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What My Daughter’s Eating Disorder Has Taught Me

By Around the Dinner Table Member “Purplerain”

Having lived through my daughter’s eating disorder has taught me a lot, and what I have learned helped me to face my mother’s sudden illness and death. I would rather have learned these things some other way, I would rather my daughter never had anorexia nervosa; but she did, and she’s genetically predisposed to it, so it can come back at any point if she’s not careful. That’s my worst fear, and I have to live with it and teach her to take care of herself. I won’t always be around. I want her to be independent, autonomous, and free; to study, travel, live her life. For that to happen, my daughter needs to understand how to take care of herself, and that her self care looks different than what others have to do.

Here are some things that my daughter’s eating disorder has taught me:

  • I learned to live moment by moment and let go of “ifs” (of course there are logistics to consider, but emotionally, living just for today, for this hour, for this minute, was invaluable to me).
  • I learned to be patient and gentle, and that illnesses are nobody’s fault and blaming doesn’t help; neither does guilt.
  • I learned that I have to take care of myself (including medication if needed) in order to be able to take care of another.
  • I learned to put priorities in the right order.
  • I learned that love is the most powerful force, but sometimes is not enough to save someone, and I can only do my very best.
  • I learned that stress is contagious and so is calm.
  • I learned to be more empathetic and judge less.
  • I learned to enjoy the normal, daily stuff of life, to be grateful for smiles, good moments, all the things I still do have, and all the things I did have.

I never wanted my daughter to have an eating disorder, but I can learn from it, turn it into a big lesson, and use it to live a better life.


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  1. Delena Pickering

    Thank you for writing this.
    I especially like your point:
    I learned that stress is contagious and so is calm.
    So true and yet so understated

  2. Jacqui

    Lovely reflection, and true. I too learnt a lot over the years of my daughters anorexic illness, some I wish I’d known from the beginning, all of which is helpful in life generally. But, when doing workshops (mainly to mental health students). I always start by saying I hate being a parent by experience because its only as a result of her suffering I’m here. Sadly any good I might do in the future cannot undo the trauma that went before, or the repercussions she has to live with, and that in itself is another lesson, a loss to come to terms with, not just for her but an acceptance as a parent too.

  3. Joy

    “I learned that love is the most powerful force, but sometimes is not enough to save someone, and I can only do my very best.” Thank you. It is hard to hear, but important to know. Wish love alone could heal wounds. But we will keep loving, keep showing up, keep trying. That’s our job as parents and caregivers.

  4. Rhonda

    Thank you. I am really struggling. I see her little body and it brings me so much sadness. We have tried so much and so has she. I hope beyond hope that we turn a corner for healing and health for her and anyone going through eating disorders is awful. I hate it so much!

    • annie

      Rhonda, your response could have been written by me a year ago…we are still struggling and I know that more likely than not, AN will always have a presence in our lives…you are not alone…save this wisdom from Purplerain because it is powerful and will resonate in different ways as your go through this journey…you are so much wiser, stronger, and resilient than you believe….EDs wear us down, they work hard to defeat and break us….and the outside world, even our closest friends and family, have no idea how evil this disorder is….but your support here does and we believe in you…xxo

  5. Sandra

    I too have learnt all these lessons mentioned but, still without recovery, can only think of what these lessons have cost. A childhood, a life without disabilities, a university education, a functional family, a marriage, celebrations and holidays, friends, love and laughter. The loss is so great that it makes me resent any growth that I have made.

    • Purplerain

      Oh yes, I get you. Mant times I have thought, I don’t está to grow or learn anything else! Please! I rather have a pleasant, even boring life. And yet, life keeps throwing me curve balls, sight.

  6. Pauline Clune

    Thank you for that. It’s heartbreaking reading the replies & I feel their pain an eating disorder is the worst illness anyone could suffer from it completely takes over the person & turns them into something they are not, my daughter who was always a kind sensitive caring honest person is still struggling & if I sit, think about how it has changed her I just cry my heart out it my heart broken

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