It may have been weeks, months or even years since your daughter has been struggling with an eating disorder. You may still be looking for a special therapist or a unique clinic or facilities that will help your daughter to recover or make her condition manageable.
Is that so?
Every parent is hugely challenged when their child is diagnosed with an eating disorder. And yes, your child needs to be in therapy or receiving some kind of help or support. But there is one thing that parents often overlook :
The part they play in their child’s recovery and how they are the biggest part of the solution.
Let me share with you the experience of Louise who went through a very tough time trying to help her daughter and had learned that despite feeling desperate and wanting to give up at times, there was a way through.
The most dis-empowering moment in Louise’s life was when she had discovered that her daughter, Olivia, was struggling with an eating disorder. Initially, Louise didn’t believe it was possible. She herself had been comfortable in her own skin, she had never dieted and she hadn’t been a pushy parent. So how could this happen?
Louise and Olivia were very close. Witnessing the fear, guilt and shame in Olivia’s eyes when Louise made the discovery, was a torture. She promised Olivia she wouldn’t tell anyone, not even her father, naively assuming she was being helpful.
Louise had no idea what to do. The anxiety over her daughter gave her sleepless nights and despite all the frustration, she didn’t think she could share it with anyone. She was hoping it would go away.
She eventually suggested to Olivia to go and see their GP together but they hadn’t opened up about the eating disorder until the second visit. The GP referred Olivia to an Eating Disorders’ clinic.
Louise was advised to share this with her husband so they could unite and fight their daughter’s illness together so she did.
Days and weeks were passing and Louise was witnessing Olivia’s struggles. At times she got angry with her, other times she got really sad realising it wasn’t Olivia’s choice. Louise’s inconsistency wasn’t helping Olivia. Olivia was now a different person: struggling with eating, feeling low, lacking self-esteem and punishing herself through exercise.
When Olivia was given her appointment to see a trainee psychotherapist, Louise was relieved that Olivia was finally getting help but after attending therapy for 16 weeks, Olivia was suddenly discharged without any further instructions.
Louise was very confused. She knew her daughter still wasn’t well; in fact, in some way she was getting worse. So why was she being discharged? What was she going to do now? Wait until Olivia would suddenly get better? And would she, without any further help?
This was a serious illness that required help of a specialist. It was affecting the whole family.
Louise had a friend who had been through this experience herself and who was pleading with her to have Olivia re-referred for therapy. She wasn’t sure if there was any point and she didn’t make it a priority. She wasn’t a confident parent any more.
By now Louise felt like giving up. She was in disarray. She was getting exhausted; she didn’t know what to do any more. She felt desperate.
She wondered what affect this may be having on Olivia and if she would ever recover.
She was losing the will to keep going and have her full focus on Olivia. She was trying so hard but there were no changes. The guilt was eating her up as she was running out of energy emotionally and physically.
Around this time, by chance, Louise was introduced to life coaching by a friend. She had heard of counselling and therapy but had never heard of coaching. She was feeling desperate and eventually decided to get some help for herself too.
Louise experienced some self-discovery. There was a lot of limitation in her life which was being challenged. She began to see her life in a more positive light which encouraged her to become more proactive particularly around Olivia.
She din’t want to lose her temper around Olivia any more which initially wasn’t very easy. It needed to be practised. She learnt how to distinguish between her daughter and the eating disorder. She learnt there was no point in preaching, judging or criticising Olivia. Instead, she discovered she needed to stay Calm, Confident and Compassionate.
Louise was getting her strength and hope back that recovery for Olivia was possible. She learned to examine events from different angles rather than just one, which wasn’t necessary helpful. She was finding out what felt right and was in harmony with her and started to feel like herself again.
She was no longer thinking about giving up. She started to feel better about herself. She was determined to find out and do what was going to help Olivia. It didn’t matter how long it was going to take, she was ready to do anything and everything. She was beginning to feel strong. She learned to use her instinct.
It didn’t happened over night. It required determination, time, strength, energy and perseverance.
Having someone to talk to who listened without judgement, getting valuable feedback and starting to see positive changes in Olivia kept Louise going.
It wasn’t always an easy ride but the days Olivia was struggling, Louise was managing much better. She was regularly reviewing Olivia’s situation.
She learned some tools and techniques that become part of her life and helped her to maintain communication with Olivia at all times.
She also learned to care for herself and take breaks from caring for Olivia. Every time she came back, she felt recharged and more able to take on the next challenge. She had a lot more energy.
Louise became fearless and wasn’t thinking of mistakes or failures any more. It was one learning experience after another. Every time things didn’t work out as she hoped, she’d change and try something different until it worked. She learned not to blame herself.
Louise’s actions started to affect Olivia positively. She was becoming a confident parent again and things were shifting in her life and Olivia’s life too. Her mind set was different.
There was no more hesitation whether Olivia should be re-referred for therapy. She was adamant that was going to be the next step. This time round, she requested for Olivia to see someone senior with more experience.
The relationship improved and Louise and Olivia became close again. Louise knew that Olivia was on her way to recovery and nothing could stop her. Louise learnt that bad days weren’t going to last forever and that focusing on good days was vital.
As Louise reflected on the previous years, she could clearly see that she wasn’t the cause of Olivia’s illness and by creating the right home environment she accelerated her recovery.
If someone’d told her that getting support for herself would have contributed to Olivia’s recovery, she would never have believed it.
This is a true story.The names have been changed.
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