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Don’t Fight Alone, Find Your People!

By Karyn (KC) Tillman

Helping your loved one embark on the journey towards recovery can be brutal and lonely. If I could emphasize just one vital tool to acquire—and hold onto with dear life—while being a caregiver during the navigation of an eating disorder, it would be to find your tribe. Find and surround yourself by your people at all cost.

Being more on the introverted side, I’ll admit that I tend to enjoy my solitude. For the most part anyway. It is my time to reflect and replenish and I value it. However, when I am hurt or struggling, I resemble an injured animal, desperately wishing to hide in order to lick my wounds. Alone. Yet, I’m all too aware that as humans, we were not designed to be alone. We bear resemblance to the wolves who need their pack. Pack life ensures the care and feeding of the young, for instance. They travel together innately, wolves intuitively know that community is of utmost importance. The expression it takes a village holds such truth as our ancestors made a point of banding together so to help alleviate much of the burdens of daily life. Each person took on a role, pitching in with the care of each other which in turn made hardships less cumbersome. Nowadays, we multitask with the expectation that we can do it all, resulting in being stretched much too thin. Add on the role of caregiver, and that is enough to push some to the brink of breaking. Nonetheless, we can’t afford to break, we have to put our own oxygen masks on first, which in this case is a support system.

Looking back at the loneliness that engulfed me as I went through anorexia treatment with my then 17-year-old daughter, I unequivocally do not recommend going it alone during what may be the hardest time of your life. I did it alone and it was by far the harshest of any of the adversities I’d endured to that point. 

At the time, I rationalized being too depleted of energy to even contemplate reaching out. And, there is some truth to that as I live with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There was also the lack of stamina in enduring the ignorance and stigma surrounding mental illness. However, with hindsight and reflection, I clearly wish I had fought harder to find support other than our weekly therapy sessions. The only option I had discovered immediately after being released from treatment was a support group that met every other week right at dinner time, requiring a 45 minute drive during the worst of rush hour traffic. That left me with no option to fulfill my daughter’s nourishment needs as I couldn’t be in two places at once. How I wish I had known about FEAST back then. I can’t dwell on what I wasn’t aware of at the time. But I do find comfort and empowerment in the knowledge that I can now educate and encourage others in the midst of their own battle. I can share the newfound wisdom and the tools that have helped us along with our story.

Go out there and find your people. Your support. Your pack. Your tribe. Visualize wrapping them around your entire being like a warm blanket on a frigid day. Bask in the comfort of knowing you are not alone! 

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5 Comments

  1. Yveline Furic

    So proud of you Karyn , you did such a wonderful job with Bryn!
    You 2 are my “pack” and Cameron of course!
    Thank you for helping me also when I needed you & for 4 months out of state
    in France … far from your family …,
    >>knowing that Bryn would be okay!
    LOVE & respect you my ” always baby girl”!
    MOM

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