Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving On

It's a done deal. I am changing careers.

It was a hard decision to make. But alas, we must pay our mortgage and eat, so I had to find something that could pay the bills (and allow me to stay at home part-time with A).

So in today's post, I would like to make mention of the work I have done these past few years, and talk about something that usually gets pushed under the rug in our society. In doing so, I realize I am "outing" myself in this blog. I had intended to keep The Chickadee Tweet completely anonymous, as I felt I might be creatively contained if I was attempting to write posts that would be read by family or friends. However, I've decided that this blogging stuff is just so much fun, that I would like to share it with the people in my little world!

Hopewell is an eating disorders support centre (www.hopewell.ca). They don't provide treatment, but information, support and resources for all individuals affected by eating disorders. This means the sufferers themselves, and their family and friends can all turn to Hopewell for support.

It continues to amaze me how many people struggle with eating issues. And I'm not just talking about serious illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia, but other eating issues such as compulsive eating, overeating, and an obsession with organic and "pure" food. Even individuals who wouldn't say that they had an "issue" with food still spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their weight and body image.

The sad part of it is, all of these behaviours are getting passed down to our children, and are affecting girls and boys as young as nine years of age. I don't want to be one of those people who says "now, in my day..." but it is a fact that the number of people affected by these issues is on the rise. Is it our culture's preoccupation with a thin body type? Is it the overabundance of food? Is it the advertising for fast and processed food? Or perhaps our new found obsession with local, organic and "natural" food? (I can't tell you how many eating disorder sufferers I've met who claim to be vegan and/or raw food purists). It's probably a combination of all these things, as well as individual factors such as temperament and family history of mental illness.

I sometimes get asked the question "is obesity considered an eating disorder?" The short answer is "no." There are too many social and biological factors that determine obesity to label it an eating disorder. But, we can see many links bewteen eating disorder sufferers and obesity, and we can also see how our media's claims that obesity is reaching "epidemic proportions!" can have an impact on young people. All of this focus on healthy eating and physical activity - heck, even the Wii measures children's BMI - may be pressuring some young people to take dangerous measures to lose weight.

My work at Hopewell was simple, but deeply meaningful to me. I provided one-on-one peer support to people affected by eating disorders, organized programs and services for our community, and helped to raise money for such an important organization. Every day I went home knowing that I had made a difference in someone's life, or had given a worried mother/father a sense of hope for their child's wellbeing. I will miss the quirky staff in our building, my manager and co-worker, and all the wonderful volunteers who have donated so many hours to Hopewell.

To honour the organization and my time working there, I have chosen a special song (well, special to me!). Although this has nothing to do with eating disorders, I love the lyrics and the idea that someone is there to help when you "just can't go on." This is "Sisters of Mercy" by Leonard Cohen. Serena Ryder sings a beautiful version of this song.

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me their song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

They lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

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