Tuesday 3 November 2015

It's team work: none of us must feel guilt

I spent yesterday afternoon worrying. Worrying that people who had suffered from an eating disorder might read my blog and feel guilty for 'putting their parents through this'. So I immediately put a post on my Facebook page that says: What I DON'T want to do, ever, is incite feelings of guilt in the eating disorder sufferers themselves (whether recovered or in recovery). They must NEVER, EVER feel guilt at 'putting their parents through all of this'. NEVER, EVER. We, as parents, simply responded with love, exactly as we would have to any life-threatening illness. NEVER feel bad about it. EVER.

Followed by: I felt bad about it because someone I know who has been through an ED as a sufferer read my stuff and said how bad she felt that she had put her mum through all of this. I wanted to stress that these young people shouldn't feel bad about it, just as someone who was suffering from - say - cancer wouldn't and shouldn't feel bad about their parents devoting time, energy and emotions, etc etc to getting them well.

It's so sad that it's still the case with mental illness that people experience guilt in a way that they'd never do if it were a physical illness.

Let's face it, mental illnesses like anorexia 'just happen'. And usually eating disorders 'happen', it is believed, to people who are predisposed to developing an eating disorder; people whose brains are 'wired up slightly differently'. All it takes is some kind of trigger (which could literally be anything - from dieting to bullying, bereavement to stress at school, over-exercising to having a physical illness that causes someone to lose a great deal of weight) to set it off.

These were just some of the triggers experienced by families in my second book: When Anorexia Came To Visit (where I talk to 20 families who have been through an eating disorder).

The eating disorder is no-one's fault.

And it's natural for parents to drop everything and rush to the rescue when their child falls ill. It's natural for parents to worry themselves sick, have sleepless nights, weep, panic or whatever. It's what parents do. Whether it's cancer, heart problems or an eating disorder, it's what parents do.

As I always said to my son: "It's what I do, it's my job."

It'd be weird if we didn't feel like this.

And, yes, the sufferer goes through the mill. And, yes, the parents do, too.

Again, it'd be weird if we didn't.

And both can still suffer from the fallout afterwards.

Because it'd be kind of weird if one day we all said: "Great, he / she is well again. Let's all pick up our lives where we left off. Finished. Job done."

There is bound to be debris that needs clearing up whether it's residual or co-morbid depression, PTSD or a physical illness. And no-one should feel guilty about this, because this is what families do - they care for each other, through thick and thin.

It's a team thing.

And it's 100% natural.

So please, no guilt. From anyone.

Just love and understanding.

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