The Importance of a Support System and Self Care

In 1986, Ella was in a nearly fatal car accident. In 1996, she was bullied due to the lasting effects of that car accident. Throughout her childhood, she was surrounded by narcissists who crushed her self worth and domestic violence relationships, both physical and emotional. She’s struggled with substance abuse to silence her anxiety and depression. She’s experienced divorce, the ups and downs of parenting, grief and loss…each event making her a little more broken.

It wasn’t until she was 38 years old that she shattered. It wasn’t until she was lying on her living room floor, barely able to get up, that she hit rock bottom. When she was diagnosed with an eating disorder in March of 2022, everyone kept telling her to “just eat”. What they didn’t understand was that the eating disorder was a symptom of something larger. It was a symptom of PTSD. It was a symptom of anxiety and depression. It was a symptom of narcissistic and emotional abuse.

Until those traumas were addressed, she could not “just eat”. Being in treatment she was able to connect with people who understood her food rituals and eating tendencies. They understood that it was a piece of a bigger picture. Having people around her who understood that, allowed her to open up old wounds, revisit the traumas and heal from them. The road to recovery is absolutely attainable but it’s not linear. There needs to be a network of people to guide and help.

Who she surrounded herself with during recovery was crucial. Those who didn’t get it or didn’t believe in “mental health illness” impeded the process of healing on her journey. Contrary to that, those who understood, those who believed in her and helped her in any capacity, accelerated her journey to being her best self. For years she was a victim of her traumas. She allowed them to control her life so much so that she was in an emergency room close to organ failure before being admitted into the eating disorder unit. Having a safe space and someone to rely on when those days seem long and hard, is what’s going to change the narrative of these stories. 

Someone’s mental health IS health and the more we learn about mental health the more we can prevent outcomes like hers. She’s using her voice for those who may not be ready to use their voice. The greater support system we can build for those suffering is silence, the greater the chance that they will use their voice to change the narrative, become the best versions of themselves and thrive. 

Without her treatment team at Robert Wood Johnson, she may not be here. While they taught her the right way to eat again, they also got to the root of why she had an eating disorder. You see eating disorders are not the illness, they are a SYMPTOM of something larger. RWJ helped her dig deep and find her “larger” or in her case many many larger struggles. Not only did they hold her hand through her body’s aches and pains of getting back to normal, they also changed her perspective in life.

It was because of the self confidence they gave her that she was able to look at herself through the lens of empathy. It was because they taught her accountability, acceptance and boundaries that she was able to become the best version of herself. She shed the skin of her old life she had for 38 years and she grew into something beautiful. She practices self care.

She makes sure that at least once a week she is doing something that makes her feel better or that betters her as a person, without guilt! She tries to take a few minutes at least every night outside of her husband and three kids to relax, drink some green tea and do nothing for anyone else but herself. Starting your day with a positive thought can change the entire trajectory of your day.

For her, they are usually related to her body and acceptance outside of societal expectations. Her favorite form of self care…dancing in the kitchen with her kids at any random moment!