Provider Reviews on Leaving Dorian


Are you a service provider, help center director, program coordinator or shelter director and would like your review of Leaving Dorian included here? Would you like to let other DV professionals know how you’re utilizing Leaving Dorian with your clients, their extended families, within the community or as a training tool with your staff? Email me at and I’ll include your thoughts below!

I dedicated two full days to reading and absorbing the life of a woman living with domestic violence. This story takes you from beginning to end of the thoughts and actions of what our women face on a daily basis. I urge anyone working in the DV field to have this book for your clients. A real woman’s perspective on every emotion that our ladies are experiencing. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story. You are a testament to our ladies who often feel there’s no way out.” -Delena Trent, Executive Director of The Caring Place, Lebanon, KY

Leaving Dorian takes you through a personal journey of intimate partner violence and the enormous psychological tension preceding physical abuse. The book also illustrates the re-victimization many women endure, and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. This is a must-read and should be on the required reading list for all DV advocates.” -Connie Little, Executive Director of Turning Point DV Services, Prestonsburg, KY

(Note: Leaving Dorian is now on Turning Point’s reading list and Mrs. Little is recommending it to the Kentucky Coalition Against DV for their required book list for certification.)

Downloaded Leaving Dorian and read it in two days. EXCELLENT book and I highly recommend it to anyone!” -Heather Frost, Domestic Violence Program Manager, ACCORD, Belmont, NY


Understanding Samantha


Screenshot_2015-05-20-08-45-20~2Samantha is eighteen years old and is from a small, rural town in Upstate New York. She’s currently studying English and Psychology at a private college on the East Coast. I’d initially asked for her input on the piece about eating disorders that I wrote for The Buffalo News as she is a recovering bulimic, but when word count and the eventual slant of the article restricted what I could include, I ended up being forced to shelve her thoughts. After re-reading them, I decided that they were too important not to share.

There are a few key elements that are important to take note of before continuing on. Samantha’s earliest memory of feeling inadequate in her own skin happened when she was just eight years old; it was only a few months after that she started purging. By the time she was thirteen she was purging after every meal “no matter how small”, restricting food and exercising obsessively even though she had already been to inpatient treatment for “suicidal thoughts and major depressive episodes” and was seeing a therapist every other week. At fifteen she was admitted to inpatient treatment again for “depression and substance abuse”. Samantha notes that, “Although neither inpatient experience was because of my (eating) disorder, working through the roots of my self-hatred and distorted perception helped me to enter periods of recovery.”

Periods is a key word, here, as recovery is an ongoing process. The feeling of being unable to control one’s life or surroundings is a typical trigger for those plagued by eating disorders, and Samantha is no different. She points to the loss of her father and “the chaos that followed” in her very early teen years as a trigger to a relapse, though now simply managing the day to day stressors of her health, relationships and family life can sometimes be enough to shake her resolve. Samantha still sees an on-campus therapist during the school year.

The initial question that I posed to Samantha was this: Tell me three things you wish people knew about eating disorders/people with ED. The following was her response:

“Three Things I Wish People Understood:

1. My eating disorder is not about beauty, and it hasn’t been for a very long time. I was eight years old when I started feeling like my body was something disgusting and shameful, and I purged for the first time when I was nine. For the first year or two, I would do it when I felt fat or ugly, but since then it has evolved into being about control and punishment. I relapse when my life or health is in a place that feels uncertain, and I feel the need to have power over some aspect of my life.

2. Telling me that I’m beautiful does absolutely nothing as far as making me feel better. When I’m having a hard day, in the middle of a relapse period, or experiencing dysmorphia, I don’t care if anyone else thinks that my body is perfect or that I look good because it isn’t about anyone else. (This one is kind of an offshoot of 1, but it’s major enough that I feel like it’s deserving of its own point.)

3. I hate my disorder. I don’t glorify it, and I do not believe that anyone should try to emulate the mindset or behaviors associated with it. I’ve had people tell me that they wish they had the self-control/ability to do the things I’ve done and it makes me sad and sick because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

As far as treatment goes, all of my inpatient was for depression, but a lot of my outpatient therapy has been focused on working through my disorder. The most successful has been dialectical behavioral therapy, which helped me to work on changing behaviors while I worked through the roots of my disorder.”

Now it’s time for full disclosure: Samantha is my niece. I love her as I loved her father (my brother); completely and without reserve. We are similar in so many ways: We are both “closet redheads”, we both have dimples, we’re both writers (but to be fair, our family of origin’s last name is “Bardwell”, so… no surprise there!) and we both suffer with eating disorders. Some of it is environmental and some of it is genetic but none of it is good, helpful, normal or fair. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to provide her a solution, even at the expense of finding one of my own.

