It is so easy to fall into self pity mode and ask, “Why me?” ... “What did I do to deserve this?” … “Why did this happen to OUR family?” These are questions I've asked myself over and over during the past three years that our daughter has been struggling with an eating disorder. Parenting is the most challenging role that we will ever take on for which we have no experience or training. Add to that challenge an Eating Disorder and I find myself completely lost, not having the slightest idea of how to approach this seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Even at the best of times, I found myself wondering if I am a good parent, but then I faced my daughter being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and the doubt increased exponentially. I was completely at a loss as to what to do and which way to turn. Nothing had prepared me to deal with this.
“That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger” as the old adage goes. I can honestly say that this ordeal has made us all stronger. Life is difficult. Life with an Eating Disorder is burdensome, exhausting and onerous on the entire family. But it isn't insurmountable. It can be beaten. It takes patience, courage, tenacity, perseverance and a lot of resources. We could not have done this on our own. We had the help and guidance of an invaluable, caring and special therapist who has worked with our daughter over the past 3 years. We also sent her to Woodstone residential treatment centre in BC for 6 months for intensive treatment to deal with the ED head on. She now credits Woodstone for saving her life. We almost lost her. There were days that were very dark where no lights seemed to be flickering anywhere. And then, slowly, one day at a time, I watched her come back to life. It takes a lot of courage and lot of help to get through this but it can be done.
My daughter is the most courageous person I know. She is also the most considerate, compassionate and selfless person I know. She still struggles at times, but I have watched her grow in strength and courage to fight this ED. The world needs her beauty and her strength. The ED community needs her help, to show that this can be beaten.
What I know now is that my daughter’s ED was brought into our lives for a reason. The manifestation of the ED was a cry out for help in the only way my daughter knew how because we had not made it safe for her to speak her truth growing up. When you are raised in a family where outward appearances matter more than living or speaking your truth, eventually the truth will scream louder and louder in any which way it can in order to be heard. In my daughter’s case, the truth came to light in the form of an Eating Disorder. A part of her was crying out for help, the pain that was buried deep within wanted to be acknowledged. The ED was her way of speaking without using words. I know I did not cause my daughter’s ED but unknowingly, I certainly contributed to it. We all do the best parenting we can with the experience and knowledge we have. And, we also do better when we know better. Today, I know better. I now understand why my daughter developed an ED and am helping her in every way that I can.
If I can offer any advice at all to parents struggling with knowing what to do when they find themselves in a similar situation, I would say, talk about it. Eating Disorders live and breed in secrecy and don’t want to be acknowledged. But they need to be talked about so that the shame is lifted. There is no shame in Eating Disorders. The only shame is keeping it hidden.