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For as long as I can remember, my life has been directed by two things: My weight and food. I always wanted to be thin because in my mind thinness was equal to acceptance. As a little girl, I constantly compared myself to my friends. I was never the “skinniest” and I hated that. At age 11, I went on my first diet with my mother. I lost weight very quickly, and people took notice. The compliments were addictive…” Wow, Sarah you look so good” ….” Someone is losing their baby fat” ….” Sarah is really coming into her own” … I was hooked. I’d never felt such confirmation. And so, I started my new life as a “dieter.” I tried all the fad diets and my weight yo-yoed for years. My relationship with food was horrible. My relationship with the scale was even worse.

By my fifteenth birthday all thoughts and actions revolved around food. The servings on my plate were tiny and I would run for miles a day to burn off what little calories I consumed. I was officially out of control. My clothes hung off me, my periods stopped completely; I looked skeletal. My mother took me to my pediatrician for my yearly exam and he exclaimed “if you continue like this you are going to die. “He urged my mother to seek professional help for me immediately.  I agreed to go to treatment and my mother set an appointment with my very first therapist.

She was sweet, but not very knowledgeable about eating disorders. She did not ask me to meet with a nutritionist. Instead, she and my parents developed a plan to fill the home with candy, cakes, chips, anything I used to eat that was full of calories and unfortunately lacking nutrients. I wanted to succeed in treatment. I have always been a people-pleaser and wanted to make my parents proud. I ate what was asked of me and more. I carried around a book bag full of chips, snack cakes and chocolate. This is how I learned to binge. I would eat all day. Many times, to a point of extreme discomfort. My parents were elated. My therapist praised me for my efforts. It was not long after my weight restored that I was considered “recovered”. My weight was back to normal, so all was well, right? My therapist and parents agreed I was “cured” and no longer in need of treatment….so I stopped going….

….and I continued to binge. I learned it could be just as mind-numbing as restriction. My weight climbed to a point that was unhealthy for me. I felt totally out of control. My eating disorder told me I could take it back by purging. This took various forms: either by restriction, over-exercise or making myself throw up. For years and years, I found myself in a binge/restriction cycle. Over time I assumed it was normal; and because I did not look emaciated my behaviors went unquestioned. This is how I lived for most of my life. I was detached and isolated. As far as I was concerned, this was good enough.

Time went by and I lived my life, but I was bound by the rules set by my eating disorder.  A few years after I got married my husband and I decided we wanted to try to have a baby. I had a very difficult time getting pregnant. At the time I could not see the correlation between my weight and infertility. I assumed I was unable to get pregnant without medical intervention. I started fertility meds and eventually got pregnant. At first, I thought I would be fine, that my maternal instincts would over-come my disorder. Certainly, I would be fine with the weight gain for the sake of my baby, I thought.

How wrong I was.

I found myself in a very dangerous place after I conceived. I lost weight my first trimester due to morning sickness and something inside me snapped. Terrified of weight gain, I became very restrictive. I could not eat what I needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Around my third month of pregnancy I realized what a bad situation I was in. I spoke to my doctor about the severity of my situation. She told me about a program in Wilmington that specifically treated eating disorders. She referred me to Chrysalis, thank God.

I started to see a therapist and nutritionist regularly. I was amazed at the difference in this treatment episode! They were so knowledgeable and capable! For the first time in my life, I felt understood, I felt hope.

I would love to say that I was immediately healed and gained the weight recommended for a healthy pregnancy, but anorexia is a very powerful disease. I was still underweight when I gave birth. I was anemic throughout my pregnancy and was very thin. Thankfully, I carried my son to term and he was born at a healthy weight. We were very lucky.

When my son was born I was determined to breastfeed which made meeting my treatment goals very difficult.  Over-whelmed with caring for a newborn, I clung to my disorder for comfort. After months of this with no improvement I realized I may need a higher level of care. I spoke to my nutritionist about inpatient…but after we spoke I realized going away would mean being away from my precious baby for months. I would miss his first words, his first steps. But then I had a thought that turned out to be the reality check I needed: I was going to miss out on all those things and so much more if I didn’t step it up in treatment.

