By Charlotte, UK mom of three
Lockdown year, 2020. I didn’t think the year could get any worse until I discovered my daughter may have a problem with food. It was the week she returned to school and I began to notice a number of things:
– skipping lunches
– refusing chocolate
– drastic weight loss
– ‘making’ herself breakfast
– eating dinner alone in her room
– dramatic mood change
My gut was screaming a terrible truth that I couldn’t deny. The evidence was there, hidden in plain sight, that concluded only one thing: My daughter has an eating disorder! This would be the start of a journey through a world of hell, one I never knew existed.
There are things I know for certain:
1. Life is a mixture of hardships and happiness.
2. No one can guarantee or promise that you will avoid severe hardship in your life.
3. Humans are capable of amazing levels of endurance once they accept their fate and take responsibility to try and work their way out of hardship.
I’m human; I couldn’t help but feel sadness, helplessness and despair. They were all emotions that encircled me. However, this was too serious a situation and too important to lose myself to the feelings of despair.
If I started to spiral, started to lose control, then who would help my daughter? I can’t operate effectively out of this mindset and needed to stay focused, to take control of negative feelings and turn them into positive action.
I knew nothing about eating disorders and had to claw my way out of my head, away from my thoughts. I tapped into the rational part of my brain, the part that evaluates and assesses, the part that presents solutions and direction. Yes, this is bad. BUT I can get us out of it! I just don’t know the details…yet.
Education is power. I start there. I need to educate myself in every aspect of this illness, so I read and I read. I get the wheels in motion to start getting appointments with therapists and doctors.
While I wait for that, it makes sense to reach out to the FEAST community for support. At this stage I need strong reassurances from people that have been through this and came out the other side. I need proof, real life proof, that this is winnable. Most importantly, I need hope!
I figure if food is the issue then food is the key.
I start to make my daughter sit and eat. It’s then I start to see it–the monster that’s been living in her head and controlling her every move. I realise she is entrenched deeper than I thought. I know that I need to launch a full-scale rescue mission to save my daughter.
I learn, through educating myself, that ED was never my daughter’s choice. She is a hostage. I learn that ED is a formidable foe, one that I should never underestimate. It will control, manipulate, lie, deceive, pretend and kick you in the gut for good measure.
Happy is ED when it has a parent at arms-length, sending out signals of hopelessness and despair to you and your child. When an eating disorder has presented itself, it will already have tightly woven itself around your loved one, entwined so deep that thoughts and actions now operate on EDs rules and authority.
There is hope–lots of hope. I learn that parents and carers are one of the most important and effective frontline defences in saving a loved one, especially when using Family Based Therapy (FBT).
I believe that this battle is winnable; food and observation are the medicine. However, for our loved ones, a bitter pill to swallow! They don’t have to agree to the journey or even like it, but it’s one they must be taken on if they have any hope of recovery.
I have learnt in three months that the road is long. Winning is a marathon, not a sprint. I noticed that when I feed my daughter, ED is already pre- planning the ways it can get the food back out. It really is a battle of wills to feed them and ensure it stays in them. Spitting, vomiting, hiding food in pockets, sleeves, smearing it in hair, clothes…it’s a constant task to be observant but I have to be strong willed to see this through.
ED will appear sometimes through my child and spit vitriolic abuse my way. I’ve learnt this is a good sign! When ED is mad, I’m winning. So, I let ED says its piece and take quiet delight in “poking the beast.”
I give myself one rule, which is never give up.
No matter what I face I will not let the idea enter my head. I have to be persistent in this to win the battle against ED. Keep feeding, do not let ED get the upper hand. I will not be ED’s willing assistant in this conspiracy to starve my daughter. I will match its persistence and its endurance because that is the path out! ED will try to scare me, disempower me, sneak past me. ED will evolve, grow; and just when I think I’m winning, it comes back strong with a frightening strength. I thought my daughter would never be ‘ill’ enough that she would vomit in her room, but she did. I gave myself no time to wallow in despair at this terrible find, I changed the battle plan and began to watch her even closer after each meal-time and snack.
I won’t allow ED to make me feel like I’m losing. I need to keep ED on the run and use the new information I find against it; I need to close down the loopholes that ED is escaping from.
It takes everything I have to run into a situation that I dread each day.
I used to be scared each morning, I don’t get scared now. The only way to win is to fight ED on its own territory and run head long into the belly of the beast. This is a combative illness; it is a terrifying illness for parents and children. I will naturally start to feel down, feel hopeless. I will only allow myself a little time out in those moments, but I won’t let them last. ED will only grow in that environment. How happy will ED be when I’m inactive and crying in a corner, lost, not knowing what direction I should take next? No, I will keep ED on the run and challenge it! I believe that is the key to winning.
I can make one promise to ED and to my daughter. I will NEVER give up, no matter what. This is a battle that I have no option but to win. I just want my lovable little girl back. So I will…