Clementine Advisory Board Member Cherie Monarch shares an important series highlighting the seriousness of struggling with an eating disorder. In part one, Cherie begins with a conversation she had with a dear friend who recently found out a loved one was diagnosed with cancer…
To all patients, parents, families, friends, providers, clinicians, teachers, coaches, school personnel, and frankly, everyone, everywhere who has or knows someone with an eating disorder…
It is one word.
One single word.
A powerful word.
When spoken, it’s a word that immediately elicits compassion, empathy, support, understanding, and action. It is one word that immediately garners the support of family, friends, a team of physicians, and will compel people to start walks, fundraisers, galas, go fund me’s, meal support, etc. Cancer will mandate that there be an army of warriors surrounding the family and patient as they walk this journey. And it should.
Cancer. A longtime friend recently posted this on his home page. His daughter is battling cancer. Of course, it immediately elicited my empathy and understanding. Offers of how can I help?
My friend is aware that our family had a loved one that struggled with an eating disorder. He understood that as a parent that this was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to me. That I would have gladly taken the place of my daughter. That I would have given anything to bear her pain and suffering. He understood that my journey of a child with a life-threatening illness was worse than my own two open-heart surgeries.
I messaged him and offered support. I shared how very sorry I was for what his daughter and his family were enduring. That I can’t imagine how difficult CANCER has been for them.
I was blown away. What I was not prepared for was his reply…
“Actually you don’t have to imagine watching your child go through something like this. You lived it. Different disease but just just as deadly, and probably more difficult to treat. The leukemia my daughter has has a very well developed treatment protocol, that is used throughout the entire country, and there is constant collaboration between all of the treatment centers. I know that is not the same with eating disorders. Hell, you still have to fight to get it recognized as a disease, and not just some “silly little girl who won’t eat.” To me your battle seems harder.”
My conversation with my friend caused me to do a lot of reflection. Having a loved one battling an eating disorder is much like battling cancer. It is one of the most challenging and most difficult journeys of our life. Some of us may be battling to get a diagnosis; others of us may have been given a diagnosis but are trying to understand what’s happening.
The difference with eating disorders is …No one is provided with a handbook on how to heal your loved one from an eating disorder. Follow this protocol. Instead we’re left with minimal guidance, minimal support, lots of questions, no direction, a lot of confusion, and no respite care. There are conflicting messages everywhere.