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Eating Disorder Recovery: Overcoming Denial of Your Past

Boy facing fearsIndividuals with an eating disorder or disordered eating are often unaware of the source of their pain. In order to begin the recovery process, they first must discover the wellspring of pain from the past. Denial is a significant detour in that quest.

There are two kinds of denial. The first is your own denial of what has happened to you. This may take the form of doubting that what you remember ever took place. Because the abuse has been denied, it may take on an unreal quality when remembered. Almost as if it happened to someone else. If the abuse is remembered, it is often seen through the prism that “explains” why the abuse was not really abuse after all.

Denial enters through self-talk. These are the messages repeated over and over to ourselves as we try to deal with the pain and our relationship with food. Thoughts of “nobody’s home is perfect” or “it could have been worse” or “it wasn’t that bad” or “there’s nothing I can do about it now” allow you to minimize the damage. “I should be strong enough to deal with this on my own” or “everyone turns to food when they’re down” increases frustration at the inability to bring the eating disorder or disordered eating under control.

But denial, this minimization of the pain, is merely a coping mechanism to keep the pain at bay. Denial is the ticket that allows you to transform life-altering pain into that limbo state of “not that bad.” If it is “not that bad,” you believe you can find the strength to go on.

The other form of denial comes from the person or people who hurt you. They may deny that the abuse ever took place or that there was not anything wrong with it if it did. He or she may accept that the event or events happened but deny responsibility or minimize the damage. This can happen regardless of the nature of the abuse. Whether the piece was a single, specific event, or a pattern of hurtful behavior carried over out a number of years, this person may refuse to accept the ramifications of his or her actions.

This person may even attempt to make you feel responsible for the abuse itself or responsible for your “version” of the events. They may deny the damage by calling into question your natural response to the damage.  It is to his or her benefit that denial goes both ways—their denial of the event and your denial of the damage done. They may resist acknowledging your eating disorder or the place food now has in your life, because acknowledgment means recognizing the abuse or pattern of hurtful behavior behind it.

So the responsibility for the abuse itself and the resulting eating disorder could be shoved back at you, increasing stress surrounding your eating disorder or pattern with you, escalating its progression. As this escalates, it becomes easier to focus your attention solely on its progress, diverting attention from the root cause.

The desire to go back and rewrite your past is seductive, especially if your past was one of the abuse and pain. Denial allows you to do just that. Denial takes the pages of your past and alters them according to “if onlys,” or it substitutes blank pages for the pain that is really there.

A familiar proverb assures us that those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. You can also be said that those who deny the events of their own history are doomed to relive them. To deny abuse is to perpetuate it. The only way to stop the chain of abuse is to stop denying the truth of that abuse.

Each of us is the product of our experiences, and not one of us is immune to the pain they have cost us. We may not be able to control what happened to us, but we can control who we become as a result of those past events.

First, however, we need to look at those experiences honestly. The light of reality can seem harsh and bright to those who have been hiding from the truth. Clarity and detail spring forth from the light of truth.

 

http://www.caringonline.com/our-blog/overcoming-denial-of-your-past/

Excerpts taken from Gregory L. Jantz, Hope, Help & Healing From Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach To Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating, WaterBrook 2010.

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The only way I can get the voice to stop is to cut. Then there is instant quiet. I can sleep.

Chilling isn’t it. That’s my son. That was last night.

And the cuts are so neat – same size, same distance apart. A reflection maybe of my son’s ordered and exact mind.

His voice is a bit more personal on some levels. It is a male voice. It is authoritative. It is not Will’s own voice.

His voice start quiet when he is enjoying himself. Telling him to stop. Just that. Stop. When Will tries to ignore the voice, it gets louder and louder. Until it is finally screaming. STOP.STOP.STOP. Over and over and over. When Will obeys the voice, the voice drops to nothing instantly. It has achieved it’s purpose. Will is sitting there – miserable, lonely, shut down.

He hates counselling but it is the only way to (hopefully) express what is inside in a caring and supportive environment. It’s the only way to learn new skills for emotional expression the results in healthy ways to let out emotions and live. Self-harm, whilst it provides short-term relief, is not healthy nor does it promote any kind of healthy mental attitude. It brings its own shame, guilt and isolation. So you keep putting more and more layers ontop of the original pain.

The medication is not working or at least appears to not be working. The psychiatrist is reluctant to try a fourth one just yet. Give him time to see if this one might work. He nows has two safe zones at school to go to if the urge to seriously harm himself is too strong. I am not enough, he needs more people around him on a daily basis.

