This post is going to be really raw, perhaps provoking (good and bad) and extremely personal. There may be triggers in here so I caution readers ahead of time.
The picture above is always how I pictured my relationship with my daughter would be: happy, protector, strength and all of the other positive emotions this picture evokes. However, the picture below depicts how I felt much of the last 2 years.
Quite the difference from the top of the page but seems to accurately depict how I felt. The only thing is doesn’t capture are the feelings of guilt, shame and sadness that I also felt during this time. I always thought my job as a mom was to be strong and to not let my emotions cloud the job I had to do as a mom. We all know we have emotions about our parenting duties, but nothing could prepare me for the storm of emotions I was gearing up to face.
You see, much of the last 2 years I spent stuffing my own feelings to make room for the black hole of emotions my loved one with an eating disorder was going through. To be honest, there wasn’t enough time, room or emotional bandwidth to feel much else. Sometimes I felt like I was an autobot just going through the emotions and praying for the end of each day when I could go to sleep and forget, even just for a few minutes. Sadly, that didn’t always work as I was constantly worried about whether self harm was going on in the middle of the night while I was trying to get a few minutes of blessed rest.
Slowly, my own needs drifted to oblivion and some days I didn’t even feel anything. Numbness was the coping mechanism (albeit not healthy) that I could muster up at the time. No one gave me permission to feel anything during this time. I didn’t know it was okay to be angry, sad, guilty, scared, frustrated, and traumatized. Because let’s face it, trauma plays a huge part for everyone in an eating disorder. My own health and mental health started to decline, and I finally realized that soon I was not going to be able to help anyone.
The first thing I had to realize was that I was also important in all of this. Yes, my goal was to keep my daughter alive (and that’s a huge burden to bear) but I also had to keep myself alive, and I was slowly dying inside. My relationships with my husband and friends were becoming less important and I was becoming just as isolated as my daughter seemed to be.
I decided to take action and sought medical help to get medication to help with the anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I then sought out support groups with other parents like myself who got it and didn’t blame me and didn’t think I was selfish for feeling angry at my daughter for what was going on. Actually, I wasn’t angry at her but at the eating disorder that had overwhelmed our life. This helped and I realized that it was okay to ask for help.
Slowly I started to put some of my own needs first (taking a bath by locking the door, turning off my phone to not get texts all the time, and trying to realize that I was not solely responsible for everyone else’s happiness). It helped, but this was (and is) a long journey and hard learning process.
I guess for those who are still in the trenches, I write this to you to give you permission to feel all of the emotions you are feeling. No guilt, no blame and no shame. Your feelings are valid and real and acknowledging them helps start the healing process. Talk with other people who have been through it before, we do understand. So, I guess at the end of the day you have to choose you. Choose your own well being in all of the chaos and madness of an eating disorder.
If you want to share your stories and get encouragement from others, I encourage you to sign up for our online support forum below. There is hope and support here.