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Learning Through Mistakes

By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Executive Director

I know that I should probably give up editing the F.E.A.S.T. blogs because I have so many other responsibilities on my plate as Executive Director, but I love doing it. I love connecting with the people who write the blog posts, I love the idea that I am getting scientifically sound resources for F.E.A.S.T., I love that I am introducing more clinicians and researchers to F.E.A.S.T. through this interaction and raising our profile, I love that the lived experience posts inspire and support our community, and I love that I am bringing valuable information to F.E.A.S.T. families on a regular basis. For better or for worse, I love it all too much to give up right now.

When someone sends me a post, the first thing I need to do is to evaluate whether it is aligned with F.E.A.S.T.’s principles and beliefs. Sometimes a post may require some tweaking to make sure that the message jives with what we want to send to our parent community. Sometimes I reject a post altogether, even though it’s unpleasant. Each post requires a judgement call on my part. Sometimes those judgement calls are easier to make than others. Everyone who writes a post for F.E.A.S.T. is doing us a favor. I feel ungrateful and unkind when I have to go back and tell someone that their post needs major edits, or that I can’t accept it. I truly hate that feeling, but I do it anyway.

My vision of the F.E.A.S.T. blogs section is that it should be a marketplace of resources where people can “shop” and choose the content that speaks to them the most or that they find most helpful. If there is enough quantity and diversity, then there will be something for everyone.

There was a recent post published with one piece of it that didn’t sit well with me. It talked about fat in a negative context and seemed to advocate restriction in children. Not only was this not in line with F.E.A.S.T.’s principles, but it went against my own beliefs in a huge way. Having lost my daughter to anorexia last year, I am incredibly sensitive about not promoting restriction in any way, shape, or form. As a person in a higher weight body, and as someone whose daughter’s weight was never pushed high enough for recovery, any type of negative association with fat truly bothers me. Plus, I have enough knowledge to know how damaging these messages are overall, and I am a person who has used her voice over the course of the last decade to try and change the things about the eating disorders field that I feel are harmful and that serve as barriers to recovery.

I could have, and should have, raised my concerns from the start. It was an otherwise fantastic post, it just had one piece that needed to be addressed. Because the author was someone who has such great stature in the field and who I greatly respect and admire, I did not. I published a post that I was uncomfortable with, and I regret that tremendously. I had what I felt were sound reasons for posting it; but in retrospect, what jumps out at me the most is that I did not trust myself and believe in myself enough to approach the author with my reservations and objections.

I did not feel qualified to challenge her, because she was at the top of her field and I was just a mom. An educated mom, an expert by experience, a somewhat known figure in the field; but still, a mom.

Due to the backlash that followed, I went back to the author twice asking her to please edit that piece out. Both times, she was incredibly kind and gracious. By the time of the second edit, I was ready to express my personal opposition and to use the voice that I should have used from the start but, uncharacteristically, did not. The author responded by telling me that I have made myself stronger by expressing my concerns, and that she appreciates that I shared my views directly with her instead of thinking it and doing nothing about it. This truly empowered me, and will motivate me going forward.

I am a person who owns up to her mistakes and who tries to both fix them and to learn from them. I am also someone who welcomes feedback, both positive and negative. If you ever have something that you want to say, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] anytime. My door is always open.

I have learned a lot from this experience. I have learned that I can gain valuable insight from difficult conversations. I have learned that giants in the eating disorders field are often exemplary people.  I have learned that F.E.A.S.T. parents are smart, well-informed, and able to challenge views expressed by the greatest of clinicians and researchers, which makes me so proud to lead this organization. I have learned that I can be strong, and I can admit that sometimes I have errors in judgement. Everyone does. It is what you do with those errors that counts.

Next time, and there will be a next time, I will trust myself and I will use my voice. I encourage all of you to do the same. I am not “just a parent”, and neither are you.

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14 Comments

  1. Laura

    Love this post and all it says about Judy’s leadership in our community. The F.E.A.S.T. community is smart, strong, and engaged. We are in such good hands.

  2. Laura Hill

    Dear Judy,
    You have just “lived” what Temperament-Based Therapy with SUPPORTS (TBT-S) is all about. As I said in the blog, “TBT-S treatment brings Supports formally and intentionally into the treatment process. It recognizes that interventions occur outside of formal therapy sessions, just as they occur inside clinical settings.” TBT-S is not talking “about” the treatment. It is an “active” treatment, even on the FEAST blog. I wasn’t expecting that, but you, as a Support, and the other Support voices made that happen. You brought your concerns into the interaction, shared what was not comfortable for you. TBT-S approaches treatment by taking Support input and makes adjustments to move forward within the boundaries that are congruent with the client’s and Support traits, and safely grounded, to move forward toward a healthier state. Your determination to face the conflict, and your willingness to not avoid it (even though many would be tempted) allows the conflict to transform toward a resolution. You used your voice influenced by your temperament and brought yourself into the interactive setting. That is TBT-S in action!

