How to build up your own resilience and wellbeing when your child has an eating disorder

This is a section from Chapter 15 of ‘Anorexia and other eating disorders – how to help your child eat well and be well’

In Chapter 13 I offered you tools for mindfulness and compassionate communication. I now build on these to help you access more resilience and a sense of well-being, right away and in the long term. Whether you’re getting ready to serve a meal or trying to cope with emotional exhaustion, you will find resources here.

Supporting a kid through an eating disorder is said to be a marathon, not a sprint. Many of us cower in fear of the next storm because we only barely have our heads above water. We say, ‘I don’t know how much more I can take.’ We want stamina and endurance in order to keep going, and resilience so we can recover from knocks and move onwards and upwards with confidence.

I’m going to assume that you are now dealing with the day-to-day challenges of meals and that you have a tiny bit more time and energy to invest in your own mental wellbeing. If you’ve jumped straight to this chapter, then it should make sense, but if some of the concepts seem odd I recommend you check out the chapter on compassionate connection.

Building resilience isn’t just about making you feel well, though that would be a good enough reason. It’s about being able to deal effectively with all the challenges you may face at this difficult time – and that includes everyday things like your boiler breaking down and your aged aunt refusing to speak to you. If right now you believe your own wellbeing doesn’t matter, it’s still worth growing your emotional resources so that you can be in the best possible state for your child’s sake.

Eating disorders often rob our children of internal resources: it’s the people supporting them who open access to strength, hope, health and joy.

This doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time, and most of us have a lot of grieving to do. If you go to the Around the Dinner Table forum, you will see that parents cry a lot, some have epiphanies after hitting rock bottom, and some have gradually grown stronger, wiser and more patient than ever before. It takes time to find our feet.

As suffering is really not much fun, I hope that what follows will speed up your emotional journey a little.

Post-traumatic growth when your child has an eating disorder

New ways to deal with adversity

When things were really bad, I woke every morning with a sense of dread, and my anxiety would peak before each meal. I was scared that my daughter might not eat, and I was scared of her outbursts. I desperately wanted to do a good job, to be calm and compassionate, and I did not want to react aggressively to any of her behaviours. I was often on the verge of tears, and on no account did I want to add to her burden by crying in front of her. Basically, I frequently felt I was in no fit state to support her.

My husband suffered as well. He got very weary of receiving hate day after day and he was affected by stress. But he remained functional and was able to soldier on irrespective of whether our daughter was managing meals or not. For a while he handled more than his fair share of mealtimes. This was OK: we were a team, using the abilities of each team member to the best effect. But I still had to find a way to cope on the days I was on my own, or when I wanted to give him a break. If you’re a single parent and you have nobody to share some of this challenging journey with, I bet you really want to keep your emotions at a manageable level.

It took me a long time to find my own way of coping, of dealing with this new thing life had thrown at us. When I found out how, I became the driver for the next stage of our journey because I knew that I could rock the boat and we would not drown.

The resources I found allowed me to be in touch with my emotions and still be effective. I believe this could help protect against exhaustion and even against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

[Jumping to another section of the chapter…]

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ancient Eastern practice that is now widely used in Western psychotherapy. With mindfulness, you intentionally pay attention to your moment to moment experience, and you do so without judgement, with a compassionate and open heart.

With mindfulness you bring your presence to what you’re experiencing while you’re experiencing it. You are stepping outside of your mind and into your body, taking a meta-perspective of what’s going on internally: your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Mindfulness tends to quieten the mind and make space for your greater self, because as soon as you become aware of chatterbox thoughts, you’re not so busy thinking them. The point of mindfulness is to be fully yourself in everyday life, connected to yourself and to the world around you.

Earlier I told you about the concept of acceptance, and in Chapter 13 I described self-compassion. Acceptance, self-compassion and mindfulness are much of a muchness. Whenever you give your child your compassionate presence, for instance, you are being mindful.

The more you use opportunities to be mindful, the more your brain creates new connections and new growth, making it more and more your natural way of being.[viii]If you practice being mindful during activities you enjoy, not only are you training your brain, but you’re bringing stress hormones down, enhancing feel-good neurotransmitters and generally filling up your tank of well-being. For me this happens with music and dance.

