By Judy Krasna
Over the past 2 years, I have been very actively involved in F.E.A.S.T. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, I am engaged in multiple other volunteer activities to the point where F.E.A.S.T. has become my volunteer “job”. I am an event planner by profession; and right now, with COVID severely limiting my business, I have the time to take on some larger responsibilities and projects.
In addition, my identity over the past 8-10 years has been linked to the world of eating disorders. I made a name for myself in the Academy for Eating Disorders chairing their Experts by Experience Committee and serving on the planning committee for the International Conference on Eating Disorders. I am an active eating disorders advocate here in Israel, where I live, and I have been relentless in my pursuit of parental inclusion and better treatment. I have been quite vocal about it, and dedicated to educating the public about eating disorders, through my blog on an Israeli news website. I have been offering peer support to local parents for many years, helping them come to terms with their child’s diagnosis and advising them about treatment options and how the treatment system works in Israel. You can say that involvement in the eating disorders world was entrenched in my life to the point where it was linked to my personal identity. And of course, I was caring for my own daughter who had an enduring eating disorder.
When my daughter’s eating disorder claimed her life two months ago, I felt very conflicted. On the one hand, I couldn’t imagine leaving F.E.A.S.T. and the Academy for Eating Disorders and all of my peer support and advocacy work behind. It was so much a part of me; who would I be without that identity, without those communities? Despite the fact that I lost my daughter, I still had years of experience, knowledge, wisdom, and insight that could help other parents. I had no doubt that I wanted to continue with the volunteer work that I was doing. The only way that I could make sense of my daughter’s illness was to turn it into an instrument to help others; and if I couldn’t do that, then what was the whole point of any of this? But would I still be accepted; and more importantly, could I still be effective?
I was painfully aware that my identity changed. I am now a bereaved mother. I hate that title, and everything that it represents, but here I am. Would F.E.A.S.T. still want me around? After all, I represent everyone’s worst nightmare. Would I make other parents uncomfortable? That is the last thing that I would want to do. None of this is about me, it’s about using my experience to support and guide others. Can I still do this, even if I lost my own daughter? Has my new status stripped that away from me?
I have always been a person to project hope. Have I lost my credibility to do that now? And if I have, then I have no place at F.E.A.S.T. Despite my own experience, I sincerely believe that there is always hope for others. Your child CAN recover, even if mine did not. But if all I do is remind people of the worst-case scenario, have I become a liability instead of an asset?
Had I been left to my own devices I am not sure what I would have decided. I had so many conflicting thoughts running through my head and they were all valid to some degree. I couldn’t find a clear and definitive answer. Should I stay or should I go?
I am incredibly grateful that I was not left to my own devices. I was told straight out by F.E.A.S.T.’s Executive Director Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh and by my colleagues and friends on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors that there was still space for me at F.E.A.S.T. and that my presence was welcome and requested if I wanted to continue. I do not take that acceptance for granted, and I cannot express how much it means to me. It’s the ultimate validation not only of what I do, but of who I am, and that is kind of murky to me right now. I am no longer the mother of a daughter with an eating disorder. I am very much still her mother, but she is not here anymore, and neither is her eating disorder. So, who does that make me exactly and where does that leave me? I am still trying to figure that out, and I appreciate the ability to do that within the framework of F.E.A.S.T.
The worst possible thing happened to me, and I am still here, getting out of bed every morning to do this vital and purposeful work. I took life’s most vicious punch, and I am still standing. I am bleeding and winded and very sad, and maybe a little shaky, but I am on my feet with incredible people in my corner, ready to return the punch, ready to knockout eating disorders with every ounce of strength that I have. Thank you, F.E.A.S.T,, for letting me fight in your boxing ring.