How Advocacy Has Motivated Me In My Eating Disorder Recovery
Eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses, and recovering from an eating disorder is far from easy. Every person’s recovery journey is very individual, and everyone has different motivations for recovering. For me, advocacy has played a huge role in motivating me to continue recovering from my eating disorder.
When you’ve spent years of your life battling an eating disorder, trying to recover and realizing how much time your eating disorder has stolen from you can be paralyzing. However, advocacy provides an opportunity for you to turn your pain into power so that you can help both yourself and others reclaim their lives from these terrible illnesses.
My advocacy started out small. I created a recovery related Instagram account, and for a while I had a very small following. I started posting authentically about my recovery and my life in general in an effort to show others that they aren’t alone. After about eight months of having the account, I created a movement called #BopoBallerina to encourage body diversity, positive body image, body acceptance, body positivity, and eating disorder awareness in the dance world. The movement blew up, and media outlets across the world such as Yahoo, A Plus, Dailymotion, Dance.com, BioBioChile, UpSocl, National Eating Disorders Association, Cuatro, and Pulzo covered my story. This coverage allowed me to reach even more people, and realize that while sharing my story can be scary, it can actually help others.
The feelings I had after hearing how my story impacted people made me realize that I want to devote my life to eating disorder advocacy. Shortly after, I became a National Ambassador for Project HEAL. Having this role further solidified how important it is to stay strong in my recovery because not only was I going to be representing myself, I was going to be representing Project HEAL and serving as a role model for thousands of people. Making recovery centered choices now had even higher stakes.
Advocacy also provides a great outlet for when I’m having a bad day. When I’m having a hard time being kind to myself, I can help someone else, which usually makes me feel at least a little bit better. Helping others can actually help you help yourself, which is pretty amazing.
When I’m struggling with urges to engage in unhealthy behaviors, I remind myself that the only way I can be a strong advocate is by fighting those urges and continuing to choose recovery. I know that the only way I will have energy to continue being a great advocate is by prioritizing nourishing my body and practicing self-care.
Something important to stress is that you don’t need media coverage or a large following for your advocacy to be meaningful and important. Advocacy can take many forms. It can be something as involved as interning for a non-profit, or something as easy as making a recovery-focused Instagram post, or going to a NEDA Walk. Whatever amount of advocacy you can fit into your schedule can help you find a greater sense of purpose and even more motivation for recovery. I challenge you to become an advocate so that you can see firsthand how advocacy can completely change your life for the better.
Colleen Werner is a writer, dancer, and future therapist from Long Island, NY. She’s studying Psychology at SUNY Old Westbury and plans on going to graduate school for Mental Health Counseling. She aspires to start an eating disorder treatment program for dancers. Colleen’s experiences in recovery from an eating disorder and anxiety disorder have inspired her to share her story in an effort to help others, end the stigma, and create a sense of community. She is a National Ambassador for Project HEAL, a Campus Editor-at-Large for HuffPost, and a contributor for HerCampus and The Mighty. Colleen’s Instagram, @leenahlovesherself, inspires thousands every day with her posts about authenticity and mental health.