I spoke to a man recently whom I now refer to as a friend and ally in the fight against eating disorders. His name is Steve Dunn and he impacted me.
I read his story (see link below) and spoke to him over the phone. In those moments, he was not a father sitting in my office waiting for me to give him a solution to save his daughter. He was not asking my advice. He wanted nothing from me. His daughter was already gone and what was left was a gut wrenching void he was vulnerable enough to let all of us see for the sake of bringing awareness to this cause. He just wanted to share his story and figure out how we can work together to make a difference.
For a moment, I took off my clinical lens and saw him for who he was: a grieving father trying to turn all his sadness into his biggest victory yet. I hung up the phone with him and wondered what his experiences were like with the counselors he worked with when his daughter was getting help for her eating disorder. I wondered how the parents I work with experience me as a counselor. My hope is that I tell the parents I come into contact with these things, and they believe them, but for those who don’t get to hear it in my office or when I come to your home, here are 5 things I want you to know:
It’s NOT Your Fault:
It’s not your fault your child is sick. You didn’t cause it. Mental illnesses come from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental triggers. Somehow, all of these switches get turned on in someone’s life and the only thing you can do is be a part of the solution.
Sometimes it feels like you’re doing everything wrong. Everything you try seems to fail or make things worse. Little do you know it’s your constant and consistent love and presence that makes the greatest difference of all. You never give up. You come to countless therapy sessions. You literally make every sacrifice known to man to try to save your child’s life.
You’re Hurting Too:
I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch your child suffer so much and feel so helpless in that process. You’re taking your child to get help, but what about you? I know you’re hurting too. And that’s ok to admit. You’re ALLOWED to hurt. You’re also allowed to take some time for self-care.
I’m Not Judging You:
It’s a vulnerable and brave thing to walk into a room and be open to having a counselor coach you on how to work with YOUR child. I know you think that you should know everything about your kid and know exactly how to help them. It’s ok that you don’t. There are no baby books or parenting books on parenting your child with an eating disorder, addiction, or other mental health issue. Although I may be the expert on mental health, YOU are the expert when it comes to your child. I need you just as much as you need me. Forging a partnership is the only way we’re going to create the full picture and a full solution.
Thank You For Trusting Me:
Every time a parent walks into my office, or allows me into their home, I recognize the amount of faith you have in me and I’m beyond grateful that you pick me to be on this journey with you and your family. Picking a counselor is not an easy choice and trusting someone else to guide your family is even harder. Thank you so much for having faith in me and trusting me to have your family’s best interest in mind.