I know parents have reached out to me expressing that they want to understand more about their son or daughter’s eating disorder. I wanted to give some insight into my situation from my mom’s perspective, here:
The Perfect Storm
Rachael strove to be perfect. Every assignment or workout or practice was completed on time or early and was prepared above and beyond expectation or requirement. She did everything she was supposed to do plus extra. She would check her work over and over before she turned it in just to be sure it was absolutely correct. Some might call it obsessive-compulsive behavior. Nothing but A’s would satisfy her. Her sister and “normal” kids were not like her. She had very few peer friends and craved the attention and approval of her parents, teachers, and most adults. She couldn’t control her awkwardness or her peers so she poured herself into controlling everything she could.
As a candidate for an eating disorder, Rachael was the perfect storm.
When Rachael finally admitted to herself and then to me, her mother, that she thought she might have a problem with food, I took her out to eat (!) to discuss whatever she had on her mind. I said every wrong clichéd thing I could have possibly said. I had meant well but I triggered all the negative derailment that exists.
My husband and I eventually went to an eating disorder counselor to learn about what she was going through. We started reading the books they suggested. Rachael also began reading everything she could get her hands on about the topic. She sent me a list of the books and articles she thought would help me most to understand and educate myself for her sake. I learned how horribly wrong-headed everything I had said to her that night she tried to tell me about her struggle.
We communicated. We made our peace with each other. We explained what we meant by what we said and explained how it was interpreted and why. We spent hours and hours talking. She wrote pages and pages of prose about her journals and experiences and research and goals for rescuing herself. That was the best turning point–when she told me of her plan for self-rescue.
I was relieved. I knew she would make it. I will be eternally grateful to the people who came into her life to support her and love her and tell her their stories and reassure her that recovery is possible and she could most definitely be happy and secure again.
Misconceptions Hide Eating Disorders
Through reading all the books, I knew there were parts of the eating disorder experience that were not written about. Not everyone with an eating disorder lands at death’s door weighing fifty pounds dragging drama of soap-operatic proportions. Not everyone hates their body for lack of beauty or excess of fat or feels it’s necessary to starve all the way to death in order to run or dance or perform gymnastics to perfection.
Rachael has always given me many opportunities to be proud of her throughout her life with her performances and accomplishments. But there is nothing that gives me more pride than how she has chosen to handle this struggle.