Archive for the ‘Support team’ Category

The Dirty Laundry Project (DLP)

Dirty Laundry ProjectAt the DLP we celebrate, recognize & honor those whose actions are breaking the eating disorders & mental health “Stigma wall.”

Beating Eating Disorders (BED)

There is so much more to eating disorders than the way someone looks.
Eating disorders are a seBeating Eating Disordersrious mental illness. This disease affects millions of people all over, and has the highest mortality rate of mental illness. Often times, people with eating disorders are afraid of being judged due to the stigmatism and for that reason keep it a secret. Would you keep the diagnosis of cancer a secret? NO!!! This mental illness deserves the same kind of attention and respect as every other medical/mental diagnosis.

Eating Disorder Parent Support (EDPS)

Eating Disorder Parent SupportEating Disorder Parent Support (EDPS) is specifically and only for adults who care, or have cared for a loved one with an eating disorder. We are here for peer-to-peer sharing, support, education, guidance, encouragement, and to offer HOPE as we support our loved ones toward recovery. We welcome parents, spouses, and adult siblings, who are involved in the care; however, we are not a site or a support network for sufferers themselves.

Website: http://eatingdisorderparentsupport.weebly.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EatingDisorderParentSupport.E/

International Eating Disorder Action (IEDAction)

International Eating Disorder ActionInternational Eating Disorder Action is a coalition of parents, carers, survivors, sufferers and others, established so that members can take ACTION on issues relating to Eating Disorders (EDs).   We have members in over 15 countries and address issues globally.

Our goals:  1) to increase awareness and knowledge of EDs as treatable, biological, brain-based illnesses that that are neither the fault of, or chosen by sufferers, nor caused by parents; 2) to advocate for national Eating Disorder strategies and treatment systems that use evidence-based services; 3) to demand legislation and funding parity; and 4) to address groups/companies overtly or inadvertently fuelling Eating Disorders by glamorizing them or profiting from them.

Website: http://iedaction.weebly.com/
Blog: http://internationaleatingdisorderadvocacy.blogspot.com.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IEDAction/

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C0uldn’t word it better. Most sufferers of an eating disorder self-harm at some stage. Some just flirt with the behaviour, others become entrenched. The self-harm can start before the ED develops, it can start during or be part of the recovery process.

Thank you to PsychCentral: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/06/12/11-helpful-tips-from-the-parent-of-a-self-harmer/


Caring for self-harmersHere are 11 tips that I discovered along the way to help any parent going through a similar situation.

  1. Do not ask why. When someone self-harms, they don’t have words to describe their pain. The self-harm is an outward display of their inner emotions. Asking why will not give you the explanation you are looking for. Your child doesn’t have the answer, and this line of questioning will only make him or her feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Instead, ask if there is anything you can do to help him or her feel better.
  2. Talk to your child about first aid. By inquiring if bandages, antibiotic ointment, or any other type of first aid is needed you are starting a dialogue. This may open up an opportunity for your child to show you more of their injuries or tell you something about their pain. It is important that your child knows that they should wash their wounds with soap and water and continue to keep them clean to avoid an infection. Explain the signs of an infection and the importance of seeking medical attention if needed.
  3. Ask if he or she is safe or can keep him- or herself safe. If your child has hurt him- or herself, then they are in emotional as well as physical pain. Self-harm usually isn’t a suicide attempt, but suicidal thoughts can accompany the self-harm. There is a strong link between previous self-harm and suicide. Do not ignore it. Speak to a professional if suicidal thoughts are involved.
  4. Validate your child’s feelings. Validation is one of the most important elements to learn before parenting any child. You are acknowledging your child’s emotions, not diminishing them. You don’t have to agree with his or her feelings, you just have to be supportive. Everyone deserves to be accepted without judgment. Validation helps your child feel heard, acknowledged, and understood.
  5. Find a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Your child needs to talk to an experienced and competent professional. Do not be afraid to interview them and make sure they are the right fit. Obtain referrals from physicians, friends, or family members.As the caregiver, you need to talk to someone just as much as your child does. Take time to nurture yourself.
  6. Do not punish your child for self-injurious behavior. Self-harm is not an act of rebellion or attention-seeking behavior. Your child is hurting him- or herself because he or she is in a great deal of emotional pain. Don’t make their pain worse. Love them, nurture them, and listen to them.
  7. Remove obvious items that can be used for self-injury. If your child has to go to the effort of finding something to self-harm, rather than grabbing a knife from the kitchen drawer, it may give him or her time to think about what he or she is doing and change his or her mind. Lock sharp items away, take them with you or hide them, but don’t leave them out for easy access.
  8. Research self-harm and healthy coping skills. This is a time when you have a lot of questions. There are many helpful sites about self-injury on the Internet.Learn about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This type of therapy combines standard psychotherapy with skills training. The patients learn healthy coping skills to combat self-harm triggers. DBT works best if the parent also learns about the therapeutic method, so he or she can be supportive and encouraging.
  9. Do not minimize self-harm. When a child self-harms on a regular basis, a parent can get into the habit of thinking that this behavior is “not so bad.” This is dangerous; every incident of self-harm is significant and should not be minimized. Remember there are links between self-injury and suicide.
  10. Be honest, not disappointed. Your child doesn’t want to be in emotional pain or self-harm. Part of the healing process will involve setbacks. Be prepared for these. Never tell your child that you are disappointed in him or her for self-harming. This will only create a barrier in your relationship. Remember to validate. You don’t have to agree, you just have to listen.Honesty can create a bond between you and your child. If you don’t know what to say or do, be truthful and tell your child that you don’t know how to help him or her. They are likely to accept this, because he or she doesn’t know what to do, either.
  11. Don’t say “but.” But is an invalidating word. For example, if you say “I’m proud of you for telling me that you cut yourself, but next time talk to me before this happens,” the only thing your child will hear is that they weren’t good enough. Instead say, “I’m proud of you for telling me that you cut yourself. How do you feel now?” Have a dialogue and then later ask, “What can we do to help you talk to me if you are having these feelings or urges again?” Your child doesn’t listen to everything you say; make sure everything you say is worth hearing.

