Editor’s Note: J&J dad Craig interviewed his daughter, Katharine about her journey to recover from an eating disorder. Here are some of her enlightening answers.
So, how did this whole eating disorder thing start?
It’s a combination of genetics and environment. I have a predisposition for depression. Hitting puberty, coupled with our family moving from Virginia to New Jersey, triggered an eating disorder. It began subconsciously, but I soon realized that while I could not control my environment and my happiness, I could control my food.
What are the most important things for parents to understand about eating disorders?
There are a lot of important things to know, but here are a few I think are particularly important:
(1) It’s not a quick fix. A common misconception is that your child will go into treatment and come out magically cured, but it just doesn’t work that way. Recovery is not a straight road, and it is a lengthy process.
(2) Your child really has to be ready for recovery: You can tell them until you’re blue in the face that they need to kick this disorder, but if they’re not willing and ready, they’ll find a way to conceal their behaviors.
(3) It’s not about the food: Food is a coping mechanism for dealing with something deeper. Simply re-feeding and restoring weight does not equal recovery. For recovery to stick, those deeper issues need to be addressed.
(4) It’s not your fault: There is nothing you, as parents, could have done or not done to prevent the eating disorder, and it’s not productive to try and figure that out. What’s more important is to focus on what you can do now to help your child and your family.
We talked about the importance of finding time for joy. What do you do for fun?
I love doing anything creative – any type of art, any type of activity where I can use my hands to create something. I love to explore and try new things. I love learning and enjoying new experiences. But I can honestly have fun doing anything as long as it makes me laugh and allows me to channel my goofy inner child.
Joy is important for the family and especially the child to be able to see the beauty in life and realize why it’s worth living. The recovery process is hard and long, so it’s easy for all those involved to lose sight of what we’re recovering towards. Those joyful moments serve as reminders.
It’s been a long struggle, but there are good times too. What is your favorite memory from the last ten years?
It may sound stupid, but playing Catchphrase at home with everyone, particularly when it’s my brother’s turn. I honestly can’t remember another time when I’ve laughed so hard I cried. All of a sudden, it’s four hours later, and we’re still playing. And laughing.
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
I’m most looking forward to the unknown. I’m wiping the slate clean and finally giving myself a chance to be completely healthy and happy.