By Daryl Madill, F.E.A.S.T. Board Chair
When my first child was born, I was overwhelmed with all the tasks and responsibilities of motherhood. Despite being a ‘planner’ there was no getting around the fact that this was uncharted territory. Not many of my friends or family members were parents, and if they were, they’d actually been at it for several years. I didn’t know anyone who was going through what I was experiencing at the time; who was in the midst of sleepless nights, feeling absolute joy and being incredibly overwhelmed all at once. That was until I connected with four other moms from my prenatal group a few months after our kids were born. At our ‘3 month reunion’ after prenatal classes, I found four moms who had all had boys within a month of one another (and 3 on the same day, in the same hospital!) and who lived relatively close by. We started meeting once a week for lunch or coffee with babes in tow and it was SUCH a wonderful thing. We remain close to this day, nearly 30 years on.
So when our daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder, I thought I needed to find others who were going through exactly the same thing, so I could find out how to move forward, help my daughter and family, and navigate out of the hell in which we had found ourselves. Except that I didn’t know where to turn to find that support, and I was honestly too overwhelmed with appointments and my own crumbling mental health to figure out where to turn and how to reach out.
It took nearly 3 years for me to meet my first parent friend of a kid with an eating disorder. And that was SUCH a wonderful thing. Someone who could listen without judgement, who could nod their head and say that they could truly understand what I was going through. And not only that, when I said what I thought our family needed, up-to-date evidence-based support to try FBT, she said “I think you can do this. Our family did.” And then gave me the name of another parent who lived in the area who had just returned from the outpatient program we were considering.
For our family, that was the turning point. Connecting with another family, and then a number of other families, to provide support to one another over the coming months and years. Those parents were a true blessing in my life, and I owe them so much. We don’t see one another often these days, and just keep in touch sporadically now that all our kids are well; healthy and living lives that are rich and full and ED-free. But that peer connection was critical in moving all our families forward.
It’s so important to connect with others who are on the same path. Most of our family members and friends really can’t truly understand what it’s like to live with someone with an eating disorder. We need to lean on one another as parents who are facing a daunting illness, and support without judgement. It’s not easy to meet up in person these days, but fortunately, there are ways to connect virtually wherever you are located in the world.
F.E.A.S.T. has three online, moderated support groups. Around the Dinner Table Forum (www.aroundthedinnertable.org) is free to read without logging in and easy to join anonymously. You will find plenty of support from caregivers who are willing to share their own experiences.
We also have two active peer support groups on Facebook, which are member-only. You will need to respond to 3 questions and then be approved by a moderator. Anything you share or read in this group will not be visible to your regular Facebook friends :
In addition, F.E.A.S.T. has website pages dedicated to those in specific countries or regions, with targeted resources.
There is also a website page to connect with advocacy organizations around the world.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is as the carer of someone with an eating disorder to ‘forge bonds’ with those in similar circumstances. Lean on those who’ve come before you, to gain from their insights and experiences. Take what resonates with you and your situation and let that help carry you along on this journey. We need others for connection and support, so don’t hesitate to reach out to the F.E.A.S.T. online peer support forums or stop by the website for Live Chat or connect via our [email protected] email. We are here for you. You are not alone.