A carer’s story of hope and possibility
A carer’s story of hope and possibility.
Could an experience of having an eating disorder become a breakthrough to something else? This is a story of hope and possibility. My intention is to share with you what got me through the painful experience as a carer when my daughter Olivia was admitted into hospital dangerously unwell with anorexia nervosa in March 2015.
Anorexia nervosa didn’t happen all of a sudden. It snuck in slowly under the guise of ‘healthy exercise’ and ‘healthy food’, which became obsessive and eventually dangerous. This was a shock. The butterfly foundation was very helpful with giving us advice to get informed about the eating disorder and seeking the right multi disciplinary team specific for Olivia’s needs.
There were days that the intensity of this journey was too much and I was depleted. If I couldn’t find a way of helping Olivia with her extreme emotions between therapist appointments it was a relief to know that I could ask her to call the Butterfly foundation help line for urgent support. This was such a gift in moments of crisis.
Making sure that I did not isolate and stayed connected with my friends and family was important. Also asking for help to share some of the care and to explain to Olivia that it was necessary for me to take some time out to build energy reserves. This was also good modelling, ensuring that I got sleep, ate nourishing food and took supplements to support my nervous system along with walking in nature whenever possible.
As a vital part of self-care it was very supportive to have my own therapist. Conversations with friends and family released some of the pressure however dealing with my deeper personal feelings of fear, self-judgement, grief, exhaustion and any confusion was best handled with my therapist. This experience became a catalyst to an even deeper journey of self-understanding that was personally healing and life changing. My therapist also supported me to keep my own life moving forward, modelling a healthy life and to complete my further studies in counselling.
Overall, what helped me most was the perspective that I was gently holding with both hands, the belief that this was a journey of growth, that the difficulties would pass, that recovery is possible and that every day was one day closer. I would remind myself to never lose hope and to stay connected with my daughter’s true essence inside of her and communicate with this part of her from my heart through my eyes especially when I couldn’t find the words.
Deeply I believed that this was Olivia’s ‘Heroines’s Journey’ (Joseph Campbell, Hero’s journey) and that from this ordeal she would emerge with her unique gift for the world and a sense of life purpose, which she had struggled to find before.
This has been a transformational journey for both of us. Two years down the track Olivia is fully recovered and studying in New York to become an Eating disorder recovery coach and I am counselling in private practice. This experience has made us stronger, wiser and clearer. We are both living life fully and on purpose and most of all have developed more capacity for appreciation and joy. This is our story of hope and possibility.