by F.E.A.S.T. Board member, Judy Krasna
While I am pretty open about my daughter’s enduring eating disorder in the various blogs that I write, I am far less forthcoming about that topic in person, which fits my reserved personality. If you are not a close friend of mine, I am not going to give you any type of real answer on how my daughter is doing when you ask me while I am picking apples from the display at the grocery store or window shopping at the mall. I usually just smile and say, “It’s complicated,” which is my code speak for “I don’t want to talk about it.” I could probably be more gracious about this; I know that people are asking because they are caring and concerned, but I’m not spilling my guts in the produce aisle, or anywhere really, unless you and I are besties. And even then, it’s unlikely. I’m just not built that way.
So, when I was sitting with a group of friends yesterday and the person opposite me leaned across the table and quietly asked how my daughter was doing and what she was up to, I hesitated for a second, because I was conflicted.
My kneejerk reaction was to go with my standard “it’s complicated” answer. She and I are not very close these days. I can’t remember the last time she and I had any type of real conversation.
However, this friend was someone who was there for me during the darkest of times, throughout the first year of my daughter’s eating disorder. She wasn’t the “bring you dinner” or the “watch your kids” type of friend, but thankfully I had plenty of those. She was the intuitively intelligent, unwaveringly supportive friend who was just there whenever I needed her. We hadn’t been all that close before my daughter got sick; but somehow, she became someone who I trusted, someone who I turned to for advice, and someone who knew how to keep me from drowning in the relentless undertow that kept trying to pull me down. She managed to be present without being overbearing or cloying, and she knew when to just listen and when to give me answers. In all of those respects, she was a rare treasure.
After that split second of hesitation, I decided to give her a real response. I briefly described the onslaught of ongoing challenges and tribulations that my daughter is experiencing as the result of her eating disorder and her accompanying co-morbid depression. When I was done, she looked at me with her wise, compassionate brown eyes and said, “She’s surviving. That’s enough.”
It’s extremely rare to find a friend without the lived experience of caring for someone with an eating disorder who just gets it. It only took this friend 4 words to let me know that she understands.
My daughter’s life is like a sadistic game of Chutes and Ladders. Through Herculean efforts and the support of those who love her, my daughter manages to climb the ladders, only to get viciously shoved down the chutes by her eating disorder time and time again. Sometimes she manages to climb pretty high, which makes the fall that much harder to bear, and only adds fuel to the fires of discouragement.
What my friend understood, and what she was telling me, is that my daughter’s playing piece is still on that board, which means that she is still in the game. And anyone who is in the game has the potential to win, which is why survival is so critical. Survival means that my daughter is still fighting, it means that she is impacted by the love that surrounds her, it means she is fierce and tenacious, even when it doesn’t necessarily seem like that on the bad days. Most of all, survival means that there is still hope.
From now on, when people approach me in the grocery store or the mall and ask how my daughter is doing, I have a new answer: “She’s surviving, and that’s good enough.” It’s not ideal, not even close, but I’ll take it and be thankful for it; because at the end of the day, she – and we – are still in the game.