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February 29, 2016
Why I Became an Eating Disorder Advocate – Robyn Cruze
ERC Advocate Robyn Cruze

I wrote a book on eating disorder recovery, thinking that when I finished the last chapter with a period, I would be able to put that part of my life behind me (the eating disorder).

I mean, really? It had taken up so much of my life already. Eight years into recovery, I wanted to wrap it all up with a neat little bow inside a book, and move on with my life, never to put words to such crappy-ness again.

I thought I'd moved on with my life from my eating disorder [OH, I'VE MOVED ON ALL RIGHT!]

But I couldn't budge the nagging voice inside that called me to use my voice to help others to find recovery.

You see, I had an odd comfort in discussing the messy stuff that we experience in early recovery — that we don't often talk about. [Kind of like what happens to your lady parts when you are pregnant — you’re left in the dark not knowing if it’s normal or not].

I also understood that, due to me being so far away from eating disorder behavior, and with substantial recovery time under my belt [and sheer guts, and a lovely accent — or so I’m told], I could be a person that could say all the things that we don’t usually talk about, but that we really should know.

Here is an example: early recovery sucks. Sometimes we get so busy cheerleading that we forget that we just need to know that what we are going through is okay — and that we will get through it.

So here it is:

This is all okay and you will get through it — AND I know how much it sucks right now.

And – we want you to know that we are here to offer you support.

One of the ways we will be supporting you is through my new vlog series: Tea Time with Robyn. As part of my advocacy work, I will be working with experts in the field and others who have overcome eating disorders/body image issues to answer the hard questions about recovery and to help you have a voice.

My journey to advocacy

Speaking for a living felt like the obvious thing for me to do. You see, I had a history as an actor. And I had a desire to tell the truth about eating disorders in a way that would empower people to recover. I wanted to speak about the true essence of the mental illness of eating disorders and to dispel the myth that threatened to boil my blood each time I heard it. People would say, “eating disorders are a fad” or thought that people with eating disorders were saying, "Look at me! Look at me!" Hearing these types of words forced me to step up to the plate [no pun intended] to use my voice.

My friend, Jenni Schaefer, encouraged me to find a company that I believed in. For me, this meant finding a company that would provide all services to best treat eating disorders, including aftercare and family support.

I did my due diligence and looked at all facilities. [Confession: I kind of got obsessive about it. Yep, I am working on that.]

And that is when I found Eating Recovery Center. It was the only place that had everything I would want for my own children or a loved one to have if they had an eating disorder that required treatment. Thanks to Eating Recovery Center, who recognize and honor the importance of providing hope through identification, I am here speaking [and typing] to you all now.

For the last two years, I have traveled the country sharing my story. I have advocated for a full recovery, educating professionals on how to identify eating disorders in the substance abuse population — which is also a part of my story — to hopefully prevent people from going home, only to pick up another illness.

I talk openly to family members; they remind me of my own family. I let them know about the struggles of the illness and how they can best break free from it, too. After all, recovery is a family affair.

I have learned, over and over again, that families and loved ones are equally impacted by this illness — just in different ways. Families, too, need tools, support, and identification.

When I speak, I also discuss body image in a way that honors the desire to feel good in recovery; I'm not ashamed of wanting to look and feel good. Recovery is not about "becoming the size of a house" or "letting ourselves go." I actually believe in having your cake and eating it, too!

I am driven to educate, to spread eating disorder awareness and to break the stigma. Most importantly, I want to give you all what was so freely given to me on my journey of recovery:

Hope.

Shonda Rhimes writes in her book Year of Yes, quoting from her commencement speech at Dartmouth [page 88]:

"… that you can have an impossible dream to be Toni Morrison that you have to let go of.

[You think you need the eating disorder]

That every day you can feel like you are failing at work or your home like.

 [Early recovery feels like that — bear with me here.]

That the real world is hard.

[Living in reality and the feelings that come along with it and the lack of control we really have is sometimes hard.]

And yet… I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it."

[The voice of the eating disorder can "suck it" because the voice of the eating disorder can't give you the magnificent life that recovery can!]

I'll keep you posted on where I am sharing it next, and I hope you join me in this magnificent, messy process we call recovery.

Until then!

Hugs
Rx
 

Robyn Cruze, MA is the National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.

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