Kirsty's Carer Story
Be super kind to yourself. Please acknowledge all that you have done and all that you are. Write down your wins, however small, and note all the progress. Every stumble is just a lesson.
My beautiful daughter hasn’t ever really had an easy road. From a young age, she was in and out of the hospital with respiratory illnesses – loads of medications and eventually a gut that just couldn’t tolerate a lot of them, including pain relief and a lot of things that were meant to help her. She was lactose-intolerant, and years of constant medications had left her stomach unable to process gluten. Food has always been a struggle.
She turned 10 and seemingly, was finally “well”. Then, someone called her “fat” in Year 7, and that’s when things began to go downhill.
I caught her researching Anorexia, but she started talking about BMI (Body Mass Index) and data and how tall people carried their weight differently. I was convinced all was fine. Even when she took to running 6km every day, I wasn’t worried – after all, she’d keenly eat our Friday night takeaway. But she was still getting thinner.
When I realised and was certain she was in trouble, I could not get her to see a practitioner. It was just total denial and refusal. Eventually, after discovering a whole lot of food in her room and calmly confronting her with this, she broke down and said “I have Anorexia.” That was in September 2021. GP visits led to hospital admission – threatening legal action when they refused initially to admit her – followed by four months of waiting for treatment … it nearly killed us both.
It’s been a long haul, but her weight is finally restored. However, we’ve only just started to see some signs of my daughter again…
An Endless Call to Arms
Caring for someone with an ED is, in short, a battle. It’s truly like living as a combat soldier on a never-ending duty. The adrenalin is pumping all the time.
As a single parent, it’s been lonely and I felt hopeless. Trying to hold down a job and support a child through a life-threatening illness was impossible. Over the past couple of years, we’ve relied on Carer Payment, suffered flood damage to our house, and spent some time being homeless – all while trying to improve her mental and physical health.
The weight of doing this all alone has been something that has shocked and challenged me in ways that I would wish on nobody.
Her brother – my son – thankfully has not had to deal with an ED of his own, but has still copped a lot of ED abuse, stress and pressure. Already juggling so much, I worry that I haven’t done enough for him.
Giving yourself a break
I wish I had known I could get Carer Payment and I could quit my job immediately. It was the pressure of paying my mortgage that kept me in the horrible dance of doing it all.
Now, as I’m training to be a counsellor, I really believe support should start within the hospitals. That’s where people need to be positioned to help those at their lowest, and inform them of organisations – like EDFA.
I have only just realised that tearing myself or my daughter down is nothing but a waste of precious energy that could be spent on self-care or mapping and planning the next thing. Compassion is the name of the game.
You are always doing your best and that is always enough. Keep breathing and try to remember each day a little something about yourself.
Some things that I’ve begun to really appreciate the joy in:
- Simple jokes;
- Buying and drinking chai;
- Long meditation; and
- Watching cows grazing in a field.
EDFA and its irreplaceable support
EDFA has proven to be worth every little bit. As an ethnographer by trade, I am a huge fan of lived experience and I can just soak in these stories and these experiences and adapt them to my learnings. The webinars are excellent, and I’m gathering so much insight and wisdom as I support myself and my daughter.
I only became aware of this organisation recently, but I’m so thankful for the wonderful, accepting community that just understands.