Everyone has a “Samantha” in their life; someone they love completely and without reserve. It’s never wrong to sit a loved one down and ask (gently and without judgment) if they’re in need of help. The stigma of seeking mental health counseling lessens every time a person speaks up and admits that they’re having an issue and believes that they might need therapeutic intervention. If your “Samantha” had a broken arm, you wouldn’t think twice about seeking medical help for her. A broken heart and spirit should be no different.

Don’t Hesitate To Seek Help For An Eating Disorder


Screenshot_2015-05-12-08-48-44~2The following originally appeared in The May 3 Sunday Viewpoints Section of The Buffalo News:

In July of 2001 my husband took me to the emergency room. I’d been sick for over two weeks, but that particular Saturday morning I was almost too weak to get out of bed. After getting a brief once over from the attending physician and being sent home with little more than a shrug and a prescription, I went straight back to bed. When my husband brought me the medication, I scanned the packaging for all of the warnings and indications. I never ate anything before I read all of the ingredients and nutritional facts, and that included medicine. As soon as I noticed the little yellow label I handed it back to my husband who was standing by with a glass of water.

“I can’t take this,” I said.

“Why not?” he asked, confused.

“Because it has to be taken with food.”

I’d been too weak that morning to weigh myself. Without that number to be my guide for the day, I hadn’t been able to make a food plan. Without a food plan, I couldn’t eat. When my husband insisted that I take the medicine, I resisted. I could hear our children playing in the other room and I could see the strain written all over his face and it was at that moment that I realized for the first time that I might have a problem. I very reluctantly agreed to eat a piece of toast and take the medicine.

Because I was well past my teen years, the possibility that I might have an eating disorder never crossed my mind; I thought I was just really good at dieting. I’d been heavy all of my life, but after leaving an abusive marriage I’d gained real control over not only my life but also my weight. The more weight I lost the more positive the people around me seemed to be; the world was a nicer place to live in once I was thin. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line my wires got crossed. I started attributing every good feeling and every positive experience to being thin, though the feeling of being in control was becoming increasingly harder to achieve. I’d become dependent on the numbers on my bathroom scale to tell me what kind of day I was going to have. The numbers dictated what I would eat and what I would wear. Slowly, those numbers started to define me as a person. They interfered with where I would go and who I would see. They crept into the bedroom at night and dictated my relationship with my husband. But even dealing with all of that, it still didn’t occur to me that I might have an eating disorder, not until that afternoon when I was forced to decide how badly I wanted to feel well again.

The key to navigating the complex issue of eating disorders is the important distinction that they’re not really about food at all. Eating disorders are simply an unhealthy way to cope with emotional problems, the manifestation of which is starvation, binging/purging and over-exercising. I accidentally fell into the habit of using food restriction as a tool to feel in control of my life, which made room for my self-worth to get wrapped up in the resulting weight loss, though starvation didn’t help to fix the many other issues that I was dealing with. Looking back, I wish I’d sought professional help in order to speed my recovery. If I’d gotten help for the eating disorder, every other stress point in my life could have been addressed, as well. Unfortunately, deeply held biases kept me from seeking mental health counseling. I’d been raised to believe that seeking psychological help meant that you were emotionally weak. Now I know that nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s also untrue that only teenage girls are at risk for developing eating disorders. Though 95% of the 24 million people who suffer are women ages 12 – 25, (according to the remaining 5% (roughly 1.2 million people) are women over the age of 25, adolescent boys and men. Eating disorders can happen to anyone, and menopause can be just as stressful as adolescence. With the changes that occur in our homes and in our bodies around middle age, women need to be extra kind to themselves in regards to weight maintenance and good mental health during the menopausal years.

Today, I’m at a very healthy weight and the urge to restrict my food intake isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be. I’ve built safety mechanisms into my emotional cache in an effort to stop myself from accidentally slipping back into the negative thought processes that lead to the eating disorder in the first place. Do I believe that I’ll ever be “cured”? No. But am I willing to talk about my concerns when life gets crazy and things seem out of control, even though what I really want to do is restrict my food intake? Yes. Stress is inevitable, but how I choose to handle it doesn’t have to be. I know that every day I have a choice to make. Today I woke up and decided, once again, that I’m more than the numbers on my scale. Recovery is a journey, but now I’m absolutely sure that I’m worth the effort.