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.