This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
The theme for this year – Three Minutes Can Save A Life – is ultimately, a tool to promote quick and easy eating disorder screening as an effort for early intervention.
I can’t even begin to express how important this is.
Even though prevalence continues to grow, knowledge, awareness, and research lags way behind other illnesses. Eating disorders are stigmatized and considered taboo subjects, all the while, kids as young as elementary school age are feeling the pressure of being thin.
Eating disorders are not illness to feel shameful about. They don’t necessitate hiding and lying and pretending everything is okay. Yet, this is how they are viewed. This is how we live with them.
3 weeks ago, I got a new tattoo symbolizing my journey through recovery. I’ve been really into elephants for a while as my own symbol of recovery, so an elephant became the inspiration for the tattoo. So many people have asked, why an elephant? It’s hard to explain, especially without going into a lot of personal detail, but I will try now. A few years ago, during a time where I was feeling really bad about myself and my body image, I saw a picture of an elephant and was in awe of how beautiful it was. I don’t live in a hole – I’ve seen elephants before – but, this was the first time I really stopped and recognized how magnificent these animals are. In my head, I had always thought of elephants as fat, big, large, etc. All words that I viewed negatively. That day, I realized that something I once saw as fat, I now saw as beautiful. I realized that how I viewed these animals changed, and that their size was no longer something negative – it was what made them unique. I began to think about myself in the same way. No, I am not the size of an elephant, but time and again I had labeled myself as fat, big, large. I realized that, in time, I could come to see myself differently, too. That is why I elephants are meaningful to me. That is why I wanted an elephant tattoo.
I researched elephant tattoos online, and found that I really liked outlines of elephants with henna designs inside. I knew I wanted to customize the tattoo, and decided to include the NEDA symbol and a semicolon within the henna designs. I emailed my thoughts to the tattoo artist who did my last tattoo, and she created the perfect tattoo!
I am in love with my tattoo! It is everything I wanted and more! It is my ultimate commitment to recovery, to avoiding relapse, and to loving myself, always.
As I began to think about how I wanted to address this week, I started to think about my own journey. The last decade of my life, with all of its twists and turns, has ultimately shaped who I am today, and allowed me to come this place I own as “recovery.”
Throughout my journey, I constantly looked for validation that what I was experiencing was actually an eating disorder. I would twist my symptoms until they seemed like harmless routines meant to keep me healthy. I would tell myself that if nobody confronted me about my eating disorder, it must not actually be an eating disorder – I was fine. I wonder how differently things would have been if there were people spreading awareness as much as there is today. Would things have turned out differently if I had taken 3 minutes to complete a screening? If my parents had been informed? If teachers knew warning signs?
That is the kind of change this week is all about. Spreading awareness to parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, and everyone else. Letting sufferers know that they are not alone. Providing a screening tool for people to make sure they have a healthy mindset in regards to food, exercise, and body image.
If you asked me 2 years ago what recovery looked like, I would have said I wasn’t sure it existed. Now, I know that I was wrong. Recovery is a daily choice. Recovery is being triggered and spending a whole day allowing that trigger to consume you, but then stepping back and realizing what happened before sliding into relapse. Recovery is choosing a rest day when your body needs it. Recovery is that moment of clarity in the midst of a relapse. Recovery is being with a friend, enjoying a food you normally wouldn’t eat. Recovery is coming up for a breath of fresh air. Recovery is how we survive. Recovery is messy. Recovery is hard. But, recovery is possible.
However, the first step towards recovery is knowing there is something to recover from.
Three Minutes Can Save A Life.