Where to get help and what you need to be aware of:
- The approach we used to treat Clare is called Family Based Treatment - of all the approaches, FBT has the highest rate of success. It works on the premise that the whole family is involved so that anorexia is 'exposed' and has nowhere to hide and manifest. This meant Clare's younger siblings attended some therapy sessions with us and they were in on the refeeding plan; they were given support roles.
- Refeeding is gruelling for parents - it is a heavy load to carry. What helped me through was getting out and going for runs. As the treatment progressed so did my distances. In December I completed a half marathon. Keeping up contact with friends was also great.
- It's important to remember that your child is 'not him or herself' when in the throes of anorexia; it's almost like they become a different person who can be deceptive and secretive in their quest to avoid eating. Our therapist used to constantly say 'you are dealing with anorexia here, not Clare'. Having this awareness helped me to stay calm and not get angry or upset with Clare.
- Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for support - even if they can just sit with your child for one or two meals a week to give you a break.
- When all of the focus is on your child with anorexia their siblings can start to feel forgotten about. Make sure you make time for your other children too and acknowledge them for the part they are playing in their sibling's recovery. A few weeks into therapy I took my kids to Rainbow's End theme park as a way of thanking them for their support. It was a great day.
- If you're concerned your child may be suffering from an eating disorder, your first port of call is your GP. Your GP can refer you on to an eating disorder specialist.
- There are support groups available for families:
- EDANZ is a support group run by volunteers who have been affected by eating disorders (either as parents, caregivers or recovered patients).
- The Mental Health Foundation Of New Zealand lists support groups on its website.