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Renfrew Alumni Stories: Carolyn R.

Recovery is “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength”, something that during the depths of my illness seemed impossible.

Recovery is something that remains non-linear, a lifelong journey; full of waves; unforeseen uncertainty, often lacking prediction; turbulent and exhausting at times; but reflecting back on and through times of darkness, the perseverance to hold on to hope, to regain meaning and purpose; to feel “enough”; and allowing myself the vulnerability and space to speak about it, has become my path to wellness.

As a licensed mental health clinician, I have strayed away from sharing my story in many capacities due to fear of judgment and/or bias amongst the field that I worked so hard at growing professionally within. But through the power of vulnerability, I have allowed myself to shift perspectives in effort to shed light.

The path to recovery was not easy by any means. It required consistent commitment, various modalities of therapy and levels of care, countless trial and tribulation. There is a quote that I will forever hold close to me that an employee at Renfrew had shared with me; “you are as sick as your secrets and your secrets keep you sick.”

The most challenging component of my journey was letting go of what I had finally felt “enough” at, the insidious belief that I was “enough at being sick.” Letting go of what had intertwined with my identity. I couldn’t fathom the thought of who I was without anorexia. Identifying ways to adaptively cope, the desire to return back to graduate school so that I could pursue my career, the support of my family who loved me unconditionally despite their valid fear of losing me, the realization that I could not hold on to the depths of my eating disorder and lead a meaningful life, all encompassed led to my continual standing up despite the amount of times I fell down. I kept moving forward.

Recovery allowed me to reestablish relationships, form new ones and break free of the isolation and the cage that my eating disorder had me trapped within. Recovery allowed me to travel the world and embrace the beauty amongst even the most broken of glass, putting into perspective for me how grateful I am to be alive.

I wish there was a well-defined blueprint for me to share with those suffering from this illness, but what I can share, is that it is possible, through persistence and patience. Self-love is the driving force we all need. Hold on, pain ends.

— Carolyn • Alumni, Philadelphia-Spring Lane & New York City 

I’m from Long Island, NY where I’m currently licensed as an art therapist, and employed as a Behavioral Health Supervisor for the Psychiatry Department at Stony Brook Medicine. As an art therapist, I’ve been able to help many look at the world through a different lens by first looking within themselves and exploring these often-suppressed emotions to the surface.

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