Sarah Snyder

Because it is breast cancer awareness month, I was asked if I would tell my story about my journey with this disease. I, of course, said yes and was honored to do so since this disease affects thousands of women and men across the globe; the more awareness that is out there – the better. But, as I started writing this I had the realization that each person’s cancer diagnosis and journey is as distinct as the person it affects, and how they recall this journey is just as distinct.  

This is my story.

On the morning of Tuesday February 21, 2012, I sat alone on the examination table in Dr. Charles Scott’s office at Wilmington Health. I wasn’t there because I needed a physical or I had a cold, I was there because the week prior he had performed a breast biopsy and it was time for the results. He had already come in and checked my biopsy incision and stated that “everything looked good,” and then promptly excused himself for me to get dressed so we could go over the pathology. It may not have been a red flag for others but because I have worked in healthcare my entire career I knew that if I was really 100% fine, he would have told me so when he checked the biopsy site and there would have been no reason for a second chat.  I knew the next time he walked in to my room I was going to hear a word that no one is ever prepared for and even though I had hoped I was wrong, the pit in my stomach was telling me to prepare myself because my life was about to be forever changed.

Dr. Scott came back in my room after a few minutes and this time instead of stethoscope he was carrying a piece of paper and his nurse Angela was with him. He looked me in the eyes and asked, “ready?” I remember slowly nodding my head “yes” even though I was definitely not ready. “Ductal Carcinoma In Situ” was his next statement to me because that was what the pathologist found in my biopsy. But, behind those big words was the real diagnosis…breast cancer. I do not remember everything that Dr. Scott said to me while I sat on his examination table because I was intent on not breaking down in tears, so I kept telling myself to “hold it together ” and “don’t you dare cry.” My mind was busily trying to accept my diagnosis and everything that was about to follow. I remember thinking how I was only 31 years old… I had a full-time job…. I was a full-time college student only three courses away from completing my MBA…. and most important, I had two small children at home so who was going to help my husband raise them if I died? My mind also went back and reviewed the last six-month journey that brought me to this very spot and how I had actually hoped to get here just not with the same ending.

In September of 2011, I was sitting on my couch when suddenly, I had this weird sensation run from the middle of my left breast to under my armpit. It was not a painful feeling just a very odd one and, in that moment, I had a powerful thought “you have cancer.” At first, my mind went to “what a crazy thought” but at the same time I had a pit in my stomach because breast cancer has affected every generation of women in my family and it has always been a worry hidden in the back of my mind that I too would pull the unfortunate short straw and be diagnosed with this disease. To ease my mind, I scheduled an appointment the next week with my gynecologist and when I explained the sensation I had, as well as my family history with breast cancer, I was certain that my request for a simple mammogram would be instantly approved. I was expecting him to appreciate being proactive and order the test even if to just to ease my mind. He instead patted me on my knee and told me that I was just being overly paranoid and that no mammogram was needed because I was too young to have breast cancer and no insurance would cover it. I left that office feeling shocked and unheard, but I was not yet defeated. The following day I scheduled an appointment with my PCP to get a second opinion believing that even though I did not feel heard the first time around, I hoped this doctor would hear me out and take my concerns more seriously. Two weeks later when I went in for that second opinion I told my doctor the same thing: the sensation I had, my family history and my request for a mammogram. I was unfortunately told very similar statements as before: “too young”, “your family history is not that bad”, and “no mammogram is needed”.

I wish I could tell you that the third time was the charm but unfortunately it was not. Neither was the fourth. I spent the next five months “doctor shopping” for a mammogram. I even went as far as calling a local radiology office and ask if I could pay cash for a mammogram, but their answer was “no” because special testing requires a referral from a medical provider. I honestly could not believe that it was really this difficult to get a mammogram! I feel this is the point where I started to lose hope and began to feel defeated. Defeated as a patient and defeated as a woman. But even in those low moments I knew that I had to keep going and make someone hear me.

