This week, February 26 through March 3, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It’s about bringing public attention to eating disorders and the prominent impact they have in our society. Because eating disorders are often accompanied by isolation and shame, the seriousness of these life-threatening illnesses regularly goes unnoticed. This year’s theme for NEDAwareness Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody.” With up to 70 million people affected worldwide by eating disorders, the theme is very relevant to the prevalence of eating disorders in our society.
On Saturday, March 3rd, along with others from the TWLOHA team, I will be taking part in a NEDA Walk, coordinated by the Eating Disorders Network of Central Florida. Everyone who attends will be walking for a different reason, and for me, my reason hits extremely close to home.
I will be walking for myself. For all of my friends I have met in treatment. For everyone who has struggled, is struggling, or will struggle with an eating disorder.
Life with an eating disorder has not been easy. It has been a long and winding road full of obstacles, speed bumps, and brief times of clear sailing. I have spent countless hours sitting across from dozens of counselors and doctors, discussing life as it is in the moment. I have lived under the abusive control of my eating disorder. I have known the sweet taste of recovery. More often than not, I have experienced the bittersweet reality of living on the fence of ambivalence.
Sometimes I think I should be farther along in my progress. But these unrealistic expectations and “shoulds” often set me back more than help me move forward. All that is to say that I am right where I am supposed to be; right here, right now. While even this is often easier said than done, the important thing to remember is that it can be done. And with constant persistence and support, it will be done.
So I will continue to fight.
I will eat my next meal. I will turn to my list of healthy coping skills to get through the challenging times and difficult thoughts. And I will lean on my friends and family for love and support. Whether I believe it or not in the moment, I will at least acknowledge and hear them when they remind me that I am Nichole. I am not my eating disorder. I am important, and I have a story worth living and sharing.
And so do you. You are the sum of your successes, failures, pain, joy, past, present, and future — not just one of these things, but all of them added together. They are what make you special and unique. They are what make you you.
Whether or not you can relate to what it is like to struggle with an eating disorder, I encourage you to treat yourself with at least one form of self-care today. Set aside twenty minutes to journal. Go for a walk to clear your mind. Listen to music. Play a video game with a friend. Learn something new. Self-care is vital, yet it is often pushed aside. But making time for it is worth it. This battle is worth fighting. Your life is worth living.
Being part of the NEDA Walk this Saturday is my way of continuing to take steps forward in my recovery and living life one moment at a time.
What steps will you choose to take?