April 12, 2014

Thank you, Cynthia Bulik, and AED, and mom & dad

I just realized it has been TWO WEEKS since I was in New York for the Academy for Eating Disorders annual conference. Jeepers. I haven't but barely caught up on email not to mention laundry and bills.

But I want to take time now to thank some people. It's kinda "emotionable," as my kids put it. I can't do this without the risk of sounding braggy, because (squee!) first I have to share that I got an award.

A very nervous Laura with her
lovely and inspirational parents
and wonderful, wonderful hubby.
The AED Meehan/Hartley Award for Public Service and Advocacy, to be precise. I'm rather blown away by this, actually. The list of previous winners is impressive, and I don't take this for granted. When, ten years ago, I took on this advocacy work from my kitchen I had hoped to make some small change in how parents were viewed in the ED field. I accepted the award with full understanding of the shoulders on which I stood, and those I hoped would stand on mine.

I have enjoyed my work. I will treasure the accolades, and will in my dotage surely be boring my grandkids with the generous and funny and humbling speech by Dr. Cynthia Bulik introducing my award. I am deeply grateful to Cindy's confederates, especially Leah Dean, for the tributes. It's way embarrassing, but I am enjoying it. There have been times in the past ten years when knowing that I would be thanked for my rabble-rousing would have seemed like a dream you wake up from, not one we carried home on a brass plate.

Thank you, Cindy.
Thank you.
You see, getting this award from the AED wasn't uncontroversial. Not only are there many hard-working advocates and activists out there in our field but I have not been a particularly easy one to like. I'm a pain in the ass. Instead of joining the advocates in the field to laud and support the direction of advocacy I have been a voice questioning and criticizing "in the family." Not the ideal way to make friends or influence people. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say there are many folks who genuinely resent my voice and my work. So I get it that this was a statement of support for the messy, but necessary, work of challenging paradigms.

I had a speech prepared, but in the moment my eyes were clouded and my glasses unclear so I did not deliver what I'd planned, exactly, but offer it here.

"Today is a great day to be an advocate, when I am given an award and kind words and wear my best shoes.

It isn't always fun, however. A friend here at AED who I consider one of many mentors in this room told me some time back that it isn't about being right, it is about relationships. At the time I resented that, but it was true. You all know this best as this is a room full of people who do relationships for a living.

Today I want to acknowledge some of the relationships that bring me here.

First, my parents, in the front row, who taught me when I see something wrong not to complain, but to do something about it. To respect people even if you disagree with the views they hold.

And my husband, also here today, who is like many of the husbands and partners of advocates the one who made it possible for me to take the time to do this work. We don't appreciate the dads enough. They're less visible, but they are heroes of advocacy. This man is a hero, for letting me turn our dining room table into an international organization and dye my hair blue for DNA research without warning him.

I am deeply grateful to my fellow parent advocates on whose shoulders my work has stood and the momentum and credibility they offer advocates now. 

To Charlotte, in particular, for her example in life and in dying, to get on with it without whining.

Deep gratitude to the parents and community of FEAST, especially those volunteers who now take on the work and keep it going, like Leah Dean our Executive Director and our new Outreach Director, Lisa Laborde, and the board.

Thank you, so much, to my colleagues in the eating disorder professional world, and the advocates, for their support and their mentorship - and their own challenges to me that I learn from every day. Thank you for accepting and even welcoming parents into the advocacy, the field, and into the treatment of our loved ones.

And that is the point. My greatest gratitude goes to my dear daughter, whose illness moved me to do this work. It is the patients who all of us are here for, they are what we all share and care about. Our wonderful, courageous, daughter is my greatest hero."

4 comments:

  1. It was a well-deserved award and a testament to your strength that you were able to forge relationships around whatever common ground you could find.

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  2. Sitting through this was very emotional. I came to the party late, my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia in 2011 (when she was 10) and I was lucky to find F.E.A.S.T. early and our family has benefitted greatly from Laura's 'questioning voice'. Advocacy in this field is hard work. Parenting through this illness can bring a family to its knees. Being able to hold onto some core strength and then use that to strengthen others is HUGE. Thank you, Laura for delving into the 'messy' and Thank You, Laura's parents and Laura's husband for creating the conditions that make it possible for her to do so. It is trite to say.....but 'tis true...you have helped many.

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  3. It was a fine moment to share - and especially fine to share with two up and coming advocates as yourselves!

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  4. maggie.danhakl@healthline.com12:40 AM, May 12, 2014

    Hello Laura,

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