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Tuesday, 28 July 2015
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"Therapy That Fits Me" (By: Sophie Gervais)

As I sit here writing and eating a cake pop, I find it hard to believe that only four years ago I was a hospitalized teenage anorexic. I was the pretty typical case, a normal girl who eventually became overwhelmed by her circumstances and resorted to mental illness to cope. And my parents… they were pretty typical too. They were extremely concerned, took off work, and set out on a journey to find the best available treatment for their fading daughter.  I was sent to several therapists and clinics in hopes of finding one I would talk to honestly, one that I clicked with. However, I was stubborn and afraid, and nothing made me want to get better, especially since I didn’t even see what the problem was. My parents finally stuck to a center because the therapist there said she truly believed in me.

Although I did begin to bond with her, I didn’t find my sessions helpful in the way they were supposed to be; I continued to starve myself and nothing she said would make me stop.  One afternoon after my session, my discouraged mom decided to take her and I out on a drive. She didn’t know where she was going but “something inside” made her keep driving.  When she stopped the car, we were at a family friend’s farm. She had all sorts of animals: donkeys, chickens, dogs, and, my favorite animal, horses. While my mom and her friend talked, I spent hours in the barn grooming Ginger, a mare that would soon become my best friend. We stayed until evening and I left unwillingly. On the drive back home, my mom said I had “a glow” and she hadn’t seen that in me in so long. I explained to her that being around horses made me feel calm and safe. Right then, my mom offered me a deal I just could not say no to: if I at least tried to eat my meals, she would bring me out to see Ginger.

At the time, I don’t think either of us expected this deal of ours to really change much, but, the more I saw Ginger, the more I wanted to keep going back so I could maybe even ride her one day. For the first time, I was opening up to my therapist and I would excitedly tell her where I was going after our session because I had eaten some cereal in the morning. Though recovery was not easy for me, nor for anyone, the support and motivation I found in a passion, I believe, was what encouraged me to overcome my anorexia. As I slowly began to eat more, I had more energy and could spend more time at the barn and eventually became strong enough to ride.

The overarching point I am trying to share is that, though traditional therapy is definitely helpful and provides a comforting routine for patients, therapy and motivation can come from so much more. My passion for horses encouraged me to be more open to medical treatment and being able to ride Ginger was the light at the end of the tunnel. Friends I caught up with years later whom I had met in the hospital told me that they too had delved into hobbies that they partially accredit recovering to; these interests included painting, gardening, religion and church groups, and even baking! These activities allow those suffering to invest their energy and thought into something more and better than their eating disorder. They can use their passions as healthy outlets for their distress; though professional medical help is important, a meaningful way to express your emotions can help you regain a sense of hope in your life and focus your energy somewhere other than your eating disorder, because, eventually, the less you feed its appetite (no pun intended) the less it will control you.

About the Author

Sophie Gervais is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying Psychology. She suffered from anorexia for 3 years but has made a full recovery and is determined to help others with the illness. Her goal is to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in eating disorders. Her hobbies include being an avid horse back rider, painting and drawing, and volunteering for various organizations.

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Posted on 07/28/2015 11:37 AM by Sophie Gervais
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Tuesday, 21 July 2015
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"Recovery Team" (By: Kristin F.)

I am coming up (in October) on three years since I began my recovery from bulimia. It has been a wild ride, full of a rollercoaster of emotions, beginning with desperation, leading to depression, to loneliness, to sadness, grief, hurt and pain, then suddenly, glimpses of happiness appear out of nowhere, and a seed of hope is planted for the future. Without even realizing that the change happened, there seemed to be more ups than downs, and the initial terror of what a life in recovery looked like had dissipated. I attribute much of this, first and foremost, to God, as I was gratefully brought to Nashville for a reason, where the recovery community is so strong and present. Secondly, I attribute much of the success in recovery that I have experienced to my recovery team. When I first began this journey, I had no idea how to ask for help. I was usually the person that was offering to help others, in order to distract from my own need for help. However, I quickly learned that in recovery, asking for help is VITAL to battling ED. 

Those of us who have been through/or are in recovery know that it can look different for anyone. For me, I did outpatient recovery, going to twice weekly therapy sessions, coupled with seeing a nutritionist and a doctor weekly/every couple of weeks. I went to recovery groups at least once a week for two years. I was exposed for the first time in my life, with all of my bruises on the outside instead of in. I learned that exposure isn't so bad, in fact, talking about it is the absolute best way to fight an eating disorder. I learned about self-care, past issues that I had never dealt with, tendencies that were destructive, and about loving who God had made me to be. I also learned that without this team around me, I would be lost. This became my Nashville recovery family. With no real family in town, I relied on the weekly commitments with my recovery team to provide an accountability and much needed structure to my life. I learned how important it is for me to be known and understood by others. I learned what it means to understand(ish) myself. 

Now that I am no longer in the depths of recovery, but learning to live on my own, on my own implying weekly therapy :), I have gotten out of the routine of talking in groups about my destructive thoughts, my weakness for ED, my susceptibility to the darkness of our world. I am fully transparent with my family and friends when I am struggling, so hiding is no longer a part of my everyday, but I still feel like I am in this 'in-between recovery and really knowing how to live life on my own' phase. I know that I can, and am, doing it, but I miss, in a weird way, recovery being at the center of my life.

I was reminded of why when I went to see my doctor the other day. She had been a part of my team from the beginning, knowing my story, helping me, talking through body responses to long-term bulimia, and just being there for me as a friend. I hadn't seen her in a couple of months and was feeling low that morning. When I started talking to her, she reminded me of where I had come from, and how I had already lived many lives within my one. I was reminded of what it felt like to be KNOWN, understood, and told it was OK to hurt. I was reminded how important it was for me to have a doctor that was sensitive to ED and the physical AND psychological effects of him. I was reminded that the relationships I had developed with my outpatient treatment team were so solid and good, life long, and most importantly, always there when I needed them. I was reminded that I was being taken care of, and to ask for help when I felt alone in my pain. So I guess I will never really live life on my own, but I don't think I am supposed to. I think that I was forced to learn how to be vulnerable so that I realized life isn't about being strong by yourself, but holding the hands of people who love you. 

Precious jewel, you glow, you shine, reflecting all the good things in the world. 

-Maya Angelou 

About the Author

Kristin is originally from North Carolina but has lived in Nashville, TN for the past three years and now calls it home. Upon going to college in Virginia, Kristin fell victim to bulimia and struggled with her eating disorder for six years. Two years ago, she confessed to her family (who were unaware of her struggle), that she needed help. Through outpatient treatment, under the care of her beloved therapist, caring nutritionist, compassionate doctor, and countless support groups through EDCT, Kristin was able to overcome her bulimia and find peace in her recovery. The openness and vulnerability that Kristin experienced within the support groups allowed her to relate with others and overcome the intense loneliness that was a result of her eating disorder. She is extremely sensitive to these issues, as she knows ED is always lingering around the corner. She hopes that her story of finally standing up to ED can help others. Lastly, Kristin has found that animals are a wonderful vehicle in recovery, as they allow for unconditional love, no matter your size. She recently adopted a pug named Rora who brings her great joy.

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Posted on 07/21/2015 11:20 AM by Kristin F.
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