Overcoming the addictive hold self-harm has on your child will take time, patience, and effort. Offer your help and guidance. Be the parent your child needs during this difficult time in his or her life.


APA Reference
Larsen, T. (2015). 11 Helpful Tips from the Parent of a Self-Harmer. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 14, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/06/12/11-helpful-tips-from-the-parent-of-a-self-harmer/

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Many therapists use the term ‘Distraction Toolbox’ for recovery strategies. I have written before out this too and what Sophie used as her distraction toolbox. Basically the idea is to use healthy and positive means of taking the attention from eating, or ED thoughts, negativity etc that drag you down into ED behaviour or worse, relapse. Learning to block ED thoughts and behaviours, automatic thoughts, anxieties, fears, black/white thinking is critical to recovery and moving forward.

The below is a visual idea that makes it clear and easy to imprint your mind. Sophie’s biggest problem was trying to remember her tools to use when the ED voice was really loud. She would get distressed and her mind would go blank. So visual for her worked in clearing some of the ‘noise’ and helped her focus.

Thanks to Buzznet and ‘Forbidden’ Blog.

Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 1
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 2
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 3
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 4
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 5
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 6
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 7
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 8
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 9

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(… or reflections on our anorexia journey)

The uni break went so quick. One minute she is home, next minute gone. lol, well almost. She went back earlier, so excited for the new unit, then realised she was back way too early and desperately homesick this time. She came back home, instead of toughing it out. She said she had a much better chance of not falling into depression or anxiety by coming back home. As always I observe everything she says and does. Sophie’s maturity surprises me to the level she has achieved (within a mere several months), her insight and empathy (so apparently missing) is finally blossoming. Doesn’t mean she was always calm and not hysterical at times, but a definite switch. Before she went back, the aspie side of Sophie was all organised. Doctor appointments made, counselling appt made, new referral appt with ED specialist made, classes sorted, disability needs sorted. She just ploughed through it all. This is the plus side of having aspergers.

The new ED specialist is more of a counsellor but has the insight and understanding of what having an eating disorder in your past means for you presently and how you relate and cope with life. Whilst Sophie has to travel to this centre, I am pleased she has taken this on board as an extra coping and learning tool.

It is also time to start weaning her anti-depressant medication. Five years is a long time to be on the medication, and now is the time to slowly (painfully slowly) wean her off and see how she responds.

