Clementine Advisory Board Member Cherie Monarch shares part two of her series in this week’s blog post. In her series, Cherie shares the pain felt by a family when a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder.
Read Part One of Cherie’s Series HERE.
You, or your loved one, are a shell of their former self, and barely recognizable. As a parent, you’re doing everything you can to provide care, support, and try to understand what the hell is going on. You just know that a terrorist is holding your loved one captive. In fact, he’s holding your entire family captive.
When our loved one has an eating disorder, it’s like the whole family has an eating disorder.
What is the answer? How can we help ourselves or our loved one navigate this journey with an eating disorder? How can we help others understand this journey?
When I was walking this journey with my loved one, it really helped me to reframe every step of the process in terms of cancer. If it were cancer…
The thing that is important to quickly understand is that food and stopping behaviors is their chemo. Without chemo they will die. Without food, they will die.
Every decision, every action, every statement needs to be addressed in terms of cancer.
If it were cancer…
If it were cancer… Would it immediately evoke empathy, compassion, support, and action?
If it were cancer… Would you think you or your loved one chose it? Would you think they could just stop?
If it were cancer… Would you allow your loved one to refuse the medicine or the treatment?
If it were cancer… Would you think that it was a phase? Would you think that it would just go away?
If it were cancer… Would you think they had a choice? Would you tell them just to eat?
If it were cancer… Would you negotiate whether or not they need chemo? Life-sustaining medicine. Food.
If it were cancer… Would you run cancer around life? Or life around cancer?
If it were cancer… Would you hesitate to quickly assemble a multidisciplinary team? Would you hesitate to find the best practitioners in the country? In the world?
If it were cancer… Would you be concerned about geography? Would you care if the treatment were in your state… or would you travel across the country without question?
If it were cancer… Would you even think about school? Would you be concerned about graduations, or college applications, and whether they graduate with their twin?
If it were cancer… Would you search out the best possible program? Or just go with one that’s closest?
If it were cancer… Would you allow a provider to wait a month, two or three until the next appointment? What you wait until next week to call for an appointment?
If it were cancer… Would you schedule treatment around holidays, vacations, school, or summer camps?
If it were cancer… Would you postpone treatment a few weeks? Would you think it won’t make a difference. Or would you start today?
If it were cancer… Would you continue competitive sports, dance, and exercise? Or would you rationalize that their body needs rest, needs to heal, and restore strength and energy to fight this demon?
If it were cancer… Would you accept partially healed? Or would you push for full recovery/remission?
If it were cancer… Would you hesitate to share with family, friends, or your entire community?
If it were cancer… Would it matter if they were 12, 18, or 30? Would the fact they were over 18 keep you from insisting they complete treatment or take their medication? Would the fact they were 18 even enter your mind? Would you even consider their adult status when mandating them to complete chemo and radiation?
If it were cancer… Would you let them leave the treatment program before the chemo was complete? If 10 chemo treatments were prescribed, would you let them stop after five?
If it were cancer… Would you postpone or delay treatment because they’re looking a little better? Would you think maybe this is a phase? Maybe they don’t need treatment? Would you even care about the way the looked?
If it were cancer… Would you let them forgo the chemo because it caused them distress and made them sick?
If it were cancer… Would they leave treatment and go right back to school and life? Or would they automatically be allowed time for recovery?
If it were cancer… Would you negotiate treatment at all? Or would you lovingly and definitively state treatment will save your life… It’s not an option.
If it were cancer… Would you let them go to college? Would you let them finish the semester and rationalize it’s only three more weeks? Chemo can wait.
If it were cancer… Would you postpone an intervention?
If it were cancer… and your loved one called right after they started treatment and said I hate it and I want to come home, would you let them? Would you pick them up and allow them to leave AMA?
If it were cancer… Would you care what friends, family, or neighbors said or would you just be focused on getting your loved one well?