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Looking Down the Mountain

By: Simone, a FEAST mom from Australia

August was never going to be a good month. I didn’t predict we would be back in lockdown, but I did predict some big feelings would be coming my family’s way.

This time last year my eleven year old daughter went for a consultation at the Eating Disorder Clinic at the hospital. I had tried for a few months prior to this to get a doctor to recognise that something was desperately wrong. By the time we arrived at the hospital appointment, things were bad.

With only the clothes on our backs, my daughter and I were told we wouldn’t be going home. The diagnosis was Anorexia Nervosa and my daughter’s heart was in danger. What followed was three of the most heartbreaking weeks of my life.

On that first night of hospital, I made a friend. A mother approached me as I stood bewildered at the linen cupboard. She had so much knowledge about eating disorders I thought she must have been a doctor! It turned out she was a veteran fighter. She had a son of the same age in our ward with an eating disorder. But she’d travelled this road before, having faced anorexia nervosa herself and also with two of her other children. She is a remarkable woman.

By Day Two of admission, she was the best friend I ever had. We called ourselves the Ward Wives. We swore, we cried and sometimes we laughed at how wretched and sad and hopeless we felt.

Our friendship has been such an important part of my journey over the past year.

When we had to make some really tough decisions about medicating my daughter, two old friends stepped bravely forward and shared with me their own personal experiences with anti-depressants. I am eternally grateful for their courage and honesty. They helped eased the pain and stigma attached to mental illness.

Then there are the friends I found on FEAST. That company of beautiful, kind strangers who have encouraged me to keep feeding, keep going. Reminding me through their own loving and gentle examples, that things can get better.

Not all of my friendships have survived. I’ve had to let go of the ones who demanded that I frame this experience in a ‘positive way.’ I’m too tired to pretend that everything is okay. I’m not the ‘happy go lucky’ person I was before last year. I don’t think I’ll ever be that person again.

The deepest friendship of all is the one I have with my daughter. She hasn’t always liked me over the past year, re-feeding does not win you a popularity contest when you are living with an eating disorder. But we are incredibly close. Only she and I lived through that hospital experience. We don’t know how we got there, but we both know it wasn’t our fault and we never want to go there again.

My daughter is so brave. I admire her loving and tender heart. August memories weigh heavily in her mind too. The other night she dreamt she was having the feeding tube inserted and she could feel the excruciating pain all over again.

I am a teacher and I lost one of my students to anorexia nervosa. I think of her often as we battle through our days.

But August is nearly over. Spring will come again. In Spring last year, we came home. To our family, to our garden, to our home. The colour is returning to my daughter’s cheeks. She smiled, she laughs, she is Captain of her School. I’m so proud of her.

I read once that only bad things happen overnight, good things take time. Recovery takes time. It’s been a year and counting. But we will continue to look down the mountain to see how far we have come. For as long as it takes, until we get there.

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. Kate Sinclair

    Thank you for writing. I’m sure most of us can relate to the journey you are on. Recovery certainly does take time, much more than I originally anticipated. Only other carers truely understand how life changing and relentless this illness is for our child and their family. We are 9 months in with my D17 with AN and just about to have the third hospital admission for medical stabilisation. The support and understanding from FEAST has been a lifeline. Thank you xx

  2. Laurel

    Dear Simone. I am at the same stage in our journey. 8 months since first admission to hospital. The lockdowns are tough. We are having a set back at the moment that started at the last lockdown. My poor sweet girl can’t sit down. She isn’t ‘allowed’. She stands all the time and she is exhausted by it. I agree with your reflection about the closeness that you feel to your girl. I feel the same way about my daughter. Our bond is a forever force. Unbreakable and deep. I also know that Spring will come again! Much Love to you. Laurel, Brisbane, Australia.

    • Elizabeth

      Keep going…my daughter picked up the standing compulsion from patient in program / 9 months and one day I finally had strength to challenge the monster (daughter very angry and temper scary).
      First she sat for meals only after being “commanded” to sit & other reassurances.
      Over a year later she finally sat on sofa and without guilt.
      The disorder is tearing us apart but some days I find strength to fight more than others. We’ll wishes

  3. Nina B.

    I feel the same way. Something inside me has change forever.
    It is amazing to me the lack of understanding from people who have not gone thru this. I have to say I was one of them. We need to talk about this. We need awareness, schools should be talking about this.
    Thank you for this post. I thought I was alone feeling changed inside. I cannot even put into words how I have changed but I have.

  4. Edel Crossan

    My daughter is 18 suppose be getting ready for uni in September but AN has taken over her life around 8 months ago hospitalised 2 weeks after that, Still doesn’t feel she has AN. Her mind is so stuck. I feel so sad and sorry for her the depression that comes with AN it’s awful. She spends her days in and out bed so unlike her. I have only found feast which has helped me. Thankyou.

  5. Jennifer

    Thank you for your story. My daughter (as I look back now) has struggled with anxiety since she was very young. She is 1 year in with AN and is 15. I was also not on board with the medication but she is on a very lose dose. The low dose has made an amazing change in her. The way they explained the medication me relax a bit about allowing her to try it. I am so glad I accepted it. She still struggles, it is not a miracle med but it has made a huge improvement. Re feeding was difficult for me as I have never been interested in calories, nutrional guides, labels etc. This ED is way out of my comfort zone to help her recover. I have beat myself up alot over the past year. I am not in any way more educated in meals prep or proper nutrion but what I have been learning is just to make sure she is eating AND more importantly keeping an eye on her mental health. She has made huge strides in her mental health now we will slowly begin to challenge her eating habits (she is eating 3 meals a day, refuses snacks). I have found as her mental health improved so did her willingness to eat. Sending big hugs to all of you who feel alone in this battle with your child. Keep the posts coming – it is certainly what helps me.

  6. Simone

    Thank you everyone. I have read your comments many times over and it reminds me once again that this wonderful place I have found here means I’m not alone in my journey. Sending love xx

  7. Kylie Costin

    Hi Simone – I just read your story and inwardly cried as it could be our story to that I’ve never been able to put into words quite as well as you did. August is also our month – 2 years ago this week our daughter then 12 was diagnosed with AN and admitted to hospital for the first of 4 admissions. It has been a hell of a ride but so thankful to say that she has turned a corner just this last couple of months and I feel like we are now in solid recovery. She is only now able to start reflecting on her experiences and we have both felt big feelings that we can’t really put into words over this last couple of weeks. Thankyou for articulating these feelings so well. All the best from Adelaide, SA x

  8. Kristy

    My daughter was diagnosed and in hospital at the beginning of lockdown in June. She too is only 11 years old. It was the biggest shock of my life. She is school vice captain and I’m so proud of her – and so heart broken for her. I find myself on the edge of loosing it, daily. All I can do it grit my teeth and keep climbing that damn mountain…. Sydney + lockdown + intro to anorexia = 🙁

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