Having recovered from an eating disorder in her teens, Ocean View resident Kate Funk is now using her experiences to inspire and support other Cape May County women in their journey toward recovery.
"There was a point when I realized I was an individual and my story was going to be extinguished if I didn't fight this disorder," said Funk, now 24. "I figured that there was some purpose that I had this, and for me, that purpose was really to help other people with it."
At age 17, Funk underwent in-patient treatment for her eating disorder at The Renfrew Center in Philadelphia, a treatment center that deals with eating disorders and similar women's issues. Upon returning home from treatment to continue her road to recovery, Funk found Cape May County lacked the support and services she needed.
"I did find a psychiatrist in Linwood and he told me 'Why don't you just go to Dairy Queen every time you leave here?" she said. "That was kind of the turning point for me when I realized I need to get into this field and help people in this area, or just in areas where there's not a lot of resources for eating disorder recovery."
Funk went on to receive a bachelor's degree in psychology from Philadelphia University and master's degree in family therapy from Drexel University. Throughout her schooling, she volunteered at The Renfrew Center.
Last summer, Funk began working at Nancy Crafts Counseling Center in Cape May Court House, where she's now launching programs and services focused on eating disorders, including a weekly eating-disorder support group for women that is held Saturdays.
The informal group had its first meeting March 2. It was formed "for people trying to find their way in the world of recovery," Funk said, "to provide a place for people with a common problem to come together and support each other."
The group is open to female teens and adults in all stages of eating disorder recovery, "from people who have been in treatment before to people who are really just realizing it's becoming a problem for them."
"The main focus is helping women find out the causes of their eating disorders and ways to pursue recovery," Funk said. "We work to find tools to use when you're out in the real world and trying to tackle your eating disorder."
Current group members range in age from a 13-year-old girl to women in their 50s and attendance has varied week-to-week, with an average of about 10 people per session.
During the meetings, attendees can share their symptoms and experiences with the group without fear of judgment, or they can just listen. The group also engages in activities together such as art therapy workshops.
Julie DeRose, Funk's friend who has also recovered from an eating disorder, said that group sessions are one of the most powerful tools for a full recovery, especially when coupled with independent therapy and other support services.
"It forces you to open up and get down to the core reasons for your disorder," said DeRose, also of Ocean View.
She applauds Funk for taking the initiative to help other women in the county who struggle with eating disorders and looks forward to attending the sessions herself.
"I'm so proud of her for starting this group because there's so many women out there who truly need this," DeRose said.
Funk said she's also proud of how far she's come and hopes to inspire others to never give up on themselves.
"My life is so amazing," she said. "To be a recovered person and to be giving what I've learned to other people is just amazing. I never thought I'd be at this point. I was at such a low point that I thought this was just not possible."
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
What: Eating Disorder Support Group, for female teens to adults dealing with disordered eating and body image issues.
When: 3 to 4:30 p.m. every Saturdays
Where: Nancy Crafts Counseling Services, 223 S. Main Street, Cape May Court House
Drop-ins are welcome. Insurance is accepted. Call 609-465-7788.