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By Angie

When as carers, whether that be parents or siblings or any other family members, we start out on this journey with our loved ones, a lot of things change so quickly. So quickly, it is hard to comprehend at times. The downward spiral seems to be happening at a frightening rate and it’s almost impossible to picture how this ordeal could or will ever come to a positive end.

Firstly, I want to write about something that’s been on my mind recently. I am extremely lucky to have a child that is on the good road to recovery. The trajectory has always been pretty positive, but that doesn’t mean we’ve found it easier it’s just the way it seems to have happened. This is our first experience with an eating disorder.  I know there are families out there that have been on this journey many many times, and each time is different to the time before; relapse is unfortunately a possibility. But I wanted to make it clear, it’s ok to say ‘we did it’ or ‘we’re doing well’.

I think as a parent with a child who is doing well,  knowing others aren’t doing as well it’s easy to feel guilty, and not to share your ‘positive’ experience (I say positive loosely). But if we do not share that, share that this disease is most certainly one that can be overcome, then what gives people motivation? The months that follow a diagnosis, or sometimes even before diagnosis are hard; hard is an understatement of the century.

There are so many new things we, as carers for someone with an eating disorder, have to accept, and I hope anyone on this journey can either read this and it helps or read this and can relate. The first, of course, being accept it’s ok to be positive, and spread that positive message! You don’t have to feel guilty for that. Yes, it must be tactful, but it’s so important to spread the message ‘we can do this’! This acceptance comes more towards the end of this journey of course, and there’s a hell of a road before then. By this point, accepting things will be second nature I promise you.

Accept the person you see before you is not a person you recognise. They are literally ravaged by the eating disorder. That little voice, that separate entity, telling them what to say, what to do. It will make them lie, cheat, be angry, violent. It will suck away their soul and you will only see the small part of them that is left. Accept their swearing, their little letters telling you they hate you or they want to die. They don’t want to die, their eating disorder tells them that’s what they want.

Accept that you, as a parent, will need help. From your spouse, partner, ex spouse or ex partner. Extended family, friends, professionals. Financial support. This is not something you can manage alone. Accept your other children will be affected and ask others to help shoulder the load. Accept the eating disorder will take your time, all of your time, and you can’t give 100% of yourself to two different people. Accept this help and use it to form a suit of armour. Stick together like glue with a united front. Regardless of differing of opinions you have to have a united front; any chink in your armour the eating disorder will be ALL over it!

Accept you yourself will do things you have always been taught not to do. You will lie, you will cheat. You will sly cream into their whole milk, you will remove every phone, every social media account, you will tell them you understand when you don’t. You will hold things in, you will maybe let things out you don’t mean to. All these things are ok because you are fighting a war! A war that only you will win because you will and must use every trick in the book.  You will pretend you don’t care that they cry, you will act like you have the coldest of hearts. This is all ok.

Accept that this is a mental health illness. And accept other people won’t understand that. Weight loss is a symptom and just because they are gaining or ‘restored’ doesn’t mean it’s over. Accept that this could be a lifetime thing to have one eye on. I’m not suggesting this will be as hard as it is now forever, but accepting that ‘ok, we’re good now but life has changed’ is ok. The difficult chapter will end and a new chapter will begin with new challenges.

It’s ok for things to be a new normal, you will adapt and so will everyone else. Take all the small wins and bank them, write them down and put them in a jar to fall back on. At times when it seems too much, look back on those steps forward and it will remind you how strong you are.

Accept it’s ok to look after your own mental health. If you don’t do this, you cannot look after anyone else. Accept if you need extra help, speak to your own GP. Go for a drive, eat the chocolate, drink the wine! (Now just to be clear I’m not advocating speeding or excessive drinking here, or both together 😉 ) I’m just saying find the thing that works for you. And do it without guilt.

Accept that food really is the only answer. Forgive the bluntness but the reality is they don’t eat they die; they’re only human. Food is absolutely non negotiable. People will ask when is the talking going to begin or when will they get councelling. This is all good advice, but only when the time is right. A person with an eating disorder may not have the brain capacity to be rational until they are nutritionally safe, I cannot stress enough whatever the issue, feed. Push that eating, every meal, every snack, every glass of milk.

