Inner Door Foundation
is the first non-profit foundation in the Detroit area – and all of Michigan – dedicated to supporting treatment and outreach for eating disorder recovery. Eating disorders if diagnosed and treated early can have a diminished relapse potential. Although eating disorders can affect all ages, a pivotal time for eating disorders to emerge is prior to, during, and post-college. These individuals can benefit from seeking treatment early. For loved ones and significant others, the Inner Door Foundation offers a way to get involved and give back to those who need help desperately. The fundraiser, which took place at the Detroit Opera House and featured local art and the music of Marcus Belgrave and DJ Terrence Parker, was intended to be a hipster gathering, loose and casual and fun, against a backdrop to start conversations about something very serious.
Eating Disorders: This is the subject focus of my work and my passion. Yes, I work as development director for the Inner Door Foundation, which raises money to advocate for and support adults seeking treatment for eating disorders. The Inner Door Center is a one-of-a-kind place where yoga and therapy combine for incredible, lasting eating disorder treatment that truly makes a difference.
I won't go into my own sordid story, but suffice it to say that I know firsthand the pain of an eating disorder. It's not just about wanting to be thin and pretty. It's something that starts much deeper and simmers, an unspoken need to feel equal and full and well, a disconcerting sense of not being enough – pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, enough.
I'm healthy now and I love who I am, but it took a lot of work to get here. And so many others never do. These deep-seeded insecurities and inferiorities can run the lives of those we love if not confronted and dealt with.
And that's where my work comes in. I want everyone to realize how beautiful they are, inside and out. I want everyone to look outside at the morning sky and see a beautiful day, no matter what lies ahead for them. I want everyone's life to be full and meaningful.
And that starts with acceptance of the self. Eating disorders are a mental illness that manifests in the physical. It's an emotional hunger that leads people to demonize food and the body and ultimately, it's a killer if untreated.
It's not only young women who suffer from eating disorders. In fact, it is estimated that eight million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men. Diagnoses of an eating disorder have been made in children younger than 12 and adults as old as 75.
Some of our tools used to treat eating disorders and empower the people who are battling them include traditional therapy, art therapy, yoga, dance, drumming and meditation.
What bothers me more than seeing a bones-and-skin person who clearly isn't happy is the way society sweeps this issue under the rug. You can't always tell by looking at someone if they're suffering. This is an internal, existential problem, and so many of us live on the surface. You have to dig deep to get to know what's really eating away at someone. You have to care.
If we regular people don't see it, then you can bet insurance companies don't either. They are experts at the game of avoidance, and when it comes to covering eating disorder treatment, they are masters. If I succeed at one thing in this job, I hope it is to achieve parity and get eating disorders in all stripes covered by insurance. Treatment can be costly – upwards of $30,000 for in-patient! And treatment is necessary. Without it, you cannot recover. There is no emotional Band-Aid to slap on. It takes time and a reorientation of perspective to get over an eating disorder.
The reason my event this summer focused on art and music is because those are things people can connect with, easily. We can all come together over art and music and make connections – and then it's easier for conversation to flow. Then our ears, and our minds, are open.
Eating disorders are not a cool type of lifestyle led by a famous actress or actor. Eating disorders are a deadly mental illness that can affect anyone. Although we see individuals of all ages who struggle with eating disorders at the Inner Door Center – metro Detroit's first and only comprehensive eating disorder treatment center – we have found that the "twenty-somethings" are drawn to treatment at this pivotal time of searching for their purpose in life.
As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series on eating disorder awareness in our own community, Stereotype-Event – hosted by the Inner Door Foundation – was the first fundraising benefit of its kind in metro Detroit. The most difficult challenge of this event was educating donors on what they were contributing to and why. I created the Inner Door Foundation in 2006 in order to raise awareness about eating disorders and to provide treatment. Establishing the foundation was the easy part.
Getting people to recognize that eating disorders are an important cause to which to donate was and still is the most challenging aspect of running this foundation. Cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and the like are an easy sell. More often than not, our requests for funds are met with replies such as, "Ha ha, I have an eating disorder! I love food, and I eat too much!" Or, "Oh how I wish I had an eating disorder for just one week so that I can lose the pounds that I have always wanted to drop!" These opening lines are classic examples of how the disease of eating disorders are so misunderstood. Those who do actually understand, and who are questioning their own mental health, begin to get very uncomfortable....associating themselves with our cause could perhaps be contagious...they, their loved one or their inbred community might just "catch" a mental illness. The stigma would be too great. Cancer, on the other hand, would be more acceptable.
I do not want to appear that I am insensitive to cancer, endocrine, and autoimmune disorders. Send me a postcard, and I will donate to any chronic disease. In fact, I personally have struggled with a mixed connective tissue disease in my twenties through early thirties. However, my condition was yet just another manifestation of my eating disorder – a way to isolate, disengage and block out feelings at that time in my life. Eating disorders have the highest morbidity and mortality of any mental illness. If left untreated, eating disorders will fester like an open wound and manifest into physical disorders.
Our healthcare system, in its quest for preventive care and cost containment, would be best served by early detection, education, and insurance-covered treatment. Primary or family docs just need to ask the right questions, starting with, "Do you feel sad or blue...tell me MORE (vs. Yes or No). If MORE then resembles an eating disorder, well then: "Here are resources for treatment in our own community." And, given that the Blues are the largest insurers in the Detroit area, for heaven's sake, hey Blues! Cover all levels of eating disorder treatment at programs specifically designed for just eating disorders vs. catch-all psychiatric facilities (cancer centers aren't combined with diabetes treatment programs)!
And, how about covering freestanding, non-hospital based treatment facilities? Our twenty-somethings and beyond do not want to be treated in a sterile and cold environment, but at a warm and inviting atmosphere. If you would like to learn more and become more involved with creating awareness of eating disorders, you can find me and my devoted staff at the Inner Door Center Foundation