1Corinthians 1:7 “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (NIV)
June 2, 2019 is World Eating Disorder Action Day and I wear my purple for awareness of this deadly disease. It is the deadliest of all mental illnesses, and yet According to NEDA, Schizophrenia has a prevalence of 3.4 million people affected and in 2011 received 276,000.00 dollars in NIH research Money. This equate to 81 dollars per patient. Eating disorders has a prevalence of 30 million people and received 28,000.00 dollars of NIH research money. This equate to .93 cents per affected person.
How much more could we know about effective treatment if eating disorders received the dollars for research proportional to those afflicted? I am so fortunate and blessed to be able to afford to pay for the treatment I need that my insurance won’t cover and this is why I walk for NEDA, mentor through ANAD, support Project Heal, give my time to others, even as I continue to navigate my own recovery, and finally encourage donations for my birthday to be sent to The Center for Balanced Living. The Center for Balanced Living was an absolute game changer for me. (more to come.)
This is also why I donated countless hours to the Tri-Sate Eating Disorders Resource Team with Paula Brunner, founder and Chairman of The Tri-State Eating Disorder Resource Team. Paula lost her daughter Katie to an eating disorder. She is an amazing woman who has the courage to fight for better resources and treatment options for eating disorders in the greater Cincinnati area so that lives can be spared and families can be spared the grief of losing a daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, or friend to this deadly illness.
While the resource team no longer functions as an independent organization, our efforts live on through speaking in schools, and facilitating training and leadership for The Body Project.
Everyone deserves the same opportunity that I have been given to receive treatment. We don’t turn away dying people from our ER’s or look at them and say, “Just stop having that heart attack,” but that is essentially what happens to eating disorder patients every day.
Those of us who have had or has an eating disorder has probably been told to “just eat, just don’t eat, or just stop throwing up?” Wow! Really? I wish I had thought of that! Or “It is just a phase.” A phase that for some of us can last a lifetime or cut that lifetime prematurely short. Yes! People die from this illness. ANAD reports that “every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.” And those like myself who have endured and survived often wonder if we are living on borrowed time. I used to suffer from a sort of survivor’s guilt, and now live with gratitude that I can share in other’s suffering because I have lived it.
Today we know or should know better that it isn’t that simple. Research has shown that this is a very complex illness. There is no quick and easy fix. Treatment options have drastically improved since I developed anorexia as a teen before Karen Carpenters tragic death brought eating disorders into the spotlight.
I am hopeful for you all that are just embarking on recovery, because your chance of being one of those that can achieve full recovery has increased significantly. NEDA reports that 60% of those seeking treatment will make a full recovery. Yet the best treatments mean nothing if can’t
access them or pay for them.
“You Look Recovered!”
Today, on World Eating Disorder Day, I want to share with you some comments I read or hear every day that are made to friends, collogues, or loved ones with eating disorders.
“Why didn’t you say something about relapsing?”
“How could you even think about dabbling in the Eating disorder behavior again?”
“What are you doing to yourself? You are in recovery; you should know better?”
“You look so healthy!”
“Are you recovered?” “You look recovered” Spoiler alert…Looking recovered and feeling recover cannot be measured by the scale.
Now let me come clean and tell you that these are comments made to me every time I stumble through my recovery or even backslide a little or a lot. (Thanks to The Center for Balanced Living, I walk tall most days and stumble less.)
I share this with you because to stand up here and report that recovery is glorious, but to not come clean that I do struggle with relapses into eating disorder behaviors, and body image issues, would be a lie.
This would leave me feeling a great deal of shame, and what do you think someone with an eating disorder does with shame? Well…I can’t truly speak for others, but I know I tend to circle back to the eating disorder. So, by being honest that I still have my days of struggle, shame has a more difficult time drawing me back into the eating disorder. Recovery is simply hard. You don’t “get over it.” You push through it like running a race without having any clue where the finish line dwells. Each day is a step of faith that one day, sooner than later, you will cross the elusive finish line raising your arms in victory.
I am sitting in my cottage, in my own little corner in my own little room looking out into a canopy of trees. I see my neighbors Michigan flag waving as if to mock this Michigan State Spartan fan.
I am not just Spartan Fan; I am a Spartan. I am a Spartan for myself and for all of us who are courageously waging a battle for ourselves or a loved one. We must put on the armor of a Spartan and arm ourselves with weapons to fight the formidable foe of Eating Disorders.
We need to arm ourselves with information from organizations such as, NEDA, ANAD,The Center for Balanced Living, ERC and Eating Disorder Hope on the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders. (see links below).
We need to take the offensive in our schools with programs like The Body project to shield our young people from the constant barrage of unhealthy body images launched at them like grenades from the media. Or become trained to speak to schools, churches, health clubs about Eating Disorders
We need to arm ourselves with the tools that will help us slice though the red tape of our insurance companies that, like mine, will pay for my cardiology appointments, but would not pay for my psycho-therapy and treatment that could have averted the cardiac condition to begin with.
We need to know where to call for back up; How to apply for funding from organizations like Project Heal, and that free support groups are offered by NEDA network partners, ANAD, and all the organizations mentioned above. We need to advocate and fight for our lives, and our loved ones’ lives. We need to treat this illness like the deadly illness that it is.
To paraphrase Dr. Cynthia Bulik Eating Disorders are an illness not a choice. Once a person that has the pre-disposition, genetics, etc. begins to diet, their anomalous biology leads them down the Eating disorder path. So, while the illness isn’t a choice, somehow those of us suffering with an eating disorder have to CHOOSE to recover. A small sample of my blood and thousands of other donors have contributed to Dr. Bulik’s continued research on genetic influence being a significant risk factor for the development of Eating Disorders. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170512081332.htm
I am so fortunate and blessed to be able to afford to pay for the treatment I need that my insurance won’t cover, and this is why I have supported Project Heal and other scholarship organizations. This is why I gave my blood, so that we don’t have to continue losing lives to this illness.
I know I am one small voice, a whisper, and I believe that together our voices will become a battle cry.
If you or a loved one are in need of more information, please check out any of these helpful links.