On Tuesday, May 12th I found myself standing, bags packed, on the curb of Sea-Tac Airport wondering what the hell I was doing. I consider myself a confident person; I understand what I want and know the most efficient way to secure it, and while I experience doubts I settle in knowing everything happens for a reason. But standing in the departure zone that morning I had a moment of panic.
What makes me qualified to travel to D.C. and advocate for the millions of people suffering?
What if I cannot articulate myself?
What if I just start sobbing?
But, armed with my EDC Lobby Day packet and what I didn’t know would be my last Starbucks until returning to Seattle, I silenced the negative thoughts and began my journey back east. It wasn’t very sure about how this would all work once I got to Lobby Day. I realized as I was walking into the initial meeting space that I didn’t know anyone, aside from Jillian who I had seen at The Emily Program’s Recovery Night in Spokane. I was a little lost at first but was quickly and warmly welcomed by a mirage of people who were quite stunned that I was from Washington STATE and not the Washington they always referred to.
During training we were tasked with learning about Anna’s Law and then writing about our own experience with eating disorders, whether that meant within ourselves or someone we knew. I was immediately thrown off by this, I have never been asked to share my story with a team of people I barely knew the names of. This hesitation, though, quickly vanished as I was met with care, compassion, and understanding by each individual on my team. The insight and solidarity that happened immediately gave me the ability to claim my story and present it with confidence and eloquence during our meetings.
Meeting with Senators, Congressmen and women, and staffers from each office was empowering. Having the time and space to champion a cause so close to each of us made for an exhilarating day. We ended up splitting the points between each of us and we tackled the problems of treatment, training, and truth in advertising with eloquence and empathy. And hey, we got bipartisan support, no big deal.
As we walked into our last meeting my team was joined by Kitty Westin. Having the chance to watch her expertly gauge the room and speak so articulately made me reflect personally on my journey. It made me think more deeply about what it must be like to be the parent of someone suffering from any of the numerous eating disorders presented, and how it must be so difficult to time and time again fight with insurance over the value of someone’s life. There are so many layers to this struggle, and so many facets through which people experience this insidious disease and it was quite simply an honor to have the opportunity to represent such a strong group of men and women.
Coming back to Seattle has been tough, mostly because I recently graduated from college and have moved home leaving my trustworthy TEP team in Spokane. Luckily, I have made incredibly supportive friends through different aspects of TEP and have been able to process my experience with them. It has been such an phenomenal blessing to represent this program in D.C. and I truly cannot wait to get back over to the hill to lobby again in a few short months.