Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our Voices and Stories Matter: What Lobby Day Means to Me

by Carmen Cool

The thread that runs through all of the work I’ve done in my life is “advocate”.  It’s who I am and it’s what I do.

I have been to many Lobby Days with the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC).  When I am there, I bring several distinct perspectives:  I am a recovered person, a psychotherapist who works with eating disorders, a woman whose sister has died from an eating disorder, and an educator who trains young people to do eating disorder prevention work in their schools.

As a feminist therapist, I believe that work has to be done at both the individual and collective level – because eating disorders are not not just a personal problem. In addition to individual work,  I want – no, I need – to do work at the social and policy level so that there are systems in place to support those people I work with.  I still get nervous when I “speak truth to power.”  I still have that voice that whispers (or screams, depending on the day) “who do you think you are?” 

What I learned that very first time was that our Representatives and Senators want to hear from us. They need us, actually. There’s no way that they can know about all the concerns and issues that are out there unless we tell them. Our stories and our voices matter.

It is important to me to use my voice to advocate for my clients. For myself. To support youth in raising their voices and changing the norms that value one body type over another. When I go to DC to lobby, I get the opportunity to take a stand and do all of that.
Carmen (front row, center) with her teen
Body Revolution Advocates

I’ve taken a group of teenagers every time I’ve gone to lobby. This has touched me in so many ways. I love to watch them sit a little taller as they realize they have something to say. I love to listen to their voices shake as they sit in a Senator’s office and then even out as they find their center. And I love to witness their resolve to keep being involved and work for something they believe in.

On top of all that, we get to explore DC! That means Georgetown cupcakes, visits to Monuments and Memorials, late night sharing circles, going the wrong way on the Metro, and jars of hazelnut praline spread from Le Pain Quotidien. But also blisters, giggles when the elevator doors open to reveal cute staffers- all part of what makes our trips fun!  Hearing them say “I have never felt so powerful in my whole life,” after lobbying - that is what keeps me coming back.

To use your voice, be listened to and taken seriously, and the lived experience of knowing that your voice can impact change – that is worth gold. Please join us September 30 and October 1 for the M.O.M. March and the 26th EDC Lobby Day! For more information and registration, visit www.marchagainsted.com.

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