Today is my precious momma’s birthday. During my six year struggle with an eating disorder, my relationship with my mom was so strained, she had to go through things no parent should have to go through. I am beyond thankful that my mom is now my biggest cheerleader and best friend. In honor of her birthday, I wanted to write a letter to all of the mothers who have children struggling with an eating disorder.
Dear warrior moms,
I see you. I see that you are hurting, broken and tired. I see that you are trying anything and everything you can right now to save your child. Keep fighting. Your child may not be able to fight for themselves right now, so fight for them.
Listen to me say this: This is not your fault. This. Is. Not. Your. Fault. You did not cause your child’s eating disorder. In my case, it was just the perfect storm, but not a storm that my mom created, nor one my dad created. It just happened.
Your momma’s intuition is almost always spot on. Every time I would approach my mom to tell her I was struggling yet again, fearful of her reaction, she almost always responded with, “I know.” She sometimes could tell I was struggling even before I could. Listen to your intuition, you know your child better than anyone.
The best thing you can do for your child is love them unconditionally. I know I took my anger out on my mom. I yelled, I screamed, I said hateful things, I lied, I cussed her out, because end of day, I knew she wouldn’t leave me, and she didn’t. Instead of leaving, she loved me.
Being a mother of a child with an eating disorder is a club that no one wants to be a part of. Be sure to set time aside to take care of yourself and your needs. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
You can’t “fix” your child, but you can love them. You can be their shoulder to cry on. You can be their cheerleader. You can sit with them in the pain. If I can tell you one thing it would be this, don’t ever give up, recovery is possible. I never thought it was, and I know my parents never thought recovery was possible either, but two and half years later and my purpose in life is now spreading the hope that recovery is possible. Hold onto that hope forever.
A daughter of the best mom in the world
Amy Sullivan is the Program Director for Southern Smash, but more importantly is proudly in recovery from an eating disorder. She is currently in grad school to become a counselor. Amy is a dog mom to the worst behaved dog in the world, and an aunt to the most adorable little girl.
By: Mariah Harris
During the beginning of eating disorder treatment, I kept hearing eating disorders being referred to as ED. I thought this was just an acronym but realized it was more of a nickname for the inner voice/personality that is our eating disorder. After feeling like I needed to find a name better-suited to where I was in life, I named my eating disorder EDNA. This was a better name for my eating disorder than boring old ED which sounded like an old man to me. I also felt my eating disorder was feminine for whatever reason, so I chose a feminine name.
During treatment, we were asked so many different things about ED/EDNA regarding what it looks like, how it acts, and how much of a hold it has on us right now. Realizing how much EDNA had a personality and identity of her own was scary. During a group session one day, the leader went around the room and asked us about our personal identities. I froze and had no idea what to say. Before treatment, all of my energy had gone to graduating from nursing school and becoming an intensive care nurse, so I talked about how being a nurse was my identity. I was quickly told that’s not my identity--it’s my career. So I pondered this question. I couldn’t help but think, who am I? This was very discouraging to me! How did I forget who I was? After a while, I realized that my eating disorder had taken so much time, effort, and energy away from me. It had become its own identity. My personal being was so exhausted, and every ounce that EDNA could take from me, she would. HOW SELFISH?! After many long conversations, journal entries, and prayers, I finally started figuring out who I was once again, slowly but surely. After all of this soul-searching, I realized that yes, I have an eating disorder that I named EDNA, but she doesn’t have a hold on me. My life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but I do have a few qualities I have started to cherish about myself. Learning who I really am has been a process and a challenge, and has come with some harsh reality checks.
After I left treatment and went back to work as an intensive care nurse, reality hit me. I wasn’t in the “bubble” of treatment anymore. Nurses around me were talking about the latest diets, shakes, and exercise programs. My mind was in a healthier, different place, but I felt so alone. My eating disorder prior to treatment had consumed so much of my time and energy that I didn’t know where to begin finding myself. All I knew is I didn’t want EDNA to be an identity thief again. As I struggled as an ICU nurse, feeling like no one understood what I’d been through, I slowly started blogging. I blogged for myself. Being asked if you're pregnant by co-workers because you have some extra weight from re-feeding is embarrassing and I needed an outlet! During my blogging journey, I have come across some amazing people and know that my journey through recovery will continue as long as I live, so I hope to learn more about myself each day.
Mariah Harris is a wife, dog momma, nurse, and mental health advocate from Oklahoma. She has struggled with mental health issues including an eating disorder since a young age. She understands the struggle and thinks it's time for her voice be heard! Learn and grow with her at www.mariahharris.org.