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July 2, 2014

Connections: A Client’s Story

By Michelle, an Emily Program client

Welcome to my first blog post. My name is Michelle and I’ve been coming to the Emily program for almost 10 years for help in dealing with compulsive overeating, depression, and anxiety. When first asked about doing this blog I hesitated. I didn’t think I had anything special to say. But as I thought about it, I realized I have 3 good reasons for doing this:

  1. I have been through a lot but I’m not unique. All of us are dealing with similar things and I think many of you will be able to relate to some of my experiences. Treatment and therapy can be hard, but knowing you are not alone definitely makes it easier. I also promise to try and incorporate some humor –so be on the lookout for it. You may have to look closely…:)
  2. Doing this on a regular basis will help me reflect and think about my own recovery. It’s easy to get bogged down in my latest problems. This will help me think about things differently and from a different perspective.
  3. The Emily Program has literally saved my life and I want to give back. In the last few years there have been a couple of times when the pain got too big, the hope got too small and I just got too tired of fighting. I am still here today because of the connections I have made with counselors & friends at the Emily Program.

So enjoy the reading each month. Feel free to send in comments or questions and I’ll do my best to respond.


“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”Brené Brown

Connections are at the core of my recovery right now. The quote by Brene Brown sums it up perfectly.

My work friends used to call me the person who “didn’t need nobody for nothing.” We’d all laugh, but like many good jokes, it was funny because it was true. I worked full time, went to college full time, and raised my daughter with little family support and no close friends. It was the way things were and it was just the way I was wired. I’ve always said – I just did what I had to do because it needed to be done. For me – it meant doing things alone.

I grew up learning that people could not be trusted or relied on for practical things much less for emotional support or closeness. Connections with people could not be trusted and simply caused pain. It was safer, easier, calmer, and much more predictable to stay by myself, take care of myself, entertain myself and not need anything from anyone. So that became the way I lived my life. I learned to not need – and try and ignore emotions related to need. I convinced myself I didn’t need close relationships. I didn’t need help. I was independent and tough.

Of course, there are maybe one or two flaws in this otherwise rock-solid logic. 🙂 First – everyone needs help. Second – humans need closeness and caring – even me. SO, I ate to ignore and numb these underlying truths and the emotions I didn’t want to acknowledge.

Time passed and I gained weight, became more depressed, stayed busy, and was still sure I didn’t need anyone for anything. I lived behind a very tall, very thick wall with razor wire looped around the top of it – and I thought it was perfectly normal! Until about 4 years ago when I hit another “bottom” with my eating disorder and depression. The part of myself that had been living behind the wall had finally gotten sick of it and this was her way of telling me “enough is enough” – it is time for a change!

I came back to my counselor here at the Emily Program – but it didn’t seem to help. I needed more help so off to IOP I went. That helped but I was still struggling. I eventually ended up sharing things with my counselor from my childhood I’d never talked about before and my relationship with her started to feel different – we started to talk about connections and how I’ve always held myself apart from others in one way or another.

It turns out that is the key – connections. I look back now and can see how automatic it has been for me to hold people at a distance. In fact, I have been afraid to even connect with parts of myself associated with painful experiences from my past, painful experiences associated with my body image.

Making real connections is about allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable. To share your feelings and thoughts and be authentically yourself. I have to be honest – this scares the poo-poo out of me! (I hope I can say that in the newsletter!) I guess that’s why disconnection has been so appealing all of these years.

So much of what my eating disorder and depression do is keep me disconnected from other people and myself. It keeps me disconnected from my emotions, from my body, from sensations of hunger and fullness. It disconnects me from my truth, my history, my stories, my ability to recognize, accept and express my needs.

It disconnects me from myself. It disconnects me from you.

The Emily Program provides a place where we come together for the purpose of CONNECTION. So – I think we should get to it! Say hello in the lobby or the parking lot – take a risk and talk about something difficult in a group or with your counselor – check-in with a friend – take a deep breath and notice how your body feels – tell someone how you feel – come to the craft group on Saturday 7/14 – take a few minutes to be mindful while you are eating – do something for self-care – other ideas?

Take care of yourself.


Get help. Find hope.