Why I Became an Eating Disorder Advocate
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:
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.
Robyn Cruze, MA is the National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.