National Eating Disorders Association
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Advocacy Day Empowered Me to Share My Story Without Shame

Dianna Chillo-Havercamp, LCSW-R

Twice a year, advocates come together in Washington, D.C. to influence federal policy, push for change, and educate representatives of Congress about those affected by eating disorders. NEDA has served as a collaborative partner with the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) on these efforts throughout 2017. 

On October 5th, I along with many other advocates shared our own personal journeys and the impact eating disorders have had on our lives. On that day, we represented the voices of the 30 million Americans who suffer from an eating disorder.

For most of my 18 year career as a psychotherapist, I’ve sat in an office providing therapy for individuals suffering with eating disorders and their families as they try to navigate through the process and support the recovery of their loved one. This passion was born out of my own struggle with an eating disorder when I was a teenager. That fire to fight was reignited by a recent relapse after close to 17 years in recovery. For a while, relapsing after so much time and now working in the field was something I felt embarrassed and ashamed of. Part of me often wants to hide this truth, while the other knows it’s part of my journey and what fuels my fight for those in treatment.  

Wearing two hats: one treating eating disorders and the other in recovery from an eating disorder has been a tricky one to integrate. However, these dual roles have re-instilled an empathy, passion, and understanding for my patients and anyone who is struggling. It was so inspiring to exercise my passion beyond the four walls of my office and give a voice to something so close to my heart in an arena as big as Capitol Hill. 

Being on Capitol Hill and speaking to representatives of Congress was an experience hard to summarize in words alone because it was just that, an “experience.” While sharing our own stories, we met individuals of all ages, sexes, and races who are fighting for recovery. We heard from parents and family members whose children and loved ones are currently in treatment and fighting these illnesses. There were stories of hope and recovery and others that ended tragically. I met a woman unable to have her own biological children because of the extensive damage her eating disorder did to her heart, and parents whose sons and daughters lost their fight and were there to advocate in their memory. 

We all had a purpose that day and our voices were heard. Despite the emotional heaviness of the day, we were among “our people,” sharing our truths and our passion without fear of judgment or shame, and there was a lightness that permeated among us. There was a feeling of camaraderie as we shared smiles, laughter, and tears. In the end, with our final hugs and a promise to keep fighting, I think we all walked away feeling accomplished and fulfilled.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen” -Brene Brown