About two weeks later, I was at work in my office when one of my medical assistants came in and asked if I was still looking for a new doctor. I told her I was, and she told me how amazing her PCP was then urged me to call her. I took down the information, but I was a little reluctant to call and go in because I wasn’t sure if I could handle being dismissed by yet another physician. I gathered my hope and made the call to Dr. Catherine Daum’s office at Wilmington Health later that day and scheduled an appointment with her later that week. Walking in to Wilmington Health for the first time was a little overwhelming but as soon as I met Dr. Daum, I knew I was in the right place and this was going to be different from my other appointments. Dr Daum listened to all my concerns and feelings and without any hesitation ordered a mammogram. I cried tears of joy in her office because someone finally listed to me and was willing to help me! This is what I had hoped for and was so thankful and knew that my hope had led me to the right physician. One week later I went in and received the mammogram that I hoped for and a few days later I was back in Dr Daum’s office being told a mass had been found and that she was referring me to Dr. Charles Scott, a surgeon with Wilmington Health who specialized in breast biopsy/cancer. I met with Dr. Scott for the first time a few days later and he too listened to everything I had to say and then asked me if I wanted to revisit the mass in six months or have him perform a surgical biopsy, I choose the biopsy and the rest is history.

Back to Dr. Scott’s office just being told I had cancer …… 

Once I was able to focus again I found Nurse Angela with her arms wrapped around me and Dr. Scott (attempting to take some of the shock away) making a reference to movie that I had never seen. I interrupted his movie reference and asked him what my options were. After he reviewed them with me, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy. When I asked if I could get on his surgical schedule ASAP, he told me I’d be in surgery that Friday. I left his office knowing that I now had to tell my husband, children, family and friends about this new chapter all while staying strong and having hope that everything was going to be alright.  I knew there were only two options, the low road or the high road and I refused to fall in to a pit of depression and let this diagnosis win. I didn’t have time for that. I can’t say that I was not scared because I was, but my faith and hope was stronger than any fear. Three days later on February 25, I had my bilateral mastectomy and was officially cancer free.  Four months later I had my reconstruction and while there were some complications in between I never lost my hope that everything was going to be OK. Perhaps not perfect – but OK.

I am six years cancer free and I celebrate every February 25th as my cancer birthday. It has not always been easy, I had to make so many difficult decisions and my life is forever changed, but I am alive and here with my family and I even graduated with my MBA on time.Everyone who is diagnosed with cancer is a survivor, I just hope that I can inspire people going through similar situations and they can see this is what the face of cancer can look like. If I could choose one word to describe my journey, it would be hope because that is honestly what carried me through. More importantly I want people to understand the power of hope and to hold on to it even in the most difficult of times.

Sarah Snyder is the Practice Manager at Chrysalis Center.

Emily Lockamy

Joan Didion, once asked: “Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?”

The acclaimed author explains, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking. What I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Didion makes a profound point about the power of writing to increase self-understanding. A power that is accessible to all of us really, regardless of whether we are published authors or even “good” writers.

Recent research shows that the act of writing can, in fact, help us become aware of important truths and gain a firmer, fuller grasp on who we are and what we’ve endured. It can help us make meaning from difficult experiences, and more effectively integrate events and emotions into our lives, facilitating growth, resilience, and recovery.

“Writing allows you to access your wider mind, a wiser, more encompassing place deep within,” writes Susan Zimmermann, author of Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing. 

But not every type of writing produces such results.

Louise DeSalvo, teacher and author of Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, explains that restorative and transformative writing involves writing in an intentional way, wherein you attempt to connect past experiences with the feelings you had at the time, and the feelings that come up now as you process that trauma, loss, or struggle. DeSalvo asserts that in putting pen to paper and linking our thinking and feelings from the past and the present, we can develop greater insight and a sense of empowerment — therapeutic effects that we miss out on when merely taking to the page to vent (which is shown to be unhelpful) or to write without any direction.

Focused writing becomes even more impactful when we take the step of sharing our words with empathic listeners, explains DeSalvo, as this audience can help reflect what we have expressed, identify gaps in our narrative, and open our eyes to patterns or personal strengths we cannot see.

