Every post I have written on Nourish about what it was like helping Julia survive anorexia has been both difficult and liberating. Some of these last ones before our one-year project ends are the hardest. Julia is in this place called recovery, which can be kind of nebulous since it’s not clear what defines recovery. All I know is that it was the goal when she was diagnosed in November of 2013. “This disease can be extinguished,” I remember her very first program therapist telling us, and I believed him. The statistics for achieving recovery from anorexia are grim—and the ones for staying in recovery aren’t great either. Despite this, we are here, and I couldn’t be happier for Julia. She gets a second lease on life; a chance to be the person she wants to be free of mental illness.
Julia talks about being in recovery a great deal, especially over the past year when life has truly opened up for her in a new and refreshing way. She is finding herself and what she believes in. She is taking action in her life. She is dreaming about her future. The freedom that comes with not being under the cloud of mental illness is so powerful for her. She writes about it, talks about it, and lives it every day. It’s beautiful to see. With this year-long pandemic project coming to an end, I feel her readiness to separate and take off like never before. That’s recovery for Julia, and as parents, we are so relieved to see her in the best place she’s ever been in her young life.
Separating myself from Julia’s experience isn’t easy to do when we had to be inseparable for the years she was in crisis. Since I wasn’t struck down by mental illness or addiction, I wouldn’t say that I, too, am in recovery. I took care of her, and that was heroic in so many ways, especially since she survived and is now telling the world her story. As parents, we are challenged to set aside our wants and needs to help our children through the unimaginable crisis they face. Parents have to personally decide how to deal with what they are dealt. I had my moments of wanting to get in the car and drive far away. Looking back now, I can honestly say that I have no regrets about how we navigated the journey. It’s been eight years, and we did a lot right to see Julia into recovery. I’m proud of us as parents for being solidly united, for never giving up, for utilizing every resource we could access, for keeping the focus on making sure our children were cared for and loved, and for being willing to sacrifice everything for them. It was an approach that worked for our family and one I’m grateful for.
Julia will often say she isn’t sorry that she went through what she did because it helped her find her true self. It helped me, as well, become less rigid, more open and spontaneous, more compassionate, and, without question, so much closer to Julia. On the flip side, the wear and tear of crisis took a deep toll on us emotionally and physically. All that we, as a couple and a family, had to put aside so we could support Julia was significant. It was a strain on our marriage, it led to problems for our son, and it affected our friendships and familial relationships. Those pieces we’ll be picking up for years to come, long after our children have moved on with their lives. You can’t exactly press delete on all that you saw and felt with trauma. Hopefully, as it has been for Julia, it will take time and strength and finding purpose in life to feel whole again. I guess we’ll find that in our “recovery.” While I can’t say I’m glad I went through what I did, the fact that the children we brought into this world will be equipped with strength, self-awareness, and our love to help them be responsible and autonomous is a great relief. As for us parents, we’ll do our best not to mull over what’s in the past.
Thank you, readers, for joining us for this pandemic project. Nourish has been a very special collaboration with Julia. Our journey together from illness to wellness is officially documented. We wanted the cooking part of our story to be saved and shared so we could always remember the power of food and love in our lives.