Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Serving Montgomery County, Maryland. Specializing in the treatment of anorexia, binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise.
Welcome to my new blog series, "Recovery Stories," where I will share interviews with people who identify as strongly in recovery or fully recovered. I hope that this inspires hope for those who are still struggling with an eating disorder.
Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about your struggle with an eating disorder (please avoid numbers of graphic descriptions of behaviors, so as not to trigger my readers):
Pepper: The development of the eating disorder was a perfect storm. I was genetically and environmentally predisposed, I had a family history of mental illness and addiction. On my Dad’s side of the family I had aunts, half-sisters and cousins with eating disorders and on my Mom’s side other mental illnesses and addictions. I had a personality temperament that made me anxious, perfectionistic, persistent and emotionally sensitive. I developed mononucleosis when I was 12 years old and I was sick for many months.
I also began puberty at this age and did not like the body parts I acquired as I received unwanted attention from a male cousin and as a result I rejected my body. I began not feeling good enough in all areas of my life, I hated myself, I felt depressed and emotionally raw. My peers would make comments about my body and scrutinize what I ate. In an attempt to be healthy, I started eating less and discovered that it numbed my emotions. I suffered in silence for five years, until I hit a breaking point and I wrote a letter to my doctor explaining my mental anguish and body distortions. This led to an eating disorder diagnosis when I was 17 years old. A few months after I was diagnosed my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and I spiraled out of control. I went to five treatment centers in four years and became fully recovered in 2010.
Jennifer: What do you think was the function of your eating disorder in your life?
Pepper: As a teenager I was confused about my sense of identity, I was afraid to be myself, I didn’t know who that was and I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. I was a highly sensitive, I took rejections from boys I liked, personally and thought there was something wrong with me. The eating disorder helped me numb the inadequacy and raw emotions that I felt.
Jennifer: Was there a turning point for you, where you really started to embrace the idea of recovery?
Pepper: My Dad was dying from cancer and he was doing everything he possibly could do to live. Although, I never chose to have an eating disorder just like my Dad never chose to have cancer, I could make a choice to be an active participant in my recovery. I decided to throw my hands up in the air and commit 100% to letting go of the eating disorder forever.
Jennifer: What were some of your motivations in terms of pushing yourself in recovery?
Pepper: I knew that there was a better life out there for me, I was unwilling to settle that I would have an eating disorder for the rest of my life like my family members. I wanted to have a career, get married and have kids and I knew that those things would not be enjoyable or possible if I kept the eating disorder.
Jennifer: What was the most helpful for you in terms of your recovery (i.e. specific skills, tools, treatment etc)?
Pepper: Journaling – writing down my thoughts and feelings was freeing, it was a way to get the eating disorder thoughts out of my head and to quiet the eating disorder voice.
Collaging – I would create vision boards of goals and how I wanted my life to be, looking back many of these vision boards came true.
Affirmations – I would write affirmations such as "my worth is not my weight," and “I am enough” and place them all over my bedroom walls and on my mirror, I looked at them every day, they helped rewire my brain.
Putting full faith in others and treatment team – I knew I couldn’t see or think clearly and I needed to trust others to see for me until one day in the future when I could see clearly again.
Jennifer: If you could go back and talk to your younger self who was really struggling, what would you want to say to her?
You are not alone. Just because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and recovery feels impossible, if you keep fighting and never give up, one day you will be fully recovered. All of the hard work you are putting into recovery will be worth it.
Pepper: How is your life in recovery (or recovered) different from your life in an eating disorder? What would you say are some of the benefits of being recovered?
I have been fully recovered for 8 years meaning I have not had an Ed thought or used a behavior to cope with life for 8 years. I can see myself clearly, having an eating disorder is a thing of the past and nothing could trigger me back into it.
I know that I am a worthy person who is good enough. I have a solid sense of my identity and who I am. People’s opinions of me do not influence the thoughts I have about myself.
I never thought is a million years that I could ever recover from an eating disorder. Let alone work in the field and now help and inspire people that they too can be fully recovered.
I do not regret having had an eating disorder, if anything I am grateful because I have had incredible opportunities to help others, I know that this is what I was meant to do, this is my life purpose.
Jennifer: What are some of your favorite recovery resources? (i.e. books, articles, podcasts, etc).
Pepper: “Life without Ed” and “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me” by Jenni Schaefer – These books were instrumental in my recovery.
Stay posted for the next installation of the "Recovery Stories" series. Feel free to comment some of your favorite recovery mantras or affirmations below.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
Jennifer also offers online trainings for professionals on eating disorders and body image issues.
I'm an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, MD.