by Judy Krasna, F.E.A.S.T. Board Member and Volunteer
Yesterday, I offered peer support to a fellow mom in Israel who is going through a really difficult time. As we said our goodbyes, I told her to take good care of herself. I realized afterwards that I should have expounded on that a little.
When my daughter is in a bad place and people tell me that I should take care of myself, my kneejerk reaction can vary from an eye roll to a sarcastic “yeah, right” to a four-letter-word response that is less than polite. Sure, well-meaning friend, thanks for that sage advice. Let me go take care of myself. I am in full crisis mode, it feels like my life is imploding, my head is exploding, my heart is breaking, and I have a million things to do (like work, so we can pay the therapy bills), but let’s go take that bubble bath. Or get out that non-existent yoga mat. Or go on a long walk in nature. Or read a good book. Let’s just put everything aside and take care of me.
When I told the other mom yesterday to take good care of herself, that is not what I meant. I know what it’s like to feel utterly and totally depleted, so emotionally overloaded that you are at the point of being numb. I know what it’s like to feel like you have no control over your life, like you are living in someone else’s nightmare, and like you are teetering at the edge of your own sanity, praying that nothing else comes along to send you plunging into the abyss. I know what it’s like to be so sad that you feel like you are going to shatter into a million pieces. I know.
Taking care of yourself when your child is suffering with an eating disorder means different things to different people. If you have the ability to take some real time for yourself, that’s ideal. But for most, this isn’t realistic. I think that for most caregivers, taking care of yourself involves little snippets of time that you have to claim as your own. Doing something, anything, that makes you feel like yourself, that makes you feel human, and that distracts you, for just a minute or five, from the difficulties that you are experiencing.
For me, it’s asking Alexa to play an 80’s song that reminds me of my childhood home and my friends. Or watching Jimmy Kimmel Mean Tweets or Jimmy Fallon Hashtags or Friends bloopers on You Tube. Or watching my favorite scenes from Breakfast Club and Dirty Dancing while mouthing the lines since I know them all by heart. Or savoring a few spoonfuls of ice cream eaten from the container. Or hugging my husband, who has no patience for hugging but who will oblige me anyway. Or texting my best friend who lives 6000 miles away, but who knows how to make me smile with just a few words. That’s what works for me. You need to find what works for you.
Taking care of myself to me means seeking something comfortable and familiar that soothes the angst and banishes the demons, even if it’s only for a minute. Because that minute is mine and only mine. And thanks to that minute, I can better face all of the minutes that come afterwards.
Taking care of myself means letting people help me, even when I don’t want to, because letting people help means exposing myself to their sympathy and pity, and there is nothing that I hate more than that. But it also means that I have less things to worry about and less pressures to cope with, and sometimes the best way to take care of myself is to let other people care for me.
Taking care of myself also means seeking support, because even if I think that I can get through this alone, I know better than anyone that I shouldn’t. No one should face this alone. Thanks to FEAST, no one has to.