From Patient to Professional: Working in the ED Field while in Recovery
A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine recovering from my eating disorder, let alone working as a professional in the field. I was deep in my disorder, and I spent the majority of my time comparing myself and my body to those around me – especially to those who also suffered from their own disorder. Fast forward to today: I recently celebrated the 1-year mark working for ViaMar Health, an eating disorder treatment center in the heart of West Palm Beach, FL.
And I’ve loved every minute of it.
People ask me all the time, “Isn’t it hard to work with eating disorders and stay in recovery? Don’t you get triggered?” And while it may seem counterintuitive, the honest answer is that it does just the opposite for me. The more I work with others struggling in their eating disorders, the stronger my own recovery becomes. For me, working with eating disorders everyday acts as a reminder of where I’ve been. It is an incredibly humbling experience.
It can be easy to forget the details of how your disorder affected your life as you grow and flourish in recovery. I have had moments where it becomes hard to believe that I ever struggled – disordered eating thoughts don’t even cross my mind. And while it’s wonderful that I have reached such a place of contentment in my life, working around active eating disorders every day has helped me from ever becoming complacent in my recovery.
I walk into work each day and am reminded of the gravity of this illness and the strength, determination, and hard work that it takes to recover. These daily reminders empower me to continually choose recovery each and every day – because recovery does not just happen one day and you’re done, but rather it is something that must be chosen every day, no matter what.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was afforded the opportunity to receive intensive treatment for my illness, a gift that far too few struggling with eating disorders acquire. The care I received during my treatment process helped save my life, provided me a solid recovery foundation, and it instilled a passion in me to extend that same experience to others who are suffering.
I do not hide the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder, both in my personal life and in my professional life. It is important for those who are currently struggling to see that recovery is possible and that it is worth it. My transparency also helps me to connect with patients on a deeper level. Treatment is hard, and I know that on a personal level. I have been before where these patients are now, and that fact creates a different kind of bond and instills trust in me as a professional on their team. I am also able to express to them that joining the professional side of the eating disorder world should only be attempted once someone’s recovery is very stable and each of them have enough insight to ask for help if needed.
The fact that I’ve been there before also helps give me an edge. I’ve become known as the one who always has a rebuttal against anything a patient’s disorder has to say. Patients know that their ED thoughts have no room in conversation with me – whatever their disorders have to say, mine probably said it too. This personal experience helps me support others in a unique was as they fight their own ED voices.
My goal in life is to help as many people as I can find freedom from their disorders, and I am so grateful to work in the treatment field. Surprisingly enough, the transition from patient to professional was relatively seamless for me. From the moment I knew I truly wanted to recover; I started my work helping others as well. It has definitely been a learning process, but it has also been the most rewarding thing I have done in my life. If my journey can help inspire even one person to find their own recovery, I will know I’ve made a difference.
While in the midst of my eating disorder, I could not have imagined recovering, let alone working as a professional in the field.
But today, I could not imagine my life in any other way.
Jeanine Cyze is the Patient Liaison at ViaMar Health. She is working toward publishing a book about eating disorder recovery and hopes to continue speaking on the subject at conferences and seminars in the future. In her free time, you can find her rollerblading, baking banana bread, or cuddling with her cat. www.viamarhealth.com