colin and I, I can’t help but soak up this moment. The first time I get to enjoy Colin’s and my anniversary without any eating disorder thoughts or behaviors. Just me, Colin, cake, and our three precious dogs…who also like cake.

Seeing my Beautiful Wife for the First Time

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By: Colin DiPaola, Project HEAL Wilmington, NC  

Before my wife told me that she suffered from an eating disorder I didn’t ever know how harmful they could be. In high school, boys often make fun of people for being different, and not conforming to the “expected” social stereotype. I was unaware of the effect this could have on young girls and even young guys.

When she came out and told me she had an eating disorder, my world was shaken and I was scared. I had no idea what to do. All I could think of was to comfort and love her so she knew I was there. I would soon find out that the role of the supporter was no walk-in-the-park task. Being a supporter is hard work, but in the end, can be one of the most amazing accomplishments one can have in life.

We moved to Wilmington, NC so that my wife could go to therapy and see a nutritionist that specialized in treating eating disorders. At home, I had to be like a therapist. I had to listen and not judge. I had to make sure I was encouraging without being fake. The emotional roller coaster that was my home life was tiring but fulfilling as I got to see my wife go from a few good days a month to meeting therapy and food goals on a daily basis and really finding the willpower to fight.

My eyes were opened when I had to take on this role. I had to dig down and find what was really important to me. The supporter’s job isn’t easy, and it can be very mentally tolling but seeing my beautiful wife for the first time without an eating disorder has filled me with joy and exoneration beyond compare.

In doing research and looking at the causes of eating disorders, I found some disturbing things. The main theme that I began to unveil was the terrible image that the media and the social stigma portray to our population. I have joined Project HEAL to help fight that image and to support those who need help in their recovery. I have seen my wife grow into a beautiful person on the inside, blocking out eating disorder thoughts and urges, and I know others can do the same.

With a good support team I have learned that recovery can be a lot easier than without one. It has changed my life, being able to be here for my wife through this fight, and I wouldn’t go back and do it differently. We took it one step at a time, one day at a time until she reached full recovery. She has told me that it has helped so much to have someone there for her unconditionally. I vowed to always love and to help her through hard times, and I truly lived up to those vows through this experience.

         

 

News Tidbits of the Day

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Wilmington’s Project HEAL Aims to Spread Awareness of Eating Disorders in the Community and Raise Money for Treatment 

Check out North Carolina Project HEAL’s chapter leader Amy DiPaola share her story and mission with the organization in a recent piece:

http://www.nourishedwilmington.com/1/post/2014/04/wilmingtons-project-heal-aims-to-spread-awareness-of-eating-disorders-in-the-community-and-raise-money-for-treatment.html

 

Study finds men don’t seek help for eating disorders because they don’t recognize the symptoms

One misconception is when we think about people with eating disorders, women usually come to mind. However, men – and the people around them – miss out on the early warning signs:

http://time.com/54158/when-a-guy-gets-an-eating-disorder/

 

Study: More Time on Facebook Could Mean Worse Body Image for Women

Compare and despair? New research suggests yes.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/04/10/study-more-time-on-facebook-could-mean-worse-body-image-for-women

 

 

 

 

