I had the pleasure of being a speaker at the 2018 Baltimore NEDA Walk this past weekend. For the few days prior I kept wondering what to say to the crowd. Typically, I speak about my own experience with an eating disorder and the plight of males who often forgo treatment due to stigma of having what is perceived as a “female” disease. However, a chance encounter with a mom at the walk changed my mind.
While glad-handing and talking up the program at our sponsor booth, I was approached by a woman who inquired about our locations. We chatted for a bit about our services and I asked how we could help. She casually shared her daughter had died recently from her eating disorder. It felt like I was punched in the gut. No parent should ever have to share this kind of information. Righteous anger welled up in me – eating disorders are so preventable yet continue to devastate lives. What happened to her child and to her family is the most awful outcome, and I wanted to fix it, to hug her, comfort her, do something to “make it better.” Hopefully she has done her grieving, and by attending the NEDA Walk I assumed she was looking for something other than anger and indignation. Perhaps she was looking for hope and meaning, so that’s what I decided to provide in my brief statement to the crowd.
Having been in the eating disorders field for the last 15 years first as an advocate and graduate student and then as a clinician, I’ve had the privilege of seeing more people survive and thrive than succumb to an eating disorder. So, my short speech touched on some the amazing successes I’ve witnessed.
Clients I’ve worked with have:
- Become moms and dads
- Left abusive relationships and found true love of self and then unconditional love of another
- Found sobriety
- Started businesses
- Gone to college
- Become an Olympian
- Cried with joy for the first time in years
- Started support groups to help others heal
- Become advocates in the field
- Produced beautiful works of art and music
- Gotten their first job
- Entered the military
- Guided a friend to treatment
- Guided their own child to treatment
- Celebrated life even in its longest days
There really is hope for a full and wonderful life.
Thanks to NEDA for the continuing to spread that message. Thanks to those who continue to fight their eating disorder every day to find their purpose and joy. Thanks to those who share their pain and remind us how deadly this disease. And thanks to all those who show us how to celebrate eating disorder recovery.