Three Minutes Can Save A Life

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!

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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.

http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/NEDA

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 22-28. National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

A week where people come together and spread awareness about eating disorders by trying to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the subject.

I have looked forward to this week all month. I have looked forward to posting my picture of the NEDA symbol with a little blurb about eating disorder awareness on Instagram as my way of spreading the word and showing I’m not ashamed, while still keeping my own struggle hidden away. #everybodyknowssomebody – little do most of them know that somebody is me.

Why is it that almost 8 years later, I am still afraid of my story getting out there? Why am I terrified that one day my sisters or my parents might stumble upon my blog and find out my secrets? Those are the only people I worry about finding out. My husband, friends, in-laws are all aware of my journey. But the possibility of those 4 people finding out leaves me paralyzed with fear and leaves my Instagram post vague and generic.

I found myself shaking as I tried to find the words to get my point across, while also not raising any red flags. I checked my phone every couple of minutes waiting for an accusatory comment or text message. Why do they still control me? Or are the boundaries I put up to keep them out only keeping me in? Life gets messy when relationships are built on secrets and lack of trust.

So, I’ll say what I really wanted to say here.

The theme this year for NEDA week is, “I Had No Idea.” Eating disorders are highly misunderstood. They don’t discriminate – women, men, children, teens, older adults – anyone can suffer. Eating disorders aren’t a cry for attention, an attempt at vanity, or a phase someone goes through. They are real, deadly diseases – having the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. Too many people suffer in silence because of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear, and enough is enough. There is hope. There is a future past all of the pain. Recovery is possible. But, you can’t do it alone. Eating disorders thrive on secrecy, lies, and silence. In order to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to reach out. Reach out to someone you trust, reach out to a parent, a friend, a teacher. Just reach out. If you reach out and your attempt fails, try to reach out to someone else. Sometimes people aren’t in a place to help. Sometimes they believe the misconceptions that NEDA week is trying to eliminate. Sometimes they are just assholes. That doesn’t mean every person will be.

Reaching out to my husband, my best friend, my other close friends, my personal trainer – all of that saved my life. In the past year I have seen that recovery is truly possible. It is work, it is a process, but it is possible.

So, spread the word this week. Help break down those misconceptions about eating disorders. Reach out if you are struggling. And, always know that you are not alone.