Welcome to the latest round of “10 words or less,” in which I ask brief questions and request brief answers. Today’s subject is a NEDA Navigator, in which NEDA is the National Eating Disorder Association and navigators are laymen who’ve come through an eating disorder, either personally or familially, and now help others. Remember, please: No counting! 10 words is a goal, not a rule, and besides, let’s see you do it.
Name Vic Avon
Residence Brick Township, N.J.
Author “My Monster Within: My Story,” published in May 2010.
What your disorder was like “Very extreme, very deadly, a classic case of anorexia.”
When you were last active “I stepped into a hospital [University Medical Center, Princeton, N.J.] March 11, 2008.”
Can you recall a low point? “It was so bad that I prayed every night that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.”
Your top and bottom weights “I was very heavy until I was 19 — in the high 200s, I know that. My illness kick-started when I was 19, and I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 22-23. [In the hospital,] they wouldn’t give me a number at the low end.”
How often you struggle with food issues now "I’ve learned how to take the power out of food and just look at it as a source of fuel for my machine, the body. It doesn’t mean every day is easy, but it’s not anywhere like what it was in the past.”
What’s a navigator? “A non-professional who volunteers time, energy, and resources to help people in need. ... We offer ourselves as a guide for anyone who needs to talk, or who needs to find a support group, or to help them with insurance issues. We’re also involved in community outreach. We go to schools and to health-care practitioners to introduce ourselves and make sure they know we’re available.”
Why you do it “‘Cause when I was in the thick of everything, I had nobody to point me in any direction, nobody to tell me I was just sick and not broken. I also did not have anybody tell me that everything was going to be OK if I just held on.”
How were you chosen? “You sign up. They review your application and once you’re chosen, you sit through a three-hour training webinar.”
How long you’ve been doing it “About a year.”
Helped anyone yet? ““I haven't had many contacts the last two or three months, but there was a time I was getting 4-5 contacts a month. I have also done school talks.”
What’s it like? “Kind of humbling. It makes you want to do everything you’re allowed to do to make sure they get on the right path.”
Something that people don’t understand “People think it’s a choice, and that it could quickly and easily be turned off, instead of realizing that it’s a mental illness.”
NEDA’s website is www.NationalEatingDisorders.org. Its live helpline operates Monday through Friday, 9-5: 800-931-2237