 

So, I did the work. I pushed myself even when I thought I had nothing to give. Little by little I started making progress. I learned to cope with my disorder. I gained tools, faced my fears, and rediscovered who I am without anorexia. One day my nutritionist told me about a film called “Embrace.” It taught me about appreciating my body for what it can do rather than what it looks like. I never thought about it that way. I’d always seen my body as purely ornamental. I can now appreciate and love my body for its capabilities! For the first time in my life I am living!  I am eternally grateful to my counselor, my nutritionist, and the Chrysalis Center. They played a monumental part in helping me get my life back. In the past two years I have started to learn to love myself unconditionally. There are no words to express the value in that. I will continue to push myself and work toward a life that is free from my disorder because it is worth it! I am worth it!

 



Today’s story comes from a man who wants to take an opportunity to share his journey regarding how his obsession with nutrition became one of his life’s struggles and how he was able to overcome the issues that developed.

Growing up as a kid, athletic performance was at the very top of my life’s priority list.  I was taught that dedication and extreme discipline would allow me to separate myself from my peers and help me reach greater goals.  These principles proved to be true as I saw success in high school and college athletics.  After college, I no longer had competitive basketball to fulfill my drive, so I turned to a focus on working out and weight lifting.  I had always lifted weights but now I was doing it for different reason.  Previously, the motivation was performance based, but now there was more of an aesthetic motivation.  I implemented my dedicated and disciplined characteristics into this endeavor and found that nutrition played a huge role in helping to meet my goals.  Soon enough, the “health” component would prove to be the unhealthiest aspect of this hobby.  I became obsessed with every calorie and I wouldn’t let myself deviate, even the slightest bit.  Additionally, my friends and family came to admire this level of discipline, adding pressure to my situation.  I felt like I had a reputation to uphold as everyone was looking to me for nutrition and advice on health.  As this situation progressed, an important observation should be noted – my performance, mood, and energy all began to suffer, creating even more of a toxic situation.  Eventually, I caved.  One Sunday afternoon, I ate more calories in 6 hours than I typically would in 3 days.  The psychological effects from this binge were the worst part.  This continued on and off for a little less than a year.  During that time, food began to take over the majority of my thoughts and I felt imprisoned – it was awful.  I was constantly in a state where I was either trying to undo the damage from a binge by frantically working out for hours, or I was in continuous thought about how I would prevent the next binge.  In due course, I sought professional help and learned how to prevent these binges, but more importantly I learned how to relieve my mind from obsessing about food.

I spared a lot of details, but I wanted to share this quick story for a few different reasons.  I think it’s important that people realize that eating disorders can affect people of all different shapes and sizes.  I was doing my worst, when I was physically looking my best.  I was striving for “perfection” while I should’ve been striving for balance.  Since altering my mindset, I have been much happier and healthier physically and mentally.  Also, I can’t stress enough, the importance of seeking help.  Understanding the how and why wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of someone who had professional experience in this space.   I encourage anyone who is struggling to seek guidance – every problem has a solution!



Our story today comes from a woman who shows us that recovery is a journey that IS possible. Are you ready to start your journey to recovery

 

NEDA week has finally arrived, and this year, the initiative is “Come As You Are.”  When I take a closer look at the theme, my focus is drawn to the action word that begins the phrase, “come.”  To me, recovery is largely about action.  A wise therapist once told me that to get different results, you have to do different things…aka make changes.  Easier said than done when most people, including myself, would rather spend decades deciphering ancient hieroglyphics than change.  So, why do it?  What’s the point of recovery?  And really, what is this fabled recovery?

 

To understand what recovery truly is, I believe that we have to take a serious inventory.  Don’t worry, you will not be subject to any management accounting quizzes.  By inventory, I mean more of a self-analysis.  A lot of people share what recovery is like for them, discussing what they have endured and how life is better for them now, after achieving recovery.  But I have trouble translating others’ stories in to something tangible for me.  Their experience is theirs, my life is mine.

