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.