“You’re fat.” Those were the words that shamed Lorelai Symmes into developing an eating disorder when she was 11 years old.
Now a rising junior at Severna Park High School, Symmes reflected on her disorder by releasing a poetry collection called “A Path Towards Sunshine.”
“My book is completely about my recovery from anorexia,” she said. “It began while I was in inpatient treatment and ended about five months after I was discharged. Throughout the book, the very non-linear path of recovery is shown, with many wins, as well as losses.”
As she explains in her 196-page book, the ups and downs were relentless. See box to the left.
Symmes only dabbled with writing before her hospital stay. She then started journaling each day, stringing her words into poems.
“When I came back to school, I was enrolled in a creative writing class, which is where I became very invested in poetry, and began to use it to cope with all of the changes I was facing,” she said. “At this time, I was also introduced to spoken word poetry, which now holds a very large place in my heart.”
Symmes cited Morgan Harper Nichols as her biggest influence. Many of the poet’s quotes decorated the walls of Symmes’ hospital room even before the teen began producing her own poems. She now hopes that her writing can inspire others the way Harper Nichols’ inspired her.
“The overall message I want to share with readers is that recovery, whether it be physical or mental, is always possible,” she said. “You are so much stronger than you know, and so much more capable when you think. I went into the hospital accepting death, and a year later am embracing life. Change is a beautiful thing, but you must always, always let yourself grow.”
As for her own growth, Symmes has been an active member of the student-led Our Minds Matter (OMM) mental health advocacy group started at Severna Park High School.
One OMM founding member, Katrina Schultz, said Symmes is an ideal choice to continue leading the group after its seniors head to college.
“She is so passionate about mental health, and she is able to take what she's gone through and her journey with anorexia and share it and use it to inspire others,” Schultz said. “She's been to almost every one of the events we've had, even the smaller ones like walking in the Fourth of July parade with us, and she's always there to help out no matter what. She helped me a lot last summer when we were planning the wellness festival that was a huge success last August. She reached out to food trucks on our behalf, came early to help us set up, made posters, and she even read her poetry (the festival was actually the first time that she ever read her poetry publicly, and now look at her).
“She is one of OMM’s biggest supporters and it is such an amazing feeling to know that Lorelai is always on our side,” she added. “I think I can definitely speak for all four of us co-founders that are going away to college in the fall when I say that leaving something like OMM, something that all of us are incredibly passionate about and extremely proud of, in the hands of other people can be very nerve-wracking, but then I look at Lorelai and I am very confident that OMM will continue to thrive.”
“A Path Towards Sunshine” is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats, as well as Barnes and Noble.