Through A Glass Darkly ~ Recovering From Eating Disorder, Anorexia & Bulimia ~ A Mother’s Perspective
Recovering From An Eating Disorder
A Mother’s Perspective
The past year has been one of great difficulty for this mother’s heart. It has been a year full of revelations.
The year revealed, among other things, an eating disorder that has plagued one of my daughters. I did not realize that she has suffered with this disorder for many years now. I could never have imagined the guilt that would plague my own heart upon learning this.
Questions racing through my mind at all hours of the day and night….Was it me? Was it something I said? Did? Was it the complaints of my own wishful thinking towards my own image? “I wish I could lose 10 pounds.” Was I blind? Did I not love her enough…hug her enough…care enough?
Was I an awful parent? How could I not know? Did I cause this? In short my heart broke in two. I was ashamed, not of my daughter, but of myself. I felt my mothering was lacking somehow. That I was to blame. Even though I really know better.
My beautiful baby girl, now my grown daughter, whom I have always adored beyond measure, how could ‘I’ let this happen to her. In hind sight I do not know why I didn’t see the “signs.”
I think in my heart of hearts I knew something was wrong. Something….I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something, but what?
In my own mind it was such a maze of confusion. I struggled so many times to understand the whys and hows of raising a teenage daughter. Parenthood is hard to say the very least, but very worth the struggle. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I naively thought ‘If I love my children enough’…
If I persist with my world view through rose colored glasses, of “All things work together for God’s greater good,”I could protect them from all of the negative and evil influences that plague the world at large today. I have always been a very optimistic person, seeing the glass as half full, never half empty. I felt my love far surpassed any ideals of beauty presented by the media at large.
I believed this mother’s love was enough. After all, all I saw was the beauty of my own child. I was wrong. The world today is such a dangerous place, at times frightful, at times beautiful…but all the same dangerous. I have known this. I did not realize how frequently the world comes knocking when a child is away from Mom and Dad. If by writing this, I can help one Mom or Dad see the signs of an eating disorder before it becomes dangerous, then this post will be worth it.
Anorexia and Bulimia are very serious.
Every parent should know the signs. Some of them are so subtle but can have serious consequences. I never dreamed in a million years any of my own children would suffer from these terrible disorders. I never realized that they can present on someone that ‘looks’ normal to the eye.
I thought an anorexic person would look emaciated, sunken and paper thin, in short extremely unhealthy looking. In hind sight most of the damage done by these horrible disorders is on the inside invisible to the naked eye until the damage is done. I felt my children were safe from these things, after all, I fed my children nutritious meals, I watched over them with love and cared for them deeply. How could those disorders ever touch them? But they did. Hidden from my own eyes for a while. Still I worried…
While I do not, nor will I ever doubt the depth and breadth of my love for my children, I will never innocently believe that my love is an adequate shield of all that seeks to destroy the esteem and self worth of my children again. I will constantly and tirelessly try to teach the remaining little ones in my home of the dangers of modern media, the representation of false beauty also known as the American ideal of beauty.
I will try my very best to educate them about the importance of loving oneself, of not sacrificing yourself on the altar of people pleasing. (I sincerely thought I did do these things, and I did to some degree..but I will try harder.)
I will constantly and ardently try to instill the love of a higher power, the respect of the creation that God has so wonderfully made in each of his children. I will not give up on trying to be the compassionate and loving mother I desire to be, to be a good example by caring for myself and accepting the me who God made me to be. Learning to love the lady I see in the mirror, to actually see for myself just how full and wonderful my glass is!
I admit that at times I have failed in this.
As humans, we have the ability to pick ourselves apart.
We often see that wrinkle, that gray hair, that tiny bulge here, the blemish there as something to hide. When all of those things come from the privilege of living. I digress…
Yet, I resolve this year to begin anew the task of loving myself, of not criticizing what is reflected in the bathroom mirror. To accept and appreciate the gift that is daily living.
I am thankful for a new chance. A chance to tackle this battle called parenthood, with a little more knowledge under my belt and a new wisdom that God has so graciously allowed me to learn.
I am thankful for the lessons and grateful that God in his mercy has given my daughter a chance to heal, a chance to live and to be happy.
She deserves SO much happiness. She deserves a cup that ‘runneth over.’
So back to the main thought of this post my sweet baby. Something was troubling her, I just knew it…but what?
