On May 18, 2016, our daughter chose recovery. 3 years, 2 months and 11 days later she has fought like hell to recover and to kick ED to the curb. She truly is a warrior in our eyes.
It was the Spring of her 8th grade school year and she was 13 years old when we started to notice something wasn’t right. She was busily involved in many activities, middle school track, competitive dance team, cheerleading and advanced school courses. Her body was physically changing, loss of weight, and her emotional state of mind was all over the place. At first, we chalked it up to hormonal changes with the age she was at. As it progressed on, we started to notice the changes in her eating habits as well and some OCD behaviors developing. Finally, too many emotional breakdowns began when she cried out to us one night, “something’s not right” and we agreed and said we needed to get her in to see a doctor. At this time, neither her dad nor I had any clue or information about what eating disorders were. The only knowledge either one of us had was from a textbook chapter in our high school health class 20 years ago where it briefly discussed eating disorders.
So we got her in to see her family physician on May 18, 2016, the day we like to state she chose recovery. When her doctor walked in, the first words out of her mouth were, I’m glad you came in because if you didn’t, I was going to call you. She proceeded to tell Haley and I how she had an eating disorder called Anorexia Nervosa and she went into great detail on what it was and how she was going to help her (us) get through this. Ultimately, tears were flowing from both Haley and myself. I find myself explaining it to someone like hearing the news that you have cancer. It’s no different, right? It’s a disease, it could be deadly and why wouldn’t we fight like heck to kick it to the curb just like you would with a cancer diagnosis?
So her journey began from that day forward. Our doctors created a treatment team for us, a therapist and a dietitian, both that specialize in treating eating disorders. We were (are) lucky. As I’ve learned over these past 3 years, this isn’t so easy to find here in Iowa and the demand is far more greater than the supply. I’ll be honest, little did we know what we were in for. Like any parent, you want to fix whatever may be wrong with your child. You take them to the doctor, you get them the proper treatment and 10 days later, voila it’s fixed. Wrong. At that time, our oldest daughter was graduating from high school and about to start the next chapter in her life. Looking back, the summer of 2016 may have been the toughest time in all of our lives as we walked alongside Haley trying to support her and also understand her on what exactly she was going through. Two months into the recovery, we were faced with an ultimate decision on whether to put her into a treatment center as she was not progressing well. After many discussions as a family, with her treatment team and our insurance company, we decided to take the FBT approach. So from July 2016 forward, we literally took all control away from her. We created meal and snack plans, we made her plate, we ate with her as a family (for hours, if needed) and I do recall one time it took us approximately 2 hours to get her to finish a meal. We talked with her, we supervised every single thing she had going on in her life from friends, to school, to social media sites, to activities, etc and we continued to take a more aggressive approach with her treatment team appointments as well.
It’s hard to put into words how it’s impacted our family as a whole. I like to look for the good in all bad situations and this one definitely brought our family closer in all ways I can describe. Honesty, unconditional love, open communication and trust on all levels. I don’t expect everyone to understand exactly how deep that is for us as a family but it’s our story and that’s OK. We never take for granted each day we have with each other as a family and with Haley. We realize this will be a lifelong journey for her and for us but we know she will fight with all we've got to continue to kick ED to the curb.
My piece of advice I would give to anyone that may be going through this, hold on to HOPE (Hold On Pain Ends). I’ll never forget that word as I came across it the first therapy appointment we had for Haley and it’s been near and dear to my heart ever since. It WILL come to an end, be patient.
I’m a researcher/reader so I found great comfort in finding all the resources I could to educate myself on what exactly this AN ED was and how do you treat it? So far on this journey, I’ve found the following resources to be useful:
Jenni Schaefer’s books
The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders
My Kid is Back
Online support groups
I will continue to keep reading, educating and understanding everything I can about EDs and know this journey is not over.
Thanks for listening,
Mom to Haley
It all started in eighth grade. My family and I were about to go on vacation for spring break, and all we could talk about was getting that “perfect summer body.” Each week as a family, we would weigh ourselves on the scale and put our weight on a sheet of paper and see how much we could lose by the time vacation came around. Looking back, that was probably the worst thing we could have done, but we didn’t know any better at the time. In my mind, I figured that once vacation passed, I would stop worrying so much about my weight, but I was so wrong. While we were on vacation, all I could truly focus on was making sure I ate less than everyone else around me and only consuming “healthy foods.” Again, I chalked it up to vacation and assumed that everything would return to normal when we got back home. When we got home things only continued to worsen. I remember having a friend who was in my PE class, and I would talk to her about how I was “starting to eat better” and “trying to lose weight” and she totally encouraged me and talked to me about all the different methods I could try, such as going as long as I could without eating. Hearing that sparked the flame, and from that point on, I did exactly that and more.
In the beginning, it wasn’t too drastic - I would make my portions just a little bit smaller or skip on a snack that I would normally have- but after about a month of this, I was eating close to nothing. I was constantly google searching the serving sizes and calorie amounts for every food I was about to eat and made sure to eat less than that. When it came to dinner time with the family, my anxiety reached its ultimate high for the day because I didn’t know exactly what was in each meal and couldn’t perfectly calculate what I was consuming. I could barely focus on anything other than food because it haunted my every thought; I was always concerned about what I had eaten the night before and what I was going to eat next. It felt like there was this voice in my head that controlled my every thought, and everything circled back to food. My anxiety levels only continued to increase, and eventually, I would break down in tears to my mom every single night because I didn’t know how else to handle this new emotion. After quite a few nights of these breakdowns, I couldn’t handle it anymore; I had to tell her.