The Impact of Eating Disorders on Loved Ones by Robyn Cruze
Whenever I speak those words to patients during my monthly talks at Eating Recovery Center, the energy in the room immediately changes, seemingly hushed by a thick, woven blanket of guilt and shame. It can be overwhelming to imagine the pain others are experiencing at the hands of an eating disorder. Each month, I also speak to families during the Eating Recovery Center's family days, where the conversation inevitably leads to taking time out for self-care. "Who has the time for this?" Somehow, worrying about our loved ones has become a full-time job (along with having a full-time job!). Often, we walk around with the fear of loss; it debilitates us so that we cannot move. This constant fear of what could happen (anticipatory grief) keeps us in a narrow world, just as the eating disorder does to the sufferer. Constant fear has us so far removed from our lives that it's sometimes hard to remember there was any other life before the eating disorder, but there was, and there is. The truth is that family members don't get better because the loved one who is suffering gets better. We need to get better, too. Ultimately, we aid our loved one's recovery by aiding our own. If my mum was still alive, I think she would tell you that working through her pain and reclaiming her life from the illness was vital for her recovery. She would say that giving herself a little space allowed me some much-needed space to learn and grow in recovery. She would tell you that as a mother, she never stopped worrying, but she learned the power of surrender. She may have said that the hardest thing and the best thing she ever did to help herself during my illness were the same things. Just like the eating disorder sufferer, we must be willing to try a new way—a way that can feel hard, terrifying, and messy. Doing something for yourself may not prevent you from worrying; it simply adds you back into the equation of life, where you belong. Do something for yourself; get support, learn and practice self-care, connect with those whom you miss, and make space for your loved one to do the same. #RecoverLife If you are a family member wanting more support, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.