Kel’s Story

I have been the primary support person for my daughter with anorexia nervosa, first as a young teen, now as a young adult.

I have dropped the word ‘carer’ from my vocabulary now as I am finding the best way to help my D22 is to empower her to help herself, through support, love, encouragement and through modelling self care.

That last one was a long lesson to learn…and it was a long time after my daughter’s diagnosis that I felt I had time to fit myself into the equation.

Putting our own needs aside

When our children are sick we tend to drop everything and put our own needs aside for a time, in order to get them well, knowing we can return to our regular lives once they are on their feet again.

What I didn’t account for is that with an eating disorder, it can be a long healing process.

When my child was diagnosed with an eating disorder, I was handed her life in my hands. After a period of hospitalisation and stabilisation, I was told “it’s up to you to keep her alive. You have to get her to do something she is terrified of (eating) and we will support you in that with 1 x 1hr visit a week; and by the way, we close for 3 weeks over Christmas. All the best.”

That was the most terrifying, heart wrenching, exhausting 3 weeks of my life.

Determined to succeed

I had a 4 year old and a 6 year old to care for as well, and my husband had just made an important career change that demanded he work an 80hr week once a month.

I was determined to succeed.

I was determined the eating disorder was not going to win.

I was determined that this would be over quickly.

I waited out the eating disorder at every meal.

Leaving the table was not an option.

Leaving a crust on the plate was but an option!

When I was breaking my resolve I called in the grandparents for lunch each day while I spent time with my other children.

The meal plan became my new religion..

Our daughter continued to gain weight using FBT, and reached a point of freedom with her eating and variety where I no longer needed to supervise meals after about 18 months.

So why are we still in the fight?

I don’t have all the answers but one thing I have learned is that by making it all about the food, and the gains and the numbers, at any cost, I forgot about myself.

I didn’t balance self care into the equation.

And that made me less sensitive to my daughters emotional needs, and the rest of my family’s emotional needs.

The reason I’m writing this is to share some important things that I have learned.

I am caring for myself now

Firstly, by CARING for myself now, and SUPPORTING my daughter, she is doing better.

She is finding herself from underneath my protective shield. She has gotten her licence, a job, formed new relationships. Just today she told me she was “grateful” for a new friendship she had made. I tell you, the years she was depressed and refeeding and I would speak of gratitude to blank eyes, I would have paid every cent I had to hear those words.

She has organised a new treatment team for herself. She is paying for it herself.

All this is happening alongside me living my best life.

I’ve set boundaries with her in this new middle ground as an adult child with an eating disorder, and a mother who needed to discover herself to show her daughter how it is done.

How to prioritise me.

I’ve learned how to follow my passions and put myself in the picture.

My story will not be yours. Each child and each family and each trigger and each presentation will differ. Yet there are also so many similarities in what we experience as support people that we have so much to offer each other!

Support your husband, support your wife, support your child and also ask for support in the journey. 

Make a friend you can trust. 

Prioritise yourself at least once in your day, every day; even if it is just a quiet cup of tea before you wake your loved one for breakfast.

They are important but so are you.

By treating myself as important I have been able to connect with my Daughter more deeply, with more patience and less control and that has only improved our recovery journey.