By Quinn Nystrom

Those who know me well know that I am navigating life with a chronic illness. These same people also know about the side diagnosis that decided to tag along with my type1 diabetes; an eating disorder.

The reality is that eating disorders can affect anyone, anywhere. Eating disorders are not an “it’s all in your head” affliction either — they are complex bio-social illnesses that affect all kinds of people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, or backgrounds.

Including me.

That’s why Monday, February 25 to Sunday, March 3 is such a critically important week for those of us who are fighting the daily battle while working to find our groove when it comes to managing an eating disorder.  The National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness) is a seven-day-stretch where all of us can strive to change the conversation around food, body image, and eating disorders by simply being aware, respectful, and informed.

The 2019 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week theme is Come as You Are. I personally love this tagline because I feel like it invites inclusivity and unification within the eating disorder community. Come as You Are also sends a message to individuals of all stages of body acceptance and recovery that their stories are valid and they matter.

They need to, and deserve to, be heard. And it’s OK to share.

I am no different. I have a story to tell as well and I welcome any opportunity to do so because I know it will bring clarity and comfort to others who are navigating an eating disorder diagnosis. Here’s an excerpt of my story from my book, If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes?

In 2010, my doctor reviewed by weight chart with its wild swings over the past ten years. She suggested that I consult with a doctor who specializes in eating disorders. I was mortified. My food patterns were complicated because I had diabetes. It’s hard to lose weight while managing blood sugars. I had a lot of excuses, but inside I knew I had an unhealthy relationship with food. My life choices had brought me down a destructive path. There, in a cramped white room, the doctor told me, “Quinn, you have bulimia.”

The days, weeks, months, and years to follow started a long journey towards recovery for me. I entered an inpatient treatment program and started chipping away at the mask of perfectionism. I am not a person who likes to ask for help. I pride myself on being self-sufficient. But when I hit bottom, I knew I needed help. Eating disorders paired with diabetes can be a life-threatening combination. Recovery is not an event; it’s a daily choice.

That day all those years ago is still seared into my mind like a hot brand. The difference now is that I know I am not defined by my eating disorder diagnosis and I can (and will) do what it takes to manage it while also raising awareness and initiating the conversation about it as well.

So in recognition of this important week, I want to invite everyone who is comfortable, to take the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others. This nationally observed week, along with the Center for Change community, are safe places where we can all Come As We Are.