Thankful Thursday: NEDAwareness Week
It may seem odd to see the concepts of being thankful and eating disorders in the same post title, but let me explain.
February 24-March 2 is NEDAwareness Week, started by the National Eating Disorders Association. The goal of this week, and every week in NEDA’s world, is to raise awareness of the fact that in the US alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant ED at some point in their lives. I’ve touched on my own personal ED struggle on this blog, and wanted to address this important week because I am one of those 20 million women.
Eating disorders suck. Someone who has never suffered from one often does not understand how those who do can even consider harming themselves by restricting, binging, purging, overexercising, etc. That makes it hard for those who are suffering to a) seek help and b) not feel totally alone. The slogan for NEDAwareness Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody”, which is completely appropriate and was discussed in a great post by my blend Kaitlin yesterday. While I hope the slogan and the movement’s message will show people that EDs are more common than they think, I am also more concerned with whether or not the message will get through to those who are suffering and have not sought out help. Those people are in the most dangerous position, not just for their mental health, but their physical health. EDs are serious business – anorexia has the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness.
So while I am thankful for NEDAwareness Week and all NEDA is doing to raise awareness and fight EDs, I am really here to say that in the end, I am thankful for my eating disorder. Why the hell, you may ask, am I thankful for that?
My path down this scary road began my junior year of college when I decided to try to lose weight and tone up. Then I became one of the 25% (see infographic above) who developed an ED as a result of my decision to diet. Finally I reached a breaking point and called my college’s mental health services, which thankfully provided a judgement-free, easy way for me to enter treatment and start my recovery…which I also consider my education.
Without my eating disorder, I would not have put so much practice into being kind to myself and recognizing all the amazing things that make me Caitlin. I would not have opened my mind to just how important love and compassion are in our daily lives. I would not have realized that eating, exercising, and LIVING are not defined by black-and-white rules. And I would not have been able to make connections I’ve made with people, connections that have resulted in friendships I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Yes, life would have been easier without an ED. I’m still fighting the battle and would not wish it on anyone. If I could “turn back time” (useless to think about, but I do) and choose not to have an ED, I would! But then I would not be the same woman I am now. I wouldn’t know nearly as much about myself – my goals, my passions – as I do today. I was dealt this card and I need to find the silver lining and do with it what I can. Because I know what it’s like to have an eating disorder, I have and will continue to help others in the same boat and can make a real impact.
So I’m thankful on this Thankful Thursday to have gone through this fight, for all the reasons I’ve listed above. I’m stronger. I’m more loving and compassionate to myself and others. I’m not ED…I’m me.
Do you agree with the campaign slogan “Everybody Knows Somebody”?
Can you easily find a silver lining in shitty situations?