It has been almost 2 years ago since this mama was hit by the anorexia freight train. I knew something wasn’t right with my 13-year-old daughter that spring. She was losing weight, fast. Her moods were more than a typical teenager. Her pediatrician, at the time, had us take her to the emergency room for a low heart rate. She was hospitalized for one week, and a team of doctors sat my husband and I down to explain the daunting diagnosis of an eating disorder.
I went through all the mother’s emotions: denial, scared, angry, scared, sad, scared. I was so scared. We were coming out of a pandemic and mental health waiting lists were insane! I spent that summer on a hamster wheel of emotions and actions. I couldn’t get my daughter professional help. I would call countless mental health people and places daily. The waiting lists were too long. I tried, unsuccessfully, to refeed; she wouldn’t eat for me. I read books, listened to podcasts, searched the FEAST website, took their 30 day online class and scoured through eating disorder parent Facebook groups.
What I needed to hear was that it was going to be okay. My daughter will survive this. You can get better, recovery will happen. All I could find was the negative results of an eating disorder and I was scared–scared of the statistics, so scared of an ending I can’t even type.
I ended up after months of agony and a billion phone calls finding a doctor who understood eating disorders and had her readmitted to the hospital. Her heart rate was in the 30’s that first night! My daughter went from the hospital to an inpatient eating disorder treatment center, and then an eating disorder residential center. The whole time away from home was about 3 long months. Once home, the hell of FBT (Family Based Treatment) really began. She did virtual PHP (partial hospitalization program), then virtual IOP (intensive outpatient program) through the eating disorder treatment center. I found a nutritional coach who worked with her in person after IOP to improve self esteem, body image, and work through the roller coaster emotions of an eating disorder and being a teen.
FBT was exhausting. I sat through every bite, every tantrum. I leaned on Facebook groups and parent counseling sessions and good friends to get me through. I found strength through other parents who have been here. I had ice cream, pizza, milk, and many other foods thrown at me or around the kitchen. I was called every name. I thought the more the eating disorder was angry, the closer we were to overcoming it. I NEVER GAVE UP! I persisted.
I knew my daughter was in there. Her worst fear food was pizza! One evening after serving one slice to her, she went to her room crying. It was as if rattlesnakes were on her plate. I lifted my crying daughter off the floor and said to her, she will eat pizza again. She said she would rather die. I think we had pizza on our plates for about 3 weeks. One miserable bite at a time she started to tolerate it again. Fast forward and we eat pizza like a normal family now.
It just got easier over time. All of a sudden, I looked back and the tantrums were lessening, she was eating more foods, her tolerance was expanding. One bite, one meal, one snack at a time, I was getting my daughter back. It. Just. Got. Better. My daughter was weight restored, but because of all that I read, I pushed. I never stopped pushing calories, meals, more food, BUTTER. Oh, the butter and cream I used daily! Almost 2 years later and she can eat anything! I silently jump for joy when my daughter reaches for a few of my fries or grabs a random donut outside of her snacks/meals, because they taste good.
At our last check up, her doctor, my hero who saved her by getting her admitted to the hospital a second time, says she is “recovered.” She no longer has fear foods. She can eat and try any food! She can prepare and serve her own meals without me arguing with her to take more.
I put “recovered” in quotes because after this journey I’m not sure I will ever stop watching from afar. I just know too much about eating disorders. I don’t trust the eating disorder. But I think we earned this time to take a deep breath. I can finally see life beyond the eating disorder.
So, parents in the depths of hell with the eating disorder demons, this will pass. They will get better. They will have a happy life. But endure the tantrum, stand strong. You got this. This too shall pass. Don’t stop believing. Do not give up hope. Get a butter dish on your counter and add, add, add it to everything. Weight restoration brings a healthy brain. The light at the end of your tunnel is coming. Your child can recover! Your child has you, you are a warrior!