EDRS Helps Decrease the Stigma Attached to Eating Disorders

By Emelina Minero

We’re born into this world a blank slate. We’re marked by genetics, which colors our human experience, but we’re not born with self-criticism, body hatred or shame – these are learned traits, and they can be unlearned.

A lot of stigma shadows over the mental health community: eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, paranoia. In recent years, more celebrities have been coming out and talking publicly about their struggle with and their recovery from an eating disorder.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a world that shames the mental health community, as it does the queer community. Coming out with a mental illness is like a second coming out experience. Part of that coming out experience is coming into your own. It’s owning and celebrating the different aspects of your identity. It’s learning to fall in love with yourself. It’s accepting yourself and realizing that there isn’t anything wrong with you. It’s letting go of the shame that society imposes on these labels, that society imposes on people, on us.

I wrote a blog post on Self-Love Warrior, “Making Adjustments To Normal,” about the moment I realized that I let go of my shame around having bipolar 2 disorder.

I know what shame and fear feel like. I stayed in the closet from when I was 5-years-old until I was 19-years-old. It’s heavy, it’s dark and it’s isolating. The feelings that arise from letting go of shame, it’s freeing.

When I stopped struggling and grasping for what I thought was normal, I think that’s when self-acceptance kicked in.

A lot of experiences contributed to my journey towards self-acceptance and love, a pivotal one was my first year at Randolph-Macon’s Woman’s College. I was in a safe, welcoming and nonjudgemental environment that celebrated me for all of me, and allowed me to do the same.

Safe spaces play an integral part in recovery, in learning to accept and love ourselves, in letting go of shame, and nonprofit Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc. (EDRS), has created such a safe space.

This year marks the 8th annual EDRS, Inc. Conference in Petaluma, CA, part of Sonoma County, known as the wine country, and 35 miles north of San Francisco. For the past eight years EDRS has been fostering a strong community and safe space for mental health professionals and community members to gather, share their expertise and learn from each other. EDRS focuses on people, and because of that focus, when you’re at one of their conferences, the sense of community and belonging is tangible.

Dr. Linda BaconThis year’s conference theme is Diversity: The Many Faces of Eating Disorders and Treatment. Dr. Linda Bacon, a professor, researcher, out lesbian and author of Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight is Thursday’s keynote speaker. Dr. Bacon will be speaking about The Resilient Practitioner: Navigating Clinical and Personal Challenges with a Size Acceptance Message.

Marcella RaimondoOn Friday, February 7, Marcella Raimondo PhD, MPH will be one of six people on the Diversity in Recovery Panel. She’ll be addressing recovery from her perspective as a queer woman of color. The panel members will share their recovery stories and how their human experience influenced their recovery.

Matt WetselOn Saturday, February 8, Matt Wetsel, a Junior Board member of Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC), will be speaking about The Feminization of Eating Disorders and the Case for Gender Inclusivity. Outside of Wetsel’s policy work with EDC, he focuses on the intersection of gender constructs as they relate to mental health, in particular, eating disorders.

It is through this collaboration, the community that EDRS has helped foster, the safe space that they have created within their conference and the education that they offer that they are fighting the stigma attached to eating disorders. A person is separate from their eating disorder. It doesn’t define who they are. Having a mental illness doesn’t make us damaged, understanding it, working through it and finding ourselves amongst it makes us strong.

As more people speak out about their mental illness, people outside of the mental health community will start seeing us as people, instead of as labels that they don’t understand, and people within the mental health community will gain more support and acceptance. EDRS’ work plays a huge part in humanizing the mental health community and helping people struggling, their supporters and the people outside of the community to see us past our labels.

The 2014 EDRS, Inc. Conference is Thursday, February 6 through Saturday, February 8. For full details on the times, the presentations and workshops visit edrs.net. To register, visit here.


4 Responses to EDRS Helps Decrease the Stigma Attached to Eating Disorders

  1. Bridget Reply

    February 5, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Thank you for writing this heartfelt and supportive post Emelina!

    • Emelina Minero Reply

      February 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      It was my pleasure. 🙂

  2. Michelle Minero Reply

    February 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Thanks Emelina for your advocacy not only for EDRS, but for your vision to help people get beyond labels, let go of stigmas and seek wholeness through compassion and self acceptance. You are a Love Warrior!

    • Emelina Minero Reply

      February 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

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