I am not even sure if he is going to get through this year at school. Just getting through a day is tough at the moment. School started 10 days ago, he has had 3 days off already including weekend breaks. The are things he can do, but it is getting him to accept and acknowledge he needs to make decisions. He is not at that point, head still in the sand. Saying yes I can get there but I have no idea how, I just will.

It’s a day at a time, most days not good. I am learning more about voices, pain, self-harm. Just knowing how to support Will is tricky. At this stage it’s mostly push away, so you end up hovering around the edges. And hoping, just quietly hoping/praying.

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I wanted to share this lovely post from one of my readers. As a mum with two children struggling with an eating disorder she gives some great advice, hope and strength to those of use following a similar path. The reality of living with an eating disorder in the house is different for everyone. It is tough, frightening, painful and like living in some private, hellish parallel universe. What is also frightening is how strong a link there is from eating disorders developing and fathers who are absent, abusive and neglectful.

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Hello everyone,

A swift update. My son Jordan [who likes to be called just J] ended up being sectioned and spending nearly two and a half months in the Huntercombe hospital, Stafford, UK. It was a nightmare trying to get him in the ambulance to take him on the 3 hour journey – his resistance and strength was superhuman – quite surprising for someone so weak with starvation. The dents in my freezer where he punched it is testament. I’d even struggled to disarm him when he’d grabbed a couple of bread knives and tried to stab the social workers. Once inside the hospital, he protested violently, kicked the furniture and finally fell to his knees, sobbing and breaking down totally. It was heartbreaking, but necessary. I was relived that he was finally where he needed to be. He was admitted weighing 8 1/2 stone after losing around 1/3 of his body weight. After admission his blood pressure dropped dangerously low. Thankfully the hospital staff saved his life and put him on the road to recovery. He hated it there, but was determined to do whatever it took to get himself out and he quickly and steadily gained weight. He was discharged weighing 10 stone, which is still very low for his height, but he is terrified of getting any heavier.

He is still firmly in the grip of anorexia and doesn’t really want to recover [although he tries to convince us that he has recovered.] Just like Sophie, for the first month he seemed to be doing well; he was perky and chatty, controlling his own food intake and maintaining his discharge weight. However he is now slowly losing weight again, even though he eats somewhere between 1700 and 2000 cals per day. He goes through periods of food obsession. At first he would only eat a variety of just a handful of ‘healthy’ foods; that changed and his calorie intake came largely from ‘healthy’ fluids, including lots of milk; now he’s gone to the extreme of eating mainly unhealthy food and drink, such as energy drinks, kitkats, fish and chips from the chippy and black coffee. He sees the CAMHS team regularly, but under duress. He refuses to co-operate and will only agree to being weighed and having a very brief consultation. He began haphazardly taking his anti depressants, just before stopping them completely, insisting he doesn’t need them. He refuses to see the medics and have tests re his curved spine and sleep paralysis, saying that he can’t stand being touched during examinations. Despite all of this, the old happy ‘normal’ J that we used to know – the one that used to joke around and the one who you could have an intelligent conversation with – does still exist and emerges fairly frequently. He is very changeable though, one minute he’s laughing and feeling optimistic about the future and making plans/setting goals and the next he’s angry and depressed and saying he didn’t ask to be born. He is frequently argumentative, aggressive, verbally abusive, selfish … it’s as if he’s possessed by the devil. I’ve learnt to keep my composure and walk away from him when he’s being nasty, telling him I refuse to talk to that other voice/creature. After a short time he will calm down and be nice and reasonable again and all the harsh words will have been forgotten. He never apologises though and has a complete lack of empathy for anyone else. The good thing is, he is truthful and admits his dieting had got out of hand, that it was all about control, that he does hear the ‘anorexic voice’ [saying, for example, that he used to grab a handful of cereal, put it in his mouth, but was then compelled to spit it out], that we had all been right, but that he had refused to listen, believing that we were all lying to him… He says he forces himself to ignore the Ana voice as he has no intention of ever getting sectioned again. He jokes that he’ll be visiting his younger sister Melissa in hospital when she gets sectioned. He tells me to stop worrying and that although he hates food, he knows he has to eat. He is aware that there is a strong chance of relapse and says he’s not going to let that happen. How can any parent not worry? Due to being malnourished for so long he now has low bone density and a curved spine and he has weakened his heart. He also has very poor short-term memory and constantly repeats himself. The hope is that he will settle at college next year, build up his confidence and find some happiness [he did try a college course this September but it was all too soon – all the anxieties and doubts flooded back and overwhelmed him and he had to drop out]. Thankfully he has a lovely supportive friend.

