Raising a Daughter While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

2016-10-21

In this three-part series, I want to bring to life what it truly means to raise a daughter while recovering from an eating disorder. Now, it is not a “how to” kind of article, because frankly, I am no expert. However, I am an expert on my daughter and on our life together. Sometimes it is wonderful and sometimes the fear that an eating disorder could enter her life is so real and makes it hard to breathe. This series of articles is a snap shot of my life and the lessons I’ve learned and want to share with other moms who might be raising daughters while recovering from an eating disorder.

When my daughter was born, I was so excited to have this beautiful baby girl. During my time in the hospital, I spent lots of time just staring at her little face and thinking about how I wanted to give her the world. A world filled with feeling great about herself and not wasting time hating herself, like I did for years. I promised to her and God I’d help her to see that her beauty was not just skin deep and that she was worth so much more than a number on the scale. And to be honest for a long time, I felt like I had been doing well at keeping those promises, but then the teen years hit.

Raising teenagers is like playing a board game with no rules, no instructions and just when you think you are winning, you are sent back to the start.  

Yes, teenagers can be difficult and you are not just dealing with them but also their friends, their friends’ parents, and not to mention the plethora of social media. Raising a daughter with a good body image and self-esteem, in this day and age, is hard. However, teaching good body image and self-esteem while you struggle with them yourself can seem impossible. This is where you have to practice what you preach and so this is where I find myself saying to her all the things I need to say to myself. And this is where I struggle to ‘fake it ’til I make it’ kind of thing.  

I tried to take a hands on and honest approach to parenting my daughter through this time in her life. My kids have all known from an early age, that I suffered from anorexia. They may not have understood what that really meant until they were older, but they were aware of my eating disorder. We haven’t, until recently, had a scale in our home and now only do because I have two boys who are in wrestling and knowing their weight is a bit more needed. My children won’t see me get on it because I don’t get on it. Now don’t let me fool you, there have been many times I’ve walked into the bathroom and thought ‘really what’s the harm’, but have walked away. For me, that number is too much. Knowing my jeans size is hard enough. So the number on the scale is not an issue in our house. But that doesn’t mean my kids, specifically my daughter, haven’t seen their mom struggle with poor body image.  

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For most of their lives, my kids didn’t hear me utter those awful words: “Does this make me look fat?” I was able to keep that part of my eating disorder away. That was something I struggled with before and all I wanted to show was ‘but look at me now, I’m strong, and I have it all together’. I took pride in not letting the ‘monster’ out around my kids. However, as my kids have gotten older, those comments of self-doubt have been uttered out loud and even heard by them. These are quickly followed by, “Oh, no mom, you aren’t fat, you look great!” Which I, of course, love that my kids say, however, it does leave me a sense of guilt that I let those words escape my mouth and that my kids, especially my daughter, heard them. Isn’t that the way it goes…

we, as moms are forever experiencing feelings of guilt for something that we feel we didn’t handle just perfectly.  

Now, as my daughter is reaching the wonderful middle teen years, I am finding that there are times I can pat myself on the back and say I did ok. She seems to have a great sense of self. She is a beautiful young lady, who appears to be confident in whom she is. When told she is beautiful, she doesn’t shy away from it, nor does she get all cocky with it. For the most part, I’d say she is pretty balanced.  I was settling into the thought that maybe this whole ugly eating disorder isn’t going to touch her. Then it hit me, she is me in so many ways, so I went digging a bit. You see, I spent a great deal of my life hiding my anorexia. I suffered in silence. So I then panicked… and panicked big time. What if this was my daughter? Was she suffering in silence? Fear kept me frozen.

I think fear would be how I would describe my feelings about my daughter as she is reaching sixteen. Sixteen was the onset of my anorexia and I find myself wanting to make everything perfect for her so that she doesn’t have to feel what I felt at that age. I find myself being one of those lawn mower parents; you know the kind that mows everything down in front of their kids so life for their kid is easy. Yet, at the same time, I know she needs to have those lessons that come with life. Not wanting to create more of a diva than she already is, I have to fight the urge to mow life down for her. At the same time, I also find myself watching her like a hawk… is she eating? Is she feeling okay? Is she obsessing, or is that just me?!

Raising a daughter while you are recovering from an eating disorder comes down to one word….balance.  

Balance between your feelings and concerns and what is really happening. Balance between good body image and creating a diva. Balance between putting my fears on her and listening to her own fears. Balance between wanting to be the perfect mom or trying to obtain perfection or just being a mom who sometimes cries because she is hurting. Balance is the key. After all the therapy and treatment, I truly believe this is what it comes down to, a healthy balance.    

Image Source: Flickr

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