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Tula Karras

 

When your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder your life changes- permanently.  There is no looking back (though you do, and weep and grieve for the child you once knew and still know lies underneath the ED just waiting to find his/her way back– and they do!) there is no denying the obvious even when this illness can completely blindside and throw you off your center until you fully understand and grapple with its complexity– and even then you can still be utterly perplexed. 

But you take action, keep your son/daughter safe, provide nutritional sustenance, comfort and support.  You find the appropriate medical care, treatment facilities and resources that will help him/her, as well as yourself,  find their way back to health, well being and continuing to work towards their full recovery– however that needs to happen- you just do it.  We’re parents, Moms&Dads, families, grandparents, cousins, all taking those measures and lending a hand because we love each other and want to see those suffering find their way back to their true selves, living their dreams, passions and finding happiness- not perfection- in what gift of our Lives we have been given.  Life is certainly not an easy journey, and growing up, becoming an adult, raising a family, fumbling through difficulties– these are all illuminating lessons to help bring us back to grace and compassion, wisdom and understanding.

Something within my own inner perspective and thinking is having a bit of a snag though.  Maybe because I know how damn hard it is to wrestle with an illness our daughter was diagnosed with over a year ago.  Knowing how hard she has worked to get to where she is now, how much more persistence and vigilance she will continue to have, especially now that she is fully discharged from the eating disorder program she has been intensely involved with for several months, and facing a culture and society that seems to be ironically having increased insecurities, issues and numbers of individuals (especially within older adult populations) with “disordered eating” patterns and behaviors, which to me on the outside look and behave just like our daughter did prior to her being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. 

There is this surreal sensation that comes over me when I briefly skim over an article in SELF Magazine that highlights a partnered survey studythat was done in collaboration with Dr Cynthia Bulik and the University of North Carolina that states that “3 out of 4 American Women have disordered eating” and the magazine survey whose participants numbered over 4000, and probably still counting on both the survey, forum and follow up, continue to show an increase in disordered eating patterns and ranges of destructive habits that clearly as Dr Margo Paine boldly states exemplifies, “Dieting is a national pastime for women” and “as a society, we don’t see the problem“.

The survey also goes further into describing additional categories that 6 out of 10 (1 out of 10 have eating disorders) women who are categorized as “disordered eaters” describe themselves into specific subsets:

 

* Calorie Prisoners

* Secret Eaters

* Career Dieters

* Purgers

* Food Addicts

* Extreme Exercisers

 

Of course, none of these descriptors are new.  But while some studies and stats have been pointing towards an increase of younger individuals being diagnosed with eating disorders, which may indeed be on the rise, though it’s always difficult to know whether we are only getting better at earlier diagnosing and intervention; and if some of the outcry and attention to the issue is creating the continued awareness, discussion, research and treatment standards.  But this survey, as some previous others, is showing the age range to be in the adult category of a 25-45 year old female base, and from what I’ve read in some previous studies, this seems to be more consistent and increasing if you are to follow the conclusions.

Yes, I’m perplexed and even angry.  I don’t want to see anyone needlessly suffering with any disordered eating behavior(s) that can have even the subtlest of impact upon ones’ health- period.  But I also have another irritating irk in thinking about the continued impact these findings, if they are showing continued rises in eating-disordered behavior have upon our youth and young adults who are watching, reading, and taking in this information too.  What, if anything does this ultimately translate to and what can be done to counteract this deranged preoccupation with dieting, body-dissatisfaction, and just overkill of the human body? When will the craziness stop just long enough to take a step back, breathe, and find acceptance and compassion for who you are as you are being enough, being worthy– because we all are.

And our kids need us to model and reinforce these strong capabilities and common-sense practicalities.  When I see a book titled: My Beautiful Mommy I think this is a joke, right? But I find that it’s written by a plastic surgeon, and really set on promoting this “upkeep” ideal while cunningly proclaiming under a guise of “help”.  Are we so far gone into our self-absorbed psyches that we are so easily swayed and coerced into finding this worthy of publication to begin with? Apparently so, as the book is being sold and bought, joke or not– some are taking the bait and seem to be biting hard, though not into much that will keep one nutritionally and mentally stable.

