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The Rough Road Toward Recovery

By Natalie M.

My daughter is currently in her sixth month of refeeding after a horrible relapse in September, 2020. This sweet, beautiful, amazing human being, attempted suicide after several months of losing weight, without us realizing it. After a hospital stay of a few weeks, we had her back home and did the only thing we knew we could do: we fed her, intensively and firmly. She had no desire to live, which made it all the harder. But here we are, six months later, and our baby has quickly come back to life. We are amazed at her progress, and relish in each smile, laugh, conversation with friends, and interactions with her boyfriend that she exhibits day in and day out. She no longer wakes up with that somber expression on her face. She hugs us. She jokes around. She is more herself than she ever was after anorexia first appeared in our lives. That’s how good it is. 

We are grateful beyond measure. Anybody that has a child that is showing these signs of recovery can understand how incredibly grateful we are, even though we understand that we still have a long way to go.

Sometimes, seeing her so well, we forget that she’s still so ill. So, when she spoke to me last night to tell me that she has strong urges to hurt herself, I felt like I was being punched in the gut. I feel like a voice is telling me, “Well, duh, what did you expect?”. And even though I know recovery is a long and bumpy road, I still find myself ignoring that fact and simply enjoying the fact that our daughter is eating all her meals, looks beautiful, has a boyfriend, has gone back to school, is allowing herself to engage in normal adolescent behavior, and seems overall, normal.

And then, I’m suddenly pulled back to the ground and am reminded: our daughter has an eating disorder, the deadliest of all mental illnesses. Brain healing can take 5 to 7 years. We can’t lose sight for one moment of her eating. We still have to make food decisions -and others- for her. She can’t engage in normal adolescent activities at this moment (not exactly due to Covid, which has actually helped us in this disaster). She’s barely weight restored, she still needs to gain weight. There’s a huge risk of her staying ill if we don’t push her weight further. She still needs to learn so many skills to help with her emotional issues. We can’t forget to give her her medication. We’re so lucky school is still online at least for a couple of more months. We can’t forget how truly sick she is. We are grateful for all that has improved, but we can’t forget that we are just starting…

Sometimes, I cry. Much less than 6 months ago, but I still do. It’s very difficult to accept that our daughter has such a horrendously insidious, deadly, and misunderstood illness. But we got a second chance. She got past death’s ugly clutches and she’s still here. And where there is life, there is hope for a better life for her, for a fully recovered life for our beautiful, darling daughter.

I will continue to hope. I will continue to fight. I will continue to learn. And I will continue to show up day after day to make life without ED a reality.

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26 Comments

  1. Susie

    Hang in there, it’s a hard road, but it’s worth it. I know early in my kid’s recovery, I wondered if we’d ever get there. We did. It just took a long time.

  2. Erin Smith

    Thank you for this. We are just at the beginning. We are overwhelmed and sad and struggling. Hearing stories like yours give us hope.

    • Natalie

      When our daughter got sick at age 11, it was so hard. This time was also hard. I have never felt such anguish in my life. But, here we are, strong and working hard towards complete recovery. I know we can do this, and I know you can, too.

  3. Nicole Vorkapic

    Nathalie, our daughter has been weight restored for 3 months now after she was first diagnosed with AN in September 2020. This is our first go around and you mentioned a relapse which tells me you’ve been in this fight much longer. Everything that you have described is exactly my experience and I’m so thankful for your words. Tonight was an especially hard night of self harm thoughts and a grim reminder of the nastiness of ED and why we need to always keeping our guard up. We have a very long road ahead and thankful for every meal eaten. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Natalie

      Thank you so much for your comment, Nicole. We’ve been at this since 2015, and were living what seemed like strong recovery for around 2 years, but we slowly let our guard down, and ED crept back into our lives. You live, you learn. Now we know so much better. I pray for you and hope your beautiful daughter has a swift recovery.

  4. Barbara Bogdanski

    Thank you so much for sharing. These could be my words too! I struggle with being happy and relaxed, but so afraid that “letting my guard down” will allow that monster back into our lives….. but then again part of being vigilant is to know it is with us always, we just need to stay positive and optimistic, for our children and for ourselves! I did not know about the length of time it takes for the brain to heal, so thank you for that! I wish you, and all of us the strength, positivity, and hope that we all need to see us through!

    • Natalie

      It’s a long road, but seeing our children come out the other side, totally alive and well, is so worth it!! Thank you so much for your comment! Big hugs, I also send you much strength and love

  5. Cassie

    It’s gut wrenching around the clock even when meals are eaten. I see no signs of my child sustainably – moods have soured despite weight restoration. Constant agitation and increasing OCD is emotionally exhausting. Hearing years scares me as this mechanical day isn’t living it’s going through exhaustive routines and ruining all of the family.

    • Barbara Bogdanski

      Hang in! We did have some of our most stressful and sad days after weight restoration. It wasn’t till we learned how to maintain and be flexible in our eating did we turn the corner emotionally and mood wise. Hold on…. you are going in the right direction. Everything will be good in the end, if it is not good, it is not the end….. yet!

    • Natalie

      It’s so true, Cassie, it’s so, so HARD. But, one day your baby will be back. Small signs of your child will begin to show, and she will be herself, slowly at first, but each day more and more. Keep your strength and faith that it will all be well, because it will. I send you hugs

  6. Angela

    I’m reading and crying… I’m hurting and scared out of my mind. But knowing there is support in all of you is so very helpful because I feel so alone in this process as a single mom. I’m not grateful that you too are hurting, I’m just grateful that you write and speak out.
    My best to all of you!

    • Natalie

      My dear, only we can know how difficult and insanely painful it is to see our children in the grips of an eating disorder. It is really something only we can understand. We get you, please reach out whenever you need it. Big hugs and much faith – You can do it!!

    • Jennifer

      Angela I too am a single mom. I can certainly understand how much more difficult this is when you feel so alone in the fight. Her Dad does not see a problem and mostly because she hides it from him. Our conversations are usually with him saying “well she eats with me”. I am very grateful to hear from other parents (especially the single ones). I do have to continually remind myself this takes time. When my daughter suffers I suffer too. Her disorder began a year ago but we have been getting help for under a year. It’s been a long battle. In my difficult days I have to continue to remind myself that we have made better steps in the right direction and I do feel like we are slowly coming out of the darkness. Covid has had a huge impact on how this has began and during. I deeply feel for all of the new families out there in this new battle. Keep up the fight – our babies are depending on us.

  7. Julie Montal

    Hang in there…and thank you for the reminders…when she is well we would love to forget…although I don’t…never.

  8. Jay

    Wishing all of you the strength to free your loved ones of this terrible illness. Stay strong. Stay vigilant. Stay the course. As a father who has watched and supported my daughter and wife as they fight this terrible illness I feel for you all.
    Best wishes for 2021. Give that kid a hug.

    • Natalie

      Thank you so much, Jay. It’s hard, but where there is life, there is hope for a future free from ED! Best wishes to you, too

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