For those of you out there losing hope, please don’t. For those just starting, there absolutely is hope. We don’t know our own strength until we are in a position where we have no choice. We never know how far we will go for our children until we are pushed.

I want to remind you
You are strong
You will not break
You will come out of this dark into the light
This chapter can end
You will feel like you are ‘done’ but you are not
You will get back up, and you will fight for them
Over and over again. Day in and day out.
The eating disorder may think it’s won the battle, but believe me the war will be far from over


  1. LIsa

    Thank you!! As a care giver, and ED survivor, I have lived on both sides of the deceit.

    Has anyone experienced resentment from their child for lying? Struggling with how to rebuild a relationship with my recovering college age daughter after hiding/lying about my own scale pictures. My efforts to prevent a trigger, and hide my own guilt have definitely backfired!

  2. Dave Dunn

    I recommend just admitting you lied. Share reasons if you know them and want to and admit that you don’t know or aren’t sure of the reasons if that’s the case. This stuff is hard. We screw up all the time as caregivers, as parents, as people. It’s great to apologize for a specific screwup, but we don’t have to apologize for the fact that we screw up. We just have to acknowledge this and commit to trying our best in the future. Also, it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive our loved ones!

  3. Jan

    Thank you for this encouragement Angie. Acceptance is difficult, but so critical in the battle.
    Im not sure that full trust and relationship restoration will come until the battle is won. I find that validating her feelings and apologising when I’ve stuffed up is what works best for us. I also find I need to remind us both that I’m doing the best I can and that I genuinely am here to support her. She often needs reassurance that I will try to do better.

  4. Jan

    Thank you for this encouragement Angie. Acceptance that the shell of your daughter in front of you is the person you are now loving and caring for is difficult while you have such a desperate longing for the relationship you once had. However, as you wrote so eloquently, the fight is on and this new normal is where the battle takes place and we do what we need to do. Tough, lonely and desperate! So important to be reminded that our beautiful daughters will return and the hatred will gone.
    Thank you

    Im not sure that full trust and relationship restoration will come until the battle is won. I find that validating her feelings and apologising when I’ve stuffed up is what works best for us. I also find I need to remind us both that I’m doing the best I can and that I genuinely am here to support her. She often needs reassurance that I will try to do better.

  5. Lori Forbus

    I haven’t been reading anything from this site for a while, but this was just the thing i needed to see – God always helps. Thank you moms out there fighting the fight, love your kids and yourself.

  6. Joanne L Humphries

    After suffering for ten years, including five different hospital stays, and the death of her father from cancer, my daughter finally started to make a recovery. Believe me, both of us parents did all of the above and nothing worked. Hospitals tried too. One thing only, apart from the passage of time, has made a significant difference. That was my daughter being assessed and diagnosed with autism. She (and I – alas it was too late for her Dad) began to understand why it was so hard for her to get anywhere in recovery. You wouldn’t know she is autistic because she is a brilliant ‘masker’. She is a talented artist, she is clever, sociable and funny. And she’s autistic it turns out.
    If anyone feels completely lost and like they do not know why someone continues to suffer long-term anorexia – please consider this. Anorexia is there for a reason. It made my autistic daughter feel safe. It also nearly killed her. She’s now in recovery, feeling very unsafe most of the time. Her anxiety gets extremely high and scary but nevertheless she is on what I hope will turn out to be a better trajectory.
    Understanding why she ‘needed’ anorexia was key to fighting it. So I don’t buy the notion that counseling and therapy don’t help. A therapist who understood my daughter helped save her. Now she eats more food.

    • Jen

      Joanne, can you tell me what kind of testing revealed your daughter’s autism? Sometimes I wonder about my daughter possibly having autism, but the ADOS evaluation did not show autism. What evals are good for teenaged or older females?

  7. Angie

    I was feeling lost and as I looked at your piece and saw MY name (which happens to be the same as yours), it felt like this was a special message for me. As I read your amazingly insightful words, it rang very true and you seemed to be talking directly to me, answering questions I had, acknowledging feelings I had and giving me encouragement to go on. Thank you so much for sharing ❤️

  8. Celia

    Thank you for a beautifully written piece, you have expressed many truths, and as someone who has lived both sides, sufferer and years later, caregiver, so much of what you write resonates with me. “Never Give Up”, this was my daily mantra…. 💚

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