Poem & Reflection
There is a Light & There is a Door.
Have you ever felt so empty?
That you’ve forgotten how to breathe?
So weak without resolve,
That you just buckle to your knees?
That even when you’re outside,
There just isn’t enough air.
Of all emotions rushing by,
All you hand grasps is despair?
Have you ever felt so desperate?
Like your whole worlds caving in?
So no matter how you push and strive,
It appears you’ll never win.
When the odds seem stacked against you,
And it appears there’s nowhere left to go?
When you’re surrounded all by people,
And yet feel increasingly alone.
Have you ever felt so helpless?
And that this world has no value left?
Whereby, fighting to hold on,
Just leaves you bankrupt and bereft.
Well I’m here to try and tell you,
That many know this feeling well.
And – I acknowledge this admission,
Won’t serve to calm or ease your hell.
But what I wish you to believe is,
That it can’t last for evermore.
Although now, feeling never-ending,
There’s a light and there’s a door.
Yes, the door is hard to open,
And you can’t do it by yourself.
It’s heavy, rusted, barred and bolted,
So you’re going to need some help.
Now help is an endless resource,
If, knowing how and where to look.
I know you’re broken and exhausted,
So this will take one lasting push.
But, in perservering you’ll have made,
The first step – from darkness into light.
Yes, it may appear so grey for now,
The change won’t happen overnight.
But with help, support and love,
I promise the smog can begin to clear.
And with time, and more time yet again,
The light will start to near.
The door may open slowly,
Don’t force it – or you might get hurt.
Gentle, little movements,
Conserve strength, rather than exert.
The helping hands will push,
With you, to ease and support the strain.
Now – the door may swing back sometimes –
Don’t give up, start over again.
With help and time and input,
The door can allow you to pass through.
Where things seem a little brighter,
The air less dense – more fresh and new.
You can look back and remember,
When you thought, you’d never make it there.
And know now – how very far you’ve come,
That all broken parts can be repaired.
So – If you are, or ever find yourself,
Lost and feeling in this way.
Remember there’s a light, there’s a door,
And they will not be too far away.
Contributed by S.Preston
My name is Sara – I work for Beat in Scotland – I come from a place of personal experience, in overcoming Anorexia and reaching full recovery, before entering the professional eating disorder field. Writing poetry has always been a cathartic experience for me – something that helped me rebuild and re-establish my voice and emotional expression – following the eating disorder taking this away from me. I wrote this specific poem with parents and carers in mind, as a means to try to communicate the message of hopefulness and healing, and somehow exemplify the potential difficult relationship and navigation through treatment and recovery for both carer and loved one.
The resounding message I wished to portray is one of hope, perseverance and reassurance. In this prose, I am acutely aware I can only speak of my own insights and experience, which may likely differ greatly from that of others, but I hope it may hold aspects of resonance for the reader. Being the carer of someone struggling with an eating disorder, is something I can only partially imagine and professionally understand, therefore grasping how immensely challenging, emotive and helpless this can feel at times, is something I compassionately connect with, yet from a removed position – as I realise I have not experienced being placed in your shoes. From the other side and my own experience, I have learnt and come to comprehend that this complex dynamic brings up emotions and difficulties that are unmatched. There is a very different yet perhaps comparable equity of burden upon the carer, to that experienced by the sufferer themselves, and although very contextually distinct in origin and experience – similar feelings regarding guilt, fear, shame and hopelessness can be present, albeit unique to what each individual is going through.
As a carer, when faced with the reality of a new ED diagnosis, or equally presented with the barriers and impasses that may occur in the recovery journey [where there is denial, stagnancy, opposition, apparent overt anger or misdirected frustration, a relapse, or just the continual discomfort of uncertainty] – attempting to find clarity, resource and resolve can be hugely challenging. Facing the doubts and fears of: “Is this the right thing to do?” “Will my child ever get better?” “Will my loved one blame me for this action or treatment intervention?” “Will my child resent me when they are recovered?” “Will things ever be normal again?” “Can I as a parent recover from this experience?” can inevitably torment and feel intolerable – these questions and the intensity of the unknowns, doubts and fears can at times appear overwhelming and as all-consuming as the illness itself, that is affecting your loved on.
Fear and uncertainty are too often constant companions. Recovery is not linear. A process rather than an event. There is no perfect recovery. Therefore, there will likely be ups and downs, challenges, progress made, backtracking, sometimes halting and stops – at times it may well be one step forward and 2 or 3 steps back. The door may seem closed, heavy barred and bolted – but it can be opened once more.
There may be outbursts of emotions – apparent anger and hatred. This is not, in reality, directed or intended for you – though the legitimacy of hurt felt as a consequence cannot be diminished. However know and try to differentiate between the behaviours of the disorder and the true actions and feelings of your loved one – endeavour to make the distinction between the person and the disorder. The eating disorder has been a safeguard, a barrier and a numbing agent – challenging the disorder and getting through to the loved one inevitably opens up a box of buried emotions and feelings that have long-held been shut down and paralysed. The re-emergence of said emotions, the seemingly ‘out-of-character’ displays of rage or elation or sorrow, are in fact to be expected [although difficult to be met with] – it is the re-awakening of the individual who has been shut down, as well as the defensive response of the eating disorder being actively challenged.
A roller coaster of emotion likely doesn’t adequately describe your experience – however, amidst these battles and extremes of feelings – hope is always there. It is a constant, a resource and an entity to grasp and try to hold on to as firmly as possible. Hope is a vat that never runs dry.