LOBBYING FOR EATING DISORDER AWARENESS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

DC

It’s been a hot minute (that means long time mom + dad) since I shared my experiences speaking + I’ve missed writing about my travels! My husband + I purchased our first home the day before I traveled to D.C. to share my experiences living with an eating disorder. September, October + November of this year have probably been some of the busiest months of my life + some of the most EXCITING! If you can forgive the timing of this late post, I’d love to share my experiences at the Capitol, Senate + Congress.

First off, I was totally caught off guard when the Alumni Coordinator at Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders (shout out to Shannon Hershkowitz) called me to ask if I would be interested in talking to our Senators + Congress about eating disorder awareness in the month of October. It is honestly one of the biggest honors to be asked by the very people who saw me struggle + fight for my life day in + day out for years come back + state that they believe I can make a difference because I’m living, breathing proof that recovery is possible. I made it! Let’s just say the happy tears were flowing + I was almost at a complete loss for words. 😉

When I traveled to D.C., it was with a team of 2 other recovered women who went through the same treatment style I did in an inpatient hospital. Shannon also traveled with us + helped to prepare us for our meetings at the Senate + the House. We were assigned various topics + bills to discuss with our representatives. Additionally, we were given records (public knowledge) of which particular representatives had voted in favor of bills in the past regarding similar bills that had been passed such as the Anna Westin Act of 2015. The Anna Westin Act of 2015 is a bill which is aimed at training school officials and healthcare professionals on how to identify those with eating disorders + how to properly intervene. If you aren’t familiar with eating disorders + the way the government is getting involved, you’re not alone! In fact, I was so new to all of this that I certainly felt overwhelmed + scared thinking, “I don’t consider myself any sort of government expert… how am I going to walk into the Senate + the House with confidence”? I did my research though + I spoke from my heart. I was sad to hear that the Anna Westin Act was not re-signed in 2017 and now needs to be pushed again to create awareness + detect eating disorders in children early to help save lives. This was the purpose of my trip, to remind our state representatives why this bill needs to be signed + passed again.

The morning of Lobby Day, I was surrounded by all sorts of people from various parts of the country when we met at the Hart Senate Office Building. We were greeted + distributed goodie bags as speakers + found ourselves in a room full of health care professionals in the eating disorder world, other recovered men + women as well as parents who had lost a child to an eating disorder. It was challenging to hear the stories of pain + suffering, but incredibly joyous to hear of the recovery stories exemplifying triumph + strength. We were educated by the Eating Disorder Coalition staff on how to discuss our personal stories, how to best “hook” the people we were talking to + help them understand this is a matter that needs dire attention in our country.

We were given a brief 20 minutes of time to “rehearse” our stories + off we were to meet with our state representatives. Living + being treated in Arizona, our team was assigned to speak with 5 various representatives, two of them being Senator John McCain + Senator Jeff Flake. We walked the halls with our power suits + high heels clicking on the floor like nobody’s business… I felt like I was in a movie! It was exhilarating + I couldn’t help but feel empowered by the difference I already felt I was making. Our first appointment happened so quickly, it felt like a blur. I shared my story struggling with anorexia + bulimia while my colleague shared her story with binge eating disorder. While we shared stories from the heart, it was important to have our respondents engaged, hoping they would ask probing questions to better understand why we were asking for attention + time to be addressed to these life threatening issues plaguing men + women all over our country on a daily basis. It was a relief when the questions started flowing in, the conversation flowed effortlessly + I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

While I mentioned my team + I represented the state of Arizona for Lobby Day, it’s important to recognize that many others traveled from all over the U.S. to meet with their own state representatives to make an impact + share their stories. Throughout the day we came across other teams in the hallways as well as on the streets walking the long blocks between the Senate + the House. It was such a great feeling to know that we were all on the same team, who had all fought for our own lives, knowing we were making a difference to save other lives + detect eating disorders early.

After the day was finished, all 150 or so of us met in front of the state Capitol where we gathered to recap our day, share our experiences + encourage others to continue making a difference when we returned home. Following the recap meeting, we ventured outside to take a group photo where we celebrated with silly faces, the biggest smiles + countless new friends at our sides. It was quite the rush of emotion.

When I flew back to Arizona the following morning, I couldn’t help but feel like the trip was a whirlwind. I was rejuvenated with the thought that I have the ability to make this kind of a difference in my life. I was chosen out of thousands of people at the treatment center that saved my life to fly across the country + share my story with our Senators + Congress representatives. My strength + stubborn tendencies saved my life along with a highly skilled teams of health care professionals who never stopped believing in me. The fact that I am not ashamed to share my personal story in the public eye, to people I know well as well as complete strangers through my personal blog + public speaking matters has changed the way I think about my own life. I know I am meant to share these lessons I’ve learned + help create awareness, hope + spread self-love. This is my passion + this trip simply lit the fire under my tush to know that… yes, I’m doing this because I was truly meant to”.

If this topic interests you, send me a message + learn how you can help get involved to help early detection in eating disorders. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Xoxo,

Ashley

 

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