Hi everyone! I first met author and advocate Shannon Kopp several years ago, when she was working in the eating disorder field in San Diego. I vividly remember having lunch at Panera, and I felt an instant connection with her. She was so AUTHENTIC and open and honest about her eating disorder recovery story. It impressed me so much. Shannon shared how she felt so passionate about helping people recover from eating disorders. At that time, she was working on writing a book on her recovery, and she published it a couple of years later—it’s called Pound for Pound: The Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life. it’s truly inspiring. Since that time, Shannon has also started a nonprofit organization called SoulPaws Recovery that does a lot of awesome work, especially in San Diego. She is also a National Recovery Advocate for Eating Recovery Center. I’m excited for you to get to know Shannon!
Would you share a little about your eating disorder history?
I began restricting food at sixteen and developed bulimia at seventeen. The eating disorder grew progressively worse over the next eight years, and I suffered from many relapses after brief periods of recovery. I truly believed I was hopeless and beyond help, but thankful, this wasn’t true. Eventually, I fully recovered. This August, I’ll celebrate ten years free from bulimia!
Congratulations! What kind of eating disorder treatment did you seek?
I went to therapy every week in college with a wonderful counselor, but refused her suggestions for additional help. One year after college I was hospitalized at Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders for bulimia and depression, but due to my insurance cutting out, I only received three weeks of care. I went on to work with a therapist (specializing in eating disorders) for the next ten years, who connected me to a dietitian, psychiatrist, and support groups.
What would you say was the turning point in your eating disorder treatment?
Shortly after my insurance cut out of treatment at Rosewood and I returned home to San Diego, I got my dream job at the San Diego Humane Society. I took care of shelter dogs and promoted them until they found homes, and for the first time since my eating disorder began, I felt truly connected to myself and a community. I write about it in this article.
I wanted to recover and work with these animals I loved so much, but I continued to grow sicker. In the end, I battled suicidal thoughts and lost all hope in recovery. I thought that if I couldn’t recover for my mother and sister, for my partner, for my dream job … then I was beyond help.
Yet my therapist held onto hope for my recovery when it went missing inside me. I also had a supportive mother, sister, and partner. I increased the frequency in which I saw my treatment team, and we began incorporating animal therapy into my treatment. Learning to tell the truth to the animals I worked with helped me to become more honest with my human treatment team. Understanding that my passion for animals was as important to my recovery as medication and therapy really began to turn things around. The more I could incorporate animals into my healing (by getting an emotional support animal, for example) the more I shifted from hopeless to hopeful.
What would you like people to know about eating disorder treatment?
Even though I could not afford the total amount of treatment I truly needed, and would have greatly benefited from more time in residential, attending Rosewood was vital to my recovery. I wish I sought a higher level of care sooner, and I wish I realized that going to treatment wasn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength and courage.
In your book, Pound for Pound, you delineated how you your work at an animal rescue helped your recovery. Would you share a little about that?
My work with shelter dogs felt bigger than myself, and it motivated me in deep and profound ways. I saw myself in the rescue dogs I worked with, yet there was a tremendous distinction between the way I treated the dogs and the way I treated myself. The shelter dogs could be terrified and sick, they could poop in my purse (true story), they could make a billion mistakes, and I would always respond with relentless love, forgiveness, and compassion. There was nothing a shelter dog could do at the San Diego Humane Society, and later in Los Angeles, to make me love them any less. Sometimes, I lost faith in people and the world, but I never lost faith in the dogs.
And yet when it came to my relationship with myself, it was hard for me to drudge up an ounce of compassion. I was constantly putting myself down and calling my life screwed up and hopeless. The animals helped to teach me that unless I was willing to work on my relationship with myself, I could never do anything truly meaningful to help them. Some of the shelter dogs I worked with loved me in the same relentless way I loved them … and I could show up to their kennels feeling depressed and all wrong … but they didn’t care. They loved me for who I was, and I genuinely felt that love—like medicine, it helped to heal me. I talk about this a bit in this interview with CNN.
I think that through your message in Pound for Pound, you were able to validate so many people’s experiences in their eating disorder recovery journey. What kind of responses have you gotten from others after they have read your book?
I’ve gotten letters for inmates in prison, from young students, from other animal welfare advocates, from parents, from people across the world. It wasn’t until Pound for Pound was published that I realized just how many people have experienced the healing power of the human-animal connection, and how many lives this profound connection has saved. Honestly, I’ve been blown away but he response.
You have started an amazing nonprofit organization called SoulPaws that stemmed from your experience with animals in your eating disorder recovery. Would you describe the work SoulPaws does and how people can participate?
SoulPaws is SO important to me and has most definitely extended from my healing experiences with animals. This article in PEOPLE best shares about it.
Here is a video all about SoulPaws.
Our next workshop is Sunday, July 21 2019 from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m at the San Diego Humane Society.
How can people find out more about you and your message of recovery?
They can visit my website and social media!
What is one fun fact about you that people might not know?
I am part of a super cool and free healing community at www.eatingrecovery.com/sayitbrave. Through this community, I email and chat with people looking for more eating disorder support and inspiration every week. I love Say It Brave and draw up so much courage and inspiration from this group!
Thanks again for you graciously agreeing to be a part of my blog. I look forward to seeing you sometime soon!!! ☺
Me too, thanks so much for thinking of me!! And for the great, life-saving work you do!
Hey everyone, I really appreciate you reading my blog! Have a wonderful day. :)
If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego, give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be!