After a class at Temple University, Emma came up to me and said, "You don’t know me, but your book saved my life.”
Now look, I love my book, "I Dare Me," and I have heard from people around the world who say that it helped change their life, inspire them to do new things and create more of a life and career they wanted.
But, as I looked at this beautiful, healthy, young co-ed, I just thought, "Surely she is exaggerating. How could 'I Dare Me' have saved her life?"
And then she told me the story I now share with you, with her permission.
Seven years ago, Emma was admitted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to be treated for an eating disorder so severe that this was a last-ditch effort to save her life.
Emma says she looked like an 80-year-old starving woman living in a 17-year-old body.
She was in the darkest hole, mentally and physically stuck, thinking she would never be able to move forward and overcome the illness that was killing her. She had no hope and she truly felt like she was going to die.
While at CHOP, she was confined to her bed, fed through a tube and only allowed to leave her room once a day when her mother visited and stayed with her for a couple of hours.
Her mother was looking for something, anything, to give her daughter the will to survive and take steps toward healing, change. One day, she brought Emma a book to read. Yeah, it was "I Dare Me."
Having nothing else to occupy her, Emma read the book. She continued to tell me that for some reason, as she learned about all my crazy little “do the new” adventures and first-time experiences, something clicked with her. The idea that the simplest, little first-time experience could change your life was something she could try, even from her hospital bed.
I have to tell you, as Emma told me this story, I’m sure my mouth dropped open because I know I was incredulous and still a little skeptical. “So, what did you do?”I asked.
Emma listed off her first dares:
She braided her hair
She painted her nails a new color
During her once-a-day walk outside her room, she went backward down the hospital corridor.
Her mother and she made it a game, trying to come up with the one new thing for the day. One day Emma said “yes” to being a part of a study on eating disorders, which she says in the past, she certainly would not have agreed to.
The Power of Firsts
Remarkably, just concentrating on doing one new thing a day made Emma feel better. Just one dare a day gave her an easy-to-achieve goal while helping her feel like she was moving forward. It broke the chain of her negative thoughts and habits, got her used to trying new things and seeing them as positive changes.
Her eating disorder was connected to being in control and perfection. Firsts allowed her to be imperfect with little risk and enjoy the rewards of lighting up her brain with new experiences.
After spending 5 weeks in the hospital, and doing her small “dares," Emma was able to continue recovery at home.
Again, completely astonished by what Emma told me, and looking at the lovely, strong, fit woman in front of me, it was hard for me to picture her so close to death and reading my book. “How did you get from there to here, today?”
Emma told me she found a new healthy way to take care of her body. She dared herself to start lifting weights and building her body back. She went back to school and is now studying to be a social worker so she can help others. She started a blog about her journey to support others suffering from eating disorders.
Looking Toward the Future
The only reason we happened to meet, serendipitously, was that Emma was taking a public speaking class, where I happened to be a guest speaker. Emma is learning to tell her story publicly so she can help others. Though she never thought of reaching out to me, she confessed that my book still sits on her nightstand, as inspiration and a reminder of how she started her first steps toward recovery.
She says she still considers herself in recovery but today she lives a healthy lifestyle and is dedicated to helping others out of that terrible deep dark place without hope.
Incredible, right? In her own words, you can hear Emma on this iHeartMedia podcast with Loraine Ballard Morrill, and you can find Emma on her Instagram @emmaborg.
You know, I often say, our life ripples out and touches people in a way, we may never know about. I’m so grateful some crazy karmic fate brought Emma and I together and that she is positively sharing her story of dares and recovery.
In this chaotic and daily changing world we live in right now, it gives me hope too and I just wanted to share it with you.