Author: Valery B.
Eating Disorders are such tricky illnesses because you are dealing with the most essential necessity in life: food. Although Eating Disorders are serious mental illness – far more complex than just problems with food -, they do ground themselves on food and, thus, make it very difficult for a patient to overcome and beat the disorder. How do you deal with something that you must always be around, something that links all human beings together, something that is (literally) the sustenance of life?
There is no answer to this question and, perhaps, that is why so many people with Eating Disorders negate treatment or give up on their fights. As someone who went through hospitalization and treatment for anorexia and bulimia and who still struggles with Eating Disorders today, I have to constantly remind myself of the reasons to my fight: to one day be able to have children and to be a strong role model and example to those who struggle. These reasons have not just appeared out of thin air but rather have been cultivated by my activities.
About a year ago, I started working at a nearby preschool, specifically for money purposes. I was given the teacher assistant position, being switched from class to class until I had worked with everyone from the infants to the pre-kindergarteners. It was not a surprise, however, that the first few months of work were tedious and, quite frankly, annoying: I was never a “children” person, vowing to myself that I would probably never have children in the future. But, with time, – and, specifically, in the past month – something within me had changed. I began growing closer to the children. I began feeling the pain that they felt when they cried and the happiness they felt when they were playing with each other. Most importantly, however, I felt the love that they exerted when their parents would pick them up. I would watch as they would run to their parents, arms open, smiles painted, and radiance scintillating from their every bone. Their parents would pick them up, kiss them all over, and simply be happy to see their children. A child’s pure and genuine love is something I would like to feel one day. I would like my children to run up to me, embrace me, cry when I leave, laugh when I come. I would like my children to be proud of having a mother like me, who cares about and loves them with every ounce in her body. In order to be the best mother I can be, I must be healthy, and so I work every day towards that goal, fighting through my Eating Disorders with the belief that, one day, I will win.
Not only would I like to be a mother, but also I would like to be a role model and inspiration to everyone who struggling, giving them hope that a Mental Illness does not have to define them and they they can, indeed, be happy with their bodies, their minds, and their lives. With everything that I do today – from organizing informational seminars to teaching an in-school class on Eating Disorders -, I strive to educate others on the ubiquity of Eating Disorders and on the necessity to combat these illnesses. In my future, I would like to start my own organization that would provide all struggling people – regardless of their health state – with the treatment services and resources that they need. Running this organization is, perhaps, one of my most valued and important aspirations because, when I was admitted into the treatment program I was at, I had learned of the many young men and women that the program turned away – on a weekly basis – because they were not “ill enough” to be prioritized. The program was very selective, which, indeed, was very helpful for the patients who got admitted, the patients who received very personalized treatment and care; however, for the people who got turned away, their rejections could have led them to believe that they were not sick enough, that they needed to be sicker. The hospital is not at fault for this: it simply does not have the resources necessary to expand its program. Society and government, however, are at fault, for they should be putting more money into not just Eating Disorder care, but also all mental health care. They should be allocating more funds for treatment and research facilities as well as more time into drafting curriculums for students to learn about Mental Health. What they are doing right now is comparable to cruel and unusual punishment for those who suffer with a mental disorder.
In order for me to instigate change, I need to be healthy. I need to show society that I am mentally and physically sound, that I am recovered or, at least, in the process of recovery, and that I am strong enough to handle the obstacles that I will come across as an advocate for Mental Health reform. I am proud to say that I have been doing well so far: I am three months bulimia-free (after 8 months of relapse), I am more happy and social than every before, I am learning to love my body, my wits and my talents and I am working on accepting the unique person that I am. Every day, I wake up with a smile, and I tell myself that today will be a great and beautiful day. Although that is not always the case, it is becoming more frequent than not. I feel my recovery coming along, and I will do anything I can to better myself in order to help those who do not have the knowledge, time, resources or money to help themselves.
For anyone in my shoes, I strongly encourage them to find the things that would motivate their recoveries. Whether having children one day, traveling the world, or simply, one day, being able to go out to dinner with a husband or wife, finding your goal in life is the most powerful entity for complete recovery. There are so many amazing milestones and events to look forward to in this beautiful life: do not let a mental illness take them away from you.