This is the symbol of eating disorder recovery. The symbol of freedom. It stems from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and serves as a sign of hope for so many struggling and a sign of freedom for those in recovery. Before I found recovery, I would doodle the symbol, but never show anyone because I was ashamed of it. I felt I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve to say I had an eating disorder because I wasn’t sick enough. Then throughout outpatient treatment, I did not deserve the symbol because I wasn’t ‘recovered’ enough.
Today is a different story. On my 30th birthday, my lifesaving best friend and soul sister handed me a tiny jewelry box. Inside was a necklace she had custom made to mark my one year recovery date. She placed the necklace around my neck and I have yet to take it off. I wear it proudly each and every day. It is my most prized possession and often serves as a grounding tool for me. When I am having a tough time or feeling anxious, you can find my fingers grasping the tiny symbol as a reminder of where I have been and that I am safe and free today.
Friday afternoon brought another incredible full circle recovery moment that had me tightly grasping my beloved necklace. Before taking my best friend to the airport, I quickly checked my email and saw a new message from NEDA. It was official. I was selected as a scholarship recipient for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) 2013 Conference. If not for this scholarship, the chances of me being able to attend were slim to none. I had high hopes of attending and maybe even having a Southern Smash booth. The conference would be an amazing opportunity to connect, learn and grow in my new role as founder and advocate. Sadly, after crunching the numbers it was not financially possible for me to head north. The registration fee alone was a stretch for me, not to mention the airfare, hotel, food, etc. So I tucked away the dream of attending in 2013 and set my sites on 2014. But thanks to my awesome contacts at NEDA, I was informed of the conference scholarship application, which, if selected, your registration fee is waived. They encouraged me to apply and on a whim I sent in an application.
I am beyond the moon excited to represent Southern Smash in DC this October. I simply cannot thank NEDA enough for the incredible opportunity. I am so thrilled to meet and connect with ED professionals, advocates and recovery warriors. Most of all, I am looking forward to learning more about eating disorder awareness and prevention to further strengthen my knowledge in how I can help others.
I guess I better go shine up my necklace. I will certainly wear it proudly as I attend my first (of many) NEDA Conferences.
Ready or not DC, here comes SOUTHERN SMASH!