 

This is where the inventory comes in handy.  Recovery is meaningless unless it applies to you, so make it applicable to you.  Honestly analyze all aspects of your day, your life, your health and your physical/emotional/mental well-being.  Caution: self-analysis takes work, and time (therapy is critical here)…but again, we can’t make worthwhile changes unless we have an accurate understanding of what we have, and what we need.

 

Once you have a clear inventory, aka a snapshot of your current status, you can be really truthful with yourself.  Think: is this what I want for myself?  Am I happy?  Do I feel good?  How do I relate to people around me?  Are there limits I need to enact anywhere?   Am I setting myself up for meaningful connection with others, and myself?  Only you can answer these, and many other questions.  The answers then become the bedrock for your recovery and your why.

 

Your “why” is your motivation, your reason(s) for making adjustments.  And it’s OK if your why morphs over time.  It’s yours…it can be whatever you want.  But make sure it’s something that you can cling to during challenges.  This is the logic behind taking action, making change, coming as you are…you aren’t going to do it unless you have a strong reason why and an understanding of what needs to be done.

 

Turning away from an eating disorder is slow, grueling work.  Day after day, hour after hour, decisions must be made that either align with your why, or not.  Recovery for me is an in-the-trenches process where I force myself to choose the path that’s parallel with my why, NOT the eating disorder.  I have to be gritty and stubborn and remain focused on the foundation of my new actions.  It helps to ask for help, to be surrounded by support and reminded that I’m not alone, because I’m not.  The first step, along with every subsequent step, has to start with you.  You have to come as you are, and you definitely can.  Choose life, I promise that it’s worth it.

 

 



Today we share the second client story in the series for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week where we are asked to “Come As You Are” to share stories about all types of eating disorders. 

Three stays and three diagnoses later (anorexia, EDNOS, and bulimia) and I am here to tell the tale. Why? I am not sure, but by the grace of God. It has been a long battle. One that still isn’t over. But as I am now, I can promise it gets better with time, distance, and healing.

 

I don’t really know where to begin. I guess the beginning would make sense but that goes way back. To paint a clear picture I’ll start in middle school. The other kids are outside at recess. I am stuck in the classroom pushing food around which I dare not eat. You see, the teachers and my parents have already had the conversation. The one that says “your daughter isn’t eating.” I’m in the middle of a long, serious, battle with anorexia. At the time I would not confess nor admit it to myself and certainly not to anyone else. This battle continues for years on end. Fast forward. I am 18-yrs-old. I walk through the doors at Chrysalis, terrified. There I am officially diagnosed. Fast forward again. I just graduated college at age 22. Time for a long seven-month inpatient stay at a treatment center. Tubes come and go, and finally I am released. Mentally still really struggling but physically going through the motions of being okay. It doesn’t last though. I ship off again. This time to a place called Castlewood for six months, but who is counting? Again, I go through the motions. Even begin to heal. Again, I become sick. I go back. Third time’s the charm? I hope so.

Now, I walk through the doors at Chrysalis, but not because I am starving, purging, working out to the point of exhaustion, or using a multitude of other negative coping strategies. I walk through the doors not because all I can think about is food and calories; I walk through those doors because I want life rather than mere existence. I want to be the best version of myself possible. I want to be a better woman than I was yesterday. And, I want to understand yesterday’s pain more deeply. I walk through those doors not because I am isolated and all alone. I walk in because I have so many dear friends who are in the battle, too. So many beautiful souls, who like me, do not deserve the cards they have been dealt.

Life isn’t fair or easy. But I am glad I have life. Now, on the bad days I skip meals and fight with my wardrobe. On the good days, I am truly learning to love myself inside and out. I am still waiting for the body image piece to get better. I believe it will. Everything else has. I am no longer anxious every time I sit down to eat. I no longer just go through the motions. Hell, sometimes I even enjoy food. I smile and mean it. I use my voice over my actions to tell people when I am not okay. And I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. And so, I come through those doors as I am. Not as I was. Nothing more, nothing less than I am here and now. That’s all I can do. I invite you to do the same.



Chrysalis Center is proud to participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week again this year. Every year, the last week of February, NEDA strives to create awareness about all forms of eating disorders in an effort to promote healing, provide resources and education, and to help the general public become more aware of the spectrum of eating disorders so those suffering from the disease can find a path to full recovery.  

