I woke up this morning feeling disconnected from the outside world. I live in Israel, where our current COVID-19 directives are that you cannot have a gathering of more than 10 people and that everyone should stay at home as much as possible. There is no school at all, from daycare to graduate school. I always work from home; but somehow, this feels different.
Yesterday, I was “on duty” manning the F.E.A.S.T. support and communication services. I corresponded with a mother from a small European country who used FE.A.S.T.’s chat feature to request advice on how to handle her daughter’s staunch resistance to finishing meals. I wasn’t available at that moment, but her chat was converted to an email, which I answered as soon as I saw it. In addition to offering some advice based on my own personal experience, I sent her links to the many helpful resources that can be found on the F.E.A.S.T. website and to the fantastic F.E.A.S.T. moderated online forums.
When I sat down at my computer earlier today, I saw that this mom had written back to me at some point during the night. “Thank you, Judy. I’m moved by tears by your support across the miles that local professionals working in a child and adolescent mental health clinic cannot even attempt. I’ve trawled through the website and forums and will continue to do so. Thank you, thank you—the support and sustenance are so appreciated.”
The moment that I read her response, I realized two things. The first is that what makes F.E.A.S.T. so uniquely special is that there is no delineation between those who give and those who receive. As an organization both by caregivers and for caregivers, we are all on equal ground. We all give to each other, and we all receive from each other. This is what makes us a true community.
This mom gave back to me as much as I gave to her.
After reading her words, the uncomfortable feeling of isolation that I woke up with this morning just disappeared. This made me realize that as much as I give to F.E.A.S.T as an active board member and volunteer, I get that back tenfold from our incredible community of parents, which imbues me with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude. It’s nice to have something to be grateful for these days!
The second realization that I came to earlier today is that despite COVID-19, the F.E.A.S.T. community is very much alive and well! We are mobilizing to help more parents and families because we know that in difficult times, there is a greater demand for support. And even more than that, there is a greater need for connection, and connection is both F.E.A.S.T.’s specialty and its power. The online community that F.E.A.S.T. has created allows us to be thousands of miles away from each other and to still connect, even under circumstances when it’s more than geographic distance that requires us to be isolated from one another. I can sit in my house in Israel and talk to a mom who is sitting in her house in another time zone, offering her the benefit of my experience, because I have been where she is now. There is so much power in that, which impacts both those who offer support and those who receive it. I love being a part of it all!
This COVID-19 situation reminds me of the first few months after my daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Our lives were turned upside down. There was no more “normal”, no schedules, no socializing, and no stability. We had no idea what to expect from one moment to the next. We were in full-blown crisis mode.
One thing that I find helpful to remember these days is that crisis mode, with all of its stress and intensity, is temporary. When you are in the eye of the storm, it feels like it will last forever, but then the skies clear and the sun comes out. I have no idea how long it will take until that happens, but it will happen, on all fronts.
Another thing that I find reassuring is that as a community, we are experts at functioning during times of crisis; and when we need to feel connected to others, F.E.A.S.T. has multiple support systems in place so that we can help guide each other through the rough patches.
I may be isolated, but I’m not alone. And neither are you.