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    Om hara hara Mahaadevaa

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Extremely tragic news of a mother who “believed there was no hope” for her daughter who was suffering from anorexia and depression, which ironically she herself began battling around the same age- but seemed to be particularly well hidden from the rest of the family’s awareness– ends in the death of a promising young life.

This heartwrenching loss brings to mind many who struggle in silence and isolation, but what few still come to terms with is that this illness can indeed take lives not fully lived, and at any age.

Families, parents, and sufferers affected by disordered eating and self-starvation need and deserve compassion, effective treatment, and ongoing support.  Public awareness, insurance coverage and access to quality care, along with early intervention are still what we all need to keep pushing for so that HOPE becomes reality; and lives can be restored. 

Most of us realize how vitally important our meals with our loved ones are when they are suffeing from an eating disorder, and that they are not always an easy affair, especially when the eating disorder is unbearably strong and entrenched while healing through recovery.  

Those ‘family meals’ are also jeopardized by rushed schedules, overworked and exhausted parents, and seemingly less and less of those maintained moments when we can gather together, even with the simplest but nutritious of food prepartions to share, rekindle and reconnect. 

Food sustains us and nourishes us in so many ways- and as Laura Collins always reminds us: FOOD IS MEDICINE- distinctly so when your child suffers from an eating disorder.

Recently Dr Dianne Neumark-Sztainer from the University of Minnesota co-authored a longitudinal study on “the potential role of family meals as a protective factor against disorderd eating behaviors which may be the first published investigation of its kind examining the benefits and implications of family meals from their ongoing (love this) Project EAT  research study.

I think this is empowering news since there are still lingering and erroneous views that parents, and even worse, that the sufferer are to blame or caused the eating disorder.  Studies such as these also provide additional support and consideration into looking more closely at the benefits of Family-Based or Maudsley Method treatments for eating disorders and realign what we all know intuively heals a malnourished body and mind.

As any writer knows, the power of words can be Herculean. 

Reuters Health  briefly highlights a ‘applied text analytic methods’ study carried out by Dr Markus Wolf at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany that can be helpful towards improved therapeutic treatments, and better understanding of the cognitive processing of the eating disordered brain.

Many of us, as parents with children suffering from an ED might also know how delicate, negative, and self-defeating our childs’ thoughts, behaviors, and words can be to themselves- especially when we know how this illness robs our children of their true selves during treatment and recovery. 

That’s why it’s even more vital to remind ourselves first and foremost: we are not to blame or at fault for our childs’ eating disorder; and secondly, to separate your child from the eating disorder/illness, especially at the most difficult moments through refeeding, treatment and recovery when it can be the most challenging thing to remind ourselves of.

Since our daughter was diagnosed with anorexia almost a year ago this month, I wanted to start to put together, however chaotically at the moment, a journal of our experiences and share them in some manner that can add to the collective of additional perspectives, up to date evidence-based research/data within ED’s; and their effects upon the family, treatment strategies, and improved follow up care towards the goal of full recovery with the least amount of debilitating relaspe, IP/residential and/or hospitalization..  

More importantly, I feel parents can be a locus of change for the medical community, insurance companies, and also a significant support network for eachother.  And that fighting this devastating illness does not have to sentence parents, or the sufferers to a path of isolation, shame, or guilt since many treatment standards, clinicians, and society as a whole still have several outdated and erroneous stereotypes and practices that are impeding continued progress forward.

I do also think there are several reasons, as well as clinicians (though still too few practicing in this field and easily accessible) to keep hope alive and remain optimistic (as hard as that can indeed be at times) that recovery is possible, and that parents should feel empowered to take an active and loving role in their child’s recovery process. 

Shanti-  T.Mere 

End Health Discrimination
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