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Dear Family

By AJA

Dear Family,

Today, your child was diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Today, a doctor that you’ve never met told you that your child will die without treatment.

Today, that same doctor told you that your child isn’t well enough to go home.

Today, you learned that your child is sick. So sick that she needs to be in the hospital.

Today, you held your child’s hand as the nurse led you to her hospital room.

Today, you helped your child get into a hospital gown. Her frail body lost within the fabric.

Today, you watched as the nurse connected your child to a heart monitor. The lack of nutrition has weakened her heart.

Today, you comforted your child as she had another round of blood drawn. Her electrolytes are critically low from being malnourished.

Today, you let your child go alone to the dining room with a nurse that neither of you knew. You saw the fear in her eyes. Eating scares her. You felt scared too. But you put on your brave face and you told her to go with the nurse.

Today, your child came back from the dining room in tears. The staff made her eat everything on her plate. Everything. Something she hasn’t done in months. You feel sad because your child is distraught – yet there is flicker of hope that recovery is possible.

Or maybe the dining room did not go well.

In this case:

Today, the nurse brought your child back to her hospital room from the dining room. Your child refused to eat her dinner. She was given two supplement shakes in place of her dinner. You watched as your child gagged, spit and pleaded with you and the nurse. She was desperately begging you not to make her drink the supplements. You helplessly watched as the nurse took over for you. The nurse gave your child firm direction and encouragement. In that moment, you learned tough love, in a way that you’ve never known it before.

Today, you watched your child collapse to the ground with terrible stomach pains.

Gastroparesis, caused simply from eating. Because her body has been starved for so long that her stomach forgot how to process food.

Today, your child’s medical team started her on a medication regimen. Electrolyte replacements and anxiety medication. You’re scared. Your child has never taken medication before. And now she is taking a cup of meds 3 times a day.

Today, you heard words like: inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and family based treatment.

Your head is spinning, while your heart is breaking.

Today, your world fell apart because your child was diagnosed with anorexia.

 

Except, your world has been falling apart for some time now.

You’ve watched helplessly for months as your child faded away in mind, body, and soul.

You’ve watched the light go out of her eyes.

You’ve watched the eating disorder sneak in and swallow your child up – completely consuming her control, her mind, her body.

You’ve fought with your spouse.

You’ve fallen behind at work.

You’ve watched your whole family fall into a dark hole.

You’ve been short tempered and easily angered.

You’ve lost site of everything around you except for your child. Because you knew that you were losing her.

And you didn’t know how to save her.

You felt fear. Like you’ve never felt before.

You felt guilt. Because maybe somehow you caused this.

You felt anger. Because you missed your old life when your child was healthy and life was simple.

You felt frustration. Because family and friends tried to help. But, often their words hurt and their advice stung.

You felt alone. Because you wanted to protect your child’s privacy, so you kept so much to yourself.

 

But,

Today, your child was diagnosed with anorexia and admitted to the hospital.

Today, you can let go of the guilt, it’s not your fault.

Today, you can breathe, your child is being monitored by nursing staff.

Today, you can feel hopeful, your child is being given life saving medication and nutrition.

Today, a medical team will make a plan and guide you and your child.

Today, you have help.

Today, you are not alone.

 

Read that again: You. Are. Not. Alone.

I’ve sat where you sit.

I’ve felt what you feel.

You don’t know me, but in my heart, I carry you. I pray for you.

I need you to know that somewhere out there, another parent is cheering you on. Silently praying for your strength.

This will be hard.

Helping your child through recovery is scary. It’s isolating. It’s emotional. It’s difficult.

But you can do this.

You can do this because there is no alternative.

You are entering into one of the greatest battles that you will ever fight. This is the war of recovery. It is going to be you and your medical team up against a raging eating disorder.

Fight with everything you have. Because behind the eating disorder is your child. Your kiddo, who is lost, alone and silently begging for your help.

Although, sometimes it will be difficult to distinguish –

You are not fighting your child. You are fighting FOR your child.

Fight this fight for them……. until they are strong enough to fight for themselves.

 

The eating disorder is like a dragon who has taken over your child’s body, mind, actions and words.

The dragon is not your child. Your child is not the dragon.

The two are separate. And you need to remember this: Fight the dragon and save your child.

Remember this as well: If the dragon hates you – you are doing something right.

Let me say that again: If the eating disorder (dragon) hates you, you are doing something right.

Remember this when the battle becomes fierce.

The dragon craves control. He grows power and strength by controlling your child’s mind and body.

