Neda Walk 2022
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Recovery. Not always easy and nearly impossible to do alone. It’s easy to feel alone when recovering from an eating disorder. That’s why it can feel so tempting to give up. Not everyone has support systems, and even when they do, it feels lonely. I know personally that all I wanted while beginning recovery was support from someone that really understood. Saving up weeks’ worth of struggles for my next therapy appointment just didn’t cut it.
Many people turn to online chat groups that aren’t necessarily recovery based, but that might feel like that’s all there is. It’s hard to find safe resources, especially with such a competitive disease. People struggling with their eating disorders trigger each other. Everyone wants to be the skinniest and eat the least, and they don’t care who knows when in the depth of their struggle. NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) takes care of that problem, among other things. NEDA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. It raises awareness, builds communities of support and recovery, funds research, and puts vital resources into the hands of those in need. I’m not sure where I’d be today without NEDA's online resources. I’ve used the helpline many times and it’s thanks to the caring and educated individuals on the other line that I’ve resisted eating disorder behaviors. NEDA made (and continues to make) me feel less alone, like I’m not the only one affected by this disease.
It gave me a safe, trigger-free space to be myself. NEDA also works to improve treatment quality and helps people that can’t pay for treatment in the first place. My treatment experience was awful and confusing, and I do believe a lot of it was because there are limited resources and insurance-backed programs don't reflect best practices. NEDA would help pay to improve both of those things.
All of that being said, when I heard that there was a NEDA fundraiser going on, of course I volunteered! It’s been my second time ever raising money for the NEDA Walk and my first time ever walking in person.
It was a grounding and amazing experience. It felt so good to give back to an organization that had so much to do with my recovery and is just going to become better for others’ future recovery. Eating disorders cannot just “go away” without any change. They’ve been happening for almost 400 years and probably longer. They can become easier to recover from. It’ll never be easy, but NEDA’s mission is to do as much as possible to at least give the resources needed. I was so grateful to partake in that.
The last time I raised money, I wasn’t in the greatest place. I was getting much better and working towards taking the leap of full recovery. I still raised money, for hope that maybe it could help me along with many others. This year, I was in a stronger place. It’s actually so crazy to see the difference between the past and present me. My life changed so drastically for the better and I want every single person struggling with this life-altering disorder to experience recovery the way have.
This year’s NEDA Walk was the first in-person walk since the pandemic. It felt so special to be there with so many other people that have gone through the same thing I did, or had known someone that did. We were all one community striving for the better. I definitely felt shy being there. I was exposing myself. Last year, everything was just online. All I had to do was raise money. This year, I had to bring my unfiltered, real self. The self that struggled for so long. The self that chose recovery.
The night before, my mom and I made huge posters for NEDA to walk with. The posters were yet another thing to make the experience so special. We arrived at the park for the walk. It was a beautiful park with lots of scenery. I saw many familiar faces (not always great). There were a few staff from treatment there. I didn’t have the best experience with some, which made it kind of painful to see them. I hadn’t seen them since I was just 12 years old, but it felt like just yesterday. The experience of treatment was traumatic, enough for every detail to stick in my mind. In a way, seeing them gave me some closure too. I felt like for once I was in control. They couldn’t control me anymore. I am now responsible for myself. I saw my inpatient therapist I’d had. We developed a strong connection and I never forgot her. I actually had her at both stays in inpatient too. She was the only thing that was actually making me feel like I had a chance for recovery at the time, so it felt so good to see her again.
We met my sister there. It was really nice to be there with my family, knowing that they were supporting a cause that was important to me. It wasn’t just for me though. All three of us have had this affect our lives, in one way or another. Once my mom and I arrived, we checked in and got shirts for our fundraising money. There were baskets to silently auction on called “Residential Care Packs”. I would’ve loved something like that because hardly any of my own things were allowed in the center. It touched me because of how sweet it was. There were also shirts and T-shirts to bid on. I tried to get one, but I wasn’t going past $31! While waiting for my sister to get there, my mom and I made these mantra rocks that were there for a sponsored project. Once my sister arrived, we all visited and waited for it to start. There were a couple of speakers with compelling stories. I was a top fundraiser, so I even got presented with an award! There was a short yoga stretch and then we began walking.
Walking with so many fellow warriors felt powerful. I finally felt like I was contributing to something, focusing on something besides myself. I’ve lived so much of my life in my head and this gave me the opportunity to get out and just be. My mom and I were the only ones with posters, although there were some pretty festive costumes. There were capes and body paint. People brought their dogs and dressed them up for the “Best Dressed Pup” award. A little rainbow pup won!
It was a beautiful walk along the lake and then down the busy city sidewalks. There was a photographer who got lots of photos of my mom and I because of our posters. The posters were a big win!
We wrapped up and said goodbye to all of our new friends. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget, from the fundraising all the way to the walk at the very end. I hope to partake in next year’s NEDA walk and the one after that, and the one after that! This is a cause I want to continue to contribute to until every single person knows that they don’t have to fight against their eating disorder alone.
I recommend everyone affected by disordered eating check out their website below. I also attached the link to donate to my team for the NEDA walk! The window for donating is open just a little bit longer, so donate now if you can!
To the people that donated: Thank you so much for donating to this cause that means so much to me and many others! You showed you believe in me and you've made a difference in so many lives.