You can also train your mindfulness muscle by spending regular time in sitting meditation. There are many ways to meditate – focusing on the breath is only one of them. You can find courses and recordings [vii]to guide you through mindfulness, relaxation and compassion.

 

As this dad explains:

“The one thing I have done consistently over the years that has benefited me by far the most is a daily meditation practice. One of the side effects of meditation for me is seeing ‘thoughts as thoughts’.
Thoughts weigh nothing…. So… I recommend meditation, even if it is just 5 minutes in the morning. Sitting, eyes closed, counting breaths – that’s it.”[ix]

Good-enough Zen

I used to think that through relaxation and mindfulness I could approach a meal in a totally Zen state. I used to think that this was an imperative. That I should get myself in a calm and benevolent frame of mind to guard against screwing up the next lunch. Well, it can be pretty stressful trying to reach a perfect level of calm six times a day when every fibre in your body is telling you that things are going to be a little bit tough. In short I would approach meals with some trepidation, aware that I wasn’t quite ready for whatever would be thrown at me.

Then I got an excellent tip, which may help you too. Notice small improvements in your own state. And notice that they’re good enough. Good enough for you to do what needs to be done.

I noticed that one deep breath made me let go of a small amount of tension. Or that placing my hand on my heart brought me a little closer to my deeper self. Or that imagining my daughter’s hand in mine made me smile just a tiny bit. Or that smelling the flowers on the table made me a smidgen more trusting of the world. Small improvements are easy to create, and they may be all you need to help you through the next few minutes, or even the entire meal.

It’s exactly the same with our children. They don’t need to be calm and composed to manage a meal. All they need is a little something to reduce some of their tension.

Anxiety isn’t a reason not to do things. You only need to reduce stress levels by a micro-unit to tackle the next micro-task. Sure, it’s harmful to live with constant anxiety, but that’s going to be taken care of step by step. Each time your child manages to eat, her anxiety goes down, and so does yours. With time, repetition and compassion, things will become easier.

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Coping in the moment

Feelings are in-the-moment things. Your emotions may be at rock bottom now but there is no way of predicting how they will be in ten minutes, or in ten days and ten minutes. These days, the only certainty I have about my emotions is that they come and go, and the less I get them tangled up with my thoughts, the more likely they will move on.

When I realised that I was stressing out about the next year, the next week, or even the next hour, I decided to notice how, moment by moment, I was coping. The moment might need to be subdivided into units of milliseconds, so that I could tell myself, ‘Right now, this instant, I’m actually fine.’

You could notice that the only reality is the present moment. This instant. This instant in which you are living and breathing and in which the ground is under your feet. The past is gone; the future doesn’t yet exist.

I decided that if I could be fine in the present, even when things were horribly tough, I could trust I would most likely also be fine in future, present moments.

I wonder if you’ve ever done this with physical pain. You’ve bitten through a chunk of your tongue and it’s hurting like hell, but just now, this second, it’s bearable. And this second is OK too. And this next second. And you might even start noticing that the pain subsides, because it’s not aggravated by catastrophic thoughts.

Noticing that we are coping in the moment allows us to deal with our fears one step at a time. There is a sentence I like in the book ‘Parenting your anxious child with mindfulness and acceptance’ by Christopher McCurry[x]:

“Sometimes all we need is just a glimpse of where to go and what to do, and we can take the next step—and then the next and then the next.”

Being in the moment

After experiencing coping in the moment during challenging times, I started to appreciate the benefits of generally being in the moment. Even as I recalled past events or planned the next activity, I found clarity and peace in giving my full attention to my present experience. Being in the ‘now’ is mindfulness in everyday life, and it is a powerful state to be in. When you are in the moment, you benefit from acceptance and trust and you may notice how perfectly fine things are. You may even relish, at times, how much you’re enjoying yourself. Because you don’t get entangled with thoughts and feelings, you are free of fear and judgement. It is a gateway to compassion.

[Jumping to another section of the chapter…]

 

Resilience for parents of a child suffering from an eating disorder

Post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic growth?

It is not uncommon for parents of kids with an eating-disorder to suffer from some kind of backlash, possibly as serious as post-traumatic stress disorder, after their child’s condition improves. It’s by no means a general rule, but it happens. I was lucky: I did a lot of falling apart while my daughter was ill, and then felt increasingly well. But some parents end up more traumatised than their kids, something that has been observed in families where a child has recovered from cancer.

