To all the parents reading this, who are struggling to find their sons and daughters trapped in a body overtaken by an eating disorder… KEEP GOING. Your child may not be able to tell you right now, they may not even realize it, but they appreciate what you are doing more than you can know.
When my mom was refeeding me, I honestly thought that I hated her. I went for months and months without speaking to her outside of family therapy sessions. When she took me to the doctor to admit me to an inpatient program, I tried to convince the nurses not to let her in my room to visit and when she did, I ignored her almost completely. Even after being discharged from the hospital I would not make eye contact with her for weeks. It was almost a year before I let her touch me or hug me.
I was angry at her, but also at myself. I didn’t feel like I deserved any of her love. I felt dead inside, hollow. People will tell you that underweight patients cannot think properly and that is 100% true. I couldn’t focus on anything, I couldn’t reason, I barely had any memory. All my brain knew was that it wanted to starve and was willing to do anything it could in order to succeed. I honestly couldn’t see what I was doing to myself or anyone else around my. I had blinders on, compliments of my eating disorder. I did things I can barely believe I did now. I lied to doctors and nurses, I called people names I am horribly ashamed of and I even ended up in a psychiatric ward because I felt so desperate that I didn’t feel like I could handle living anymore.
When my parents began to treat me with the Maudsley model of treatment, I resisted completely. They sat at the table with me for 8, 9, 10 hours while I sat in front of my breakfast, still in my pajamas at 8:00pm. They slept with me on the floor beside my bed to make sure I was safe in the middle of the night. They cancelled everything and focused on me. At first, I hated them for it. My eating disorder was constantly beating me up inside and I thought they were the reason for it. I don’t even think I was ME anymore… I was just an eating disorder living in a body it had cruelly taken over.
Slowly but surely, with the introduction of medication and lots and lots of food and love… my resistance lessened. I still rarely spoke. My mind was going crazy with disordered thoughts and I could not stop self harming because I felt like it was the only way to lessen my distress. It took almost a year after weight restoration for my mind to start to clear. It was like the fog had lifted, and while there were still clouds overhead… at least I could see.
My relationship with my parents now is absolutely wonderful. I love them more than anything in the world. I will be forever grateful to them for helping me when I needed it most and for seeing through the anger and hatred I spit at them. I wasn’t able to tell them at the time, but I needed them like crazy and I appreciated every bite they made me eat. They dug in beside me and refused to leave me alone with the eating disorder. They were willing to give up their relationships with me just to make sure I was healthy… but the thing was, our relationship is actually better than ever now. My mom is my best friend and we do everything together. We still have issues, but who doesn’t? She knows I love her and I know she loves me and that’s what matters to us.
I still often have disordered thoughts and I have difficult days filled with anxiety and depression. I still see my pediatrician regularly and follow a strict meal plan and am not allowed to eat unsupervised yet… but I am making it through. Every day gets a little bit easier to manage and I can’t wait for the day that all this eating disorder stuff is just a distant memory. Thank to my parents, I KNOW that day will come.
Please know that your sons and daughters might not be able to say it but they DO love you and they DO appreciate every single day you stand by their side and fight this eating disorder. They are so afraid to be left alone, to be given up on… and you are doing the right thing. I never, ever, ever in a million years thought I would ever truly want recovery. I spent so many years in and out of hospitals and doctors offices and sick and unhealthy. But now that I can see recovery, I want it. And I’m getting there! Your child maybe hasn’t had that realization yet, but they will. If it happened for me, it can happen for anybody!
Thank you so much for everything you do for your children. You are all amazing parents!!