Melissa [now 15] is sliding down the same slope as J. After battling with her E.D and, for months being able to maintain her weight of around 8 1/2 stone [which is very low for her height of 5ft 8″], she is now losing weight again and struggles to tip the scales at 8 stone, fully clothed. She used to be a healthy 10 stone and a perfect size 10, but thought she was fat. She is very rigid in the handful of different foods that she allows herself and in her calorie intake, which is now only a few hundred per day. She still thinks she’s fat even though she is very thin. Thankfully she has a lovely CAMHS counsellor, who sees her weekly and her teachers/mentors at Bryn Elian school in North Wales are bending over backwards to support her – she is allowed to leave early and go in late on some days, has been able to drop unnecessary subjects and is allowed to learn maths at home. So the reduced school stress has resulted in an improvement in her confidence and mood. She is motivated to complete year 11 and pass her GCSEs and go to college next year. Hopefully she can stay healthy enough. Frequently though she gets so depressed, tearful, argumentative, nasty and even violent. Her eyes glare and something ugly speaks. It really isn’t her as the real Melly is gentle, loving, caring, helpful, beautiful and a joy to have around. Ana-Melissa sometimes threatens to self-harm. We have spent endless hours just talking and cuddling and crying together. [She’s so different to J who doesn’t do hugs]. Despite the fact she has many lovely supportive friends and lots of male admirers, she struggles to be happy. She feels constantly cold and her hair is falling out.

Their older brother and sister Andy and Shelly seem to have given up and feel that Mel is just an attention seeking difficult teen. It is difficult trying to convince them that neither J or M want to be this way, that they cannot help it, nor can they fight it alone. At least Mel had the strength to ask her school teachers and everyone else for help. I try to stay calm and understanding and supportive and positive thinking, however I’m not supermum and I sometimes can’t help raging and effing and blinding back at them. And yes, I’ve told them both to just grow up. I do get over my angry outbursts and frustration quickly though and both J & M know that I’m just releasing tension and that I’ll always be there for them, will always love them and will do whatever it takes to help them both back to health and happiness. My GP and the CAMHS team have told me to expect to be the punching bag and that this will be an up/down struggle for years, maybe a lifetime. There was only one time when I totally lost control, and that was when after the millionth time of going round and round in circles with Melissa I finally blew my top and yelled that I couldn’t take it any more. She had been my rock during our worst times with J and now she was sapping all my energy. Rather than hurt her or smash up the house as I so deeply desired at that moment, I stomped my way upstairs to my room, sat on my bed, gripped the quilt and, from the pit of my stomach, just screamed and sobbed and rocked backwards and forwards, yelling “why, why why”. This went on for a good 10 minutes until I had burst blood vessels in my face and I had nothing left inside of me. Shelly came up with a cup of sweet tea, spoke soothing words to me, told me everything’s going to be ok and helped me pull myself together. Meanwhile Melly ran outside and we found her sitting and just staring into space. Anorexia is an ugly powerful destructive demon. Daily I pray that J & M find the strength to overcome it.

If I could offer any parent advice I would say get your GP [pressure him/her if need be] to refer your child into the psychiatric services as soon as you know he/she is showing signs of a worrying eating pattern, and once there, if things don’t improve, push for admittance into an inpatient eating disorder unit/hospital. Remember, our kids will not/cannot just ‘snap out of it’. I was so angry with the old GP [we’re with a much more sympathetic and helpful one now] because he just dismissed us, saying nothing could be done unless J wanted help. He had a mocking, couldn’t-care-less attitude and told me I had no choice but to just wait until J got so ill that he’d be rushed into hospital, but by then it might be too late. I just sat there, stared at him with a look of shock horror and told him he has to get us some help. I didn’t move from my seat and just kept repeating that he has to help us. Eventually he said he would have a word with his colleagues at the local hospital and see what could be done. A few days later he phoned me to say that he had put a referral through to the Child and Adolescent services, but warned me that the waiting list was long and that we could be waiting weeks. Thankfully it only took 2 weeks.

My love and prayers go out to all who struggle with an eating disorder and all the families involved. It really is tough on everyone with all the stress and worry and constant walking on egg shells, not to mention the endless meetings with all sorts of professionals – psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, doctors, family therapists, dieticians, school teachers/mentors/educational welfare officers… all this on top of having to earn a living.

