I was lucky enough to be given a copy of Lynn Crilly’s fantastic book ‘Hope With Eating Disorders (Second Edition)’ in honour of Eating Disorder’s Awareness Week (25th February-March 3rd). Regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve struggled with anorexia and the vicious cycle of recovery and relapse that often ensues with such a diagnosis. You might also know that I am a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist and I do work with a range of mental health difficulties myself. However, I am not a specialist in eating disorders and they’re not something I am personally trained to work with. My knowledge of eating disorders is purely through lived experience. Given this, I was always going to be very interested to get my hands on a book about eating disorders that was billed as a ‘self-help guide for parents, carers and friends of sufferers.’
As a therapist and as a patient, I can say with a degree of confidence that there really is not enough support for the people who surround the sufferer. It’s understandable that the professionals that you might encounter when you’re struggling with your mental health are going to be concerned about you and your wellbeing and not so much with how your loved ones are coping. However, we know that when we struggle, there is a ripple effect on our nearest and dearest so a book that offers empathy, knowledge and practical guidance to them is long overdue and very welcome.
Who is the author?
Lynn Crilly is currently a counsellor with a well-established practice in Surrey and a few other mental health guides under her belt. Lynn’s journey into practising counselling is a powerful and deeply personal one: her daughter Samantha was diagnosed with anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder at the tender age of thirteen. Over the next few years, Lynn made it her mission to become educated about these issues so that she and her family could be best equipped to support Samantha. In the introduction of the book, Lynn delves into what the experience of trying to help someone without a framework for how to help is like. Spoiler alert: it’s incredibly difficult.
Lynn discusses how eventually, she took the step to try and rehabilitate Samantha herself with the help of medical professionals. It was during this time that she established a non-judgemental, open-minded approach to understanding her daughter’s thoughts and emotions. Thankfully, Lynn’s dedication and research made a significant difference to her daughter. Samantha is now a healthy, thriving adult who is also involved in advocating awareness and understanding of eating disorders. Through her time with her daughter, Lynn essentially created a framework for how to help someone with an eating disorder and this book is her attempt to share that with anyone else who is in the same boat she was all those years ago. Through years of training and clinical practise, Lynn’s guide addresses a wide variety of eating disorders and coalesces her rich and varied experience of treating these difficulties. If you want to know more about Lynn and her work, she has a website with a fantastic blog.
What’s it about?
You can judge this book by the cover: it is everything a self-help guide for loved ones should be. The book starts on a personal note; we’re told a little bit about Lynn, her encounters with mental health and her professional experience. Samantha has also included a very touching poem about anorexia which really provides an insight into what a sufferer is going through. The book then delves into providing an insight into what eating disorders are, why they might develop, how to spot ‘disordered eating’ and what you as a loved one can do when you’re confronted with this.
Lynn does a great job of putting herself into the shoes of an average person who might not have much knowledge about mental health – let alone a specific eating disorder. Through her own lens of lived experience, she really addresses some of the key myths I’ve seen my own loved ones fall prey to when I’ve struggled: that the disorder is a cry for attention, that it might be the fault of the parent/loved one, etc. When I’ve struggled with my own eating disorder, I’ve felt misunderstood and guilty when I’ve witness loved ones doing their best to help me but actually they have inadvertently been doing or saying all the wrong things. As I finished the book, I found myself thinking how different my experiences would have been had I known there was somewhere my loved ones could go to for support. I also think of the relief that I would feel knowing the burden of getting my loved ones to understand what I’m going through doesn’t solely rest with me because there is an easy-to-digest guide that can break it all down from them.
The whole book is fantastic but some particularly great things to note are:
- The entire book is sprinkled with lived experience. There are anecdotes from Lynn’s clients and her family. I can’t emphasise enough how useful it is to get a window into eating disorders through other’s lived experience. In my mind, this was one of the most powerful things about this guide.
- It’s well-researched and evidence-based. There’s a lot on offer when it comes to the category of ‘self-help’ and there’s a lot that occupies the territory of pseudoscience too. With this guide, there’s a healthy combination of subjective experience and established research and I personally put more faith in an approach that combines those two elements than I would anything else.
- It’s for the layperson – and that makes all the difference. There is no overwhelming jargon. There’s just a huge dose of empathy and practical information – which is exactly what you need if you’re caught up in the kind of circumstances that drive you to pick up this book.
- We know ‘it takes a village’ – and Lynn’s book very cleverly takes that abstract idiom and fleshes out exactly what ‘it’ is and what the village can do.
Any not-so-great bits?
I try to be a harsh critic with everything I read and this is especially true with anything that bills itself as ‘self-help.’ However, in the case of this book, I have nothing but good things to say.
Verdict? 10/10. This book is a fantastic resource for everyone. If you are someone who has suffered with an eating disorder or are currently struggling, I think you would find it valuable too. As I mentioned earlier, during times when I’ve suffered, I was a ball of anxiety and a lot of my worries were about the burden I was placing on those I loved. Looking back on it now, I recognise it’s a funny irony to worry about your worry – but I really do think knowing that there was a guide for what my loved ones might be feeling and experiencing would have lightened my mind a little. I also know it would have helped their wellbeing as they would have felt a little less helpless and a little bit more helpful – and again, that makes all the difference.