Active Minds Blog » Laura Porter Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Connection with Trauma Wed, 24 Feb 2016 14:50:42 +0000 Trigger warning: This post discusses sexual violence. If you need assistance, please visit Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.


What does trauma have to do with an eating disorder?

This is the question I asked myself over and over again, but it’s a question we don’t seem to talk about.

What did my sexual assault have to do with my eating disorder? I struggled to put the pieces together. I poured over scholarly literature, using my school’s online library to find any research I could that examined the connection between rape and eating disorders.

But the literature was scarce, and even more scarce was the information online that examined the intersection between trauma and eating disorders. The discussions about these issues existed in separate spheres. Sexual assault advocacy seemed to center around helping survivors report the assault, seeking some sort of justice for the atrocity we’ve experienced.

But, to me, the onus is still on the survivor to report–and the shame I felt, the powerlessness, was exacerbated by the feeling that I was supposed to be fighting a battle against my assailant–not a war against myself.

Eating disorder recovery seemed to be in a different realm as well. When I entered into treatment again in the summer of 2015, it was so hard for people to understand why I was holding onto the eating disorder. I didn’t want to be sick, I knew what it was like and I knew what I was losing–my desire to be an advocate, my voice and my life.

My eating disorder wasn’t about fitting into a thin “ideal,” it wasn’t about looking “pretty” or being accepted. In fact, it was pretty much the opposite–I wanted to disappear, to feel safe and to shrink my body so that no man could possibly find me attractive–so that, I thought, I couldn’t get hurt again. This was hard for people to understand because it doesn’t fit within the stereotypes we associate with eating disorders, and it didn’t seem to fit with any of the common factors that can contribute to eating disorders.

The shame and subsequent isolation I felt drove me to search for a sense of community–to search tirelessly for anyone who had a similar experience, who could relate and understand the connection between my assault and eating disorder.

In December of 2015, I began reading Controlled, a book by Neesha Arter, an inspiring woman who has come to be one of my closest friends. I couldn’t put the book down. I kept highlighting passages, writing sentences down in my journal, thinking the whole time, “Oh my God, she gets it.”

Neesha recounts her experience with sexual assault, and her subsequent battle with anorexia. There are so many passages in this book I could present here that describe what I felt and I find so much of myself in her writing. But this particular quote I will share and it is very important to me.

“My body felt divided and broken from my mind, like a shattered piece of glass on the floor. Those two boys had damaged it beyond repair. It had no beauty left in it, and I didn’t my respect anymore. The memory of their hands on my body and inside of me took away any ownership I had for myself.” (p. 54.)

I found my story reflected in Neesha’s. Finally, someone had put into words what I had felt and someone spoke up about the intersection of trauma and eating disorders, putting together the pieces that I had struggled to connect.

In Neesha, I found the “other me,” someone who shared my story and my truth.

So often we hear, “You’re not alone.” It’s a true and very valid statement, but it wasn’t until I was able to really connect with another person, to talk with her and to share our stories, that I truly felt I wasn’t alone.  

I realize that this piece may not be as uplifting as many eating disorder posts are. I haven’t include some kind of “happy ending” or wrapped the post up with some larger realization I’ve discovered through this process. That’s not what this post is about.

My hope is that we can start a dialogue about the ways sexual assault and eating disorders intersect, that we speak up and break the shame, and potentially find your “other me.”

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5 Tips to Get You Ready for the Fall Semester Mon, 24 Aug 2015 08:34:12 +0000

A new school year is upon us, and we’re pretty excited. To help you get ready for the semester, we’ve put together five tips that you can use to have a great start to the year.

  1. Relax.

Starting a new year back at school can be exciting, but with new classes, adjusting to campus life and getting back on a schedule, the new school year can also bring stress.  When your brain gets stress, your body experiences stress as well. It begins to release chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, which really takes a toll on your body. Make sure to carve out some quiet time in your day–read, go for a walk, listen to a guided meditation–do something that makes you slow down and calms your mind.  Your body will thank you.

