A special blog post from Little Voice’s illustrator Samantha Clusiau-Lawlor
The 2017 launch of LVB’s newest book The Lighthouse has enabled me to explore my own journey with mental illness and to share it with others. Sharing my struggle was not always easy; in my first attempt at opening up on our blog I couldn’t help but feel vulnerable and exposed. Looking back, I am proud of how far I’ve come in my recovery and how much my life has changed for the better. With that said, I don’t want my story to be the focus of my advocacy work in support of mental health, but rather the enabler to amplify the conversation, particularly as it relates to eating disorders.
And so, I once more take pen to pad in an effort to promote Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada, which is taking place from February 1st to 7th. This year’s theme is One Size DOESN’T Fit All – a theme I not only relate to but commend. You see, when we often think of mental health, and even eating disorders, we begin to classify people – we try to fit people in boxes, boxes with labels. This year’s campaign recognizes that eating disorders affect people of all sizes, genders, races, sexual orientation and socio-economic backgrounds.
So, how do we change the way we support the conversation on eating disorders?
- We need to end the stigma. Those living with an eating disorder, like those living with other forms of mental illness, often struggle with stigma. They live in a society that promotes unreachable realities, that obsesses over body weight and image, and that builds on a culture of fat phobia. Many people go unrecognized as needing help because of this very culture, myself included. It’s only when things get too extreme that we sometimes stop and wonder if our friend or family member are okay, but by then, so much damage has already been done. To end the stigma, we need to promote a culture that breaks away from a culture that prioritizes perfection over health, but more importantly, we need to redefine perfection altogether.
- We need to promote diversity. Although eating disorders are highly complex and definitely not entirely centered around appearances, there is something to be said about having wider range of bodies represented in the books we read, the shows we watch, and the advertisements we see on a daily basis. Everybody deserves to be represented.
- We need to educate. Eating disorders fall on a spectrum. While we often associate eating disorders with someone suffering from extreme weight loss, this is only but one example. Eating disorders range from Anorexia to Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Exercise Bulimia, Orthorexia and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. Understanding these varying types of eating disorders will help others to identify situations where intervention and support is needed.
EDAW provides us an opportunity to change the way we talk about mental illness.
Just like #BellLetsTalk, #EDAW provides an opportunity for you to share your story, to get involved in the conversation, to show your support and to raise awareness. Together, by sharing our stories, and by redefining the conversation, we can eliminate the stigma.
More importantly, this is a chance for you to take action – to shift your language, to alter your perceptions, and to use your voice to make a difference.