ERIN MATSON (@Erintothemax) is a writer and organizer for reproductive justice, equality for women, and social change. An activist and strategist, Erin has led local, state, and national advocacy campaigns and has appeared in a variety of publications and frequently on television, including ABC World News, BBC World News, and MSNBC. She served as an Editor at Large for RH Reality Check, and previously held a variety of positions in the National Organization for Women, including serving as the youngest state NOW president in the country (Minnesota NOW), a founding member of the national Young Feminist Task Force, and a national executive officer (NOW Action Vice President). One of her responsibilities was leading the national organization’s Love Your Body campaign. Erin is an anorexia survivor, and for many years said that recovering from an eating disorder was the coolest thing she’d ever done. That changed when she became a mom.
We asked Erin to reflect on the experience of living with and recovering from an eating disorder and she graciously allowed us to share her thoughts and ideas with our readers. This is what she had to say…
Q: What is one fact about eating disorders that you think is most important for people to know and understand?
EM: Recovery is possible! When I was most struggling with anorexia, I wish I had known there were people who do go on to recover. An eating disorder means there is hard work ahead but it definitely doesn’t mean that your life is doomed forever. I had an eating disorder and things were terrible, but today my life is terrific. That possibility didn’t get through to me while I was struggling.
Q: What is one thing you learned about yourself during your experience with an eating disorder and/or the recovery process?
EM: I am. It sounds strange, but one of the most profound things I learned through the recovery process is that I deserve to take up space without relying upon external validators like accomplishments, or roles, or size.
Q: Did you face any specific challenge during the recovery process and what helped you overcome it?
EM: Bad days and bad moments happen. Accepting them when they happen, rather than viewing them as failures or reasons to give up, is the first step to overcoming them. During the more difficult phases of my recovery I tried to observe a mental wall of separation between meal and snack and physical activity times; no matter what happened earlier in the day or the day before, I was going to focus on following my recovery plan during the moment in front of me.
Q: What are some day-to-day differences between life with an eating disorder and living life in recovery/recovered from an eating disorder?
EM: Cue the music and rainbows! Seriously, the difference is amazing. I am able to enjoy life, a depth of thought, and the company of others in a way that was impossible when I was preoccupied with my eating disorder. Recovery has made me more compassionate toward others and the struggles they may be going through. In the super-awesome category, recovery made it possible for me to have a baby.
Q: What feedback would you give to the support people – friends and family – of individuals struggling with eating disorders? How can they best help to aid in the recovery process?
EM: Patience. Patience and unconditional love are the best gifts you can give to an individual in recovery. What I didn’t need was people to fix my problem; what I most needed was people who I could count on, no matter what.
Q: Everyone defines recovery differently. What does recovery mean to you?
EM: Recovery means living without my eating disorder. It means accepting myself, and allowing myself the freedom to be human. At a macro level, it has come to mean for me actively resisting sexism and eating disorder culture, and working so that people treat each other (and themselves) better.
Want to hear more from Erin Matson on recovery from her Eating Disorder? Be sure to RSVP for the event Recovery in Real Life and register for her breakout session entitled The Gifts & Challenges of Recovery during Pregnancy, Post-Partum & Parenting.
Before the event, you can catch Erin chatting about the gifts of recovery in this short YouTube video: What Has Recovery Given You? Erin Matson on Eating Disorder “Recovery in Real Life”
She also blogs about pregnancy and eating disorders, reproductive justice and other important issues over at erintothemax.com.
Meet the rest of the #RecoveryinRealLife speakers here.