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Still in the Game

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.

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13 Comments

  1. Lee Ann Calabrese

    Thank you for sharing this as I needed to hear it. I can relate to what you are saying. I probably have the opposite approach as I share to anybody and everybody who asks. The problem I’ve encountered is frustration at the lack of understanding which to be honest, how could they possibly understand? It makes me feel very isolated and resentful. That usually makes me not say anything after that and I waiver back and forth between saying too much or nothing at all. The real kicker is that neither of these approaches make me feel better so I’m left to just feel the pain, rawness and vulnerability of our new normal but hey, it’s during these moments I can cry and resist until I have nothing left and somehow after all that, I get up and put one foot in front of the other and keep going. This is my first post on this site… feels good ❤️

  2. EA

    Really good article – and how lucky for you to have that friend. I try to find the ‘silver lining’ in life with ED – in your case this person is one thread of your silver lining. Wishing you and your daughter many more ladders than chutes.

  3. SK

    Thank you for writing this article. I tend to share too much but no one really understands this illness unless you have been through it. It’s been so long since we began this journey that I can speak to my daughter on the phone and know if she’s struggling. Your friends words are so true and glad there is still hope. I pray you and your family continue to experience the good times and thank you for your contribution to this illness.

  4. Heidrun D

    Thank you for this! I have to admit that at this point, I get resentful by all the ‘hopeful’ blog posts etc. that make me feel (despite my better knowledge) as it my daughter is the only one who has not been able to recover, and that I’m somehow a failure as a parent for it. Your daughter’s story sounds very similar to my girl’s. I’m pretty open about it but people don’t really get it. I will try to remember that sometimes ‘surviving is good enough.’ Thank you again, I can’t even explain how much better I feel reading this!

  5. Wendy

    Thank you thank you. My daughter is 4 years in and while the eating disorder is managed the perfectionism is very very strong I love your post. Gave me strength today

  6. Determined

    I appreciate your struggle . I have the same dilemmas of deciding to whom I can share the truthful answer with when asked “how is your daughter ?” In fact I’m not even sure who really wants to know the truth , who just asks to be polite after they have gone on to tell me how their kids have excelled at life , have great jobs, great husbands and great babies of their own now…Or if I confide in the ones who really are interested but don’t really get it , (Which of course I understand ) but none the less still hard to have to try and explain things to them “No it’s not about vanity , it’s not about being crazy it’s not about …. and yes that’s a good suggestion” meanwhile knowing you have tried them all many times and many ways .
    I try to remind myself the same , that she’s still here so there’s still hope . Then I get a text from her telling me how she is not sure how she can survive much longer , as the ED dysmorphic voices fighting to maintain restriction while at the same time compulsive urges to constantly eat are draining any energy she has to just survive. Seeing those hopeless texts It’s so hard not to want to reach out to those who ask but I’ve learned that it’s not always wise and I feel drained myself trying to explain these disorders . I guess I just feel frustrated knowing that even if they have the best intentions with their advice we’ve “been there and done that “ So I try to just politely to smile all the while saying to myself why did I just spill my guts out ,? Did I just betray my daughters privacy ? Did I , because of my attempt to share just encourage those people to pity my daughter and further add to the stigma of mental illness because it’s just too complicated to explain ? I feel if I just say it’s complicated which I have in the past , it just opens up to more questioning. I know all the caring people will say “but you need to take care of yourself” and I think to myself “ umm ya I know that “ but that advice doesn’t take the pain away knowing you can only be as happy as your unhappiest child esp whtn they’re your only child …

  7. Pauline

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve been on this road for over twenty years starting out with very little support & keeping everything to myself.Eventualy I started sharing it with other peoe so.e were understanding & compassionate & others just said we all have our problems but even though my daughter is still struggling from time to time she is still in the game.I wish you & your family a long & happy cuter together. Thank you

  8. Jacqui

    Very real and heart felt and I can identify with much of that.Love your friend.
    It depends too when they ask whether on a ladder or a snake as it’s rarely static!
    You hint of the some of the grieving that has to go on, for life as it might have been and a life as it is. I love my life and am constantly grateful for that of my daughter, but sad because her life even when stable is never easy, but also sad because my life as her parent is forever altered…..and all of that is Ok and occasionally lovely but it is different from the usual and it’s all relative, yet a bit beyond the simple, ‘how are you’, ‘how is she’?

  9. Jennifer Aviles

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. Most of my closest friends and even family members through marriage do not ask how my daughter is doing, which saddens me because I feel my daughter (and therefore I) are in this alone. And, it has been a very long haul filled with some information that I do not share. I pray for your daughter’s recovery and for the recovery of the family members of others who have responded to this essay.

  10. Judy Krasna

    I just want to say that I appreciate all of your comments so much. I want to hug every one of you who took the time to comment and everyone else out there in our community who can really use a hug. I love that FEAST gives space and support to parents at all stages of this dreadful journey. No one is in this alone, despite the fact that it feels that way sometimes. Sending love to all of the parent warriors out there who are fighting for their kids, this is so hard; and yet, we are all hanging in there, doing our best.

  11. Determined

    Sorry Jennifer Avilles it does hurt at times and thoughts go through your head as to why don’t they ask about her , is it that they don’t want to hear about it , because it is not usually a happy conversation so easier to avoid it that way? . Are they not concerned oris it they just don’t realize you need to be able to have someone to even just listen to you ramble on occasion , And so I’m so sorry that this is happened to you I know it does get lonely being the Mom too and I def. see how having this battle the sufferer / child feels it even that much more…

  12. Shelly RD

    Thank you for your post, my family story is similar. We are about 7 years in this very painful journey. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll borrow your mantra, it’s both realistic and cautiously optimistic. Thank you for “she’s surviving, and that’s enough”.

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