I had a very anguished time this week writing to the mother of a young child who has been refusing food and water for quite a while. Obviously the child is on a section and has spent months on a feeding tube. There has been some progress and this is quickly followed by setbacks. The child says that she does not want to live with mum for reasons we cannot understand, but there is nowhere else to go. The mother is now shattered with the strain of it all and has broken down.
I have decided to write something for parents and carers whose loved ones have a severe and enduring eating disorder. There is a lot out there telling parents what to do, what kind of caring to offer, and how to speak to someone who clearly hates herself, himself and probably everybody else. When a loved one is lying passive on a hospital bed, and when we cant get through to them, how do we really reach out to help their carers.
So I have written a guide and I will publish it on our website when I have had a chance to get some ideas from all the other lovely members of our Network. Basically what I have to say is this. Recovery from a severe and enduring eating problem is an existential struggle that may take a very long time to resolve if it ever will. A therapist will only reach down to the pain inside the anorexia when the patient is ready, but when will that be? We must always love the sufferer but we also have to live and help other members of the family to connect to what is good in life.
This may involve changing something in ourselves rather than expecting someone else to change. What are our own black holes and deficits? What do we need to grow as human beings? We need to pay heed to these and let our loved ones see that we are also accepting change. Then by the grace of secret communication they will learn that they aren't the only ones who need to be fixed. And we have to hope that this understanding will help them to be healed in the fullness of time; hope without expectation and a willingness to be very, very patient.
Look for my article in the Carers section of our website www.eating-disorders.org.uk anytime soon.