Here’s part three of my interview with Cathy and Julia, a mom and daughter who’ve talked candidly and thoughtfully about the effect an eating disorder has had on their relationship.
Again, I want to reiterate that families can serve an important role in helping their kids through recovery. The key is to get educated about eating disorders and help your child find someone who specializes in treating eating disorders.
Remember that EDs do not go away on their own. But they are highly treatable.
Below, both Julia and Cathy discuss what they’d like readers to know about eating disorders and more.
Julia, what would you like parents of kids with eating disorders to know?
A: For parents with children with eating disorders, all I can say is that it’s a very personal and intense journey, and recognizing that is a great first step. That means allowing your child to navigate it on their own, offering help and assistance when needed, but mostly offering love and support with what your child is going through.
It means keeping judgments to yourself and not being reactive about what you see going on. Talking about it is fine, and being open and willing to hear about it is great. But reacting hysterically doesn’t help. I know that it’s worrisome for a parent, but putting the burden of that worry on your child is only going to exacerbate the problems.
Q: What would you like anyone with an eating disorder to know?
A: The best advice I can offer someone with an eating disorder is to be patient. I haven’t figured out how to do this yet. When I’m heavier, I can’t wait to get skinny so my life can begin again. Deep down somewhere I know how flawed that idea is, yet I feel paralyzed when I’m fat.
I regret all the time I’ve lost staying home instead of going out with friends, on walks, to the movies. I’m really working on trying to accept myself completely and under any scenario. I think that takes a lot of patience!
Q: Cathy, from your perspective, would you like parents to know about helping their kids?
A: What took me time to figure out was that I needed to set aside many things that come naturally, almost automatically, to me as the person and mom I am. I had to curb reactions and rein in the torrent of advice and learn to listen.
I also needed to stay calm and remind myself that Julia often felt at her worst when she reached out to me, and if I was very scared, to voice my own fears gently and ask for reassurance.
I found I could best help Julia by being a sounding board and asking questions. When I started doing that more, I really felt I was helping her clarify her feelings, take a look at different choices and perspectives and even acknowledge and claim a victory and lesson learned here and there.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about your story, the insights you’ve taken away or eating disorders in general?
A: When it dawned on me that Julia had body image issues and an eating disorder, I was surprised. I never thought my girl would have any trouble along those lines because she is attractive. Now I see the irony of the whole thing, and how it was set up for her from the beginning (smack to forehead).
This tells me that parents should be ready for whatever comes. No matter what you might think is logical or likely, you may end up with the reverse situation. What I will try to remember from all this is to keep an open mind, open ears and open heart when it comes to relationships with loved ones. You will never know what’s really going on or how to help until you do.
I’m grateful to Julia and Cathy for sharing their stories with us! I know it can’t be easy, but I really appreciate their candor and courage!
If you’d like to share your story of recovery on Weightless, please email me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!
You can check out other stories here.
If you’re struggling or recovering from an eating disorder, what would you like loved ones to know? How has ED affected your relationship with others? What recovery tips do you have?
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Last reviewed: 25 Mar 2011