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Warm Socks: Reflections on Recovery for Parents

by Daryl Madill, FEAST Board Chair

Recently, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The pandemic, packing up a house to sell, a move to another country, and increasing demand for support from caregivers of those affected with eating disorders have left me feeling a bit depleted.  Time to practice what I learned earlier on, as a parent in recovery from a loved one’s eating disorder. 

Once we were out of ‘crisis’ mode with our loved one, I felt exhausted.  I should have felt relief, I should have felt ‘lighter’, I should have felt like my ‘happy’ self before an eating disorder came into our home.

But I didn’t.  If anything, I felt emptier emotionally and very much in need of rejuvenation.  With other parents of those affected by an eating disorder I was able to share my feelings, and no surprise…found that others felt very similarly.  Some likened it to ‘PTSD’; feeling constantly on guard and hypersensitive, even though our affected loved one was progressing forward into recovery and thriving. 

How to move through this uncomfortable stage? It is most definitely a process.  Here are some daily goals I set for myself:

  •   Practice gratitude—some like to jot down a couple of things they are grateful for at either the beginning or end of a day; I like to just sit still for a few moments and breathe as I think about those things I appreciate such as my new warm, colorful Nordic socks, the beautiful color of the leaves, the smell of a delicious cup of coffee. I try to engage all the different senses of smell, taste, hearing & vision
  •   Physical Movement—something active for joy or health each day; for me that’s a walk with the dog each morning and evening, with the occasional ballroom dance/exercise class on Zoom thrown in
  •   Laugh—this is SO important for mental health!  At least one good belly laugh a day is the goal!
  •   Social connection—meeting in person has mainly changed to Zoom or FaceTime or phone calls, but I reach out to at least one friend or family member a day

As a parent in recovery from a loved one’s eating disorder, we need to acknowledge the initial discomfort. Realize that there may be a ‘slump’ after the initial crisis of getting our loved one nutritionally rehabilitated. Practice good self-care to help move ourselves through this transition phase of intense caregiving to a less hands-on role.

The Around the Dinner Table online forum can help in this regard.  The Gold Star thread helps forum members to celebrate special moments in the recovery journey for their loved one. Here’s another thread that includes music that members have found uplifting.  Lean on those parents and carers with lived experience to help with your own parent recovery journey.

Wear the warm, cheerful socks…drink the delicious coffee…dance a hilarious ‘paso doble’ in the living room…laugh hilariously at a silly cartoon…make a phone call to a dear friend.  Do whatever your personal equivalent to these things may be.  Little by little you’ll move out of the transition stage of intense caregiving to a more normal routine. You’ll be a parent in recovery from your loved one’s eating disorder. 

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