This past weekend I participated in the first annual Fox Valley NEDA walk in Appleton, Wisconsin. Ever since I struggled with an eating disorder "Walk in a NEDA Walk" has been on my bucket list. I looked into going to the NEDA walk in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, but I was always too afraid to sign up because I was afraid of what people would think once they knew I struggled with an eating disorder. But when I first heard there was going to be a NEDA Walk near where I go to school, I knew I had to go.
I felt confident about going to the NEDA Walk because I've been recovered long enough where I don't feel like the eating disorder is a part of who I am anymore, which makes it a lot easier to be open about my struggles throughout my eating disorder and the recovery process. The past year or so I've been more open about my past struggles with an eating disorder, along with my current depression and I've become pretty passionate about advocating for those with mental illness and ending the stigma around mental illness, so going to this walk felt like the perfect thing for me to do.
I didn't raise that much money because I didn't quite feel comfortable individually asking friends and family members and having to explain my story (since many of them never knew about it), so I just posted a link to my fundraising page on social media and I emailed a few family friends. I ended up raising over $200, which I thought was pretty good for the amount of people that I reached out to. Anyways, I didn't sign up for the walk to fundraise; I signed up to bring awareness around eating disorders and to be at an event surrounded by people that've dealt with the same things I struggled with.
The walk itself was great! It was so liberating to be surrounded by people that support those that've been affected by eating disorders. The walk was about a mile long around a local college campus and I remember during the entire walk I held up the sign I made, which made me feel so powerful because my eating disorder took away my voice for so long, but now I have my voice back and I'm using it to spread awareness about the disorder. I'm not gonna lie, it was difficult at times during the walk because I had so many flashbacks from when I was sick, but having all of these flashbacks reminded me of how far I've come and how I'm never going back to my eating disorder because I know how much better life is without it.
I definitely want to walk in the Fox Valley NEDA Walk next year and in the meantime I'm going to continue to spread awareness about mental illness and help the recovery community any way I can because I just want to give back to those who helped me beat my eating disorder when I thought it'd never be possible.