When Your Child Has A Disorder Part 3

So when I left you last, my hair was falling out and I was in need of therapy. ūüėČ Our daughter was still dropping a few pounds¬†here and there and her body was shutting down. She couldn’t do her school work because she had no focus, she was getting migraines, and her skin looked yellowish-gray. It was horrible. I ached for her to be better. It felt like I was in a vacuum. To take a deep breath was not physically possible. My head physically hurt when I had to think. I had no energy and I was fighting not to fall into a depression. I knew I had to be strong for her, and yes that sounds so clich√©, but it doesn’t make it any less true. She could not do this on her own, and I was all she had. My husband supported her and did everything he knew to encourage her, but I was the one she¬†NEEDED.¬†It was more than a dependency. When you’re an infant you’re not cognizant of the need you have for mere survival.¬†Our daughter¬†knew¬†she would not survive if she kept this up. However, she still could not bring herself to eat. It was a physical, mental, and spiritual battle, and she¬†knew she needed me.

I began to notice more physical ailments in myself, but mind you we have 2 other children that had needs, as well. I could not stop being their mom while I cared for their sister. Every moment I had, that was not spent monitoring meals and driving to appointments, I was doing my best to make the other kids feel like things were “normal”. Our daughter finally shared her disorder with her brother, who was so heartbroken that, to this day, does not speak a word of it. I too find myself looking back as if it were someone else’s life. It literally feels like years have passed, yet it’s only been a few months that she has been healthy.

I felt the need to defend her at every turn. If someone mentioned that she was thin, like it was a good thing, I would smile and redirect the conversation. I did not want people asking her how she did it. “Oh my gosh, you’re so thin! How’d you lose weight?” Prior to the disorder, she was at her ideal weight for her build and height. She’s a gorgeous girl and had no business losing weight. Yet, people saw this weight loss as a positive. Our society is so screwed up in their perception of what beauty is. To honor our daughter’s wishes, we never talked about her disorder outside of our family. So no one knew of the demons she was fighting. They thought she was exercising and eating healthy. At one point her nutritionist laid it out for her, she either follow her eating plan, which was still under 1200 calories/day, and treat this as an outpatient; or she be admitted and be treated in a hospital. We both cried on the way home that day.

The thought of her being in a hospital was more than I could handle. My insides cramped, and my lungs shrunk. They wouldn’t let much air in at once and I felt like I was living one, big anxiety attack. I started to get restless leg syndrome more and more and my sleep was non-existent. The funny thing though…I knew with ALL my heart, without one ounce of doubt, I KNEW she was going to get better. I knew she would overcome this, yet my body still responded this way. It was like living in a dream. You know you’re awake and you’re functioning through your day, but you really don’t see what’s around you. You don’t notice the world. It’s a surreal feeling that I only can describe, now, that I’m reflecting. At the time, I was dazed and unsure what to feel.

When you are helping someone with a disorder, there is no instruction book. There are no pre-determined words to say to them. There aren’t actions you are told to take so they can be encouraged. You aren’t even told how to feel, or what to expect. You can read all you want and have someone help you understand it, but there are no cookie cutter disorders. They are unique to the person living with them because each person responds differently. Each person has different needs. Each person is unique and wonderful and¬†deals in their own way. I can only tell you what I felt; I can’t even tell you what she felt. All I know is that this disorder was¬†paralyzing to our daughter. I personally did not have this eating disorder myself, but that does NOT mean I didn’t go through it. Disorders can have the same paralyzing effect on loved ones as they do on their victims. These are real illnesses. It’s not like she could just go eat and feel better. The act of eating brought on real physical and mental anguish for her. Trust me, I wanted to flip a switch and get her to eat, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Like I said, she has been going strong for a few months now. She enjoys food and actually uses her YouTube channel to reach others that struggle with the same things she has gone through and continues to struggle with. She’s healthy and has put some weight back on, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t struggle anymore, and it doesn’t mean my job is over. I still check to make sure she has eaten her snacks every day. We started to exercise again and she is mostly back to her happy self. Some days are harder than others, but that’s life.¬†She¬†had an amazing opportunity placed in her lap, and the acceptance and encouragement she received from it, was just what she needed to turn the corner. From that moment forward, she saw herself from a different perceptive. She actually saw herself the way most people see her, not the way a few ignorant peers portrayed her. ¬†She finally saw her beauty, her talent, her kindness, and her love for God; just like everyone else did.