Our daughter has to not only find safety, stability and assurance within her home environment, but the world outside as well.  And this rant of a thread I’ve lowered myself to in this post just proves what an apparently obnoxious mother on a mission I am (imperfections and all- silicon free and able to eat minus fear thankfully) to keep my daughter moving towards a healthy, happy and internally sustained recovery and passionately what that means to me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, can this insanity please begin to find it’s way back in the hole from where it came?  Like a fire out of control, can we begin to find some means of putting this insatiable flame to some simmering rational end? Will these studies and polls just continue to bloom, boggle and frustrate so many of us, while invoking the opposite within others to think less of themselves, and to possibly court a potential ED, especially for those who are either biologically, physiologically and/or genetically predisposed and vulnerable?

To continued Health, Strength & Insight for us all.

APF/Getty Images  Bertrand Guay

There is quite a bit of debate heating up lately, even over at ATDT parents are sharing their thoughts on this topic, regarding recent legistlation created by France lawmaker Valerie Boyer that France is passing towards imposing strict fines, even imprisonment against the proliferation and promotion of “pro-ana/mia” within websites, media images, the fashion industry and beyond that continue to hightlight clearly unhealthy anorexic/ED’d-looking, emaciated ultra-thin bodies– “legislating body weight” some are finger-waging. 

The reviews and feedback are certainly mixed, some downright misinformedstiil -and so sorely one-sided which to me only illuminates just how complex these issues are; and more importantly  how much more of this conversation and dialogue needs to keep happening and developing.

I haven’t delved into a full exploration of my opinions on this yet, but I do think while we can’t police every site, ban every image, twisted ideal there certainly is something that we are all responding and reacting to when we see someone who looks so severely malnourished, skeletal and unwell. 

As a mother of a daughter who suffers from Anorexia Nerovsa I do have an immediate heartwrenching reaction to this issue, and do believe there is not just a “personal” responsiblity but public and social conscience we all need to be connected to and address at some basic level without turning a blind-eye and pretending none of this has any impact on society whatsoever– clearly it does.

         

 

Some incredible individuals and parent advocates have been hard at work the past two days in Washington working with legislators on Capital Hill for the annual Eating Disorders Coalition Lobby Day to push forth further measures and legislation in the continuation to further progress within treatment, research, prevention and education of eating disorders. 

This is vital and necessary work.  I for one am so very grateful, since I was not able to attend, for all of these individuals who have committed themselves towards improving the lives of those affected by this devastating illness and the families that are doing so much of this work solo, without much support, treatment resources, and clinicians adequately trained to best help their loves ones. 

Thank you EDC and its sponsors, Ms Laura Collins— you are the best!

 

virtaka

 

Facing the bluntness of reality is the highest form of

sanity and enlightened vision… Devotion proceeds

through various stages of unmasking until we reach

the point of seeing the world directly and simply

without imposing our fabrications… There may

be a sense of being lost or exposed, a sense of vulnerability.

That is simply a sign that ego is losing its grip

on its territory; it is not a threat.

 

-Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

holi

This month is such a busy month… I’m very blessed and so very happy that I’ve sold two paintings (not current work, but nonetheless- yeah!) and it was a carefree act on my end, thinking nothing would move someone to be so compelled for work that honestly doesn’t resonate for me personally right now– but all good!

Easter was nice, we are a culturally diverse family (hubby from India) so we partake in other various festivals and events, Holi (see above) being one this month too– my birthday is coming up (not telling how many candles- tsk!) and having our daughter home from residential after nearly three months of treatment is no light lot.

I love spring! New green shoots pushing forth from the ground– and the snow is finally melting here- yippee! New life, new beginnings… change.

And while our daughter is definitely on her road to recovery, this is not a easy road for her to travel– she still needs lots of love, encouragement and support.  She is also quite young, so the decision to “just do it” and fully connect both physically and intellectually to what has taken place over the past year is not all there for her to wade through and have immediate light-bulb moments and decide that today is the day she knows ED is behind her- for good.  She herself has openly admitted she “is not ready” to say ado to her tango with ED– not yet.

She has however been slowly “emptying” and “letting go” of ED– one day at a time.  A deep breath in and a very long exhale out…

“What will become of me if I let go of my eating disorder?”

