We had a very busy meeting last night with lots of issues being addressed. Thank you to all of you who shared your experiences and thoughts.
I have summarised some of the key themes in this post and attach several capsules which cover the issues we addressed in more detail.
- High medical risk situations
For several of you your loved ones are currently medically fragile, and we know that medical risk can escalate very quickly with eating disorders. It is easy to convince yourselves that it is best to avoid hospitals and ED clinics at the moment because of COVID. We urge you not to do this. As one dad helpfully explained – the pediatric ward his 12 year old is in is probably one of the cleanest and most sanitised COVID safe spaces in the country. If your loved one needs medical attention you shouldn’t hesitate to seek it out. The attached capsules on Medical Risk and going to A&E can help to remind you of things to look out for.
- Eating disorders and COVID vaccine
As far as we know people with eating disorders are not included on any vulnerable list and so each patient will be reviewed on a case by case basis. You can ask your GP to consider classing your loved one as vulnerable, so they would be eligible for the vaccine earlier but this would mean shielding. Note the vaccine is only approved for people age 18 and over.
- Recovery and University progress
Many of you are very worried about the prospect of your loved ones going to university and of course it is imperative to plan very carefully for this transition when your loved one is recovering from an eating disorder. Angela shared with us her daughter Lauren’s progress:
Having had Lauren home for Christmas after her first time away, growing up and looking after herself and trying to recover from a mental health illness, there are a couple of things, positives that I would like to share with the group.
First, Lauren took her first exam before Christmas, psychology, the last question was on eating disorders. When I asked her how she felt about it she said she felt fine wrote reams and was thrilled to have a question about something she felt she was very informed about. I then said, no, how did ‘you’ feel about it, she replied she didn’t give it a second thought.
She has come home happy to eat chocolate for breakfast lunch and dinner! She is currently training to gain muscle strength, following a high protein diet and all that it involves.(she is studying sports science) I am not too concerned as she speaks openly and sensibly about what she is doing, plus I have learnt to step back. At uni she has met someone else who had similar problems and she is living with other sporty young adults. They all look out for each other and have the same interests.
She has said that if she does have moments of freak ness where she feels she is eating too much
(she eats barely enough to keep a sparrow going! Typical mum mode! )
she has a plan all written out to remind herself she needs it for what she is working towards. She is happy, eats well and the best news. Lauren got a first in her first uni exam.
If any of you would like my capsule around preparing for university, please let me know.
- Extreme low moods
The ongoing restrictions and current lockdown are having a huge impact on everyone’s moods and in particular those with pre existing mental health issues. One of our carers described her daughter thus:
“my daughter is struggling with such low mood at the moment that any of the usual distractions are met with negativity and I wonder what the best approach is in these circumstances. She is on medication for depression so the medical route has been addressed. After her afternoon snack and after her evening meal she sits with a poker face and all distraction suggestions are rebutted. I tried striking when the iron was cool this morning ie when her mood is a bit better but it didn’t go well and for all my protestations of wanting to understand and help I was told she just felt attacked. At my wits end with it and struggling to stay positive and not shout ” I give up”.
Sometimes when Edi is feeling so low like this then it does feel as if none of the usual carer skills make any difference. Here are a few options:
a)Roll with resistance – leave her be for slightly longer than you usually would, she might just need time to process these extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in. Just check in with a smile every now and then without expecting any significant change in mood
b)Give them agency – In a calm moment ask her – what could we do together? What would you like to happen next?
If I am not helping, I am wondering who might be more helpful? Have you heard from Aunty Vicky (or anyone else she confides in or connects with)
c)Role model self care – do some activities that activate your senses. Show that you can lift your own mood by singing, dancing, baking, surrounding yourself with scented candles, dragging yourself out for walks in the wind and rain.
d)Calmly convey empathy – I don’t know to what to say – thank you for telling me how you are feeling.
Watch Brene Brown’s video on empathy www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
- e) if none of these help and the very low moods continue encourage Edi to discuss this with whoever prescribes the medication
- Return of periods
One of our carers shared her daughter’s distress at the return of her periods:
My daughter age 17, has been doing really well and then on Monday last week she got her period back for the first time in 8 months. Great news as far as I was concerned but she has been very upset and angry about it. In fact tonight is the worst she been in weeks. Refusing food and saying ‘there’s no point as she’s put on all this weight but still her head is still not any better ‘
As a group we did an exercise using the decisional balance to try to understand what goes through Edi’s mind when their period returns. We then used ALVS to consider how to connect with Edi when she is so upset. I have included our discussions on this in the attached capsule on periods resuming.
Watch this video and imagine that the nail is symbolic of your daughter getting her periods back:
The motto accompanying the video is so relevant for us:
“Don’t try to fix it. I just need you to listen.” Every man has heard these words. And they are the law of the land. No matter what.
I have also attached my capsule on Relapse and Contingency Planning.
Next carer support groups.
Chris and I have decided to run fortnightly groups through lockdown and so the next meetings will be Feb 1, 15 and March 1 and 15 from 7pm. The Zoom link for all sessions will be :
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 871 8813 0024
Please let me know if there are any specific topics or scenarios you would like us to discuss. If something is troubling you it is probably troubling lots of our other families as well.
Keep smiling. You are all amazing incredible people and these horrendous storms we are currently experiencing will pass with time and of course a great deal of patience.
Links to Capsules: