The poem “Undeserving”, featured in my book Weightless, was written during my second hospitalization. This was a time filled with disappointment in myself for not being able to comply with the treatment the first time I was discharged from the clinic. Despite my efforts in staying healthy, keeping good food-routines and holding on to self-encouragement, the voice of the illness snuffed out those attempts time and time again. I came back to the clinic not with an outlook of reestablishing a few failing routines, straightening my behavior somewhat or to top up my recovery progress with some minor adjustments. No, it was a side-track changing direction to a fast back-track, it was steps back turning into full spiraling down. Continue reading
When we started considering bringing a child to this world, my husband and I sat down and discussed our roles as parents and our outlook during the pregnancy. It was important for us to clearly define and share in how or what part in the pregnancy his role would be. We did not want his involvement to be marginal or the support he wanted to give to be seen as “nice help”. We made sure to establish to each other that the pregnancy was not a one parent’s affair but that we both were pregnant, we both needed to bond, we both carried responsibility and dedication. As the pregnancy progressed my husband started to be able to identify some phases in himself and just as I was going through my pregnancy stages, he went through some of his own. These are the five ones we took note of: Continue reading
One thing is for sure, life altered when our baby Nadia arrived. On the 11th of January this year, the day that would bring the past president Barack Obama’s farewell speech and the Swedish radio had “Starboy” by The Weeknd as most played song of the week, our little daughter was born. At 3:16 in the morning, 3,160 KG and 42 CM, she gave out her first cry. The most indescribable feeling of joy, peace, wondrous awe filled me as she was placed on my chest and I could feel life coursing in that little wriggling, warm body of hers. I took notes of these emotions the next day “… The moment you were laid to my chest, all pain disappeared. Your warm little body soothed my exhausted muscles, your cries energized my tired senses, your newborn smell was fragrance to my gas-fogged brain. You even gave me a little kiss that has me all giddy”.
Animals can play an important role in therapy for the betterment of the patient’s social, emotional and psychological functioning. When it comes to the treatment of eating disorders, pets can be a valuable asset to decrease certain key aspects of symptoms that comes with disordered eating.
The interactive process between animal and patient has been shown to improve the recovery progress in a positive way for those with psychological disorders. In general animals are trained for a specific purpose of the therapy type in question or the animal’s natural characteristics are picked for its particular suitability to the work. The traits, whether they are trained and/or hand-picked are beneficial in a way that the animal’s presence or skill can ease psychological symptoms such as anxiety or depression. The animal’s acute intuition can pick up on the patient’s subtle signals of distress, mind space or body language. When a patient is deep in their mental torment, the animal can serve as motivation to bring the patient out of their internal state through interaction.
Many studies has been conducted and research on the topic is continuously growing. Often times the focus of the studies, among many, has been, in regards to the benefits for eating disorders, for the animal to redirect the patient’s self-absorbed into caring for another being and in so doing, shifting motivation to work on their health. This, in my opinion can lead to a slight misinterpretation of the mindset in patients with eating disorders. Although the focus is patient-oriented and mainly based on the patient’s active role as caregiver and the co-interaction between the pet and the patient as a means to transference of responsibility. This could be explained in that the patient is seen as the one being responsible for the betterment of their condition by caring for the dog and the dog taking a passive role as the symbol being cared for. I would say that this view might not take into consideration the mindset of a patient with eating disorder as a so called “expert “ in taking care of others and through this, neglecting their recovery process as being done for themselves. It can be understood in that victims of eating disorders are vulnerable in their mental and emotional state and their hyper sensitivity is turned against them. An interesting approach in the field that is specifically directed towards the work of animal assisted therapy for patients with eating disorders and that takes in those important factors, is for instance done by Anjana Gort, the founder of MissionPuppy in Netherlands. Her dogs are specifically trained for the therapeutic role of providing active care for the patient and being alert to the emotional and physical signals caused by the eating disorder. Her dogs are taught to quickly react by curling up into their client’s lap to provide warmth when the patient’s body temperature drops by their low blood pressure, something that is common in patients with low weight. The dogs are intent on seeking eye contact or give touch when the patient draws too deep into their tormented minds or when their emotional distress gets overwhelming. They alert their client when mealtimes need to be had and they also keep very close and hold body contact during the duration of the meal to reduce anxiety levels. The active role of providing care is in the dog and the patient is the one being cared for. The gentle, loving and intuitive nature of the dogs is important for the work in assisting the patient. Through those elements, both the dog’s qualities and trained skills acts as stress reduction in the patient in a way that the dog is assistant, companion and aid. More so, the dog provides peace and the lowering of the stress hormone Cortisol in the patient, activating the increased levels of Oxytocin, the calming hormone, making it easier for the patient to further work on other related issues pertaining to the disorder.
