I don’t have any kids yet, but I am certainly a proud mom of many! Tara DeAngelis is one. Tara wrote the article below last summer, as part of her internship with me. Today, even further along in her recovery from an eating disorder, PTSD, and anxiety, she has had more insights regarding her future. She has actually realized that she can combine her childhood passion of being an attorney with helping those who struggle with eating disorders. Watch out health insurance companies; here comes Tara. It is my belief that she will make huge strides in advancing the mental health field via her recent decision to pursue law school.
Don’t be surprised if, like Tara, you change your mind about “what you want to be when you grow up” (no matter how old you are now). As we get healthier and stronger in life, our passions can change. Often, through our pain, a beautiful, enriching purpose can emerge. Thanks, Tara, for sharing your story with us.
If you live near Elon University in Elon, NC, please come out and see us on Wednesday evening for a free, community event! Tara will be sharing her inspirational story before I speak.
Find Recovery, Find Your Purpose
by Tara DeAngelis
When I was fourteen, I had a dream to be a lawyer. No, not just any lawyer—I was determined to be the best, to be hugely successful and famous and be a leader for women to look up to. That same year, however, I hit my lowest weight in my battle with anorexia and was forced to go to a residential eating disorder facility. My anorexia actually started when I was 10, but by the time I was 14 I was at risk of dying from the disease. I continued to battle anorexia for many more years after my first hospitalization, but I never let go of my dream. As the fight went on, my dream changed a bit, and by the time I entered recovery at the age of 19, I knew for sure that I was destined for greatness, but no longer as a lawyer.
I committed the rest of my life to raising awareness about eating disorders, to educating children and teenagers about the dangers of these disorders, and to writing books that would reach people of all ages. I vowed to become a therapist to help other girls overcome their battles with Ed (Eating disorder) just like my therapist, Sarah Gibbs, did for me. I’ve been seeing Sarah since I was 14 years old, and she never once gave up on me. Sarah helped me to find myself again, and more importantly, to realize that I always had everything inside of me that I needed in order to recover— nothing could ever stop me once I put my mind to recovery or any goal. When I was at my worst, Sarah reminded me of my strength and resilience, and she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Now, at almost twenty-two, I am in a solid recovery and happier than I’ve been in a very long time—all thanks to Sarah. I want to be somebody’s “Sarah” someday.
The thought of using my struggles to help other girls like me still gives me chills. I have big plans for my future private practice, and this dream is what keeps me going even when the fight gets really hard. My dream is to open a private practice that provides services normally offered exclusively in inpatient or residential settings at an outpatient location, and at an outpatient cost. I want to partner with a horse farm and offer equine therapy; provide a massage room to help clients learn what safe touch looks and feels like and relax from the stress of recovery; create a “shopping” closet with donated clothes and labels with positive adjectives on them rather than sizes so my clients can get clothes for their recovery bodies with minimal distress; I want to make recovery a hugely positive experience for my clients, with a focus on what they are gaining rather than what they are losing.
Currently, I am running my very own recovery blog, called Honestly Free[ed] where I blog about my recovery from anorexia, PTSD, and anxiety. Nothing is sugar-coated, nor is anything triggering. My blog is a safe place for people to come and find comfort in knowing that someone else feels the same way they do. It is a place for loved ones of someone struggling with an eating disorder to understand what her thoughts may be, a place for the mother of a child with PTSD to empathize with the intensity of the disorder, a place for someone with anxiety to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that she is still in control of her life. Most of all, my blog is a beacon of hope for anyone who visits the site. My blog is the start of my future dreams coming true.
Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I stuck with my initial plan of becoming a lawyer. But then, I take a look at what my life has become, and I am so thankful. In reality, my original dream is not so far from where I am today—my childhood dreams are coming true! I am the best version of myself I could ever hope to be, I am very successful, and while I’m not famous, I am respected and appreciated, and I know that I have already begun touching the hearts of many who are suffering from the same disease I am now beating. Most importantly, I am a leader for women of all ages to look up to. I never gave up the fight, and now, I’m reaping the rewards. Recently, I was told by an old friend that I am her recovery role model. And now, I’m participating in an unofficial internship with one of my own recovery role models, Jenni Schaefer! Thanks to recovery, my dreams are coming true much sooner than I ever thought possible.