National Eating Disorders Association

Coming Alive Again - Why I NEDA Walk

Bethany Weiss

I hold tight to the railing of the Brooklyn Bridge walkway as I lean my body against it, sheltered beneath the woven suspension of brick and iron rods. I close my eyes in the exhale of the wind and listen to the rustlings of the early Sunday morning. I anchor myself in this peaceful solitude, thinking of all the bodies that have travelled these paths, of the many people who know what it feels like to be suspended over restless waters. In a few weeks, the serenity of this bridge will be very different, and I will no longer be standing alone. It will be filled with the many people making the journey across it for the 2015 NYC NEDA walk.

I was overwhelmed by my first NEDA walk just three years ago. I had never before been surrounded by so many people whose lives had been touched by this illness, and I still hesitated to admit that I belonged within the crowd to begin with. At the time, I was seventeen and utterly under the illusion that life began, ended, and was punctuated by my eating disorder. Recovery did not yet have meaning for me, and so instead, I retreated into the isolation and delusion of the disorder.

We have all, at one point or another, built bridges to dangerous places and then burned them down in our wake, leaving ourselves stranded on lonesome islands of despair. We have all been entrenched in desolate lands so deeply cast with shadow that we forgot what it felt like to exist within the warmth of the light; we feared that it would be cold forever.

And even though I have lived within the darkest corners of these places, I have also lived to see the emergence of the light. It comes when we begin to dust off our bodies and meet ourselves with compassion, as if for the very first time. It comes when we resurrect forgotten dreams, and begin to look upwards instead of backwards to remember what the sun looks like. It comes when we begin to assemble our courage out of the seeds of faith that grow from within our hearts. We gather hope from the people we choose to stand and walk with, in fear and in fearlessness. 

The NEDA walk is not a parade of the sick, the battered, or the broken. We do not walk to flaunt ourselves. We walk to be heard. After years of silencing, I am learning how very powerful my voice is when I speak boldly out of love, and not out of sickness. Among this crowd, I never have to apologize for that. This is our march of empowerment, our declaration against the opposition. This is where I take my stand to wage war against my eating disorder, knowing that I am not alone in doing so. This is what my hope is made of, a composition of dignity and resilience shown by the women and men that walk alongside me.

Our camaraderie is the heartbeat of the NEDA walk. Our support for one another has become the scaffolding for our vitality. Together we are laughing; we are thriving. We belong to ourselves again after years of captivity. To show up in any capacity is the first step to reclaiming yourself. 

I hold tight to the railing of the Brooklyn Bridge. I can hear the whispers of hope within it. I can feel the vibrations of determination that have been left here year after year. I have no idea how many people have walked this path like I did today, where they come from, or what their stories are. But I do know that within this bridge lies the echo of every survivor, every fighter, and every dreamer that has walked with us in solidarity. This bridge holds our endurance, the courage that we never knew we had. This bridge holds our collective story; the grueling fight to come back to life.

If I have learned anything from the NEDA walk, hearing stories of recovery, and sharing the journey we make in getting well, it is this: the sheer agony of the daily struggle is nothing compared to how incredibly beautiful and inspiring it is to watch someone come alive again. This is why I walk. 

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