Chrysalis Center for Counseling and Eating Disorder Treatment is now offering a new 6-week group that offers the opportunity for people to explore their emotional wounds through research-backed writing methods that provide the paradoxical structure and freedom shown to alleviate suffering and promote mental health, self-mastery, and connection. Writing exercises that both tap into the unconscious and create a safe container for the chaos of strong feelings. Writing that takes place in a comforting space free of judgment. Writing that unlocks the potential for peace.

Healing Words: A Therapeutic Writing Group is open to adults of all ages going through challenges that they wish to process through the art of writing. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, or an important relationship, or your home and/or sense of security after the hurricane. Perhaps you’re caregiving for a sick family member, or bringing a baby into the world, or dealing with the aftermath of an accident, an illness, or insecurity. Perhaps you feel lost or crippled by anxiety.

Whatever you’re contending with, writing as a therapeutic modality may be able to help you “discover and fulfill your deepest desire. To accept pain, fear, uncertainty, strife. But to find, too, a place of safety, security, serenity, and joyfulness. To claim your voice, to tell your story.” (DeSalvo, 2000).

To learn more about Healing Words, please email the group facilitator, Emily Lockamy, MA, LPCA at To register and schedule your group screening, call 910-790-9500.

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.

Throughout the past few weeks, as our community has been devastated by Hurricane Florence and her floodwaters, I’ve found myself turning to skills that for the past 10 years I’ve helped teach clients in our Mindful Living group. This group is informed by the principles of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The 4 main tenets are: distress tolerance – coping with stress and difficulty in constructive ways, mindfulness – staying in the present moment, emotion regulation – identifying and accepting both positive and negative emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them, and interpersonal effectiveness – utilizing effective coping skills such as assertiveness and setting boundaries within our relationships.

As I was evacuated to Florida with my family for over a week and reflecting on the use of the same skills I teach others, I received a message from a client who recently just completed a round of Advanced Mindful Living. With her ever present humor, it simply said, “I’ve been mindfully living like a mutha”. Thus, my blog was born – how student and teacher alike have applied these skills in the most trying of times. This client was gracious enough to agree to co-author this piece with me and share her experiences of using mindful living skills during Florence and the aftermath.

One of the most popular and useful tools from the distress tolerance portion of Mindful Living is the concept of “Radical Acceptance”. The idea behind this is that while we can’t avoid pain, we can avoid suffering (which is what happens when you have pain plus non-acceptance). This doesn’t mean we have to like or approve of bad things that happen, but that “it is what it is” and “this too shall pass”. We can’t control certain situations (in this case, a hurricane that’s projected path was literally a line going through my backyard), but we can control our reactions to those situations.

Staying in the present moment can be very hard in crisis. It’s natural to get caught up in “future tripping”, imagining all the worst-case scenarios, worrying, and what-iffing. Mindfulness teaches us to breathe, brings us back to center, and focus on the here and now. Children are wonderful examples of mindfulness practitioners. So as I started to get caught up in the worries of what could happen to my friends who stayed, my house, my belongings, my office, my friends’ houses, my clients, etc. etc.,  I’d look to my almost 2 year old who was blissfully oblivious to what was happening in Wilmington, happily coloring or splashing in the pool and remind myself, “All we have is the right now”.

Another piece of mindfulness practice is gratitude. Words cannot express the gratitude I’ve experienced in so many different ways over the past few weeks and reveling in the amazing people and acts of service I’ve witnessed in action in my beloved community. I’m also grateful for my client who shares her experiences below:

During mindful living one of the distress tolerance techniques that helped me the most was going to my safe place. Even though I was surrounded by scary wind and rain, my apartment literally feeling like it was going to blow away, going to my quiet beach house in my mind, the ocean sounds loudly crashing on the rocks outside, was helpful. Physically I was stuck in my apartment scared of what Mother Nature was doing outside of my window, but in my head, I was at my safe place tasting the salt water and feeling the sand blow softly.

Staying mindful that the storm can thankfully only be temporary and it won’t last forever (even though it felt like it would) gave me some peace. “This too shall pass” are the words that kept flashing in my head like a neon sign.

