What Recovery Means to Me (Part One)

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.

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Supporting a Sibling in Recovery

The impact mental illness has on a family is extraordinary. As parents, we were challenged every day for years as we struggled to understand anorexia, depression, and anxiety and find a way to stop it from destroying our daughter’s life. We had her to protect and, equally as important, her younger brother. He was caught up in the chaos and confusion like the rest of us, and he was only eleven. How could we help him understand what was happening to his big sister when we didn’t fully get it ourselves? Our love for both of them dictated our path moving forward. We decided not to shut him out or protect him from the truth; instead, we chose to do our best to meet his needs, openly communicate what was going on with Julia and include him in her treatment, get him personal counseling so he could ask questions and share his feelings, and always make sure he knew he had our unconditional love and support.

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Parenting a Child with Anorexia

Julia was only thirteen when she was diagnosed with anorexia, depression, and anxiety: the trifecta of mental illness, as I called it. I spent far too much time trying to figure out how and why it happened; after all, I was the stay-at-home mother by choice and with all that daily love and experience I was giving my children, I should have seen the signs and intervened. But more often than not, parents aren’t to blame for mental illness, as was the case for my wife Susan and me.

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Eating on a Schedule in Recovery

Food is fuel. Food is medicine. Most of us are familiar with the first saying, and those who have had or cared for someone with an eating disorder also know the second. Our bodies send out hunger cues every 3-4 hours as our blood sugar level drops. If we don’t take the cue and eat enough, we lose energy and aren’t as alert or focused. We start to feel sluggish, irritable, and weak. If we respond to our bodies’ need for fuel, we typically feel and behave better. It makes sense that a regular eating schedule can significantly contribute to helping our bodies and minds function at their best.

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