“After my husband and I finally got our daughter to a safe stage in recovery, our bodies decided to sort of collapse on us. I kept catching bugs/viruses that went on for ages. I think our bodies know when the ED emergency is over, and then it crashes! Anyway, now I’m well again.”[xii]

It can be scary for us parents to notice how anxious or depressed we feel, and to think that this may stay with us for ever.

“It does get better, in fact it was surprising to me that I had to think hard to remember some of the things that happened, although at the time it felt like we would never get through them or forget them”

It may help you to know that PTSD is by no means inevitable, and is not linked to the severity of the trauma. Martin Seligman, in his book ‘Flourish’[xiii], discusses survivors of traumas, in particular war veterans. In spite of what the media would have us believe, he points out that PTSD is relatively uncommon. Most people return to their previous level of functioning after a brief period of depression and anxiety.

More excitingly, there is such a thing as post-traumatic growth. Seligman notes that after events producing intense depression and anxiety, a substantial number of people become not only resilient, but better than ever. Seligman gave questionnaires to 1,700 people who had suffered torture, grave illness, death of a child, rape, imprisonment and other awful events. These people had more strengths and greater well-being than people who had not experienced major stressors.

I can relate to that. I had months of feeling like I was cracking up while my daughter was in hospital. I carried dark glasses everywhere because I never knew when I might burst into tears. I frequently fantasised about smashing the car into a wall and feared that one day I might do so involuntarily. But I also knew that I had good reason to be distressed.

Whereas in the past I might have been ashamed of feeling low, this time I believed that my reaction was entirely normal. I sought support, learned tools and I changed. Even before my daughter began to recover, I was becoming stronger, more resourceful, more energetic than I’d ever been. When she relapsed I was also supporting my mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease meant every aspect of her care needed attention. The dark glasses came back out at times. But after each difficult episode I returned to well-being. Overall I am a happier person than I was pre-anorexia. Events still affect me and I suffer, but I also smile a lot. What I’m trying to tell you, is that it is possible to feel well, at times very, very well, even while your child is ill.

I hope this doesn’t sound smug. I know I could well have continued down the tears-and-dark-glasses route, if it hadn’t been for the help of some remarkable books and people. Nobody should be shamed or blamed for suffering from PTSD, depression or anxiety. Just like your child didn’t choose to get an eating disorder, you didn’t choose to fall apart when the stresses became too great.

If I talk of post-traumatic growth, it is not to make you out to be a failure if you’re suffering right now, but to give you a vision of what may be possible.

I certainly don’t feel smug when I wonder what other challenges life may bring me. How would I cope if I was faced with another relapse in my daughter’s illness, combined, say, with bereavement or cancer? It happens. There are parents who go through treatment for cancer while also supporting their child through an eating disorder. I take heart from Seligman’s observation that of the 1,700 people he surveyed, those who had experienced two awful events had greater strengths then people who had experienced ‘only’ one. And the poor bastards who had experienced three awful events fared even better. Go figure!

This gives me hope not only for myself, but also for my daughter. What if the awful experiences you and your child have lived through turned out to be a source of strength? The mechanism, as I see it would be this: we start off suffering horribly because we’ve never had to cope with this level of adversity before. So our current tools are not up to the job. We’re forced to learn new ways of living, to upskill, and our new resources help us live more fully both in good times and bad times.

It seems that there is a strong genetic component to our well-being – our base happiness level. Seligman – whose research focus has moved from depression to well-being – observes that we can flourish beyond our predetermined level, with the help of a few tried and tested tools. What I’m offering you in this book is a set of tools that combines Seligman’s research with principles of compassionate communication and of mindfulness. It works well for me and I hope it is working for you.

[Jumping to another section of the chapter…]

Mistakes, blame and self-acceptance

Regret your behaviour, love yourself

As you support your child through this illness you should expect to ‘fail’ and make ‘mistakes’, time and again. Expect to say terrible things, to shout, to cry. Even if you’ve got that mostly sorted out, you might still struggle with a tendency to give off passive-aggressive messages. I hate every shrug, every raised eyebrow, every frown that I addressed to my daughter. And if I saw you shouting at your child over her bowl of muesli, I would hate that. What I’m hating is the behaviour. I do not hate myself, and I certainly don’t hate you. I am what I am, and you are what you are. Acceptance isn’t the same as complacency.

