Saturday, 5 November 2011

10 things you *SHOULD* say to a mum with an eating disorder


My "10 things *NOT* to say to a mum with an eating disorder" post the other was intended to help people wishing to support someone they love to avoid saying some of the biggest clangers I've been on the receiving end of.

But it was really only half of the story wasn't it? And when Rosie Molinary suggested I write the other half I simply responded "what a good idea". But it has been much harder to write than the first.

Because sometimes no matter what you say, it will seem like the wrong thing.

So here are some suggestions of comments I have found immensely helpful and encouraging. A lot of these would relate to any adult with an eating disorder, while some are specific to mothers. But just remember - everyone will react differently to things you say for a variety of different reasons. And often what you say will be misinterpreted by the person's eating disorder. I have seen the blank and puzzled look on my husband's face on more than one occasion as I've reacted completely unexpectedly to something he felt was innocuous.

So if your carefully considered comment doesn't goes as planned - don't despair and don't give up...ever!

1. I believe you - to be told this is so much more powerful than you can imagine. I was so sure my gp would laugh at me the first time I went to see her - and when she didn't I felt immediately like I could really trust her.

2. I don't know the right thing to say but I'm here for you - you can't fault honesty, and when your eating disorder is looking for any hint of trickery in someone's voice honesty is always the best policy.

3. I will stand by you through this - this again is one from my gp. She promised to be loyal to me no matter what. So I know no matter how badly I behave one week I can always go back the next and there is nothing to apologise for - ever.

4. You can recover - I did not know this. And even once people started telling me this it took me a long to believe it - so make sure you keep saying it, because it is true!

5. You can still be a good role model for your kids while you are recovering - I worried endlessly that I would only feel like I could be a good mother once I was recovered, but I can see that I am able to share the wonderful insights I am gaining (such as learning to put situations in perspective and positive self talk) with my children in an appropriate way. And this is what good parenting is all about. It's not about waiting until you are a perfect human being.

6. You will be a better, more aware mum now that you've identified you have an eating disorder - I am so conscious to be aware of personality traits my children display which are red-flags for me, such as catastrophising and being down on themselves - and I am now able to support them with the strategies I have learned.

7. What is your most immediate need? And how can I help/support you with this? - Usually I instinctively know what my most immediate need is; such as 'eating', 'going to see my gp', 'being hugged' etc. But not always. Sometimes I am so distressed I have no idea what to do next. But it is nice to be asked none the less.

8. You can trust me - one of my biggest fears has always been that the person I tell will tell someone else; that I will become the subject of a mother's coffee morning gossip session. I need to know that my privacy will be maintained (within reason of course, such as if my gp needs to know).

9. I will help you find the right person to talk to - so important in recovery is finding the right fit with a really good treatment team, and being supported in my decision to change a member of that team was helpful as I didn't really feel I was 'allowed' to. I lacked so much confidence, I needed encouragement - and my recovery has benefited from this decision.

10. I will come with you to your appointment if you want me to - this not only let me know that I was believed and supported, but also that I was worth the time out of their day to 'waste' sitting around in a drs office. They didn't have anywhere more important to be at that time. And that was huge!

And when all else fails hugs are nice. A hug is so helpful when you are feeling completely worthless. So don't hesitate to hug.

And lastly, did you know that support people can also ring helplines such as that offered by The Butterfly Foundation? So if you want some information, advice, or you just want someone nonjudgmental to talk to too you can ring them and they will listen.

Any more to add? What has been helpful for you to hear? Please share. Let's give support people a little bit of confidence to start the most important conversation they will ever have. 

published by:

also check out my flipside post: 10 things *NOT* to say to a mum with an eating disorder


HikerRD said...

Ahh, hope, validation, and support. Doesn't that about sum it up? Works even if you don't have an eating disorder!

C-Girl said...

The best encouragement my mom ever gave me was simply, "Honey... it's going to be okay."

Sometimes, we all forget its going to be okay. Whether it is a mother telling a child or a child telling their mother... it is going to be okay! And I am so thankful for that...

Anonymous said...

The words "this is your ED talking" helps. Sometimes (ok, often) I freak out over eating, gaining weight, not exercising enough, doubting my RD and her expertise. I will call my mom and she reassures me that it is my ED talking. I also feel like a terrible mother and person sometimes and my mom tells me that I have an illness, that it is ED not me. That I can't expect to get well on my own, that I need to trust others.

Rosie Molinary said...

Oh, I love this, PJ. So thoughtful and helpful. These are so instructive for those who wish to really partner with their loved ones through recovery. Thank you for taking the time to do this and to do it with such clarity and compassion (which is always your gift!).

M said...

'What can I do to help?' was one of the most helpful things for me.

And from the husband of a dear friend, who I just happen to work with, 'Do you want me to eat a scary snack with you at the same time? Will that make it easier?'. So kind, so thoughtful, responding to me expressing that I still found afternoon snacks difficult.

scottrecovered said...

These are absolutely wonderful things to hear. The most important thing to me is when someone says that I can trust them. Really and truly, this means a lot :)

You're amazing <3