  1. Set goals.

Before school begins, think about your goals for this year. Plan a few goals that you want to accomplish in the next week (short term), and some that you want to aim for this semester or school year (long term). Write them down and post them somewhere you can see them.  These goals can help keep you motivated throughout the year and can provide a good outline for how you want to spend your time.

  1. Be realistic about your commitments.

With so many options to get involved in student life, it can be hard not to overload your schedule. Make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin, though. You have time to explore what interests you. So if you find yourself signing up for every opportunity, take a pause and look at your goals. If what you want to do aligns with these, see if you have time in your schedule–but don’t forget to carve out time for self care.

  1. Be gentle with yourself.

Being a student is tough, and it’s easy to become our own worst critic. When you find that the voice inside your head is telling you that you’re not “good enough,” remind it that you are worthy of love–just by being who you are. Accept where you are right now and pause to see what you need to care for yourself in this moment. Need some ideas? Here’s a giant list!

  1. Reach out.

If you find yourself struggling during the school year, make sure to reach out for support. Talk to your friends about what you need from them. Go to your professor’s office hours if you’re concerned about class. Don’t be afraid to visit your school’s counseling center. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own, so reach out and vocalize what you need to take care of yourself.


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#EDAW: My Alcoholism and Eating Disorder Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:52:30 +0000 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

photo-300x300I am in recovery from both an eating disorder and alcoholism — and I am not alone. About 50 percent of those of us who struggle with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol, compared with nine percent of the general population.

If you search the web for co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse, you will find a lot — I mean a lot — of articles about the term “drunkorexia,” specifically referring to college students. I want to emphasize that “drunkorexia” is a non-clinical buzzword that has cropped up, particularly in mainstream media.

The term may be flashy, and may be a short, easy-to-use word for writers, but it overlooks the aspect that eating disorders are not a choice. The idea behind this word is that people will engage in eating disorder behaviors in order to drink more, attempting to “compensate” for the alcohol consumed.

But this isn’t what illnesses are about, and that’s why we should focus on the actual issue: the touchy-feely stuff.

I used the eating disorder as a way to try and control how I felt. If I felt sad or hurt, I would use the eating disorder because it distracted me from what I was actually feeling. It took up so much head space that I didn’t have to focus on those feelings I avoided. The alcohol did the same thing. It helped me forget what I was truly feeling.

I attempted to numb the pain I was feeling by drinking and using ED behaviors, but I just kept needing more and more to push away the emotions. I grew a tolerance not only to alcohol, but to the pain I was inflicting on my body through the eating disorder and it just took more and more self-destructing behaviors to feel numb.

After a little while, it stopped working. I thought I was just hiding from the bad feelings, but in reality I was hiding from the good too and shutting out the love and compassion I longed for. I couldn’t really feel better until I began to let myself feel worse.

I began to get help for my illnesses and learned that I had to treat both at the same time. It was like whack-a-mole if I didn’t. If I was doing well in my eating disorder, I would turn to the bottle and vice versa. It was not because I could never get better–recovery is possible–it was because I wasn’t addressing the underlying issues that led me to seek comfort in the eating disorder and alcohol in the first place.

There’s a saying that I heard early in my sobriety that “one drink is too many and a thousand is never enough.” The same goes for my eating disorder behaviors. My brain sometimes tries to convince me that I am just like non-alcoholics and people who haven’t experienced an eating disorder. But I know that my worst day in recovery is a million times better than my best day suffering in silence and, one day at a time, I’m going to hold onto that.

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How to Prepare for Eating Disorders Awareness Week Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:37:30 +0000 NEDA Awareness Week



From Feb. 22-28, chapter members and mental health advocates around the country will participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness week.

Active Minds’ theme this year — “You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, You Just Have to Be There” — emphasizes the importance of being supportive of someone else struggling and also being there for yourself.  If you’re looking for ways to start planning for the week, we’ve put together a list of awesome resources to get you prepared to host great programs and educate your community about eating disorders.