In summary, animal assisted therapy is a valuable complement to other treatment forms and the approach given in both studies and research can bring different angles in both how the patient’s- as well as the pet’s role plays in the interaction between human and animal and in terms of treatment aspects. With eating disorders being such a complex condition it would be interesting to see more in-depth work and analysis of the correlation between mindset and the effects of the treatment, especially if we take into account that the benefits of animal assisted therapy has shown such promising results. In fact, that special healing bond is something that should be explored further in practice and theory.
As a first time parent you are filled with thoughts, concerns and questions. Reflections are turned and discoveries are added to your life – box of experiences, and it all starts from the moment you planned for this miracle to bless your life… or from the moment you got the news. For me, time has passed so quickly that I at times find myself that I wish I could keep my baby safe in my belly for just a little longer to enjoy the moments that will never come back… With only 7 weeks left and a difficult but oh so rewarding pregnancy progressing, I am savoring the special things and learning from the challenging ones. My husband and I are adapting and reflecting over our roles, present and coming ones, as unified parents, as a couple towards one another, as a mother and a father to our child, as separate individuals and as a dynamic family over all. Decisions are being taken, compared and discussed and baby products are thought through.
As a step towards sorting and sharing some of those exciting experiences, my husband has started a YouTube channel in which he hopes to encourage and advice through tips, reviews and personal ideas with of course, lots of geekiness and first dad fun. Why not visit? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC670DGWa9NEnxdFI89Pu82Q
I will continuously share with you my own experiences through this blog and I am honoured to have you reading and taking part of this journey.
My wish is to further encourage awareness of eating disorders and blindness by inspiring and comforting through my experiences. I have been added to Brobyggarna, a Swedish organisation promoting speakers dedicated to mental health through their personal stories of mental disorders. You can read my description and more in my home page:
Or access my speaker profile directly through their page: http://brobyggarna.net/forelasare/
If what I have been through would touch one life, it is worth every second of passed struggles.
Children need a safe base from which to find their place in the world, to bond with their parents and later on in life, to securely bond with those around them or their environment and form secure relationships. Love, intuition and in-tunement are invaluable ingredients in our understanding and interpretation of the signals a child gives. In the flow of interaction between parents and the child those aspects or the lack there off, in combination with environmental factors, can have a great impact on the development of behaviour.
We are dependent of social relationships for the development of our emotional wellbeing. The infant child as a vulnerable being, forms their sense of self, of their place in the world through interaction, through reaction and response but most of all from their needs being heard, met, confirmed and in-tuned to. The child’s brain develops through interaction and by receiving responsive input to stimuli. The parent or caregiver acts as the child’s extra stabilising self or frontal cortex which becomes the child’s regulating filter for overwhelming emotions. When this is not the case, the lack of emotional regulation that in turn causes the child’s overwhelming experiences and emotions becomes the bases for a certain unsafe attachment style to develop and when activated, the child forms internal strategies in order to cope. Those strategies create neural pathways or behavioural patterns that when later triggered by for instance a critical situation activates a self-destructive or self-negating behaviour. Continue reading