What Does National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Mean?

In addition to reflecting on what National Eating Disorder Awareness Week represents to me (awareness, of course. But also advocacy? Ending stigma?), I have been considering trying to write a blog post of some kind every day during #NEDAW (Feb. 21 - 27th). Which is a big thing considering I'm actually making a structured goal, let alone one that requires consistency.

I know all two of you must be asking, Who are you and what have you done with, Sarah?! But she's still here, as demonstrated by how I've spent the entire day thinking, "Well, do I really have anything to say about eating disorders? What if I've already said all the stuff I can speak to ?"

I have my personal experiences which are, of course, extremely important. I have ideas and opinions I've gleaned from reading, listening, learning, and reflecting. But I am not the most structured, factually focused person out there. Also, I've never really aligned myself with 'advocacy'; not because I have anything against it, but that I approach things with the viewpoint of writing what I know and if someone gets something from it, all the better! Lastly, there are many extremely intelligent people I follow on Twitter who have done their research, remembered their research, and can translate that research into something streamlined and accessible (i.e. Andrea LaMarre is brilliant!)

That's not me, though. That isn't how my mind operates. And the majority of the time I'm OK with that, but as I was reading through post after post of great information today that I am thrilled is getting out there, it was difficult not to look at my blank little blog page and think, "Well, what am I going to write about that hasn't already been written about, and written better?"

Honestly, I still don't know for sure. But I spent last week searching for people who would want to share their experiences with eating disorders. I can only speak to what I went through, but eating disorders are vast, in addition to anorexia and bulimia (which are only recently beginning to be talked about) there is EDNOS (Eating disorder not otherwise specified)/OSFED (Other specified feeding or eating disorder), BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), BED (binge eating disorder), among others. And I feel it is vital that every narrative about EDs are heard. Disordered eating included, as it is a huge stepping stone toward the previously mentioned illnesses.

The awesome Eye Still Brave contacted me to share, for which I am excited! But no one else responded. Which is completely fine, of course, but it got me wondering why that was. I know EDs thrive on isolation, guilt, shame, and silence. Speaking up, about anything, is hard—especially regarding something as personal and difficult as an eating disorder. And I understand people not being ready or not even wanting to share experiences.

But it got me thinking that even IF everything about eating disorders has already been written (unlikely) or the things I'm trying to say have been expressed better/differently (possibly (with also a nod to the fact this might be perfectionism trying to sneak in)), I probably still ought to keep shouting into the void anyway. Because I can't tell everyone else his/her/their experience is valid and worth telling (which I truly believe, through and through) if I think I've written all I can write about my experiences/thoughts about eating disorders.

So, in short, I've decided that to me National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is about speaking up. Even—especially—when I think it's already been better said. Because 1) that kinda sounds like something the ED voice in my head would want me to believe and 2) really, even if it has already been said, that doesn't mean it any less important or tru

So, we will see how this blog-a-day goal works with my here-to-there self (and the acceptance, of course, if it doesn't work!).  But in the meantime, if you're ready—and no matter what it is that might make you hesitate— speak boldly, my friends!

- Sarah


Also, if you want to speak up and don't have a platform, or would like to share your blog regarding eating disorder (I don't post anything with numbers), then don't hesitate to leave me a comment or shoot me a message!


Today I was lucky enough to join in an #AEDchat hosted by the Academy for Eating Disorders (@aedweb). Aimee Liu (@aimee_liu) and Andrea LaMarre (@andrealala89) led the discussions and I found their answers to be spot on. I will post a link to the conversation in the coming days, but I highly suggest you check out what both of these these women have to say!

Oddly enough, this comes on the back of a week of stumbling across a number of badass people who are writing about their recoveries from eating disorders, and it has been beautiful reading them. Some people are just beginning to seek help, others have been in recovery for years and are requiring "maintenance" of their symptoms. The differences and similarities among us continues to astound me. The fact that we can all be on the same, but different journey, and at different extents of it, is just beautiful to me. In a very awe-inspiring, otherworldly kind of way. My whole life I tried to keep away from people and protect myself and here, in our deepest struggles and darkest moments, we find each other.

I am in awe of the honesty. I am not sure if I would have been able to write so openly and publicly when I was going through my recovery. I mean, as if seeking help isn't brave enough, these men and women I am finding are talking about it as they deal with it! It is a truly courageous thing.

As I was reading through (and some discussions were related to this during the #aedchat), a lot kept touching on where the person wanted to be and hoped would be and I realized, I have tried to be such a strong advocate of "recovered" that I do not want to give off an unobtainable ideal of what it was and where I am.

I say "recovered" though for a number of reasons. One of them is that, back during my recovery, I read or heard (I can't remember) someone saying that you never really recover from an eating disorder. And that pissed me off, honestly. Because a) you don't know me and b) geez, way to be hopeful here.

I can understand what they might have been trying to say, of course -- that it could always be a battle, that whatever inclinations we may have toward an eating disorder might always be there, that ED's are -- really -- an addiction, and addictions require on-going, continuous assessment and maintenance.

But that you can "never fully recover" -- I don't believe that.

When I speak of my recovery, it's in the past tense. I am recovered. This, however, is not to say that thoughts do not try to creep back in or that I have some days where I feel uncomfortable and horrible and catch myself judging my body. But they are few and far between. The vast majority of my life is spent outside that place now. And, if I fall back into it, I have been removed so much from it and have practiced new ways of dealing with things, that I am usually able handle it. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with the help of my friends and family, sometimes with wise words from my therapist.

Was it always like this? No, definitely not. Early in the recovery it was a fight to eat. I wanted to, I needed to, and I did. But it was a fight. There was anxiety I couldn't explain. Self-loathing. All that good stuff.

Will I always be recovered? I certainly damn well hope so. I feel confident that I have my support system of my family and friends, my therapist, and my self to keep me in check. And trust the methods of coping I have learned through out the past 8 years. I explained it to my husband like this:

Back, early on in my recovery, I was on one side of a cliff and the eating disorder was across a very small crack on the other. As recovery went on, the gap between the cliff grew and grew. In the beginning, if I fell, I fell right onto the other side, right into the ED. But now, when I fall, there's this huge big chasm between me and the ED, full of family and friends, my therapist, and a myriad of coping mechanisms I have worked very hard on.

So, while the ED might always be there on the other side of the cliff. And some days maybe it's found a megaphone or might be trying to build a bridge back to me, that doesn't negate any of the work I've done or the space I have created between it and me.

Here's what I guess I'm trying to say. We can't have expectations about recovery. We can't give ourselves timelines or guidelines. I guess we can't say that we will be recovered 100% and never ever deal with those thoughts again.

But what we can say is that there is hope. That there are badass people fighting their fight alongside our fight, every day. That recover/ed/y is a word and what really matters is what we choose to do in this moment.

And that nothing, not even if we stumble, changes the fact that we are a community of warriors.