July 21, 2017, 8:40 p.m.
Four years ago, I found myself googling “eating disorders Toronto” and the first link that popped up was the National Eating Disorder Information Centre or as I would come to know it, NEDIC.
I was freshly graduated from teachers college and wanting to build up my work and volunteer experience so I filled in the application form to be an Outreach and Education volunteer.
When I walked through the doors on the 7th floor of Toronto General Hospital for my first interview, I did not realize that my life was about to change forever.
I spent my first year volunteering, facilitating presentations for young people on self-esteem, body image and critical media literacy and for professionals on eating disorder signs and symptoms. Later, my supervisor would leave and I would replace her as NEDIC’s Outreach and Education Coordinator.
I remember crying the moment NEDIC’s program manager told me I was hired. It was about to become my full time job to raise awareness about eating disorders, to share NEDIC’s message and to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people a year.
Over the years I would gain so much knowledge about the world of eating disorders. My lens would change forever as I fully embraced the HAES philosophy and worked within a feminist, client centered, anti-oppressive organization. I would meet people from community partner organizations, incredible researchers and awe-inspiring volunteers that would show me what dedication and passion could do.
I would also learn that Canada is in dire need for more funding in all areas of eating disorders. Research, treatment, awareness, access is limited and many people lose their lives every year because our country cannot provide for them.
I would learn that many populations, even the ones I belong to as a woman of colour, are often left in the margins facing barrier after barrier, keeping them from support, treatment, recovery and hope.
I would learn that the hill we have to climb looks more like a mountain and that the majority of us are over worked and underfunded.
Most importantly, I would learn that I alone could create all of the awareness in the world and that that still would not be enough to create the change that we need. That what I really needed to do is act.
This week I am leaving NEDIC. Not because I don’t think the work NEDIC does is important. Not because I don’t value that they have the only toll-free national helpline to help those affected by EDs. Not because I don’t think it’s incredible that they reach tens of thousands of Canadians every single year with their programs. Or because I don’t deeply respect with all my heart that they function as a national charity with only 5 full time equivalent staff.
I’m leaving because it’s time for me to contribute to the world of eating disorders from the other side. It’s time for me to pursue my Master’s degree with hopes to contribute to the ED world as an anti-oppressive clinician and take my learnings from NEDIC to help ALL of those who are affected by EDs no matter their background, age, race or abilities.
This is not my goodbye to NEDIC and the work that it does as an organization. It’s more of a love letter of deep appreciation. I hope that NEDIC continues to do the great work that they do and continue to touch the lives of all those affected by EDs. I know they definitely touched mine.
Marbella Carlos BFA, BEd, OCT, was NEDIC’s Outreach and Education Coordinator from 2014-2017. She has taught in experiential learning centres, arts organizations, the public school system and community engagement programs for learners of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. She facilitated “The Skin I’m In” a 3 part, arts-based workshop designed for the BIPOC community at Sheena’s Place, a centre in Toronto for those affected by eating disorders.
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