Almost 10 years ago, I met Kim Campbell, an incredible young woman very much consumed by her eating disorder. All these years later, Kim is fully recovered, and even MORE incredible than she was before.
On June 13, Kim is producing a benefit concert, Songs for Hope, to raise eating disorder awareness and funds for Sheena’s Place, a Toronto eating disorder charity. I asked Kim a few questions about the event:
What made you decide to produce Songs for Hope?
Two and a half years ago when I left inpatient treatment, I wanted to give back and help others who might be struggling with and] eating disorder. I wanted to put a voice to my story and show others that they are not alone. I put together a benefit concert called Songs For Hope and it focused on two illnesses that have affected me personally: cancer and eating disorders. I gathered my fellow graduates from the music theatre program at St. Lawrence College and we put on a night of music, hope, awareness and remembrance. The donations that were raised were spilt between The Canadian Cancer Society and The Homewood Eating Disorder Program.
A year later I joined with my best friend Christina Sanders to put on another Songs For Hope Benefit, this time focusing mainly on eating disorder awareness. Christina and I have both battled eating disorders and now, as two people in recovery and loving it, we want to share how amazing recovery from an eating disorder can be, celebrating self-love, self-acceptance, and positive body image.
Tell me about your battle with an eating disorder.
I first met my eating disorder 12 years ago. It started innocently as I slowly cut back on how much I was eating and what kind of foods I was eating. It didn’t take long for me to become consumed by the rules the eating disorder had. I started standing in the mirror longer each day picking out things I didn’t like. It became a way to deal with my emotions that were sometimes too much for me to handle.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was seven, which caused me to have to grow up a lot faster. I was also bullied badly throughout elementary and the beginning of high school. I felt that I didn’t have control over things in my life: I couldn’t control my moms illness and I couldn’t make the kids at school like me. The eating disorder was a false sense of control.
I went to various types of treatment, and was doing well in recovery from my eating disorder until 2010 when my mom died. In the same year two of my close friends passed away, one from cancer and one from an eating disorder. I gained three guardian angels, and my eating disorder came back with a vengeance. When the pain of losing my mom was too much for me to bear, the eating disorder thoughts and behaviours numbed and distracted me from having to feel any pain.
In 2012 I was admitted to Homewood for three months of intense inpatient treatment. It was then that I learned to eat again and find Kim again. I didn’t just get better physically: I dealt with a lot of underlying issues. I received grief counselling, and learned how to address my different emotions without turning to my eating disorder behaviours. On October 10th, I will celebrate three years in recovery. I have recently been able to say with confidence that, after 12 years, I am fully recovered from an eating disorder.
How did you choose the songs that will be performed in Songs for Hope this year?
In picking the songs, we focused on how we could take the audience on a journey of someone with an eating disorder. It starts from when they first developing the illness, to being in denial, consumed, family support, going to treatment and eventually long lasting recovery.
Throughout my own journey, there were certain songs that I felt drawn to. Those songs helped me explain how I was feeling when I couldn’t find the words myself. There will be popular songs from artists like Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry. From solos, to duets and group ensemble pieces there will be songs that will move the audience and songs that will make the audience want to jump up and dance!
What made you choose Sheena’s Place as your charity of choice?
My co director Christina and I wanted to pick a place that the donations would go a long way with. Sheena’s place is a wonderful non-profit organization out of Toronto that provides hope and support to those with eating disorders and their family members. Sheena’s Place relies solely on the donations from the community to be able to provide the amazing support that they do. Sheena’s Place is so grateful that Songs For Hope has chosen them as our charity to help, and they are touched that we will be giving all donations raised straight to them to continue their great work. Last month, we were able to have a tour of Sheena’s Place and meet with all the wonderful staff. We couldn’t be more excited to be helping Sheena’s Place!
What does eating disorder recovery mean to you?
Recovery defined in one word for me is : FREEDOM
Letting go of perfection, not worrying about what others think of me, feeling and accepting my emotions, being comfortable in fitted clothing, making peace with the mirror and actually liking my reflection, accepting compliments and believing them, listening to my body and knowing when it is hungry and full, eating a chocolate bar just because, having food be part of my day not my whole day, experiencing new adventures and, most importantly, enjoying life.
What do you hope the audience will take away from Songs for Hope?
Songs For Hope is attended for any audience. It isn’t just for people struggling with eating disorders, but also for their family members and caregivers. It’s for the community who may not have much knowledge about this very misunderstood illness. It’s for anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and been disappointed with what they see, or deny themselves something decadent because they think it will negatively affect their physical appearance.
We hope to be able to give a realistic look into what an eating disorder is really like and help change all the myths out there about eating disorders. One of the main points we will be making is that eating disorders come in every size. We want to change the idea that you can look at someone and know they have an eating disorder, or that you have to be very thin to have a dangerous eating disorder, as that is very much not the case. We hope that people take away a better understanding of what eating disorders are like, along with a better sense of body image and self love.
“Make peace with the mirror and watch your reflection change.”
Songs for Hope is a free-will offering benefit concert supporting Sheena’s Place, June 13, 2015, 7pm, at Glen Abbey United Church in Oakville, ON. All are welcome!