We Are Not Alone, or WANA, is a student-led group that has created a safe place for those battling eating disorders to talk about their experiences and how the disorder has affected them.
For far too long, this disease has gone unknown and unrecognized.
Jordyn Lee, a first-year graduate student in marriage and family therapy from Iowa, came up with a vision years ago to spread and awareness of the issue.
“My senior year – one and half years ago – it had been put on my heart to help girls struggling with eating disorders just like myself,” Lee said. “Recovery can be a lifelong process, and I realized I needed community to support me and that helping others gave me joy. I just didn’t know how to go about this passion.”
Lee, founder of WANA, had one successful support group meeting and has conducted a meeting every Sunday since.
Kailee Donaldson-Cremer, WANA officer, helped Lee with the creation of WANA after the two had a conversation about their own experiences.
“From day one, Jordyn and I’s goal has been to get people to talk about eating disorders and to be knowledgeable of the signs,” said Donaldson-Cremer, senior psychology major from Abilene. “I believe, in our society, people are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with talking about eating disorders. Some people don’t even know it’s a mental illness or that it can cause death.”
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and in honor of that, ACU has initiated its own way to spread awareness.
Next week, starting Monday and ending Thursday, the group is pairing with the ACU Medical and Counseling Care Center (MACCC) to facilitate events to give students another outlet in recovery.
People such as Lee have found lifelong friendships in these support groups, and she said hopes this week will bring in more people.
“There’s enough focus on community that we can address the hard and serious things, but also have fun and build strong relationships at the same time,” Lee said. “There is no pressure to share, we want everyone to feel comfortable.”
The weeklong event is a series about image and identity called Be You Courageously.
The first activity is a Chapel forum called Inside Out: Redeeming Image and Identity in Cullen Auditorium that will take place at 3 p.m. Monday. Dr. Paige Reynolds, an ACU graduate, will speak.
Tuesday, Killing Us Soflty 4, a documentary based on advertising the image of women, will be shown at 7 p.m. in Hart Auditorium. Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology.
The 45-minute movie will end with a discussion panel featuring well-known campus faculty – head football coach Ken Collums, head women’s basketball coach Julie Goodenough, director of the Office of Multicultural Enrichment, Prentice Ashford, and Lee.
On Wednesday, the third part of the series will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Campus Center where the MACCC will do personal assessments.
The final event will be a reading group at 11 a.m. Thursday in the MACCC where Cara Flanders will facilitate the reading of Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body.
Eating disorders are oftentimes overlooked, so ACU is hoping this week will help change people’s perceptions of the problem.
People such as Lee know recovery is a life long process and affects more than just the body; it affects the mind.
“It’s a challenge to spread the word and get girls to come because it’s scary to be open,” Lee said. “But I know that it is worth it. It changed my life. It’s so encouraging to know that I am not alone in the daily struggles of an ED or the only one in recovery.”
While these opportunities are taking place during the week, WANA will be in the Campus Center selling T-shirts and handing out business cards and more information on eating disorders.
“There’s a reason that WANA stands for We Are Not Alone,” Lee said. “Our goal is for girls to know that they are not alone and don’t have to fight alone.”