Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Word To Worried Parents

I was once the anorexic daughter that parents worry about. Now that I'm recovered from anorexia and can look at the situation clearly, it's easy for me to articulate what might be needed and wanted—from the point of view of the sufferer.  

Okay, let's be honest; both parties are suffering. 

I feel the best thing you can do for your daughter is to love her and support her, which you obviously do if you are reading this. Try to understand her. She is probably feeling as though not many people do, but all you have to do is let her know that you WANT to understand. That you care enough about her to want to help her in any way you can. And that you will always be there for her when and if she needs you.  
 
Don't be obtrusive. Don't be harsh. Sometimes it takes a big wake up call to make someone snap to the realization that they are really damaging themselves, but try to be the rock she can turn to when she is faltering. There are plenty of ways to show her the error of her ways without punishing her, condemning her, or making her feel worse. 
 
My parents did good things and bad things. But it's hard for parents—and for anyone—to know how to deal with an eating disordered child, especially when that child is actually a young woman and not a child any longer.  
 
Ask her if she wants you to do anything. Ask her if she wants freedom, support, more recovery resources, info about a support group, a shoulder to cry on, etc. Perhaps she wants nothing. Perhaps she doesn't know what she wants. But if it was me (and it was me once), I would greatly appreciate having my mother or father pose those questions to me.  
 
If she's been in treatment: Just because a treatment place did not work for her in the past doesn't mean she can't get help or will be resistant to other forms of support. One thing that really helped me while I was a college student was going to a support group with other young women who were facing the same problems. We learned to want to help each other, which in turn helped us to help ourselves. If she cares about the well-being of other girls like her, she may invest time in a path towards recovery and soon start to hear what they are saying—and use what she is telling them on herself and her own situation.  
 
Sometimes eating disorder support groups are not publicized and are hard to discover. Ask your local hospitals, do a search online, or contact an eating disorder specialist for info. Don't push…but it's always worth keeping in the back of your mind.  
 
I really feel for your situation. I have a very good relationship with my mother and I know how helpless she felt when I was very ill. 
 
Be there to listen to your daughter, but if she doesn't want to talk, don't press. All you can do is try your best to help her and the rest is up to her. No one can make her do anything—and if they do, it will only be temporary. She needs to make a choice for herself and set goals.
 

But you can support her in these goals. 

Show her how great life can be without her eating disorder instead of showing her how bad her life is with it.  

4 comments:

Mrs. B said...

That was amazing--thank you for helping me understand> I try really hard to be supportive and encouraging. Some days I do well; others I don't. My daughter is only 15--it is so hard not to be the food police and remind of the things on her food plan. From a parents pespective, all we want is for you to be healthy and happy.

Arielle said...

Mrs. B,

Thank YOU. I know it's hard. I sppose I always knew how hard it was for my parents but couldn't look at it as clearly until now in these healthy later years. Of course all you want is for us to be healthy and happy. I'm married and want children and I know that if my daughter ever had an eating disorder I would feel as you feel and hurt as you hurt. Both parties are surely suffering.

Thank you for the kind words and thanks for reading. Your daughter is lucky to have you.

Much love,
Arielle

Mrs. B said...

I wish you lived in my area of MI--you sound like someone who would be of great encouragement and help for my daughter. Its interesting --I read your blog and how you talk about making a difference and can so identify with you. I know that this will be used for a purpose and actually saw my daughter and I talking to women and girls together.

Arielle said...

Mrs. B,

Thank you so much for the compliment. I know it's not the same as living in your state, and I know you don't want to push, but if you ever want to share my email address with your daughter, I'd be more than happy to talk to her via email or IM. I've been in her shoes so I've learned how to be helpful and understanding without being pushy. Plus, talking with someone who's been there but is now on the other side is pretty cool.

I'm actually a moderator on a recovery forum online...for girls and women recovering from EDs. It's webiteback.com and it's WONDERFUL. Supportive, understanding, REAL, and pro-recovery while at the same time understanding that setbacks happen and do not make individuals failures. If she ever visits webiteback.com, she would be very welcome.

Okay, I'm rambling now, Mrs. B, but thank you again for your comments and take care. :)

Much love,
Arielle