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