I feel so weary writing this, I almost can’t start. And I am not talking about provider fatigue, for that is a different subject altogether. No, I mean the fatigue I have watched parents feel over all these years of treating children with eating disorders.
Parents are human, even when they can do inhumanly difficult things for the sake of their children. None are saints, of course, but they can come close to one when circumstances require. At least some of them can (and do).
Do you remember the myth of Sisyphus from school? The Greek myth where King Sisyphus was condemned repeatedly to roll a boulder up hill with great effort only to have it roll back as he nearly reached the top? This must be what it feels like to have one’s child briefly returned to health only to have the illness come tiptoeing back, seducing the child into first one small eating disorder behavior and then another until the sum total adds up to weight loss and relapse.
At first you might not see it coming. Then you may see something, but you just can’t bear to acknowledge that it’s back. Maybe if you ignore it, it will resolve? Maybe you’re too tired to jump on every little behavior that seems suspicious. Maybe your other kids have you distracted and it only seems right to allot them their share of your time and attention. Maybe you’re trying to start a new job, get a promotion, learn a new skill. The constant drip-drip-drip of close attention to the details of food intake that are necessary to keep your child safe, take their toll. Can’t someone else do this for me for a while? Can I lay this burden down for a week or two and pick it back up when I’m stronger?
Sadly, we all know the answer is no.
So treatment fatigue: what can we do about it? It seems simplistic to say “take care of yourself”, though it’s true. Scrounge time alone from your friends and family, ask them to help you with the shopping, clean-up, errands -- but not the meal supervision. You just need an hour to take a walk, take a nap, get a pedicure, plant some carrots, sniff some lilacs, take a bath, have a coffee with a friend or -- blissfully -- alone.
Sometimes all we can do is cry, talk to our own moms, pray, scream into a pillow or… come on, parents out there, who know what I mean… any suggestions?
Well I no sooner wrote this little blog when an email came through from one of the very mothers I had in my mind’s eye as I wrote this, with a resource for local Portland parents.
“The wonderful meditation center right at the foot of OHSU is Mahasiddha Kadampa Buddhist Center. Thursday evening meditation from 7-8 is $8, a great way to start. Very inclusive and non-judgemental. Truly very helpful for parents… Hope you are well”.
See what you think parents and then let us know. And perhaps throw someone else a lifeline.