This blog is for the friends and family of a loved one who suffers from an eating disorder/disordered eating. For most families, walking through ED recovery is like sailing through uncharted waters. Because of the stigma against eating disorders, they are often not talked about and kept quiet. Consequently, there is little knowledge circulating about how to help the people you love when they are fighting against this horrible disease. Like myself, most families and friends don’t think that it could happen to their loved one. It can feel terrifying, hopeless, frustrating, & just right out scary. I know that for a while my friends and closest felt completely helpless, as did I. We spent hours discussing possible scenarios for all of the pain I was experiencing. 2-3 times a week I would call my mom crying hysterically. Being 1 1/2 hours away, it seemed impossible for her to do anything to help me. She wanted to pull me out of school to get me better, but we both decided it would be best for me to finish out my last month so that all of my hard work wouldn’t have been wasted. As much as my family and friends wanted me to heal, we had no clue where to start. The good news is that slowly but surely my friends and family are figuring out how to help me recover in the best way possible, and I am learning how to communicate what I need the most.
The following section is an open note from my mom, Lyn Carr, to other parents about Eating Disorders/Disordered eating. My mom has been truly incredible in the last year. It truly can’t be put into words how much I appreciate her unrelenting support & prayers. I thought having her perspective would help other parents navigate the course of recovery. Congrats to my mom for making her first blog appearance! Haha. I love you so much!!!
When Em asked if I would write for her blog, my first reaction was, “of course!!” A few minutes after replying to her I thought to myself, ‘Wait…I’m not sure I’m ready to do that just yet!’ To say the last year has been challenging would be an understatement to say the least. Like Emily has previously mentioned, not one person or family would ever sign up for an eating disorder/disordered eating. In our attempt to help Emily, we experienced advice from professionals that had devastating effects on her health and well-being. We saw three GI doctors that prescribed a diet with added fiber and more exercise, that’s it. We saw a RD who concluded that Em needed to adhere to a strict gluten-free, dairy-free diet, (making the problem worse). No one was interested in getting to the root of the problem. Looking back, it’s not hard to see why all of this developed. In an attempt to control the pain and fear related to IBS, Em experiences over-exercising, under-eating, stress, & anxiety like never before. The perfect storm led to extreme malnutrition and a dark, difficult place for Emily. Here are a few pieces of advice I have learned along the road:
1. Don’t live in denial. If you have an inkling of suspicion about disordered eating/eating disordered behaviors, get your loved one help immediately. When I had an inkling, I was in total denial it just couldn’t be so, & I didn’t want it to be so. After having a Nutritionist tell us she didn’t have a problem, I thought well, that settles it. Boy was I wrong. Early intervention is essential for preventing the development of a full blown eating disorder. What they do need is a multi-dimensional team of doctors. It’s important to do your research and find a team what really knows that they are doing. They need need a RD that specializes in ED/DE, a therapist (preferably one that specializes in ED treatment), and a medical doctor to follow them closely and guide them to where they need to be.
*It’s important to note that your loved one doesn’t have to look a certain way or lose/gain a certain amount of weight to have an eating disorder/struggle with disordered eating. Eating disorders don’t discriminate by weight or appearance. They are psychological disorders not weight disorders.
2. Know that it is not your fault. The development of an eating disorder is not anyone’s fault…it’s not your fault, your spouses fault, your child’s fault, or anyone else’s fault. Don’t blame each other. Emily consistently made it clear that nothing that we did caused her to develop an ED. Our children can be very forgiving for the mistakes we make. Be gentle with yourself and your child.
3. Listen. It can be frustrating and impossible to understand the thought process of an individual with an eating disorder. There thoughts are being filtered through a distorted filter, & often they don’t even know why they are thinking the things that they are. When it comes to words, sometimes less is more. In the beginning of recovery, your attempts to give advice might not be reciprocated warmly from your child/friend/family member. When Emily called me upset, I would often just listen to her, ask her what she needed, reminded her of the gospel, and prayed for her. You don’t have to understand to comfort, love, encourage, & uplift. You just have to listen.
4. Community is essential for recovery. One of the most important aspects of Emily’s recovery was being surrounded by friends & family who consistently lifted her up in prayer to our ultimate healer, Jesus. I don’t think we would have made it without our life group, friends and family and other prayer warriors in the body of Christ. These precious friends stood in the gap for Emily and our family. If you are reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you!!
5. Full Recovery is attainable. Keep your eyes on Jesus. I can’t imagine walking through this past year without Him. He is our rock and salvation, an ever-present help in times of trouble. It’s not easy, you won’t understand, your other kids won’t understand, especially in the beginning stages of recovery, and that’s okay. There is hope, healing and power in the name of Jesus. And yes, God uses doctors, therapy and medication in the process. They will improve. Emily is in a much better place now than she was back in March. We are all confident that one day she will be fully recovered. We can see The Lord bringing her back to living life, loving and laughing again. The Lord can take the brokenness and truly make it beautiful, that’s His specialty. Jesus is the Great Physician and healer of our hearts and souls. He’s performing miracles in our family and He can in yours. “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” Amen!