Say It Brave

Protecting Recovery with Safety Nets

By David Bachman

Prior to our son’s first year, we organized what I deemed as safety nets for continued recovery of his eating disorder.  Each one of these safety nets has taken on a new dimension now that his return to school is amongst this lingering pandemic.

I can still feel the deep breaths of airport air, under my mask, as we waited for our return flight home in March. I looked around the airport and wondered how many other parents just completed a mad dash in packing up their child’s dorm in order to complete the term virtually.

As I pondered this thought, I noticed that the air smelled clean, even with the faint sent of evergreen making its way through the pores in my disposable mask. Each time I inhaled, my anxiety peaked with fearful thoughts of the COVID virus hitch hiking itself to the always-present aroma of the airport. 

Prior to our son’s first year, we organized what I deemed as safety nets for continued recovery of his eating disorder.  Each one of these safety nets has taken on a new dimension now that his return to school is amongst this lingering pandemic.

In the beginning of 2020, and before the virus was publicly documented in the U.S., our son and his friends decided to secure an off campus apartment for the 2020-2021 academic year. Suffice to say, an off campus flat seemed feasible to my wife and I as long as it had close proximity to campus with access to his classes, care team and campus dining facilities.  Luck prevailed, and the off campus residency was literally across the street from the university.

In May, our son’s university communicated its developing plans for students to return to campus in some form or another.  Throughout the summer months, and after what seemed to be well-deliberated and intuitive decisions by the school, we were once again destined to return to the airport with our masks. Over the summer months, our son worked with his dietician and us on meal choices and how to prepare them. Even with an on campus meal plan, this was a great opportunity for him to test his bravery for his meals if he were enticed to make a breakfast, lunch or dinner.  He conquered the responsibility for snacks during his first year, but running solo on meal preparations was a new frontier.  My wife and I began to feel comfortable that with a handful of simple recipes he could prepare meals at home. 

My son embraced his virtual therapy and dietician appointments and I am really proud of how he accepted and respected blind weigh-ins at home. For him, this was quite a milestone in his continued recovery. I vividly recall the times when a rant would surface before an in-person weigh-in at his dieticians’ office. Since, I became the de facto practitioner for weigh-ins at home; I was prepared to create a boundary and emotionally coach him if he balked at my new role. The five months of weigh-ins became another facet of our new normal. Conquering this effort further re-enforced my sons’ motivation to follow through with scheduling his weigh-ins once he returned to campus. 

As we approached the end of July, the university confirmed their approach to course instruction. A hybrid model of in-person and remote classroom delivery was announced. This translated into a greater percentage of online classes for my son and it further morphed its meaning into the fact that the majority of his course attendance will be at his desk. Since he was living with three other people and was basically still on campus, I was not overly concerned with self-isolation issues. Undoubtedly, his peer interactions would materialize with the (hopeful) continuance of a facial covering and practicing social distancing guidelines. 

August brought the welcomed flurry of gathering and packing for the return to school.  The safety net for classes, care team, and meals was in place for our son. Our flight reservations were confirmed with the airline’s commitment in not filling the middle seat and enhanced cleansing procedures. Some of the angst in returning to flight was eased for us. 

The day of our sons last at home weigh-in and dietician appointment, his university released updated policies for on-campus meal plans. Due to the rise in COVID infections in many states, the university restricted meal plans to only students residing on-campus. This revision ripped a hole in the safety net for our son’s meals.  Both my wife and I gasped a similar comment: “He only has a few recipes for each meal and those are only the backup to an on campus meal plan.”  We received this update was on a Friday, and we were flying out on Monday. 

I emailed my sons dietician with the meal plan update before his session. Our son has always had one or both of us as part of these sessions. Therefore, we were able to discuss this turn of events with his dietician.  I think our son was surprised by the university’s revision, but he did not share the same concerns of my wife and I.  Panic questions ran through my head. “Was he not worried like us because he really can do meals on his own?” “Did his eating disorder now have its own safety net when he has done so well in recovery?”  I bit my tongue, swallowed my panic, and let the dietician discuss how he would be responsible for his own meals. 

Both sound and mature agreements were reached with our son. There was no detectable crack in his recovery now that he would truly be responsible for every meal. We discussed his shopping list and what grocery shopping would look like once we were in town. A prepared meal service that would ship appropriate balanced meals was reviewed and agreed to by our son. We added to his budget for take away delivery services from local restaurants. It all seemed like a solid plan to repair the rip in the safety net. 

Armed with masks, hand sanitizer, wipes and gloves, we motored to the airport. Once we arrived at our destination and I walked off the plane, the evergreen scent shot right through my mask. The thought of the virus trying to penetrate my mask on the plane and now back at the same airport seemed as real as it did in March. 

Touché, while unexpectedly challenged, the safety net remained in tack. 


Written by

David Bachman

David Bachman is a parent advocate for adolescents with eating disorders. As a member of ERC’s Recovery Ambassador Council, David raises awareness on his family’s journey with their son’s eating…