Mishna Erana Hernandez is a 28-year-old, being the oldest of her three sisters and a close cousin of mine. She constantly was expected to be a good role model for the rest of the family. She had to come to terms with her eating disorder and the little voice in the back of her head pushing that toxic mindset, she was terrified. Coming to terms with the emotional and family trauma that led her there, she doesn't want it happening again to her or others in her place. Her journey has been challenging, and she describes the events as happening in stages. Even now they can't say she has fully recovered, and her progress is up and down. She said "And, for me at least, my body recovered before my mind. " It was through the countless therapy sessions that she realized she needed to do this for herself and trust the process. Her first month on the path wasn't any easier, as she needed to learn to consume "fear food" she previously stayed away from, and dismantle her food rules. Her journey has been a rough two years having to re-contextualize the tears, anger, perfectionism, and yelling she was feeling, and finally letting go of all the mental torture she put herself through. Mishna is finally at the point where she feels okay looking at herself in the mirror. Her body and mind have gradually recovered, though she does still experience bad body image days she doesn't let it hold her back for too long. She got a tattoo as a symbol of her path describing it as "- to express my commitment to recovery and as a reminder that recovery is a journey, not just a single moment.”. I went and asked her about the organization she works with to learn the insights and responsibilities it carries.
Courtesy of: www. theprojectheal.org
Tell us something about yourself and what you do. “You want to know about Project Heal, right? Yeah, so Project Heal is a nonprofit that I chose because of my experience with having an eating disorder and being in recovery. There were a lot of choices; the ones that came out of treatment, I wanted to kind of do something to help other people because I saw firsthand how people struggle to get access to treatment centers. And Project Heal specifically makes sure that people of color and members of the LGBTQ community are being taken care of because it's those members of the community that get left behind.”
Can you tell us what the organization does? “Yeah, of course, I chose Project Heal because what they do is fund raise so they can pay for the treatment cycles of people. The people then have access to residential facilities, hospitals, facilities for in-patient treatment. Even basic stuff like having access to nutritionists and psychiatrists that are eating disorder informed because that’s what keep people from being able to recover. They are ready to recover, but they don’t have the financial means, so it’s through fundraising and working with other organizations that they’re able to start to bridge the gap between people of color and having access to treatment.”
How long has the organization been running for? “It's been running since 2008 being cofounded by Kristina Saffran and Liana Roseman. You can check the website just in case it might provide you with more information about it. I know that I started around last year.”
What is your role in the organization? “I focus on bringing awareness about eating disorders to my community and also helping the fundraiser. My role is as an ambassador, so they have an ambassador program made up of any individual who have been in treatment and who has started to get into the recovery path. Anybody who wants to be an ambassador can apply, you just have to go through an application process. Project Heal makes sure that we are able to raise funds and doesn’t necessarily come from big corporations, it comes from donations from individuals. The more ambassadors there are the better it is for us. Though we’re often participating in social media campaigns and possibly if we can put on events as well.”
How do you feel about the resources being provided towards the cause? “By the organization? Yeah, I feel they have some good success. I know that last year they were able to send over 3,000 individuals to get treatment at whatever level: in-patient, residential, or just nutritionist. They’re able to reach the people and do great job of partnering with other organizations so that people know they are there and that they’re available to help them.”
What advice would you give to those who would want to receive services? “Yeah, I think that it’s a little tricky because people with eating disorders, a lot of them may not necessarily think they need help, I know that for a long time I didn’t think I needed the help, but if there comes a point that individual knows that they need assistance. I think my number one thing would be to make sure you do the research and call different facilities and that you aren’t afraid to advocate for yourself with your doctors because doctors are often the first people who should see the signs. My advice would be to advocate for your needs and that you need help that not necessarily a lot of people are seeing.”
"I feel more free now and I share my story so that others know that there's a way out. No one should have to suffer in silence."
Is there anything you want to say to those with an eating disorder who might read this? “There is a lot that I wish I could tell people, but I think your article might get too long though. I think it is very brave to take the steps to recover, it is no simple thing it requires admitting there is an issue after spending years thinking that you were this perfect person who had figured out life and how to be an amazing individual. Then waking up to realize that none of it is true, it takes a lot of courage. I want to tell them that it’s possible to be in recovery and stay in recovery so long as you give up those ideas of perfection and you are open to the idea of facing the unknown and what scares you.”
“If my message can reach and help just one person who is struggling, then I’ll know that my struggle was worth it.”
Interviewing Mishna gave me insight into resources for those with an eating disorder, and helped me understand that the outside world doesn't understand these problems clearly, or take them as seriously as they should. It is important that organizations like Project Heal exist to guide others to get the resources they need to improve their lives.
Her journey has informed me more about the topic than I would have known by studying on my own. It was genuinely a brave feat for her to talk about the struggles of their own eating disorder, but also sought to help others with similar issues. Mishna deserves to have her story shared to show others that help does exist.