Advocating for Me

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HEART TO HEART: Advocating for Me

Finding my voice has been an ongoing struggle. While in college, I took several women’s studies courses and my journey of self-discovery began. The professors impacted how I viewed my life and personal history. I was inspired to speak out, write poetry, and volunteer as an advocate for rape survivors. Not only was it the most empowering time in my life, I was healthy and happy. After college, anorexia nervosa crept into my life and consumed it. My newfound voice was silenced. Reconnecting to that activist side has become an essential part of my recovery.

I decided to volunteer once again with sexual assault survivors. As an advocate, I am trained to listen and provide options for survivors who are feeling overwhelmed or confused. I learned to advocate for other women’s rights to survive, to exist, and to receive compassion and treatment, but I knew I didn’t give myself those same considerations.

Living with anorexia is an exhausting struggle between that critical side of myself that says I don’t deserve food or love and the side that is fighting to survive. My battles are fought within. I don’t think that I can be an effective advocate for others until I became a better advocate for myself. My new focus is learning to stand up for myself, even while the negative side tries to overwhelm me.

Advocating for any cause requires an underlying belief in that cause. The key has been to believe in myself. When self-doubt and insecurities arise, I practice the skills I learned in talking to survivors in crisis. However, I play both roles and give a real voice to each side warring within me. Practice is making me a stronger advocate for recovery by improving my ability to counteract the negative messages, to validate my own feelings, and sort out what I really need in the moment.

Another tool I find useful is to pick a theme for the year. It is one word that helps me focus my outlook. This year’s theme is BELIEVE—believing in myself, in recovery, and beyond. This theme fills my journals, my poetry, and art. I also post notes around my apartment with inspirational sayings. When I shared this theme with my family and friends, they responded by sending me cards with reminders to believe in myself and in my dreams.

Though my journey into recovery is not complete, I know that I will never be without hope again. I know that I matter, and I am worth the effort it takes to survive. Nelson Mandela said, “We were born to manifest the glory that is within us and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others.” It is my wish that in sharing my story, others might also give themselves the gift of belief and the permission to thrive.

By Jacquie Koewler
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Spring 2005 Volume 3, Number 2
©2005 Gürze Books

About the Author

Jacquie Koewler is a graduate of the Ohio State University. She plans to continue her education in health advocacy and writing.

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