Another thing we learned that helped me “weather” hurricane Florence was staying in the present moment. Having a daily battle with anxiety the way I do, being in the present moment is very difficult for me because I constantly worry about tomorrow or if it tomorrow doesn’t come or if it does come, what it will bring. Staying mindful that it was a storm, remembering that the noise is rain, and the feeling I felt in the pit of my stomach is just worry, helped to diffuse the anxiety. As emotion regulation taught us, feelings will pass- just like the storm will eventually pass. This helped me avoid a few panic attacks.

One more skill from emotion regulation I applied was naming the feelings that I felt in my stomach, in my chest, and in my heart and the nervousness I felt in my hands. Normally when those emotions arise, I usually go straight into a panic attack because I don’t recognize why those emotions are there and I jump straight to what they could be instead giving them a name and reason. Labeling them allows me to overcome the emotions and not let the emotions overtake me.

Chrysalis Center will be starting a new round of Mindful Living Group, which runs for 12 weeks, within the next month. For more information, please call our office at 910-790-9500.


Kelly Broadwater, LPA, LPC, CEDS-S developed and co-facilitated the Mindful Living group series alongside Kendra Wilson, LCSW, CEDS, DBT-C at Chrysalis. These groups have successfully run for a decade and produced dozens of “graduates”, many of whom have gone on to complete our Advanced Mindful Living group. It has been her pleasure to see so many individual clients make progress utilizing the skills taught in these groups and then to thrive moving forward, continuing to apply them in their lives.


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. 

Image result for happy family cartoon images free


Common questions that I hear from parents center around the ideas of children not listening or talking back.

Parents ask: Why won’t my child do what I ask? Why is my child always arguing with me? How can I stop the back talk?

The short answer is we can’t stop it completely. The longer answer is we can improve a lot of it but it takes consistent work on our part. Why is this hard for parents to do? First, it is because as parents, we are already working so hard day in and day out for our children. And second, because our natural urge when our children are being disrespectful is to yell and/or “lay down the law” even though the endless punishment/reward cycle often fails to solve the problem.

Often when I talk with parents, they refer to “the good old days” when children listened immediately. They ask, what is wrong with things today that children don’t do that anymore. My answer to that is that things are actually better now. Yes, better even with more back talk. Why is that?

In the past, it was much more common for parents to use harsh verbal and physical punishment with children, much of which is considered child abuse today because we know how damaging it is to child development. Through the use of fear and intimidation, children were more likely to “fall in line.” However, that came at a steep price. Specifically, it came with poorer parent-child relationships and lifelong emotional and psychological scars.

As a society, we came to realize that to raise healthy, strong children and to have families that were loving and connected, we needed to abandon the use of fear and intimidation with our children. The good news is that in doing so, children and families have flourished. That is not to say families are problem free but rates of violence in families have decreased dramatically and school graduation rates have increased substantially since these harsh punishment practices have stopped.

With harsh punishment off the table, what do parents do now to increase children’s listening and decrease misbehavior? Should they reward? Should they punish appropriately? What should be done?

The answer really lies in modeling the behavior you want to see yourself (i.e., Walk the walk. You can’t ask your child not to yell if you are often yelling.) and taking steps to motivate this behavior in your child instead of rewarding or punishing.

How do you motivate?

Instead of saying: if you pick up your toys, then you can ride your bike.

Say: I am really looking forward to going on a bike ride with you after your toys are picked up. Let’s get started with putting them up.

Instead of saying: You better play in the pool nicely or you are going to get a time out.

Say: I can see you are feeling wild. I’m going to take you out of the pool because it is not safe. Then we’ll go to calm down.

No matter how difficult or out of control a situation may seem, there are ways parents can respond to motivate appropriate behavior. In motivating, parents can foster positive behavior that is lasting in a way that rewards and punishments cannot.  The difficult part is that when our emotions are high in these challenging situations with our children, our natural instinct as parents is to engage in threatening or punishing behavior, even though it does not work in the long term.

How do we break the cycle?

There are books for pre-school and elementary age children like Heather Turgeon’s Now Say This: The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma.

And for middle- and high-school age children like Anthony Wolf’s I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not to Say When Parenting Teens.

