CJ, “Cousin Jamie,” that is, is also pretty super dorky, but doesn’t usually join OJ in her reading endeavors because CJ never actually finishes a book (OJ doesn’t understand this!). CJ majored in anthropology in undergrad, which totally helped her decide what she wanted to do in life… not… Oh, liberal arts. It turned out though that CJ (ironically), has a passion for food. She has a passion for food’s healing properties, the social aspect of food, and how food plays a role in our culture. So, you’ll never guess it, but CJ is currently finishing her final year of graduate school to become a Registered Dietitian. Don’t worry, she will not be OJ’s dietitian! Although the knowledge does come in handy at times! With CJ’s background both personally and professionally, she offers a highly valuable and unique insight into what it is like to support someone with a mental illness and in particular, an eating disorder.
CJ has firsthand experience trying to make the mental health system work for a loved one. She has witnessed the frustration of putting faith and trust into a system that at times appears rather broken. She herself feels like she is in recovery as well. The eating disorder truly does become an unwanted third person in the relationship (hence, thirdwheelED!). The emotional toll it takes on the supporter is huge as well. Eating disorders are incredibly insidious illnesses and while the person suffering from the eating disorder attempts to keep everything inside, she has no idea how much is actually radiating externally to others. One of the most difficult aspects that CJ found with all of this, is that when OJ came back home, she had just received 6 months of intensive treatment, whereas CJ had not. There becomes a discrepancy between the person with the eating disorder and the supporter’s ability to communicate their emotions in relationship to the eating disorder. CJ often feels like she and OJ are both recovering but moving at different paces on slightly different planes. This disconnect is challenging to manage, especially when CJ is aware of how much OJ’s eating disorder thrives on disconnection.
By sharing her personal experience as OJ’s supporter, CJ hopes to provide insight and relatability to other supporter’s going through the difficult process of watching their loved ones suffer from an eating disorder. CJ also feels like it is important for people with eating disorders to be aware of their supporters’ perspectives and emotions too. CJ strongly believes that it is through mutual understanding, acceptance, and perseverance that the eating disorder can be ultimately disobeyed.