I am Pauline, a previous PEDS patient. Suffering from an ED, a few years ago, I’m now in recovery. I do remember having to get through the challenges of the festive period and Christmas.
I wanted, in this newsletter, to write about carers and loved ones. They can be relatives or friends or just someone you trust and we will talk about how they can help you during this particularly challenging time. I didn’t do it on my own but with the help of my partner, who agreed to give his advice and tips to deal with me – especially under huge stress and anxiety!
This article will hopefully help carers but as well, sufferers of EDs. Ultimately, communication and understanding is key in dealing with these stressful times.
To all carers,
Please recognise that it is ok if you don’t understand or make sense of the relationship your loved one has with food, exercise or body image. The EDs generate negative thoughts and a distorted body image that prevent the sufferer acting “normally” and they often struggle to see the reality about themselves.
- Before the Christmas meal(s), ask your loved one to tell you what they are worried about. It won’t always make sense to you but just listen, try to not give advice, don’t make it personal (“why don’t you eat your food?” is a typically unhelpful comment) and try not to make judgement. Most importantly, accept what they are saying and remember that the EDs is triggering certain behaviours. Understanding what they are struggling with can help you identify when they need your support the most.
- Let them know that you are beside them for every situation that can be challenging for them and reassure them.
- If they have already started a treatment (nutrition, psychologic…), remind them of the techniques and strategies they have learned and the advice they have been given.
- Ask them how you could help them. This is often something we all forget to do and if they don’t know, they may be able to tell you what doesn’t help, this can be just as important.
- If you see that the person you are caring for has anxiety, panics, negatives thoughts, I found these 2 technics quite useful: try to distract them in order to focus their mind on something else (this will help to calm them down); or talk about the fear and reassure them by proving why their negative thoughts are wrong (give them facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thoughts).
- Try to not feel frustrated if you feel you are not making a difference: recovering from an ED is a long process that takes time. Everyone’s journey is different and the sufferer will have their ups and downs.
- It is possible that they will have difficulties at the dinner table. If you are sitting next to them, you can provide support and encouragement by trying to identify signs of anxiety or potential triggers.
- After the meal, they might have negative thoughts and be feeling guilty. This is where you need to listen to them and reassure them. It can be helpful to have an agreed plan for coping with the thoughts, pre and post meals.
- Always take it one step at the time. Focus on 1 challenge at a time to reduce the anxiety and not to make them feel overwhelmed.
- Finally, remember, to look after yourself too, you are just as important and having some time and space to recharge your batteries is key to your own wellbeing.