I remember the very first Alliance walk I attended. It was a chilly Sunday morning at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and the wind was so strong that it blew away the decorative balloon arch. I arrived early, within the first 20 or so people to pull up, and I took a shaky breath before getting out of my car and walking up to the check-in table. Colorful beads laid in piles for the taking, little notes indicating what each set represented: green symbolizing an ally to the recovery community, purple symbolizing you’ve lost someone to an eating disorder, and red symbolizing that you yourself struggle with the illness.
I was still in intensive treatment at the time, and I was hesitant to wear the red beads that symbolized I was someone battling an eating disorder. I grabbed the beads and quickly slid them into my purse before anyone could see, still feeling too much fear and shame to admit to the world that this was my struggle. I walked from table to table, clutching my bag tightly against me, so afraid that someone might find out what lie inside. But as the morning went on, and as I watched those around me come together with enthusiastic love and support for one another, my fear began to subside – and I put on the red beads.
And since then, I have never taken them off.
I now spend each and every day wearing those beads – sharing the story of my struggle and my recovery with those around me – because sometimes it takes just one person to show you that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is support all around you. For me, NOT ONE MORE is more than just a weekend. Rather, it is an active choice I make every day. Now, years later and working as a professional in the treatment field myself, I walk into each day with the goal of NOT ONE MORE backing all of the decisions I make. I know firsthand what it is like to battle an eating disorder, and it is my life’s goal to ensure that NOT ONE MORE person loses another second of their life to this disease.
My life is one of the many lives saved by the work the Alliance does to support those struggling with eating disorders. The money raised from the NOT ONE MORE weekend goes to funding the free, clinician-led support groups that the Alliance hosts. I attended these very support groups when I was at the lowest points in my struggle against anorexia, and they helped keep me alive when I saw no future for myself outside the eating disorder. I will be forever grateful for that. And while the NOT ONE MORE weekend will look a little different this year, the reason we do it remains the same.
Because NOT ONE MORE person deserves to live in fear and shame.
Because NOT ONE MORE person deserves to fight this fight on their own.
Because we won’t rest until NOT ONE MORE becomes a reality.
Jeanine Cyze is the Patient Liaison at ViaMar Health. She received her B.A. from Eckerd College and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling. After recovering from her own eating disorder, she knew that she wanted nothing more than to support others and help them in their own healing journeys. For more information about ViaMar Health, please visit www.viamarhealth.com.