To have solutions that are tailored exactly for your family’s values and circumstances, don’t hesitate to contact the Chrysalis Center and schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Kate Nooner, or one of our other clinicians who have parenting expertise.

You are a great parent and you can do it!


Dr. Kate Brody Nooner is a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at UNCW. She also holds an adjunct appointment at Duke University and is the principal investigator of NIH-funded grants aimed at reducing child and adolescent trauma and preventing alcoholism.

Do people actually recover? What does full recovery look like? Is it like alcoholism that once you’ve had an eating disorder you’ll always have an eating disorder? Clients, loved ones, and even the general public have often asked me these questions repeatedly over the years that I’ve specialized in treating eating disorders. We often hear the grim statistics that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health diagnosis and that the average length of treatment is 4-7 years. There is even a new subset of eating disorders garnering attention in the treatment world known as Severe and Enduring Eating Disorders (SEED), which are chronic forms of eating disorders lasting 10 or more years that are unresponsive to multiple attempts to treatment.

However, there is hope! An often overlooked statistic is that with treatment, 60% of patients recover from eating disorders. Early intervention improves outcomes. And thanks to mental health parity, increased advocacy efforts, and the growing need, access to treatment is more widely available.

Recovery is not one size fits all. It looks different for each individual. The latest research suggests that a full year without eating disorder behaviors is a strong indicator of recovery. There are also broad phases of recovery that have been identified: physical recovery, behavioral recovery, and psychological recovery. Physical recovery includes medical stabilization, restoring a healthy weight, and overcoming symptoms related to malnourishment. Behavioral recovery involves symptom cessation, while psychological recovery addresses underlying issues contributing to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder. Psychological recovery may include treatment for comorbid mental health problems, resolving trauma, addressing family or relationship issues, overcoming perfectionism, letting go of food rules, and developing healthier body image.

Recovery 101:

  • Recovery is best achieved with a multidisciplinary team approach that includes a therapist, dietitian, medical doctor, and psychiatrist (when indicated) who specialize in eating disorder treatment.
  • The involvement of loved ones is also crucial; having a strong support network of family, friends, and others in recovery improves outcomes.
  • Realistic goals and patience are vitally important in the recovery process. Expect that lapses or relapses can be part of the recovery process- after all, a person with an eating disorder has to face every single day, multiple times per day, what they struggle with the most. Research has shown we make 200+ food related decisions per day. Imagine how overwhelming that can be to someone new to recovery!
  • Being able to identify and minimize or handle triggers is yet another part of the recovery process. A person in recovery is vulnerable to triggers at any time, but especially during times of life stress or transition.

Part of what inspired me to write on this topic was an email I received last month from a former client. She ended treatment with me approximately 8 years ago. She’d battled a severe eating disorder for many years, compounded by a complex trauma history spanning much of her lifetime. She’d been to inpatient or residential treatment at least 5 times when I started working with her and during our time together, she did go to a higher level of care to a center that could address both her trauma and eating disorder. Today, she is a happily married mother of 3 with a thriving career in a helping profession (which even affords her the opportunity at times to work with patients with eating disorders). Here is an excerpt from what she wrote to me (shared with her permission). It speaks volumes more than any professional writing or scholarly article on recovery ever could:

“Perhaps the most humbling experience I have had over the course of the last several years was what previously seemed like a hopeless endeavor–the pursuit of true recovery.  I humbly say that I know with no uncertainty whatsoever that recovery, true recovery, from an eating disorder is possible.  I consider myself fully recovered and am so grateful that the eating disorder is no longer a part of my life. I share this with you because I want to encourage you to keep going.  Keep doing what you’re doing because it is worth it.  Your belief in me and the unconditional support that you provided helped to allow all of the amazing things above to occur, including what I hope to ultimately be the recovery of many more individuals that have never even met you, through (in part) the work that I am able to do with them at this point in time (which never would have been possible without your presence in my life).”

