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Episode 10 - With a Little Help From My Furry Friends

By Shannon Kopp, MFA
Check out our podcast, Mental Note. We are sitting down with Shannon Kopp. She made it through a family divided by alcoholism, personal struggles with bulimia, and into a future where she is thriving – all with the help of some friends who barely understood a word she said, yet generously gave the love they had with wet noses and furry kisses.

Quote by Shannon Kopp

Synopsis:

On today’s episode, we are sitting down with Shannon Kopp. She made it through a family divided by alcoholism, personal struggles with bulimia, and into a future where she is thriving – all with the help of some friends who barely understood a word she said, yet generously gave the love they had with wet noses and furry kisses.

Also, Shannon has written about her journey and her book is phenomenal. You can pick it up on her website: shannonkopp.com.

Transcript

Ellie Pike: [00:00:00] Before jumping into our episode, I wanted to let you in on this really cool project we're working on. I can't tell you all of the details, but here's where you come in. We need you to record and send us a gratitude letter that you've written either to yourself or really to anybody, anything, or any idea that has propelled you down life's path. Basically think of what's filled your cup and write about it. The recordings can be simple, even audio or video recorded from your phone. The only rule is that we [00:00:30] need submissions by April 20th, you can send them to mental note@eatingrecovery.com. Then we'll pick some of our favorites to include on our podcast. 

Okay. Onto today's story. If there's one thing I hope you've learned from this show, it's what's possible in our lives when we choose to focus on personal values, instead of what distracts or numbs us from pain. There are many types of values, but the best way I could explain it is [00:01:00] that values are principles that guide us in life like love, spirituality, and relationships. These values help us connect to communities who share and support our unique journey. Sometimes those communities look a little different than what you would expect. 

On today's episode, we're sitting down with Shannon Kopp, she's made it through a family divided by alcoholism, personal struggles with bulimia and into a future where she's thriving all with the help of some friends who barely understood [00:01:30] a word she said yet, generously gave the love that they had with wet noses and furry kisses throughout Shannon's story. We'll discuss the importance of realigning, our values, choosing recovery, and mindful living over the benefit of the disorder and the power of seeing oneself from a more loving perspective. You're listening to Mental Note Podcast. I'm Ellie Pike. 

[music] 

[00:02:00] 

Shannon Kopp: I'm Shannon Kopp. I love animals. I have a wildly adorable rescue dog named Bella. I just moved to Seattle with my family, my husband, Danny, and our 10-month-old, Noah. I'm super excited to be working with the Eating Recovery Center. 

Ellie: Well, thanks for coming. [00:02:30] Let's just start off with, can you just tell me more about what your childhood was like, what you loved playing, especially with your dad, that thing. 

Shannon: I had a really fun childhood. I grew up in Connecticut with my younger sister and my parents, and I was an animal lover from the very beginning. I kept a picture of Jane Goodall by my bed as a child. I dreamed of becoming her and living with the chimpanzees in Africa. That was the ultimate goal. [00:03:00] I was very close to everyone in my family, my younger sister, my father, and my mother. We were a very close family. 

Ellie: Then who specifically in your family, did you feel really close with? 

Shannon: I felt really close to my father. We have a lot in common. He was really a free spirit. He loved music. He loved dancing and I guess I idolized him in a lot of ways. He took us on these wonderful trips to [00:03:30] New York and Hawaii, and I just thought he was the greatest thing in the universe. 

Ellie: How would he describe you as a child? 

Shannon: I mean, maybe outgoing social. He would have described me perhaps is a bit perfectionistic. I just have this memory of being in kindergarten or first grade and crying in the bathroom because I was struggling to learn how to alphabetize. It just makes me so sad to think about that today. Especially as a mother [00:04:00] that at such a young age, I put so much pressure on myself to learn things and get things right the first time. That trait was apparent when I was really young and my father also had those qualities. 

Ellie: As I read your book, it sounded like you have some caretaking tendencies. Like you very much felt like you wanted to take care of your little sister. Did you often find that you took on responsibility for other people? 

