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Mommy: I tried to eat

By a FEAST Around the Dinner Table dad

“I tried to eat, Mommy. I tried.”

I believe that those words were from my real daughter on the night of February 18, 2020 as we sat in a room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia emergency room. I believe that she was telling her mommy that “SHE” – Tillie – really did try to overpower the voices in her head that had caused her to restrict and control her food intake and at the same time work out like a crazy person.

ED – Eating Disorder… (or $%^&-ing ED!) has taken my daughter from me and I want her back.

But Ed is tricky… he tells us using my daughter’s beautiful face, lips, voice and eyes that he doesn’t like to be called Ed. He just wants to be Tillie. He just wants things to be normal again. He wants dad to leave him alone about restricting Tillie’s food. He wants dad to stop bugging mom about how Ed has been having Tillies body work out too much. He wants mom to try harder to convince dad that it is Tillie making apple dumplings and it’s because she loves him… he plans to drag mom deeper and deeper in with him by using all the credibility and trust that his host, Tillie, built up over the years.

Ed wants to fool mom into thinking that it is Tillie who is doing handstands because she needs “something” and she needs to be strong even if not working out.

Ed used a cruel weapon on dad… he made dad think that his beautiful daughter Tillie didn’t love him anymore. Ed made dad feel like he just didn’t understand teens and that he had done something wrong. It was never Tillie…but dad couldn’t see it. Ed had control. Ed was pushing all the right buttons in dad to drive him away and keep him away so he could do his dastardly work on Tillie’s body and on mom.

Ed used an even crueler weapon on mom. He used the weapon of a mother’s love against her. He took over Tillie’s speech and words and brain. He REALLY knew how to use mom for his purposes. There was nothing mom could have done. What mother wouldn’t rush to what she thought was their little girl’s defense? Mom didn’t know that it was Ed at the controls…Ed the parasite. Ed told mom that now she had a workout buddy. Now she has someone to hang out with and who would understand her, especially when Dad was having his crazy moments.

Dad worked a lot and was worried about his business and was sometimes almost unstable with his indecision about coaching or getting a job. Ed loved this. Ed thought this was a perfect time to drive a wedge even further between mom and dad.

Ed has been doing the cruelest things to Tillie. She is in there. She knows her body is tired. She is smart. She knows that eating is a good idea. She knows she loves bacon and ice cream. She knows she loves her dad. She knows that she shouldn’t let Ed beat her up and use her to manipulate her mother with Love. But she can’t stop ED. He is cruel. He punishes her. He tells her terrible things. He has imprisoned her and locked away the key. He allows her to be the good girl and do dishes and clean the house and get a job and earn praise from her employer… all more things that make this more confusing for mom and dad.

Oh, Ed…. You’re one smart and tricky *&^%$#.

But Ed… I, Tillie’s father, saw you a while ago. I didn’t know it was you. It was only a glimpse. I wasn’t sure. I still doubted myself. I still thought my daughter might not love me. I still thought my wife hated me. But when I saw my skinny daughter standing in my living room in her skinny pants next to my vibrant daughter that you hadn’t infected…my daughter who still does express love and normal teen “dad isn’t so cool” stuff…. I knew… I knew I had to do something. I knew something was majorly wrong.

The game was up… now I suspected your existence. AND… I saw that you had been polluting my wife by using Tilliee I saw how you had pulled her into it all too. I even saw that some of my daughter Tillie’s teen indifference was likely due to you.

But Ed…. You see…. I love my daughter more than you know. She has always been my little Boogie. I knew I wasn’t going to let you have her. I knew I had to get help.

I found a bunch of moms and dads online that have also done battle with you.. you *&^%… and many of them have beaten you… probably made you fly out of their kids body and into the universe… maybe that’s where you came from before entering my daughter.

Ed – they told me all about you. They told me about your tricks. They told me what you were doing to my daughter and how you were using my wife’s love to manipulate her. Once I saw that, there was no stopping me. I needed to get my daughter to safety.

On the last two days… you knew I saw you…. You knew something had shifted in me. I think you could sense that I was getting help from somewhere else. You really tried hard. You let Tillie eat some chicken. You baked chocolate zucchini cake and let my daughter have some. You thought it was a good idea to make an apple dumpling and even risk having my daughter’s body eat that apple dumpling… But I knew what you were up to.

That text from my wife, Ed…. the one where she said Tillie made apple dumplings because she loves her daddy…lol… that was a good one…. I saw through that right away… I wouldn’t have seen it… but my friends told me.

So when you made my daughter tell my wife the hospital was a germ factory I knew what was going on. I was steady…. “We’ll just see what they say and they’ll probably let us out.” “We just need a second opinion.” I told my wife, “You’re probably right, they’ll think I’m crazy.”

