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Boat sailing in the sea
December 5, 2019

Navigating the Doldrums of Eating Disorder Recovery

There are areas of ocean near the equator known as the doldrums. Known for stagnant, humid, and windless weather interrupted by erratic storms. In the age of sailing, sailors could be adrift for days or even weeks on end, waiting for the wind. Sails flat. Wake non-existent. Adrift.

As the parent of a child with an eating disorder, I have been on that boat. Adrift. Days running together. Small victories. Marginal setbacks. A sudden storm that vanishes as quickly as it appeared. Just waiting for the wind.

The wind is progress.
The wind is mindfulness and intuitive eating.
The wind is a breakthrough and a desire to find recovery.

I’ve written a lot about the value of doing the work, showing up, and self-care. There is an incalculable value in doing all three.  But then there are these doldrums, and outside of the work, the commitment, and the solace of self-care, there’s the waiting and the watching. The hardest part.

Your team – your compass and sextant – can only tell you where you are. They cannot tell you when the wind will come.

So, there you are, out on that painted sea in your painted ship – waiting for the wind. Supporting your loved one. Waiting for a change in behavior. Waiting for the programming and therapy to overcome the harmful urges and thoughts. Scanning the horizon for something resembling recovery. That safe harbor.

When you feel like you’re in the doldrums – waiting for the wind, the progress – it is important that you:

  1. Check-in with your team and communicate how you feel. Ask questions.
  2. Seek support from a therapist, family, or friends. Talk about your feelings and frustrations.
  3. Look for opportunities to make progress in other areas of your life. Even just doing a declutter of a room in your home can feel like moving forward.
  4. Stay connected with your loved one too. Remind them that you’re on the boat together and that we’ll all reach the shore together.

Outlasting these doldrums is the hardest part, but also the most important part. Because you must be ready for the day the wind returns to fill your sails and push you and your loved one toward the safe harbor.

When the wind returns you have to have the strength to climb into that crow’s nest with your telescope and keep looking for that flicker of hope. That safe harbor.

About the Author

Dad vs Eating Disorder 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 him for more first-hand thoughts, insights, and resources related to eating disorders recovery.