It is difficult to defeat an eating disorder. Even though there are recovery centers, therapists, support groups, and other resources available, survivors will tell you that no two healing processes look the same.
That's what actress and artist Jenna Rose Simon captures in her compelling illustrations. The 28-year-old struggled with an eating disorder for eight years. She started abusing stimulant laxatives at age 18.
"I was very underweight and not keeping any food in my system," she told Revelist in an email. "I had multiple kidney stones (one of which required surgery) and was sick all the time. I was living in North Carolina to shoot an independent TV series when the person who was housing me realized how sick I was, and decided she couldn't deal with it anymore."
Once she returned home, Simon entered a treatment facility with help from her parents. She credits her therapist with saving her life.
"Learning that it wasn't really about the food, weight or laxatives (even though I do sometimes still feel like it is), and actually trying to address some of the core causes for the disorder for me really aided my recovery."
She stopped taking stimulants two years ago and hasn't used a laxative in a year. Now, Simon draws sobering photos that show what it's like to survive eating disorders, sexual assault, and other traumatic life events.
"At first, my art was really just a way for me to cope in my own difficult situations," she said. "As I started discussing my problems, I found it hard to keep eating disorder behaviors under control."
"Now I really try to draw both for myself and for others," she said. "I often draw concepts that I know are relevant in society today, knowing that someone who follows me will appreciate it and it'll help them feel less alone."
Simon's drawings tell a compelling a story about what it's like to have an eating disorder — and how hard it is to recover from one.
It's so easy to judge a person with an eating disorder. Simon's advice: Don't.
Instead, help survivors find the proper help.
"This is so key," Simon, who has a book called UNBROKEN coming out, said. "I don't care how many eating disorder doctor and therapists there are out there who say they're the best. Even if your best friend saw them for 5 years and said they're the best, they have to be the best for YOU."
She also encourages eating disorder survivors to be persistent with finding the best therapist and to never compare their journey to recovery with another person's recovery. Most importantly, she wants eating disorder survivors to just keep going, no matter what hurdles they encounter.
"Just keep on.... even when it feels like everything you're doing isn't doing you any good... even when it's painful... even when you feel like you're going to ruin your progress... even when it feels pointless... even when it's hard.... even when you don't know how you can do this recovery for even one more day.... even when EVERYTHING: just keep going," she said.
Above all else, she wants her illustrations and journey to recovery to be an example for other survivors.
"I never thought I'd be in the place I am in today months ago," she said. "I probably currently don't believe I'll make it to wherever I am six months from now. The only way to do it is to just do it. There will be so many times when you can't see the light, but that doesn't mean that the light is not there!"