At Orri, we understand the importance of the role of the caregiver and are aware of the demands this role may have on the carers’ lifestyle. If you find yourself caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, know we are here for you too.
This week is Carers Week – a week raising awareness of the unrivalled support carers and family members, in a professional or personal capacity, provide to individuals who are struggling. We see you and we applaud your kindness, strength and determination in holding onto hope.
However, the experience of a caregiver is not limited to one week a year. At Orri, we understand this. We also understand that eating disorders not only impact the mind and body of the sufferer, but also the wider family. Being a caregiver is a nurturing role and, within that, requires a knowledge and acceptance of when to step away and allow our loved ones to take ownership of their journey.
We believe that family members are crucial to someone’s recovery from their eating disorder, yet are all too often are kept on the sidelines whilst their loved one undergoes treatment with us (click to find out more about our In Person and Online specialist treatment programmes).
This is far from our intention at Orri.
Treatment at Orri involves the family from day 1. Starting with the assessment to frequent sessions of Family Therapy, as well as regular check-ins with our clinicians. No two families are on the same path nor have the same history.
As a parent or carer, it’s vital that you recognise your experience and respond to your needs just as quickly as you respond to your loved ones’.
To support you with this, Dr Joanna Silver, Orri’s Lead Psychological Therapist, and Karen Carberry, Consultant Family Therapist, share their guidance.
Specialist Tips on how to nurture both yourself and your loved one in eating disorder recovery –
- Take time to look after yourself
“Put your own mask on first!
Carers can often move from bewilderment to burn out. Therefore, it is important to attend to your own wellbeing. This might mean, taking 15-30 minutes just for yourself each day; going for a nice walk; sitting listening to music; a soapy bath; booking that concert; and picking out that outfit that you are going to wear.
You are more than just a carer/parent/wife/husband/friend and you also need to make space for your own wellbeing.”
“It is really important to make sure you look after yourself. Looking after someone with an eating disorder can be a very frightening and all-consuming process and it can be very easy to neglect yourself. Looking after yourself is not selfish but is actually essential and helpful for your loved one. This can include making sure that you are eating well, sleeping well and taking time out if possible.”
- Be compassionate
“It is vital to approach both yourself and your loved one with compassion. Although it can be extremely difficult watching your loved one suffer, it is important to remember that eating disorders are mental health illness and are not chosen. Equally, it is imperative to be compassionate to yourself- it is extremely hard caring for someone with an eating disorder and despite your good intentions we all get it wrong sometimes. When this occurs, remind yourself that you are human and do not beat yourself up.”
- Enhance your family time, together
“Time for each other as a family can be just 10 minutes per week to check-in on each other all together to share one short sentence on a value that you appreciated about each other that week. You can be creative here: by using your voice or by writing a message to exchange with each other. Make it short, personal, authentic and descriptive. For example, you could write ‘you have a lovely smile’, rather than, ‘you should smile more’.
To enhance individual relationships with your partner or family, you can organise special time together to do something you both enjoy; this could be through mother/daughter time; father/daughter time; mother/son time; father/son time. If you are in a partnership, it is vital to remember date nights and activities that reflect your relationship together, to remind yourselves that you are more than carers.”
- Know it is okay to ask for help
“Looking after someone with an eating disorder can be a very daunting process and it is important to ask for help if you need it. This may include professional help to provide a safe space where you can discuss your feelings and anxieties. Other forms of help may include attending groups for people who are caring for loved ones with eating disorders. If you have other people in your family, it can be useful to divide the caring up so that it is not all on your shoulders. Asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness and it is important to role model this to your loved one with an eating disorder.”
How does family therapy support Orri’s clients and carers?
In this video, Karen discusses how family therapy supports clients in recovery from an eating disorder and their families.
Recognise that you too have a real and valid experience of this eating disorder and deserve support and space to recover. You are more than a carer – you are your own individual – and you deserve support, guidance and to be heard.
To read our advice for parents and carers, you can click here.
Alternatively, if you are concerned about a loved one or would like some guidance, you are welcome to contact Orri. Simply fill out the form on this page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.