For me it’s been a time of great reflection. 5.5 years into this, 5 years from diagnosis, 3.5 years from full weight stabilisation, 1-1.5 years with no anorexia behaviour or thoughts. It’s been an amazing ride, that only those who have been here know how crazy, mixed up, painful, the intense highs and the intense lows. Moving from small picture, every moment, every day stuff to big picture stuff that encompasses months. Being part of a new parent support group too, has been part of this reflection. I have had to think back to the very beginning, remember things I thought I had put away forever. It’s actually been a painful journey for me, but it has honed my thoughts and beliefs about eating disorders and taught me to be far more articulate and to advocate on a higher level.

Thought I would put together a summary – seems a timely thing really.

our anorexia journey

Biggest Mistake
* under estimating how long, painful and soul destroying this journey is
* feeling guilty that I had somehow caused this

Biggest Misunderstanding
* that we could get through this in a couple of months – not years

Biggest Regret
* not demanding more from the health system around us or challenging the wrong beliefs at the time

Biggest Fear
* wondering if at times I could continue to care for her
* her dying before we could turn this around into recovery

Biggest Lesson
* how quickly you go from health to critical and in a hospital bed
* how you can never never negotiate with an eating disorder
* your child is totally separate to the eating disorder behaviour
* comorbid illness are a part of eating disorders and make the struggle to recover harder and can become a part of life afterwards

Biggest Myth
* you don’t have to be skeletal to have anorexia
* relapse is a valid and normal part of recovery not something dangerous, fearful or not normal
* tube feeding is not a shame or psychological issue. Not now. Older women struggle with this and parents have their own hangups about this. The reality is very different for those in their teens who are tubed fed.

Biggest Support
* those I met going through this journey who were travelling it too
* having an amazing, strong, recovery focused team of five professionals

Biggest Surprise
* the inner eating disorder voice in my daughter’s mind. Like getting to know the devil himself.

Biggest Problem
* health professionals who still do not know how to diagnose or treat eating disorders
* the lack of resources (both money and treatment) for parents and sufferers to access to get treatment and recover.
* the different approach, government understanding and health systems in each country that actually hamper treatment when the illness itself is the same regardless of country.

What I did Right
* early detection, early intervention
* standing with her despite the horrors of the illness and behaviour and walking with her to recovery

What Benefits Did We Gain
* obviously my daughter’s life and health but also gaining a deep, close and open relationship with my daughter
* gaining some wonderful new friends who truly understood and still stand by us
* an intimate and highly experienced understanding and knowledge of eating disorders that we can share with others

What Did We Lose
* the years my daughter cannot get back of her normal growing up time with her peers
* friends

Before Anorexia
* my daughter was anxious, highly strung, a perfectionist, a misunderstood kid with her peers
* I thought I had a plan mapped out for some kind of normal existence like every other family raising teenage kids
* I thought I was already a strong mum because of domestic violence.

After Anorexia
* my daughter knows herself so well compared to other kids her age. Whilst this is a plus it is also a negative, as she struggles to find a close friend
* I learned I am stronger than I thought, I learned a deeper side of me, and I learned the dreams I had no longer ‘do it for me’. I search deeper.
* I am still finding who I am now, I no longer want the same dreams. I still struggle to find my way around a kitchen after so many years tied to anorexia cooking and preparation.

The Blog Role
* ended up being far more than I ever thought, and gained me so much privilege to talk to others on all levels in this journey. Thank you!

What would I do Differently
This is very personal. It would be to leave our dysfunctional family domestic violent life instead of waiting til further into recovery. I had planned to leave just before my daughter started down the slippery slope. I thought (wrongly) that staying might have been better for her health. It would have given full FBT a better chance and a safe environment that had no anger, expectations, eggshells etc in it.

Family Based Therapy
That eating disorder recovery is NOT a one-size fits all. Despite the best statistics, FBT (Maudsley, FEAST, FBT types) don’t always work for some families. This is not a point to be guilty about or feel like you have failed. It just is. Means you just go and find what does work for your family and how to care. As long as there is forward progress into recovery then you are going great with whatever you are doing.

Families are not to blame
I will keep saying this shouting it from everywhere. Eating disorders are genetic based. Families do not cause eating disorder and are not to blame for an ED developing.

My faith took a pounding, became far more realistic and more honest. Like David I adore but I will question and ask.

