We’ve written a few blog posts lately on what it’s like to have an eating disorder during lockdown, however, we wanted to take a (much-needed) moment to reflect on how a parent and carer – or best friend – may be feeling.
You and your loved one may be in quarantine together, with just a room between you, yet feel more distant than ever. Or, you may have been used to seeing each other regularly and the very tangible, physical distance is causing high anxiety and concern.
Either way, we’d like to take a moment to recognise this very new and unsettling situation that you may be in.
When we think about it, the lockdown is a prime example of uncontrollable change and adjustment. We’ve all, in many different ways, had to transition to a new way of living, working and looking after ourselves. Managing transitions – having a tolerance for what life throws at us – is vital. And when the person suffering with the eating disorder can’t handle them themselves, often a parent or carer has to step in to support in that process.
We know that having a child or friend undergoing day treatment care does, in a way, provide a sense of security. Our clinical team works together to ensure the safety of your loved one as they navigate their personal recovery journeys. And they do this within a recovery community made up of those who are going through similar challenges, who understand the fact that this illness is, unfortunately, very difficult to understand if you are observing it, as opposed to personally going through it.
Because of the pandemic, a lot of specialist treatment (including our own) has moved online, meaning that the safety and security that comes with a physical place to “go to” has been paused. The home, and mealtimes at home, may be particularly challenging and the availability of in-person supported meals may have been heavily relied upon. At Orri, we recognise this and have put in place measures to ensure that everyone can create a safe space for expanding their circle of safety to include the kitchen, the home, family meals.
So, a few things to keep in mind as you too navigate an experience of recovery during lockdown…
You, too, are human
As we’ve said before, eating disorders do not just affect the individual sufferer. All members of the family are affected as they try to make sense of a suffering that’s expressed and indicated through someone’s relationship to food and their body image.
Confronting this experience on a daily basis can take a huge toll on the carer’s wellbeing and the relationship with their loved one. It’s okay if things get overwhelming and if at times you feel helpless. Despite our best efforts, we all need our own form of support from time-to-time.
And therefore, keep looking after yourself
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’. Often, our clinicians highlight the necessity of parents and carers being role models for self-care and accepting their own form of “recovery journey” in relation to the eating disorder. Recognise that you too have a real and valid experience of this illness and deserve support, space to recover from specialists who understand.
Everyone’s recovery journey is different. Depending upon your experience you may have already witnessed different “chapters” in your loved one’s journey. There may have been moments of clarity and illumination that shift things forward, and other moments when things are “too much” and experience small lapses in progress.
In naming this “up and down” process, you’re able to ready yourself for the unpredictable. It’s vital to keep talking within the family and with the treatment team.
Know your boundaries
Boundaries are needed to ensure you tend to your needs and protect your energy. When someone is struggling and needing a lot of support, it’s common to feel compelled to “fix” them and be present 24/7 whenever they need. As helpful as this may seem, it is vital that you look after yourself first. As the quote goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.