This years theme of Everybody Knows Somebody really spoke to the need for more awareness, research and activism in the field of eating disorders. I am so grateful for the six people who shared their voices, their stories and their connection to the theme. When I created ViR, I felt the need to connect to people who had experienced struggles similar to mine, as well as create awareness. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I created a Twitter account, not even knowing how to use Twitter, or how to connect with people. Today, merely three years later, I have over 9k followers and am blown away by the people I have met through social media, the stories I have heard, and how important it is to hear stories of hope and inspiration that recovery is possible. It truly is life changing to connect to people who have experienced what we have gone through, and now live full and healthy lives. It gives hope not only to those who are struggling, but to the carers and loved ones who have gone through caring and supporting those in the struggles. This is a disorder that touches ALL, and it truly is a community effort.
This theme speaks not only to everyone knowing somebody who has struggled with an eating disorder, it also speaks to the empowering awareness that everyone knows somebody who is in recovery, and who has recovered.
When I was struggling, and in early recovery, I felt so alone. I didn’t feel like my “voice” was out there. I had read memoirs, knew of people in early activism, but I didn’t feel connected to a community. I have shared my story before but think it is important to go over some of this since it ties to this years theme.
I not only struggled with eating disorders, but with anxiety and panic disorder, cutting and alcohol addiction (although at the time I merely thought I was abusing it to cope with the eating disorder and life). I had been in and out of a behavioral health center going through detox for a week at a time for over a year, had been in outpatient for well over six months at least three times a week, and was no closer to seeking recovery. I knew deep down I had issues, but was not willing to take the steps I needed to get better because I didn’t see a need to do so. I just saw myself as going through a phase and inability of coping with life, and looking for a short cut to help manage the deep inner pain without actually changing any behaviors. I didn’t think the behaviors were the issues, I thought it was life (in retrospect I realize this is part of the process and journey on my way to recovery). I was still on MySpace under a pseudonym screaming with painful writings and trying to find my voice.
When I was so far lost and unable to function as a member of society, my parents decided to step in. They wanted me to go to rehab, mainly because they saw the alcohol addiction behaviors, and were frightened for my life. They called many rehab places and shared my struggles, looking for a place to take me to get the help I needed. Five years ago things were very different. The awareness of people struggling with co-morbid conditions wasn’t as well known. Most eating disorder inpatient programs weren’t willing to take me, because they weren’t equipped to handle a person who needed detox and had alcohol addiction. I will say today this has completely changed; huge progress has been made in research and treatment with regards to people who struggle with more than one disorder.
My parents ended up choosing a thirty day addiction rehab treatment place and I really had no choice to go. It was either go to rehab or be dropped off at county. That ultimatum was an easy decision. County programs scared the shit out of me.
When I was in rehab, no one had an eating disorder. It was primarily for addiction from substances. I saw an individual therapist (who had NO experience with eating disorders) and they monitored my behaviors (ok they only made sure I didn’t go into the bathroom after I ate – as for food intake it was absurd, they didn’t watch that nor realize I wasn’t doing well). I am grateful for this rehab because I knew I had to approach it from a place of focusing on the feelings, and core reasons for my behaviors, and not the behaviors themselves. I felt like I was that odd somebody who had more than one issue, but I never let that get in the way of me using my voice, and talking about all of my struggles in group sessions.
I am so grateful to see that eating disorder treatment centers today are not only equipped but welcome those with co-morbid conditions. It is crucial, because if you read the research, nearly 50% of people with eating disorders also struggle with another mental illness. I feel advocacy and research has helped make this crucial change in the treatment of eating disorders.
When I got out of rehab, I went to AA initially, but again felt like that odd “somebody” who had multiple struggles. It wasn’t welcomed to talk about my eating disorder in AA, and I wasn’t advised to see a nutritionist or dietician when I left treatment. I feel I fumbled and was lost for the first year trying to figure out how to eat, what to eat, and cried a lot.
I started ViR in the hopes that I wasn’t the only “somebody” out there struggling with more than one diagnosis. I began doing my research, reading everything I could get on eating disorders, addiction, panic disorders, etc. The response to my Twitter advocacy was so enormous, I started the ViR blog to share my voice and story in the hopes that others would feel less alone. This is where “Recovery Warriors” were born!!! We are ALL somebody!
Here’s the thing – the more I talked about my story and was vulnerable in sharing all of it, the more people came to me and said – “that is my story”, “I struggle with the same issues, and “I thought I was alone too.” This is exactly why this years theme is SO important! Our voices matter. Sharing our voices and stories helps others feel not only less alone; that there is hope in recovery. That is why I do what I do, and feel advocacy is crucial.
A lot of people do not feel comfortable sharing their story like I do, using my name with the platform I do, but that is OK! We all have our own journey, but sharing our stories is powerful. Even if it is only to one person in your life, or sharing a post anonymously, or being honest with your treatment team and support system, be that somebody to share your voice and experience.
What matters is you choose recovery, and become a somebody IN recovery.
I am proud to be a somebody who has recovered, and no matter where you are in recovery, so should you!