Shannon: Especially as my family started to fall apart [00:04:30] and my father began to struggle seriously with alcoholism. At first, it was very secretive on business trips and he hit it really well, but as it became more and more apparent involving hospitalizations and rehabs, and sometimes he'd disappear. I think that instead of focusing on my heart and my emotions, it was just so painful that I got busy [00:05:00] trying to help other people. My mom or my sister, and I think we all humans, nobody, and animals, for that matter, nobody wants to embrace their suffering. It's hard. I think before the eating disorder caretaking was one way that I distracted myself from my pain. 

Ellie: What were some of the other ways that you started to develop as coping mechanisms for that suffering and pain? 

Shannon: I think I developed a healthy coping mechanism in writing. I always journaled before the eating disorder. I did [00:05:30] talk a lot and speak really truthfully and honestly with my sister and my mother. I think as the alcoholism became more apparent and my father grew sicker and sicker and I realized that this man I so adored and idolized and loved was that I was losing him. It was a strange thing because I was grieving who was alive and right in front of me, I started just trying to numb out.[00:06:00] Before the bulimia, it was just bingeing coming home, bingeing, eating, whatever I could in front of the TV. 

Ellie: When you talk about that, for someone who's not familiar with bingeing on food, what does it feel like? Or what was the reason that that was helpful for you at the time? 

Shannon: The physical sensation of bingeing, the crunching on the food, and the feeling of my stomach, my belly, getting bigger. It was something I was really drawn to. [00:06:30] I should mention that my father also struggled with an eating disorder. I had seen him at night bingeing on nachos, lots of salty things. I started to do that too. To the point where you just aren't even tasting it anymore, it's just everything becomes streamlined, focused on that sensation of fullness filling up. You forget what you're feeling, even though it's super brief, [00:07:00] you are caught up in the sensation of bingeing and all the discomfort, all the pain, all the worry is not at the forefront of your mind or heart. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to escape. Even though I felt so much guilt and shame, after I binged, the temporary relief was more important to me. 

Ellie: Did it ever occur to you that it might be helpful to sit through those emotions [00:07:30] and like dig in? You were in high school, so was this all happening in a whirlwind? 

Shannon: It didn't occur to me to cope in healthier ways. It honestly felt like my only option. It didn't feel like I had a lot of choice in the matter. It was always something that started with the idea. I'm just going to have this cookie, or I'm just going to have this cupcake, or I'm just going to have this dish. Then it would just build and [00:08:00] build and build. It felt like if point A was, I'm going to leave school and go home and that's my plan. Point B was I'm going to binge. It was just crazy to me that I would always have my intention set on point A but I'd always end up at in B. I'd always be bingeing, no matter what my intentions were. 

Ellie: At what point did it start to feel like a problem or did other people notice? [00:08:30] 

Shannon: I was very secretive about it. I struggled mostly at night and it didn't feel like a problem until I became bulimic and my sister found out about it. I also think some body dysmorphia developed then because I can remember after I purged for the first time, clearly I didn't lose any weight, but I felt all of a sudden thinner or more powerful. [00:09:00] I don't know if I realized how big of a problem it was, but something was wrong there. I knew something was wrong. Why can't I do what I say I'm going to do? Why can't I apply the same willingness and motivation that I have in school? In other areas of my life, I set a goal and I do it. Really early, it was apparent to me that no matter what I said to myself or to anyone else, the eating disorder was more powerful. [00:09:30] 

Ellie: It seems like there's some parallels there with alcoholism and watching your dad. Would he have moments like that saying, "I'm going to stop this? I'll be all okay." 

Shannon: All the time. 

Ellie: Then still watching it take over his life. 

Shannon: Yes. 

Ellie: For you, when did you start to have that drive for thinness and really seeing like the outward reward of being then. 

Shannon: I'd say going into my senior year of high school when I started to worry about my dad [00:10:00] dying, drinking and driving, my parents separating. There was so much fear and it was so hard to think about that I started obsessing about just getting abs like Brittany Spears or working out as much as some of my friends were. I was starting to become more popular. Guys were starting to become more interested in me as I paid more attention to my appearance. All of a sudden, I went from being this girl that like never wore makeup [00:10:30] to having like every makeup hair product in the bathroom. It looked like some like mad scientist laboratory. 

