2019 was somewhat of a mixed bag for me. I welcomed a beautiful new granddaughter to our family and watched my “original” granddaughter transform from a baby to a little person with strong opinions. I celebrated my 30th year of marriage to a man who has been the greatest life partner that I ever could have imagined. I spent an incredibly relaxing 3 weeks of vacation time with family and friends in the USA this summer. There were definitely some wonderful highlights.
Unfortunately, on the flip side, my daughter’s ED was deafeningly loud this year. Every time she took one step forward, it pushed her three steps back. She had an awful year, which meant that I had an awful year, because that umbilical cord never really gets fully cut. When she hurts, I hurt.
You would think that after 12 years of dealing with this illness, I would have built up some type of immunity to the pain, that I wouldn’t feel the sucker punches, but I still do. ED is Muhammad Ali on steroids. Just when I start to think that things are finally looking up, that my daughter is finally gaining ground against her ED, her ED throws that solid punch and knocks us down. And in some ways, instead of it getting easier, it just gets harder with time. I am not sure why that surprises me, but it does.
I woke up this morning somewhat angry. The fact that I am angry at my daughter’s ED makes perfect sense. But in addition to that, I found myself turning that anger inward. Why do I let my daughter’s ED still get to me, why do I let it knock the wind out of me time after time?
I started thinking about the new year being the perfect time for a new perspective, which led me to consider that maybe I need to look at this situation from another angle. Maybe what matters the most is not that after 12 years I still get pounded by my daughter’s ED, maybe what matters most is that after 12 years, without fail, I still get up, no matter how hard the hit. When I frame it like that, it banishes the anger and replaces it with a feeling of strength.
As the mother of a daughter with an enduring eating disorder, every time I speak with someone who recovered from an ED, especially someone who recovered after a long period, I always ask what caused them to recover. I am desperate to know their “secret” to recovery. Many times, I don’t get a real answer; however, the one common thread that I have found is support. Everyone who I have spoken to had support that helped them or pushed them to recover. Support and recovery seem to be intermeshed and intertwined.
If I want my daughter to have a chance at recovery, I know that she needs my staunch and unwavering support. I also know that some days, I am not sure that I have it in me to keep traveling this route through hell. It’s too long, too hilly, too exhausting, and too scary. The stakes are too high; I can’t afford to fail, which just adds more pressure to an already stressed-to-the-max me. On those days, it is my F.E.A.S.T family that keeps me from getting knocked out, that yells at me from the sidelines, “get up!”, and that makes sure I stay up.
F.E.A.S.T. is a critical part of what I consider my circle of support. I am able to support my daughter, I am able to remain standing against her ED even on the roughest days, I am able to endure the punches, because F.E.A.S.T. supports me. I used to think that F.E.A.S.T was an organization designed to help educate, empower, and support families of newly diagnosed kids, but I have learned through my more extensive involvement with the organization over the past year that F.E.A.S.T. truly supports all families in all stages of this difficult and challenging experience.
To all of you other parents in the trenches with me day after day, year after year, keep up the good fight and keep your eye on the recovery prize. And know that “still standing” is not only enough, it’s downright remarkable.