Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear ICED: “The system is terribly flawed”: A Mom’s Reason for Eating Disorder Advocacy

Eating Disorders are brain-based, biological illnesses with a strong genetic component and a psychosocial influence. They are not disorders of choice, vanity or family dysfunction. As with autism and schizophrenia, we don't know everything, but we do know we were wrong about a lot for a very long time. Help us challenge stigma and fight for resource parity for these deadly disorders!

“The system is terribly flawed”:  A Mom’s Reason for Eating Disorder Advocacy

Faith Yesner,

Media, PA

It was April of 2009, 7 months after my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia, when I first stepped out of my life of "politically ignorant bliss" and onto Capitol Hill as a lobbyist.  Before that day, I didn't know what a lobbyist actually did!! In fact, until I actually lobbied...until I took my first step into the office of my Representative (heart pounding, hands shaking), I never imagined how empowering and satisfying lobbying would be! Of course, before that day, I had no reason to get “all political" or even marginally involved in what I just didn't "get." I was your middle class mom of 2 easy going kids, one in college and one in HS, focused on college apps and auditioning for my finally flourishing acting career!

Life came to a screeching halt with the anorexia diagnosis, and devastation ensued for our family. I was barely functional from shock, fear and depression. I was full of rage at what this disease was doing to my family and more so, to my beautiful daughter. In addition to that, I had to battle insurance for coverage even when it was medically necessary and urgent, and advocate constantly to keep my daughter from falling through many treatment cracks. As I educated myself about eating disorders, treatment protocols, lack of fair and necessary insurance coverage, and lack of educational programs and info about this deadly disease, it was evident that the system was terribly flawed.  It was also evident that many battling eating disorders were, in fact, falling through the cracks and suffering terrible consequences.

Now I had a reason to become “all political”!!

When the opportunity arose for me to use my tired, angry, frustrated, heartbroken voice in a concrete way that could promote change, I jumped...onto a train from Philadelphia to the Hill (Capitol Hill), alone and nervous, to my first Lobby day!!! Even as an actress with no fear of public speaking, I was scared!! This was the unknown, but considering what I had to face when the once unknown anorexia reared its ugly head, this was a piece of cake.

As we met our Representatives and Senators, I began to see just how powerful a Mom's voice can be. When a mom speaks, they listen...intently. Because they are human too. Because most have suffered some heartache, or have children of their own and "there but for the Grace of God go they." When you bring humanity, and a passionate mom, into the world of “politics as usual,” something happens. We catch the attention of those that hold the political power and that is the start of change!

Moms have been the catalysts for change in many political arenas. And as of lately, in the social media arena!  For me, Lobbying has led to tweeting campaigns, and activism and advocacy!  Seeing the effect we have, as moms/parents has been empowering and rewarding.  We are making change.  Don't mess with a mama lioness!!! She is relentless! She is an activist, advocating lobby mommy, and she will roar!!

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