A moment of silence requested, but the air was anything but silent. The heartache and sobs pierced my cold ears. A mother whaling cry was too much. I turned my head upward and gazed upon our nation’s capitol building. She wore a green shirt. She lost her baby to an eating disorder and that is not fair.
How? Why? Why not me?
How have so many millions suffered? How did I suffer so long and survive? Why these parents? Why did they have to bury their children? Why did I survive and find the light of recovery?
On October 27th, I spent my day with hundreds of others at the MOM March on Capitol Hill. The following day we took to the marble hallways telling congress men and women and senators about the Anna Westin Act.
I went knowing this trip would be powerful and emotional, but I had no idea the impact it would have on me.
When Kathleen MacDonald requested a moment of silence for those who lost their lives to this horrific disease, I almost had to walk away. Emotions ran through my body like electric volts as I heard the mother’s cry. How am I still alive?
I rarely think back on those really bad days – the days when I did not get out of bed, the days where I would drown myself in symptoms, the days where it took every ounce of energy to make it to my therapy appointments. Those days and that girl seem so distant.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how grateful I am for recovery and the life I live, but I rarely reflect on those really horrific days anymore (thanks to the years of therapy work I did).
But on this day, on Capitol Hill, my mind went right back to those days. My mind went back to the days where I didn’t think recovery was possible. The days when all I wanted was to go to sleep and not wake up. Little did that woman know the life she had ahead.
Tears poured down my face as I looked around at the treatment providers. I always have been and always will be in awe of the extraordinary and life saving work they do. I thought about my treatment team through the years, many of whom I work side by side with today. These people are my heroes.
I thought about my therapist, Mary, and former therapist, Christy. I was standing on that hill because of them. Yes, yes, I did the work – no doubt there. But they believed in me and carried hope for me when I was too weak to carry it for myself. They were my constant reminder that I warranted, and moreover, deserved the care and treatment I was receiving.
When insurance denied me two weeks into treatment at the Carolina House, it was Christy who stayed late to talk and comfort me. I was devastated and scared. She reminded me how much I needed and deserved treatment. Christy was the one who told me on repeat that I was sick and this disease was no different than diabetes or cancer. She told me over and over and over and over…until one day I believed her and knew it was true.
I stood on Capitol Hill with hundreds, but I carried with me the main characters of my story. The people who helped me ignite a fire within, a fire that was dulled by my eating disorder. The impact they’ve had on me is monumental. This blog, my foundation, my recovery would not be where it is today without Mary and Christy.
As I looked over to the mothers and fathers in green shirts, which signified they lost a loved one, my heart shattered. Not only have I come way too close to losing my child, but in that moment I realized that it truly could have been my parents and husband standing there in green shirts mourning my death.
In the words of my friend and all around rockstar Johanna Kandel, “I am not a unicorn.” There are so many of us who have recovered. Recovery, full recovery, IS possible. But not everyone has access to the Marys and Christys of this world and that is not fair.
So we continue to march and shout down the marble hallways so that every person suffering with an ED will one day find their own Mary or Christy, a professional who will remind them that they are worth recovery and that it is possible. Hope is possible.
Then the beautiful ripple effect of life will happen just like it did with me and every other recovery unicorn. We find recovery and make a promise to pay it forward. Then our march with hundreds will soon be thousands and then one day there will be no more green shirts.