Cyn's Eating Disorder Mission in 4 Questions
Cyn attended the annual Project Heal Gala with Doming Out host John Tessitore, Social Media Director, Blair Savitsky and John Kelly’s father, Dr. Steven Kelly.
1) When’s the first time you noticed yourself struggling with anxiety and an eating disorder?
I’ve had anxiety since I can remember -- always socially anxious, self-conscious, fearful. But ‘eating disorder’ wasn’t part of my vocabulary until 8th grade -- when I finally acknowledged I was struggling. It wasn’t when I began struggling with an eating disorder though, it was the acknowledgment that engaging in such behaviors was a problem. The symptoms of my eating disorder ranged from restricting my food intake to over-exercising. I remember those symptoms starting in 6th and 7th grade. As a kid, I was overweight as told by my doctors, and made aware by my family and peers. I was insecure about being “fat” as a child, but I still lived my life and had fun. It wasn’t until middle school where I found myself wanting to feel in control of my anxiety by using the symptoms of my eating disorder. As I began losing weight and looking slimmer, I was given praise for such “accomplishments.” It fueled my eating disorder, like gasoline on a fire. It felt like I finally had a grasp on my life -- the one thing I knew I had control over was what I ate and how I looked. I was so socially anxious that maybe if I “succeeded” with my eating disorder, people would like me more and I’d belong. I felt so depressed that I thought if I lived through my eating disorder, I would finally feel enough, worthy, -- deserving. These were only some of the promises my eating disorder had me hold onto.
2) How’d you respond to that? What did you tell your family and friends?
I never appeared emaciated, even at my lowest weight. No one knew and no one noticed how much this disease was impacting me. Of course my family observed the weight loss -- praising me constantly about it -- how “healthy” I was eating. So over the years it was overlooked, and at that time I didn’t mind because I needed my ED to cope. It wasn’t until I was in group Intensive Outpatient (IOP) in August before my senior year, that my therapist recommended I receive treatment at The Renfrew Center. I was shocked that my eating disorder was validated and that it was a real problem. It took convincing my family and even myself, about how serious I was suffering. They supported me, they may have not understood half the things I was going through, but they had my back and wanted me to recover.
3) What’s your message to someone struggling? What inspires you to be such an incredible person and fight for others suffering?
If you are struggling with any kind of mental illness, please advocate for yourself and reach out as much as possible to receive the help you need and deserve. You are enough. You are worthy. You are deserving.
More specifically, if you are struggling with anxiety disorders like myself, I highly advise you seek out a therapist. In my case, working with my therapist and other group therapists in the past, I’ve grown and learned about myself immensely. Through therapy, I’ve been able to discuss my emotions and thoughts in such depth, that since identifying such negative emotions when experiencing certain thoughts or triggers, I’ve been able to rewire my mind to cope in a healthy way, cognitively and behaviorally.
My inspiration to fight for others suffering stems from something I’ve said to myself ever since I began therapy/treatment at 14. “I want all of this to be worth something someday.” I knew that through all the pain I suffered, my situation with mental illness would someday be worth something to me. Once I gave myself the opportunity to heal, I opened up so many areas of my life. Now as a person who’s recovered from an eating disorder, managed bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and all that comes with it, my voice is amplified. I am and feel empowered by all that I’ve overcome. I am driven to use what I’ve learned through suffering to help others; big and small. I’m compelled to continue to share my story so that others feel less alone. I also dedicate my story to those who are not here with us to share them. My goal is to keep sharing my story because I want to play a role in destigmatizing mental illness. When I “grow up,” I want to become a therapist specializing in eating disorders. Through struggle, treatment and recovery, I want to give back as much as possible. And this is where I start…by sharing a piece of my life and perspective.
4) As a society, what can we do to help each other? What steps do you think we all need to take?
As a society, I believe we have the power to continue to lift each other up, but unlocking the potential to up the ante is the next step. We’re social beings, we have to look out for each other. We must diminish stereotypes together by looking at everyone as people first. We must not assume that everyone has a “perfect” life and we must acknowledge that everyone has their own story that’re worthy of sharing. As a whole, we just have to keep talking. Yes it’s hard to talk about these topics that society has stigmatized, but at the same time, we need to implement conversations about mental health/illness in our everyday lives ever so casually. Wise words spoken (not verbatim) by John Tessitore, “Us as the sufferers, need to use our voice to share our stories, while the non-sufferers need to be receptive to hearing and supporting us.”
The Renfrew Center
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association)
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)