By Catherine Brown
As cohost of the Eating Disorders: Navigating Recovery Podcast, I have had the incredible opportunity to delve into deep, raw, vulnerable conversations with people in the eating disorder community, including clinicians as well as people who have found recovery. Our guests come on the podcast because they want to share their experience and stories of hope with others impacted by the disease.
Through these conversations, I’ve gleaned valuable insight into recovery that I’d like to share with you.
- Recovery is possible, even after a long period of time. One of our guests, Vance Goodman, experienced her eating disorder for decades. She went to treatment and was told her eating disorder was chronic, that she would never really recover. Her mother, Dianna Goodman, channeled her warmth, energy and drive to serve into starting a nonprofit organization, Carolina Resource Center for Eating Disorders, to help others impacted by eating disorders. Now, some 20 years later, Vance is in recovery and helps support that work.
- Keep looking for resources. A couple of years ago, Vance came across the work of Tabitha Farrar, a recovery coach who has written and spoken extensively about eating disorders. Farrar’s focus on the biological component of eating disorders resonated with Vance in a way nothing else had. She was able to better understand her own eating disorder and move toward a different relationship with food. The takeaway from Vance’s experience is to never give up. Keep seeking out resources because you never know what will spark someone’s recovery journey.
- Every person’s recovery journey is different. This is another key message that has come out of many of our conversations. Every recovery journey looks different in part because recovery seems more possible when it taps into a person’s unique values and attributes. Each person needs to find their why, the thing they value more than the eating disorder. For me that was wanting to someday have a family. I knew the eating disorder would prevent me from having kids of my own and was able to see that I needed to move on from it to live the life I wanted to live.
- Recovery can be a process of rediscovery. It can be heartbreaking to watch a child give up on a dream or beloved hobby, like dance or running, in order to find recovery, but recovery can lead to newly discovered interests. One of our guests, Kirsten Haglund, realized she needed to stop participating in ballet to recover, even though she had been working towards a professional career. In that process, though, she rediscovered a love for musical theatre. Another guest, Lucie Waldman, discovered a love for writing through her recovery.
- Recovery is not linear. Almost everyone we have talked to has described a winding journey towards recovery. It seems easier to accept the bumps in the road along the way when we know they are part of the experience. It’s so important to have grace with ourselves and with our children, particularly when there are setbacks in recovery.
- People in recovery from an eating disorder are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. After our interview with Dianna Goodman, who founded the Carolina Resource Center for Eating Disorders, she made a comment about how the people she had met who had experienced eating disorders are amazing, intelligent, beautiful, generous, talented, and empathic. I have found the same to be true through the conversations we’ve had on the podcast. It has been an incredible experience to connect with so many truly wonderful people and to hear their insights on recovery and life.
Our guests have included Melissa Bernstein, who found a way to channel her energy toward creating a well-loved toy brand, Melissa & Doug, that brings joy to families all over the world. Connie Sobczak drew strength and passion from her own recovery from an eating disorder and the death of her sister and developed The Body Positive, an organization that has profoundly changed the way people see their bodies. Mike Marjama, a former professional baseball player, has made it his mission to raise awareness among audiences of all ages about mental health and eating disorders.
Countless other guests we have interviewed have used the lessons they have learned from their eating disorder recovery to make a difference in the world as healers, yoga teachers, therapists, dietitians, researchers, writers, coaches, parents, and friends.
Though I have different lived experiences than many of our guests, I have been struck by the deep and profound connection I’ve felt to all of them. I can’t imagine being part of a better community.
In addition to co-hosting the podcast, I am a person in recovery and a parent of three girls. I empathize deeply with all parents helping a child through an eating disorder. Though you may not always feel like it, you are rock stars, and your ability to support your child while also doing all the necessary adulting is nothing short of amazing.