Reut, 24, anorexic for 3 years, participant of Project 2020

"...Receiving the painting and confronting it and those it represents made it clear to me that I am on the right path to recovery, on the path to a meaningful life, and above all, gave me the strength to continue this difficult struggle (which now seems small and marginal to me) in the journey of life."

Update sent to crowdfunding supporters, 22.3.2013:

Four months ago, Reut contacted me, asking to participate in Project 2020. This morning, we met. She lives with her mother in a small, clean, and tidy house in Herzliya. Reut is a beautiful and slender girl with blue eyes and delicate, pale features—intelligent and articulate.

The first thing that stood out to me was that there was nothing on the walls in the house—not a picture, not a family photo. The walls were clean and white. We sat in the living room, and I opened the camera. Reut is the first girl in the project who is not afraid or ashamed to be exposed. Despite being in a long and ongoing recovery process, she is aware of the problem of awareness and is willing to be on the front line if necessary and talk about things without fear.

As a teenager, Reut suffered from being overweight. At the time, she didn’t feel it was a problem; she always loved performing arts, singing, and performing at every opportunity and lived a relatively normal life. In the army, she received prestigious positions, went to officer training, and signed a permanent contract. Then it started.

An officer in charge of her began commenting on her appearance. She, along with several other girls on the base, started dieting. She stopped going to the dining room and brought only her mother’s food, which she loved so much, to the base, until she stopped bringing even that. She would fast for days, come home on weekends, and eat only one small meal a day, which she prepared herself. Within a few months, she dropped to a weight of 35 kilograms. When she felt she was losing control, she went to a mental health officer and from there to the eating disorders unit at Tel Hashomer.

At Tel Hashomer, she truly confronted her illness for the first time. A girl she met in the unit told her she envied her because she looked like a corpse. At this point, Reut understood the real meaning of her condition: she was shocked by the harsh words but also took it as a compliment. The hospitalization did help her gain weight, but it didn’t address the symptoms. She was released but quickly deteriorated again. At 33 kilograms, she decided she wouldn’t go back to the hospital and at the same time decided she was going to get out of this.

About a year ago, Reut connected with a psychiatrist and dietitian recommended by a friend from her hospitalization period. Since then, they have been slowly guiding her out of it. The third and most significant factor helping her this year in this tough fight is her boyfriend, a wonderful and supportive guy who manages to understand and walk with her through these small steps, making her believe in herself. But she admits, it is sometimes hard and frustrating for him too. It’s hard to watch someone you love so much struggle with such a complex illness and not be able to help. It’s hard to see small steps up close.

Reut has begun to gain weight but still struggles. She starts school next year and feels she is on the right path. I feel I am exactly in the right place at the right time for her.

Exactly one year ago, during the Passover holiday, Tamar Brauner, the first participant in Project 2020, passed away at the age of 31 from cardiac arrest. Exactly a year ago, I stood before the question of whether I should continue the project or stop before it even started. The decision to continue the project was not easy but in hindsight, it was the right one. Thank you, dear supporters, for making this project possible, for your warm responses, and for being here with me in this complex process—already a year. Without you, I really wouldn’t be here. Happy holiday, Sarit.

Update sent to crowdfunding supporters, 12.10.2013:

About a week ago, for the first time in her life, Reut left her mother’s house and moved in with her boyfriend. Tomorrow, she starts her first year at university. Yesterday, she came to see her painting. Just in time.

Departing from my usual practice, I’m sharing with you, with her permission of course, the happy and touching email I received from her this morning:

“Hi Sarit, I’m writing this email as a sign of appreciation and to thank you for the feeling of purification that was created in me following our final meeting and the receipt of the finished painting. I don’t have enough words to describe how much our meetings have been a point of light in the process I’m going through. Receiving the painting and confronting it and those it represents made it clear to me that I am on the right path to recovery, on the path to a meaningful life, and above all, gave me the strength to continue this difficult struggle (which now seems small and marginal to me) in the journey of life.

Reut meets her painting

FROM THE BOTTOM UP | Reut’s painting

To me, you are an endlessly inspiring and strong woman, to me and surely to many others whose paths have crossed with yours in one way or another. This project gave me hope that there is a future and that the future is full of moments of happiness and success. From you and this blessed project, I learned that we should not cling to the difficulties and abysses in our way, but rather hold on to all the immense strengths that exist in us as a surviving and fighting entity, as we have many wonderful powers beyond measure!

Today, at the end of the period during which we got to know each other, I believe with all my heart that this project, beyond being blessed and important, has immense importance in the way it creates for us fighters a clear, transparent, and healthy view of our future, which now seems brighter than it did before I entered this project. To sum up this special experience, I want to add one word that translates my heart’s feelings into reality—thank you! Thank you for leading such a blessed project, for being a leader and a trailblazer, but mostly for being you. Thank you.”

From the process of creating the painting

Project 2020 exhibition:

Reut at the opening of the exhibition

The project book at the exhibition

 The project postcards at the exhibition

Project 2020 is an optimistic social art project. The project began in 2012 and continued until 2015. The project was inspired by my personal and optimistic journey to overcome a 16-year struggle with an eating disorder.

For project details and artworks

Project 2020 | Solo exhibition

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