On Sunday I will be leaving for my favorite city in the world and the place I used to call home (if only briefly), Washington, D.C. to take part in the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Lobby Day, where people from all over the United States will emerge and tell Congress how important it is to pass the F.R.E.E.D. Act (read the bill here…F.R.E.E.D). I went to my first Lobby Day two years ago when I had just entered recovery and was amazed at the stories people told and the compassion that was shown by everyone who showed up to be a voice for eating disorders. Although it was sometimes discouraging to talk to some of our lawmakers who seemed uninterested and lacked compassion and understanding, I left that day with a sense of hope that eventually, if we keep working at it, we will pass this important piece of legislation.
It’s no surprise to those of you who are struggling with an eating disorder and have been through treatment or have tried to obtain treatment how inadequate the insurance coverage is, the disease is chronic in most cases (because it’s hard to obtain proper treatment) and treatment is expensive (usually $1,000-$2,000 per day in a residential setting). After being in residential for a mere two days (after three days in a hospital setting) I was informed that my insurance wanted to cut me off and I was on the verge of packing my bags just as soon as I had unpacked them. After being in and out of treatment for the past eight years I knew that I was ready to commit to recovery, I was ready to reclaim my life and because insurance thinks that I’m “all better” because of vital signs and their belief that my body weight was “within a normal healthy range” they thought I was ready to go home, the magic fairy dust had been sprinkled and I had been cured! As soon as I got the news I begged to email the one person I knew would stand up for me and be a voice, the person who had told me that I needed treatment and she was ready to take me herself. After the frantic email she notified me that she would contact my Congressman and advocate to insurance on my behalf. During this same time another girl was going through the same situation–it’s a common situation to be in if you “lucky” enough to be covered by insurance for residential care–when I told her that she needed to have someone to advocate for her she said that she would wait it out. She was one of the unlucky ones and had to leave treatment after the insurance’s company’s doctor thought it was no longer necessary.
Lucky for me, however, my therapist came in the next afternoon and said nine words that I will never forget “You have a lot of people who love you.” My insurance company had allowed me thirty days of treatment. I made a decision at that moment to make each day count so that when I walked out of those doors after those thirty days were up, I would never see the inside of a residential facility as a patient ever again. I am immensely thankful to that friend who I will see this weekend and I pray for her and her work everyday because I am not the only one she has done this for, I am just one of many.
She is the one who has inspired me in everything I do, she reminds me on the days where I struggle that I am worth so much more than a number on a scale. Most importantly she has inspired me to advocate for others, to work to pass F.R.E.E.D until the lawmakers listen, to get the word out there until all of American knows how deadly and dangerous eating disorders are. I will advocate until every person suffering from an eating disorder receives the treatment they need. This bill WILL save lives. If you have never been to a lobby day I encourage you to go, you will be changed. I was, and I have never looked back.