By Enn, Around the Dinner Table Forum Moderator
When our loved ones are initially diagnosed with an eating disorder (ED), it can feel as if the rug has been stripped from beneath our feet. We have been pushed from the cliff with no parachute. We are in a free fall trying to grasp for anything that will help us gain purchase. We want to get back to normal. How do we do this? Where do we get the information and support that we need? All of those questions are swimming in our heads. It is such a frightening time for most of us. We have been thrust into the arena to fight the eating disorder with no previous training or knowledge.
What I have seen over and over again, is that with education and support, families generally DO get going on their own path that is right for them. But, how do we know how we are doing? We slog on and on and feed and supervise 24/7. We go day by day, minute by minute, meal by meal. We know the name of the game is weight gain, or less or no purging, or less or no exercise and desensitizing them to fear foods and other things. As we conquer each of these issues, we know that some things are getting better. But, IT. TAKES. SO. LONG. We question ourselves and the journey over and over again. “Am I doing this correctly?” “Is my child really getting better?” “Gosh, are we ever going to get through this?”.
We have all been there and see it in others’ stories on the F.E.A.S.T. forums. We are all looking for that magical moment where our efforts and the beginning of recovery intersect. The time where our efforts are affirmed and acknowledged. The time when we know we and our child are moving forward. That instant that the eating disorder just melts away in the blink of an eye. Oh, how I wish that were the case. That was what I personally thought would happen. That the food and time I put in would bear the fruits of my labour and she would be cured tomorrow or the next day or the next. If only…. I thought that she would wake up and ED would have taken the proverbial hike off the cliff. That was what I was waiting for. I had kept my nose to the grind stone for so long, so when would I truly know that she was getting better?
That is the crux! It does not happen in a singular burst of flames. There is no loud scream to mark the end. There are no fireworks. It is a whisper here and there, almost inaudible. Did I hear something? It is a soft glowing flickering light that can be questioned as a figment of your imagination. It can hide in the shadows, around the corner, behind the bush. Did I see it? Is this real? It is so subtle. It was a small thing for me. It was at dinner one night and my daughter had commented on how butter on the peas was tasty! She told her brother to add butter to his peas to enhance the flavour of his own serving. It had not registered in my brain earlier in the day. I only realized it at bedtime as I reviewed the day in my head and it hit me like a ton of bricks with another ton on top. She liked peas and butter! How did I miss that? She had not said that she had liked anything in, I don’t know how long. Wow, we were making progress. It was a such a sense of relief, joy and exhaustion simultaneously. I had felt like I had won the lottery. Finally, I could take a real deep full breath. The inching along the tortuous long road, the mountainous path with so many steep switch backs and down turns, was really getting us somewhere.
I had been posting our journey on the Around the Dinner Table Forum (ATDT) for exactly a year at that point and I had not been able to see the improvements until that day. There really had been positive movement! I could not see or appreciate it as such in the moment. It was only in retrospect that I could see the bigger picture. My efforts were working. She was doing so much better. I was so in my own head that I could not see or value the progress we had made. And all it took was butter and peas! So simple and yet so significant.
That is when the Gold Star Moment thread came to fruition. It was created to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a small success with ED. These are true gold stars moments. The tiniest movement forward, like an extra bite, a smile, a hug, one less purge per day, are very important events. These are monumental and worth celebrating and sharing with those that truly understand. They keep us going. These gold stars are the road posts on the journey to show you how far you have come. They are the badges of honour and bravery that you deserve. Take pride in them. We all get it. We really, really do. These moments acknowledge the internal struggle and metamorphosis that you have gone through and they mark how much better your child is doing. These are the moments that matter. There is none too small to mention. This thread is a celebratory thread. It is a place to get a huge “high five”. It is a place of hopeful tears, warm, kind embraces that reach around the world and virtual parties with dancing and drinks all around. Remember, as you continue to work relentlessly, that there are beautiful moments right at hand. They may not be obvious in the moment, they won’t yell in your ear for attention, but they are there. Take a breath and pause. Look at the amazing things YOU are doing and have done. Positive things are happening, they really are. You just have to look back to where you were to appreciate where you are now. And when you want to share it, please post on the Gold Star Moment thread. Honestly, we cannot wait to celebrate with you!