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The right support and information helps family understand

In September 2018, our 11-year-old son was diagnosed with anorexia, depression and anxiety. Since then, we have had ups and downs, progress and setbacks. Our struggles continue.

During this rollercoaster we’ve been very lucky. We had a prompt diagnosis from his GP who referred us quickly to the CAMHS service, who in turn gave us a speedy referral to the nearest Eating Disorder Team.

Although support has been great, the biggest barrier we have found is improving our knowledge of eating disorders and how to support our son. I have found there is a lack of information for carers, resulting in needing to hunt out the support and information from charities (e.g. Beat) and my own research through Google.

We didn’t identify it at the time, but the wider impact of supporting someone with an eating disorder is the effect on siblings. It has recently come out that his two sisters have been really impacted. As a parent, it is this balancing of the demands of caring for someone with the eating disorder whilst also caring for the wider family and the associated guilt that is the struggle.

Eating disorders can have a corrosive effect on the whole family – not just those immediately close but extended as well. Don’t underestimate the effect it has. The right support and information helps family and loved ones understand and provide the love and support needed for everyone.

My advice for carers in the same situation:

  1. Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone and there are many others who are struggling to care too.
  2. Caring for someone with an eating disorder is a long path. For my family, we are now thinking about my son’s eating disorder as a condition that we need to manage, rather than an illness we need to cure.
  3. It’s ok to not feel ok, just recognise it and make sure you have a plan to look after yourself, too. 
Contributed by Andrew