I would spend hours getting ready. The more I focused on my appearance, the more guys started to notice me. That attention was also seductive. It offered a way out at it made me think, "Well, maybe I'll be okay if I fall in love with Prince charming," and starting to believe things [00:11:00] that I think a lot of 17-year-old girls believe. Just the messages that we get from our society. You're thin, you're happy. You're thin you're together. You're thin, you matter if you're not thin, then maybe you're not happy. Just these- 

Ellie: We are out of control. 

Shannon: We are out of control. I bought into that. I think I was very vulnerable to those messages because I was looking, I had lost my sense of [00:11:30] my anchor in life, which was my father and his values and mine were all over the place. It was out of control. I wanted to feel in control. I didn't understand that the nature of life is that we all experience pain. We all experience joy. We all experience love and grief that I was not alone in the human experience. I had really bought into those messages in society that you can arrive and you can be [00:12:00] permanently, everlastingly happy, and you can make it. I felt like something was wrong with me because I felt so sad. I felt like that emotion wasn't allowed in some way. 

[music] 

[00:12:30] 

Ellie: Unable to express the turmoil. She felt inside Shannon's unspoken emotions grew and grew as her family crumbled. Her dad's alcoholism snowballed to the point that he faced jail time, DUIs, forced rehab, and perhaps worst of all, Shannon lost her relationship with him completely. Unequipped to handle the strain, her disorder leaped in to fill the void and numb pain. 

Shannon: After college, I moved to California with a few [00:13:00] of my friends, and the eating disorder took on a new intensity. I found myself bingeing countless times throughout the day and the night, and really missing out on life, watching my friends, go to the beach, or go out to eat or meet new people. I was increasingly isolated in my bedroom bingeing with the door locked. I knew it was a problem. I also met my now-husband then [00:13:30] and found that I couldn't be honest with him, found that I was having panic attacks before we'd go on a date because I would have to eat and trying to somehow keep this illness a secret. I couldn't manage it. 

Then I started to see after college in California, how it was hurtful to me, how I wasn't going to be able to have a relationship with someone I loved because the eating disorder was more important. How I wasn't going to be [00:14:00] able to write or have a career because the eating disorder was more important. Together with my therapist, we found a treatment center. At this point, I had lost connection with the things that really mattered to me and made life beautiful. 

Equine therapy was a really powerful experience for me and reminded me, "Oh, this is who you are beyond your eating disorder. You are someone that [00:14:30] deeply connects with animals and feels very safe around them." I will never forget that day. It was one of the best days of my life because it felt like I was landing somewhere I was meant to be. 

Ellie: It was your end to become Jane Goodall. 

Shannon: Yes, it was my end to become Jane of dogs [00:15:00]. 

Ellie: Although insurance coverage prevented her from continuing on this course of therapy, Shannon had fortunately stumbled on one of the biggest keys to long-lasting recovery, values-based living. Values differ from person to person someone's bedrock may be family while another's is honesty. For Shannon, connecting with animals served as a core value in her life. Once she discovered how important that bond was, she pursued it as hard as she could even redirecting her job search to align with her values. [00:15:30] Soon, she found herself working at the San Diego Humane Society. 

What was it about equine therapy and dogs that made you feel so safe and made a difference for you emotionally? 

Shannon: Well, I grew up with a dog named Sugar. I named her that, and I always felt like I could tell her anything. I always felt a desire to talk to her as if she could understand me. Of course, she would never give me any lecture. [00:16:00] She would never tell me her thoughts. She would just express this love through the language of her body by nestling close to me or kissing me or just wagging her tail relentlessly, no matter how many times, if I'd been gone for two seconds. She was just so happy about me. 

For someone that feels really sad within herself, it's a powerful thing to be around an animal that thinks you're amazing and it's really uplifting. [00:16:30] Then at the same time for someone that's carrying a lot of secrets and shame, it's powerful to be around a being that's not human. That even someone with the most open heart, the best intentions, my therapist, an amazing therapist, even her, I could not be fully honest with. It was so shameful for me to talk about my behavior. 