But Ed… I got news for you brother…. When we got in the truck that night…. There was no way we were coming home so you could kill Tillie. No way in hell.

Mom wouldn’t leave her daughter’s side… another mistake…. See you used Love with my wife… so my wife stayed with my daughter when the blood tech came in. She stayed to comfort my daughter Tillie. I know you’ve used that nurturing and comforting instinct against her…what a freaking mean thing to do…. So mom stayed.

I didn’t stay in the room Ed. By now you couldn’t fool me. So you know what I was doing Ed… I was out there telling the doctor everything that had been going on. The doctor knew. He was pissed. He was angry at the therapist who didn’t know about you. Because that doctor – he knew… and he had been prepared… See, I also wrote multiple emails to the doctor and her staff and they told those docs that we were coming. I printed out all of my own growth charts and added data points. My stepmom and dad were ready to back me up. I would have stopped at nothing.

You used my wife’s love for her own daughter against her. You destroyed my daughter’s body and you have her locked up inside. You made me think my daughter hated me.

Well…..guess what? I know you’re in there. I know right now you are pissed at your initial loss, but I know you’re resting up. I know you’re going to continue to try to use my wife’s love for her daughter against her. I know you’ll tell my wife that you miss home and you’ll use Tillie’s voice and eyes. I know you’ll probably tell my wife that the people at CHOP are feeding Tillie too much. I know when you get home you’ll use every trick in the book… you’ll probably throw plates at us, you’ll yell using Tillie’s body, you’ll have her tell us that she hates us. You’ll cry and sob and say it’s about being scared about some legitimate thing like global warming and then you’ll switch to saying you’ll feel better if you just don’t have to eat as much tonight. You’ll probably try to have Tillie convince us that she’s full and that she is so sorry she is the reason we had to cancel our summer vacation… so much trickery I expect is coming from you… maybe it will shift to trying to use my Love now…. Huh… I just thought of that. I wouldn’t put it past you. I could imagine you shifting to hate for my wife and love for me…you’re that tricky.

Well…. I don’t know what the next months and years will bring. I won’t tell you any of my other secrets or where my strength and knowledge will come from now.

What I do know is my wife and I are going to come together. My wife and I are going to see all that you did to us in the last 18 months using Tillie My wife and I will realize we were fighting each other, we were fighting due to the lies you put into us.

I love you Tillie. Mom and I are coming for you. We know that you just can’t get out of that jail and fight for yourself. So we’ll fight for you.

It’s going to be hard, but we got this.

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  1. Dorothy

    This piece hit home with me. Ed loves to drive a wedge between parents. I’m glad you know the enemy, Dad. Hang in there. You and your wife need to be a team to help Tillie keep Ed at bay.

  2. Wendy christensen

    Ed is so smart. It does divide parents. Stay strong. It has taken us four years of battling but we are in the other side. We can look back and remind each other how we helped our daughter battle Ed together. Don’t let your guard down. Not even once. Stay strong. 🥰

  3. Harold Marcuse

    Way back when 15 years ago when our 12-year-old daughter was in the throes of ED’s anorexia, I found Laura’s then brand new support group online, and from June to August wrote posts mirroring this dad’s experience. (I wish I could reread those posts from back then!) Daughter, now just turned 27, was fully recovered until college, where she had a restricting relapse, depression, at 21 found alcohol and had to sit out a semester. She finished college, but at what cost, followed by swings of weight gain and loss, ending at age 22-25 in bulimia and alcoholism and a couple of stints in a locked ward. She spent a few months in an residential and then outpatient ED program, got a job, but relapsed again, going to a more remote residential program. After that she found a sponsor and love in AA, and is doing well, if still not quite at a safe/healthy weight. Bottom line: ED is a decades- if not life-long struggle. Be vigilant and supportive of your child, and fight ED at every chance with every means you can.

    • Laura

      Oh, Harold! How amazing to hear from you again after all these years! I am so very sorry to hear of the twists and turns, and that she is currently well. So many of us have found that the predisposition is not extinguished with the behaviors, and how often other issues and challenges bring ED back into the picture. Your message of vigilance and support are GOLDEN and necessary and I am so grateful to you for coming back to give that longitudinal view. BEST WISHES, Laura

    • Tillie's Dad

      Thanks Harold. I am an AA guy and there is hope there too….lot’s of it. Have you read “To Wives” in the AA Big Book and “The Family Afterward” – chapters at the core of Al Anon?

  4. Lau rie Harding

    You are completely right that ED can switch from loving one parent and hating the other to the opposite of that. I echo what you and the others said, you and your wife must be a team. If you can only both get a glimpse of what your daughter could be as a healthy adult and keep working together toward that. My husband and I had almost nightly meetings when our daughter was in the midst of the nightmare.

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