Project HEAL's 9th Treatment Scholarship Recipient: In Her Words

Hi everyone, my name is Amanda. I am Project HEAL's 9th scholarship recipient and I want to share with you how much your continued support for Project HEAL has changed my life and continues to change mine and others every day.

Here is a crash course of my story. My parents divorced when I was very young and my mom remarried quickly after that. The environment I grew up in was pretty tough. I love my family dearly and always will, but they were not capable of taking care of and keeping me safe. Nights often resulted in violent yelling that occasionally escalated to become physical, usually as a result of excessive alcohol drinking. I started feeling worthless, alone as if I had no family to turn to, and like a failure. This is when I began to turn to food. At age 11 I began skipping meals and the feeling it fueled me with was addicting. Fast forward to age 14. I remember walking on the beach with my mom in Florida. She asked me how I feel about how I look and I said (the big F word) “I feel fat.” She concluded that I was probably constipated and needed laxatives, so off to the pharmacy we went. Slowly and gradually I became addicted to the release that laxatives gave me. They made me skinny that one vacation, so they can make me skinny forever right? Laxatives were my new toy.

My eating disorder spiraled out of control in high school and it was almost my best kept secret. My parents cut me off financially at 16. They provided a roof and food, but everything else became my responsibility, including my dance classes, costumes, competitions and many other expenses. I left my parents’ house at age 17, lived with friends during the last couple months of high school, and then moved to NYC with just $400 in my pocket to pursue my true passions, dance, singing and acting.

Despite my successes in the entertainment industry, my depression and eating disorder were pretty much consuming my entire life and I felt myself starting to lose the battle. In January 2012 I won a singing competition and part of the reward was $10,000. I paid off my credit card, bought myself a few treats, and decided to invest the rest in trying to live life without sabotaging myself every day. It took a few months, but I eventually found my outside dietician and therapist at Balance, whom I am still with today and adore immensely. That said, throughout the two years I had been with them, they had constantly told me that I need a higher level of care. I always had an excuse. Can't afford it. Have rehearsals. Have a show. I’m going to lose my job. The list goes on. But the biggest obstacle was really the financing, everything else, although not easy to do, could be worked around.

In the fall of 2013, with my therapist’s urging, I finally worked up the courage to apply for a treatment grant from Project HEAL. A few weeks later, I received an email from Project HEAL offering me the grant to Monte Nido EDTNY. I cannot express the emotions that were flooding me in the days leading up to treatment and the first day walking in, but I am sure those here that have been through that experience can very much relate. My support system was limited with no family behind me and I had to rely on my outside team, Project HEAL, and the very few friends that knew about treatment for support. It was quite horrifying. However, as much as it was so hard to step foot into EDTNY, it was even harder to step out and not because I wasn't ready to be out on my own, but because the family that had surrounded me at Monte Nido for three months gave me something I never had before.

EDTNY is an experience that was meant to be for me. It was one of those right time, right place circumstances. My team at EDTNY will always remain near and dear to my heart. Not a day goes by that I don't spend a few moments thinking about and appreciating them. EDTNY has changed my life forever and it's all thanks to Project HEAL. Thanks to the support from Project HEAL I was able to take time to solely focus on recovering from my eating disorder without having to worry about keeping a roof over my head or working eight jobs in order to buy groceries. All of your support helps men and women like myself to get the help they need and deserve but cannot make it happen for themselves. So thank you for being here and for supporting a wonderful organization with the most amazing, inspiring people behind it. Without YOU all, Project HEAL would not be able to help people struggling like myself take their lives back. I cannot thank you all enough. Sending my endless gratitude out to Kristina, Liana, Sara, Pippa, Diana, Kylie, Natalie, the entire EDTNY team, and everyone apart of the Project HEAL family. Much love :)