Wednesday 6 September 2017

Are you a parent or carer? Are you new to the world of eating disorders?

Whether it happens suddenly or gradually, realising that your son or daughter has an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia is devastating. At a time when you're desperately seeking help for your child and wondering how you can help as a parent, you're also faced with a massive learning curve - because, unless you've experienced an eating disorder before, the world of eating disorders is probably about as far off your radar as you can get. Just like it was for us.

Back in the Autumn of 2009, when it became evident that my 15-year old son was spiralling into anorexia, I remember cramming up like mad on everything I could find to do with eating disorders. I needed to understand what my son - and we, as a family - were facing. I needed to know how to stop him sinking even further into the illness. I needed to know what treatment was available. Most important of all, I needed to know how to get him well.

The more I discovered about eating disorders the more I understood the URGENCY of finding good, evidence-based treatment for my son.

I remember thinking that I'd never 'studied' so intensively and so urgently at any other period in my life. Not even in the final year at university.

But, then, I'd never been faced with a situation where the person I loved most in the world could actually die.

I'd never been so terrified in my entire life.

At a time like this, the last thing we parents have energy for is cramming up on eating disorders; we want to be able to focus 100% of our energy on our child and their recovery.

This is one of the reasons why I started my blog, because I wanted to help other parents to 'fast track' their way through the huge learning curve so they can get on with the business of getting their sons or daughters back to full health.

Another reason for this blog is to point parents to resources that I found invaluable - and also other parents who can offer support and advice.

It was pure chance that, in March 2010, I discovered the online forum for parents of young people with eating disorders: Around The Dinner Table plus its 'parent' website: FEAST.

As I've said over and over again on this blog: the ATDT forum was a lifesaver for me.

Not only did I find other parents facing the same or a similar situation, I found parents who'd 'been there, got through it'. Reading other families' success stories gave me hope at what seemed like a hopeless and helpless time.

The ATDT forum is different from any other forum anywhere, in my opinion, in that these are real people, parents just like us, not just 'faceless' nicknames.

One of its most active UK members, the wonderful Charlotte Bevan (who tragically passed away from cancer a couple of years back), took things a stage further. She'd introduce parents to each other via Facebook and also put UK parents in touch with each other via phone or email. I met a lot of amazingly supportive parents this way, people who I still meet up with and keep in touch with today.

So if you're new to the world of eating disorders, the very best advice I can give you first is to join the Around The Dinner Table Forum and introduce yourself as a newcomer. You'll find that other parents will rally round to help, just as they did with me and countless other parents across the globe.

The forum's 'parent' website FEAST is also a mine of information on the latest thinking and treatment of eating disorders.

In addition, I've cut and pasted all my blog posts since 2011 into a set of PDFs which you can download here. Hopefully scrolling through the PDFs from 2011 onwards, visiting FEAST and introducing yourself on the ATDT forum will go some way to fast-tracking you through the learning curve so you won't have to do all the research yourself.

It will also put you amongst a caring community of other parents who will rally round to do their best to help and advise.

(PS: Here's a link to my Facebook page and another link to the Around The Dinner Table Facebook page - the latter is a 'closed' page so you'll need to be approved by the administrators.)

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