This year’s theme is “Come As You Are”. NEDA wants all those who have or had an eating disorder to have a voice and share stories, so we are happy to provide a platform for people to do that. This week – we will share stories written by clients who want to help others. Just like eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, so will our stories. Do you have a story to share? Has your journey just begun? If you need help along the way, please contact our office and we’ll be happy to help you find your path to recovery.

MY ED STORY

Journey is often described as an act of traveling from one place to another.  What you are about to read is my personal journey of overcoming my eating disorder.  I remember the first time I sat down with a professional, I told them that I didn’t have an eating disorder but that sometimes I stress eat.  That statement is so far from what I know now to be true.  I was at a point in my life where binge eating had consumed my emotions; my every thought; and, controlled most of my decisions.  What was I going to have at this meal?  Would I have enough food to last me through the work day?  I’m stressed, so I “need” to eat this to help me calm down.  These never ending thoughts held me captive for so long, and I didn’t even realize it at that point in time.  I had tried all the “diets” and exercise programs to help me become a healthier version of myself.  All it led me to was more binge eating, more shame and guilt, and a lower sense of self worth.

When I started seeking help, I was numb emotionally, but open minded and motivated to change.  Meeting with the registered dietitian completely changed my life, and I am so grateful for it.  Lesson 1: add a grain to my meal.  Lesson 2: add a vegetable or fruit to my meal.  I thought, “alright, how hard can that be?”  Slowly, but surely each lesson I learned created a foundation that is now my plan for living and eating mindfully each meal of the day.   Upon each lesson, I was able to gain confidence and control with what I was eating.

When I started, I would think, “well I’m not giving up this or I’m not giving up that” and the dietitian would say, “I’m not asking you to, I just want to try this or this.”  This mindset was life changing for me because it took away the “all or nothing” and “black or white” principles I had been living within my whole life.  Over time, I was able to shift my mindset to become more forgiving when I ate something that didn’t make my body feel as good, feel less guilty about enjoying a brownie or cookie for a friend’s birthday, and live an overall healthier lifestyle in which my body felt good and enabled me to do more things physically.

I remember one morning recently eating a fast food breakfast biscuit while I was on the road. While I didn’t have any guilt or shame, I found that I missed the fruits and grains that were in my day-to-day routine and that I actually preferred these newfound foods that didn’t exist within my day-to-day prior to overcoming my eating disorder.  Throughout my sessions, my dietitian also assisted me with figuring out that tomato based sauce was contributing to my IBS.  So we tried switching me to white sauce pizza which made a huge impact on decreasing my IBS symptoms, and the amount I have to take my medication for these symptoms decreased significantly.  I also found that this mindfulness and flexibility from within my food choices started flowing over into other areas of my life, so I began enjoying exercise, because I did it my way by taking classes that were my style rather than following what society told me I had to do or should be doing.   It also led me to feel my emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant) when I had been masking them for so long by eating them away.  The ability to actually feel, process, and manage my emotions more effectively allowed me to grow into and become my true self within my personal life.

I am now recovered from my eating disorder, but I am still involved with counseling and nutrition guidance so that I can maintain living my healthiest mind, body, and soul.  The journey can be long, rocky, trying, confusing, and overwhelming, but what I can say is that when you stick with it and find your peace, it is so freeing.  You gain a clarity that is beyond what you would ever imagine.



This guest blog is written by a client who wishes to share her thoughts…

Sometimes I have to ask, “Is there something in our water?” Something that makes it okay to comment on someone else’s body? Something that affirms that “beauty is only skin deep”?

I have been pondering these ideas after a recent interaction I had on a dating site, using the dating site account profile that I set up years ago. I recently got back on the site and had not yet updated my profile. (It is now up to date: the “sick” me is not one I want to flaunt. Not only is it not a realistic representation of what I look like anymore, it also brings up old memories. Memories better left in the past.)