“How many times have you tried to let go by hanging on?”

It doesn’t work…  and it doesn’t happen all at once.  One day, one step, one mouthful at a time.

Our daughter did something incredibly powerful a few weeks back.  She wrote a “good-bye” letter to ED and she opened herself up to share this moving note:

         ED,

      I need to leave you.  You have made me do some relapses and only made me think about shapes, sizes or weights.  I feel really bad for leaving you but it’s the only way I can stay on the path of recovery and be able to achieve my goals in life.  I will miss you a lot. 

You have helped clear my feeling of stress out and do something that makes me feel comfortable (restrict).  You have really hurt me.  My friends and family have been here supporting me, and it seems that you want to shove my parents away.  You also have not made me be able to hang out with my friends and then just isolate. 

ED, I plan to take care of myself and to listen to myself more than YOU.  I plan to become a ballet dancer and veterinarian, and enjoy my life and live my dreams.  You may come back to me when I look into the mirror but I won’t let you take my passions away.

                        Good-bye ED-

Indeed.  With the snow continuing to melt, the extended light of the days and the darkness of winter slowly turning more and more towards spring, I feel a renewed sense of Hope and Strength for our daughter’s continued striving forward towards full health, full Life.  There will be days, as there already are, that will challenge and the proverbial two steps forward, three-five steps back… but she’ll get there and we’re all right there behind her cheering her on!

Happy Spring- Happy Holi-Hai!

 

birds

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers

       but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain

       but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield

        but to be my own strength.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved

        but hope for patience to own my freedom.

-Rabindranath Tagore

-Sarvamangalam!

St Urho                     

“Heinasirkka-heinasirkka mene taalta hiiteen!”

          (Grasshopper-grasshopper go away!)

Having Finnish ancestral blood-lines, we take this man-made legend with both some celebratory flare as well as good-natured humor.  Though when I was growing up, St Urho was presented more as a fact– I actually believed there was a real St Urho chasing those grasshoppers out of the vineyards!

And I do remember drinking the grape juice (now we’ve switched to framboise)  having bowls of fish soup (not too memorable taste-wise, but I’ve revised this recipe accordingly throughout the years) wearing something purple, and having a sense of pride in our family’s heritage (rarely did anyone I know growing up have any idea about Finnish culture, let alone being a fellow Finn) ; and how my great-grandparents came to the US, fleeing Soviet conflict to make a better life imbued with Sisu strength.  Imagine too, to my surprise and sense of fellow-kinship when I found out one of my teacher’s was also Finnish and knew this St Urho character, even going so far as to wear the green (representing the grape leaves) and purple and taking the time during chemistry class to shed a little cultural legend to the day!

So you may be wondering what I’m going on about… what does this have to do with eating disorders, has this woman lost her mind completely, gone off on a tangent of sorts? Well yes, and no…

Our daughter has been battling anorexia nervosa since last year, and as most families with young adolescents struggling with ED know- -it’s definitely a challenge, sometimes requiring every last reserve, every ounce of your sanity, energy, finances, etc. to help pull your child through the black hole of this life-threatening illness towards supporting, loving and helping them find their way back to Life, to Hope and Healing.  And it is possible for your child to find their way back towards full recovery, in whatever form that may take that fully supports, treats and assists your child and family best to getting the best care possible.  

Many times as parents when confronted with the diagnosis of an eating disorder, after we clear the fog of our own lack of knowledge having not experienced the illness first hand, and then educating ourselves, we may also feel conflicted by all the advice of those while well-meaning, or touting as “experts”cannot ultimately speak for our individual circumstances and personal family needs, preferences, values and choices.  And as parents, we have the right to make those fully-informed decisions knowing our child best, and not feeling coerced, manipulated, brow-beaten or given endless heavy-handed black/white-right/wrong ways of fighting this illness and finding the best treatment options for our child– whatever it takes.  You, as the parent, will know what is best for your child and should not have to feel guilty or at fault, or having failed , or less of a parent in any way for your choices towards making treatment possible and suiting your individual childs’ needs as well as that of your family.   