In all this, I learned that I¬†can’t control everything and I need to do things that help me be better for God, myself and my family. I’m not Superwoman, I need to stop thinking¬†I can do it all.¬†News flash:¬†I can’t! And yes, I now go to therapy, after the fact. ūüôā There’s still crap¬†to overcome after the storm has settled. You know, all the clean up. I can’t explain it, but once she got better, I realized I needed to get better. That’s a different journey. ūüėČ

 

Note:¬†If there’s anyone that would like to know more about supporting a loved one through something like this, feel free to contact me. It is not an easy battle and no one should have to do it alone.¬†

 

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When Your Child Has A Disorder Part 2

So, When I left you last my sweet, wonderful daughter was making some changes. She was exercising regularly, watching what she ate, and acting as if all was well with the world. Honestly, I didn’t see anything that would cause me to question her mental state. Remember, at this time, I had no idea she was hurting herself, that information didn’t come out until she was already in therapy being treated.

During the summer our older children visit my parents, out of state for a week. This particular year, they conned me into agreeing to allow them to stay for 3 weeks. The longest weeks of my life. I was lost without them bickering at each other. You might think 3 weeks! I would love some peace and quiet, but after the first few days, it’s too quiet. I missed our loud, obnoxious family. LOL My mom would text and call and say our daughter wasn’t eating much, but made it sound so casual that I didn’t show too much concern. I would get pictures and think to myself that she was getting thin. I talked to her daily and she reassured me she was eating and would send me pictures of her meals. By the time she got home, she was 13 lbs. lighter. Thirteen pounds in 3 weeks!

She started to balk at meals, stating she wan’t hungry. We would argue and I would threaten that she will need to see a nutritionist. This went on for a while and slowly she showed more signs of depression. I too was starting to feel the heaviness of the situation. I asked myself, “How can I get her to eat?” “Do I scare her into eating?” “Do I ground her?” I had no idea what to do. She would spend days in her room, refusing to go anywhere, refusing meals, and just plain refusing to do anything. We have always had a close relationship, so one night she asked if she could talk to me. She opened up about those years in public school and what she went through. I cried for her hurt heart. I cried for her bruised sense of worth. I cried for the anguish my child had felt and kept to herself. As a parent, you want to be able to fix all the “boo-boos”. You want to make your kids feel safe. To hear that your child¬†sees themselves as worthless or not good enough, crushes your heart. It squeezed all of the air out of my lungs and I felt physical pain. I understood every word she said. I felt every pain she felt. I had been there and I knew these feeling all too well, however, the pain I felt growing up and experiencing the same thing did not even compare to the pain I felt knowing my child was going through it. I wanted nothing more than to turn back time and “fix it”.

What do I do now? I was completely lost, and had no idea how I was supposed to help. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed some more. My husband and I talked and I tried to help him understand what she was going through. I continued the next few days, comforting our daughter and encouraging her. I praised her for her strength and told her how very proud we were of her. She still refused to eat. I took a deep breathe and ignored the pain I felt in my chest. I did not have time for an anxiety attack, our daughter needed help. I Googled nutritionists, and by the end of the day, we had an appointment set. My daughter was NOT happy, but she had no choice at this time.

I went into the meeting with her. I wanted to understand what was going on and I was not letting some stranger talk to my daughter without me. I’m controlling and protective. LOL After an hour of talking (between me and the nutritionist, you know who was pissed and said very little) it was determined that she indeed had a eating disorder and would need therapy and a visit to a doctor. I was kind of dazed. I thought (because I didn’t want to admit it) that she would see the importance of taking care of ourselves and go home and eat. I was in denial. (Don’t judge me.) I was scared! What would the doctor find? They wanted an EKG and complete blood work. They wanted her tested for all this crap! I was so concerned about her health I didn’t recognize my anxiety attacks anymore.¬†All I could feel was pain, physical pain in my chest, in my gut, and in my head. I never stopped. I went from one appointment to the next. Waiting for the confirmation that she was going to be alright.

An eating disorder is a scary thing. To put your child on medication for anxiety and depression is a horrifying thing. It rips at your heart; it doesn’t tug, it rips! You literally feel weak and exhausted, yet you haven’t done anything physically strenuous. Exercise was the only outlet I had, until that was taken away from our daughter. When they said she had to stop running and could not exercise at all, I stopped going to the gym as well. I’m not 100% sure why. Maybe because she was my workout partner, maybe I felt guilty that I could go and she couldn’t, maybe I was just too exhausted mentally. I don’t know and I really don’t care, the point is I stopped and I was pretty pissed that I did. That had been my only outlet. My hair seemed to to be thinning right along with my daughter’s. As her cycle stopped mine went all crazy. It seemed in the process of trying to help her, the stress was taking it’s toll on me. I worked, but thank goodness it was from home so I could get her to her appointments and monitor her meals. It was like having another small child. I prepared every meal and sat and ate with her to ensure she ate her meals. She never vomited, which was a good thing. She was a restrictive eater so we just needed to make sure she ate. ¬†In reality, I probably should have started therapy right along with her, but I didn’t. All I knew was this was going to be a long journey, but she would be okay.