While updating my profile I was struck by how few recent photos of myself are included in my photo albums. Why is this? The shame of my new body. I avoid the camera at all costs. Not because I am so worried about other people who are obviously drinking tainted water, but because I am only human and I must confess: I drink water, too. I am filled with embarrassment every time I see my reflection. It just doesn’t fit what I am feeling on the inside or what I have been through in the past.

That’s the key point here: it was in the past. My past not my present. A lot has changed since then. Not just my body. Being in recovery has changed my body of course but it has also changed my life. And while I struggle with body image daily I would not return to my past for a chance to be in my “sick” body.

Sure, on days like today it seems extremely tempting to return to old patterns. I found this out all too quickly as I casually skipped breakfast this morning. The thing is – it was not casual or unimportant. It was intentional. A direct choice influenced strongly by another.

Which brings me back full circle to the dating site and profile I mentioned earlier. So, I was talking to this man, right? As people often do on dating sites. One thing led to another and we set up a time to meet. Before the conversation ended, he asked to see more photos. I agreed and shared my personal Instagram username.

After several minutes he returned to the conversation. He commented to me on “how drastic a change your body appears to have been through.” He continued, “you’ve gained a lot of weight.” My heart sank. And he is right: my body is no longer the same body I had then.

My body is now one filled with life and not just an empty shell that I wear.

Rest assured, the date is off. But today I have to pick up the pieces left behind by that conversation. Today I have to be strong. Today I have to make the choice for recovery, which is more challenging than it was yesterday. Today I remind myself that he is only human. That though what he said hurt me, I will not let it throw me back down the rabbit hole I once lived in. Today I hold both: the fact that what he said was true and that what he said was extremely wrong and inappropriate.

I hold hope today. Hope that he learns to think before he speaks. Hope that he does not so badly offend someone else. And mostly, I hold hope for myself. That I can learn to accept my body as my own and embrace it. That I can stand tall and proud of the person I have become. Because truly, I am the only person who knows the depth of what I have been through. I did not share with him that I am in recovery from a severe eating disorder. Nor did I share how hurt I was and am by his words.

Let me leave you with these two things: Have hope, it honestly gets better. And, think twice before you drink our society’s tainted water.



Chrysalis Center is happy to welcome Sarah Voegtle, RD, CSSD, LDN to our staff. Sarah joins our team of dietitians to provide expert nutrition counseling to our clients. She is now accepting new clients and is in-network with BCBS and United Healthcare. I asked Sarah a few frequently asked questions that I often hear from prospective clients when they are considering meeting with a registered dietitian.

What populations do you serve as a dietitian?

I am a board certified specialist in sports nutrition and I have extensive experience in eating disorders. However, as a dietitian I am trained and able to see all ages and genders. I have experience with weight management, diabetes management, eating disorders, GI disorders, food allergies/food intolerance, immune disorders, and renal nutrition.

What is your approach to nutrition counseling?

I have a non-diet approach to nutrition counseling. I firmly believe that all foods can fit into any eating plan and there are no bad or forbidden foods. I strive to empower my clients to help improve their mental and physical health.

I already know what I should eat, why should I see a dietitian?

Most people have some baseline nutrition knowledge. However, a dietitian is the expert in all things food and nutrition. Dietitians base their practice on solid, science-based, peer-reviewed research and likely can add another dimension to your nutrition knowledge.  Additionally, seeing a dietitian gives you someone to help you with accountability. People who consistently see a dietitian see better and more long-lasting results.

What can I expect to happen during a nutrition therapy appointment? 

The first appointment will be an assessment where I’ll gather information about you and your past to best assist you in reaching your goals. Together, we will work on achievable and timely goals. Likely you will be given work to complete in between sessions to help with the continuation of nutrition therapy into your everyday life.

How can my overall health improve by seeing a dietitian?

Food really is the best medicine. A dietitian can help give you individualized eating plans and tips in order to help you be your best self both mentally and physically. Improved eating may help improve sleep, energy, mood, self-confidence, medical conditions and symptoms.

 

 

If you’re ready to schedule your first appointment with Sarah, please call our office at (910) 790-9500 today.



