It’s Time to Leave the Canyon


Dear Shannon, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m anorexic and I want to ask for help, but I’m so ashamed and frightened. I’m in college and I don’t want to have to leave school to be hospitalized or put into treatment. I want to just get better on my own. But last night, to make a long story short, I scared myself. I know I need help. But how do you cultivate the courage to actually find it?



Dear Scared,

Last night, I saw a story on the news about a couple whose home was broken into on Halloween. Their two beloved dogs, Coco (Husky) and Zoey (Pit Bull) got out during the break in, and they have been missing ever since.

But miraculously, Zoey was recently spotted on a video camera hidden in a canyon here in San Diego. In the footage, she looked unrecognizable from the dog she once was. Zoey appeared to have a broken back—her legs dragging behind her like dead weight.

Since she couldn’t move far, volunteers figured they could successfully trap her. But Zoey outsmarted them all. “She is faster than you’d expect and petrified,” one rescuer said. “She is in an area full of predators, she’s petrified of people, and as of now, after two full days, she has not been successfully trapped.”

In the end, animal-lovers, Humane Officers, and Animal Rescue volunteers in my community came together to scour the canyon for Zoey just before a big rain storm hit. Everyone seemed to understand why Zoey was hiding. Perhaps all of us had, at one point or another, hidden from the help we so desperately needed.

Asking for help requires a level of discomfort and vulnerability that I never wanted to feel during the eight years I suffered from bulimia.

And yet, one day, I made the most frightening call of my life…to the admissions number for Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders. A man on the other line posed a series of detailed and graphic questions to determine which level of care I needed, and

I can’t tell you how many times during that conversation I considered hanging up. I didn’t want to be talking to a stranger, especially a man, about these things. In fact, I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

But I didn’t hang up. The truth had become stronger than my ego, stronger than my fear, stronger than the eating disorder itself. And for once, I could clearly see that if I kept on the way I was going, I was going to die. Perhaps first emotionally and spiritually. And then physically.

I’d been running from this devastating truth for years. But once I stopped and felt the depths of my suffering, my hands picked up the phone, trembling as I dialed Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders.

It was the beginning of my rescue, and soon I’d discover that there were meals to be had without terror and punishment…truths to be told without shame and remorse… safe people and places to turn to when I struggled.

Scared, I think that the only way to cultivate courage is to continue to do exactly what you are doing, which is to feel and express your truth. In the brave letter you wrote me, you said that you “know you need help.” Lean closer into that knowing. Try to slow down and take a clear look around.

Look at the predators surrounding you in this lonely canyon. Acknowledge that the nights have become too long and dark and cold.

And then, I think, you will begin to make your way out.

Your hands, even as they tremble, might pick up the phone and call for help (The National Eating Disorders Help Hotline is 1-800-931-2237).

Let this be the beginning of your beautiful rescue.

I believe it’s time.



P.S. Brave Zoey found her way out of the canyon, thanks to dozens upon dozens of rescuers. She’s now safe at home with her loving family.

Zoey reunited with her owner at the rescue site

Zoey safe at home after her rescue

Zoey safely at the vet after her rescue



Do you have a question on eating disorder recovery? Write Shannon here:, and she will answer back in a blog post on her site!

About the Author:

Shannon Kopp is an eating disorder survivor, animal welfare advocate, and 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 Publishers). She is also the founder of SoulPaws Recovery Project, offering free animal therapy and healing resources to those suffering from eating disorders. Shannon’s writing has been featured on CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, Salon, NPR, Good Housekeeping, Dogster, Maria Shriver, and more. She also regularly posts recovery-related poetry on Instagram!