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What it Feels Like to Be An Eating Disorder Caregiver Icon

What it Feels Like to Be An Eating Disorder Caregiver

To anyone who is caring for a loved one with an eating disorder: Recovery wouldn’t be possible without you.

You have been doing the incredibly hard job of being present for the many different aspects of recovery and facing the truth of the pain that eating disorders bring to those that have them and to those who care for them.

It’s inevitable that you will experience caregiver stress, which may come in the form of one or more of the following experiences:
  • Having a desire to want to control everything
  • Feeling anxiety, depression, frustration or worry
  • Experiencing the burden of always being “on call”
  • Avoiding your own life and experiences
  • Seeking your own ways of “checking out”
Please don’t judge yourself harshly for these feelings.

You have had the courage to hang in there when others may not have recognized the illness as serious or dismissed it as a vain character trait. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and isolation.

Please take a mindful moment to breathe a deep breath and appreciate yourself.

One of ERC staff's most rewarding conversations with exhausted and possibly traumatized professional, family member, partner or friend is:

“We’ve got this now. Please go get some well-deserved rest. We will certainly need you later.”

As we learn how to most effectively treat eating disorders we also continue to learn about how to help caregivers be partners in recovery. Part of this process is coming to realize what one cannot fix.

There is a very natural urge to want to fix the problem of an eating disorder or to uncover why the illness is there in the first place and figure out the solution to repair it.

Every month, during the Knees to Knees exercise of our Family Days program, I witness caregivers telling the person they are there to support,

“What I accept about this relationship is that I cannot fix your eating disorder.”
What follows is typically tears of realization and relief from both the caregiver and patient. Part of this powerful experience is acceptance and knowing that things may not turn out okay. The risk that you realize you are taking is your biggest triumph and a very powerful part of the love you are providing in the act of taking care.

Thank you to all of you wonderful caregivers.

Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, CEDS is Senior Clinical Director of Adult Residential and Partial Hospital Services at Eating Recovery Center.

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Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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