by Judy Krasna
I walked into the kitchen on Saturday afternoon and found my three 27-year-old daughters sitting around the table having what they call a “coffee party”. They were talking and laughing and gossiping and enjoying each other’s company. Two of my daughters were eating cookies from a Tupperware container. The third, the one with an enduring eating disorder, was eating apple slices. But at that moment, I was focused less on what she was eating and more on the fact that she was smiling and laughing, which is more the exception than the norm. One of my granddaughters was drawn by the activity in the kitchen and decided to join the party, climbing up onto her aunt’s lap and grabbing an apple slice with her grubby little fingers. One by one, everyone else piled in, grabbing extra chairs, coffee mugs, and cookies, until the kitchen was filled to capacity. I left, to give my kids their space. I sat on the couch in the living room, with a view into the kitchen, and watched what others would consider normal family interaction, but what I consider to be nothing less than a miracle.
Everyone assumes that since my daughters are triplets, they are besties. Truth be told, they never were. They have three very distinct and separate personalities. They are about as different from each other as humanly possible, in a multitude of ways. In fact, they do not even look like sisters, much less triplets.
My daughter’s eating disorder insinuated itself into our lives when the girls were 14. It invaded our home like a violent, savage, despicable, and offensive uninvited guest. It injected itself into every relationship in our family, seeking to divide us and to destroy the bonds of love that hold us together.
Whatever positive relationship my girls had with each other was blown to hell once the insidious eating disorder reared its ugly head. Our home, which was previously warm and loving for all of our kids, became an extraordinarily unpleasant place to live, to the point of being insufferable.
My daughter’s resistance during mealtimes made everyone want to get the hell out of Dodge and go somewhere without loud, hysterical screaming fits, ranting tirades, mentally unsound behavior, and frightening bouts of unrestrained anger. We wouldn’t give in to compromised nutrition, and my daughter fought us tooth and nail. It created exceptional tension and stress for everyone in the family. My kids couldn’t invite friends over because they didn’t want to expose them to the crazy hell that was going on inside our house. I begged my daughter not to act out when her 7-year-old brother invited his friends over, because it would scare them. It was like we were living in a powder keg, never knowing when or how badly it was going to blow. The strain of living in a constant state of dread took a huge toll on our family.
Though my other daughters understood that their sister’s behavior was caused by her eating disorder and that it was part and parcel of the illness, they still resented her. She made their lives a living hell. She usurped all of the parental attention that was supposed to be divided 4 ways, pretty much commandeering all of it. She was no longer present or available to be their sister, and they missed her. They were frustrated and crushed that she didn’t seem to care about them anymore. They felt betrayed, abandoned, and jilted. More than anything, they were deeply hurt.
The girls went for therapy together, to try and heal the rift that the eating disorder had created between them. But the truth is, that what they needed most was time. I did my best to facilitate the healing process, coming up with mother/daughter activities that all 4 of us could do together to rebuild the ruins of their relationship. I think that as they got older, maturity helped them to get beyond all of the negative and to make a real effort to become closer to each other.
Looking at them now, you would never know how frayed their relationship was in the past. COVID-19 has brought our family back together under one roof and has given everyone the chance to spend time together for more prolonged periods of time. This has given me the opportunity to observe my kids hanging out with each other as adults, having a good time together.
Every time I stumble upon them laughing together it fills my heart with indescribable joy.
It has been my experience that the trauma of the past cannot be erased, but it can be overcome. My family has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles that threatened to demolish the bonds between us. If anything, those bonds are stronger and more stable now than they were in the past.
So as I was sitting on my couch watching all of my kids having a “coffee party” at the kitchen table, I came to the beautiful realization that while my daughter herself is not yet recovered from her eating disorder, her relationships are. And that, my friends, is huge.