By Kevin Dunn, a Men of FEAST Founding Father
As a dad and primary caregiver of a loved one in eating disorder recovery, I’m familiar with the range of obstructive feelings men may experience throughout this challenge: anger, disbelief, hopelessness, fear, loss, disengagement, denial, guilt, shame, loneliness. I had some, but not all, of these bleak feelings (and many that were constructive and hopeful), but I’m aware dissociative feelings occur, can persist, and thereby hamper or prevent effective treatment.
For me, Men of FEAST skill-building and support sessions will allow men to see they can pivot on obstructive feelings…essentially seeing fear as a tool to seek community, anger as a tool to fuel perseverance, denial as a tool to access discovery, disengagement as a tool on the path toward caregiver unity, disbelief as a tool to seek education, loneliness as a tool to find support. This is how I navigated confirmation-biased providers, a societal landscape of eating disorder misunderstanding, and provided care for my daughter: using existing tools and learning new skills along the path.
The goal of the Men of FEAST group is to activate, educate, and motivate men in caring for themselves and becoming more supportive and effective as caregivers, team members, and partners in the ongoing treatment of eating disorders.
I’d like to share perspectives from other Men of FEAST, and ask you to please join us:
“Many men find their way into the eating disorder support community accidentally, and needing help on this front is not something they ever expected. What they often learn quickly is that tapping into networks of other people who have “been there” is not second nature. When they do find places that seem like they should be a good fit, they also learn quickly that men are rarely the most active or vocal participants. Add in the unfortunate yet persistent cultural myth that men are expected to “fix things,” and it can become a recipe for isolation. That’s a large part of why Men of FEAST is needed–because as many families have learned, eating disorders thrive on isolation in all of its various forms.”
A FEAST dad
“As someone who has worked in a family model for 20 years I have seen how the world of ED treatment of adolescents often mirrors one aspect of adult treatment, which is the strong organization of treatment around women. Throughout the ED world, treatment has been studied, normed, measured, and designed for women. Men were historically excluded from treatment. The causation of ED in the pre-FBT days was defined by absent fathers. FBT breaks many of the paradigms of ED. It shows parents as the cure, not the cause, it involves whole families, it allows for experts by experience. By getting together as Men of FEAST, we begin to take down another wall in the ED world that has impacted men. Ultimately, all men in the ED world will benefit…as being a man in this environment will lose its stigma, men will be more fully seen as able caregivers, and men who struggle with ED themselves will see that they also have a place in ED treatment.”
-Mark Warren, MD, MPH, FAED
Chief Medical Officer
The Emily Program
“When I realized that my daughter was VERY, VERY sick….and that I had to step up and do something to save her…I didn’t know where to turn. I found the FEAST Facebook group and I made a long post about what was going on in my home, and how uncertain I was of what to do next. I noted my wife had been bearing the brunt of this disease but what my wife was doing wasn’t working. The therapist we were working with, and the pediatrician we were going to, did not seem to see what I saw when I looked at my thin, thin daughter. Nobody in my life understood how isolated I felt and how the eating disorder was tearing us apart as it devoured my little girl. After I made my first post…a woman in the Facebook group tagged two dads I might be able to talk to. Within two hours, I was on the phone with one of those men, and I took a long walk while talking and crying. Even though I had never met this man before, we had an instant bond. He was there for me. He understood. He listened, shared his own experience, and gave me advice. Since that day, my daughter has been getting better and we’ve been healing as a family. I want to be there for other men…dads, brothers, husbands/partners, whatever. Eating disorders flat out suck…but we CAN help our loved one’s find recovery. We CAN recover as a family. I want this men’s group to be there for those who need it…when they need it most.”
A FEAST dad
Below is the meeting information for Men of FEAST:
WHO: Men of FEAST (Sessions open to ALL…simply come as you are)
WHAT: One-hour support and skill-building group for men impacted by eating disorders
WHEN: May 13 and 27; June 3 and 24; July 8 and 22; August 12 and 26 at 10:00am PT U.S.A.