Here at Orri we are marking Eating Disorder Awareness Week with our team and our clients.
My reflection for us, and for many who read this – sufferers, carers and professionals – is that every week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
As eating disorder professionals, we work alongside brave and courageous clients and their families and loved ones, in what at times feels like a series of never-ending struggles that battling through life with an eating problem presents.
I’m sure that you, like me, are touched and motivated by the resilience, strength and determination our clients have in their commitment to keep on showing up. And I’m sure that you that you, like me, appreciate that showing up doesn’t just happen during days at Orri or in treatment, but for those suffering, it involves showing up every week, every day, every hour, for some time – and that’s tough.
There no down time for a long time in recovery, often no place of refuge – inside or outside of the illness, just a relentless, critical internal dialogue that commands, demands and expects. “It’s a tough gig”, as one client’s father said to me recently. “The toughest” I replied, “probably the toughest they will face”.
At Orri, as a team, we hold this.
We hold the individual going through it.
We hold the Mums, Dads, Children, Siblings, Husbands, Wives and Friends.
We hold the hope. We hold the successes. We hold the failures.
We hold the reality – that yes, tomorrow is another day. And yes, we will be doing it all again.
It is an immense privilege when someone invites you to be a part of this journey with them. It’s a responsibility knowing that someone is looking to you to guide them when they lose their way, to nudge them on in the moments when the next steps feel just too much, and to be there smiling warmly at each victory.
In my experience, I believe that to establish this relationship, there is a knowing, early on, that at times we will all need to ‘get lost’ together. An implicit acceptance, if you will, that we are going to be in the darkness. Our clients trust us in the metaphorical ‘holding of their hand’. They trust that in the dark with courage, willingness and a good dose of humour, together we will seek to find light. They trust that we’ve been there before and made it back, and that we are willing to go there again, as many times as it takes – they trust our resilience, our strength and our determination to find recovery.
It was a few years into my career that I realised I too had committed to being ‘in recovery’. That to do this work we are as accountable as those we work alongside. That we too have to show up every week, every day, every hour. That we too have to live in the relentlessness of the struggles and the battles, and that we have to stay open to the possibility of the victories.
We are keeper of boundaries – theirs and ours.
The keeper of the hope – theirs and ours.
And that we have to be willing to know ourselves, really know ourselves, to be able to offer the guidance and support our clients need. It’s no small task.
So, during this Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I will be celebrating awareness on a number of levels.
Firstly, I celebrate the awareness that I see in our clients as they brave their own journeys of recovery, and reflect on the awareness of those I have been honoured to work alongside in the past.
I celebrate the many changes I have seen in awareness of this illness over the years. I feel so grateful for the tireless work that so many suffers, supporters and professionals alike, have done to raise the conversation and shift the biases and prejudices that accompany this illness. I celebrate the increasing acknowledgement and awareness that this illness is not a choice. And that fundamentally, every person who is suffering deserves access to the best care to meet their needs at the time they need it.
And finally, I will be reflecting on the awareness of the Orri team. On how each and every person involved with Orri ensures that that people struggling with this illness do not have to walk alone through their recovery. That they can have ‘a hand to hold’, a reliable place of refuge and the comfort in knowing that however dark it gets, there is a place of light where “awesome human beings” (as our Senior Clinical Psychologist, Katie, so aptly says) will always be seen, be held and be heard.
Have a great week of Eating Disorder Awareness!