Spotlight on Lasting Recovery: Focus on Family with Cindy Carver
This month, Cindy Carver, mother of an Eating Recovery Center alumna, reflects on the journey of lasting recovery and believes that, “I see my role as championing hope and continuing to learn how to be supportive. In truth, it’s as much a journey for me, as it is for my daughter.”
1. Tell us about your connection to the individual in recovery from an eating disorder (mother, father, sibling, spouse, friend, etc.)
Nearly four years ago, during her first semester of college, our oldest daughter was diagnosed with anorexia. The summer before she left for school was full of promise. She graduated from high school with honors, landed an ideal summer job, and seemed fully ready for the adjustment to college. Within a few short months, however, her physical health was so compromised that she needed to move back home. Suddenly we found ourselves dealing with an illness we didn’t understand, and a daughter we no longer recognized. Since then, there have been many twists and turns in her journey toward recovery; a journey that we know will continue for some time longer. We are grateful, however, that she has welcomed us along as fellow travelers.
2. What has been the greatest challenge in supporting your loved one in their eating disorderrecovery?
This is a hard question to answer, as there have been so many truly challenging steps in this journey. The insight that I share most frequently with others, however, has to do with self-care. As I now like to think of it, you have to first be put on your own oxygen mask. To illustrate, the first year of our daughter’s diagnosis was completely overwhelming. Under the advice and guidance of our treatment team, we tried the Maudsley or Parent-In-Charge approach. Roughly six months in, our younger daughter was also diagnosed with anorexia. With full-time careers and no family in the immediate area, the task of shopping for, preparing, serving and monitoring meals and snacks for two children consumed all of our available time. One year later, we had reached a breaking point. We couldn’t continue without getting our own help through individual and couples therapy, and without gradually resuming the many activities that we had previously enjoyed. Taking time for our own self-care has been critical to being present for both of our children.
3. Has anything surprised you about your loved one’s recovery process?
From the beginning, I wanted to believe that our daughters would beat the odds and recover quickly. After all, we were lucky to have identified their symptoms quickly and each had a strong care team. Good-bye ED. Four years later, however, our oldest continues to struggle and is now in treatment for the third time. Talk about dashed dreams! Understanding that residential treatment is an integral part of her journey (not a sign of failure) has been so important for us.
4. Describe your role in supporting your loved one’s recovery.
Remaining hopeful! Loving unconditionally! And learning all that I can about this illness. It can be so hard to understand what your loved one is going through, and just when you think that you do understand, something changes and you feel as though you are back at the beginning. When my daughter was first diagnosed, I became quite protective and controlling, which enabled ED to grow stronger. Today, I have to work hard at expressing what I honestly feel, knowing when to let go, and forgiving myself when I mess up. In sum, I see my role as championing hope and continuing to learn how to be supportive. In truth, it’s as much a journey for me, as it is for my daughter.
5. Do you have any inspirational quotes, sayings or affirmations that have helped you understand and navigate your loved one’s eating disorder recovery?
Early into our daughters’ diagnoses, we found ourselves channeling Eleanor Roosevelt: Do the thing that you fear the most. More recently, we find ourselves being reminded: Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.
6. Did you find value in attending Family Days and if so, what was the most profound take-away from your experience?
Family Days was very worthwhile for me. It was empowering to learn more about eating disorders and about ERC’s program. I also felt understood for the first time in a long time. It is oddly comforting to be surrounded by strangers who truly understand what you are going through. Crazy as it sounds, for three days, my experience felt normal. Most importantly, attending also restored my hope in recovery.
7. Would you recommend Family Days to other family members sand if so, why?
Every family that can, should attend. You will learn more than you think possible, even if you have been on this journey for a long time. You will send a powerful message of hope to your loved one. And you will gain strength from other families in the same situation.
8. Any additional insights or photos you would like to share?
Weeks before my daughter admitted to ERC, she raised $800 for NEDA by selling “Courage to Succeed” bracelets. Today, I wear mine as a symbol of recovery and hope.