Are you the family member or carer of a person of any age or gender who is currently ill with an eating disorder?
As a family member or carer of a person with or attempting to recover from an eating disorder, how on earth do you even begin to understand the complex and largely illogical thought patterns the illness is generating in your loved one?
When your loved one is behaving in a way that is distressing or frustrating, is it possible to still see the person you love behind the illness facade?
I often say that to be a person with an eating disorder and fighting to recover each day that you have to be a true super hero.
But really, I think the even greater superheroes are the family members and the carers who are there supporting, encouraging, loving and comforting, yet frequently pushed away, shouted at or ignored by the person they are desperate to help.
I cannot begin to imagine how powerless and frustrated a carer or family member must feel to watch their loved one with an eating disorder continue to live in the grips of the illness and not be able to understand why or know how to help.
Eating disorders and the eating disordered brain are far from logical or rational (I can say that because I have been there!). They are confusing, contradictory and illogical.
But one thing that is true is that a lot of illogical and irrational thoughts and behavioural patterns within an eating disorder are common to many with the illness.
The way we think, feel, our inner hopes, desires and fears are actually all very similar when you dig into them – it is just that when we are deep in the illness, we cannot or do not want to recognise this fact, don’t know how to verbalise what is going on and when we are filled with fear, admitting to loved ones little things like the truth is we do really want to eat(!) is unlikely to happen.
Can I Help?
Having lived with an eating disorder for too many years and as I recover now, I have learnt a lot about this illness from the perspective of an ‘insider’!
I have also had contact with hundreds of other adults and adolescents with eating disorders and seen first hand the differences but also the common features of this illness.
In my own recovery journey, I would occasionally read forums on the FEAST website – a wonderful place dedicated to family members who are attempting the difficult task of supporting their loved one through recovery. I would read that website and try to apply some of the supportive principles those parents were sharing to myself.
BUT one thing that I did also find when I was reading those forums was that I would get frustrated when parents could not comprehend why their loved one was acting in a particular way and trying to help in ways that I knew, because I know from the inside how an eating disorder brain works, might seem kind and loving but in fact would feed the illness, not the recovery.
I do think there is a huge lack of support and help for caregivers and family members of people with eating disorders – to help you understand what might be going on in the messy mind of your loved one. And unless you have lived in a messy ED brain, then there is absolutely no way that anyone could even begin to imagine how complicated it can be!!
Therefore, I would love to help people living outside of an eating disorder brain to gain a little more insight into what it is like to be inside it…
Perhaps if you can understand what might be happening on the inside a little better, you might be able to keep sight of the person you love behind the illness a little more easily and to come up with even better approaches to support them through recovery.
So, what I would like to know is, what would you like to know?
As a family member or carer, what are the aspects of this illness you find the most difficult to understand?
I would like to write some blog posts or offer up ‘insider’ information that might help family and carers understand this illness a little more.
Please email me or fill out the contact form as I would love to help you make sense of what rarely does make sense!!