By: Meg Burton
Looking back at my journey through my eating disorder recovery, there is a clear thread of having to become resourceful. Because I didn’t have access to treatment that supported me in the way I needed to, I had to create what I needed for myself. It didn’t feel fair. It wasn’t easy, and it often felt like that’s just how things worked in my life. But thank goodness I kept fighting. There was some small, tiny ember inside of me that refused to give up and whispered to me, “It gets better. I promise one day it will.”
Finding music, books, characters, and people I connected with were all things I used to keep me afloat when I didn’t have many resources. Monday night I had the “epic awesome,” as the three year-old I take care of likes to say, opportunity to volunteer for Lady Gaga’s non-profit, Born This Way Foundation, before her last North American show in LA. I look up to the work this organization does so much and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have been a part of spreading kindness and bravery for the evening.
One of my favorite parts of the night was being able to interact with her fans and hear how Lady Gaga has become a resource for them. I was taking a fast break, trying to get a hot dog, and was not emotionally prepared for people stopping me when noticing my volunteer shirt, and telling me how Lady Gaga had saved their life or their students’ lives. Lady Gaga became their “unconventional” help. She was the beacon of hope, the words they needed to hear, and the example they needed to see. She’s been my beacon of hope in all these ways as well. A lot of people with eating disorders struggle with sexuality in all of its different forms and I’ve definitely looked up to Lady Gaga in that regard. At the beginning of Lady Gaga’s documentary. “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” she talks about turning thirty and how she doesn’t feel insecure how she is as a woman anymore. That she feels sexier and sexual. (Hell yeah!)
I sat there and cried. Because at twenty-five I do not feel that way and I hope to dear lord at thirty I will. I bawled while watching her performance at the Oscars when she sang “‘Till it Happens to You.” Her performance was a precursor to the “me too” movement, where for the first time, I sat there feeling less alone and understood by somebody I greatly admire. (Also because I could not have been beaming with any more pride in the entire world when a friend from treatment in high school joined the stage with Lady Gaga as a survivor of sexual assault. You could not imagine how far she has come.)
As I stood in The Forum on Monday night, this beacon of hope was emanating like crazy throughout the whole concert. I kept thinking how empowering, supportive, and caring Lady Gaga was throughout the show. I couldn’t get over how similar it felt to what group therapy can feel like. For a lot of people in that room, that’s probably the first time they’ve felt that. Maybe the first time they felt safe. The first time they felt understood and heard.
What an amazingly beautiful and unique thing that is. Not only did I get to be in the same room with somebody who has unknowingly helped me simply because she has done her own work on her own issues – but I was standing with 17,000 people with the same look on their face that I had.
In Lady Gaga’s own words,
“Take my hand, stay Joanne
Heaven’s not ready for you Every part of my aching heart
Needs you more than the angels do Girl, where do you think you’re goin’?
Where do you think you’re goin’ Goin’, girl?”
So please stay. Heaven is not ready for you yet. Look for help wherever you can find it. If you can’t get professional help right away, get lost in Harry Potter and adopt Mr. and Mrs. Weasley as your parents (Dumbledore can even be your grandfather if you would like). Blast Lady Gaga. Or blast someone else who reaches your soul. Read about your personal heroes and know that everything they have inside of them is inside of you too. Don’t give up. There is always an ember flickering inside and soon somebody will be there to help you learn to ignite it. “Stay Joanne.”
About the Author: I first began working with Project HEAL in 2012 where I started as their PR intern. I was going into my sophomore year of college at Cal State Fullerton where I still felt like a fresh transplant from Northern California and didn’t quite feel like Orange County was my home yet. Transitions often trigger eating disorder behaviors so I was on high alert to maintain my recovery. I was trying to find resources to surround me with support during this transitional period and I was astonished to find that my college not only did not provide any resources for eating disorders, but didn’t even “deal with the issue.” This is when I decided to do something.
If there weren’t any resources, then I was going to provide the things that I wished were available to me. I moved from a PR intern at Project HEAL, to helping found the Southern California chapter. Working with Project HEAL has been a dream for me. I don’t want anybody to go through the painful process of trying to get help and being denied from insurance and/or being able to attain the care that they need.
If I can take the experiences I went through to help another person in their healing process then I can find the meaning in all my struggles. We’re not meant to walk through this journey alone and I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that is here to hold your hand if you need it. In my free time I’m a wanderluster. I love traveling, going on crazy adventures, sitting in coffee shops, practicing yoga, reading, and going to concerts. I’m absolutely obsessed with Harry Potter and Florence and the Machine. If you’ve talked to me for more than fifteen minutes then you’ve most definitely heard a camp story from me. Recovery has made me become a connoisseur of many foods so if we get to hang out lets go get chocolate milkshakes. 🙂