New Year’s Day 2008 I finally faced up to the fact that all was not well with my beautiful 14 year old daughter’s health.
She had over many months and in all reality a number of years been gradually changing her eating and exercise habits. I didn’t want to see, I didn’t want to name what I suspected was happening to my girl. The numerous trips to the doctor, the hospital for any number of ‘presenting’ conditions hid from all of us, family, doctor, friends, consultants the fact that my daughter was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa.
I was witnessing the gradual waning of my daughter, her weight, her energy, her vitality, her general well-being and health, her concentration levels.
She was withdrawing from life.
What unfolded next, once diagnosed, is a mother’s worst nightmare — the fear, the guilt, the anxiety, the sadness, the anger, the distress, the desperation. My daughter was very sick.
I had so many questions I wanted to ask her, the psychiatrist, the nutritionist, the psychotherapist, myself.
I wanted to know why.
I wanted to know how.
This illness rocked our family to its foundation.
My sons were bewildered.
The eldest (17 at the time) feeling an enormous sense of guilt — if I’d been a better brother….. if I’d been around more…… if I hadn’t done as much sport…..
My youngest (8 at the time) withdrew completely, day dreamed his way through school and cried. His words still resonate ‘I just want my sister back’.
I carried the weight of not only her illness but the emotional turmoil it was causing in our family. I supported my husband (at the time), my sons and my wider family in their anxieties as well.
One of the hardest issues I had to deal with was recognising and understanding that I couldn’t make her better. I couldn’t give her Calpol or put a plaster on a grazed knee. This illness was hers, over which I had absolutely no control.
She had to want to heal herself.
In a way, I had to watch events unfold and be there unconditionally for her at all times. When the rage came I stood and took the full force. When the tears came I sat and comforted. When the rejection of food came I suggested something else that might appeal. When the fear came I held her in my arms.
Friends and family asked me how I did it. How I coped day to day, week to week in being constantly there for the family.
I simply made the choice to get on with it.
I chose to do all I could to be there for my family.
I chose to empower my daughter to take control of her illness, her life.
I chose to believe that she would rise from this.
I believed in our resilience.
And here we are ten years on. My daughter has her own story to tell. She is well and truly thriving in life. She is a beacon of hope for many who suffer.
Five years ago we talked of writing our story. We wanted to share what we’d learned about life and being alive. It was still too painful at the time and we put our idea on hold uncertain as to whether we’d come back to it.
Today the time is right. We have begun to write our journey from the dark days when anorexia lived with us to the brightness of a life lived to the very fullest.
If you would like to find out more about the book we are writing together drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I shall add you to the list to keep you updated of our progress. Your support and encouragement will be greatly appreciated.
I work as a coach for people with addictive behaviours, you might be a carer or someone who is suffering with eating disorders, alcoholism, OCD for example. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Sometimes it just takes a transformative conversation to see something you’ve not seen before. Drop me a line email@example.com