Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Peaches and Cream

My silence has been a case of "no news is good news." Aside from the usual body image issues, which affect most women, ED is absent. In contrast to his dominance 5 years ago, we rarely mention his name or notice any signs that he was even part of our lives.

So what has inspired me to write a new blog after so long? The death of an acquaintance and colleague. Someone who was slim, but not emaciated. Someone who exuded happiness - laughing and smiling more than anyone! Someone who shared peach shortcake with me, and gladly grabbed several cookies when the plate went by. A capable, beautiful and loving 45-year old, who never told anyone her dark secret. Haunted by ED, she took her own life tragically and decisively, and those of us who knew her reeled in disbelief.


Knowledge of her long illness, at least since college, came to me later. I, of all people, who is never shocked or surprised by what someone tells me about ED, was totally floored. Then I remembered that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of psychiatric illnesses because of an elevated incidence of suicide. Overwhelmed by guilt at not having paid more attention to early warning signs (baby voice, heightened anxiety, difficulty with commitment, and yes she did suddenly look really thin the last time I saw her), I struggled to accept her death. 

Why am I writing this is in a blog about my daughter? To remind myself, and those who read this, that early intervention is critically important for recovery. There are countless happy endings to ED stories, but people need help and the sooner the better. Her death epitomizes the devastation and loss caused by evil ED. He seduces and abuses, his advances impossible to reject, rendering your loved one powerless. Act now – he or she needs your strength and courage to help them beat this.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Infinite Possibilities

Another place, another year – another year without ED, for the most part. Lauren moves to a foreign country to work at an elementary school. The food is completely different, as is the culture. She is excited about her new venture and the opportunities it affords to grow both personally and professionally. She has her flights, has said her “goodbyes,” and suddenly, she is gone for a year. The house feels strangely empty, and we miss her. But isn’t this what we wanted for her - to be strong and healthy enough to follow her dreams?

She is excited to meet her roommate, only to discover she struggles with ED.  At first, I felt upset and frustrated, as if I’d been betrayed. Then I realized this was a gift. Another test and a reminder of what went before. Did this pose problems? At times, yes. We are supposed to enjoy food with human company, and this couldn’t happen. Eating alone on the couch, or in her room, was definitely not ideal. It was sometimes triggering when the roommate said she wasn’t hungry for dinner - again. The solution was to do the opposite action. If ED says, “you shouldn’t eat either,” you go directly to the kitchen and cook up something yummy. Food remains the best medicine, and every challenge overcome makes her stronger.


Do body image issues remain? Yes, of course, because this is the last symptom that typically lingers. How many women have body image issues in our culture? The reality is that it may never disappear. But it is possible, just like getting better is possible, just like full recovery is possible. And that’s a fact; so don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Winning the battles with ED day-by-day opens the door to hope and infinite possibilities.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stability Against the Odds

Much time has elapsed and many challenges overcome. A car accident 6-months ago leaves her with soft tissue injuries. This occurred on the heels of the lovebirds separating, a new and demanding job, and living in a new house. These life events, together with graduation, represent some if the biggest risk factors for relapse. We had deliberately tested ED before, but this was a whole different game. These risks showed up uninvited, just as they are apt to do in life. Hold on to your seats, we could be in for quite a ride. We watch and listen, as she navigates new turmoil.

Intense pain leads her home for a week. Several weeks pass, and ED is absent. Weeks turn into months…..where is he? Can we say she’s recovered? Knowing the insidious nature of this illness, we do not celebrate. But, we are definitely closer. She is stable, or in “remission.” The day nears when she will say: “I had an eating disorder. I am recovered”.


It’s important to remember that most people do recover from this illness. And that early detection and effective treatment improve those odds dramatically.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer

The summer light at the end of the tunnel continues to shine brighter.
Time abroad leaves ED behind. There are anxiety-provoking challenges – meeting new people, erratic meal schedules, and the dreaded bikini on the beach time. Lauren adopts her therapist’s suggestion to practice authenticity. Who cares what people think? After all, she’ll never see most of them ever again. And she keeps up her journal both as a travel log and as a coping skill to slow down anxious thoughts that can spiral out of control when left unattended.

The lovebirds are reunited. Poor body image remains. This is common at this stage –2-years into recovery. Apparently, it can be the last thing, if ever, to go. How many adults do we know who have a positive body image? It’s one of the curses of our culture today. But it is possible, even for people who have recovered from an ED. The goal is full recovery. What does that mean? In the absence of an agreed upon definition in the field of mental health, I have developed one that was inspired by various practitioners and those who have recovered:  “The absence, for several years, of ED thoughts and behaviors.” Acceptance is part of this, and possibly the hardest. Perhaps someone will never like his/her belly, chin, or big toe! The key, though easier said than done, is to suspend judgment and allow acceptance to fill the void.