Sorry I’ve gone on a bit! It helps to get the thoughts down. Mel also finds it therapeutic to diarise stuff that has happened in her life in relation to her father and what led to her eating disorder. She says that when she is older she will publish it on my website http://www.sharonkilby.co.uk/site/ The site exposes corruption in North Wales and the people responsible for forcing my children to live with their abusive father almost half their lives.

I have been shocked to learn that eating disorders are not so uncommon anymore. It seems that everyone knows someone who is suffering with one. Melissa knows 4 people in her school year who are sufferers. My boss knows 2 people who are anorexic, a friend of mine knows 2 anorexics [one of them fully recovered and went on to be happily married with child, the other person didn’t recover], my solicitor has an anorexic in her family… My God what is happening to our youngsters? Maybe EDs are symptomatic of the sick insane, evil society that we are forced to live in [more on that in my site.]

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This post is from the dads-ed blog. He nails the psychology of anorexia  very well and has made the effort to understand what it has done to his daughter. It is how I have felt and talked to myself about this illness and is there in my posts on the psychology of anorexia. It is also how our dietitian talks about how anorexia interacts with the person.

10 Reasons I Hate You      

Even though I don’t really know you, ED, based on what I have seen and experienced of you, manifested through my daughter, here’s a short list of only 10 of the innumerable things I do know about you and that make me hate you with all my heart and soul:

  • You’re a sneaky son-of-a-bitch.  You took over my daughter’s life without warning, slowly, stealthily, and in many disguises so neither she nor I even noticed it until it was too late.  Way too late.  But we’re on to you now.
  • You’re a coward.  You preyed on my daughter when she was in her most vulnerable state.  You want to fight fair?  Prove you’re strong?  Come on…see if you can take over my life.  Any time, any place, buster.
  • You lie.  Somehow and in ways that are beyond my comprehension, you convinced my daughter you were her friend.  Someone who would comfort and console her when all you really wanted to do was control her, make her miserable, and eventually kill her.
  • You cheat.  Well…of course you cheat.  You cheated my daughter out of what should have been some of the most wonderful, fulfilling, happiest, and most joyful years of her life.  You cheated our whole family out of the joy and pleasure we should have been sharing with her during that time and turned those years into years of tears, fighting, arguing, anguish, and heartache.
  • You lurk.  My daughter is getting better right now I think.  I believe.  I hope.  She’s learned what an evil, nasty s.o.b. you are and is fighting like hell to get you out of her life.  But I know you’ll lurk.  As she’s getting stronger you’ll still be slinking around.  Sneaking. Waiting.  You’ll let her think she’s gotten rid of you, but you’ll still be lurking.  Waiting for her to have another tough time in her life when she’s feeling weak and vulnerable.  When her self confidence is ebbing.    When her self image is deflated.  When she feels out of control of her life.  You’ll still be furtively skulking around there hoping to get back into her life.  To take over her life. But be on notice, ED.  I’ll be there, too, this time.  So be prepared because you’re going to have your hands full.
  • You’re greedy.  You want my daughter all to yourself. I’m her dad and I’m not greedy with her, so why in the heck are you?  I don’t expect her to love me and me alone.  Or to spend all of her time only with me.  I want her to have friends…you alienate her from her friends.  I want her to love and spend time with her sister and mom and other family members…you want her to worship you and you alone.  I want her to find a soul mate to share her life with if that suits her…but you, you greedy bastard, want to have everything exclusively in your power to capture, control, and keep her all for yourself. It ain’t gonna happen any more.
  • You’re cruel.  Not only did you willfully and knowingly cause my daughter unimaginable mental and physical pain and suffering, but I think you enjoyed the distress you caused.  And worse, you made her act in such deceitful and hurtful ways towards those she loves the most, that her actions and attitudes caused us indescribable pain and suffering, too.  And I’m sure you took great pride and enjoyment from that collateral damage, didn’t you?  Never again, however.  We’ve got your number now.
  • You’re evil.  I’m not saying you’re Satan, but perhaps you are.  If so, I wouldn’t be surprised.  At least some manifestation of Satan because while in your grasp and control you turned a sweet, kind, loving, honest young woman into a lying, deceitful, unpleasant, angry, and very unhappy person.  Drinking alcohol to excess.  Hiding food.  Destroying her health.  Ignoring her friends or mistreating them.  Lying to me, her mom, and her sister quite regularly.  I think only evil in its purest form could have done that to my sweet daughter.  I know it wasn’t her.  But she’s coming back.  She’s recovering.  So watch out.
  • You’re manipulative.  I really, really hate you for this. You’d never talk to me or those close to my daughter directly or even honestly.  You never showed yourself to us.    Rather you manipulated her so your words and your actions came through her.  You manipulated her like she was your personal puppet.  The part I hate most about that is that although you were the cause, she’s the one who had to suffer the consequences.  While all the while you sat back laughing and having a grand old time, huh? She’s the one who I scolded and lectured about lying. She’s the one who had to put up with my constant harangues about getting control of herself and getting her health back.  She’s the one who had to clean the sides of the highway for days on end after you and your cousin alcohol got her in trouble for driving under the influence.  She’s the one who you manipulated right to the very brink of death by starvation.  She’s the one who had to go into treatment isolated and alone where her bathroom visits were monitored and she woke up every day to a scale and blood pressure cuff.  She’s the one who lost privileges when you manipulated her to “accidentally” knock food off of her plate.  It was her arms that were riddled with needles for innumerable blood tests.  It was her throat that was raw from the feeding tubes.  It was you who made her “accidentally” cough those feeding tubes out of her body more than once – and lie about it.  But we’re ready for your manipulative tactics now.  She and I are ready.  And the rest of the family, too.  More aware.  Better informed. Better armed.  Stronger.  United.
  • Generally, you’re disgusting.  Before you came into my daughter’s life she was quite delightful in every way. You, on the other hand, are monumentally disgusting in every way.  Your devious and immoral ways are detestable.  You literally sicken those whose lives you enter, like my daughter, both physically and mentally, and you also sicken and cause revulsion in those whose lives they touch when under your influence.  Although those under your spell may think they want to keep you in their lives, once they grasp how disgusting you really are, they can’t wait to get rid of you.  And we dads and moms and all the others who have loved ones that you’re influencing can’t wait to get rid of you either and we’re willing to try anything to get your disgusting presence out of and away from our daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers.  Anything.

