What I Wish My Parents Knew About My Eating Disorder
In my case, I never really had a formal sit down discussion with my parents about my eating disorder. I started eating disorder recovery in my mid-twenties, long after I had moved out. By then, I had graduated from law school and the time felt right. I told each parent separately about my eating disorder (they are divorced), and as uncomfortable as the conversation was, surprisingly, their reaction was one of relief. All along, they had known something wasn’t quite right regarding my eating habits and body image, and they also knew I’d had my gallbladder removed a couple of years earlier. So to them, as much as I tried to hide it, they knew something didn’t add up, but they just didn’t know what. (read: How To Tell Your Parents About Your Eating Disorder)
Mom. Dad. I Want To Tell You About My Eating Disorder
In retrospect, here’s what I would’ve wanted my parents to know about my eating disorder, years before, while I was struggling alone:
- For the longest time, I thought my problems with food intake and self-harm had to do with how I looked. It wasn’t. In my case, it was about control, about being able to exert power over my body and overindulge in food, or punish my body at times by restricting or purging when I didn’t measure up against the ideal ‘me’ I had created in my mind. It was through therapy that I realized it was about those hidden feelings and not just about food;
- I didn’t discuss my eating disorder with my parents because on some level (which I discovered through therapy), I realized that a lot of my triggers were linked to my childhood. Since I love my parents, I was afraid they would see this as being their failure as parents. Today, having healed those wounds through therapy and forgiveness, I have been able to convey that it wasn’t their fault. I honestly believe my parents did the best they could at the time while dealing with their own issues. For example, my mother’s own struggles with bipolar disorder, didn’t make it easy for her to raise a child, nor did it make it easy for my dad to cope with any of this;
- As much as the disease was destroying my life, I still felt a great sense of loss when I contemplated and started my recovery. Not to belittle the clinical term, but the closest way I can describe my experience is that it was like living through my own Stockholm syndrome. I had become attached to my abuser, the bully in my mind, who harmed me when telling me I had to purge, starve, exercise more, etc. It took a long time to admit to myself I deserved recovery and that my eating disorder wasn’t an integral or necessary part of my identity;
- That, unfortunately, dealing with my eating disorder will be a lifelong battle. Even though today, at almost 32 and recovered from bulimia now for 5 years, sometimes, when my parents make comments about how I look, I fight the urge to automatically think it’s related to my weight. On a rough day (which anyone can have now and then), a “simple” comment, like “You look tired” can make me feel like I’m inadequate in their eyes from a body image standpoint. The only difference is now, I consciously and actively try to reframe the comment in a different light.
I don’t think my story is unique, so I’m sure many of you have questioned how to share with those that raised you. I’d love to hear any stories you may want to share about things that you wish you could tell your parents about your eating disorder, but haven’t been able to yet. Or for those of you who have shared, how was the experience for you?
Lemoine, P. (2013, June 3). What I Wish My Parents Knew About My Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2013/06/what-i-wish-my-parents-knew-about-my-eating-disorder
Author: Patricia Lemoine
Thanks Lauren! Appreciate you connecting here!
i empathize with your journey to recovery. Accepting responsibility is a huge part of recovery, I agree! Forgiveness and having compassion for yourself as well. Not easy, but so worth it!
I'll check your website for sure; and yes, sharing 'war' stories is definitely helpful to us and others as well!
Patricia - thank you so much for sharing your story! I struggled with an eating disorder for 9 years and for so long blamed everyone and everything for my addictions. It was not until I got treatment and began to see my place in it all and internalized the concept 'If I am not the problem, there is no solution' that I could finally begin to forgive and heal. And find myself on a whole different level.
I recently started a website called Ask4Recovery.com where each day I discuss an 'Ask' about recovery from addiction. I am in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction as well. By sharing our stories, we can help so many others! Thanks!
thank you, Patricia. Im coming to realize this anxiety is just going to be part of the process and the alternative is not being able to be as open as I'd like (at best)
I'm very touched by your comment. What you said is true! Bringing attention to ED & mental illness in general is key. The stigma needs to be broken in order to create a safe space to talk about these issues but also to prevent them. Prevention is a huge think to tackle! Thank you again for taking the time to write. my best to you & your family, and of course Jessica, whom I've never met in person.
I completely understand & can definitely relate! i think it's normal for parents to ask themselves if they've done anything 'wrong' for their child to self-harm in that way.
I found along the way that it has been important whenever I discussed it a bit with them to mention it had nothing to do directly with their parenting skills.
TY for the comment! :)
I wish i could convey to them how my ED has nothing to do with their parenting. They were and are amazing parents. but will they still wonder to themselves if they in any way caused it? Thatsprobably the biggest reason i havent told so far. The thought of them in any way blaming themselves shatters my heart to pieces.
Thank you for a beautifully written blog, Jessica could not have said it better herself! Her home life doesn't exactly mirror yours but her father and I just attributed her teen years' behavior to the "normal" ups and downs of that time in every teen's life. Her issues with self-harm were not evident to us until her leaving for college. Once she opened up to us about her secret, you could have knocked us over with a feather.
ED was never on our radar! After all that we've learned over these last 3 years, we're speaking out to everyone so as to bring eating disorders out of the shadows. Our goal is to help heal our daughter and attempt to help other families avoid the pitfalls of ED.