It is probably impossible to accept others, and in particular your child, if you are not living and breathing self-compassion. If you want to be present to others, it’s necessary to accept yourself, what you did, and what you didn’t do.

Accepting ourselves makes space in our minds and brings out the best in us. It’s an essential step to gaining the self-control we wish for. Without self-acceptance, self-control is flaky and exhausting.

If you’re struggling to accept yourself, spend some time reconnecting with your needs and values. Perhaps you’re finding your ‘failures’ incredibly sad and frustrating, because you’re on a mission not just to feed, but to build the type of connection that will support your child’s recovery. You may have a sense that the stakes are high and that you have no time to lose. Close your eyes and spend some time with the things that really matter to you. Move away from the details of what happened and tune into what you dearly want. Notice also the many ways in which you’re succeeding – perhaps you take them for granted, but they are precious to your child. This self-compassion process may give you the healing you need and the drive to move on.

There are other tools that may help you […]

[Jumping to another section of the chapter…]

An attitude of gratitude

Here’s how a mum, Cathy[xxii], was met by gratitude.

“For the longest time, I felt frustrated, exhausted and even a bit resentful questioning: ‘When will I get to have MY LIFE back again?’

And then I changed my thinking and thought, ‘Hmmm – wait a minute. THIS IS MY LIFE. And you know what? It’s not really all that bad.’
It could be a whole lot worse. Oh believe me, it HAS been a whole lot worse over these past 3-5 years.

Today, watching my daughter pick up that fork and eat those brunch scrambled eggs, eat her toast, drink her orange juice… without resistance and sans that vacant ED expression on her face… finishing in time to spare for her to get off to work at the job she has been now at for over 2 years…. well, it put a smile on my face.

My attitude is changing.
Gratitude is my new attitude.

As a person who recovered from anorexia myself, I look back and say ‘What worked?’ What worked was FOOD, weight gain and finding happiness, loving relationships, meaningful work and purpose in LIFE.
Happiness… love… work… purpose… Now I get to add…
GRATITUDE.

Gratitude is my NEW attitude!”

Gratitude is good for humans. It’s been shown[xix] that your wellbeing levels will increase significantly if you take a few minutes once a day to write down five things you’re grateful for. I’m hoping that just bringing them to my awareness is sufficient because I do quite enough writing as it is.

I’ve already mentioned that our brains are wired up with a negativity bias[xx].

We pay more attention and give more weight to what may be going wrong than to what’s wonderful, and this may have contributed to the survival of our species. All the same, we can try to get the best of all worlds: we can be vigilant to risks and appreciate the good things in our lives. It may be that for every negative, you might need five positives in order to function well.[i]

A word of caution: gratitude should not be forced. It’s neither a virtue nor an obligation. It’s something that may bubble up from the inside when we stop to pay attention. I guess sometimes we can prime the pump a little by staying still, opening our minds and inviting the possibility of something wonderful. Listing five items, to me, is about making space for the gratitude that is already there and is never an ‘ought’.

I like to let gratitude seep into my body and soul by remembering not just events, but how wonderful they felt and how they truly met deep needs. That’s because when I first started listing things I was grateful for, it nearly backfired. If I was in a black mood, my chatterbox would barge in and remind me that the very things I’d enjoyed might be taken away from me any time. Instead of gratitude for the abundance in my life, I was getting into scarcity and fear. So I made sure that for each event I’ve appreciated I also dwelled on how it had filled my soul. For example when I was full of gratitude that my daughter had put her hand in mine, I let the delight of having hope and closeness sink in. Even if she didn’t give me her hand for another three months, I trusted that I’d find hope and closeness in other ways.

When things were very bad I’d struggle to find five good things in my dreadful day – in fact many times I didn’t even bother. I didn’t want to pay lip service to the exercise or turn it into a ‘positive thinking’ exercise – a sure-fire way of activating internal resistance. But it was good to wait and just be present. Sometimes what came up were the constants in my life, the things I wouldn’t normally notice: I had food to eat, a warm house, a kind husband, and the chirping of the birds outside was peaceful. I also found that when my life was full of drama and despair, a huge wave of gratitude could sweep me up when someone showed me a simple kindness.