I learned how to shuffle cards when I was 15 years old in September of 1996. What a strange talent to remember exactly when I acquired the skill. But I have distinct memories of sitting with my mother for hours on end at the dining room table that still sits in her house off Middle Sound Loop Road in Ogden. We sat at that table with the windows open and the late summer heat filling our house with no fans and only sunlight in the day and candles or flashlights at night. I learned how to shuffle cards then because my mom and I played cards for hours on end to pass the time away during and after Hurricane Fran hit Wilmington, NC that year.

Fast forward 22 years to a different house on the other end of the county and there I sat, trying to teach my seven-year-old son how to shuffle UNO cards at our coffee table while waiting for Hurricane Florence to pass over our house. Although 2018 brought many technological advances and privileges to waiting out a storm that weren’t possible before the turn of the century, many things were similar during this hurricane: Waiting is painful when the end of a disaster is not yet in sight. Fear is crippling when wondering what the next hour will bring with howling wind, rising water, and threats of tornados. Nerves are shot when people are exhausted and scared, and resources are hard to come by. But the resilience of a community is stronger than any storm when strangers and neighbors come together to get a city back on its feet.

Whether you stayed or evacuated, it’s safe to say that Monday, September 10 was the last “normal” day in Wilmington. The following day, schools closed, evacuations were made, houses were boarded up and the most precious documents and family heirlooms were packed up or put up to prepare for the impending storm. By Wednesday, September 12 – you knew if you were staying or going. My family stayed. My family, a mix of people who are all natives of southeastern North Carolina for all the generations known to us, stayed put.

And we waited… Remnants of the storm started to reach us Thursday, we went outside in the eye Friday morning, and then Florence stalled. She sat and hovered for what felt like a week. Just when we thought she was moving away, the tornados started. As if she hadn’t wreaked enough havoc up and down the NC Coast, Florence continued in her furry with new disasters. I lost track of what day it was, but it wasn’t really safe to even get out Sunday; and even then, our community resembled something out of the Twilight Zone more than what we usually see while driving or walking down familiar roads.

It was painful and heartbreaking driving around right after the storm passed. Power lines were down everywhere, flooding had started, and trees that looked like they would stand the test of time crumpled around neighborhoods, houses, and buildings. Parking lots that have never flooded had 2 feet of water with white caps flowing through them. Neighborhoods that have never experienced standing water were suddenly under feet of flash flooding and people were escaping homes by way of boat or helicopter in the middle of the night. Nights were eerily black when most were still without power, and after all the bands of the storm finally passed, the stars shined brighter than I’ve ever seen from my house because man-made power wasn’t there to obstruct their brilliance. It’s a strange roller coaster of emotions to go from doing nothing but waiting to finding anything to do to help anyone.

Neighbors that I never met came over to ask if we needed help. An old friend who lives on my street brought a chainsaw to my house, and when I told him the downed tree could wait, he said he had to do something, so we shared memories of past while we cut and carried that tree to the mounting debris pile. 

People who had no power but generators cooked for people that had nothing. Volunteers signed up at multiple distribution locations to serve meals and pass out donated items to help people who lost everything. Churches opened their doors to crews from out of state who came as soon as their trucks were allowed in the area.

I came up to the office everyday after I could get here to bail water that came in and mitigate any more possible damage that could come. And every day, I saw more help on the roads. Military planes landed in Hanover Center’s parking lot that had rescued people from their homes. Organizations had huge tents set up in other parking lots to distribute tons of donated items to anyone who could come get them. The Cajun Navy volunteers left their place of safety far away and came with trailers of rafts and Jon boats to rescue people and animals from homes completely submerged. It’s humbling to drive around and see strangers who’ve come to help people whom they’ve never met in a city where they’ve never traveled, all because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

Power is (for the most part) restored. Little by little, water is receding, and blue tarps decorate tops of houses all over the city. Grass that was submerged is now visible, but brown. Debris piles are in front yards of almost every home in the city. The mosquitoes have arrived with furor and other critters will soon as well. But, I hope and pray that the resilience, hope, and compassion that has swept over our community is here to stay.

