Trust in your true self and your path becomes clear
Trust in your true self and your path becomes clear
I can hardly believe I am the same person who lived in the darkness of an eating disorder for four decades, but I know I am, and this makes life more beautiful
Two events have made 2013 very special for me – Australia’s first national conference for families and carers on eating disorders, held at Brisbane in May, and a book research trip, kindly aided by the Butterfly Foundation, to the UK, USA and Canada in September and October.
The ‘At Home with Eating Disorders Conference’ was a big success and another conference is planned for 2015. I was on the main committee and co-chair of the program committee. We have a great need in our country, as elsewhere, for more education on eating disorders, and more support for families in their own home, and parents came from across Australia to learn from the wonderful international and local researchers who were there to share their knowledge.
A highlight was the launch of a worldwide research project, the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI), to study the DNA of people who have had or have Anorexia Nervosa – I find this genetic research hugely exciting and felt honored to be invited to help Prof. Cindy Bulik and others promote this cause in Australia. The aim is to get 25,000 DNA samples, and Australia’s contribution is 1200. Within four weeks, we already had more than half that number.
The day I gave a blood sample for this research was one of the happiest and most meaningful in my life – 50
years after I had developed the illness, here I was, able to contribute to understanding the illness and to finding a cause. (See also, the UK’s great contribution, Charlotte’s Helix).
The Brisbane conference was important in another way, too, for it included the launch of two of my new books on eating disorders – making a total of six books in six years. One of these was ‘Ed says U said” co-authored with Cate Sangster, and the other was as co-author new edition of Janet Treasure’s classic Anorexia Nervosa_A Recovery Guide for Sufferers, Families and Friends.
- My second big event – the book research – was totally amazing. The main reason for this research was to interview families in the UK, USA and Canada, who have taken part in Multi-Family Therapy (MFT) for treatment of their family member’s eating disorder. This treatment is not yet available in Australia but I hope it is, very soon, for it can save lives, and save families. I organized the interviews, with five families in each country, before departing Australia. Because some of the young people have now left home for college, I also needed to organize a number of train trips in the UK – this was exciting, as it meant ‘escaping’ London and heading through the
pretty English countryside to Stirling in Scotland, to Manchester, Bristol, Hull and Cambridge. In London I was based at the Maudsley Hospital, which is the mental health research part of King’s College. I am writing the book My Family is Back with Prof. Ivan Eisler, a pioneer researcher of this wonderful treatment which helps many families. Research for this book also took me to Washington DC, (where I greatly enjoyed visiting with inspirational Laura Collins and catching up with many other friends and advocate colleagues and making new friends, at the NEDA conference), and on to Toronto and San Diego, for a week at the University of California. Came home with a bunch of interview recordings, which I have transcribed, into 100,000 words – aiming to refine these into first draft of manuscript by end of January.
- When home I enjoy presenting Life Writing classes, across my state of Victoria. I love to help people tell and preserve their stories as I think this is the most precious thing they can leave for the next generation. This provides nice balance to book research and writing.
- My daughter thought I might not survive seven weeks away from my five lovely grand children but my schedule was so packed with people to interview, and many friends and colleagues to catch up with, that time passed quickly. It was wonderful to return home at the end of October and very comforting when youngest grandchild, Amelia, 18 months at the time, recognized and ran towards me with arms outstretched, yelling ‘Granma!’.
- My grandchildren, aged one to seven, are my main inspiration for doing what I do, and my wonderfully supportive children and friends are my mentors and guides. Coupled with this, I feel bless to have a second family of friends in the eating disorder field.
- I live by the sea, 90 minutes from Melbourne. I am much happier in the country than the city – no doubt due to the love of nature developed as a child. I love the water, the sky, and the elements. I draw strength from this and it’s a great place to write.
My orchard gives much pleasure – this year I’ve enjoyed munching on the first harvest of loquats (happy childhood memory relived), and the plums are getting big and juicy, almost ready to eat. After Christmas the apples will be ready to eat, and there are orange, apple, plum, fig, lemon, lime and mandarin trees. I also have a vegetable garden – with tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, silver beet, green climbing beans, broccoli and butternut pumpkins all growing this summer. The grand children love to help. Especially Olivia, who is four years old today, December 23 (her great-grandmother’s birthday). My mum would be delighted to know that Olivia shares her love of flowers. She has helped me plant petunias and these provide her favourite colours of pink and purple. Olivia loves flowers, butterflies and rainbows. She also loves to draw and paint.
- My children’s dad is hosting Christmas dinner at his Melbourne home this year – we love family get-togethers with our four children and five grand children, especially birthdays and Christmas. Our festival meal will take the form of an outdoor barbecue, around the backyard pool, My role is to make the desserts (this year: pavlova, trifle, cheesecake and fruit planter:-) Yum:-)
I hope you have had a happy year too, and that where sadness and loss have occurred, that you know the sun will shine again.