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October 5, 2018

My Daughter and her Eating Disorder

My Daughter and her Eating Disorder

This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist as needed.

Lu Curtis is a former client of The Emily Program. She is a teacher and the mother of a daughter in recovery from an eating disorder.

ED (an eating disorder) reared his ugly head in 2013 in my then, 13-year-old daughter. We never invited him, or at least I didn’t. However, he became significant to my daughter, ever-present, super-influential, and controlling as hell. ED ruled every aspect of my daughter’s life and began to control our entire family with his horrible influences. The messages my daughter received from ED were more powerful than the messages she received from me or anyone else in the family.

When I took her in for an evaluation at the Center for Treatment of Eating Disorders, they hospitalized her at the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis that same day. That was the first of many hospitalizations and inpatient treatments in the past five-plus years. It has been a long, difficult road for the entire family, especially my daughter.

I wish I had someone to talk to, heck even lean on during this process. This is where my willingness to be a guest blogger steps in. If I help one person, one family, it will have been well worth it. My first suggestion is to find your people! Find those that support you and/or your person battling an eating disorder. The people who you can talk to about your struggles with everything and who understand eating disorders. Because, unlike other unhealthy habits, you cannot simply quit food like you would alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, to name a few. I had one person in my tribe, who always said the things I needed to hear. She tried to understand what my daughter and I were going through and listened with an open mind and heart. There were others in my circle, they just were not really my people.

Next, learn what you can about eating disorders. No, don’t Google it and inundate yourself, while at the same time scaring yourself. Get information from the hospital, clinician, therapist, or treatment centers you are involved with. Read through this information and do your best to understand it. Eating disorders are complicated and anorexia, the most deadly of mental health diseases. No two cases are ever alike, each has its own unique presentation and therefore needs a unique understanding.

DON’T take everything personally. Sometimes, in my child’s case, it was the eating disorder talking, not my daughter. The ED was mean, ornery, spiteful and no fun to be around. This experience will try even the most patient people. You HAVE to operate from the position of love for your person suffering from an eating disorder. Believe me, I love my daughter, more than anything; I simply did not like her much during some of these times. You too, are human and have flaws, accept them and do your best.

Plan every snack and meal in the beginning. It just makes life a lot easier than having to stop and inundate, in my case, my child, with the overwhelming task of choosing a snack on the road. Food is your person with an ED’s enemy, so expect some battles. My goal was to win the war, even if I lost a battle or two along the way. Thankfully, more than five years in, my daughter is happy, at a healthy weight, and starting college in two weeks! There were days that I never saw this outcome but continued to strive for it to the best of my ability. We made it and so can you.

The preceding six paragraphs give you just a glimpse at the beginning stages of recovery. The path to wellness is not a straight trajectory, it is more like squiggly lines, or better yet, a path where you take one step forward and two steps back. The journey seems to be endless, but in reality, it doesn’t have to be, with the right support. Take recovery, not a day at a time, but a meal or snack at a time. Slow and steady wins the battle with ED and that is something worth celebrating!

Get help. Find hope.