By Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Blogs Editor and Volunteer
The day that I gave birth to my triplet daughters was one of the scariest days of my life. I went into labor 10 weeks early, at 30 weeks of pregnancy, and I was being prepped for a C-Section. I had been given a drug which was supposed to hasten the development of their lungs, but only one dose, and no one really knew if it would have enough effect to enable them to breathe on their own once they were born. I was so terrified that my whole body was trembling, it probably looked like I was having a mild seizure, and the anesthesiology resident thought that I was having a reaction to the anesthesia that he had put into my IV a few minutes earlier. I was able to stutter the words, “Not anesthesia, scared” out so that he would relax. Him freaking out on top of my freaking out was very unproductive.
They say that you don’t remember the pain of childbirth (not sure who says that exactly, but it’s probably a man…), but that fear is imprinted in my memory forever. There are some experiences that are so frightening that you can’t shake them, even decades later. For me, the period of refeeding my daughter following her eating disorder diagnosis carries that same memory imprint of fear and uncertainty.
Refeeding a loved one with an eating disorder is grueling, both physically and mentally. It’s exhausting and depleting and life-disrupting. It’s a battle, and parents need to be warriors. This is excessively difficult under normal circumstances.
I cannot even imagine what it’s like for those of you dealing with the early stages of diagnosis and refeeding during this COVID pandemic. My heart goes out to you; you have been hit with 2 sucker punches instead of just one, and it must be doubly hard for you to get back up on your feet and put on your battle gear.
You may have to wait longer for treatment. You may have to resort to online treatment, which for some of you may not be ideal. You may be unable to visit your loved ones who are in residential treatment centers because of COVID visitor restrictions. You may be dealing with the quarantine of yourself or other family members which makes refeeding that much more difficult.
From what I have seen, there is additional anxiety all around that must make caregiving seem even more overwhelming.
It sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m not going to offer you empty words or annoying platitudes. I can, however, assure you that you are not alone. F.E.A.S.T. is here for you. Use our amazing parent forums for advice and support. Try our FIRST30Days service if you haven’t yet registered. Reach out to our parent support lines and get resources that can help you better navigate your loved one’s illness. We are here for you in so many ways; we care, and we want to help. We at F.E.A.S.T. remember what it was like to feel the way that you are feeling right now, it’s imprinted in our memories. Once upon a time, we were you.
Self-care is always challenging when you are the caregiver of someone with an eating disorder. I can only imagine how much more difficult self-care is right now in the shadow of COVID. In Israel, where I live, we are under lockdown. Nothing is open. You can’t escape to the mall for an hour or sit in a café with a friend over coffee. You can’t go to a salon or to a movie. You can’t go on a date night with your spouse or partner unless you can figure out a creative idea for a date night in your backyard. For parents who already feel trapped by their loved one’s eating disorder, the additional limitations on movement resulting from COVID regulations must only exacerbate that feeling even more. The ability to “escape” is restricted significantly. That has to be really rough for parents who are desperate to get away from their child’s eating disorder if only for a few minutes. There is no shame in that feeling–as I said, we have all been there.
I have found that one of the best ways to care for myself is through connection to others. I live 6000 miles away from my best friend; and over the past 3 months, I have felt every one of those 6000 miles. However, during my worst moments, I find that connecting with her even through text messaging is able to give my spirit the boost that it needs for me to keep on keeping on. I can be in the worst mood and tell her everything that is on my mind; and somehow, at some point during the conversation, I find myself smiling, and I feel that weight being lifted off of my heart. In Grey’s Anatomy terms, she is my “person”. Everyone needs a person. If you have a person, don’t be afraid to burden them with your problems and your thoughts. That is how these relationships work. They are deep and genuine. If you don’t have a person, find people who have the emotional intelligence and sensitivity to be there for you and support you, even if they don’t understand exactly what you are going through.
Each person has their own formula for self-care. After my daughter died, when people asked me how I was doing and I said that I was restless and unable to focus on anything, I can’t tell you how many people told me to “go for a walk”. Yeah, no thanks. What worked best for me was shutting down my brain and turning on Netflix. I could spend a whole afternoon watching mind numbingly stupid shows; and it wasn’t a waste of time, it was self-preservation.
Do whatever helps you take care of yourself, and do it as often as possible. I know, it’s not easy. And remember that no matter how much it can feel that way sometimes, you are not alone.