Ellie: When you describe shame, [00:17:00] how would you describe it? Maybe in colors, picture, or words? Just what did that feel like to you? 

Shannon: it's like a cage. It's really a feeling of being trapped, finding it hard to breathe. I think another powerful thing about working in animal welfare as I have in the past 10 years is we all have our metaphorical cages. Mine was shame. Animals, when you [00:17:30] begin to work in animal shelters and you see them in so many of them come right to the front of their kennels and their muscles are pushing through the bars and they're displaying all their vulnerability and their desperate urgent need for love. 

I saw that so much and I continue to see it in animal welfare. It gets me every time because I think that's the way out of any cage, out of shame, out of an eating disorder, out of depression, out of alcoholism, [00:18:00] you've got to become vulnerable. You've got to come forward and show yourself all of yourself. You've got to be able to reach out and connect with another being and say, "This is who I am, help me." I think that shame continues to be something that I'm working with even eight years after fully recovering from my eating disorder. 

Ellie: It sounds like you described the antidote to shame as connection and truth. 

Shannon: Yes. 

Ellie: Where do you [00:18:30] find connection and truth today? 

Shannon: I find connection and truth in many places. I find it in the animals I work with at shelters, but I also find it going for walks outdoors and just being near the presence of a big giant tree. I find it in friendships and family and in my interactions with my beautiful little boy. I feel like it lives in so many places today. In early recovery, I could really [00:19:00] only find it with the animals. That was the only place I felt safe to be me. 

[music] 

Ellie: Discovering a place to be safe and loved with key and Shannon's recovery. It helped her wean off the numbing effects of her disorder and find a strong foundation in what she truly cared about. To dig more into that process, [00:19:30] I spoke with Carol Dworaczyk, a professional therapist from Eating Recovery Center. 

Carol Dworaczyk: My name is Carol Dworaczyk. I am a family therapist and I've been working at Eating Recovery Center for the last three years. 

Ellie: In your experience as a therapist, what are some primary goals that you have for people as they start to seek recovery from an eating disorder? 

Carol: The first step is to interrupt behaviors. They have been using these behaviors to numb feelings for a really long time. [00:20:00]. When you interrupt the behaviors, the feelings tend to come out pretty hard in the beginning. 

Ellie: Someone like Shannon, who is at that point, she was seeking recovery from bulimia. To interrupt the behaviors, what would that look like? 

Carol: The goal is to interrupt purging. Purging can happen in a lot of ways. It could be laxative use, it could be vomiting, it could be over exercise. When they come into treatment, [00:20:30] we actually monitor those things so that they're not able to do it. 

Ellie: For Shannon, connecting with the animals was a really big part of her recovery as you know. Feeling compassion and understanding for these animals, as well as connecting with her own values of nurturing these animals. How do you bring that into someone's recovery and how would you advise someone to take some of those lessons into their own recovery. 

Carol: One of the things we do is there's actually a process for identifying your values and then they're looking at [00:21:00] their life and saying, am I living these values? Am I actually showing up the way I want to show up in the world? The great thing about values is you can't be in line with your values and be in line with your eating disorder. It just doesn't work. You have to pick one or the other. When someone's giving up their eating disorder, we want to give them something else to focus on something they're passionate about, something that they love. 

For Shannon, that was the animals, [00:21:30] the dogs, I think she really loved them a lot, but I believe they also loved her. I also see how she felt loved but also not judged. They just loved her no matter what they loved her, whether she purged an hour ago, they loved her all of that stuff. I think that was so important in her process. 

Ellie: It also seems like her relationship with the dogs to show them compassion was a really great example for her to be able to see compassion for herself. [00:22:00] Carol: Absolutely. 

Ellie: Do you find that that's like a connecting point for a lot of people like learning self-compassion is important? 

Carol: Absolutely. A lot of times it's really difficult to have compassion for yourself to start there. Most people with eating disorders have self-hatred and they just have a hard time going there in the beginning. A lot of times it is about having compassion for someone else, an animal, a person, those kinds of things you have to start there. [00:22:30] Then through that process, you learn to have compassion for you in that process. 

