National Eating Disorders Association
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thirdwheelED - Partners in Love & Recovery

Jamie Bushell, thirdwheelED

Undoubtedly, one of the first questions we are asked when people meet us is, “Is it weird to have the same name?” quickly followed by, “Do you spell it the same way?” To answer your questions, “no and yes, respectively”. Together we are collectively referred to as “The Jamies”, and individually our nicknames are CJ (Cousin Jamie) and OJ (Other Jamie, that’s me!).  

A little over five years ago, CJ and I had our first date at what soon became our favorite spot in Boston. I was nervous as I think most people are on first dates, but from the beginning the conversations were easy. I knew I was at a point in my life when I was ready to be in a meaningful relationship, but in the back of my head I was worried. I had not yet been in a long-term relationship where I felt I could be authentic and I wanted this to be different. 

CJ made me feel safe which allowed me to share that I had struggled with an eating disorder, self-harm, and trauma in my past. For the first few years of our relationship, my eating disorder was pretty dormant and only every once in a while would CJ point out a disordered behavior or thought. 

The power of an eating disorder partially lies in the fact that it can remain relatively quiet for years and then with no warning become the third wheel in a relationship. Last summer, my eating disorder reappeared and was quick, vicious, and determined. After six months of different residential treatments, I returned home. Neither one of us was prepared for this transition. There were times when we felt like we had to relearn how to be “us” and navigate this new place of undefinable, elusive recovery. The eating disorder began to make us feel disconnected from each other. 

While I was in treatment, CJ struggled to find available resources for non-traditional caretakers like her. Most of the information she found was for parents or older spouses. There was a gap in the literature and in the blogosphere not only for primary supporters who are in their late-twenties, but there also lacked a significant amount of resources for queer people with eating disorders.

A huge part of our healing has been writing on our blog thirdwheelED. On our blog, we offer a queer perspective on eating disorder recovery from a dual perspective: that of the person struggling with an eating disorder and that of a (non-traditional) supporter. Together, as we share our stories of recovery side by side, we hope to continue slowly connecting the dots by creating important and necessary dialogues between two perspectives fighting the same cause. In writing our stories down, we both have not only gained clarity, but also a sense of connection by reaching others who can relate to our experience. Our blog also serves as a platform to increase visibility of how eating disorders impact an often marginalized LGBTQ community, and allows us to create a space to participate in advocacy work through storytelling. 

We were both incredibly honored and excited when NEDA asked CJ to be a presenter on the family panel at this year’s NEDA Conference in Chicago. The moment we received the email we realized that our voices were being heard and it validated that our story is one that is important to share. It felt amazing. 

CJ will be presenting her unique story of recovery as the supporter of a loved one suffering from a relapse with a ferocious eating disorder. Particularly, CJ plans on discussing how she felt lost, alone, and confused in terms of what her role was in our relationship. Having to assume many parts (at times, she felt she was part-caretaker, part-advocate, part-parent, and very little, part-fiancé) she didn’t know where to turn. When my eating disorder was in full force, I didn’t even realize how unaware and absent I was (physically and emotionally) from our relationship. CJ was forced to manage my care, coordinate treatment plans, and also take care of herself during a stressful period of graduate school.  

Thus, together, we are most excited to attend this conference not only to hear some of the most up-to-date evidence-based research on eating disorder treatment, but we are also excited to join a large group of diverse people in varying roles work towards the same cause. As this will be our first NEDA conference, we are excited to participate in the Buddy Program, learn more about how to increase our presence in advocacy work, and continue to cultivate new tools for maintaining recovery. Our blog began as a rather simple hope with an element of personal catharsis, that maybe our story would impact one person. CJ is so excited to be able to contribute to this cause on a more global level, by connecting with experts in the field, with other people in recovery, and with a diverse group of supporters. 

To see CJ speak at the 2016 NEDA Conference, register at nedaconference.org.