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Learning distraction techniques is part of the journey to recovery. It isn’t always possible to just ignore or shut out the voices. Sometimes you can work out what triggered the voice to be louder or more insistent and you can distance yourself from the trigger. But that’s not always possible. It is important if you can to at first acknowledge the voice, and try to work out what you were feeling just before it got loud, where you were, what happened etc. That can help you identify vulnerable situations for yourself and help you also learn more about you personally. But when the voice continues distraction techniques are the most important weapon you have. Sophie has been working through several worksheets her counsellor gave her, identifying what works for her, as well as a diary of what she does each time the voices get too loud. Sometimes she is dedicated to working on this and other times it gets shoved aside. Her distraction techniques only work as much as her commitment to the task.

Distraction techniques are not a magic wand, you have to be committed to using them and sticking them.

So what are distraction ideas. This is as unique as you are. It is a case of what works for you. CBT and mindfulness /meditation can help but you will need guidance and help from your counsellor to learn these. Others are as simple as:

  •  going for a walk, exercise, dancing
  • playing with your pet
  • sewing, drawing, painting, listening to music, writing
  • beauty treatments (nail polish, face masks, hair colour)getting outside and just moving
  • visiting, texting, ringing a friend
  • watching a movie or favourite TV shows
  • doing something very physical to get rid of anger, frustration etc (belt your pillow, throw a ball against a wall, use a punching bag)
  • cuddling your favourite stuffed toy
  • clean or re-organise your room

The list goes on. Pick and mix them up. Have a few you know work regardless. Try new things. As long as the moment passes and the voices fade. It can exhausting and be a real struggle to just find the energy to do the distraction techniques but it is worth it. The let down you get when you give into the ED voices is far worse.

For more ideas go to 151 things to do before you self-harm (I know a lot of you don’t self harm, but the ideas they give work for eating disorders, depression and lots of other mental health illnesses.

Another great handout, is the Alternatives to Self-Harm and Distraction Techniques pdf from Royal College of Psychiatrists. It is really worth getting. I have given this to Sophie – who actually seemed interested.

Talk through what works for you with your team, family or friend. Write it down so when you so don’t forget. When the voices get loud it can be really hard to think clearly and remember what you are meant to do. Just grab your written list.

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Although everyone doesn’t fit a model, it is a good indication of what you may feel, see or think as you start your recovery process. It helps you know that what you are going through is valid. It also helps you know what is coming next, however long that may be. Remember the journey back is always yours and yours alone – it is never to be compared to anyone else’s journey.

From NEDC website.

Stages of Change Model

The Stages of Change model can be applied to the field of eating disorders to explain why some people may feel more ready than others to introduce changes that lead to recovery from the disorder.There are generally five stages of change that a person with an eating disorder may go through. Everyone is different and some people may pass back and forth between these stages, especially in cases where relapse is common.

This model seeks to understand a person’s motivation towards achieving change and recovery. From a carer perspective, it can also be used to understand how to approach and care for someone with an eating disorder.

Stage 1: Pre-Contemplation

In the Pre-Contemplation stage, a person with an eating disorder will most likely be in denial that there is a problem.

While others around them may have noticed some of the warning signs, the person with the disorder will have little or no awareness of the problems associated with their disordered eating. Instead, they may be focused on controlling their eating patterns.

A person with an eating disorder in this stage may not be willing to change or disclose their behaviour and may be hostile, angry or frustrated when approached. This is because the person’s eating disorder is currently serving as a way to control or avoid strong and unpleasant emotions. The person may be unwilling or afraid to let go of these behaviours.

To approach someone in the Pre-Contemplation stage:

  • Stay calm and try to see things from their point of view
  • Show compassion and understanding
  • Take the focus off their disordered eating; instead, talk about their interests, goals in life and the things they may be missing out on as a result of the eating disorder

Stage 2: Contemplation

A person with an eating disorder in the Contemplation stage will have an awareness of their problems. They may be considering the benefits of changing some of their behaviour.

However, their attitude may also fluctuate between wanting to change and wanting to maintain their disordered eating habits. This can be difficult and confusing, both for the person with the eating disorder and for their loved ones.

