Laura Johnson: Writing to Help Others

When you think of literacy, or writing in general, what comes to mind? Most people would refer back to the expectations of what it means to make good writing. This is simply due to scholars and every day people interested in improving or sharing their thoughts through English literacy find the creation of good writing to be quite the daunting task, because it is a common perspective of visioning yourself as the writer you are which is created by your work. This was a challenge for Laura Johnson. She faced many life manipulating challenges, but found herself even more confident in her scholarly work and English writing. She had help along the way to unlock that power within her, and tells us a story of how her sponsorships led to her dedication to help people who were in the same scenario as her.

Around the time when Laura was in her early teens, she was diagnosed with the eating disorder anorexia, and then OCD. Before getting therapy to help her with her OCD and anorexia near simultaneously, Laura was struggling with finding self confidence — she felt alone, thinking that no one could know what she was going through. Her OCD made her feel out of control, so she turned to sports, specifically basketball, and wanted to attempt controlling what she ate in order to cope with these new changes she vowed to make. But those coping mechanisms soon turned to over-exercising and anorexia. Laura was convinced that the numbness she felt from anorexia was how she could fix her OCD — by exercising every day, and eating very little, she could exhaust herself, and finally silence some of her compulsions. She would feel attacked if her family tried to help, feeling like they were trying to take away the one thing she’d found that had an effect on her OCD. It took her brother — her strong, role model brother — breaking down in tears in front of her for the first time ever, and begging her to get help to convince her that okay, maybe she does need to get treatment.

”I see this [writing] as a tool, that you can change people’s minds about, honestly, opening up and writing, and not just using fancy words.”

At first, she was just there to satisfy her family. She felt that therapists had no clue what they were talking about — how could they? Laura was convinced that she was alone in her experiences. But once she began treatment, she started to realize that other people had gone through this too — the therapists were not just spouting baloney, they’d been there too. One of them who she fondly remembers was referred to as Dr. B. Laura explains from an interview how she ended up meeting this therapist she admires, “So, my parents put me out of school, and I got into this inpatient treatment center for eating disorders, which is basically a place where you just stay there. You’re not allowed to go outside. There were these therapists in groups, there were therapists who taught classes, and the therapist I had mentioned was when I participated in the process group. It’s where you meet up with other people to talk about the struggles you’re going through.” They had survived eating disorders, and decided to use their experiences to help others. Dr. B helped Laura realize the seriousness of her anorexia — he didn’t dance around the subject. He told her point blank that if she kept on as she was, and kept delaying her recovery, she would eventually die.

This wake up call from Dr. B, telling her on no uncertain terms just how dangerous anorexia is helped Laura accept that she did have a problem, that she could get better, and that there were other ways of managing her OCD that were far, far healthier than pushing her starved body to the breaking point.

Laura is very lucky to have a very supportive family who want the best for her, whatever that may be. With the help and support of family, friends, and Dr. B, Laura found confidence and comfort in herself as a scholar and a person, and she had wanted to help others gain similar confidence. She says, “when beginning treatment, I kind of just, didn’t do the writing assignments, because I thought of it like, ‘It’s pointless, writing is just something I can do to pass a class.’ I wasn’t a big fan of it. So, that changed when I started to write about my emotions, which revealed some of the process of my recovery that I went through. I know now that writing a letter to an old treatment center I was in, or anyone else that was struggling, I see this as a tool, that you can change people’s minds about, honestly, opening up and writing, and not just using fancy words.” She had realized she can use writing to help many people, and not just to complete assignments when she wrote a letter to her

A healthy and happy Laura stands smiling with her boyfriend.

boyfriend’s sister that served as a wake up call to the sister’s husband that he needed help with his anger disorder. When she realized the effect a seemingly simple letter could have on someone’s decision to seek help, she became determined to help others realize that they are not alone, and that there is always an opportunity to not only get better at being a scholar, but to succeed and flourish.

by Dylan Kleven and Eleanor John