Recovery in Action - Millie Plotkin
Recovery in Action: Millie Plotkin
Millie Plotkin is an eating disorder survivor and medical librarian. In 2013, she joined Eating Recovery Center to serve as Informationist, a position fusing her expertise in library science and deep understanding of the eating disorders community. As part of her role, she launched the Eating Disorders Information Gateway as a publicly accessible tool to help patients, families, professionals and advocates in the eating disorders community find relevant information to support public education of these complex illnesses. Millie’s story embodies the notion of “Recovery in Action,” as she parlayed her personal experience, passion for recovery and professional expertise into a career helping others find the information and resources they need to find lasting recovery.
Millie Plotkin’s eating disorder behaviors (primarily bulimia and binge eating) began at age 11, although shame, secrecy and a lack of awareness about eating disorders delayed her seeking help until her late twenties. At that time, she pursued recovery through a combination of outpatient therapy, local support groups and online support groups (most notably the Something Fishy forums).
Even though she has been in recovery for over 12 years, Millie often reflects on her recovery journey. “One mistake I made in my initial recovery was to exclude some of my closest friends from outside the eating disorder community from my recovery support circle,” she explains. “While it was helpful to be able to rely on friends who were also struggling with their own disorder, engaging other friends and loved ones and allowing them to gain education and provide support would have expanded my supportive circle and engaged additional perspectives in my recovery journey.”
Reflecting on her recovery journey also allowed Millie to isolate the most helpful strategy for protecting her recovery: Letting go of the eating disorder “identity.” She stepped away from eating disorder-related activities for several years—no books, no awareness events and no lobbying. “While I’m not at all ashamed of having an eating disorder in my background, I needed to stop seeing myself as a ‘Person Who Had an Eating Disorder,’” comments Millie. “This perspective allowed me to put other important parts of my identity into the forefront—I’m also a Librarian and a Dancer, and I realized I needed to nurture those sides of me as well to feel whole.”
Eventually, Millie reengaged with the eating disorder community, and would soon parlay her passion for recovery into a new career. At a conference many years ago, she heard someone mention the idea of an eating disorders clearinghouse, a database that would organize all content related to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and related body image and food related disorders. The idea stayed with her, and various leaders in the field validated the need for this database. Consolidating and archiving essential information about these complex illnesses affecting millions of Americans would minimize search time, maximize transparency, and provide patients, families and professionals with easy access to relevant information. She thought to herself, “Who better to create this clearinghouse than a medical librarian and eating disorder survivor with an interest in and knowledge of the topic?”
During her time at the National Institutes of Health Library, where she previously worked as a medical librarian, Millie began cataloging resources for this clearinghouse, which she named the Eating Disorders Information Gateway (EDIG). Her goal was to create a proprietary database that organized all relevant content, data and ideas by keyword to help patients, families and professionals better understand these conditions and support a life of recovery. She originally started the EDIG as a non-profit and was fortunate to garner the attention of Dr. Craig Johnson, Chief Clinical Officer of Eating Recovery Center and noted thought leader in eating disorder research and treatment. Johnson and his Eating Recovery Center colleagues acknowledged the alignment of the mission of the EDIG with Eating Recovery Center’s commitment to eating disorder education and resources. Millie joined Eating Recovery Center in 2013 to provide extended opportunities for growth of the EDIG. In her role as Informationist, she continued to build the database by identifying and cataloguing informational eating disorders content, and worked with the Eating Recovery Center Foundation team to maintain and improve the user-friendly interface to meet the evolving informational needs of the eating disorders community.
In addition to providing an important tool to the eating disorder community, creating this database supported Millie in her own recovery process by allowing her to nurture her eating disorder survivor identity as well as her professional identity. She explains: “At conferences and seminars, I now listen from two different perspectives—with the background of someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to have an eating disorder, and also from the view of someone collecting information and new research to disseminate it to patients, families and professionals.”
Millie hopes that the Eating Disorders Information Gateway and its thoughtfully organized information will help to further research and education in the field, and give patients and their families easy access to the resources they need to recover. Additionally, she hopes that her story will inspire others to think about how they can translate hobbies and projects they are passionate about into a career. “Sometimes really amazing opportunities arise when from out of nowhere, when you least expect it,” Millie continues. “That’s why it’s so important to protect and nurture your recovery—so you can be ready and answer the call when an opportunity comes your way that combines your values with your training and experience.”
More About Millie: In addition to serving as Informationist at Eating Recovery Center and her active role in the eating disorder research community, Millie is an avid cross-stitcher, collects dragons, and recently retired from competitive Irish dancing. She recently returned from an 11 day hike along the Thames in England. She describes eating disorder recovery as “…a long journey, but completely worthwhile.”