http://dad-eds.com/blog/ – July 6 2009

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In the end what is important is not apportioning blame or responsibility onto anyone. The aim of anything you read about eating disorders or learn is to be focussed on the recovery of your daughter or son. It’s about being there, loving unconditionally and being supportive. Both parents need to do this. If there is behaviour in the home that may need to be addressed then do so and move on. Don’t get hung up on she did, no he said, then he or she did….  That doesn’t help anyone. I am not picking on fathers but they do seem to struggle with the whole teenage girl part in itself. Their daughters growing up is not something many of them handle very well. When that daughter then gets sick with a mental health illness it becomes easier to just hide and let someone else hold the reigns. Mothers can do exactly the same thing as fathers, but it is not as common. The bottom line that brushes away all our failures as parents and our human nature, is that our daughter or son needs us to recover. That is the point we need to focus on and to put aside our own fears, frailities, insecurities etc and get on with being there for them.

https://mylifewithanorexia.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/fathers-and-daughter/

  • This is my own post about a father’s role in his daughter’s life

http://www.edreferral.com/for_fathers.htm

  • Ten tips and ten things dads should know

http://www.eatingdisordersreview.com/nl/nl_edr_17_5_4.html

  • Research findings about the importance of the father role in eating disorder recovery

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/father.htm

  • Paper: How important is the father in eating disorder recovery

http://fatherandchild.org.nz/magazine/issue-9/hungry-for-dad/

  • In 1991 Margo Maine wrote (in ‘Father Hunger) : “It is time to focus on the positive and crucial role that fathers can play in their daughters’ emerging identity and self-esteem.”

http://dad-eds.com/blog/

  • A blog written by a father about living and dealing with his daughter’s eating disorder

http://fatherhood.about.com/od/daughersanddads/a/daughters.htm

  • Father and daughter relationships

http://www.personalconsult.com/books/lostfathering1.html

  • Father hunger – this one is more for the daughters or sons who feel they have no relationship with their father.

http://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/articles/eating-disorders-10-tips-for-dads-of-daughters/

  • Ten tips for dads to respond in healthy, supportive ways to their daughters if they have an eating disorder. Is also just plain good communication regardless of whether your daughter is ill or not.

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This post although specifically related to dads from Healthy Place, is just plain great for both parents, and whether your child is a son or daughter.

 

1. Listen to girls. I focus on what is really important–what my daughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does –rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.

