NEDA: A Beacon of Support in My Recovery Journey

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Priya James

Struggling with an eating disorder is a frightening experience, especially when faced with limited resources and societal stigma. I encountered this struggle firsthand at the age of 15, 27 years ago, when eating disorders were still shrouded in silence. Back then, eating disorders and mental illness were rarely discussed publicly, leaving individuals like me isolated in our struggles. However, amidst the darkness, I eventually found a glimmer of hope and support that changed the trajectory of my recovery.

As a teenager, I also faced the additional challenge of bridging the gap between my parents’ Indian culture and the American culture I grew up in. Mental health discussions were seldom acknowledged, let alone addressed with treatment. The cultural differences presented its own set of complexities, further complicating my journey towards recovery. In the absence of accessible information and support networks, I felt lost and desperate for guidance. There were no websites or online resources to turn to when I first started struggling, and access to eating disorder treatment was extremely limited. I attended an intensive outpatient treatment for depression and attempted to utilize several self-help books, but my eating disorder was never adequately addressed. Fortunately, one day I found myself sitting in my therapist’s waiting area, idly flipping through a Gurze Books catalog. Little did I know that this seemingly simple act would lead me to discover the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

I rushed home, made sure no one was on the house line and dialed up to the internet, eager to learn more about NEDA. As I delved into their resources, a sense of relief washed over me. Finally, I had found an organization that understood eating disorders, acknowledged their impact, and provided assistance to those struggling. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, knowing that there were people out there who understood, cared, and were dedicated to helping individuals like me.

Throughout my journey of recovery from an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association has played a pivotal role in my healing process. As I became a member of the NEDA community, my belief in the mission and dedication to helping every individual with an eating disorder grew stronger. I became a volunteer and coordinated the NEDA Walk for almost a decade in Houston, and eventually joined NEDA staff as the Manager of Community Engagement and Fundraising. The profound sense of gratitude I feel for the support I received from the NEDA community during my recovery has fueled my passion to give back and help others who are facing similar challenges. As an employee and a person with lived experience, I have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the unwavering commitment of the NEDA staff and the transformative impact of NEDA’s programs on countless lives.

As an organization and a community we stand as one to continue supporting individuals on their journeys of recovery, and working tirelessly to create a world where no one has to face an eating disorder alone.

Priya James is an eating disorder recovery advocate and the Manager of Community Engagement and Fundraising at the National Eating Disorders Association. Priya started her career in the fashion industry in 2001, working for one of Houston’s leading modeling agencies. After four years working for the agency, she began her study in Fashion at The Art Institute of Houston, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. Priya then went on to work as the Marketing & PR Director for fashion designer and Project Runway 2 winner Chloe Dao. She left the fashion industry in 2016 and began to focus on her advocacy efforts. Priya has held positions at the Academy for Eating Disorders, the Eating Recovery Center’s Say It Brave Taskforce, Houston Eating Disorders Specialists, and is the former walk coordinator of the National Eating Disorders Association Walk in Houston.