Ellie: What are some things that you've noticed are really helpful for people to cling on onto when it comes to values like connection, maybe as a big one, any other value words you think of? 

Carol: Connections or courage, some people have had adventure where they really want to do get out and do something that they've always wanted to do. Shannon actually encouraged the dogs to do things that she wanted to do. [00:23:00] I remember a part of her story was one of her dogs was afraid to go in the studio. They were going to film this dog and the dog was afraid. She was talking to the dog and saying sometimes the most valuable things are things that are scary. That's not just a message to the dog, but it was a message to herself. 

Ellie: It seems like that's a great metaphor for recovery. It seems scary but it's so worth it. It takes courage and it's one step forward. [00:23:30] 

Carol: Absolutely, and it's uncomfortable. 

Ellie: Are there any great resources for someone that would be listening just to be able to identify their values? 

Carol: You can Google values sort- 

Ellie: We've provided you a values sort, by the way, you can download it for free on our website, mentalnotepodcast.com. 

Carol: You can look at and do a process where you can identify your values. 

Ellie: Perfect. It seems like a really easy way to be able to identify what your top values are. That typically informs [00:24:00] how we act in life and what our next step could be. We don't have to be seeking recovery in order to identify our values, but it's for anyone. I like that. Thank you so much. 

Carol: Thank you. 

Ellie: Just like Carol explained, Shannon worked with her therapist to respond to the disorder by following her values, but they kept hitting roadblocks. The voice of her disorder was simply too strong. One day while Shannon's therapist listened to how she describes some of the dogs at her job, they decided to try a new tactic. [00:24:30] They agreed that the next time she felt she would binge, she should physically visit one of the shelter dogs. She didn't have to wait long before needing this new approach. 

The following day, Shannon benched on some cookies in the break room. She felt horrible but remembered the plan she and her therapist had made. 

Shannon: To the right out of there break room, were the bathrooms and to the left, were the dog habitats. I almost stepped outside my body and watched myself go left. I went right to Paloma's habitat. [00:25:00] Of course, the instant I get in there, her whole body's wagging along with her tail. She crawls into my lap with absolutely no awareness of her size. She's like 70 pounds. She thinks she's like this little Chihuahua that can nestle her whole self into you. 

Ellie: Sounds like what you needed. 

Shannon: It was, and she grounded me and I sat there with this big dog in my lap, stroking her white coat, looking into her eyes, letting her kiss me all over, [00:25:30] hugging her, crying at some points, feeling so disgusting thinking I can't, I need to go get rid of this. I just ate all these cookies, I'm horrible. The eating disorder was doing its thing and telling me about how awful I was. Yet then there was this dog doing her thing and making me feel so loved. Even if I wanted to get up, it would have been a little challenging because she was so happy I was there. It was like she crawled into my lap and was never going to leave. [00:26:00] 

It was the first time I had ever binged. Since becoming bulimic and not purged, and it was really important for me to see that I had the power to do that. 

Ellie: This breakthrough filled Shannon with hope. She began to believe that change was possible. As a result of locking into a bedrock value strong enough to counter the eating disorder, her therapist began incorporating time with dogs into therapy, and it worked. By [00:26:30] following her values and spending time building a community that supported them. Shannon began to realize that she was worthy of the same compassion and love her furry friends had given her. 

When you talk about mindfulness, it reminds me of a quote I heard the other day, and it said something along the lines of, "A struggle will stay with you until you've learned its lesson." It seems like that was a lot of your process was learning to not just avoid, but then slowly allow yourself to understand what your thoughts and feelings [00:27:00] were and learn their lesson without judgment. 

Shannon: Without judgment. I learned so much from so many individuals, shelter dogs, and their stories. One that comes to mind is a dog named Stewie who was a miniature poodle that was thrown into a tub of scorching hot water by his owner when he was only six months old. He was a puppy. 

Ellie: So unfair. 

