By Natalie Wheeler
Meg Burton first met Rachel Zalcrep curled up in her Harry Potter leggings, bawling, during a group in the first few days of Meg’s inpatient treatment at Reasons Eating Disorder Center.
Meg wasn’t quite used to those grandiose emotions at the time.
“I was just in shock with everything at that point,” she said. “I hadn’t allowed myself to feel like that yet.”
Rachel, then in day treatment, also remembers Meg that day for her leggings — they had yin yangs on them, after all — and watched her with intrigue as she kept to herself those first few weeks.
A year and a half later, and these two women will co-host a gala with those same people who saved their lives in treatment. “Full circle” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Rachel and Meg, now leaders of Project Heal’s Southern California chapter (Meg originally co-founded the chapter), are putting on the group’s first annual Love over Fear gala on September 25. Reasons EDC, where Meg and Rachel say they both found recovery, will be sponsoring the event to raise scholarship funds for eating disorder treatment.
“Going into Reasons, I quickly discovered that money and insurance were big parts of treatment and can have the power to negate what people are working on,” Rachel said
Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illnesses, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but often they are not even covered under health insurance plans. MediCal, for example, covers substance abuse and mental health, but not eating disorder treatment. Care can be an expensive endeavor for insurance too; most residentials cost upwards of $1,000.
Even with insurance coverage, many people are left with inadequate, inappropriate or zero care. Back in the winter of last year, Meg deteriorated over months as she tried to convince her HMO to let her get a higher level of care before finally getting authorized for Reasons inpatient treatment.
That wasn’t the end. Meg’s insurance cut her off of treatment after two weeks of inpatient and two more weeks of day treatment. Both decisions went against the hospital’s recommendations.
Meg eventually wrote a seven-page complaint and the state overturned her insurance’s decision. Once her HMO cut her off again, she subsisted on a $3,000 treatment scholarship from Moonshadow’s Spirit, Inc. before switching to a new health plan under Cover California.
Rachel said she was luckier with her insurance, but still remembers the chaos of being dropped from residential care weeks earlier than expected.
“I had to be out of there in three hours,” she said. “I had been planning for my treatment to go one way and the next moment it looked so different.”
Since treatment, the friends have wandered about different paths in their ongoing recoveries.
Rachel is learning to let go of an image for her life, and instead taste, touch and simply live it.
Meg doesn’t want recovery to define her anymore, just as she doesn’t want her eating disorder’s influence. She used to do things because they would be good for her recovery; now she just does them for life.
Yet what unites the co-leaders’ healing is the birth through fire of being seen in those first days at Reasons EDC. Then, they say, is when their recoveries began.
“One time [in treatment] I was being super grumpy, and someone just said ‘Oh Meg get gets bratty when she’s anxious’,” she said. “It was so true! I don’t think I realized how important it was for all those little things about me to be noticed like that.”
“When I left [residential], it felt like leaving home for the first time,” Rachel said. “I remember my therapist telling my that I have this white light in me to create that same home and family wherever I went. It was the first place that gave me any kind of hope for a home.”
To donate toward eating disorder treatment scholarships or attend the gala, visit radiatelovegala.eventbrite.com
*Written by Nicole Rohr Stephani
Founder, Body Boop
I’m living the best part of my life right now, but I almost did not make it here. I’ve been married to my husband for one year, we have a darling puppy together, and we live in a beautiful early-1900s house in Chicago. But the one thing that always gets me is that I still run into eating disorder triggers – eight years after I left treatment for anorexia and bulimia for the third time.
In early 2014, I found myself getting frustrated that there weren’t more resources for men and women like me, who have been in recovery for five years, 10 years, 20 years, or more. I would run into issues with getting rid of my “skinny” clothes, with conquering fear foods after they had not given me problems for years, with being in a group of women and dealing with the constant weight and self-loathing conversations.
How do you find a balance between not going to the gym at all and the unhealthy amount of time you spent there when you were sick? How do you eat nutritious foods without skewing all the way to restriction? Do you see an eating disorder therapist after 8 years of recovery, or can you see a general social worker or psychologist and talk about other things some of the time? What do you do when you are denied life insurance because of your eating disorder history?
I wanted to read something that spoke to me and to my dedication to recovery, even after so long. In March 2014, I founded Body Boop, a blog and community dedicated to eating disorder recovery and positive body image. I wanted to build an environment in which men and women could speak candidly about the fact that eating disorder issues do not just evaporate once you exit treatment – there are really tough days, and even weeks, when recovery just isn’t easy. What started out as a personal outlet and endeavor to find comfort on these tough days has now become something much larger – a support for those dedicated to #edrecovery, a media aggregator for non-triggering stories of triumph, and a fundraising source for amazing eating disorder organizations already in existence.
I did not want to recreate the wheel. I already admire what Project HEAL is doing, so I didn’t want to do that and try to compete. Instead, I’m building a platform where I can hire writers to share their truths about recovery and body image issues while still supporting these organizations I love.
