It has been over a month since I attended two fantastic Eating Disorder Conferences in New York City. The International Conference for Eating Disorders and the F.E.A.S.T. of Knowledge Conference. It was at this time I found myself presenting the sibling experience to a group of Moms, two Dads, a set of Grandparents and one sibling.
I attended my first conference 15 years ago. I had never met another person, let alone an entire conference of people who were willing to speak about eating disorders. So when I walked into the National Eating Disorders Association’s Los Angeles Conference I immediately turned around knowing on a deep level, as a sibling, I did not belong. As I descended the stairs to leave, Robbi Munn, MA MSW, and NEDA Board Emeritus intercepted my escape, hooking her arm in mine almost sensing how the next two days would be lifesaving for me. She owns a precious place in my heart as I’m not sure what would have become of me had I succeeded in leaving. Robbi not only served as the first mom who assisted me down the path of community and healing but she introduced me to my first sibling.
These ‘firsts’, changed my life.
With that said, I was very quiet during this conference and if you know me that is something of a miracle. I sat in the back of every session worrying that I would be kicked out. I felt this way because it’s one of the common sibling experiences. Siblings often feel like they don’t belong. They are asked to understand, be patient, sacrifice needs and not talk about what’s happening at home. It’s a message many of the 363 siblings have expressed in Bridget Whitlow, LMFT and my sibling survey.
At my first EDC Advocacy Day and MOM’s March, I was not afforded the luxury of disappearing and staying comfortable. Rather, I was provided a platform to share my experience. These were the events where I was introduced to the F.E.A.S.T. Moms who would continue building on the foundation Robbi so generously began years before. Acceptance, support, and education from those who understood facilitated my way out from messages ingrained in me from age 12 to 35. Over time, their support allowed me to understand what had happened, why my family did not find help, why my parents were blamed, and provided room for me to believe I had the right to speak up for my experience as a sibling.
F.E.A.S.T. MOMs were critical in my journey to allow me to feel that I had the right to experience the plethora of feelings that descended on me as a sibling. That I had the right to have an opinion. That I had the right to have a role in my sister’s recovery. That I had the right when she died to fall to my knees broken but then stand up and fight for other families.
These MOMS, helped me find my voice.
So here I was almost two decades later speaking at the F.E.A.S.T of Knowledge Conference. Speaking to Moms, Dads, Grandparents and a SIBLING! It only took 15 years but, damn, here I stood, in front of a new set of moms and now dads, grandparents and a sibling. I was here to serve them. To provide them the tools to make their healthy children’s journey far less damaging than mine. To support them. To help them understand, it was not their fault. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy and drive to better serve this community and expand to a much larger family however defined. It was a tremendous privilege to serve the ones who helped me find my voice.
KymAdvocates.com – If you are a sibling and want to hear a story like yours please click here for my website and sibling interviews.
~ Are you a sibling? Would you like to take our Sibling Survey? Please click here.
~If you would like to join a sibling group, please contact Kym at Kym@kymadvocates.com
~ If you are a parent and need support please visit F.E.A.S.T.
Academy of Eating Disorders AED
National Eating Disorders Association NEDA
EDC Advocacy Days