She was taking control of her health. It was just exercise. Exercise is good, right?
She was being wise with what she put in her mouth. Understanding food and making excellent choices is good, right?
She was stepping on the scale and congratulating herself for shedding her freshman fifteen. Celebrate victories, right?
She watched the food network with abandon. Those shows are amazing though, right?
She had digestive problems. She is under a lot of stress and my stomach gets bad when I’m stressed. Normal though, right?
She was always cold. Her dad’s hands are always cold too. Cold hands, warm heart, right?
She disappeared in the bathroom after meals. I sometimes lock myself in the bathroom to get a few minutes of peace with everyone at home. Good for her for establishing boundaries for herself, right?
The exercise became a habit. I wish I was so diligent at workouts. Good job, honey! Right?
The weighing of foods continued. I know I shouldn’t have that whole steak, but it is so delicious. Good for her for knowing her limits. Right?
We could not be with friends because of the pandemic, so we expected her sadness. We are all sad. Right?
She would sleep most of the day away. Teenagers though, right?
Her freshman fifteen disappeared. Plus another fifteen and another.
Her exercise appetite was insatiable. Workouts last two hours or more a day.
She wore baggy clothes to avoid judgment.
It was not right. Something is wrong.
We are living with an eating disorder. It is inhabiting our daughter’s head and refuses to leave. We didn’t notice it at first because the beginning felt like good habits and she is meticulous about habits. Not OCD, but she is circling that party, waiting for an invitation.
I have gone through every emotion there is on the bad-side of the wheel: grief, guilt, terror, misery, fear. I put on a brave face, but I’m hollow.
It is difficult. Every day is a delicate balance on who will be with us in the house. Is it our daughter or her eating disorder today? How can we kill one without hurting the other?
When she told me she was different, I almost didn’t listen. I started by dismissing her concerns about her obsession with food. “Everyone thinks about food.” I’m so glad she didn’t let me continue. Our daughter, not her ED, told me she was different. It was all she thought about. No boys, no friends, no TV shows, or parties. She thought about how many calories were on her plate and how much time she would have to spend in the gym making them go away. Making her go away.
Instead, I listened. It was hard to hear. Harder to watch her say the words. She saw a doctor, got a referral, and battles her ED every day as a young adult. How do I turn off worry as a mother? How do I uncover the girl inside the disorder? How do I get my baby back?
Time. Patience. Love. Listening. Being unafraid when I am more afraid than I have ever been in my life. Parenting.