Right now, there are two types of people: those who have what they need, and those who don’t. If you need something, use the resources that are available to help you. This is not a time for pride to well up in you if you are in need or have lost everything. Organizations are still distributing food, disaster food stamps are now available, food banks are stocked to provide non-perishable food items to families, and shelters are still available in the affected counties. If someone asks you if they can help – LET THEM. If you have what you need – find out how you can help someone else. Do you have an extra room that someone can stay in? Can you provide transportation for someone whose car flooded? Can you cook for a family who can’t afford to buy groceries to replace the ones they lost? Do you have, or can you purchase clothes, cleaning supplies, canned goods, hygiene products, diapers, formula, or any other of the many items people need right now? Can you help someone who isn’t able clean up their yard to get the debris out in time for the first pass? Can you go to a neighbor’s house and listen – just listen – to them process all of their emotions that haven’t yet surfaced after the storm? If you can – DO IT.

In the years that followed 1996, the people in our area would refer to places, houses, trees, and big events as “before Fran” or “after Fran”. I imagine that same thing will happen this time. Our city won’t look the same after Florence and there’s a good chance our lives won’t be the same. But just like we pulled through Hurricane Fran and our area boomed in population and economy, I believe Southeastern North Carolina will overcome this storm too.

I can’t help but wonder what my son’s most specific memory from Hurricane Florence will be years from now. I wonder if it will be something disastrous or something extraordinary that happened.

Maybe it will be that he learned how to shuffle cards.

 

Alexis Hunter oversees all marketing, outreach, and human resources at Chrysalis Center. 


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The Olympics. From the opening ceremonies to the tally of medals, the Olympics is an event we love to watch. The Olympics represents the culmination or continuation of a dream for each athlete attending. A dream that often consumes their lives. And, at times, a dream that causes harm.

As Gracie Gold took a break from ice skating in January, she identified that she needed to pursue treatment for her mental health, broadly, and an eating disorder, more specifically. While we can applaud the courage it took for her to take a break and focus on her wellness, we can also question the environment in which she participated that brought her to that point.

Health, Exercise, and Culture

As a country, we idolize exercise. In fact, attitudes and trends have shifted from women being as focused on “thinspo” to being focused on “fitspo.”  Research also shows that males are being pressured to have “fit” bodies, as well- with an emphasis on bulk and definition. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to see several clients in the same day mentioning they simply want to be “fit” and the role of “healthy” eating and “healthy” exercise to accomplish those goals.

Of course, I am not saying that there is no such thing as healthy eating or healthy exercise. But, as is often the case in our culture, we live in a world of extremes. If one piece of broccoli is good, a whole shake of broccoli (plus all the other so-called super foods) must be better. If running one mile is good, running a marathon must be better. Again, I mean no aspersions towards broccoli or running.

However, there is not an exponential benefit to any one particular food (or food group) or to exercise.

As we watch these athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport, it is important to recognize what it takes to do so. A balanced and varied diet (purportedly, Michael Phelps eats upwards of 10,000 kcals per day to maintain his stamina). Constant and rigorous physical training (sometimes beyond the point of injury as when Keri Strung completed her second vault after injuring her left leg and had to land on one foot). And, a single-minded focus that when applied elsewhere would be seen as obsessive or compulsive.

Listening to Our Bodies

When we push people to ignore the cues and signals their bodies send them, we set them up for all sorts of problems later on. And, when our criteria of their “wellness” is how well they are performing at their sport, we seriously minimize the reality of the risky world in which these athletes exist.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone tell me they cannot recover from their eating disorder because, in their mind, the eating disorder is what makes them excel at their sport. Often, these clients who are living with internal turmoil are getting compliments and positive feedback from others based on their performance.

When our eyes turn towards the Olympics in South Korea, let us do so with greater awareness. And, let us focus on the athlete as a complete, complex, and multi-dimensional person. A person who has worth outside of their sport. A person who deserves to be able to treat their body well. A person who deserves to be celebrated for all that they are.

 

If you are an athlete struggling with eating or exercise behaviors, please don’t hesitate to reach out for additional support. We have a dietitian and several therapists who both specialize in working with athletes as well as being athletes, themselves. Contact our admissions office at (910) 790-9500 for additional information and to get scheduled.

