So when I left you last, my hair was falling out and I was in need of therapy. 😉 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 cliché, 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. 🙂 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. 😉
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.