Now that I am fully recovered from my eating disorder, I finally know the truth. I realize that eating disorders are serious, life-threatening mental illnesses. I also know that eating disorders are not "just a phase" but instead require professional help. I finally understand that no one chooses to have the illness, but people do make decisions along the recovery road to get better. I know this now. Years ago, I just knew silent suffering.
Today, the good news is that not as many people are suffering in silence. More than ever, individuals are recognizing that they struggle with an eating disorder and are reaching out for help. The bad news is that sometimes these pleas for help fall on deaf ears. A doctor might not think someone has an eating disorder because the lab reports come out OK. Or maybe parents do not believe their son has a problem, because he makes good grades in school and seems happy. Or a friend thinks that her best buddy can't be that sick because she looks fine. It's time we all know the truth. And it's time to talk about it.
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. They don't discriminate by size, weight, ethnicity, gender, culture, age or anything else. Sadly, eating disorders can impact anyone at all -- even those who hide behind a smile. Do you know the real signs of an eating disorder? Do you know how to support a loved one and where to go for help? Do you know how to effectively spread the message of hope to those who suffer?
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, 2011, answers all of these questions. To help us get the answers out to people across the country, we need you. Consider doing just one thing -- something that best suits your interests, time and resources. Tweet NEDA's Helpline, or post a status update about eating disorder recovery, warning signs or resource links on Facebook. Host a NEDAwareness event in your area, or mail a check to NEDA to support future programs. Just one thing could literally save a life.
When I was struggling, I can only imagine what a simple message about recovery from a stranger -- online or in person -- could have done for me. I might have gained the courage to break through the denial and get help sooner than I did. Of course, I can't go back and change my past, but I can be grateful for ultimately achieving a full recovery. And I can also do one thing now to help others. Won't you join me?
-- Jenni Schaefer, Ambassador, National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
"It's Time to Talk about It" during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), February 20-26, 2011. Join the nation's largest eating disorders outreach effort by committing to do just one thing to start the conversation in your community. NEDA provides tons of free and discounted resources, fun activity ideas and much more! Click here to learn more about how you can make a difference.
NEDA Information & Referral Helpline: 800 931-2237
For more information about eating disorders (from clinicians, family members, and more), visit: http://www.eatingdisordersblogs.com
Follow Jenni Schaefer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JenniSchaefer