I want to state, right off the bat, that eating disorders do not simple affect the one specifically struggling. Nor do the needs of family members and support people become null and void. Today's blog post states some helpful tips for family members/friends/support people to keep in mind when walking alongside someone who has an eating disorder.
- Self-Care - you still have needs, and it is okay for you to get them met. Give yourself permission to take a step back from the supportive position for awhile so that you can recharge and feel a little more refreshed. It is also good modelling for your loved one to see that you are taking time to do this. No one person can be or do everything for another person and this situation is no exception.
- Maintain Social Connection - Meet up with your friends and talk about anything but eating disorders and recovery. Try to give yourself a break from this. You are still allowed to have a life outside of your loved one's illness. It is okay to keep up with the craft group you have always belonged to or to meet up with friends after work on Fridays. If you always went walking with Jeff, continue walking with Jeff. Being a support person is only one of the many roles and aspects of your life.
- Talk/Share - Gather a few trusted people who can support you as you support your loved one. Give voice to your frustrations, fears and worries. Your loved one may get upset with you for needing to talk to others, but you cannot do this alone. When you talk to these select people, share what the experience is like from you. Identity and own your feelings as opposed to speaking for or about your loved one's. Just like your loved one needs a support team (and likely one's outside the family), as do you! Also, try having a conversation with your loved one about which topics they would prefer you not to talk about with certain people.
- Maintain a Health Lifestyle - Take a look at your eating habits, exercise habits, work/home/family balance, etc and make changes if needed. Again, this is good modelling for your loved one. Keep in mind that you might be able to do certain things your loved one should not be doing... and this is ok! For example, exercising may be problematic for your loved one and their recovery. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't either. They are the one's with the eating disorder. Try, however, to be considerate about how you talk about exercising in front of them, etc.
- Journal - Writing/drawing about what you are going through can be a very cathartic process. It can be a safe, non-judgemental place to explore, find meaning, and vent. It can also be a place filled with inspirational quotes and positive moments/successes from the day.
- Accept and Feel Your Feelings - You will experience a whole range of feelings when caring for a love one with an eating disorder. Try not to judge them, as you feel how you feel and that's okay. You may feel anger, helplessness, resentment, sadness as well as joy, hope, optimism and love. Having a supportive network outside of our loved one is important when sharing and exploring these feelings.
- Therapy - There is no shame in going to a therapist who has experience working with supporting a loved one with an eating disorder. Check on-line to find a therapist in your area and don't stop looking until you find one that you feel comfortable with and trust.
- Laugh - It's such good medicine!