Thursday, February 25, 2010

Advocacy


Most of us know that this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Whenever NEDAW rolled around in the past, there used to be a slight awkward, uneasiness feeling for me. It's not that I didn't think awareness for eating disorders was important (far from it), but it left a two-fold feeling of worrying that someone was going to find out/guess and also feeling like a fraud for not being more proactive at recovery.

I see now how much this thinking was flawed as NEDAW week is supposed to bring eating disorders to the forefront in talking about it rather than just beating around the bush.

There's been much support shown through twitter, facebook, various articles, college events, advocacy groups, news channels, etc. It's phenomenal actually! It's funny, because if you follow me on twitter, you know I post a number of articles related to eating disorders, body image, mental health, psychology, as well as just my own random thoughts and observations. But yet, sometimes, I still feel on the sidelines. Some may call me an advocate of sorts, though I feel uncomfortable with that label. In all honesty, I'm not sure what I'd call myself. Perhaps, I feel this way because I'm not truly in the public eye, putting myself out there or disclosing my own struggles with eating disorders. But in real life, how many of us are really? How many of us could include ourselves in the campaign to talk about it beyond just the medium of the internet?

I know there is more to advocating than simply talking about it. Advocating is about awareness, education, health, and recovery. It's about defending and supporting the cause. It's about connecting and reaching out to those who need help. I am always amazed at the wonderful eating disorder/body image/self esteem advocates out there. They each make a difference and place their own stamp on the world. Although I may not put myself in the category of "advocate," I am hopeful that I can make a small difference in this corner lot I have here.

4 comments:

Kim said...

I'm a little shy about being an advocate too. Partly, it's because I feel like eating disorders are so complex and I get a little overwhelmed when trying to explain them to myself, let alone someone else. But, it doesn't have to be that huge. Just awareness that they are illnesses is great. Also, the image of the ad made me think of something. I also think it's important to emphasize that not all eating disorders look like the "I only eat vegetables" stereotype. There are a variety, and I think this is important for people to understand. I was very sick when I looked to be eating somewhat "normally." Sometimes I think I should do more to talk about eating disorders, and maybe blogging is a good place to start. Doing it in the real world is a little intimidating! I'm shy about any kind of public appearance or outspoken stance; it's not just about the "shame" of anorexia.

Sarah said...

I'm also shy about being an advocate outside of the community of people with EDs. It seems too personal to share "my" story. However, I do make efforts to share knowledge about EDs within my behavioral health classes, in the workplace, and with parents of kids in our youth program. I just don't put the personal spin on it.

That being said, I'd LOVE to write a book on EDs someday and travel and speak on the topic. It's probably my "balls to the walls" approach to, well, everything--if I'm going to admit I have struggled with an ED in a public arena, I'm going to make it THE MOST PUBLIC ARENA ever and make it count.

I am a little strange :)

now.is.now said...

I feel a little awkward during NEDAW because I want to participate in events, but, I feel like if I do, people will wonder why, and then this part of me that is not so public (the eating disorder) will suddenly become public. EVent his fall, I wanted to walk in the San Francisco NEDA walk, but I didn't only because I didn't know how to tell anyone that I was walking in it.... Advocating publicly for ED treatment/recovery makes people wonder "how'd you get interested in that?" And then I'd have to explain a part of me that i'm only just recently beginning to explain to people...

Tiptoe said...

Kim, good point about awareness and the variety that is out there. Too many people think it is only one definition when there are so many sizes and shapes who do suffer from EDs.

Sarah, I say go for it with writing the book! You're such a good story teller, and many people resonate with what you write. For some reason, I think you'd have a blast being on the road, signing books, talking to people about your struggle and recovery. Plus, you did Maudsley at a little older age than the normal adolescent period.

now.is.now, I agree, it is hard to explain to people your own struggle. Some people will get it and understand, while others won't at all, and it just frustrates you more. However, I think the SF NEDA walk would be a great goal for next year if that is what you want. People may ask, but there are always ways of putting it where it doesn't necessarily have to be too personal--something like "it's near and dear to my heart," that type of thing.

Speaking on this topic, I do admit, one of my questions I ask just about every therapist who specializes in EDs is what made them choose this field. The answers are always interesting. And I leave it at that.