Shannon: People were not sure if he was going to survive. It was so sad [00:27:30] and the slightest movement was painful for him. He would never look like a normal dog. He had this white fluffy fur on his face, on his legs, but the center of his body was just achingly red skin that was prone to injury and sensitive to touch. It would always be that way. He would later in life be wearing a lot of tee shirts and things just to protect people from the shock factor of what his body looked like. 

I remember that [00:28:00] Stewie looked like on the outside, it was almost like he was the exact physical expression of how I felt inside as I moved into recovery, because I felt achingly raw and vulnerable. The eating disorder had been my shield in so many ways, my protection, my buffer from feelings, so many things. As I moved into recovery, I felt almost like everyone can see how scared I was [00:28:30] and vulnerable and my scars. 

Stewie early on was a really important, special dog to me. Yet I was afraid to love him as much as I did because I didn't know if he was going to make it. It's that human instinct of, I need to protect my heart here, but Stewie did not protect his heart. In that veterinary suite where he was covered with bandages and veterinarians were coming and prodding [00:29:00] and injecting him with needles and changing his bandages, he would actually squirm to the front of his cage and lay his head in their hands. He would move through his pain towards this complete stranger or this person that he loved towards connection. 

To me, that's a metaphor. I talk about a lot today. He's just this symbol of resilience and this ability to, despite our past, despite such a horrific [00:29:30] start to life, he had this really unique and courageous desire to connect, even though it hurt. That's what recovery was all about for me. It was I need to keep connecting. I need to keep telling the truth, whether it's to this animal or to my therapist or to my dietician. Even though it hurts, even though I don't want to say actually how bad I feel, or actually what I did last night, I've got to say it. [00:30:00] 

Ellie: This sounds so powerful and that metaphor is really pertinent to think through that for anyone. Whether or not anyone's had an eating disorder, they can always learn to move through those uncomfortable feelings and their vulnerability and their rawness to really seek connection, and that is powerful. As you think about the ways that you move through that vulnerability and speak your truth now, what have you gained from that process? 

Shannon: It is really [00:30:30] amazing that after so many years of carrying this shame and this secrecy that I was able to publish a book that anyone can read and share it all. I've connected with inmates in prisons, I've connected with people across the world, people struggling with eating disorders but also PTSD or drug addiction. They say, "If not for this animal, [00:31:00] I wouldn't be here. If not for my dog, I wouldn't be here. If not for this horse, I don't know if I'd be here." 

Animals can really be lifesavers and heroes in our stories, not just a cute cozy little friend but something really powerful. It's so awesome now to get to have these conversations about the healing power of animals which leads to other conversations [00:31:30] about shame, about our collective struggle to accept ourselves as we are, about our collective struggle to feel the emotions that are hard to feel instead of the shiny bright happy ones that we see all over TV and social media. I'm so grateful to be able to have real authentic conversations after so many years, eight years, of doing a lot of lying [00:32:00] to cover up what was true for me. 

Ellie: Now in recovery, Shannon is living a life she once considered unimaginable. She's a new mom, continues to work with animals and even wrote a book about her journey, it's called Pound for Pound, we'll link to it in the Shownotes by the way. I think you're a really great example of just being a normal human, right? 

Shannon: Yes. 

Ellie: That we all have emotions we want to avoid and learning how to be authentic and share our truth and connect with others [00:32:30] is so valuable. 

Shannon: I used to be one of those people that really would get prickly and annoyed when I'd hear the stories of people who had recovered because I felt like they were lying. I felt like it was really impossible to live free of food and body obsession. I just couldn't imagine another way of being in the world and hashtags didn't exist at [00:33:00] that time but I'm sure I would have lowered that the hashtag recovery is possible, but I'm someone who posts that like all the time because am so amazed that I'm here. 

Ellie: At this point, do you ever have this desire to binge and then purge? 

Shannon: I have not had that desire for eight years. I lost a dear friend of mine who died young, my father went to jail, [00:33:30] I've written a book, I've gotten married to my best friend, I've had a child and through all of it, not once have I ever had the desire to binge or purge. It's miraculous to me and unbelievable and it really teaches me that what I think I know for sure might not actually be the truth. [chuckles] Every time I think, "This is impossible or this is going to suck," I can [00:34:00] maybe have a little bit more space around that because I've witnessed a lot of things in my life happened that I was so certain could never happen. I have not had the desire to engage in eating disorder behaviors, I don't miss my eating disorder. 