1. Active Minds’ Eating Disorders Awareness Week Resources have valuable information on how you can be an advocate and ally on your campus.  We’ve put together an Action Kit including statistics to inform, social media tools and more. Request the Action Kit today and look into booking one of our awesome speakers to educate  your campus about eating disorders. 


2. The National Eating Disorder Association has a great list of resources with a broad range of topics. Educate yourself about issues like media literacy, athletes and eating disorders and historically under-served populations. You can also find information on the site about resources for those who are struggling to find help specifically for support with eating disorder recovery.

speak image3. Colleges and universities also have campus organizations that promote eating disorder awareness. You can find informational resources from these organizations and gain some inspiration from seeing what other students are doing on their campuses.  Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at The George Washington University (SPEAK GW) is one of these organizations which hosted events throughout Eating Disorder Awareness Week in 2014. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information about the group!

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Give the Gift of Hope and Help College Students Tue, 30 Dec 2014 08:56:34 +0000 EOY_give the gift of hopeHope is one of the most cherished gifts I have received during my recovery journey, and one of the most amazing gifts you can give to a person.

I was reminded of the power of hope when I spoke with my therapist a couple of weeks ago.  I was struggling with the loss of an old friend, her life claimed by suicide.  She had written me a message shortly before her death, saying that my story had inspired her and it was a light in the darkness she had been feeling.  I was informed about her passing about two weeks after I had received the message.

I struggled with this message, wondering if I could have done something, holding onto guilt and shame — but that does not do her memory justice.

What I hold onto now is that, even if just for a short time, I could offer her hope. Even though I was powerless over her actions and her struggles, I could give something that maybe made one day a bit easier.

That is what I hold on to.

I found hope in Active Minds and the willingness of students, just like me, to share their stories of perseverance, recovery and strength.

Hope is a gift that inspires us to keep fighting. It encourages those of us who are struggling to find light in the darkness — even if the light is small at first.  It gives us the faith and the trust that things will get better and that uncomfortable and painful feelings will not last forever.

When you give a gift to Active Minds this year, you’re giving more than you think.

You’re giving students just like me the hope that we won’t lose any more of our friends, brothers, sisters and classmates to suicide.

You’re giving me the hope that one day I will watch as college students across the nation bury their fears and their shame — not their best friends.



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Why I Support Active Minds: I am a Survivor and I am Alive Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:31:24 +0000 LauraIG

That’s me, home for the holidays.

I am a survivor and I am alive. My name is Laura Porter and I am also a junior at George Washington University, a student, a friend, a daughter, a sister and a girlfriend.

As it is for many, transitioning to college and moving away from all things familiar was difficult and made my freshman year a hard one. By my sophomore year, my alcoholism, self-harm and eating disorder had worsened, lowering me into a deep hole of depression. I felt trapped and alone. I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was going through or that anyone could help.

I didn’t make it home for the holidays that year. I was in a residential treatment center, trying to find reasons to keep living. I wanted to get better so I could be with my family, but I didn’t know how.

The following year, the inner demons that had been tormenting me took control. On September 10, I attempted suicide.

There is one moment from that dark time that sticks out the most for me. I was at a round table in the psychiatric ward with my mom, therapist and social worker. We were talking to my dad on the phone. For the first time in my life, I heard him cry, saying that he was terrified of losing his little girl.

That year, I made it home for the holidays and made a promise to myself and my family — that I would heal. I started to take care of myself, taking baby steps at first. Recovery isn’t a perfect process. There are ups and downs throughout the journey, but I have found hope.

Organizations like Active Minds embody this hope. Active Minds is having the conversation that I needed, helping students who are struggling to see that what we’re going through is not permanent and that hope is real and it is there when we’re ready to seize it.

This is personal for me and I know it’s personal for a lot of you too. Please consider donating to Active Minds. This incredible organization is keeping students like me coming home for the holidays.

