I am in the mountains of West Virginia this week surrounded by fir trees and mist and High School Marching Band campers. My job is the night shift in the girls' bunkhouse.
There is no phone service here, or for many miles around. But there is a wifi signal and I know how to use it (unlike the campers who weren't supposed to bring their electronics but did anyway and are offended not to know the password.)
Being a bit out of touch and in the woods this week is particularly appropriate as this is also the week when F.E.A.S.T. announces that I am retiring from my position as Executive Director of F.E.A.S.T. December 31. It is time for me to give up full-time rabble rousing and get back to my life as a writer that ED so rudely interrupted.
But the truth is, after 10 years it won't be the same life. I am changed and so is the world. My daughter is long recovered, graduated from college and has her own job and apartment in a city over an hour away. My son is starting high school next month and has a busy schedule. My husband, who has paid the bills and supplied the necessary support for F.E.A.S.T. all these years, wouldn't mind if I was less worried about other people's children all the time. I'm even a different writer - years of communicating madly with the world hasn't hurt, I hope. I have more ideas, more interests, more insights than when I was 40 and had not stepped into the Rabbit Hole.
The eating disorder world has changed, too. A Google search of "Maudsley Approach" used to yield nothing but a reference to a doctor talking about an idea - but no book or source for parents. That's changed: although Maudsley is still tragically rare it is no longer considered controversial and there are good references easily found for those who wish to. Parents have a new reputation as well. It is now far less common for mothers and fathers to be overtly blamed: the new angles are "contributed to" and "not ALL families." But there's progress and there's momentum thanks to SO MANY PEOPLE, and I am proud to know many of them, maybe most of them.
When I started in this activism I was very much alone. I was neither invited nor noticed at the first few eating disorder events I attended. It took years to even get noticed enough to be controversial. I was thrown off the only parent forum I could find for saying all the same things F.E.A.S.T. says now. Now we have many parent activists and a genuine cohort of strong advocates. We've influenced activists and advocates throughout the ED and psyc world.
Others must, and I believe will, step forward. I'm ready to support the next wave of activists. Not because the job is done but because I want to support it as it grows in ways I haven't yet thought of. There are skills out there and new ideas that need nurturing. I want to leave while I still love it and let F.E.A.S.T. develop as a group.
Activism isn't about us as individuals. It is about all of us together. I wanted the parent community I know to have a voice and it has - a strong voice that is distinct and principled. What that community does now is up to YOU. Get involved. And be in touch!