For Parents

11 10 2010

Parents and caretakers,

Today, this post is for you. If you have a son or daughter suffering from an eating disorder, I want to applaud your strength, determination and love. Eating disorder treatment isn’t easy, nor is it fun. Today, I wanted to give you guys some resources. First, here are some things you should know about eating disorders:

  • It’s not a choice. We didn’t choose this and while it may seem that we wish to perpetuate the eating disorder, it’s just as much a hell for us as it is for you.
  • It’s not your fault. No matter what, don’t play the guilt game. Eating disorders are sneaky and secretive and very hard to pin down. Don’t blame yourself for “not knowing” or for “not acting sooner.”
  • There is support. If you don’t have a support group locally, find one online. It will prove invaluable throughout the course of your son or daughter’s treatment. In order to help us take care of ourselves, you must take care of YOURSELF.

Here are some things to remember about us:

  • We are people first. Between all of the doctor’s appointments, nutritionalist appointments, therapist appointments and all the other appointments, it’s so easy to forget that we still exist under this fog. We are people first and eating disordered second.
  • When we get defensive, lie to you, or have emotional breakdowns, take a step back and remember that we’re scared, feel out of control and hate what we’ve become. We take comfort in our eating disorder just as much as we loathe and fear it.
  • We don’t always know what we need. An eating disorder can cloud our perception so much that we’re unable or unwilling to care for ourselves. Please be willing to step in and do what must be done.

Here are a couple more things to remember:

  • We will lie to you throughout the course of treatment. We won’t always mean to but the fear easily overrides our desire to tell to truth. It may be fear of your reaction, fear of food or fear driven by the lies of ED. Please don’t take this personally. Take it as a sign that we need help still and aren’t ready to function by ourselves.
  • Don’t trust us. If you didn’t see us eat it, assume we didn’t eat it. If we didn’t stay with you, assume that we’ve purged. No matter what we tell you, if you didn’t see it during the beginning stages of treatment (or as long as someone is uncooperative), assume it’s not true. An eating disorder is sneaky and manipulative and will do anything to get its way. While we may throw pitching, screaming, yelling fits at your “control,” during initial treatment, we need that safety net and accountability.

Finally, here are some important signs and symptoms of a relapse. I know there are signs of relapses posted everywhere but I’ve yet to see a list dedicated towards parents and caretakers. All the lists I’ve seen are focused on the eating disordered person themselves and what their behaviors and thought processes are doing.

  • Weight loss. If we’ve been on a meal plan and maintaining weight (or gaining) for awhile and suddenly start losing weight, something is up. Corner us, pin us down. We don’t really want to relapse. Eating is scary and can be inconvenient but relapses are even more inconvenient.
  • Withdraw. If we’ve been working with you throughout recovery and all of a sudden, we’re defensive and wary, something is up. Watch us very carefully for we’re starting to struggle.
  • Shift in clothing choice. If we’re suddenly wearing a different style of clothing (big, baggy, warmer), look at us with suspicion. We’re either masking weight loss or we’re cold all the time.
  • We take extra time to change position. You may not see blatant dizziness for most of us are really good at hiding that. However, we make take a few extra seconds while standing to catch out balance and let the buzzing in our skull pass.
  • You notice an increase in anxiety. If we’ve been doing well and all of a sudden we seem to flip out, something is going on, even if we don’t know it or we don’t understand it. Probe deeper.
  • We start noting a reluctance or a return to old thinking patterns. We probably won’t come out and tell you, “I don’t feel like eating.” What we may do is use phrases like “In a bit.” or “I guess I will.” or something similar to signal how reluctant and unenthusiastic we are.
  • We start talking about food more. If everything in the world always sounds good and we want to talk about food all the time, it’s probably because we’re *hungry* all the time. We might start looking through recipe books or researching meal ideas.
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