June 2016 - Monthly News & Tips
IN THIS ISSUE
"The staff at The Emily Program made me feel safe and genuinely cared for. And I know they will help me out of this difficult time, and will continue to do so years and years after being symptom-free." - An Emily Program client
It is a joy to share my story of recovery from anorexia. Sharing it has a positive impact on my life. It helps me understand myself better and who I want to be in this world.
For me, there are four steps to full recovery from anorexia. I’m aware that each person with this illness has their own story of recovery; I’m aware this story is mine alone.
- The first important step of recovery from anorexia is getting fed. The core question is who will feed me? If you have anorexia, you cannot feed yourself as that is the essence of the illness. Will a friend, family member or treatment team feed you?
- Next, you must find a safe community. Where can I talk and truly be myself? Where can I accept this illness that I have in a safe and secure environment? Again, no one gets better from anorexia by himself. They must get fed and have a safe, supportive community to help them.
- The third part is getting good treatment. We are so fortunate now that there’s good treatment compared to when I was ill. Growing up in a time before evidence-based care and before the acknowledgement of males with eating disorders, it was much more difficult to get better.
- The last step is letting go of the secrets, shame, negative thoughts and feelings, and moving forward in your life with honesty and fullness. For me, anorexia is an illness of disconnection. There is a biological link that is broken between the body and the brain; thoughts and feelings; self and others; self and self. To be fully recovered is to reconnect all of these things.
My own experience of anorexia was similar to that often described in textbooks, with obsessions on size and shape, restriction and exercise. I was triggered by pictures of male rock stars in the media and found myself tumbling into a negative pattern without any sense of what was happening. I engaged in behaviors, lost weight and became physically ill. However, I continued to function daily and go to school for a while.
I soon hit a wall due to anxiety and was forced to drop out of medical school. Though I had no support whatsoever, I was fortunate enough to realize I could no longer function in my starved state. Quitting medical school was the best decision I made in my life.
Through a series of lucky breaks, I met my wife, Lisa. She was a college freshman who I immediately fell in love with and, for reasons beyond my comprehension, she also fell in love with me.
Fortunately for me, she was working her way through college as a chef. She insisted that I eat and if I didn’t, she wouldn’t continue her relationship with me. If I wanted her love, I needed to eat her food. I disliked her for making me do it. I yelled. I screamed and shouted, but I did it. And through her loving care, I was re-fed.
From there, I was able to return to med school and later graduate. My body was better, but my mind was not. Given her food and ecology specialties, Lisa moved us to a farm on Cape Cod where we grew and ate our own food in a community of co-workers.
On the farm, I not only had to eat food, I had to eat with others. I had to develop a tolerance for exposure. I had to figure out that people liked me regardless of who I was and soon developed a supportive community there.
After two years on the farm, I decided to go to psychiatry residency. It was then I learned that I didn’t understand my emotions and it was time to begin true treatment as to who I was. I began experiential-based therapy, which lasted for 10 years, and spent another five years in group therapy. By the age of 40, I finally was truly better and able to begin my work in the eating disorder field.
From there, fortune was on my side once again when I met Lucene Wisniewski, PhD, a pioneer in eating disorder treatment. Together, we created the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders, which is now part of The Emily Program.
In my work at CCED and The Emily Program, I learned to let go of my secrets. I realized if people wanted to know why I was working in eating disorders, I had to tell them the truth. I learned if I was authentic, I could be more myself. To be a better doctor, I had to be a better person.
Even though I was terrified, the more people I told about my eating disorder, the better my relationships became. My relationships with men improved and I was able to develop levels of intimacy that I hadn’t had before. It was then that I truly felt recovered.
Treatment became for me what I think it is today. We say to someone with anorexia, you have to eat first. Then, we will build a treatment community around you, pulling in family and friends so you get the support you need. Once you’re re-fed, we will offer therapy to help your issues with sadness and troubled relationships. And once you feel solid, go out into the world and tell your own story.
Recovery is an extraordinary journey that is different for everyone, but these four steps so many people carry in common.
Mark Warren, MD
Chief Medical Officer, The Emily Program
The Emily Program addresses common misunderstandings about eating disorders and related issues in our Did You Know section.
At least 1 out of every 10 people with an eating disorder is male. In fact, within certain diagnostic categories like Binge Eating Disorder, men represent as many as 40 percent of those affected.*
In a recently released report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, boys and men were cited as one of the groups seeing the fastest rise in eating disorders in the past 10 years, along with 8-12 year olds and ethnic minorities. That’s why it’s equally important to screen for eating disorders among females and males.
Susel Depinoy, Admissions Specialist, The Emily Program's St. Paul, MN location
Susel Depinoy joined our team last August as an admissions specialist. The Emily Program was a great fit for her because she wanted the chance to interact directly with clients and feel as though she was making a difference in someone’s life.
And, that’s exactly what she’s doing today. As our clients’ first point of contact at TEP, Susel engages them, educates them on our services and breaks down barriers to advocate for their care.
“I have the privilege of being the first point of contact for any new client,” she said. “I listen to their concerns and I get to help them make the first step towards recovery. It’s sometimes hard to listen to someone struggling, but it’s rewarding to know that they have made the brave first step towards recovery by calling TEP and knowing that I assisted in a very small way!”
Susel graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Learn more about Susel and why we think she stands out!
TEP: What can incoming patients expect during that first phone call?
Susel: They can expect to speak to someone who is warm and empathetic, someone who will listen to their concerns and offer them hope. The admissions team knows how hard it can be for someone to pick up the phone and make that very first call for help, and we are here to applaud them in their bravery. During that first phone call, the admissions specialist will talk with our clients about what they are experiencing, answer questions, open a medical chart, conduct a preliminary level of care assessment, and connect them to the site to schedule their first appointment.
TEP: What’s one tip you can offer new patients?
Susel: Trust that all the staff you will encounter at The Emily Program, whether over the phone or in-person, from the front-desk staff to the medical doctors, will always have your best interests in mind.
TEP: Any interesting hobbies?
Susel: I am very passionate about animals and sit on the board of a local nonprofit called Dogs of A Good Society. Our mission is to assist animals in need by providing resources (food, financial assistance, etc.)
In St. Paul, MN:
Tuesday, July 12: Begins at 6:30 p.m. at 2265 Como Avenue • St. Paul, MN 55108
In Cleveland, OH:
Thursday, July 14: Begins at 6:00 p.m. at 25550 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 200 • Beachwood, OH 44122
In Seattle, WA:
Wednesday, July 20: Begins at 6:00 p.m. at 1700 Westlake Avenue North, Suite 700 • Seattle, WA 98109
View all 2016 Recovery Nights in Ohio, Washington, and Minnesota.
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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. -Helen Keller