The final workshop I attended this year at the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Conference was entitled, “The Neuroscience of Hope in Eating Disorder Recovery”. In this talk, Dr. Ralph Carson spoke about the fact that humans can actually increase the density of cells in their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions. He stated that hope requires continuous renewal and recommended the following: keep a gratitude journal, surround yourself with supportive people, ask for help when challenged, avoid people and media that diminish hope, and identify your personal strengths and values and use them! These are wise recommendations for anyone, but essential for everyone in the recovery process. It’s important to remember it’s just that- a process- and to have HOPE that it will happen.


Kelly Broadwater is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist with over 15 years of experience in the field. In that time, she has proudly walked beside numerous clients in their journeys to full recovery.

Did you know your genetic make-up has a significant role in the body’s ability to maintain, lose or even gain weight? Your body’s distinctive DNA profile has a strong influence on your ability to respond to specific diets. Each person’s unique body metabolizes foods differently and now you can learn more about your genetic influences. A universal break down of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein & fats) may work for your neighbor but not for you. This cutting-edge science-based approach squashes the old school mindset of one size fits all.

Chrysalis is thrilled to announce that we are now offering genetic testing to aid in weight management. Personalized testing allows your dietitian to be more precise in making detailed recommendations on what YOU need to eat to feel your best! While this cannot take the place of making reasonably smart choices, learning to portion, listening to your body, incorporating variety and eating intuitively, these results will certainly give you confidence that you are focusing on a plan designed specifically for you.  To learn more, check out this link from Psychology Today:

Our test kits focus solely on those genes that are related to your body’s ability to process food, nutrients and respond to exercise. If you are eager to learn more about this, call Chrysalis @ (910) 790-9500 to schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians. If you’re an existing client, just stop by the front desk to order a kit to take home, then you’ll collect your DNA via a cheek swab and send it off in a pre-paid package. The certified lab will analyze 48 genetic markers, finally you will schedule an appointment with a dietitian to review your report in depth.

It’s that simple!  Let us help you better understand your unique body and develop an eating & exercise plan ideal for you!

Karin* sits on her sofa, tearfully re-reading text messages and asking herself the same question… “why?”  She continues to end up in relationships where her partner is controlling, unappreciative, and disloyal. This is despite doing anything imaginable to make him happy. Her last boyfriend basically drained her savings while continually saying he was working on getting his car dent repair business going. She would go to work every day to earn the money to pay the bills while he worked from home “developing advertizing and networking plans”. Meanwhile, the only thing that seemed to improve was his video game skills.  How can people like Karin make different choices and find healthy relationships? These tips can help you improve the quality of various types of relationships, e.g. romantic and friendship.

First, one of the most important things is to have a good relationship with yourself. If you don’t truly value yourself, you may not recognize when you are being treated poorly or you may not know that you deserve better. Having a good relationship with yourself means that you take the time to take care of yourself (not just physically). Set aside time to do things for you, surround yourself with others who value you, and set appropriate boundaries with others. It also means living a life in harmony with your values.

Second, I always encourage those who struggle in this area to come up with a “deal-breakers” list. What are the things you are not willing to live with? What are the things that are traits, etc, that you require? Decide this before you get emotionally involved and your boundaries start to blur… “Well, it’s not that bad.” Yes it is! If you decided in your sane, uninfluenced mind that a certain behavior was unacceptable or a trait was necessary for your well-being, you should stick with it.  The less experience you have in life, the harder this list may be to develop. However, if you have had a history of “failed relationships,” you can probably recall things from that experience that will help you get started. Examples include: physical violence, spirituality, and desire to have children. Once you know what your deal-breakers are, use that information to choose who you spend your time with… and who you will be breaking up with.

Finally, pay attention to the evidence. I know my more romantic readers will find this part a little uncomfortable, but hear me out. Think about all of the times you have made a relationship choice (e.g. to become intimate with someone or trust someone with personal information) because it felt right. How many times has that feeling mislead you? This does NOT mean that feelings and attraction don’t matter. It means that you need to supplement them with evidence that the person is who you think they are. This often means moving more slowly in a relationship than you may have done in the past. Pay attention to what a person talks about. Are they telling you personal information about others? That may be a sign that they don’t respect a person’s privacy. Are they telling you deeply personal information right away? While this might seem romantic, it can be a sign that a person struggles with boundaries and jumps into (and out of) relationships quickly.