The gratitude exercise reinforced the things that sustain me in times of trouble and that let me flourish in times of ease.

A dad wrote me this as he was struck by gratitude:

“Every day I log on my phone brief entries on what she’s eaten and maybe a little emotional check-in. AND THE REALLY COOL thing about it is that I start every entry with the same heading: “I get to save my daughter.” I do that because I realized recently something profound. From the moment she was born I have always seen myself as part of what mostly all dads want: driving her to school, attending the parent meetings, celebrating report cards, watching her play games, making arrangements for college, helping her narrow down career choices, walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, holding my grandkids, etc., etc. But unlike most of those other dads, I’ve got one more thing to do that I never thought I’d get to do: I get to save my daughter’s life. It’s not that I have to. Or want. It’s that I GET to. It’s like I get to go to the moon or something. Ask any father what a joy it is to protect a daughter from anything. And I get to do it every day. ‘Beat that!’ I say to my former self. ‘You never thought you’d get to do this!’”

 

Even joy... for parents of a child with anorexia

Joy

It’s time for goodbyes and I want to send you all my wishes. I so hope that you have found support in this book. For all the time I’ve been writing here, I have held you in my mind as a dear friend.

I’d like to finish with joy.

Is it insensitive to talk of joy when eating disorders are turning so many lives inside out? Even in normal times, it’s not a popular concept. Some of us have been raised with an ethos of self-denial, where we deny ourselves not only material goods, but kindnesses and pleasures. We turn down the nourishment that makes us flourish, that sustains our well-being and allows us to radiate light for the benefit of others. Self-denial may have started as a spiritual aim, a quest for virtue, but to me it’s more like wallowing in the mud.

I’ve mentioned how close to each other sorrow and joy are. An eating disorder throws us parents into greater sufferings than we’ve ever known. Sometimes it can seem like it will take years, and a string of miracles, for us to ever feel good again. Our children, presumably, share a similar despair.

We wait for external events to bring us happiness. And yet I believe that joy is a life force that is bubbling up in us all the time. We can put a lid on it or we can open up, enjoying and sharing its riches.

The invitation is to stoke the fires of joy.

I wonder if you’ve experienced something like this: you’re due to go out with some friends, but you nearly cancel because you’re exhausted and you’re crying all the time. But you go all the same, and maybe there’s good conversation or good music or good food and good cheer, and suddenly you notice how very relaxed and contented you’ve been feeling for the last hour.

Perhaps the switch in mood happens over small things. You notice the golden evening sun playing on the irises outside your window. Or you share your dog’s delight as he chases leaves on a windy autumn walk. You’re fully enjoying life for this moment in time.

I’m proposing that you not only let yourself enjoy these opportunities, but actively seek them out, because they nourish your soul and put you in touch with joy. Refuse to label yourself as someone who’s sad, suffering, in distress. If you’ve learned anything about emotions on this journey, it’s that they come and go. What remains is your drive for life.

I wonder if a moral concern might hold you back. Just as bubbles of contentment, fun, or connection percolate through you, you think, ‘My kid is suffering. Right now, this very moment, she’s ill. What kind of a monster am I to be feeling so wonderful?’

Even without illness in the family, it can seem wrong to enjoy life. We’re reminded every time we turn on the news that there is so much pain in the world. We value life’s riches and we long for them to be accessible to everyone at all times. We imagine that we should show solidarity with misery by being at least a little bit miserable.

Just recently I was walking my dog while feeling seriously down in the dumps. I passed a few people and kept my eyes lowered; engaging with anyone, even with a silent nod, seemed like too much hard work. And then someone strode by, relaxed, open, smiling. Everything about this person said ‘Life!’. I was too knotted up to give eye contact, but the light this human being shone nourished me for hours.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” (Albert Schweitzer)

Having had pain right inside my family has taught me the power to be gained from accepting what is, and from being open to joy. I’ve now experienced how it’s in no way selfish – when you’re embracing life, others aren’t left behind, because they’re nourished by your vitality. Stoking the fires of joy doesn’t take away from anyone and it enriches life – mine, my family’s and way beyond. My wish is for you to radiate the good things you value, because they will warm your child back to life.

I like the metaphor of the lighthouse in a beautiful piece entitled ‘Stoking the fires of joy’ by David Spangler[xxiii]. Standing strong among fierce winds and lashing waves, the lighthouse penetrates the darkness and guides ships on their journey. What use is it to anyone if we become part of the storm, when we can be part of the lighthouse?

