At Looking Glass Foundation, the impact of our organization relies heavily on the involvement of our community. We wouldn’t be where we are today with the ability to provide inclusive and accessible support to those affected by eating disorders without the dedication of our compassionate volunteers.
We are pleased to have had the opportunity to connect with one of our peer support volunteers, Roxanne Fernandes (she/her) and ask her a few questions about her experience as a volunteer with Looking Glass in the Personal Recovery Space program.
[Looking Glass] What drew you to volunteer with the Looking Glass Foundation?
[Roxanne F.] It had been a couple of years that I’d been reflecting over my journey with an eating disorder; the recovery process, the struggles, the ups and downs, the loneliness and truly how much it impacted my life for such a long time. I wanted to be able to provide any little bit of support that I could to anyone going through the same struggles, feeling like no one understands what they’re going through, and hopefully help in easing that feeling of loneliness a little bit. I did a quick search of anywhere in Vancouver that offered this, and the Looking Glass Foundation immediately struck me as a place I wanted to be a part of. The amount of different sources of support provided is incredible, and I truly wish I had had such a wonderful resource during my own recovery journey.
[LGF] What is your favorite part of volunteering in the PRS program?
[RF] One of my favorite parts of volunteering in the PRS program is becoming more aware of all the different types of people out there that are affected by eating disorders, and that everyone's individual journey can be so different from anyone else's. Having gone through an ED I feel it’s easy to imagine that everyone’s journey is the same as yours, but I love the reminder that it is not at all. I think this is mostly because I wish that people had had that certain awareness of my individual journey when I was going through it. This was definitely one of the biggest initial challenges for me after joining the program, but has also become my favorite part because it really makes me question certain preconceptions I may have and attempt to fully put myself into someone else’s shoes.
[LGF] What would you share with someone who is embarking on their eating disorder recovery journey?
[RF] This is such a tough question for me, because I feel when I was in that position it was so difficult to believe what people told me about recovery and that it is possible. I think the most important thing I could share would be to be kind to yourself. Recovery is not an easy, straight forward journey. If it were, people would easily be able to do it every single day and there would be no need for psychologists, therapists, or foundations like the Looking Glass. So be kind to yourself if you ever regress or fall back into habits you thought you’d overcome. One way I found that really helped in keeping focus on my recovery in moments when I just didn’t want to do it anymore, was finding a reason as to why I wanted to recover. It may sound super simple, and that the recovery in itself should be reason enough, however, unfortunately ED thoughts do not work that way sometimes. Finding a specific reason for which I needed to be healthy, personally for me it was so being able to work in a job I absolutely loved, really helped me keep my focus during the more difficult times.
[LGF] Why do you volunteer?
[RF] I volunteer because I know how lonely and scary an eating disorder can be, and that, in my experience there aren't many people out there to talk to that truly understand what it feels like. I wanted to be able to do something good with the hard times I went through. I wanted to be able to use my experience to maybe help make someone's a little less daunting and lonely.
[LGF] What skills have you gained from volunteering with Looking Glass?
[RF] I think I’ve always been a pretty good listener, but I truly think this skill has been honed so much more through my volunteering in the PRS program. Being able to read between the lines and really figure out what the participant needs from me right now. As mentioned earlier, I also think I’ve gotten better at not pre-judging a situation or person. I am now much better at approaching a situation with no preconceived ideas of how I think things should be handled, or what I think the participant wants. And again this comes back to listening; letting them tell me what they think they need, and supporting in the way they need when I can. With that same idea in mind, I have become much better at not wanting/needing to fix things. This was a big hurdle for me initially, as that is usually the route I take when helping people. However I have learnt to sit back and support, not fix
[LGF] What are your future plans and goals? Or do you have any hobbies or interests you’d like to share with us?
[RF] Relating to the Looking Glass Foundation, I would eventually like to get involved with the Hand in Hand program, and maybe more involved in other ways in the future, but I’m not sure how yet. One thing I would love to focus more on is educating people out there on eating disorders, and how damaging and impactful certain comments, actions etc, that society deems “normal”, can be to someone silently suffering from an ED. Over the last couple of years I’ve started to realize more and more how people around me speak about their own and other peoples bodies, about weight, about eating habits, what the “should” and “shouldn’t” be eating. For people with no eating disorder this may seem trivial, and just a part of everyday, just what people talk about. But my mind goes to the people around us, who is listening and being impacted by these comments? I remember countless times during my journey being thrown back into some sort of relapse because of a comment like this made by someone with absolutely no awareness of what the repercussions would be. If I could help to bring that awareness to more people and make it a little easier for anyone going through an eating disorder, that would be a huge achievement for me.
[LGF] What advice do you have for someone who is considering becoming an LGF volunteer?
[RF] Do it! It is such a wonderful cause and foundation. If you are someone that is coming in with a history of ED, I would definitely say to ask yourself very seriously if you are ready to be a part of that world again, to deal with other people talking to you about the ED thoughts, the weigh ins, the calorie counting, and everything else that comes along. If any of this still triggers you in any way, then it may not be for you just yet. As I mentioned earlier, be ok with not “fixing” anyone. It is not about you solving all of the participants' issues, it is about them feeling heard and understood.
Roxanne’s story serves as a testament to the immeasurable impact that volunteers can have in fostering change and creating a nurturing environment for healing and growth.
Healing happens together. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with Looking Glass Foundation, learn more here.