Retelling this story is quite enlightening to me as well as exhausting. I really had no idea¬†what emotions I was feeling, as I was feeling them. But today, looking back, I remember, and it is exhausting to remember. I’m believing I can finish this up in my next post, and I hope this is helping¬†someone other than myself. ūüėČ

Be well.

When Your Child Has A Disorder Part 1

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into this so soon in my blog, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I can help someone else by sharing my experience. I think I¬†will do this in a series of shorter posts for many reasons, one being I only have short bouts of time to write.

Where to start? Looking back I can’t tell you when I first recognized that there was a problem. Hindsight is truly 20/20. If I knew then what I know now….So many cliches are frighteningly true. Our daughter has always been shy, but she always had a small core of good friends. We have moved several times over the past 11 years because we are volunteer ministers. Our children have adapted and thrived in every place we have lived. The last 5 years, we have been in the same location, so this is something fairly new to us. For the most part, we have lived in smaller towns that have 1 main road. We now live in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. This was a culture shock, to say the least. Of course the schools are very different here. The number of children in her 5th grade class was far greater than the number of children in the entire school she had previously gone to. We knew there would be an adjustment period. However, she did great! Both our older kids thrived in school; academically¬†and¬†socially. So what was the problem you ask?

Gradually, our daughter spent more and more time alone in her room.¬†I wasn’t concerned at this point because I was exactly like this when I was her age. (LIGHT BULB; a big, bright one. My first clue.) She would go to school her happy self and come home miserable. It was like her joy was being sucked right out of her. Now this was about a year after we had moved here. Everyday after school, it was like she was in a deep depression, but throughout the night and into the morning she was more herself. Hmmmm….depressive behavior? It must be a hormone/pre-teen thing. (Don’t judge me.) By the 7th grade she was missing weeks of school for weird illnesses. She was always sick with a headache, nausea, strep throat, something. We had her tonsils taken out and that helped some, but she would still get these awful headaches. The school would call and mail letters saying she needed to get back into school or they would fail her. Mind you, she was a straight A student without even going to class. That holiday break was it. Neither one of our children returned to public school. I am not saying that is the answer for everyone. That was the answer for our family. As a result, she had less and less headaches and enjoyed being home. We ended up having another student join us for awhile, and they are still close friends. Everything seemed great! This was 2 years ago.

Several months ago, I learned something about our daughter that I never knew. One day after therapy she confided in me with something she had been wanting to talk to me about for 2 years. Something that broke my heart and made me want to wrap her in my arms and squeeze her with all my might. However, I was driving and could not do that. So we cried together. My sweet, wonderful, amazing daughter had been fighting demons without my help, without me even knowing. During the time when we first began to homeschool, you know, the time everything seemed to be great? She was cutting herself.

I felt helpless! All I could think to say was how sorry I was that she had to go through that alone. She admitted she had only done it for a short time and stopped because she knew in her heart that it was¬†not what God wanted for her life. I couldn’t believe she hid it so well. She was with me all the time. She was home all day and we spent so much time together. She explained how she told me she burned herself reaching over the toaster and needed a bandage. I felt so stupid for missing it. I felt lost. How could I miss that? How could it be happening right under my nose? Was I blind? Did I not pay enough attention? I could not blame myself. It wasn’t my fault, but I felt like I had failed her.

I have jumped a head a little bit, but I wanted to get the point across that disorders can go unnoticed. It doesn’t make us a bad parent, spouse, friend, or whatever. I’m thankful that it was short lived and she overcame it, but looking back it was only the very beginning of something more. It was¬†her responding to both, cyber-bullying as well as bullying at school. I am not going to get on a soap box and preach about putting a stop to bullying. We know it exists and we all know it’s a problem. This is my story of how we, as a family, helped my daughter through it and get to a better place.

So that happened about 2 years ago and I had no idea how serious this all was. When I went to school, we didn’t have the same issues. We had our cliques, but it was definitely nothing like a scene from Mean Girls. I truly had no idea how mean these kids truly were. But we’ll talk about that later. About a year ago, our daughter wanted to try a vegetarian lifestyle. I am vegetarian, so I did not think anything of it. I figured she was influenced by my eating habits. No big deal. I also had her and her brother do a research paper on teen nutrition and exercise. I thought it was important, and they needed to work on their research skills. Well, learning a lot about the importance of nutrition and becoming a vegetarian, our daughter made some extreme changes in her diet and little by little started changing her body.