Footprints on My Heart

17 Jun

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”

I first met Susan last summer, immediately after my stay at an inpatient center called Oliver Pyatt. My experience in inpatient treatment was difficult to say the least, but I was released before even finishing the weight gain component because my insurance never covered(claiming I was at a stable weight and needed no treatment whatsoever…). Needless to say, I went from 24-hour care and support to nothing. I moved to New York City to live with my aunt and struggled immensely. With no friends there and a raging eating disorder, I fell back into the starving and binging/purging obsession. I was miserable, lonely and suffering. I was afraid to admit it then, but not now: I was depressed and filled with hopelessness.

Before leaving inpatient, I contacted Susan to be my outpatient dietician and began seeing her the week after my move. My eating disorder hated her(and still does). Now, I adore Susan, but at the time, I was so consumed with the anorexia, I didn’t really have a true stance on my work with Susan. I was the anorexia and the anorexia was me. Anorexia loathed going to Susan, so so did I. But looking back now, I realize I could have easily quit going to my appointments. I wasn’t eating anyways, what in the world would I need a nutritionist for?

Yet I continued making the trek to Susan’s office on NYC’s upper east side every week. Recovered from an eating disorder herself, Susan provided me with one thing that my eating disorder has always tried to starve me of: hope.

After I took medical leave from college, I fell even deeper into my eating disorder. For months I isolated and I stopped having appointments with Susan- my illness consumed me and I thought I would never want to recover. That maybe other people could, but I didn’t have the potential. That I wouldn’t be able to cope at a higher weight; life would be miserable there. But, unlike the first round of weight loss when my eating disorder, I found, this time, as the pounds slipped away, so did my joy. When I got to my lowest point, my darkest day, I contacted the only person who I thought could possibly understand what I was going through-Susan. Of course, I feared she would refuse to work with me again because of my determination NOT to recover in the past. But her compassion on the phone surprised me. Through my tears on the phone, Susan said something that has had a thousand times the impact on my recovery than all the nutrition advice in the world: “Sweetie, it’s going to be okay. I promise. “

 Like an eating disorder, our work together is mainly not about the food. It’s about learning how to fill up my life again; anorexia “thinned” it out. Susan has showed me how much extra time I have to do fun, engaging activities when I’m not caught up in the ED whirlwind. These days, I am able to relax and step away from the eating disorder for longer and longer periods of time, replacing the obsessions with calling old friends, walking my dog, enjoying lunch with my mom, photography, volunteering, going to see movies, shopping, exploring museums, yoga, cooking, scrapbooking, traveling(and hopefully college soon!)…. She has taught me that food gives me nourishment to nourish myself.  I have learned to see food not as the enemy or the friend; it’s not something to avoid nor is it something to delve into for comfort when life gets messy. Instead of personifying food, making it the enemy, Susan has helped me see that proper nourishment is the path to the things I love in life.

My work with Susan is far different with “what was accomplished” during my time in an inpatient treatment center. At Oliver-Pyatt inpatient treatment center, I was monitored 24-hrs per day and forced to eat. I was a child again- all control was stripped away and when I left, it felt as though I didn’t know how to care for myself again. In stark contrast, Susan is gentle and centers our appointments around what I feel I need most help with, what is most important for MY recovery. Everything I have gained during this round in recovery has been sustainable because it is all at my pace.

I can truly say this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. With help from Susan, I am coming back to life. I believe I was meant to meet Susan and learn from her. Susan compassionately cared for me when I was a scared, thin little girl, when I couldn’t. From her kindness, sweet personality, creativity, experience, wisdom, and a little dash of whimsicality, I have grown immensely. My anorexia took hold a very long time ago. It’s a still difficult, but I started my recovery with Susan as a girl and I’m finally, finally learning to love the woman I am.

There is no doubt in my mind that Susan is one of the paramount reasons that today, I am alive (both literally and figuratively). Her words inspire me everyday. She has been a light of hope in the darkness of living with an eating disorder, a warm, comforting blanket when the world seems cold and drizzly, and a life preserver when I felt like I was drowning. But most of all, she has been a friend when I desperately needed one. I am incredibly thankful for all Susan has given to me. My life has been changed because she has left footprints on my heart.

If you wold like more information about my nutritionist, Susan Weiss Berry, and her unique approach to ED recovery and intuitive eating, please visit her website here. In addition, Susan posts daily inspirational quotes, mindfulness tips, and questions for self-reflection on her facebook page, Evolved Eating

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