 

Rachel Hendricks, LCSW specializes in working with clients who have had their eating disorder for ten or more years, clients with co-occurring substance use behaviors, as well as working with couples and families. She facilitates two groups: Motivation to Change and Declutter Class, and she is currently accepting referrals for both. She is excited to be making the transition to Wilmington from the Center for Eating Disorders in Baltimore, Maryland. Rachel looks forward to continuing her reputation for providing excellent clinical care in the field of behavioral health.

 



Hoarding and Shame

Working as a therapist, it is not unusual for me to hear clients share stories where they are experiencing feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness. Many clients express feelings of hopelessness and helplessness at least some of the time. But, there is also a sense of shared experience. Therapy is seen as a safe place where they can explore those feelings. Hoarding disorder can test this idea.

When working with clients who hoard, learning about the hoarding can take more trust than you might expect. I have worked with clients for years before they are ready to share what is happening in their homes. Clients who have felt safe disclosing trauma, substance abuse, and their eating disorder have struggled to talk about their hoarding. All the same, it is an equally important issue that impacts them daily. Hoarding may be, to them, their most shameful behavior.

Hoarding Disorder: Statistics

Research shows that individuals experiencing hoarding disorder often feel judged and isolated from friends and family. This happens at rates that are even higher than those experiencing schizophrenia. As a result, it is not surprising that hoarding is a secret that is closely kept.

Hoarding disorder affects between 2 and 5% of the population. It is more common than many people are aware, and there are levels of severity as with any illness. Often times, when working with clients, they will reassure me, “I’m not like the show. I’m not that bad.” I always try to emphasize that no matter the hoard, I will not judge them. This is crucial.

Many times, before the work on addressing the hoarding can begin, there has to be a clear understanding that there is no judgment or critique of what is happening in their home. Rather, there is an understanding and acceptance of the internal distress and frustration hoarding causes. Whether their hoarding is causing health problems, issues with environmental safety, or is a source of embarrassment, the primary concern is the pain it is causing and how to address it.

Hoarding disorder also does not exist in isolation or as a stand-alone illness; rather, it is significantly correlated with anxiety, depression, OCD, and ADHD. These co-morbid disorders can often be the primary reason clients seek out support initially, and clients may be hesitant or reticent to start to address the hoarding, itself. Further, for many, there is a significant discrepancy between their external presentation- professional and put together- and their deeply protected, often completely hidden from others, personal space. When all of these factors are combined, it is clear why hoarding disorder is such a hidden illness and why, for those experiencing it, it can feel so hard to overcome.

What Can Be Done?

In September of 2017, a new group protocol was released to address hoarding disorder in a group format. Chrysalis Center is excited to be among the first offering this “Declutter Class”. The group provides resources, strategies, and hope for change with hoarding disorder. This treatment is research driven, proven to provide results, and addresses 7 “targets” or areas of functioning to reduce the impact of hoarding and improve functioning, overall. While seeking treatment and support for hoarding can be difficult, we are hopeful that this group will offer a safe, non-judgmental space where hoarding can be addressed effectively.

 

For Follow Up

If you are interested in the group or would like more information, please contact Rachel Hendricks, LCSW at (910) 790-9500. You can also reach her via email at Rachel.Hendricks@chrysaliscenter-nc.com.

Rachel Hendricks, LCSW specializes in working with clients who have had their eating disorder for ten or more years, clients with co-occurring substance use behaviors, as well as working with couples and families. She facilitates two groups: Motivation to Change and Declutter Class, and she is currently accepting referrals for both. Rachel is excited to be making the transition to Wilmington from the Center for Eating Disorders in Baltimore, Maryland. She looks forward to continuing her reputation for providing excellent clinical care in the field of behavioral health.


About Us

At Chrysalis, we believe that a supportive, healing environment is essential in order for change and growth to occur. We seek to offer such an environment to clients and help them create that in their lives and relationships. Read More

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Mon: 8AM - 6PM
Tue: 8AM - 6PM
Wed: 8AM - 6PM
Thu: 8AM - 6PM
Fri: 8AM - 4PM
Sat: CLOSED
Sun: CLOSED

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