    I see treatment to be like downhill mogul skiing. Hitting one bump after another. It is learning how to flexibly move around and over the moguls that keeps one moving forward. The moguls are the symptoms, the destructive traits, and the resistance in not knowing what to do. The easy thing to do is take of the skis off and stop skiing. To walk away, express anger and not continue to figure out how to get through this mogul. It’s hard. Strength rises from the pain experienced when the Support works WITH the clinician and client to find ways to align productive traits, reducing resistance. This fluid adjustment process helps the client realize his/her own productive traits that can be used from within to push through ED symptoms, (or moguls) to ski with greater strength. The Support for the client is the poles held by the client to keep from falling over. And you stood strong, Judy, moving the conversation forward, through the conflict. Skiing the tough courses is not about moving harmoniously, and it is not about looking proper or “right.” It is about learning how to work with your loved one’s productive and destructively expressed traits, putting yourself out there, humbly, and honestly modeling to the loved one and to the clinician that the bump in the path needs to be acknowledged and circumvented in order to keep going forward. It could have gone off course, and you pulled it back onto the temperament-based course. It could have been easy to stay stuck on one mogul of concern. Instead you went deeper, using your traits of openness and responsiveness, to move things forward. Well done Judy!

  3. June Alexander

    I appreciate this nourishing conversation. Brave Judy, and bravo, Laura. Transparency and openness are essential in reconnecting with one’s healthy self from an eating disorder. The illness thrives on secrecy and it loves to isolate so it can conquer. Rather than hide away and allow the problem to fester, which many would do, Judy stood strong, sought and acted on a solution. A win all around for eating disorder love and care, and a big loss to ED. Well done, Judy! June xo

  4. Stephanie

    Judy, Thank you for your post and taking the risk of being vulnerable, that takes a lot of courage. You showed how we all are human and will make mistakes and can take steps to repair. You also showed us that that little voice/feeling/intuition inside is very important to acknowledge. I’m so honored and impressed by you being true to you. Keep up the great work.

  5. Fiona

    Dr Hill, I’m fascinated by your skiing analogy. I was the person who asked whether TBT-S was suitable for patients with Personality Disorders. I also wonder whether or not it would need to be heavily adapted for those with communication differences. Both physical disability and autism are important factors in my family, not just in one member of it. We have to accept that for some of us attempting downhill skiing would be downright dangerous. Family Systems Therapy where we were expected to be able to voice and analyse our feelings proved similar. I suspect that there are some patients who are not yet well enough to do TBT-S and some supports who can provide better support outside such an intensive model, but I do see it as very hopeful for many

  6. Margaret

    Heartfelt sympathy. Going forward. As a new person, just done a speeded up 30 day training –
    Putting it simply, the comments were against FEAST policy. We all know why, and if not then visit the 30 day training programme.
    A list of rejection reasons, with tick boxes, might solve the problem. Maybe a list of acceptance reasons with tick boxes, too. Then standard replies such as
    Thank you, bla, bla. Whilst your post is very welcome in these areas *, bla, bla,
    Unfortunately we cannot accept paragraph *, please see attached list of rejection reasons.
    This could be softened in tone, but the rejection reasons none negotiable, in honour of all our people.

    • Judy Krasna

      Thank you for your comment. I hear what you are saying. In many cases, it’s very nuanced and the reasons for rejection don’t fit into boxes. Sometimes they do, but other times it’s a judgement call. The facts can be correct, or a person’s narrative can be true, but the post can send a wrong message to our community or it can go against our principles. When that happens, and I have to reject a post, I need to do it with sensitivity and a fuller explanation than what a list of tick boxes would provide. I can assure you that everything I do is with the best interests of our community at heart.

  7. Carolyn McCarter Wood

    Thank you for this post, and for your vulnerability in getting up the courage to share your own views and experience. As a therapist who offers support to families who are facing anorexia in a loved one, I can tell you there is no such thing as “just a mom.” And my sincere condolences on the loss of your daughter to this illness.

  8. Beth Mayer

    Thanks for role modeling this in the community. We are all learning growing and need to be gentle with ourselves through this process. I hope everyone in the FEAST community can continue to communicate with this in mind.

  9. Lois Zagrodzki

    I am extremely grateful for every post! It makes me, as a parent, feel part of a group. I liked the analogy to mogul skiing! I will never give up and will try to continue to help her as I am able. No man is an island and while I feel she must conquer her demons, she needs all the strength and support available to her.

  10. Carol

    Thank you for your honesty and bravery. I used to be a real people pleaser and circumstances and a good friend encouraged me that to survive I needed to change. I now need the courage to stand up to my daughter.
    Thank you again.

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