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Taking Care of My Daughter by Taking Care of Me

By Dave Dunn, F.E.A.S.T. Board Member and Treasurer

If my daughter is lying in her bed feeling terrible, and I walk in feeling sad, scared, confused, overwhelmed, and she can see that this is how I feel, then she’s just going to feel worse. On top of all the ways she was feeling bad before, now she’s likely to feel guilty for making me feel so bad and to feel more scared herself. If I’m this scared, then what chance does she really have to get better?

So should I hide my feelings? Pretend that I feel good? Is this possible? I don’t think so. My kids can read me as well as anybody on the planet. Also, I’m going to be genuine with her because she needs to know that she can trust me.

So if I can’t hide my feelings, and I don’t want to show her how I’m feeling, what do I do? What I’d like to do is to walk into her room with my love for her clear on my face along with my confidence that all is going to be well in the long run. She is feeling sad, and it’s okay that she know that I’m sad that she is sad. However, I also want her to see that I’m okay. In fact, to see that I feel grateful to be a person in her life, to share and validate how she is feeling in the present moment, whatever that feeling may be.

But she has been feeling bad a lot, and I am really sad, scared, confused, and overwhelmed. Because I’m going to be genuine with her, when I walk into her room tonight, she will see all these things I don’t want her to see. But this is a long game, and I’m going to make sure it’s not what she sees every night.

To do this, I am going to have to learn to take care of myself. Above all else, I have to learn to live in the present. When I’m with her and she is sad, I will be sad with her, but my demeanor won’t be one of sadness and despair. When I walk out of her room, I need to focus on other things, to take pleasure in the other people in my life, the sunrise and the sunset, the novel I am reading, the food that I eat, and whatever else I encounter.

I will show her that her illness isn’t everything. Life is all around us and it’s ours for the taking. It will be hard for me to learn how to do this, but it’s what I have to do to help my daughter, so I’ll learn.


  1. Justine

    Thank you Dave. We are asked as parents, in the context of these illnesses, to function in ways we are not prepared for. We live through the lens of love for our children moving through each day searching for answers, peace and healing for our families and ourselves despite the fear, anxiety, stress and exhaustion. This is so hard…so, so hard. I cannot always hide my emotions but i find as time marches on here my emotions are changing and I am calmer, easier, softer with my kid and with myself because I have experience to draw on I didn’t have at the beginning of our journey with anorexia. That experience is helping me and my daughter live a better, sweeter life despite its challenges. Love to you and your daughter Dave and all of your family members.

  2. Joy

    This is the best reason for “self-care” that I’ve seen.Thank you for being honest here and being honest with your emotions with your child. I really struggle to not feel so intensely, and struggle to not show my feelings. I have the same experience – if I am sad, she is only sadder. If I am angry, she gets angrier. I know she already has shame about how the ED has destroyed her, and then she has more shame in how it has affected her parents. But I am human. And I do think that showing our feelings is important and a part of life. As she follows this windy road to recovery, we are finding that we can go more days without giving into the fear, anger, or sadness. With the more time in between, the more I can handle it when it comes. Thank you Dave and best wishes for ongoing recovery for you and your family.

  3. Trish DeBell

    The line, “I will show her that her illness isn’t everything”, essentially takes away some of the control the disorder has on our family and thus my daughter. It is very difficult to continue to carry on, but it is necessary in the recovery process. Thank you for your post.

  4. Sue

    A perfect description of my trips to my daughter’s room, I am somewhat burned out from bridging between her room and the outside world. It really requires daily reminder we take what comes in our way providing her the safe navigation.

  5. Victoria Cains

    Thank you Dave, I really needed to read this today. It has stopped me feeling so isolated and alone with my constant fears. I too will work towards living my life in the present moment.

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