For the past seven months, I've been in recovery from a thirty six year struggle with an eating disorder. Circles of Change has been very influential in my recovery, helping me discover the courage to tell a couple friends this summer about my disorder. I'd never shared it with anyone before, not my husband of thirty years, my parents, my kids, no one. I felt like if I said anything others would think I was disgusting or think less of me.
One of the friends I shared my experience with has two daughters that had benefited greatly from Ophelia's Place for their eating disorders. This person had been a volunteer at Ophelia's Place for years. She is a nurse and often spoke at support group meetings. She suggested I go to one. It took me a few months into my recovery to get up the nerve to go. It was nice to speak to other people who could share similar experiences with me. I started participating in the online support group every Wednesday night and find Jill Catherine very informative, honest and passionate about helping others. "Chatting" with other people on the site has been very comforting as well. There's a lot to be said for not feeling alone.
For NEDA week this year, I shared my story on Facebook. I stated that I was sharing my story because I want to help others. I wanted it to start conversations about how we talk about our bodies, the culture of negative body talk and the media's "normalizing" the fact that women put ourselves down. I asked that we change that conversation. I've been surrounded by athletic, strong, healthy women that accepted body shaming/negative self talk as a way of speaking about themselves. Since my post, I've received an overwhelming show of support. Many friends have told me it makes them think twice before they put themselves down. A few have even shared their stories with me.
When I finally told my two kids about my disorder, my 23 year old son teared up and asked why women feel like they have to be thin. This led to an interesting conversation.
My 21 year old daughter went to Ophelia's Place the next day and bought each of us an "Every Body is Beautiful Shirt" and she also bought me a "Good Morning Beautiful" mug. We both wear our shirts proudly and often get comments and questions about them. I call it my power shirt. I drink tea from my special cup every morning when I journal.
I feel like the best way for me to continue in my recovery journey is to share my story and hopefully make a change in conversation or help someone open up about their issues with food.
I originally wrote this piece in the spring, my reflection now upon re-reading: I’ve now celebrated one year in recovery. The best advice I could give is don’t try to go it alone. If you had cancer would you hide it or seek support? Eating disorders are a disease. There is no shame in having one, but it’s almost impossible to recover without a support system.I tried many times to recover on my own, but it wasn’t until I opened up to others that I could rogress. Sharing your story makes you accountable and allows others to help you work through difficult times.
About the author: Lori Woodard works in the office at Mott Road Elementary School in Fayetteville. She loves kayaking, running, hiking and playing with her granddaughter. She is working to change her own views of her body, so that she can help others do the same. “Every body is beautiful”.