The Road is more like a Roller Coaster
Two and a half years ago my daughter started to make some changes in her eating so that she could feel and look better. As a nurse and wellness consultant I applauded that and encouraged healthy choices as she learned how her food she ate impacted her mood, energy and way she felt.
Little did I know that this would be the start of a journey into the depths of an eating disorder that has taken hold of her and her thoughts and turned something that was once a simple desire to feel and look a little better into a disorder that has such a strong hold on her that some days it’s hard to see my daughter in the midst of it.
As I continue to support and love my daughter unconditionally, I keep hearing a voice in my head that I should write, write down my thoughts feelings and share them. I have done a bit of sharing on social media, mostly Facebook. I’ve shared my struggles and hard days. I’ve encouraged others by putting up quotes and affirmations to help them see the bright side but in truth I look at them first off for myself most days. I have been astounded by the support and stories that I have been shared with me. This is not a disorder for the few. There are SO many that have struggled, know friends and family that have struggled, still struggle, pray for peace and continue freedom everyday day. I am grateful for the love and support that has been poured out to me and my family through this time. It is humbling and it provides peace and strength on the good and bad days.
I have learned so much during the time and today I find myself frustrated and sad. I myself had my own eating disorder when I was in college and in my early adult years. In those days there wasn’t much conversation about anorexia or anxiety or social pressures except to say that we knew about Karen Carpenter and her sad story. As I went away to school, away from home and that security, I found myself feeling unsure about the decisions I was making or expected to make. There were academic pressures, social pressures around drinking and sexual activity, Pressures to fit in and have fun, academic pressure of what major to follow and what we were to do for the rest of our lives. I felt alone and very unsure. That is when my taking control of one part of my life that I could, my eating began. I was not hospitalized or sent to a treatment program. I do thank my friends who were aware enough about my changing moods and size and loved me enough to encourage me to go see a counselor at our college health center. The counseling helped and the finding of my passion of helping others in nursing I believe helped. Looking back I can’t say there was one thing or another that really helped me but I do know that by the grace of God, my confidence in myself and my abilities, self compassion and faith and just a whole lot of effort and pushing forward got me moving into a direction of freedom and self assurance. It has been a journey for sure, sometimes harder than others but somehow I got through it.
Fast forward to today and my daughter. The pain for me really began when my past was seemingly repeating itself in front of my eyes in the life of my daughter. Mention of a genetic component of eating disorders made me think that I was somehow responsible for what was happening. The feeling of responsibility coupled with hopelessness has led me to days of feeling a pain that is deep and raw and nothing that I have ever experienced before. I know that many of my days in college were dark, filled with a feeling of being alone and not understood. I also had the beautiful realization and life experiences that have shown me that there is a hope and life on the other side that is beautiful, one filled with love from others, from my heavenly Father and from myself. In the past several years I have shared my struggles and confidence in a better tomorrow with my niece when she was struggling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. One of my best friends has a daughter that began struggling and was consequently admitted to a residential program for help. I remember talking with her on the phone as well as her sister who was in so much pain that she found it hard to go on in life. There were tears and words of encouragement.
But here I was all of a sudden with my daughter in front of my with the same struggles, becoming deeply entwined with the feeling of hopelessness, sadness, lack of self esteem and confidence. It caused me to pause in disbelief and shock. Therapists were called, dietitian appointments made and hard conversations with my husband about what to do if what we were providing at home was not enough. What next? How could we leave our daughter someplace else, not under our roof and with our family?
We did though. My daughter has been in 2 inpatient/outpatient programs, one residential program out of town and is currently in her 4th residential treatment stay closer by to us. It’s hard to have her not home with us. I miss her. I miss the physical presence of her in our family dynamic. But mostly I miss her, her great big smile, her infectious laugh, her go-forward attitude, work hard, play hard spirit, the lightness of her hair and her thoughts as she has shared her ideas, thoughts, commentary on life that is wise beyond what I imagined from her, funny and filled with wit and sarcasm and the deep desire to help others learn and enjoy a life that is possible. I wonder one day when that girl I know will be back. Maturity and life challenges are changing her and I know as she works toward freedom that my ‘little Anna’ won’t be back. A new daughter will emerge, one filled with grace and wisdom as before but a different perspective on life that her struggles and experiences have led her to.
My perspective has changed as well. When I overhear some conversations about small, materialistic things, or struggles with what clothes to wear or the battle to look better than a neighbor or friend, I do a private eye roll and move on. Many things in life that I see around me just don’t matter. What matters to me is my family, making sure that they know they are loved unconditionally by their father and myself. Filling my children with love and confidence, making sure that they know that their thoughts and feelings matter and they are children of God, unique from all others and blessed by a God and family who loves them….that continues on a daily basis. I am not afraid to talk about my past and have authentic conversations about the struggles that my daughter is facing. I am open about how I feel Social media has impacted our kids in such a negative way, creating a society of people who don’t know how to communicate with each other in a way to foster true friendships and compassion. I believe that everyone’s path in life is unique and may not follow the path that others follow in the way of school, college, vocation, life and all.
I think we need to change our conversations. I participated in the NEDA walk this September in Chicago. It wasn’t so much a competitive walk for fitness but more about awareness, discussions of hope, real talk about struggles and hope. I got a chance to meet and hear Iskra Lawrance, a British model who was the key note speaker and one who has championed body diversity and committed to changing the image of women. She was told she was TOO BIG to be a traditional model and then soon discovered Plus Size modeling. There she discovered that she was NOT BIG enough. She had many years of struggle with an eating disorder and lack of body acceptance. She is a beautiful women today, one who accepts herself as she is and encourages others to do that same things of themselves.
I feel blessed to have met her, hugged her and told her how much I appreciated all that she has done and continues to do to champion a change in our conversation.
I love the things she shared.
Be proud of what you have been through.
Tell someone that you see and love that they are good enough
Be cautious of advertising as they want you to buy into insecurities so that you buy things.
Shine Bright for the world to see
Choose to pay attention on purpose
Look at yourself in front of a mirror and pick out 10 things that you love.
Injoy life….not just Enjoy….be IN Joy of your life.
Iskra smiles, she is warm, she shares a hope and light that it will all be ok.
She speaks about body positivism and again challenges us to Change the conversation.
I have asked God for peace and for strength. I have been challenged to Trust God and Obey God. Find acceptance in what is before me and create a conversation of encouragement and love. The road to recovery that my daughter is on has been rocky. It’s been up and down. I’ve seen her struggle, I’ve seen her emerge victorious and find purpose and hope again. I’ve seen her doubt herself and pay more attention to what others think than what she knows is true about herself. She is fighting. She has won and she has lost. And it will continue. I know she will come out on the side of Freedom. Her story will be one of hope, love, authentic truth, self love and finding your path, trusting that God is ultimately ordering your path in life.
It’s hard sometimes. There will be more writing. There will be more talking. There will be more praying, a LOT more praying. There will be freedom and peace. Freedom and Peace for my daughter. Peace and connectiveness (that has been lost) for my family. There will be stories to tell of strength found when we didn’t know there was any more. I pray for awareness of the necessity of change, change in our thoughts, our conversations, our attitudes about mental illness and those things that take over that we just don’t think we have control over. In the end we do have the power, with the help of the almighty creator to create a life of love, peace, joy and freedom.
For now I leave you with this.
If you know someone struggling, get them help.
If you are struggling, call someone, go someplace and get the help that you deserve.
There is no shame in falling down and needing someone to help you up.