Episode 85: Supporting a Child Through an Eating Disorder with Holly Thorssen
In this episode of Peace Meal, Holly Thorssen recounts her experience of mothering her daughter Madison through an eating disorder. Holly walks us through the course of Madison’s illness, noting the warning signs of Madison’s struggles with food and body, and sharing the family’s efforts to find a suitable treatment provider. Holly acknowledges the importance of building a supportive, judgment-free space when discussing eating concerns with a child – a space where your child can feel safe enough to disclose their emotions and struggles without fear or shame. In a poignant moment of reflection, Holly speaks on how she learned to differentiate Madison’s voice from the voice of the eating disorder, leading to a better understanding of Madison’s conflicting desire to get better while also resisting change. Connecting with The Emily Program’s family-oriented specialty care made all the difference for Holly and Madison, offering much-needed comfort and healing for both mother and daughter.
Holly is a dedicated social worker and advocate for children’s mental health. With 28 years of experience, including 21 years in children’s mental health case management, Holly understands the challenges families face in accessing resources. Holly has two daughters and lives in rural northern Minnesota with her husband, Chad. In sharing her family’s story of her daughter Madison’s eating disorder, Holly aims to empower parents and let them know they are not alone in their struggles.
- How to reconcile missed warning signs as both a parent and professional in the mental health space
- The extent to which eating disorders can warp a child’s thought process
- The experience of navigating insurance coverage for treatment
- The importance of a holistic, family-centered approach to care
- How rewarding it is to see your child through the other side of their illness
In Holly’s words:
- On separating a child from their illness: “One day, Madison said something to me that was eye-opening, and I finally understood. She had said that there’s days where the eating disorder is so loud that she can’t tell what’s her voice and what the eating disorder voice is…It gave me a better understanding and just how complex an eating disorder is.”
- On finding community at The Emily Program: “I like the family component of it, where I was able to come there for big group family meetings with the rest of the parents of kids that were there. It was just so comforting to know that I was with people who knew what it was like. I could listen to their stories and their experiences and just feel some kind of familiarity that I’m with my people.”
- On her advice to parents and families supporting a loved one with an eating disorder: “Don’t be ashamed. This isn’t something to hide… who cares what anybody else thinks? Just focus on your child and love them and reassure them that it’s going to get better too, because sometimes when they’re in that dark, low place, they can’t necessarily see tomorrow. So you have to help paint a picture of what tomorrow can look like.”
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