On Nov. 8, 2015 at City Winery Chicago, Body Boop and Emilie Maynor Living will be hosting a body image workshop called NOURISH: A Body Image Conversation. Early bird tickets are on sale now, so I hope you’ll join us as we have honest, valuable conversations about where their perceptions of body image come from. As a group, we’ll work on tools for healing and acceptance, and hopefully provide you with a feeling of liberation that you can ride all week long. Ten percent of profits go to Project HEAL. I was lucky enough to complete three stints in treatment, because my mother is a second grade teacher at a public school and I was covered under her amazing state-funded health insurance plan. Everyone who needs treatment is not that fortunate, I know this much. I watched many patients in need leave treatment early because their insurance benefits had run out. They were not ready to lead healthy lives in the real world, but there was no money left for them.
I hope you’ll also support the Anna Westin Act. Led by a bipartisan group of female U.S. senators, this bill builds on the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act by requiring that group insurance plans cover residential treatment for mental health and addiction.
The most important thing to remember is that eating disorder recovery is a journey – and it’s your journey. When that fitness nut is sitting there talking to you about calories and weights, it’s okay to feel stressed and confused, even if you’ve been in recovery for a long time. There’s no right path or correct way to do things in recovery, and you may need to lean on your circle of friends more often than you think is “okay.” My circle includes two friends from treatment, my husband, my family, my therapist, my psychologist and many more people. I’ve worked hard to survive, and I’m committed to recovery.
Growing up, my favorite part of making new friends was inviting them over and having them meet my sister. “Your sister is so cool!” they would exclaim when Kathryn left the room, all of us patiently waiting for her return. I was so proud of her, so in awe of her, so lucky to have her as a sister. For years to come, I would see the glow in people’s eyes the first time they met Kathryn. She had a way of making everyone feel special, heard, and important. She made friends everywhere she went, and cherished each one. She helped many people through their hard times. Despite always wearing a smile and lighting up the room, my sister faced many demons of her own. Kathryn fought anorexia nervosa and bipolar disorder for over half of her life, a battle that she unfortunately lost on September 5th, 2013. Even when she was unable to help herself, Kathryn dedicated herself to helping others. She was open about both her triumphs and her struggles with anyone who wanted to listen. She aided numerous friends and peers through recovery, and was well known for always lending a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Since her passing my family has received countless testimonials from people she met – through treatment, high school, even connections that only existed over the Internet – about the positive, and life-changing impact that Kathryn had on their lives. Kathryn was a talented writer, an opera trained singer, an accomplished actor, a profitable jeweler, and a fashion icon. She used fashion as an outlet, as a positive way to cope. All over our hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut, Kathryn was known for her outrageous and unique style, and for never repeating an outfit. But what Kathryn loved even more than clothing were shoes. She loved shoes because your shoe size is something you’re born with, not something that can be changed. She loved being able to accessorize a part of her body that had nothing to do with weight. Kathryn’s love of shoes began at a young age. From trips with our mother to StrideRite as a toddler to trying on mom’s patent leather pumps as a young teenager, Kathryn’s passion developed as she grew up. Over the course of her life, Kathryn collected over 200 pairs of shoes, 150 pairs of which are authentic Jeffery Campbells. For a year and a half, my mother and I contemplated what to do with her collection of shoes, as they sat in boxes in the basement, unused and unseen. We are so excited to have partnered with Project HEAL and Fashion Project to instate a memorial fundraiser in honor of Kathryn’s life and legacy. Through Fashion Project, Kathryn’s legendary shoe collection will be available for sale and auction. The profits of these sales will support Project HEAL, a charity that provides scholarships for treatment to those suffering from eating disorders. The funds that we raise for Project HEAL will create a scholarship for eating disorder treatment in Kathryn’s name. My sister Kathryn loved life and loved people. She had more compassion and empathy for those around her than anyone I have ever met. It broke her heart to see people consumed by the trials of eating disorders that she fought daily. I know that she would want her legacy to include raising awareness about the terrible realities of eating disorders, and raising funds for those who are struggling.
“It’s a form of visible expression. It’s an art for me. I’m inspired by emotions and feelings and the world around me. When I see styling that I love, I emulate it with a personal twist. It’s my way of taking in what inspires me and making it personal so that when I put it out into the world, it can do the same for others.” – Kathryn Laudadio
Hello and Happy Friday!
Here is a sampling of photos from the Gala! It was a great event and was obviously for a very good cause.
More to Come!
One of our former grant recipients with our NYC chapter leader, Colleen.
The Project HEAL Gala is tomorrow!
Check out some photos from the gala prep party on Sunday ……
We cant wait to see you there!
The Project HEAL SoCal chapter invites you to save the date for our radiate love cocktail party. The event is graciously being hosted and sponsored by Gabriel Hammond in his beautiful home in the West Hollywood hills. There will be Hors d’Oeuvres, an open bar and a silent auction. Meg Burton and Rachel Zacrep, founders of the SoCal chapter, will speak as well as two of Project HEAL’s scholarship recipients. It will be an evening of celebrating recovery and choosing love over fear!
If you can’t make it and would like to take part, please visit http://projecthealboston.mydagsite.com/ (our Deposit A Gift) to contribute to the cause