When Debbie wise found out about the speech her daughter Mallory gave for a class last year, she was surprised.
“I had no idea she was doing the speech until a couple of weeks after she did it. I was talking to her teacher who said she did an amazing job,” Debbie said.
Students had been assigned to give a speech about a health topic. Mallory decided to talk about eating disorders. It was the first time she had talked publicly about the issue.
“The final line of her speech was if anybody has questions, they could ask her, because she’s an expert — she’s anorexic,” Debbie said. “Hands started shooting up all over the room. I couldn’t believe this kid with the anxiety disorder got up there and did that. I was sobbing by the time the teacher finished telling me about it.”
Mallory, a senior in high school, felt compelled to talk about an issue that has been part of her life since the eighth grade when she was bullied by another girl. That’s when her eating disorder began. She began dieting and exercising to extreme. She was, basically, starving herself.
“I told my mom if I have an eating disorder and I struggle, then there are 10 other girls in that room, if not guys, who are going through the same thing,” Mallory said about her speech. “They need to know there is at least one person they can come and talk to. They need to know there is help.”
“One of the biggest changes I saw evolve in her was that she didn’t feel like she was the only one who had struggles,” Debbie said.
Mallory received help for her eating disorder at the Eating Disorders Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital. There, she saw a team of people, including a therapist and a psychiatrist.
“That was like the first time I admitted I had a problem,” Mallory said.
Mallory made it through the treatment program and was doing better as far as her eating habits. But she still struggled emotionally, including having suicide ideation. The Eating Disorders Center recommended Bert Nash.
Debbie called the Bert Nash Center to inquire about making an appointment. There happened to be a cancellation on the schedule and Mallory was able to get in the same day.
She felt at home from the start.
“Mallory was like, I love this place,” Debbie said. Mallory did individual and group therapy as well as family therapy with her parents. In the beginning, Mallory wasn’t too keen about doing group therapy.
“At first, you think, what if they judge me?” Mallory said. “But everyone was so kind and understanding, like I can relate to that or that was really hard and this is how I got through it. You never know what someone is going through. That’s something I have to remind myself of. Everyone goes through their own stuff and they deal with it their own way. Group has opened my mind to a lot of things.”
For Debbie, the family therapy was extremely beneficial.
“It helped to get educated about things and learn better ways to communicate with people,” Debbie said.
Not that it was easy. As a parent, it was difficult for Debbie to see one of her children struggle. But therapy helped Mallory — and her parents — learn skills to handle the issues they were dealing with.
“It’s not like a skinned knee that’s going to go away. This is something she is going to live with, maybe forever. But giving her these tools that she can put in her toolbox, is the best gift we can give her. And to just be there to support her through it all,” Debbie said. “We’ve learned to be nonjudgmental. That’s the worst thing about this world, we judge people who are different from us. We’ve met so many different types of people through Bert Nash with so many different histories and life stories. It’s broadened our horizons and allowed Mallory to become this beautiful person that’s she become. Bert Nash has given her the power to be that way, to be who she is.”
The family support has been important to Mallory’s recovery.
“Family means a lot to Mallory; she has a really big and extended family, so having that support system has been a really big deal to her,” said Bert Nash therapist Jessica Allison. “Debbie, her mom, has really stepped in and done an amazing job. She asks appropriate questions and is always supportive, as is Mallory’s dad.”
For Mallory, she said her struggles don’t define who she is. They are part of her journey.
“It’s my story. It’s something I’ve gone through. And I survived,” she said. “I strongly dislike the word victim. It has a negative connotation. I’m a survivor. Yeah, I still go through hard times, but I’ve gotten through them. I used to have this reputation that I was this happy person and nothing ever went wrong. I want people to see that you can have struggles, but you can still have a good life, and know that there is hope, there is a way to be happy, to fall in love with yourself again and find the true you.”