I asked all the right questions. I dug for the answers, but still the answers were elusive. Have you ever felt this way about your children? You know something is troubling them…you ask…you try to reach them…to no avail?
I do remember trying to reach her over the years. There were times of excessive exercising in smothering heat. I would beg her to stop, to wait for the cooler part of the day at least, to come in and get a drink of water.
She seemed to be having problems with her hips. I just naively thought it was too much walking in the heat or maybe it is just growing pains?
She was always petite and was born with such a small bone structure, all of my children were. She looked “normal.” I didn’t see a picture illness in front of me during those years. I saw a beautiful girl.
Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough…
There were the times of wearing heavy sweatshirts in the heat of summer. I begged her to put on a t-shirt instead.
There were times of not eating…I would beg her to eat. Only to hear…I’m not hungry right now. This from a girl who adored mashed potatoes and gravy. Who loved homemade chocolate chip cookies.
She adored my cooking, why suddenly was she avoiding it like the plague? I thought it was a faze. I was wrong.
There were times when she was away at school, I would see pictures of my beautiful girl. She looked painfully thin.
I would beg her again, ‘Please eat something honey…anything!’ There were times she seemed terribly unhappy, but what teenager isn’t at some point in their life?
Teenage years are hard. I knew that much. I tried to chat with her, to draw her out. She just went in her room and shut the door.
When she went away to school, there were no calls home for ages. I worried, still wondering what to do, how to reach her.
I didn’t know how to make her understand the depth, breadth and width of a parent’s love, our love for her. And so it went through all the college years, she would come home smiling and I would breathe a sigh of relief.
She was in honors college and had fantastic grades. Her professors adored her. Little did I know, she was silently killing bits and pieces of herself, the ‘self’ I loved so much.
She graduated with honors and married. All seemed well. I breathed a silent sigh of thankful relief. She had made it through. Or not…
We have always adored our little daughters and sons. We feel they are the most beautiful beings to ever grace the earth. What parent doesn’t think this of their children? Biased yes, but none the less true. It was true in our eyes, the eyes of the ones who love them most. In our minds, we could not love them more!
Then came a day this past year when my dearest daughter revealed all the suffering and pain of an eating disorder that was chipping away at her health. It was chipping away at her life! I was frightened to say the very least.
Yet, there was relief as well. It was a relief to finally know what was always lurking beneath the surface those many years. I felt I really knew her for the first time in forever. But, it has continued to be one of the darkest chapters of my life as well as hers.
She is on her way to recovery.
I am prayerful that she will continue down this road to health and happiness. I am so proud of how far she has come. Six long months without a scale. Today marks the 6 month anniversary of that step to give up ED. Otherwise known as Eating Disorder.
I wanted to share with you all the words she so bravely shared with friends and family today. In hopes that she could help someone else, someone who might be facing this same journey, or one similar. This is for anyone who has suffered in silence and needs a friend. This is for the mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, friend, who may need an encouraging word.
But before I share her precious words, please read these signs and symptoms of ED. Educate your loved ones; share this post. Education is strength.
Let me end this by saying how PROUD I am of my dear one for facing her fears and forging ahead down this winding road of life and for continuing to bless me with her love, hugs and devotion.
I am humbled by the love you have blessed me with my darling daughter. I could never love you more than I already do. May your tomorrows be ever brighter and filled with sunshine.
I am here cheering you on, as always I am your biggest fan. I love you dear one, your Momma.
After the following please scroll down to read the encouraging words of a brave young girl who has been in the trenches and knows what it is like. Take courage and fight on!
National Eating Disorders Website for more information on all eating disorders.
Some of the signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa are as follows:
- Extreme weight loss
- Thin appearance
- Abnormal blood counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- Bluish discoloration of the fingers
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Soft, downy hair covering the body
- Absence of menstruation
- Dry or yellowish skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of arms or legs
Emotional and behavioral symptoms
- Severely restricting food intake through dieting or fasting and may include excessive exercise
- Binging and self-induced vomiting to get rid of the food and may include use of laxatives, enemas, diet aids or herbal products
- Preoccupation with food
- Refusal to eat
- Denial of hunger
- Fear of gaining weight
- Lying about how much food has been eaten
- Flat mood (lack of emotion)
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced interest in sex
- Depressed mood
- Thoughts of suicide
Please continue to scroll down to read my daughter’s account of her experience with these dreaded disorders. It is inspiring and an eye opener.
Without further rambling, the wise words of my daughter…