J.D. Ouellette is a bleeding-heart, tree hugging, egghead liberal. We disagree on practically everything … education, the extent of gun control, school prayer, defense spending, taxes, political issues and many aspects of the eating disorder industry.
(JD [far left… how fitting!] on Nancy Pelosi’s office balcony.)
And yet, there are very few people in the eating disorder community whom I respect more.
To those who may be mystified by this statement, one need only review the close friendship which existed between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
During their time together on the United States Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, a staunch conservative, and Justice Ginsburg, a staunch liberal, rarely found themselves on the same side of controversial issues. More often than not, their written rulings were polar opposites since they looked upon application of the Constitution to our laws through very different lenses. However, even this brought a greater depth to their friendship, as they were known for their respect, deep admiration, and mutual exploration.
Often standing on opposite sides of arguments, Justice Ginsburg admitted that she “disagreed with most of what he said” but “loved the way he said it.” More importantly, Justices Scalia and Ginsburg demonstrated that it is possible to separate a person from his or her ideology or political views.
Today, that sort of mature professionalism and respect seem to be sorely lacking in the eating disorder community. Division on professional and intellectual issues rapidly denigrate to a division on a personal basis which drive people and organizations apart. Needlessly so.
I first got to know Jennifer Denise after my daughter Morgan died and I began to get more involved in the eating disorder community. Through groups on Facebook and other social media, JD posted her strong opinions. I remember reading some of the posts on her Facebook wall and thinking, “this woman has a crazy gene coursing throughout her body!” But, I continued to read. Then, I began to respond, more often than not, disagreeing with her post.
This led to our first telephone discussion. I remember this call distinctly because JD talked, uninterrupted for 44 minutes straight. After the call concluded my thoughts were, “I like this person. And, I admire her passion.”
I discovered that JD’s involvement in the eating disorder world was cemented due to her family’s circumstances. In 2012, the youngest of her four children, while a senior in high school had anorexia nervosa enter their lives. She experienced this disease first hand as a mother. She studied voraciously. And her daughter survived and is on a good path. And so too, JD’s path was set.
We continued to have communications and a greater understanding between us began to emerge. I saw her in Chicago at the ICED 2018 Conference held by AED. Then, in October 2018, the Morgan Foundation held a screening of the documentary, “Going Sane.” This documentary features Joan Riederer and her daughter Erin’s story. The producer of the documentary, Lisa Sabey graciously agreed to come to Dallas to talk after the screening. Elissa Myers, the Executive Director of AED likewise appeared. JD reached out to me and stated she would love to attend and appear as well. When I stated that funds for the Foundation were still very tight, she said she would appear at her own expense.
JD appeared and spoke to the attendees that night. She took time from her busy schedule to fly to Dallas and support my family, a family who forever will suffer the scars inflicted by eating disorders. And that is a special gift that will be cherished.
Since that time, JD and I continued to disagree on many topics. But once again, her character and strength were demonstrated this past year. The college at which she was an administrator abruptly closed. And so, facing an uncertain future, JD boldly persevered. I am not surprised by this perseverance.
Just before she decided to stop applying for jobs and open her own peer coaching practice, she applied for her dream job as a Program Manager for the UC San Diego Extension School running their Lactation Educator workshops. When she did not hear back from the university for some time, she embraced that soulful quality which points us in the direction our lives are intended to journey. She started the process to utilize all of the experience she had learned and began to form a peer coaching practice. But again, life happened.
UC San Diego offered the position to her, a dream job. And undoubtedly, sleepless nights ensued as she wrestled with a life altering decision. Naturally, I again was not surprised when she chose the most difficult path of …
She negotiated the UC San Diego position to twenty (20) hours a week which she could do while building her own peer coaching practice.
One may very well wonder how she is handling an overwhelmingly busy schedule. So, in her own words, JD lets us know:
“I am loving life! The coaching business is really amazing – helping support my family by helping other families is so fulfilling. I am developing a niche in working with families to get young adults to “voluntarily” admit and so far I am batting 100%. Working with parents and then parents and child on Skype and with shared documents to collaborate on plans is so helpful. I’ve had 3 young women tell their parents I make them feel safe and hopeful – can’t ask for more than that.
She also stated:
“Fighting an eating disorder is a fearsome task; you are literally fighting to save your loved one’s life. For me, it was the hardest thing I have ever done and it rocked our family to the core; the overwhelmingness of it is huge, and that was when our experience included the best treatment possible, almost immediately. It taught me much about what is needed to get a loved one well and the awesome power of cutting edge education for parents plus specific skills training and support.
I can provide that via Skype, phone, and text. I believe having a trained peer support coach/mentor will save you time, energy, money and quality of life as you navigate this as my testimonials support. I look forward to connecting with and helping you.
As an informed, educated, experienced international peer support provider, I understand the spectrum of hurdles a family faces and the variations among systems and with insurance, as well as being cognizant of cultural norms. I have dealt with many iterations of family dynamics and diagnoses and co-occurring conditions, and I have a personal library of books, articles, videos, and podcasts I curate and add to daily so I can target your resources to your individual needs. I have connections with professionals and peer supporters and advocates across the world who are as eager to help families as I am.
I use a lot of analogies and visualization in my coaching, so think of yourself as learning to ride a bike with my help – I am going to explain to you how a bike works, spend some time running alongside you holding onto the handlebars and seat, cheer you when you take your first wobbly solo spins around the parking lot, help you dust yourself off if you fall, and be available if the bicycle needs a tune-up.”
Strong, intelligent, independent and fiercely passionate. All that and she is a bleeding-heart, tree hugging, egghead liberal!
At the funeral for Justice Scalia (whom Justice Ginsberg at times referred to affectionately as “Nino”) Justice Ginsberg stated, “Once asked how we could be friends, given our disagreement on lots of things, Justice Scalia answered: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. Some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job … How blessed I was to have a working colleague and dear friend of such captivating brilliance, high spirits, and quick wit.”
How blessed indeed. And what high praise.
As for praise regarding J.D., if anyone ever posed the following question to me, “If my daughter were still alive, would I be comfortable with J.D. being a mentor to her?”
My response? “Damn straight I would.”
J.D. lives in the San Diego, California area and can be found at http://www.jdouellette.com