• Megann Horstead

Northbrook eating disorder facility a source of relief in the community


The darkest hour. That’s how Kristin, of Chicago, described her life as she saw it a year ago.

After receiving partial treatment at the Renfrew Center in Northbrook for anorexia and bulimia in December 2014 and being transferred to their residential facility in Florida in January, Kristin, who declined to give her last name, said she feels like a different person.

“I thought it’d be a fresh start," she said. “I’d been kicked out of a few programs. This was a last resort.”

Kristin said she noticed a change in her behavior at the age of 15, but it wasn’t until she was 23 that she was diagnosed.

Around that time, she decided to drop out of graduate school and put aside the cleats she often wore on the softball field to get help.

At age 29, she said lives her life following the same philosophy she holds for the game of softball—refusing to be sidelined from the action and never letting your emotions get the best of you.

“I’m living a value-based life,” she said. “I don’t feel like a horrible person.”

Kristin said one thing has remained unchanged throughout her time spent in recovery: her love for softball.

“I have never missed a game and my teammates won’t let me forget it,” she said, adding that she’s only missed games when seeking treatment.

The Renfrew Center in Northbrook first opened in Oct. 2014. It serves as one of 16 sites owned by the family-owned business, offering day treatment, outpatient services, and intensive outpatient services for those with eating disorders.

According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders, “20 percent of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.”

Jancey Wickstrom, site director at the Renfrew Center in Northbrook, said clients often walk away satisfied after receiving treatment and services for a number of reasons.

“We’re family-owned and that gives the company added ability to meet the community’s needs,”she said. “Because we’re family-owned, we can offer lower rates and modified services.”

Kristin mirrored that sentiment explaining how beneficial it was to work alongside the staff at the Renfrew Center to address her needs.

“They were really willing to meet me where I was at,” she said, noting how they allowed her to seek residential treatment in Florida after finding that she needed more help.

Kristin has been behavior-free in her recovery since January and she said this is something takes great in pride in.

“I had time in treatment to practice what they were teaching,” she said, noting that she’d sought help for her eating disorder a number of times in the past. “There wasn’t any real practice with it.”

She said prior to her residential treatment in Florida, she often felt as though she were just going through the motions. That’s no longer the case.

“Emotions serve a purpose, they’re there to protect you,” Kristin said. “I learned that I need to sit with them more.”

She said her current job as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools has been going well and she is looking forward to getting a special education license.

Wickstrom said they use a newer model—the unified treatment model allowing patients to get to the underlying issues.

“We teach people to use their emotions as allies rather than enemies,” she said, noting how wonderful it is to make a difference in the lives of others.

In looking toward the future, Wickstrom said she has a vision for the Renfrew Center in Northbrook that includes hiring a music therapist or a dance movement therapist.

For more information on the Renfrew Center, visit renfrewcenter.com.

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