Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Serving Montgomery County, Maryland. Specializing in the treatment of anorexia, binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise.
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):
Sarah: I developed an eating disorder when I was thirteen and by 14 I had spiraled into the black depths of the illness. I sought help, and by my own strength I was able to get a little better and maintain my life, but I was still engaging in disordered eating and exercise. I was high-functioning in some ways, but still struggling with my eating disorder for another four years before gradually starting to gain weight at around the age of 19. I gained a significant amount of weight, but this was short-lived, and my mental and physical health dramatically deteriorated between the ages of 19 and 21.
Jennifer: What do you think was the function of your eating disorder in your life?
Sarah: I think it was a method of control. It was a way of feeling powerful. It was a way of feeling like I was really good at something. I felt very average as a teenager, and it was my way of excelling at something. Even though I already had many talents, I just couldn't see them. And that something that I excelled at was the envy of a lot of girls (and later, to young women): to successfully lose weight. I felt so disciplined; so contained; so aloof. It made me feel special. I think there is a split between those who feel shame about their eating disorders, and so try to hide them, and those who feel pride. I felt pride. I felt like it set me apart from other people, and I felt like it made me strong. It didn't: it made me weak, and miserable, and powerless. It made me into a shell. It hollowed me out and swallowed so many of the good things about me.
Jennifer: Was there a turning point for you, where you really started to embrace the idea of recovery?
Sarah: I realized that I was going to have to choose between my eating disorder, and my partner at the time. I could not have a relationship with both. More importantly, I realized that I was going to have to choose between life and death. I felt so hopeless and desperate, and I felt like I could not go on. I was suicidal. I knew that I had to get out of the situation that I was in, and for me it felt like I had to opt out or opt in. I chose to opt in, and I started to make small steps towards recovery, that eventually turned into leaps and bounds.
Jennifer: What helped you get through the tough times in recovery?
Sarah: Knowing that there wasn't really an option to go back, because I knew exactly what that held for me. I didn't know what going forwards could bring, but I was willing to find out, however hard it was. I also knew that in order to live my life the way I wanted it, I had to be well. During my recovery, my partner at the time broke up with me. I was distraught, but it proved to me even more that I needed to move forwards. I couldn't have a healthy, happy relationship whilst I was unwell. I couldn't go traveling. I couldn't maintain my hobbies. I couldn't be anything but deeply depressed. And so I kept pushing forwards.
Jennifer: What was the most helpful for you in terms of your recovery?
Sarah: I came across Your Eatopia (now The ED Institute) when I was just getting into recovery and it was my lifeline throughout my recovery. I used the forums nearly every day and I don't know what I would have done without it.
Jennifer: If you could go back and talk to your younger self who was really struggling, what would you want to say to her?
Sarah: I'd love to think that there could have been something that would have prevented me living over ten years of my life with a torturous illness, but I'm not sure anything would have altered my course. In the end, I am who I am because of my experiences, and I would not change that for the world. Because of my eating disorder, I have learned not only to recover, but to completely reject diet culture and embrace health at every size in the process. I don't think without my eating disorder I would have come across the information that has freed me for life from the terrible consequences of believing in that culture and succumbing to it.
Jennifer: 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?
Sarah: I am happy. I am healthy. I am able to think. I am able to do. I am able to be. I am free to live my life in the way that I want to. My life is the opposite of living with an active eating disorder. That's not to say that everything is always peachy, because life is stressful. But I live in my own flat with my partner Josh, and we have a healthy, happy, well functioning relationship. I work full time in care with people with eating disorders. I have hobbies and interests which I am able to engage in. I FEEL good in my body. I FEEL well. There are no downsides to being recovered. Recovery is an intensely difficult journey, but it gives you your life and your self back, and the ability to discover new things about yourself and the world. It is, and will always be, the best thing that I ever did.
Jennifer: What are some of your favorite recovery resources? (i.e. books, articles, podcasts, etc).
The body positivity community on Instagram.
Megan Crabb's book Body Positive Power.
The ED Institute.
For an extensive list of all my favorite articles, book, social media sites etc, they are all listed under my website at everythingedrecovery.com/resources
Follow Sarah on Instagram @bodypositivepear
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
Check out Jennifer's new training "Finding Freedom from Binge Eating!"
I'm an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, MD.