Topic Tuesday: Recovery

“Therapy That Fits Me” (By: Sophie Gervais)

As I sit hSophieGere writing and eating a cake pop, I find it hard to believe that only four years ago I was a hospitalized teenage anorexic. I was the pretty typical case, a normal girl who eventually became overwhelmed by her circumstances and resorted to mental illness to cope. And my parents… they were pretty typical too. They were extremely concerned, took off work, and set out on a journey to find the best available treatment for their fading daughter.  I was sent to several therapists and clinics in hopes of finding one I would talk to honestly, one that I clicked with. However, I was stubborn and afraid, and nothing made me want to get better, especially since I didn’t even see what the problem was. My parents finally stuck to a center because the therapist there said she truly believed in me.

Although I did begin to bond with her, I didn’t find my sessions helpful in the way they were supposed to be; I continued to starve myself and nothing she said would make me stop.  One afternoon after my session, my discouraged mom decided to take her and I out on a drive. She didn’t know where she was going but “something inside” made her keep driving.  When she stopped the car, we were at a family friend’s farm. She had all sorts of animals: donkeys, chickens, dogs, and, my favorite animal, horses. While my mom and her friend talked, I spent hours in the barn grooming Ginger, a mare that would soon become my best friend. We stayed until evening and I left unwillingly. On the drive back home, my mom said I had “a glow” and she hadn’t seen that in me in so long. I explained to her that being around horses made me feel calm and safe. Right then, my mom offered me a deal I just could not say no to: if I at least tried to eat my meals, she would bring me out to see Ginger.

At the time, I don’t think either of us expected this deal of ours to really change much, but, the more I saw Ginger, the more I wanted to keep going back so I could maybe even ride her one day. For the first time, I was opening up to my therapist and I would excitedly tell her where I was going after our session because I had eaten some cereal in the morning. Though recovery was not easy for me, nor for anyone, the support and motivation I found in a passion, I believe, was what encouraged me to overcome my anorexia. As I slowly began to eat more, I had more energy and could spend more time at the barn and eventually became strong enough to ride.

The overarching point I am trying to share is that, though traditional therapy is definitely helpful and provides a comforting routine for patients, therapy and motivation can come from so much more. My passion for horses encouraged me to be more open to medical treatment and being able to ride Ginger was the light at the end of the tunnel. Friends I caught up with years later whom I had met in the hospital told me that they too had delved into hobbies that they partially accredit recovering to; these interests included painting, gardening, religion and church groups, and even baking! These activities allow those suffering to invest their energy and thought into something more and better than their eating disorder. They can use their passions as healthy outlets for their distress; though professional medical help is important, a meaningful way to express your emotions can help you regain a sense of hope in your life and focus your energy somewhere other than your eating disorder, because, eventually, the less you feed its appetite (no pun intended) the less it will control you.

About the Author

Sophie Gervais is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying Psychology. She suffered from anorexia for 3 years but has made a full recovery and is determined to help others with the illness. Her goal is to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in eating disorders. Her hobbies include being an avid horse back rider, painting and drawing, and volunteering for various organizations.