Carers’ Burdens

This post has been reproduced on our other blog at

During the summer I have been in Cornwall with family and we had a great time, trying new restaurants, eating a couple of ice creams (Cornish of course) and rejoicing in having the best fish and chips in the world arguably at Rick Stein’s takeaway at Padstow.

And how nice that we were all able to sit down as a family and enjoy or grumble about the food.
It is awful to be with someone who won’t share in the meal because they are on some kind of strange diet or they are allergic to fish or because they are terrified of eating. I’ve done a family check and everyone finds it traumatic and distressing when there is someone who won’t or can’t eat with everyone else.
Why? We’re all individuals. Perhaps we have a caveman gene which puts us on alert when someone in the tribe is not thriving or participating. I have no idea why sharing a meal with loved ones is so important. Last night, youngest daughter cooked for us and eating together was central to the fun.
People with eating disorders really don’t know how much of a burden they put on other people. Much more than other mental health problems. Maybe because sharing food seems important to emotional well being as well as physical health.
People with eating disorders  under-estimate the impact on carers, siblings and friends of strained atmospheres, the overall burdens of being with them and  the worries carers have about the future. Loved ones worry about the effects of bizarre eating  on the sufferer and the effects of parent’s behaviour on their children.
People with eating issues under-estimate the effort it takes to pretend not to notice bizarre eating habits or to try not to make comments. They under-estimate the stress of trying to encourage someone who is struggling.
When we offer unwanted care or attention,  the person with the eating issue is likely to get aggressive or convince themselves that WE are the problem not them.  Then we have to cope with their anger  AS WELL AS the stress and worry of their disorder. The carer struggles to figure out how to communicate their worry without unleashing a tsunami.
It’s not your business says the sufferer. It’s my choice to eat what I please. And so it is. Its normal to reject things we don’t want or like. Yet there is a fine dividing line where we can see that eating has become a form of self harm, and we react to it.
Poor carers.  How can we bridge the gap to make sure that people with eating issues are sympathetic to the trauma of living with someone who cannot eat around the campfire with us.