However, not making a decision or acting towards taking a stand against your childs’ eating disorder/illness will only dig that black hole even deeper, and really no one suffering with this illness or their families should be alone in finding help and the care they deserve.   There is help, support and resources available, but since eating disorders are still relatively incoherently and inconsistently treated, and in many instances not adequately covered by insurance for long-term outpatient treatment/services, let alone intensive residential treatment options when necessary, we as parents must take a stand, advocate for our children (and ultimately all those suffering from an eating disorder) and be the “squeaky wheel” in our child’s treatment plan. 

Even when your child is at a “safe” stage within his/her recovery, as parents we know there is no looking back– our lives have profoundly changed, ED is not a welcome guest, yet at your childs’ most vulnerable moments, the disorder will work so damn hard at trying to stay and undermine progress– Health and Recovery.  Recovery takes time, patience and perseverance.  It requires us as parents to listen, be present, and support our children yet also allowing them to take ownership of this process without being left on their own, and with ED’s it’s a complex balancing act because we love our children and want to keep them safe, but at the same time cannot force the process on our terms, or by what we feel when they are feeling something completely other– recovery does have to be ultimately theirs, they will own it, and feel the triumph of success everytime ED rears it’s ugly head and they can face these challenges with courage, resilience and continued strength.  Slowly dismantling this pernicious illness, as Lee Wolfe Blum pointedly states: “protect your recovery”…. like the patron St Urho, chasing after either the original mythical frogs or later the grasshoppers; I think there are a couple of translations that have the word “hell” added to the chant.   

We Finns celebrate this day every year at this time in March, (some corners of the globe even have a dance ritual they gather together to enjoy– very interesting!) but this year something about St Urho’s Day brought an even more striking meaning to me personally with his image holding up the trident with a captured grasshopper, I was instantly struck by the power of this statue/image minus the grasshopper(s):  “ED- ED, get the hell out!”

-May the spirit of this St Urho’s Day be with you all!

Advocacy

“It’s about opening up the doors and ending the shadow of discrimination against the mentally ill.”

-Patrick Kennedy 

Today’s news is quite uplifting.   And the 268-148 vote does speak to the dire need to continue towards enacting mental-health parity and mandating health insurance coverage equal to that of physical illness for mental health  and addiction.  I think Paul Wellstone would be encouraged to see some progress being made after nearly a decade of back and forth bi-partisan bickering and huge corporate influence , (and currently, to no one’s surprise, big-ph-arm Eli Lilly  is really throwing a tantrum!), to strangle this vital legislation.

And there are plenty of critics who are rallying this victory as “mental-health insanity” and clearly looking only at their own financial dunk, but it’s truly time to stop stigmatizing those with mental illness who clearly need the same standard of quality care and treatment that any sane society would not withhold or financially ruin one with personally while working towards full health, healing and recovery.

I, unfortunately live in a state that does not currently have mental-health parity- yet.  But I was impressed to read an in depth study done last spring by the La Follette School of Public Affairs in our state, that despite not having all the conclusive data to make absolute recommendations regarding mental-health parity, has incredibly convincing and thought-provoking details putting to bunk some of the primary reasoning against implementing mental-health parity that I would encourage anyone interested in advocating for mental health disparity to read.   These studies really can be applied and adapted for further critique and implemented across all states, so that we will eventually see more than thirteen states that have adopted mental-health parity law.

-shanti

NEDAW         So many great happenings during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2008 – hope everyone is able to partake in some NEDAW events in your corresponding local areas.  This year’s theme,  much like last year’s,  is still quite pivotal and we can all do our share to spread awareness,  gently and compassionately encourage those who need support and treatment to take those vital initial steps with our love and backing.

Reach out, celebrate all our diverse shapes and sizes, EMBRACE each other, and share our stories- spread the word, be heard, dispel misconceptions and myths that still surround eating disorders and those that suffer- change can happen even with the simplest and smallest of steps!

Laura Collins, as always, an incredible inspiration, advocate, and Mom has posted some great commentary on the Congressional Briefing for the Eating Disorders Coalition with Dr Cynthia Bulik’s wisdom- Power to the People!

 XO

eclipse

I find Eating By The Light Of The Moon to be a fitting thought for the day…

                            Your body is precious.

                   It is your vehicle for awakening,

                               treat it with care.

                                    -BUDDHA

                              

End Health Discrimination
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