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Holiday Gift Guide: 5 Ideas from the Active Minds Store Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:52:45 +0000 Shopping for a Stigma Fighter on your list?  We’ve got you covered. The Active Minds store is filled with gear made to inspire, educate and help promote awareness about mental health.

We’ve put together a list of five awesome gifts, unique enough for every stigma fighter you’re shopping for.

1620564_10152405583527676_2481823917877033260_n1. Signed copy of The World of PostSecret by Frank Warren

This new addition to the store is Frank Warren’s latest book of secrets. PostSecret is a community art project started by Warren where strangers send in anonymous secrets on post cards.  Warren compiles the secrets and posts them to the PostSecret blog.  This compilation of thought-provoking, funny and sometimes heartbreaking book of secrets, signed by Warren himself, is perfect for the stigma fighter in your life.

iambutton12. “I am a mental health advocate” button

This is a perfect gift for those who want to spread the message of Active Minds. Display this button on backpacks, apparel, on a bulletin board — whatever you can think of — and show support for the mental health awareness movement. The button makes a fantastic stocking stuffer. You can also pair it with our “Laugh More” and “1 in 4” buttons, which are always huge hits with students.

10349980_10152405552702676_8752852920770163384_n3. Active Minds Hoodie

Active Minds wants everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin, so it makes sense that our clothing is incredibly cozy.  This sweatshirt is a favorite among our students and will keep those on your list warm in the upcoming winter months–and all year round!

Laugh_More_shirt_front_opt__1_4. “Laugh More” T-shirt

This t-shirt is a staple for students during Active Minds’ Stress Less Week.  Laughing is one of the best ways to relieve stress, and this shirt is a fun reminder to stress less and laugh more! Grab it for the stigma fighter on your list to keep up the holiday cheer all year round.


5. Graduation Cords

Is someone on your list graduating in the Spring? Get your chapter member chords to highlight his or her involvement in Active Minds! These chords will make a great gift now and in the upcoming months. They’re really popular as soon as graduation season rolls around and sell out quickly, so why not get ahead of the game?


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Stress Less Week: 5 YouTube Videos to Watch During a Study Break Wed, 03 Dec 2014 08:11:30 +0000 giphyWelcome to the Winter 2014 Stress Less Week blog series! Learn more about how to host a Stress Less event on your campus.

We know studying is hard and it’s necessary to take a break. We’re always encouraging you to Laugh More, so here are five videos to help you get your laugh on and de-stress during your studies.

1. Kid President

We love Kid President and can always count on him to lift our spirits. If you need some inspiration during finals and a quick reminder that you’re awesome, check out this video.

2. Between Two Ferns with Justin BieberScreen shot 2014-11-21 at 10.53.42 AM

Regardless of your opinion on Justin Bieber, this episode of Zach Galifianakis’ In Between Two Ferns is great for a good laugh. Embrace the awkwardness and enjoy.

3. Musicians read mean tweets

Being a celebrity brings out the haters. In this video, celebrities read mean tweets people have sent, putting a funny spin on the ridiculous things people send on social media.

4. The Tower of Dreamers

I have to say, I think Dinner for Schmucks is largely underrated. In this clip from the movie, Steve Carell takes us on a journey through his unique (and hilariously inaccurate) history of dreamers, using taxidermied mice to illustrate those who dared to dream.

5. Family Feud Best Moments

On Family Feud, participants have to think quickly, and that can lead to a lot of wild responses. Here’s some hilarious (and some inappropriate) answers that will definitely get you laughing out loud.


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5 Reasons to Intern With Active Minds Wed, 12 Nov 2014 08:15:01 +0000 Want to intern with Active Minds? From one two-time intern to all potential interns out there, here are five reasons to apply today.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta1. Get hands on experience.

As interns, we are a crucial part of the Active Minds team. You will participate in meetings, take on projects and offer up ideas of your own, just like any other member of the staff. Whatever your department, you will surely be in the middle of the action and leave feeling like you made a real impact in the lives of college students and within the organization.