2. Encourage my daughter’s strength and celebrate her savvy. I help her learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. I help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals, help other people and help herself. I help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!

3. Respect her uniqueness, Urge her to love her body and who she is. I tell and show my daughter that I love her for who she is and see her as a whole person, capable of anything. My daughter is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, I treat her and those she loves with respect. Remember 1) growing girls need to eat often and healthy; 2) fad dieting doesn’t work, and 3) she has her body for what it can do, not how it looks. Advertisers spend billions to convince my daughter she doesn’t look “right.” I won’t buy into it.

4. Get her playing sports and being physically active. Start young to play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…. you name it! I help her learn the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with abuse. The most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them!

5. Get involved in my daughter’s school. I volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. I ask questions, like: Does her school use media literacy and body image awareness programs? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students didn’t seem interested in science, so he changed his methods and their participation soared!) Are at least half the student leaders girls?

6. Get involved in my daughter’s activities. I volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class – anything! I demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was so appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, he fought to open the modern “boy’s” gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!

7. Help make the world better for girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her! Instead, I work with other parents to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all “boys are better than girls” attitudes.

8. Take my daughter to work with me. I participate in April’s Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work® Day and make sure my business participates. I show her how I pay bills and manage money. My daughter will have a job and pay rent some day, so I will introduce her to the world of work and finances!

9. Support positive alternative media for girls. Our family watches programs family that portray smart savvy girls. We get healthy girl-edited magazines like New Moon and visit online girl-run “‘zines” and websites. I won’t just condemn what’s bad; I’ll also support and use media that support my daughter!

10. Learn from other fathers. Together, we fathers have reams of experience, expertise and encouragement to share  – so let’s learn from each other. I use tools like the newsletter Daughters: For Parents of Girls (www.daughters.com). I put my influence to work  – for example, Dads and Daughters protests have stopped negative ads. It works when we work together!

http://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/articles/eating-disorders-10-tips-for-dads-of-daughters/

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(I use daughter in this post, but please know it is for both sons and daughters)

What is it with dad’s and responding appropriately to their daughter’s eating disorder?? Would you treat her differently if she had another illness?
What little research has been done, is showing father’s have a bigger impact than mother’s in the development of ED’s.

Interesting how up til now no one has even bothered to include father’s in the research. Yet research abounds of how important fathers are in the development of a daughters stability, sexuality, femininity and emotional health. It is obvious that father’s would have to impact on eating disorder development. Again, let me make the very clear point, you cannot give your daughter an eating disorder nor is the blame the parents. Your daughter could have developed depression, addictions, run away or not did any negative behaviour. It is the genetic tendencies that decide how your daughter is going to react to family situations.

Do fathers ignore/deny eating disorders because:

  • you don’t know anything about eating disorders?
  • you don’t know what to say or do?
  • you feel helpless when you see your ‘little’ girl?
  • you think this is your wife’s area?
  • you think men don’t do sickness?
  • you think women should look after women?
  • you think mother’s are more responsible?

Daughters NEED their father’s support and input during eating disorder recovery. Your wife NEEDS your help and support for both your daughter and herself. Without you being on the same page as everyone else in the household, you are only creating divisions and bitterness.

One mum recently said how she went away for a week for work. Her husband had to do all the eating disorder therapy appointments with their daughter. One session with our dietitian (we all share the same male dietitian) and he now gets how important it is for him to be there and understands why his daughter behaves like she does. Maybe we could hire our dietitian out – he makes it damn clear fathers need to understand exactly what ED’s are about and how to interact with their daughters. He also makes it damn clear that fathers must be involved in the recovery process. Another friend said how our psychiatrist helped clear some of the misconceptions and unhelpful remarks her husband was guilty of.

Father’s are just as much needed in the care role as mothers. Every part of recovery is for both parents: refeeding, therapy sessions, communicating, listening … . It means learning about not just the physical symptoms and treatment of eating disorders, but the psychological, emotional and behavioural issues that eating disorders bring. It means learning to relate appropriately. It means not trying to fix things – just be there and listen and be supportive.

Caring for someone with an eating disorder is not just a women’s role. The whole family is involved from the inception of the ED to it’s diagnosis, treatment, recovery, relapses etc. You may have to learn how to communicate, you may have to learn how to be a father a teenager daughter can relate to. Is that too much? Seriously how much do you value your daughter’s life and her freedom from an eating disorder illness.

Next post, I will have a whole pile of links and resources that are there for fathers to help them relate to their teenagers, young adult children and how to understand eating disorders.

 

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