Saturday 19 August 2017

"I am only a mum" - but, wow, the power of that role in eating disorder treatment!!

Commenting on fellow mum Jen's guest post on Charlotte Bevan's CharlottesChuntering blog about some eating disorder professionals viewing parents as 'interfering', Laura Collins (founder of FEAST and its forum: Around The Dinner Table) says (in relation to Jen's statement that she's 'only a mum', yet she knows more about eating disorders than some professionals):

"I am only a mum"

You are a mum, no "only" about it. It is the most important thing. Even with broken systems and loopholes -- and EVERYONE has those -- having parents who get it and know what they're dealing with is a greater power than all the authorities.

We are all fighting for those authorities to see that "a mum" or "a dad" are the first, last and most important allies. Let's not stop fighting. We're making progress and need a GREAT DEAL MORE. The parents who have been fighting do so in hope of others joining until no parent has to deal with doubt, deflection, division, or alienation.

The disease is hard enough. Fighting the system, too, should be unnecessary!

Yet I (and doubtless other parents) am very familiar with that 'closed shop' look one can get from medical professionals when (as they possibly interpret it) we appear to be 'telling them how to do their job'.

But the fact is that many parents do know a heck of a lot about eating disorders and the latest evidence-based research and treatment. Although we may not have formal medical or mental health qualifications or training, many of us have crammed up on the ins and outs of eating disorders and treatment over the months and years. Many of us are also educated professionals, albeit in different sectors.

We are intelligent, informed beings. We have brains.

We also have the unique advantage of being the parent of the young person with the eating disorder. We are with them round the clock and have been with them since birth. The professionals only see them for an hour or so a week, and have only known our children for a short time. So who knows the young person and their eating disorder best? We parents, of course.

And we instinctively know when something isn't right, for example when our child begins to exhibit unusual behaviours and attitudes around food, eating, exercise and weight. We recognise mood changes; we know what is normal for our child and what isn't. We know how much they should weigh - we've seen them at their best and we know when they are way too thin. We also have that unique characteristic that an unrelated professional can never have: a parent's instinct.

We are our child's best ally in the fight to get them through an eating disorder. Our unique mixture of expertise, staying power and love plus the fact that we're with our children 24/7/365 should be harnessed, encouraged and supported to make optimum use of all those hours we are with our child.

The outdated 'parentectomy' model of treatment where we, as parents, are asked to 'back off' and leave it to the health professionals to care for our children has NO PLACE WHATSOEVER in 2017.

We parents are also uniquely equipped to be able to talk to medical and mental health professionals about eating disorders from a parent's perspective. Having read volumes of information, talked and worked with other families and eating disorder professionals, and attended countless eating disorder conferences hosted by the world's leading eating disorder experts, not to mention fighting on the front line of our child's eating disorder 24/7, we know our stuff.

And it's insulting, upsetting and worrying when some medical professionals 'close ranks' or immediately respond with that 'closed shop' look, as if there's nothing that we mere parents can teach them.

The 'holier than thou' approach.

I have been on the receiving end of that 'look' and got that 'closed shop' response from various medical professionals including Ben's treatment team, other mental health professionals and our GPs. It was clear that they didn't welcome the information I was showing them or telling them about. And I very much doubt if they read anything I gave them, for example free copies of my book.

It was as if the shutters had come down.

They are the experts. We are 'mere parents', lay people and amateurs... what do we know?

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