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Betsy Brenner

By April 29, 2022ANAD Blog

Author, Mentor, Advocate

betsy brenner

“The only way out is through and you really need to develop a self-awareness that allows you to go back and understand how the experiences in your life have shaped you and why you responded that way.” – Betsy Brenner

 

Tell me about yourself.

I am originally from Rochester, NY, but I’ve spent majority of my adult life in Rhode Island. I’ve been married for almost 32 years with 3 grown children. I am a lawyer by education, and I’ve coached high school tennis for many years before retiring to focus on my book. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your book? 

It was a silver lining of the pandemic; I had never planned to be an author or to write my entire life story. I had written my recovery story and presented it at several treatment centers in Boston several years ago, but Covid hit in March of 2020 and everything I was involved in shut down. Around that time, I had been going back and forth with an editor in the eating disorder world about how it would look to map out my story and I began writing one chapter at a time. I finished my entire manuscript in January of 2021, and it was published in May of 2021. Its available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. My message is that it’s never too late to be a work in progress. We’ve all been through something. No matter what it is it’s always possible to heal although it’s not easy. In my book I detail the challenges I’ve faced as well as all the blessings and literally the details of my life that contributed to developing an eating disorder in mid-life, but the eating disorder itself turned out to be a catalyst for healing so I go into details of my recovering journey and my hopes for life beyond my eating disorder.

How long have you been volunteering with ANAD? 

I’ve been a mentor for several years going back to when Kristen oversaw programing. 

What was it about ANAD that drew you to us? 

I loved that it is completely free peer led support, there’s always someone who gets it. The groups and mentorship and all the support that’s provided is easily available and accessible to all and it’s always been a warm and friendly welcoming organization. As a mentor and recovery speaker I’m just grateful for the opportunity and to give back to such a wonderful organization.

In your eating disorder recovery, what has been the most helpful advice you’ve received? 

The only way out is through, and you really need to develop a self-awareness that allows you to go back and understand how the experiences in your life have shaped you and why you responded the way that you did. For me it was a matter of allowing myself to be vulnerable for the first time ever and literally feel the feelings that I had been trying to internalize for decades. That was the key to my recovery along with professional treatment and connection and all of it has allowed me to find my voice and be comfortable being my authentic vulnerable self, which goes against everything that had been engraved in me for a long time. 

Why do you think that recovery can be so hard? 

I think that anything that is worth doing can be difficult, but I think what makes it so hard is that there is no way to move forward without going back first. We’ve all been through some sort of trauma or difficult experience and eating disorders develop as a maladaptive way of coping. Recovery is about finding healthier ways to cope but the only way to do that is to understand the purpose that the eating disorder has served and why it developed. Recovery is a very complicated and complex process that involves going back and trying to understand and deal with all the difficult experiences that we’ve been through, that we’ve always wanted to try and not face. It’s really facing the difficult chapters in our stories and learning from them so that we can find healthier ways to process and cope. 

What surprised you the most about yourself while being in recovery? 

I had always been a very private person and took a while for me to let people in and let my guard down. I always equated vulnerability with weakness and always thought that I had to be positive because that was what was engraved in me from a young age so the joy of discovering who I am without my eating disorder and allowing myself all those ways of being that goes against how I’ve always was. Just allowing myself to be human and feel all types of emotions and truly connect with others in an authentic and vulnerable way are just gifts of recovery.

What do you do to practice self-compassion and self-love? 

One of my favorite things is walking along the beach and collecting sea glass and it just makes me feel at peace no matter what else is going on. I also play tennis and enjoy walking with friends and getting coffee. Just connecting with others with who I can be my authentic self.