As Eating Disorders Awareness Week continues, today we look at eating disorders from a carer’s perspective – the people on the frontline, helping their loved one through their difficult journey through an eating disorder.
AMH everyBODY operates a helpful Monthly Carer Support Group – to help families and carers gain a better understanding of how best to support their loved one in a safe space to share their own feelings and experiences.
The support group meets every second Wednesday of every month. The Q&A with a carer, and the group feedback, below, highlight the concerns and issues facing people who care for people experiencing eating disorders.
Q. As a carer/mother how have you been impacted by Eating Disorders?
A. “When I discovered my daughter had an eating disorder I was devastated. I felt helpless and hopeless, confused, angry, worried and desperately scared.”
Q. What led you to seek support for yourself from AMH everyBODY?
A. “My daughter actually told me about it, having benefited herself from the service. She felt it would help me feel supported in supporting her and also give me a chance to voice my worries, fears and concerns.”
Q. What has been the most helpful thing you have learnt through receiving support?
A. “Understanding what people struggling with an eating disorder might think and feel. It has taught me what to say and what not to say to a person struggling with an eating disorder and has shown me how to be supportive and become a better, non- judgemental listener. It has also taught me how to empathise with the agony a person with an eating disorder may go through physically, mental and emotionally.”
Q. How, if any, has your life been impacted as a result of receiving support?
A. “I feel I can support my daughter now rather than being critical and judgemental of what I saw and couldn’t understand. My relationship with my daughter has improved.”
Q. What advice would you give to any other family/friend who is supporting someone living with an Eating Disorder?
A. “There is hope! Seek help from AMH everybody. It is an absolute lifeline and helps you as a parent support your child, while maintaining your own sanity and learning to care for yourself. I cannot thank enough Deborah (AMH everyBODY Project Worker) and the eating disorder team for the work that they do in this difficult and misunderstood field.”
Q. What were some of the concerns you had when you first discovered your loved one had an Eating Disorder?
A.“Has something happened to cause this? How could I have missed this? Was it anything I’ve done? Could I have prevented this? Will they ever fully recover? When will that be?”
Q. What do you feel would be helpful for families to have information on that might have similar questions?
A.“Knowing the signs and symptoms. Knowing that there are just as many symptoms that you don’t see, like –
A. “It would be helpful to have more support from your GP and to not just be given a leaflet or number for Lifeline, but to have things explained a bit more, or be pointed in the direction of something like AMH everyBODY who can support families. I feel what I needed most was guidance on how to approach the subject of eating disorders. I was always afraid of saying the wrong thing, or making things worse. Through the Monthly Carer Support Group and the one-to-one support with AMH everyBODY I have learnt how to be more direct and when it’s appropriate to challenge the eating disorder but also to communicate in a non-judgemental and supportive way.”
Q.What things have helped you in supporting your loved one?
A. “Just having support for myself as well as my daughter. Being able to ask questions, and get more information to help me understand better. I understand that therapy needs to be confidential but as a parent it can feel like you’re left a bit in the dark so it helped having somewhere to go to like AMH everyBODY to be reassured about concerns.
A. “It really helped having the support group to come to. Being around other families who just ‘got it’ and understood. It made me feel more normal, like we weren’t the only people going through this. Going to the support group was also a chance to have a few hours just to myself, where I was able to speak completely freely about any fears/worries/difficulties and know I’d be met with support and understanding.
A. “One thing AMH everyBODY and the other families taught me was that it is OK to give myself permission to recharge the batteries, to take a bit of time out if I need it. As a mother you sometimes want to wrap them up in cotton wool and fix everything, but there is only so much you can do. It’s been a hard but valuable lesson learning that people need to want to get better for themselves, and to step back to give them that opportunity to work through things and challenge themselves. My role is to support and encourage but not to take over and get better for them.”
Find out more about AMH everyBODY’s Monthly Carer Support Group by contacting [email protected]