Let’s give the last joyful words to a young person on her way to recovery:

“I feel awake for the first time in so long… My heart is just overflowing with appreciation for life. I cry easily now – I never had that before. I cry out of joy, out of gratitude, out of appreciation. I feel strong and comfortable in myself. I feel like I’ve sunken into myself. I feel okay being me. I feel like I’m becoming the person I really am. I feel like I’m living authentically… I just feel so empowered. I feel like I can trust myself. I feel like my opinion matters. I feel like I have found my voice of self-protection, which had been missing for so long. I just feel really alive.”[xxiv]

 


In this chapter:

  • New ways to deal with adversity
  • Acceptance: work with reality, not against it
  • Letting go: why hang on by your fingernails?
  • Trust that you have resources
  • The body drives the mind: relaxation
  • Imagery to help you get grounded and peaceful
  • Mindfulness
  • Good-enough Zen
  • Coping in the moment
  • Being in the moment
  • Looking fear in the eye
  • Turning chatterbox thoughts around
  • Post-traumatic stress or post-traumatic growth?
  • Refuel: attend to life-giving needs
  • Sadness, mourning and … joy
  • Mistakes, blame and self-acceptance
  • Writing a diary: self-help or rumination?
  • An attitude of gratitude

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Endnotes

[i]Be like a river’ by Paul Coelho. http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/07/11/be-like-a-river/

[ii] This video takes only 14 seconds andt memorably illustrates the notions of trust: http://youtu.be/wPOgvzVOQig

[iii] The ultimate account of this is from concentration camp survivor Viktor E. Frankl in his book, ‘Man’s search for meaning’. http://amzn.to/18PaXYm

[iv] Pavlov showed that in dogs, a trigger (a bell) can instantly create an emotional state because earlier, the brain learned to associate the two.. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) uses this principle to create ‘anchors’: gestures associated with a desired state.

[v] The internet has many meditations texts, slide shows or videos you might enjoy, and you can also buy recordings. Here’s a short one on being grounded like a tree: http://walksoftly2.wordpress.com/tips/meditations/tree-meditation-for-grounding

[vi] Daniel Siegel describes the ‘wheel of awareness’ in several of his books, and you can read a summary of it, in his words, here: http://tinyurl.com/axzm6x3

[vii] YouTube is a good source of audio resources to help you with relaxation, meditation, mindfulness. I particularly like the many free offerings from Tara Brach: her podcasts, her videos http://www.tarabrach.com/videos and her book True refuge http://amzn.to/1NPaWbG . Sounds True is a comprehensive online shop for recordings: http://www.soundstrue.com. Check out my Pinterest site www.pinterest.com/evamusby for more resources I have found helpful and subscribe to my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby) for new resources from me.

[viii]Mindsight : The New Science of Personal Transformation’ by Daniel Siegel. http://amzn.to/T4fW3M

[ix] From ‘Jangled’, writing on the Around the Dinner Table forum.

[x]Parenting Your Anxious Child with Mindfulness and Acceptance: A Powerful New Approach to Overcoming Fear, Panic, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ by Christopher McCurry, could have been written for us parents working on refeeding our kids, or exposing them to fear foods. Well worth reading. http://amzn.to/UGHdWc

[xi] ‘Every mistake is a treasure’ is a motto which I believe comes from Janet Treasure’s eating disorder team in London.

[xii] From Emily, a parent on the Around the Dinner Table forum.

[xiii] In his book, ‘Flourish’, Martin Seligman discusses PTSD. Martin Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology, an approach based on research, and described in ‘Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment’: http://amzn.to/15xu2gf

[xiv] Martin Seligman, ‘Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment’: http://amzn.to/15xu2gf

[xv] If – and only if – this seems right for you right now, here is some help for letting go of fears around death, which is often the elephant in the room of our minds. You will probably cry but may also gain much freedom from suffering: Byron Katie does ‘The Work’ with a mother whose daughter died in a car accident. http://youtu.be/xS76V7GhfAc

[xvi] From PapyrusUSA, writign on the Around the Dinner Table forum.