“Step Away from the Mean Girls…
…and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.
 
This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you're too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.” 
 Oprah Winfrey


Monday, April 22, 2013

Time to Graduate


So, what will she do after graduation? Does she have plans? These are the questions I’m regularly asked. Why does nobody ask how she is?

Does it matter what she does or where she goes, if she’s not healthy? Is her GPA important? Are all the wonderful recommendations and lists of accomplishments helpful? These things lack relevance and impact unless she’s well. Health remains #1. It is an ED- free life that offers her limitless opportunities and abundance. It’s time to graduate from college ---and ED.

Freedom from guilt and anxiety around food, an absence of thoughts and behaviors, and moving (slowly) towards acceptance is the norm. Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude. Nothing else matters. Hope for sustained recovery prevails. Hope for her-- and all others. 

May all beings have peace and happiness
May all beings be free from pain and suffering
May all beings rejoice in the happiness of others
May all beings live in peace
            with loving kindness in our hearts.
                        ~ The Four Immeasurables~

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Power of Unconditional Love


A feeling of warmth, a peachy glow emanating from the skin, a lightness of step, and a tickle in the heart that cannot be scratched.  Such are the signs of being in love. But this is different than unconditional mothers' love. I’m told that we are biased – of course we scoop our children up when they need us, as we strive to protect and nurture them, at any age. So, what’s different about this?

The adoration of a third party – a significant other, has the power to reassure and reaffirm that it is possible to offer and receive unconditional love. There’s a sense of balance and contentment. Another soul is present to deflect ED – now further weakened. Let’s not underestimate the effect of having a partner who loves and accepts.

The harmony is short-lived as the loved ones are separated due to situations beyond their control. A new period of transition and change is ushered in. Resilience is once again tested. What a blessing and an opportunity. The lovebird left behind is forced to try new strategies in order to stay strong. This is crucial as she strives to be whole by herself and for herself. Only with this foundation can she grow and fly to freedom.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Resiliency and Recovery


Life is full of occasions that test our resiliency. How quickly do we bounce back from a crisis or stressful experience? Resiliency is a key indicator of the state of our mental health. People with EDs often lack it, which increases the likelihood of engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors.

The strength of Lauren’s resiliency was tested last week when we put our 14-year old lab to sleep. We all knew this was imminent but that didn't prevent the news from being devastating. I literally felt my heart constrict and had to move the phone away from my ear when I broke the news to her. This was not an overreaction – but merely an expression of her inconsolable grief.  Over the next few days, I just observed, from a distance.

The first thing to go out the door was self-care. What an opportunity for ED to slip in and ruin everything! Fortunately, she has a good support system. Soon, things were back to normal. If anything, this painful loss represented a glitch in her recovery, but nothing catastrophic. I hope her resilience continues to increase in the face of adversity. This is critical – recovery goes hand-in-hand with increased resiliency. It takes time and practice, and there are many contributing factors. However, first and foremost, it is dependent on self-care, which helps maintain a healthy body and mind that affords us the strength to cope with the unavoidable stresses of life.

“Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.”
                                                                        - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Risk Taking in Recovery


After months, even years, of seemingly endless menu planning and cooking, sleep deprivation, sacrificing work and careers, our social life, and sometimes our own personal health, we feel more determined than ever to make sure it was worth it. We want to be able to say that we did everything we could for our children, because isn’t that what we, as parents, are programmed to do? So, it is normal that we would have fears about letting go.

The school year begins and with it sleepover invitations, camping trips, and unsupervised meals. College students eye programs abroad to broaden their academic experience. They go rafting, skiing, and climb mountains over their weekends. Not to mention the partying, late nights, and general stress of college life. So, how do we get comfortable with the idea of new freedoms and opportunities, which are potentially risky for their recovery? Wasn’t it easier, in a way, when we had them at home, all day every day, to feed, love and protect?

The only way forward for us was to take some risks and let go. Because without taking those chances, how would we know what progress had been made? And when things don’t turn out perfectly, it’s “feedback not failure.” It helps us make decisions in the future. Everyone is wiser, more aware. Trying-- and sometimes excelling, sometimes failing, is a life lesson in itself. If we never try, we’ll never know. And our children reap the benefits of their efforts as they realize that they can and do move forward - without our help. And as they experience life more fully, they learn that the benefits of recovery far exceed those provided by the illness. If they slip, we can scoop them up. Responsible risk taking is part of their journey. Maybe we can, at least once in a while, breathe, sit back, and smell the roses.

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” 
                                                                                                                        ~ Ann Landers