Living Life to the Fullest

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starsBy: Amy DiPaola, Project HEAL North Carolina
Hi, my name is Amy, and I suffered from an eating disorder, whom I call Anamia, for almost 9 years.
First of all, understanding that eating disorders are never about the food is so important. People are so quick to judge those who are considered too thin or too overweight. People believe they should just eat more or less, like it’s that simple. Well I hate to burst society’s beliefs (wait, actually I am rejoicing), but it’s not that simple. There is always something deeper than the mask (a.k.a. Food) which is used as a cover up for something much more personal.
I can remember the desire to be perfect as young as four. In second grade I cried in front of my classmates because I received a 98% on a spelling test…I felt like I just wasn’t good enough. I “should” have received a 100%, I thought. I beat myself up over little things, like not looking perfect in a photo, missing questions on tests, and not achieving the top grades in my class. I look back at that now and can’t help but feel sorry for little Amy.
At nine my dad passed away. I believe this is what pushed me down the wrong path. My mom retreated back into alcoholism and anorexia, leaving my younger sister and brother, and I alone (at least that’s how we felt). As the years passed, my mom worked as much as she could to provide for us (which I am so grateful for), and I took on the role of “mom” at home. I watched the kids, worked with my mom (at 13 I was working as the head cleaner at a bed and breakfast), went to school and competed in sports. I had this desire to do everything and be the best as well. Try being top dog in gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, and track all while trying to take care of a family and go to school. That’s just insane! (And I was only 10-13 years old!)
My mom was remarried when I was 13, and it was around this time that I started engaging in anorexic behaviors. On top of my mom remarrying, my track coach expressed disappointment with my weight. He claimed I needed to lose weight to stay on the track team. I couldn’t take the pressure to be perfect and on top of that I was lonely and scared of failure. This drove me into Anamia’s arms. I lost my friends, my love for sports, my strength, my desire for life, my motivation in school, my creativity, and my passion for people, but the worst part is I lost myself. The happy, athletic, spontaneous, creative, fun Amy was slowly being pushed away. That’s what eating disorders accomplish.
I met my amazing husband, Colin, when I was 17. I hid my eating disorder from him for almost 5 years. When I finally told Colin all I could do was cry. I knew I needed help and if I didn’t receive it I was scared that my life would be cut short. This was one of the hardest steps I took towards recovery, but I realized support is crucial to getting better.
We moved two months later to Wilmington, North Carolina where I began out patient treatment. Financially, inpatient just wasn’t an option for me, but nothing was going to get in the way of my recovery. I worked hard, I stayed motivated, and I never gave up. This was my one chance at recovery. When my nutritionist gave me food goals I completed them. When my therapist asked me to open up and be honest I was. I stayed focused on my goal of recovery. And to be honest, there were days when I felt hopeless. I felt like it was impossible, but my support team helped me push through. I truly believe that if you have the motivation and determination to recover you can!
At the beginning of my recovery I learned to separate Amy from Anamia. Anamia could do what she wanted but Amy had the choice to follow her or defy her. I had to choose and eventually I always chose to defy her, so much so that her voice slowly went away and I instinctively knew what the right thing was to do. Every morning I would read quotes and positive thoughts that helped set me up for an Anamia free day. I would watch videos that Colin took of me when I was high on life and recovery. These videos reminded me of what I truly wanted. I even kept a calendar that I began January 2013 and ended December 2013. I used gold stars to represents days without Anamia, silver stars for days without Anamia that I completed on my own without Colin, blue stars meant I was meeting nutritional goals, and red stars (and after I ran out of red they turned into green stars) at first meant I was defying what Anamia wanted for me; as time passed, they represented doing things for myself. In January I had two gold star days. In December I had 31.
Today, I consider myself fully recovered! My life is amazing now. I don’t have eating disorder thoughts, I don’t act out eating disorder behaviors. I love my body and I love myself. I am passionate about living life to the fullest! I have discovered who Amy is and what Amy likes. I love to read, learn, write, bake, cook, garden, and ride bikes. I enjoy nature and being outside. I am passionate about animals and I love helping others. These are all things that I never enjoyed during my eating disorder. I couldn’t even sit down a read a book for longer than 10 minutes without my thoughts being directed towards food.
I also have relationships now that Anamia is gone (yes, real authentic relationships)! I enjoy my husband’s company, I have friends, I love talking to people. I can actually listen and engage in conversations when before that wasn’t possible.
Eating disorders are rampant in today’s society. The media’s portrayal of women and men is completely unrealistic. Each one of us is unique and has imperfections, and that is why we are all beautiful. Embracing those imperfections and recognizing we are all human is what helped me overcome feeling inadequate and not good enough.
Recovery is amazing! I know many people fear recovery. I did. Not knowing what could happen is terrifying, but realizing what could be is exciting and worth every moment. Recovery is something no one can ever take away from me and I am so grateful to have attained it.