Ron and Catherine became involved with Sheena’s Place in a somewhat unique way. Their daughter, who was dealing with an eating disorder, was searching online for help. She read about Sheena’s Place online but wasn’t ready to accept help at that time. She suggested her parents attend a group instead. This is their story.
Hesitation to access support can be common for many people; however, Ron and Catherine did not feel this way. They approached Sheena’s Place with curiosity and wondered what the group environment would be like. Once they registered for the Family, Friends, and Partners support group, they felt committed.
When Ron and Catherine first attended the the group, they made a point to listen and observe. There were many people in the group who had been involved with Sheena’s Place for a long time. After a few sessions, they realized that this was a close-knit community – group members would even check in with each other before and after sessions.
The group facilitator, Margaret, was a terrific provider of support and expertise. “She was always on the cutting edge of research and constantly kept her knowledge updated”, Ron and Catherine explained.
In addition to the emotional support offered by the group, Margaret and other group members provided reading lists with new information and research about eating disorders. Ron and Catherine were diligent in reading through these resources (many of which can be found on the NEDIC website) and found them quite helpful.
Through attending the Family, Friends, and Partners support group, Ron and Catherine realized the importance of taking care of themselves while also caring for their daughter. They took up the practice of QiGong both in a class and at home. They participated in online meditation and incorporated the practice into their daily lives. Identifying a few trusted close friends who they can to talk to and seeking psychotherapy have also been key pillars of support throughout their journey.
Speaking to the uniqueness of the services provided at Sheena’s Place, Ron and Catherine said, “It’s the only place we can go that’s so inclusive. You have a wide variety of people who are all facing the same issues. They understand that the mortality rate is not widely recognized and more education should be done. Even most doctors are not well educated in helping those with eating disorders.”
It is a challenge for parents and caregivers to show their support, while at the same time, not pushing their child away and keeping lines of communication open. Ron and Catherine try to communicate in a way that will will bring their daughter closer, without fostering resentment. They routinely remind her that she is not to blame and that this illness does not have to be her identity. They tell her she has many gifts to offer and try to plan activities that celebrate her life without focusing on the eating disorder.
When asked about additional programming requests for Sheena’s Place, Ron and Catherine shared that they would like to see more groups for parents and caregivers that incorporate comedy and that include a “buddy system” with other caregivers, as a way to receive additional support.
When asked what society can do to fight stigma, Ron and Catherine highlighted the importance of media representation. “The media has a role to play in highlighting Sheena’s Place and other resources available to those who may not know where to go.” They believe that increasing attention on eating disorders during Bell Let’s Talk day and doing more to highlight National Eating Disorders Awareness Week would help. If more Canadians speak out about this serious issue, hopefully more will be done to support those affected.
Ron and Catherine are grateful for Sheena’s Place. They appreciate the group facilitators’ expertise and willingness to help. They have and will continue to recommend Sheena’s Place to others who may be suffering.