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Caregiver Self-Care: Taking Care of You

Will R. is the parent of a child with an eating disorder. He walked with his child through treatment at Veritas Collaborative and is now on a mission to give a voice – and an honest perspective – to eating disorder recovery. 

I listen to a lot of Christmas music.

There’s an app on my phone that has a year-round Christmas channel. I’m listening to it now. There is a webcam of the surf at Ocean Isle beach I like to watch when I’m feeling particularly stressed out. I’ve also taken up painting within the last few months. I’m not very good, but it’s relaxing and therapeutic.

These are all just pieces of the puzzle that I’m constantly trying to assemble to keep myself grounded and distracted from the stress of being a caregiver.

Self-care is important. Having healthy, relaxing, and productive outlets isn’t just necessary when you’re living this life. It’s mandatory. Resting when you need to rest. Being active when you need to release some energy or frustration. Promoting your own mental and physical health.

So important, but also easy to forget in the middle of a rough patch.

Sometimes it’s easier to give in to the sadness. Who am I kidding? It’s almost always easier to give in to the negative emotions that come with all of this. I have mini-breakdowns. Moments when I just have to sit there, cry, and ask all the questions.

“Why is this happening to my child?” 

“Why is this happening to my family?”

“Why is this happening to me?”

I don’t know when those mini-breakdowns are coming. I know when they’re here. I know I have to let them happen. I also know that when they’re over, I need to move on from them.

Sadness can be a place to rest and reflect, but it should never be a place to dwell.

My daughter has been struggling in her recovery and I have been struggling along with her. The course reversals are challenging and the uncertainty that comes with them is staggering. But to turn those reversals into course corrections means you need to work smart, get back to basics, and find the energy you need to keep moving forward.

If you begin to notice a course reversal it is important to:

  • Acknowledge and address the return of behaviors
  • Reach out to your treatment team
  • Set up an assessment to determine the next steps
  • Reassure yourself and your child that reversals are normal and part of the recovery process
  • Attend to your own mental and physical health – don’t isolate yourself

Remember to take time for yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s not wrong. Don’t get bogged down in the hopelessness of the moment. Breathe. Reflect. Move on.

As I’m writing this, the Judy Garland version of Merry Little Christmas is playing in the background. There is a line that makes me choke up a little bit but also gives me hope:

“Someday soon we all will be together. If the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

We’ll all get there.

Take care of yourself.

About the Author

Will R. is the parent of a child in recovery from an eating disorder. After walking with his child through treatment at Veritas Collaborative, he set out on a mission to give a voice and honest perspective to eating disorder recovery. He shares his perspective on Twitter at Dad Versus Eating Disorder (@HopefullDadNC). Follow Will for more first-hand thoughts, insights, and resources related to eating disorders recovery.

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