Ellie: It sounds like you learned a lesson from your eating disorder, and part of that as you just described was embracing uncertainty and letting go of the, "I'll never recover," or "I'll never go without having an eating disorder thought or behavior" [00:34:30] to "I may or may not," and then now you don't. It just seems like you've moved through a process that's not imperfect. Life is big, I like how you said that. It seems like it's still throwing lots of emotions your way, but you've learned to cope in a much more healthy way. 

Shannon: Yes. I still struggle. I think I'm so eager to sometimes turn on the TV or CNN or scroll through my Facebook feed or [00:35:00] maybe caretake or focus my attention anywhere but on this uncertainty, I'm feeling, or this anxiety. It's important for me to continue self-care. I still work with Shelter Animals, I still practice meditation and yoga, and I was in therapy with that same therapist for 10 years and I've still got a lot [chuckles] of work to do but I'm not afraid of that work [00:35:30] anymore. 

Ellie: I think that's going to be really helpful for our listeners because sometimes we can paint the picture like it's all glorious now. This is why the recovery is worth it, but it's more about learning how to do the work because we'll always have to do that work in our life. 

Shannon: It's beautiful but it's also messy. I think I'm still working on, "Okay, how do I acknowledge the messiness of this? How do I acknowledge how scared I am, how insecure I feel, [00:36:00] but also the beauty that I'm in recovery today? The beauty that I do have a son. How do I feel both things at the same time? 

Ellie: When you describe that I pictured just this expansion, and with that expansion, I imagine holding the discomfort and the unwanted with the beautiful and what you're grateful for. 

Shannon: Yes, totally. 

Ellie: Thank you. I'm so grateful to hear your story, and I'm excited to see how inspired other people will feel. 

Shannon: Thank you. 

[00:36:30] 

[music] 

Ellie: Shannon's progress from squashing and driving away painful emotions to viewing herself with compassion and love would not have been possible without making the choice to stop listening to her disordered voice and begin tapping into her values, acceptance, love, and of course, a connection with animals. The brave spirits empowered her to grow self-compassion and love. It's a reminder to ask ourselves, are we choosing what we value or are we [00:37:00] simply numbing the pain. 

On that note, I'd like to personally invite you to our one-day illumination retreat being held in Portland Washington DC and Dallas, April through July. The retreat is an interactive half-day event of education, support, and resources for eating disorder, mood, and anxiety treatment and recovery. Anyone and everyone is welcome. You can find out more at www.regonline.com/ercretreat2018. [00:37:30] 

This show is sponsored by Eating Recovery Center and Insight Behavioral Health Centers. If you're looking for someone to help you realign with your own values, give them a call. Consultations are free and they can and will help you. The number is 877-411-9578. 

Also, we love hearing from you. Don't forget to write and send us your gratitude letters by April 20th. You can contact us at mentalnote@eatingrecovery.com. Today's episode was produced by Sam Pike, [00:38:00] with editing and mixing by Erica Prather and Meredith Turk. I'm Ellie Pike, till next time. 

[00:38:16] [END OF AUDIO] 

Shannon Kopp
Presented by

Shannon Kopp, MFA

Shannon Kopp, an Eating Disorder Recovery Center National Recovery Advocate, is the best-selling author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life (HarperCollins).

After battling depression and a debilitating eating disorder for many years, Shannon found hope in the unlikeliest of places: at her local animal shelter. Shannon’s poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. She vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions—they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy.

Shannon holds an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Pacific University, and has written for CNN, Maria Shriver, The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, BarkPost and Salon. Her story has been featured in PEOPLE, NPR, CNN Turning Points with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Women’s Health, and Psychology Today. Shannon is the founder of SoulPaws Recovery Project, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit offering free Animal-Assisted Therapy to people impacted by eating disorders. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and wildly adorable rescue dog, Bella.

Follow Shannon Kopp on Instagram.

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