Vigil raises awareness of eating disorders.
Vigil aims to raise awareness of eating disorders
By Hank Beckman For The Sun
May 22, 2012
“That voice in my head just kept getting louder and louder.”
That’s how Jenni Schaefer described the inner voice that told her at 4 years old that her thighs were too big for a particular outfit.
Schaefer, an internationally known author and singer who battled an eating disorder until she finally sought help in her early 20s, spoke Tuesday evening at Linden Oaks’ ninth annual candlelight vigil for victims of eating disorders.
About 500 people jammed into the Linden Oaks Healing Garden on the campus of Edward Hospital in Naperville to bear witness to the 24 million Americans afflicted with some sort of eating disorder, whether anorexia, bulimia or binge eating.
The vigil was sponsored by the national association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders and Linden Oaks, home to Arabella House, a facility dedicated to helping victims fully recover from eating disorders.
Schaefer, author of “Life Without ED,” and “Goodbye ED, Hello Me,” said that her inner voice was a constant and strong presence throughout her adolescence, a formidable critic that she only began to deal with it when she finally sought help.
“I didn’t question it until I was 22 years old,” she said.
When she entered therapy, and named the voice ED, short for eating disorder, she began her recovery by learning what many of us learn about bullies: you have to stand up to them.
“I had to learn to disagree with him,” she said. “I couldn’t change that voice, but I could change my response to it.”
Schaefer said that some people are naturally prone to high anxiety, obsession with perfection and obsessive-compulsive disorders. But society, in the form of media and popular culture, and the never-ending message that to be thin is to be happy, plays a major role in triggering eating disorders.
“Genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger,” she said.
Schaefer stressed perseverance as the key to full recovery.
Holding up a stack of rejection letters from publishers who rejected her first book in 2002, she said editors sometimes responded as if she were from another planet.
“Who’s ED,” they would ask, or “how come you don’t have any (degree) letters after your name? If this isn’t never give up,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and smiling.
Dr. Maria Rago, clinical director of the Linden Oaks Eating Disorder Program, spoke of how the vigil had grown from its first year, when only 40 people showed up.
She asked how many 10-year survivors were in the audience and four women stood up. Two more stood up as five-year survivors.
After working her way down to asking how many had been in recovery for just one day, and seeing about three-quarters of the audience standing, she said, “That’s a lot of recovery.”
Others told their stories.
Maria Luna spoke of the disease as an almost out-of-body experience.
“My body was here, but my mind was somewhere else,” she said.
Like Schaefer, she struggled with a voice that misleads her.
“The less calories I had, the better person I was,” she said. “That was a lie.”
Liz Ashbury said that she had taken on an entirely false identity when she was battling eating disorders, saying she learned, “I wasn’t Liz with anorexia, I was Liz, period.”
Parents of women who’d lost their battle with anorexia wanted to share their stories.
“Maybe by hearing Aubrey’s story, other families won’t have to go through what we had to go through,” Darryl Roberts said of his daughter, Aubrey.
Morgan Ward underwent treatment at Linden Oaks after an intervention by friends, and wanted people to know that the disease is complicated.
“It’s not as simple as it’s portrayed to be,” she said. “There can be a lot of psychological problems and the disease is just a manifestation of other things … it has nothing to do with food.”
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services