Therapists in the Philadelphia area gathered this morning to hear Jena Morrow share the story of her eating disorder, a story she uses to help others in her role of alumnae coordinator at Timberline Knolls residential treatment center. Jena is an engaging speaker and author of the book Hollow, which chronicles the early part of her journey through recovery from a serious eating disorder that began at age 3.
The impetus that allowed Jena to share her story is tragic, the death of a close friend, Cindy, who died from complications of anorexia. “When my friend Cindy died from her eating disorder in 2005, I decided the time had come to put words to the fight and release some of the emotions that for years had plagued me,” Jena says. This premature loss of life made her angry at the illness and at the fact that people trivialize eating disorders and their seriousness.
Jena’s story sparked discussion among the group of seasoned therapists, raising questions about how to educate the public about eating disorders, and how to work most effectively with those who have them. Perhaps the biggest reminders were that eating disorders serve a purpose for those who have them, and that the choice of whether to use symptoms of the disorder is very present. Jena also highlighted that eating disorders are not about food or weight, but are a way to express painful emotions.
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).
The presentation kicks off the 2014 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which begins on Monday. The goal of Eating Disorders Awareness Week is to promote public attention to the seriousness of eating disorders and improve education about the biological underpinnings, environmental triggers, warning signs and how to help those struggling. This year the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is stressing the need to address eating disorder misconceptions and emphasize available resources for treatment and support. This year's theme is "I Had No Idea."
Jena’s story highlights many of the important messages of eating disorders awareness week: that eating disorders are serious illnesses, not lifestyle choices; that education, early intervention, and access to care are critical; and that help is available, and recovery possible.
NEDA encourages us to join in raising awareness of eating disorders. Even small efforts have an impact, whether it involves inviting a speaker to your local school or campus, reading educational materials on eating disorders, or using social networking to tweet a fact about eating disorders.
Jena considers her story a “work in progress,” and credits spiritual connections and the ability to do the deep work of therapy, that is, understanding the psychological underpinnings of her eating disorder, with her healing. Jena reminds us help is available and recovery is possible. It is important for those affected, and their loved ones, to remember that they are not alone in their struggle. Others have recovered and are now living healthy fulfilling lives.
Greater Philadelphia chapter of IAEDP - firstname.lastname@example.org