“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
One year ago today I was anxiously sitting in a waiting room at the Lindner Center of HOPE watching people buy $250,000 apartments in Boston on HGTV while waiting for my intake eval. I was so nervous that my face was burning and turning red, yet my body was freezing–so I kept on my wool coat. During the medical portion of the eval, I was so uneasy that my heart rate was in the mid 90s. I can’t even remember how many times during the intake eval that I was told to calm down, to breathe or to stop worrying. However, as the eval went on, a strange sense of calm overwhelmed me. Finally, finally, someone understood me and was taking my concerns seriously. I told the intake coordinator how my past counselor refused to treat my ED, saying it was a result of me not knowing myself—and assumed identity. I told him of my years of bullying, food abuse even as a child, self-mutilation and current eating patterns. In the end, I was unable to attend Lindner due to my insurance, but I came away with what I wanted most, what I’ve craved for so many years…understanding. For years I had felt alone, crazy, confused, damaged and I hated those feelings—but more so, I hated myself. Lindner provided me with the knowledge that I wasn’t alone, nor was I crazy or damaged…and I was no longer confused. I had a diagnosis and a new direction. They helped me find a therapist, who also understands and helps me work through my ED, who I see to this very day. I am not fully recovered by any means, but taking that first step into the Lindner Center last year was my first step towards serious recovery, my first step towards loving an accepting myself as an imperfect human being, my first step towards life…and I couldn’t be happier.
Since my last post, I have taken a stand for my own health and the destigmatation of EDs. On Monday, I went to my GP for my chest pains. I typically dread seeing this man because he doesn’t understand me and is unwilling to take me seriously. This time, I talked to the nurse beforehand and told her my feelings towards the doctor. Then, the most amazing thing I could ever think of happened, the nurse stopped to talk to me as a person not a patient. She asked me how my recovery was going, what type of behaviors are encompassed in my ED, what my health concerns were, and how proud of me she is for seeking recovery because it is so brave of a thing to do. Now, keep in mind, I don’t even know this woman and I still don’t know her name. However, I was amazed that she took that time to genuinely get to know me as an individual and get an understanding of my medical concerns. When the doctor came in, he actually listened to what I said and didn’t dismiss my concerns. He ordered an EKG and gave me medicine for GERD and suggested that my concerns could also be an ulcer. When the nurse came back in to perform the EKG, she talked to me about the book “Life with Ed”, her admiration for Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge (the authors), that she wants them to come speak in Ohio, how she wants to work at Lindner because of the great work they’re doing there, and, again, mentioned how proud of me she was for seeking recovery. This nurse is proof that there are wonderfully caring and supportive medical professionals out there who understand the multifaceted world of EDs. I am so thankful that she was assigned to me that evening and appreciate everything she did for me.
Additionally, I stepped out of my comfort zone to educate and destigmatize EDs at my undergrad alma mater. I was the featured speaker at an event held by an on-campus sorority. About 60 to 65 students showed up (which is actually a lot considering the resident population at the college is around 850), some were even writing papers based on the presentation to serve as enrichment for their Athletic Training classes. I was nervous to speak to these students. I was worried they would think of me as damaged goods when I told my personal story with EDs, or worse, think I was lying. However, two of my really close friends took the time out of their evening to attend my presentation and sat in the front row to calm me down. Every time I looked at them I remembered why I was there and why education on EDs is so very important. I began my presentation with statistics and general information on each of the four recognized EDs. I then transitioned into medical consequences, treatment options and ways to seek help. I ended with my story. Throughout the entire program it was silent. The silence made me uneasy because I could not readily ascertain what each person was thinking. A few questions were asked after the presentation concerning onset of symptoms, the rise of social media on encouraging/promoting EDs and other more in-depth thoughts. Although not a medical professional, I think my presentation was helpful in introducing the topic to these students or helping those who struggle realize they’re not alone. If I helped only one person, I consider the presentation a success. Education is my passion and I have felt this way my whole life. Whether it is a class of kindergartners learning the alphabet or a room of college students being taught about EDs, I find that education continues to be my life’s purpose. I am glad I was able to present to these students and educate them on EDs.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my recovery and the opportunity to be an advocate for myself and others.