2. Work with an awesome, motivated team (who are really like a family). Everyone at Active Minds is looking to make a difference.  You will get to know fantastic people changing the way we talk about mental health in college who are passionate . The staff at Active Minds works as a team and, as an intern, the moment you step in the door you become a part of the group.

Everybody dance now

3. You’ll enjoy coming to work. Okay, so we’re not dancing on tables with boom boxes, but with energetic staff and interns, the Active Minds office does not shy away from a good time. Whether it’s bonding over Bob’s Burgers, or sharing breakfast on Bagel Wednesday, this team ensures an upbeat vibe throughout the year.

best friends step brothers

4. Meet other college students who are passionate about mental health. You will have many opportunities to talk with fellow interns about how they are making a difference on their campus or in their communities. Share stories, meet new friends and connect with people your age who are changing the conversation about mental health.

Wow Gif

5. Make a difference. As an intern in the Active Minds national office, know that you are making change, not just in your immediate area, but in the nation. You’re not going to be twiddling your thumbs getting through the day. As an intern, you are joining the movement to end stigma, fight discrimination and encourage people to seek help, which is pretty awesome.

So Stigma Fighters, we want you to join the team and embrace the awesomeness that abounds in the national office. What are you waiting for?

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The Best Decision of My College Career Wed, 29 Oct 2014 08:26:08 +0000 imagesI took a year-and-a-half off from college. It was — and is — the best decision I’ve made during my time in school.

It wasn’t an easy decision, don’t get me wrong, but it is the decision that saved my life and allows me to tell my story to hopefully save others.

I came to college with the idea that everything would be “perfect.”

Perfect (adj.): Go to parties Thursday through Saturday, have a stellar GPA, join the best sorority, have hundreds of friends, fantastic internships, graduate in four years and never miss a beat.

Phew, just writing that was exhausting.

There is no such thing as “perfect,” but I wasliving as if my definition was the “norm.” It was what I needed to do, and if I didn’t, I failed. So when my grades began to slip, when my disordered eating worsened into a full-blown eating disorder and when my drinking was killing me, I began to contemplate ending my life.

Spoiler alert: It gets better.

On a Tuesday in September 2011, I sat, curled up on the couch in my therapist’s office, bawling and committed to going to treatment to work on recovery from my illnesses. It was a terrifying thought. I held on so tightly to ideas of what my life “should” be like (note: don’t “should” all over yourself), and what I was “supposed” to be doing.

I went in-and-out of treatment centers from September 2011 to December 2012, taking a leave of absence from school during that time.

I am so grateful for the time I took off from school.  I met incredible and inspiring people who were fighting courageously, just as I was, against mental illnesses.  I learned that it’s ok to feel and it doesn’t have to be something I push away.  I found out that what I was struggling with wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t broken, but that I was sick–and that I would get better.

Most importantly, I got to know myself.  I began to break down the walls I put up to protect myself, I learned to let go of fear and I started to love myself for who I am, not who I “should be.”  Had I not taken the time I needed to heal, to take care of myself, I am not sure if I would have gotten the chance to know the person I love today, unconditionally.

But I did take the time, and I am so grateful that I did. I’m not “perfect,” and I hate to break it to you, but you’re not either. There is no “perfect.” There’s no one way to do college, and there’s no one way to live life.

I have a friend who told me, “anything you put before your recovery, you’re going to lose.”  I try to live that way, putting my needs and my personal well-being (which includes mental health!) before anything.  It’s not selfish to take care of yourself.  It’s a strength.  It’s something I do so that I can live, really live, and in doing so, flood the world with awesomeness.

So here’s a definition I’ll leave you with. It’s a definition that grows and evolves, changing everyday as I continue on my journey of recovery, wherever that adventure takes me.

Me (pronoun): a human being who deserves love and kindness, compassion and care, and who is amazing just as she is.

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