What does having hope have to do with helping families impacted by eating disorders? And why did I call my business “Hope Network, LLC” when the data is so dire?

Hopelessness is a common feeling family caregivers of those with eating disorders report when they first contact me. 

Hopelessness makes sense since eating disorders are complex illnesses that affect the brain, the body and spirit. Research is making progress despite limited funding available for the vast scale of people impacted. Every single day at least 23 people die as a direct result of eating disorders. And millions more are affected by these deadly brain illnesses. Families are wiped out financially, physically and emotionally. So before you fall into a pit of despair from reading this paragraph, let’s talk about hope. 🙂 If you’re not too dismayed by these facts click here to see the latest research from the STRIPED initiative on the social and economic costs of eating disorders. 

Despite all of the grim data, there is good reason to have hope. Here are 9 good reasons to have hope actually:

  1. Hope helps shift our energy in a more positive direction.
  2. Hope helps our mood so we can make better decisions.
  3. Hope helps us model the behavior our loved ones in treatment need to practice to recover.
  4. Hope helps us be calmer. 
  5. Hope helps us keep moving forward and not give up.
  6. Hope helps us believe in a positive outcome so we can see new possibilities and try new things. 
  7. Hope helps us be more compassionate.
  8. Hope helps us have more confidence. 
  9. Hope helps us cope. 

Okay, you may be thinking’ those are some decent reasons WHY to have hope’ but you may still be wondering HOW a family caregiver of someone with an eating disorder might possibly have hope given all of the dire statistics and data. 

It is different for each person and what works for them. There are some common themes I have utilized with my individual and group coaching clients to help grow hope. Here are a few tips on HOW to grow hope:

Can you see the word “HOPE” in the sand?

  1. Learning to practice gratitude daily.
  2. Asking for help AND accepting it. 🙂 
  3. Being in community with others caring for someone with a life threatening eating disorder.
  4. Getting educated about the illness and treatment options. 
  5. Having support to shift perspectives. 
  6. Practicing (you KNEW this was coming) self-care consciously and continuously. 
  7. Being present in the moment. 

Yes, there are many moments in which it may feel incredibly futile to have hope and perhaps even counter-productive. AND, having hope does not mean we stop taking decisive actions, holding firm boundaries, having evidence based protocols in place, consulting with experienced clinicians or even being concerned, sad or scared. All of those things can exist together. It’s not either/or. It is a both/and. 

Does that make sense? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to share your thoughts. Please be safe out there and it’s okay to have hope about this pandemic even though it feels like there is no hope in sight. Believe it, feel it and see it. It’s okay if it feels like a dream. 

I’ll sign off with one of my favorite poems from Tom Diffley’s (best teacher I ever had) poetry class:

Dreams  by, LANGSTON HUGHES (A central figure in the Harlem Renaissance and Black American Poet)

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.