Karin, mentioned in the outset, called a friend for support and received empathy and encouragement. After having some time to grieve her loss, she sought help for developing relationship skills, and while she found it a challenge to change the way she handles relationships, she gained confidence, skills for setting boundaries, and freedom from unhealthy relationships, She now chooses to spend her time with people who treat her with respect and value her for the amazing person that she is. And, when someone doesn’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated; she kicks ’em to the curb!

*Karin is a fictitious character created to reflect the real life challenges faced by individuals who struggle with healthy relationship skills.

Lillian Hood, LPA, LCAS

Psychologist and Clinical Addictions Specialist

At the Chrysalis Center, I specialize in treating individuals who have trauma, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders and addiction. I help those who are working on building self esteem and healthy relationship skills. I also perform psychological evaluations for those seeking to have bariatric surgery. I use evidence-based practices to assist patients in developing skills for successfully facing their unique challenges.



National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors


This summer marks the 30th Anniversary of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, affirming its continued popularity as a televised underwater exploration on the creatures of the deep blue. This is not surprising as sharks tend to provoke strong emotional reactions. Personally, I am fascinated by all species of sharks. I have been an avid fan of Shark Week since I was a little girl, attempting to spot one off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts during the summer months. Marine research shows that a shark’s role in the marine ecosystem is vital. They maintain equilibrium in the ecosystem by keeping other fish from overpopulating the ocean. Overfishing or arbitrarily slaughtering sharks could throw the entire marine food chain off balance.

However, there are those who don’t watch Shark Week. The reason may be tied to fear. Fear is complex; it is both instinctual (survival-based) and learned (by experience) or taught (through societal/cultural norms or beliefs).

Anything associated with danger can trigger the brain to pay attention in the name of survival. “The psychological characteristics of pain and suffering, uncertainty and powerlessness, make the idea of being attacked by a shark way scarier than the statistics show.” Shark-attack stories get a lot of coverage and exposure through the media, which can contribute and amplify the fear. This can cause the “flight” (avoidance) response to watching Shark Week, because of the perceived threat to the emotional state. If fear is primed, the more scared you feel, the scarier things will seem. That is why it is best to learn adaptive ways to address rational and irrational fears as they swim (I mean, come) along.

To help debunk some misunderstandings about sharks, I wanted to share some therapeutic insight from Shark Week!

Keep moving forward. Ever notice sharks seem to be constantly moving? Well, they have no other choice. If most sharks stop moving even for a short period of time, they can drown and die. Just like sharks, we need to keep moving forward in our lives. Experiencing adversity and difficulties can be a road block for growth. To increase resiliency, we must keep progressing forward, even if its small steps at first.
Be opportunistic. Sharks have six senses and they use all of them to their advantage. As a bonus to sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, they can detect electrical currents through their heads to find prey effectively. Humans may have one less sense compared to sharks, but tuning into all five senses can create an increase in self-awareness, thus more opportunities for emotional, mental and spiritual growth and development.
Sense of Mastery. Sharks are well equipped for their role as the top apex predator. They know how to use their abilities and capabilities to its full potential.  As humans, its best we operate from our most authentic, highest sense of self to life a value-driven life. Are you working in your areas of strength? What creates a sense of mastery/competence? How are you best equipped to handle life’s circumstances?


Bracha, H., Ralston, T. C., Matsukawa, J. M., Matsunaga, S., Williams, A. E., & Bracha, A. S. (2004). Does “fight or flight” need updating? Psychosomatics, 45, 448-449.
Lang, P., Davis, M., & Ohman, A. (2000). Fear and anxiety: animal models and human cognitive psychophysiology. Journal of Affective Disorders, 61, 137-159.
Lerner, J. & Keltner, D. (2001). Fear, anger, and risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2001. 81:1, 146-159.
Sylvers, P. Lilienfeld, S., & LaPrairie, J. (2011). Differences between trait fear and trait anxiety: Implications for psychopathology. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 122-137.

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