Join a writing community. I had started my book before I joined Project Write Now, a writing community in Red Bank, New Jersey. Setting small manageable goals, sharing my work, and getting feedback was invaluable, as was being part of a group.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meredith O’Brien.
Meredith O’Brien, LCSW is a licensed social worker, a certified intuitive eating counselor, a certified Carolyn Costin Institute eating disorder coach, and an author. With advanced training in dialectical behavior therapy, Meredith specializes in mental health services, more specifically the areas of depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, chronic suicidal ideation, self-harm, family conflict, emotional dysregulation, and life transitions.
For more than a decade, Meredith continues to utilize Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Solution-Oriented Therapy, and Mindfulness-based treatments in her practice. Her debut memoir, “Opening the Door: My Personal Journey with Anorexia Recovery” is set to be published summer of 2022 from Koehler Books. The memoir describes her gut-wrenching journey of recovery from anorexia nervosa from a young girl to entering treatment at the age of thirty-five. Now fully recovered, her passion is to write and to help people with eating disorder recovery.
Meredith received her New Jersey License of Clinical Social Work in 2009. In 2018 she became a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. In 2020 she became a Carolyn Costin Certified Eating Disorder Coach. She then received a Master of Allied Health Studies from College of Mount Saint Vincent in 2000 and a Master of Social Work from Fordham University in 2006.
Meredith has been featured in The Two River Times, Community Magazine, Mirror-Miorror.org and is currently a contributing blogger at RecoveryFromAnorexia.com.
Meredith is fully recovered from her personal journey living with anoxemia, and her then black-and-white life. She now lives in color. When she is not working with her patients, you’ll find Meredith enjoying some of her favorite desserts, each night, including ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and biscotti. In her free time, you can find her playing with her beloved golden doodle, Mavi, watching medical dramas, and reading entire books in one sitting. Her beacons of hope are her four nephews.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in New York in an upper middle-class town in Westchester County. As a child I loved to sing, dance, and be the center of attention. I was happy, creative, and full of energy. Around the age of ten I became aware of my body and how it compared to other people’s bodies. For some reason I internalized that my body was “wrong” and “not good enough” and I started a war with it. By age thirteen I was diagnosed with Anorexia.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
One of the first books I remember that inspired me was “Inner Hunger: A Young Woman’s Struggle Through Anorexia and Bulimia” by Marianne Apostolides. It was the first time I did not feel alone and realized that other people suffer from eating disorders and can get better. It is still on my bookcase to this day. Recently I reached out to the author to thank her for being an inspiration on my recovery journey.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I hired someone to be a part of my private practice even though my gut told me that they were not the right fit. I operated from my emotion mind and ignored my intuition. The lesson I learned is that our bodies speak to us and it’s important to listen.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
Absolutely. My message is that full recovery is possible from eating disorders and more specifically that even after suffering from a disease for over twenty-five years it is never too late to ask for help and turn your life around.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
There are so many. I would say that one of them is a full circle. During my recovery from anorexia my parents and I tried family therapy. We went to an office a few towns away from where we lived. Fast forward ten years later, I rented that same exact office as a private clinician to help other people. I did not make the connection until I signed the lease.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
Great question. I knew I was in a unique position in being a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and struggling with an eating disorder since age thirteen. After I reached full recovery, I knew it was crucial to share my story with the world- that you can fully recovery from an eating disorder and open the door to your life at any age.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I worked with a young female struggling with bulimia. She found out that I was a therapist specializing in treating those with eating disorders and a Carolyn Costin Institute Eating Disorder Coach. We met twice each week when she was at her most vulnerable and the eating disorder behaviors were severe. Sharing my personal story increased her sense of hope that full recovery is possible, and we focused on what she was recovering to. We decided that her best course of treatment was to live with an eating disorder coach for a period of time and she is thriving today.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Teach prevention for eating disorders and promotion of self-love in grammar schools.
In the Diagnostic Manual for Disorders to take out the requirement of having a “severe low body weight” to be diagnosed with anorexia. People can have anorexia at any weight, and I believe this stipulation prevents people of reaching out for help and believing that they are not sick enough.
Eradicate diet culture!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I am a big Brene Brown fan, and I have learned a lot about leadership in her book “Dare to Lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts.” Leadership is guiding your team by staying curious, highlighting people’s strengths, and allowing mistakes to be learning experiences.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Never stop writing. I loved writing in college and graduate school, however never believed I could pursue it as a passion or career. It is possible!
- Join a writing community. I had started my book before I joined Project Write Now, a writing community in Red Bank, New Jersey. Setting small manageable goals, sharing my work, and getting feedback was invaluable, as was being part of a group.
- Read. Read. Read. To grow as a writer, you need to read.
- Your first draft will probably be terrible but get it down on paper. If it is only in your head a book will take forever to write.
- Practice writing prompts daily, even for 5 minutes. One of the first prompts that helped me as a writer was “I remember…”. Prompts create ideas, creativity, and stirs the soul.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The difference between stumbling blocks and steppingstones is how you use them.” This is relevant to my life because I relapsed multiple times with my eating disorder. It would have been so easy for me to think that recovery was not in the cards for me, but I used each experience to learn, to gain more insight, and come from a place of compassion and curiosity, instead of judgment.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Glennon Doyle Melton, author, philanthropist, and founder of momastery.com and we can do hard things podcast. Her writing touches me. She also makes me laugh out loud. Her vulnerability and honesty are refreshing. She also openly struggles with an eating disorder, and I’d love to have a conversation with her about has helped on her recovery journey.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can reach me at my blog at www.recoveryfromanorexia.com. If readers are looking for therapeutic support, please go to www.meredithobrienlcsw.com. They can follow me on Instagram at ed_recovery_mo and at Facebook at @edrecoverymo.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Meredith O’Brien Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.