[xvii] I wholeheartedly recommend Biodanza to all of you, wherever you are in the world, and irrespective of whether you have two left feet. The thing to do is to search the internet for your nearest class and then just go. Give it a try. Do not look at the naff photos, do not look at videos that may make you cringe, just go.

[xviii] A reminder that the NVC framework for self-empathy is: Observations (what are the facts, what are my thoughts, noticing interpretations from the chatterbox); Feelings; Needs (values, wishes, things that matter); and finally Requests (strategies to meet needs, decisions about the next step, a promise to remain open to possible solutions that may pop up later).

[xix] Martin Seligman reports about research on the benefits of gratitude in : ‘Authentic Happiness’: http://amzn.to/15xu2gf. See also his website: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu

[xx] Negativity bias. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias

[xxi] Hara Estroff Marano ‘Our brain’s negative bias’. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias

[xxii] Extract from a message posted by Cathy on the Around the Dinner Table Forum. In the same message she reported a whole lot of out-of-the-box ideas to support her daughter, some of which I quoted in the section on money. I imagine that gratitude freed up her mind.

[xxiii]Stoking the fires of joy’ by David Spangler, May 2004, Yes! Magazine. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/finding-courage/624 It’s only a page long. Read it and enjoy!

[xxiv] From L’s letter to the F.E.A.S.T. website http://www.feast-ed.org/default.asp?page=DecApril2010L

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8 Replies to “How to build up your own resilience and wellbeing when your child has an eating disorder”

  1. Hi Eva
    I’m finding all this so helpful. Some is new, but a lot is so similar to my journey as a parent, i definitely think you’re on the right track.
    One of the things in my tool kit which helped was recognizing that if I lost it with anger, tears, harsh ( sometimes horrible) words, it was done, I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could model correcting it. So it wasn’t the mistake which mattered, it was what I did with it afterwards. This helped me soothe myself.
    One practical thing which really works for me; I have written myself a list of principles / rules to read when I am in the quagmire. They are things like; good enough is ok stop trying to be the best mum in the world ( I wonder where my D’s perfectionist traits come from…..) . So I wrote them when I was calm, and I read them when I am not. They help ground me, and they remind me why we’re doing things in a certain way. The list gets amended with time, with some items no longer relevant & new ones added.

  2. Thank you, that’s so helpful. I’m going to blend those two suggestions of yours into my draft, if that’s OK with you. I’m sure they’ll help others.
    If you get round to reading the next section, I’ll be curious for your feedback: it’s the one I’m the most uncertain about at the moment.
    I hope your list will soon be one of those things you look at in awe, prompting you to reflect on the endurance and courage you and your family found in extreme times.
    Eva

  3. Thank you for your clear and insightful writing. I came across your draft whilst in the middle of an emotional meltdown, both mine and my daughter’s. With your advice, I turned the situation round. Deep breath and hand on heart. I am new to this but learning very fast or trying to. In my case, every mistake is a treasure has saved me from sinking into depths of despair.

    1. It’s so good of you to let me know. This is so much what I’m hoping for with this book, and it fills my heart to imagine you having turned your situation round and for your despair to be lifted. I’m also sending you warm wishes for your progress to continue and for your resources to keep strengthening.
      Love
      Eva
      PS. If you have advice on bits to cut or bits that are missing, I’m always open to hearing it. I’m terribly conscious that readers need answers fast.

  4. I have read this section and reflected on it in discussion with my counsellor. It has truly helped me to consider why I have become overtly emotional with every anorexic outburst. The fears you have discussed are precisely those that fuel my responses and considering this and consciously making a decision to contain these thoughts and remain in the moment have enabled me to not only regain control over my own despair but to feel that I CAN and Will make a positive difference to what is happening in the here and now.

    1. Thank you for letting me know how this chapter is supporting you. It’s so much what I’ve been hoping for. And I’m so glad you have a counsellor by your side.
      It sounds like you’re able to acknowledge big fears and at the same time accessing vast reserves of power through being in the present moment. I’m thinking of you, and of all those in a similar position, with much kindness and admiration.

  5. Having a glum day & just popped by. Read the section on joy and am now going to sleep peacefully ready to start again tmrw. ps Love the cover & title.

  6. Thank you. Good to know the cover and title work for you. I’m so very pleased that you found something to give you peace and courage for the next day. Thank you so much for letting me know. Wishing you lots more of that.
    Eva

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