I had the honor of advocating at the recent NEDA Walk. It was an honor to spend the day with all the people involved and see the incredible work it takes to live and overcome an eating disorder. Below is a copy of my speech. Sincerely, Brian
There is something to be said for a woman or a man, young, or old, who decides that going to a place of healing is important. A life changing decision, perhaps feeling put together vs. broken finally has become not only a priority, but a necessity. Perhaps there’s a moment when the discomfort is enough and all the protection and managing to avoid pain finally isn’t worth it. Some may call this recovery. I’m not talking about recovery. I’m talking about healing. What is it and how can it actually be a part of the process?
There’s alot of confusion about eating disorders, that is why we are here today. To end stigma, to clarify reason, to assert our worth, to exemplify recovery. After all, we are standing on our own two feet and there is no doubt we, collectively, create empowerment as a large group. Is that healing? When does healing take place? Is it when a person decides to make a change? Is it in the recovery process? Is it once change is solidified? Is it when our loved ones stand next to us in solidarity. Is it the moment when your hard work finally allows you to sleep? What does it mean to you?
I pose this question because I continue to seek out this idea with each person I meet along their journey.
With more and more evidence leaning towards nuerobiological proof that having an eating disorder is not your fault, is there something that we can begin to accept? Can we finally see that taking blame and shame is not the answer, and shifting it to more community, connection, and less protection? This isn’t something that can not go away. It isn’t something that we can decide to just hack our own DNA and forever change. Finally, our brains can be seen to be as much at play (if not more) as is our environment, our families, our schools, social media. It is finally being accepted and proven throughout this country. And you know what, thank goodness. Because if it isn’t just a perfect storm that causes an eating disorder, we can do more preventative work. Its no longer a question of how it began but more a question of when will it begin? 80% of children, boys and girls are afraid of being overweight. 94% of teen age girls and 64% of teens age boys have been shamed about their physical presentation. 10 million men have eating disorders. 20 million women!
Every time I see these statistics I think we have to ‘stop the madness.” But how?!
Where do we even start?
I am a social worker at heart. I want community to thrive, and empowerment to come from numbers. I know you are all here to tell your stories and exhibit your solidarity. I ask today that we do this together. There are ways we can make this happen.
1) Use NEDA as a platform. The National Eating Disorders Association is a non-profit volunteer based organization that requires community to thrive. It is each one of you that keep the organization going and it’s stronger than ever. Ask them what they are doing, ask how we can help, volunteer our time and energy, we don’t go anywhere as a community without you and every person here. Otherwise, our message of hope, recovery, and healing stays right here, right now.
2) Don’t give up. Some of you may be saying, “That’s nice but that’s not me.” Thats ok. We won’t leave you, we are here. Make your priority to taking a stance towards health and self preservation before you start helping others. Yes, we can pick you up if needed. Your family, your loved ones, your team of care providers. We want to raise awareness and we do it by raising each other. We need you.
3) Last, I have to admit may be the hardest. Listen to the love and care around you. Listen to their hearts.
Every one of us heals differently. How we find healing is just as important as who we heal with. No matter your mission or your purpose, when it’s time pass the message of hope to the next person we meet while in the throws of their struggles. If in our own struggle pass the same message of hope to your self. You can listen and the next mother or father lost and questioning their parenting, or the sibling who is angry and doesn’t get it, and even to the care takers who just don’t know what to do anymore, we can be there. And most importantly to you. To allow yourself to listen to your heart, not give up, and allow healing to be present.