You can manage the Contemplation stage by:

  • Encouraging the person to voice their thoughts, feelings and concerns
  • Demonstrating that you are listening to what they are saying and that you understand their struggle. You can even reinforce what they are saying by repeating it back to them; e.g. ‘I hear you saying that part of you feels like you want to change, while another part of you feels scared of changing…’
  • Showing them you respect their ideas, particularly the ones in favour of change
  • Trying to boost their self-esteem and confidence; this will help them believe they can change
  • Letting them know you are pleased that they have shared their feelings with you and that you are willing to support them through the process of change and recovery

Stage 3: Preparation and Determination

In this stage, the person with the eating disorder has decided they want to change their behaviour and is preparing to make these changes in order to recover. This can be a very stressful and anxious time for the person with the disorder, as well as for others who are supporting them. In most cases, help from a doctor, clinician or eating disorder professional is necessary.

As a carer or support person, you can help by:

  • Being informed. Learn as much as you can about the steps you and the person you are caring for need to take in order to recover
  • Working with the person to identify their goals and develop a detailed approach of how you will manage the changes together

Stage 4: Action

A person with an eating disorder in the Action stage will be taking the first steps towards recovery and is focused on completing the recovery process.
They require strong support and encouragement to get through this stage. The person can move backwards and forwards in their development during this stage and relapse can be common.

Supporting someone in the Action stage often means:

  • Acknowledging how difficult it is to change and recover from an eating disorder
  • Supporting the person through challenges and letting them know you believe in them; this will help build their confidence
  • Focusing on the benefits of change, rather than the difficulties in changing; being encouraging and positive
  • Letting the person know that you are willing to support them throughout this stage and that they are not alone
  • If relapse occurs, explain to the person that relapse is normal and common and assist them in coping with the relapse and achieving recovery


Stage 5: Maintenance

In the Maintenance stage, a person with an eating disorder will have changed their behaviour and may be focusing on maintaining their new, healthier habits. They are also learning to live without the eating disorder.

This stage takes time and ongoing commitment, both from the person with the disorder and his/her support network. It is still possible for a person with an eating disorder to relapse at this stage. However, full recovery from relapses and recurrences is also entirely possible.

To assist in the Maintenance stage and help prolong recovery:

  • Work together with the person to identify triggers that may impact their recovery
  • Put systems and strategies in place to help avoid relapse
  • Show care, patience and compassion
  • Remain positive about their recovery


Eating Disorders: Be Informed

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Going to uni is scary right?

  • new friends
  • new routines
  • new city
  • new study

When you have an eating disorder, anxiety, OCD, other mental health disorders you up the fear factor. The nature of the illnesses mean you try to hide and fly under the radar anyway.

  1. You don’t want to tell anyone – you want to look and be like everyone else
  2. You don’t want to have to open yourself up at that level to new people
  3. You don’t want a new health support team – enough already!
  4. You don’t want the shame of going to the disability unit or being labelled disabled
  5. You don’t want people to know you ‘need’ care
  6. You think seeking help is a weakness
  7. You think the disability unit is only for physically disabled people
  8. You don’t have time to ‘nurture’ your illness – pretend it’s not really there.

Problem is, the illness doesn’t go away, and it does need care, support and nurture. Otherwise the road ahead becomes a mountain or a minefield. Taking ownership and being responsible for yourself and your health is part of recovery.

And there is help on campus giving willingly and caringly by the uni staff. They really do want you to succeed and be there to support you if they can and you let them. But you see, YOU have to find them. They won’t come and find you. There is no fairy godmother turning up at the door. You have to actively get out there and ask, seek, find.

Soph thought she could do it herself – and ten points for the bravery and courage to try. But bigger points to her for finally realising after crashing several times, this wasn’t going to get better by itself and help wasn’t going to seek her out. She made the scary effort of finding out who to talk to. One conversation led to others, led to people and sections that could help her.

After seeing the disability unit (and there is a whole context of shame that everyone needs to get over), she is set for next semester. The benefits she has gained in the last couple of weeks out-weight all the numbered points above that she argued defensively about. She actually realises she can face next semester and know she has systems in place to support her on every level. That’s cool.

There is no shame in seeking help. Help restores the balance to your life. Help can mean the difference to you making your dream or not. You don’t have to tell everyone you are seeking help, nor is it anyone else’s business that you have systems in place to help you succeed. Comparing how you get through your degree to how your friend or peers get through their degree is so POINTLESS. You need to enable yourself not disable yourself.

Sophie has found a new set of people who care and are willing to walk with her. That’s pure gold. It tells her she is not alone, that she can start to trust and open herself up and not feel shamed.

support for eating disorders

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