As you begin your journey to recovery, the dragon is going to realize that he is under attack. He is going to feel that he is losing control. This will upset him. It will anger him. It will make him rage in horrendous ways.

The dragon will use your child’s body and voice to fight you.

The dragon will do this because he is trying to weaken you, he wants your child.

But you want him/her/them more.

Watching the eating disorder rage within your child is hard. Your heart will break. You will want to give up. You will want to fall apart yourself.

But you can’t.

Because your child needs you.

The eating disorder has a way of taking away everything that you have ever known about parenting. You will feel so lost, so alone and so useless.

But, you hold so much power. Did you hear me? YOU have so much power within you.

You can help your child through this.

One of your biggest powers comes in the form of having control over yourself and calmness within yourself.

Although it is hard, don’t show the dragon your emotions. Don’t give the dragon that satisfaction.

Not only does the dragon want to control your child, he wants to control you and your family too.

Don’t fall into his trap.

You are strong and you are smart.

And you can do this. Find your brave face and your calm voice.

Work with you medical team and your therapist. Ask questions. If something is not working, change directions.

Research all that you can. Remember food is medicine. Keep in mind that recovery is not linear.

And only look back to see how far you’ve come.

Arm yourself with simple, emotion free, phrases to say to your child. Such as: I am sorry that you are feeling this way, the feelings will pass. I know this is hard, take one more bite.

You can do this, and you will.

 

As you travel this road with your child:

Be persistent. Be brave. Be calm. Be in control.

The war of recovery is not for the faint of heart.

As you march your way through this battle, you will start to see glimpses of your child.

The nourishment fuels your child and starves the eating disorder. Gradually, you will see more of your child and less of the eating disorder.

Eventually, your child’s body and mind will be fully fueled with life saving nutrition. You will watch in amazement, as your child rises from the ashes of the eating disorder.

Your child will have control over their own mind, their own body and their own voice. The eating disorder will no longer control them.

You will see the sparkle in their eyes again. You will hear the joy in their voice again. You will feel their enthusiasm for life again.

You will see your child as a warrior. A warrior who went through one hell of a battle, in the name of their own freedom.

You can’t see it right now – but your child’s recovery is right around the corner.

 

Today is hard. Your child was diagnosed with anorexia and admitted to the hospital.

Today is hard. So many unknowns are ahead of you and it’s not fair.

Today is hard.

But,

Today, you as a family, have taken the first steps in defeating the eating disorder.

Today, begins a new page in your child’s life. Recovery.

An eating disorder is only one chapter in your child’s story.

You can do this. You can help your child.

Sending you all my love and my prayers,

Love,

A mama of a daughter in recovery from anorexia

11 Comments

  1. Rebecca Hamilton

    Judy, your words are so beautiful. Our family’s path to recovery has not been traditional, but we are getting there. You give me the reassurance I need at just the right times in our journey. Today, your piece helped me reflect on how far we have come from those early, raw days. Thank you for all you do!

    • Maureen

      Thankyou so much our family my granddaughter have travelled what we hope are the hardest yards.An absolutely horror illness to witness how this beautiful child a high achiever can be over powered by this monster.We have found full family support is necessary as everyone is effected and weaken at times we are so blessed that we have a bond within the family and can support each one when needed.I feel for anyone doing it alone my heart goes out to anyone who has to go through this hideous illness.Good luck stay strong and look after that beautiful child

  2. Cynthia

    Thank you for the insightful article! My darling first granddaughter was just diagnosed and hospitalized with anorexia…. We feel so helpless, guilty, sad and afraid. You’re offering hope… Thank you!

  3. Patrese

    This so so powerful ! I needed to read this today. It is a lonely place to be and after reading this, I feel less alone. Thank you !!

  4. Donna

    My daughter is fighting OSFED. I am still learning. initially diagnosed ARFID, after 65 days in residential treatment for trauma. 10 days hospitalized, then took about 20 days to find PHP near us. about 70 hours a week, but we have her back home at night, 5 weeks PHP for eating disorder, then 5 weeks PHP for anxiety and mood disorder, now IOP for OSFED & school. 2 weeks on Tuesday.This is so hard for everyone, it is difficult enough even if you’re living with it. I know we will get through this, but plating her food for a year seems endless. I am just going to concentrate on today & maybe the week.

  5. Erika Sanchez

    My friend shared this website because she knows I need help. This is the first article I have read on this site and I can’t stop crying. Everything you wrote is exactly how I feel. I am not alone. My son is bulimic and anorexic and is struggling more because he is type 1 diabetic. This monster has been killing him slowly and reading this gives me hope that it will turn around. Thank you for this publication!

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