When I reflect on my recovery journey, I recognise I owe it all to my Mum and Dad. They remained strong and outcome focused despite constantly ‘fighting’ with my eating disorder (ED) voice.
Everyone’s ED recovery journey is unique, so I will shed some light on mine, to help describe the role my parents played throughout my recovery.
I wasn’t aware there was a problem at first
My journey with anorexia nervosa started during the early days of my university career in Canada. It was not something I was conscious of until my partner at the time, and family, began raising their concerns with me. These regular comments occurred for two years and were always met with my denial… until I was on university exchange in Perth, WA and found myself hospitalised with mandated bed rest, indefinitely.
It was clear that I couldn’t keep functioning as I had been the previous two years.
How did my parents help me through my journey?
My mom and dad were by my side, every step of the way in both Australia and Canada. Though they offered support in many ways, the following areas were pivotal to my successful recovery.
Unconditional support and devotion in helping me meet my team’s recovery goals
- In conjunction with my therapist, dietitian and general practitioner, we had a number of goals and metrics that I needed to meet. My parents were across these metrics and plans and were by my side day-in-day-out to ensure each objective was being met. Think of a hybrid role of Project Manager and #1 fan – this was my parents’ attitude towards supporting me!
- My parents educated themselves on anorexia nervosa in order to understand where my irrational and occasionally aggressive behaviour came from. They attended therapy and dietitian sessions with me, sat with me at meals and upskilled themselves on recommended resources from health professionals etc.
- Throughout the subsequent years of my verbal lashing out, not once did my parents take my behaviour personally. I know, this sounds absurd, but as my Mum says, acknowledging the ‘ED voice’ as distinct from the real me allowed her to depersonalise my comments and keep my health outcomes at the forefront of all their decisions.
- This made me feel that we were a team navigating the ups and downs whilst, ultimately, working towards a shared goal.
“Do what it takes” mentality
- Any resources needed, whether time, financial, social, etc, my parents would always find a way to make it happen. This didn’t come readily available or easy for my family, but the shared understanding of how crucial they were, kept their motivation and accountability strong.
ED affected my whole family
My recovery put drastic strains on my family’s dynamic. My mood throughout recovery was unpredictable and my family regularly made compromises to support me. This took a toll on my younger sister who did not understand. Open and transparent family conversations around the shared outcome were critical.
Understanding and supporting your loved one through the struggle
I encourage parents and carers to speak with health professionals and get recommended resources for each unique situation.
I often felt ashamed to talk about my disordered thoughts, so what helped my parents support me was educating themselves on how the ‘ED voice’ operates. The book ‘Life without ED’ by Jenni Schaefer, was helpful for them. If any questions arose from Mum and Dad reading the book, we were able to talk about them.
At Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA), we provide support to carers and family members of people with eating disorders. We help them to understand the complexities of eating disorders and provide resources and information so they can support and advocate for their loved one.
If you have a loved one – a child, sibling, family member or close friend – with an eating disorder, we invite you to learn more about EDFA and our mission. Or dive into our resources that cover different aspects of eating disorders from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.